"They can find themselves in a depression, or they can find themselves in hypermania."
JP: How would you describe a day in the life with a person suffering from bipolar disorder?
KM: It depends. It can change. Obviously, with bipolar, we're looking at someone who goes through an array of emotions. They can find themselves in a depression, or they can find themselves in hypermania. And I think sometimes people could have confused Justin's elevated mood for a very excitable, happy-go-lucky kind of person. He was that, but when you get him hyper-elevated, he was hard to keep up with and we had to come up with ways to help him cope with that. So you would give him space to allow him to let it out. But I found that there were times when you had to help him reign it in – he would just exhaust himself.
JP: Did these hyper-manic states help JJ in his job?
KM: Helped, but also hindered. JJ worked in IT and was extremely good at his job. He was extremely intelligent. There weren’t many problems at work that he didn't seem to be able to come up with a solution for. And a lot of the guys there relied on him a lot. I often looked at this incredibly smart human, who always had the right answers. For him, it could be exhausting. Not because he knew he was smart, but because he just kept going.
JP: What did it look like when he was in his low periods? Was it the absolute opposite of these manic periods?
KM: I remember one day at home. When we woke up I looked over at him and just thought, 'you look really different'. He said: “I just can’t go today. I just can’t face the day.”
"He definitely had insight that something was not quite right and a desire to get better."
JP: And was JJ accepting of his diagnosis?
KM: Yeah, he definitely was. I remember this one day before we even got out of bed, I said to him, "Okay. We can't do this on our own. Let's get some help. I don’t care what it takes, let’s find someone.” We contacted a psychiatrist but he didn't have an appointment that day. So I said to him, "You're not staying home by yourself. When I go to work, I want you to send me a message within half an hour of me leaving the house telling me that you're out the front door and you're walking." Walking for him was really helpful. Getting him out of that confined space and getting him air.
And so he walked, he stopped at a couple of points and took photos. He'd even found an app as he was walking along, called the Headspace app by Beyondblue. It’s all about mindfulness and the power of meditation. He started using it on that walk and was amazed at the positive effect it had. So yeah, he definitely had insight that something was not quite right and a desire to get better.