Do you suffer from depression? Perhaps someone you care deeply about experiences manic behavior? Mental illness is not easy to recognize and mental health is a very sensitive subject to deal with. Yet Kirsti Alexandra Reid has written an eye-opening novella, The Bipolarfly Effect, that confronts head on her discovery, acceptance and treatment of her bipolar disorder.
Kirsti’s decision last year to acknowledge her mental illness enabled her to pen, with great clarity and brutal honesty, what daily life is like for individuals diagnosed with bipolarity. A talented young fashion designer and writer from Ireland developing her career in Paris, Kirsti’s dynamic life was peppered by severe bouts of depression and manic behavior. Until she realized she was teetering on a dangerous edge. Unable to confide in those closest to her, she sought help. The Bipolarfly Effect is about her personal journey to accepting and dealing with her bipolarity.
“I am not bipolar; I have bipolar” is a common phrase used by many bipolar sufferers.”
– From the Bipolarfly Effect
For those suffering from its debilitating effects, Kirsti’s book is a shout out to say they are not alone. For those living and interacting with a person who is bipolar, her journal entries and self-reflection gives us a rare glimpse of the powerful, conflicting inner emotions at work, and teaches us what to expect to help us empathize.
“Everything is so blurry, there’s some kind of haze over the world today. My legs feel so heavy like I’m being tied down to the ground by those ankle weights you see in prison movies. I can’t believe I’m still in bed, it’s so ridiculous. I feel like I could sleep for the rest of my life and I’d still not be awake enough to be fully conscious. I feel completely numb. If someone jabbed me with a sharp knife I’m sure I’d bleed out before I even noticed.”
— From author’s personal journal entries in Bipolarfly Effect
Kirst’s writing has graced INSPIRELLE’s website with her relatable and trend-setting fashion posts. Now, we are proud to promote her first book, which is available in paperback and as an e-book this October on Amazon.
Kirsti, as you grew up, did you ever suspect that you had a mental health disorder?
When I was very young, not at all. I presumed my feelings of depression were completely normal, I thought everyone thought about suicide and it was simply something nobody ever spoke about. Then as I got older, I realized that something wasn’t quite right, I wasn’t like most of my friends and I became more aware of having to hide my odd behavior. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/early adolescence when I really learned about my family’s history with mental health, that I started to put the pieces together.
What inspired the title of your book, “The Bipolarfly Effect”?
I chose “The Bipolarfly Effect” for a couple of reasons. The first being it’s a play on the psychological thriller movie title, The Butterfly Effect. Secondly, it reminded me of the butterfly paintings I used to make as a child. I would paint half a butterfly on one side of the centerfold of a sheet of paper and then fold the paper while the paint was wet to create the other half. I liked the idea that although this was a mirrored image of the butterfly I’d painted, it would never be exactly the same, more like a warped version and it reminded me of the duality of being bipolar. Because I’ve learned that I was probably bipolar as a child and didn’t know it, that idea tied in nicely as well as the fact that those butterfly paintings remind me of the Rorschach inkblot test used in psychology.
Why did it take so long for you to be able to accept that you needed help?
If I admitted that I needed help, I would have had to admit it to myself and that was the hardest barrier to overcome. At the times when I was at my lowest, I would know in my heart that something was very wrong. But how easily all that anguish was forgotten when I was feeling better. I would continually delude myself that it wasn’t that bad, that I was just weak and other people had “real” mental health issues. The longer I left it, the more intense my episodes got and the less in control I felt until I really had no option but to seek help if I wanted to live my life.
Understanding that you suffered from bipolarity, did that help you or scare you?
It was a little of both. Firstly, it was great to finally have an answer to why I felt the way I did, the way I do. It helped me to feel less alone, that there were other people who felt the same way and most importantly, that help and answers were available. It was scary, however, to have this label. I knew what other members of my family had gone through with Bipolar and also how it had affected their relationships in every sense of the word. I didn’t want that to be me. In hindsight, I know now it already was.
Did you share your diagnosis with your family and close friends?
I didn’t at first. I told a couple of people I had been to see a psychiatrist but I didn’t share the diagnosis until a few months into therapy and medication when I had had a chance to wrap my own head around it. In the beginning, I very much played it down as I didn’t want my family to worry, only my partner knew the true extent of it.
Having lived with a roller coaster of uncontrollable manic emotions all your life and retreating when things got very bad, what made you decide to write a book about your personal experience?
“The Bipolarfly Effect“ was never intended to be published when I started writing it. It was initially just a therapeutic exercise but by the end, I felt it was too important for me to be honest with people and also for others to be educated, not to publish it. Being a writer, it was also the easiest way for me to communicate to my family what was really going on. I’ve never been very good at expressing my emotions in person, so writing it all down and having the opportunity to edit my words allowed me to really say what I wanted and for it to come across how I would have loved to be able to do face to face.
What message do you have for those who have a bipolar condition or suffer from a form of depression?
You are not alone and if you feel alone, you don’t have to be. The longer you ignore mental health symptoms, the worse they can get, so speak to someone, a friend, a doctor, anyone. It’s important that you share what you’re going through and to find a therapy that works for you, be that medication, regular therapy sessions or simply exercise.
How can we help those who suffer from bipolarity?
In my book, I outline a number of things you shouldn’t say to someone who suffers from bipolarity but if I could only pick one thing that would help, it would be non-judgmental compassion. By that I mean just try to be kind and listen. If someone confides in you about their issues with mental health, that’s already a big hurdle to overcome, so try not to judge or define that person as their illness.
Do you think there is less stigma today and a better understanding of mental illness?
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to bipolar disorder and mental health problems in general but slowly it is being broken down. The more we can be transparent about mental health, the better. I think the tragic deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain earlier this year have made people realize that mental health issues can affect anyone, not just us mere mortals.
Where do you like to go in Paris or what do you like to indulge in when your spirits are good?
My favorite place to go in Paris when my spirits are good is actually also my place of choice when my spirits are bad. Just past the catacombs, relatively unknown to even dog owners, there is a small, completely enclosed dog park. I go there two or three times a week with my deaf dog and it is truly my happy place. Since he can’t hear, he doesn’t get to be off leash much but there he can run and play with lots of other dogs and I don’t have to worry about him. I can easily spend three or four hours there, just watching his happy face. There he is at his most content and if my dog is happy, I’m happy.