FRIENDSHIP has the been the key to climbing out of bipolar’s “pits of hell” for Albury resident Jan Zwar.
Suffering her first breakdown at age 31, she spent the next 44 years varying from nightmarish lows to supreme highs.
Today Mrs Zwar is at a comfortable place in her life, surrounded by people who care about her.
Christmas could often dredge up tough memories, but she said having support around her had helped her through.
She wants to tell her story hoping others may relate and seek help.
Mrs Zwar, 75, said people experiencing similar emotional problems should speak openly to their doctor.
“It can get better,” she said.
Mrs Zwar said the lows could last for months, her thoughts becoming warped and negative.
She could barely get out of bed or look after herself, and at times was suicidal.
“It’s like the pits of hell,” Mrs Zwar said.
“You don’t really care much about yourself.”
In her darkest days she wrote shocking letters to those closest to her.
Once, she packed up all her daughter’s photos to go into the bin.
“When I was on a down, I was evil,” Mrs Zwar said.
Later she felt guilt at her behaviour.
Her daughter’s death at 43 from breast cancer in 2005 brought on a terrible spell of sadness she couldn’t wake up from.
“I went to the funeral, but I don’t remember it,” Mrs Zwar said.
“I didn’t even say goodbye to her, I just must have blacked out.”
Alternatively, the highs saw Mrs Zwar full of energy and love for the world.
Anti-depressants would bring relief for a while, then wear off and her depression would strike once again.
Mrs Zwar spent much of last year in and out of a psychiatric ward, but since April 23 this year she’s been “up”.
“At the moment I’m on a high, but you don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” she said.
Speaking from her tidy room lined with photos of loved ones at Borella House, Mrs Zwar said the facility had been wonderful.
In her purple crisp linen outfit and matching lipstick, she looked the picture of someone who takes pride in herself, and her disposition was as colourful as the roses that filled her garden.
While in the early days of her illness she felt ashamed, today she makes it a priority to talk openly to her daughter, friends and psychiatrist.
“It’s good to talk about it — just to explain the way I am,” Mrs Zwar.
With self-help books on her dresser, she said learning about spirituality and concepts such mindfullness also helped her cope daily.
If you need help call Lifeline — 131 114