Just over 13 years ago, journalist and author Päivi Storgård, 54, was diagnosed at the end of a long symptom: she suffered from bipolar disorder.
The disease is symptomatic of periods of depression during which a person may not even be able to take a shower and mania or hypomania, in which case the behavior can be very impulsive.
Storgård has spoken openly about his illness in public and addressed it in his book The Rocking Board. He has wanted to remove the shame and ignorance surrounding mental health problems.
Now Stårgord tells Yle Radio Finland's Invited Guest program what it is like to live with bipolar disorder. He describes in the program the first moment he realized that something was wrong with him. He had been driving a rental car in Denmark for a mile at the time.
- I haven't been able to stop once. I have no plan. It's night now and it scares me. I hang towels on the car windows for visibility and curl up in the back seat under an old military blanket. This was not the first time I found myself walking along the North without being able to stop. At that point, 13 years ago, I knew something was badly wrong. I just didn’t know what, Storgård says in the program.
When he got home, Storgård found himself in the closed ward of a psychiatric hospital.
Päivi Storgård is known as a former presenter of Aamu-tv, Nelonen's news anchor and author.
Photo: Pete Aarre-Ahtio / IS
Storgård told IS in 2013 that the first signs of the disease appeared in his twenties, but he could not pay attention to them at the time.
Above, Storgård says the symptom started properly when he worked on Morning TV and started work at half past four in the morning. He couldn’t sleep and felt like he was walking in the fog. In his spare time, he drove a trailer to his home from garden stores for insane amounts of seedlings and tools.
- On weekends, I planted plants for hours on end without eating or drinking. I cleaned so that large wooden sticks came off the door jambs when I pulled the vacuum cleaner with gritty grips many times a day. There were extra beats in my heart. Somehow I knew this wasn’t going to end well, but I couldn’t stop.
Soon Storgård's spouse also realized that not everything was okay. Storgård remembers how he carved the headlight in the backyard of his home, cleaning the rock all night. He tore the roots and sparrows so that his fingers leaked blood.
- That's when my husband noticed that something was really wrong. It was also evident at work. I couldn’t speak with a normal speech rhythm. I was fast-forwarding, Storgård says at Yle.
In hypomania, Storgård is overbearing and feels capable of anything. During periods of depression, he can’t even do everyday chores.
- I'm completely paralyzed. I can't do anything. Anything that normal people do without thinking, like taking a shower, washing their hair, changing clean clothes, eating breakfast. The hair sticks greasy to the forehead and gradually begins to stink.
Storgård eventually received help from an occupational health doctor, who sent him by taxi to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
Stårgord, who was in the public profession, was initially horrified that people would find out he was in psychiatric care. In the lobby of the hospital, Aira Samulin met him, from whom she shamefully tried to hide her shoes worn by the patients.
- My spouse was ashamed of me too. He took my cell phone so I wouldn’t be unnecessarily connected to the outside world. No people need to know you’re here, he said.
The illness affected Storgård's life holistically. Her marriage ended and she became unemployed. Suddenly he had no money to rent his apartment and he drifted into a debt spiral.
- I remember standing on the street with two euros in my hand and wondering what food they would be enough for. I would roast the potato slices in the oven. I took a quick tip to get my rent paid. The money soon spilled into my account. I was both relieved and horrified. I paid the rent and then had 50 cents left in my account.
Storgård in autumn 2002.
Photo: TEA KARVINEN
The first quick start started a debt spiral, which Storgård survived with the help of a social worker. He sought help when he no longer dared to open envelopes arriving in the mail.
In the Inviting Guest program, Storgård emphasizes the importance of seeking and receiving help for a mental health patient.
Therapy has been an important aid to Storgård's ability to cope with the disease. With the help of her therapist, she has learned to ask for help before the situation gets too bad. Initially, the situation was clarified day by day, in small steps.
- After the first ward treatment, we made a simple day program to catch up with everyday life. What do I do at 12 noon? I go to the swimming hall. Of the three, I go shopping, of the four, I pick up the youngest from kindergarten. Then put the food. Half of the six countries are eaten and so on.
For the past six years, Storgård’s illness has been in balance. He is grateful to be able to live a normal life without fear of mood swings.
- I live a normal everyday life. It feels wonderful, she says to Yle.