Grace Vee, 25, Makeup Artist
“Grace just get it together for fucks sake”
Another phrase I've all too commonly heard,
“Stop being so intense and emotional”
These words are pretty standard when they're from people who have literally no idea of how to deal with mental health issues, and all though they mean zero harm (for the majority of the time), they sting more deeply than squeezing freshly cut lime into an open wound. Like many people with bipolar disorder I was originally misdiagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 13 when I was still reeling from my parents' divorce, as well as my mother's admission to the Priory for severe post-natal depression after just giving birth to my baby brother.
Misdiagnosis is a dangerously common occurrence, and it wasn’t until very recently in my twenties, after years of manic episodes and having overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, being confused about my sexuality (in a society that' so quick to stamp labels on us all) and days where I couldn’t get out of bed until late in the afternoon, that I was told that what I'd been running from. Deep down inside I knew that I was a manic depressive.
God, it sounds really intimidating and loopy doesn’t it? Lets break down in medical terms what this condition is for anyone who doesn’t know that much about it. Additionally, this piece is a form of therapy for myself; support for any other silent sufferers as well as education to those who haven't dealt with it before.
"Bipolar is a condition that affects your moods, which will swing from one extreme to another. You will often have periods of depression- feeling very low, withdrawn & lethargic
Mania: Feeling extremely high, overactive and energetic"
During a down period it can sink to as low as not wanting to even be alive and all though I never had the balls to attempt suicide, I had many suicidal thoughts. Often, in a depressed state, I would lie in bed and fantasise about dying and how everyone would be a lot happier without me, how I was just one big burden. In my late teens and very early twenties I began self medicating with a cocktail of drugs, my favourite being cocaine. I was so on top that nothing could bring me down after a few lines, but the sad consequence was that the comedown reeked havoc with my undiagnosed manic depression. Taking uppers can play havoc with a regular person's emotions, let alone a mental health sufferer. Every relationship or casual fling I seemed to involve myself in would end in heartache, leaving myself feeling used. That’s not to say that every girl or guy I was involved with was an awful human being, although there were a few standard assholes along the way. I believe a lot of them just couldn’t deal with my illness and the intensity that came with it.
I do appreciate now how hard I was to deal with whilst I was undiagnosed, although it isn’t to say that I’m easy and cured now. I will never be cured. I will always be bipolar, but it got me thinking about how it is part of who I am and how I most likely wouldn’t be Grace without it. I bare no shame with it any longer, it’s just part of my life- just like how diabetes or dyslexia are part of some of my friends' lives.
1 in 8 people in the UK will be diagnosed with bipolar in their lifetime, 1 in 3 of those being women. Studies have shown that bipolar is most common in females aged 19-30, which makes me think that it's apparently common, so why aren’t more of us discussing it? It’s more than likely that a close friend, relative, colleague or teacher of ours has this disorder.
After much research I discovered how mental health is unsurprisingly common amongst creatives. Oscar winners Catherine Zeta Jones, Vivien Leigh and Carrie Fisher have all been public about their battles, along with singer Nina Simone who came out in the 80s as a sufferer, as well as literary genius, Virginia Woolf . It’s very common amongst those with a creative mind, I guess our minds never fully shut down as we are always developing ideas in our minds, or creating visual mood boards in our brains of things we want to make into a reality, in my case it’s concepts for editorials and makeup looks I want to work on.
Makeup artistry literally saved my life. I am able to put my negative and happy energies into it. It gives me a purpose to be alive and to work hard- to wake up each morning and to keep myself on a level balance.
Level balance is basically feeling neutral between the highs and lows I experience. On the spectrum I am a medium sufferer, it means that with a mixture of medication and CBT therapy, things that have given me coping tools and mechanisms of how to break down situations to avoid manic episodes of anxiety or stress. I can have somewhat of a normal life. I want others, particularly young people. to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of and you will find people who support and love you regardless. The ones who disappear were never friends in the first place!
If this article makes me less hireable then frankly I don’t want your pay cheque. I want to tell you how wonderful life can be with this illness, when managed the correct way. I feel as though I see things such as beauty or makeup, art or lighting in ways others probably don’t. Would my work have the aesthetic it has? Would the looks I've created for editorials come to reality without my barmy mind?
In the last year I've worked with a number of prestigious designers, publications, photographers and stylists despite this illness. Mental health issues don’t mean it’s the end. Sometimes they can be a tool you didn’t know you had.
It’s ok to talk about mental health struggles, it’s ok to not to be there all the time. Let it be a motivation to prove to yourself that you can do what your heart desires. There is no better feeling than silencing a hater with your skills. Ignore the stupid comments uneducated people might have.
I feel no shame, only freedom as I write this piece. It's a letter to myself. The lost little girl who spent years in and out of therapy is now a woman who is in control of her life and working towards her professional and personal goals.
My name is Grace, I’m 25, and I am bipolar.