In an interview with aifc, Nichole Howson tells us about how she coped with bipolar disorder when growing up with her family, how her bipolar affected her relationships and how managing her Bipolar Disorder with treatment and counselling has helped her immensely. Nichole is a Christian woman who manages her own business and runs ‘Defying Shadows‘ a website for Christian mental health bloggers in an effort to raise awareness & break the stigma.
1. When you were growing up did your parents suspect that anything was wrong with you?
Growing up both my parents and I realised there wasn’t something quite right. I was diagnosed with anxiety in my early teenage years and depression and self-harm tendencies by the time I turned 16. The rest we wrote off as being a “normal teenager.”
Looking back, we can see very clear patterns. I can look back on certain times of my life and know I was dealing with a manic episode or severe depression. We cannot change what is in the past, but if we had known I was struggling with Bipolar Disorder at that time, we would have done many things differently.
2. How did living with bipolar as a young girl affect your relationships?
Some of my most strained relationships were a result of my untreated Bipolar Disorder. I have to own up for the decisions and actions I have taken, but we know that this disorder caused a lot of problems between me, my siblings, my family and my friends.
This disorder still affects my relationships at times, but being aware of this can really help prevent it being an issue. I really do have to keep it in check and be self-aware of this issue.
3. Has counselling helped you in any way and would you recommend it?
I have been in counselling since I was eleven and continue to go on a monthly basis. Counselling doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it helpful to talk through my problems, my feelings and my thoughts. Counselling can give you an outlet to say whatever you need to say without damaging a relationship. It also helps you build all sorts of skills: Communication, problem solving, mindfulness, emotion management and so much more. Finding the right counsellor for what you are dealing with is crucial. I’ve been to six different counsellors and each served a different purpose.
4. Can you name some specific improvements to your quality of life after your initial diagnosis & treatment?
Since being diagnosed, I have a better understanding of what is going on. When I have a bad depressive day, I understand why. That helps me deal with it and offers a sense of hope because I know what it is, why it is happening and that it won’t last forever.
It also helps me keep my manic episodes in check. I have safety measures in place to protect myself from the manic me. I have my savings in an account that I cannot access easily to prevent me from spending it during a manic episode. I also have people who hold me accountable and help monitor my moods and actions. I have plans in place for when I am manic and when I am depressed. I have steps to follow when I feel that I am not myself. Having that support system that came with this diagnosis has made a world of a difference in my everyday life.
5. What would you say to males about seeking help for bipolar disorder?
My advice would be the same for everyone. If you feel like something is wrong, speak to a medical professional as soon as possible. There are crisis centres and phone help lines available to help you 24/7. Do not feel ashamed of having these emotions or problems. Bottling them up or blowing them off won’t help you get better. Do not be afraid to speak out about your disorder. Know that it is not your fault and nothing you did has caused this to happen to you.
One last thing… know that you are not alone in this struggle. There are other people in the same place as you. There is tons of support out there for you… You just have to ask for it.
Founder of Defying Shadows.
Studying at aifc
Have you thought about counselling? It’s a great opportunity to learn how you can extend God’s love and grace to the hurting out in the community.
For those who would like to enrol in aifc’s accredited Christian counselling courses we have two intakes per year for courses commencing around the following months:
–The beginning of each year in February
-Mid-Year courses commence in July
Enrolment Season – opens approximately 2 months prior our courses commencing. Enquire now and fill out the form with your details to receive course information by email. Enrol online here during our enrolment season.
Note: A Master of Counselling course was introduced in 2018.