Are you happy? Maureen Hills-Jones, former nurse

I started suffering from manic depression after my mother died. It comes and goes. Sometimes I have so much energy, it's ridiculous. I'm extremely happy right now. I undergo periods of extreme excitement followed by a low so deep it feels like grief. It can be a hard thing to explain to my children. The last thing you want to do is inflict it on them.

There are periods of great activity. I buy presents for people and write postcards and letters, even though people don't write letters any more. My kids laugh when they receive them. I talk on the phone. I stay up through the early hours. You can do an enormous amount in the night. I wrote an entire book last year, but then ripped it up. I make the most of these times because I know they're not going to last. It's unpredictable and those around, including my husband, have been very understanding.

I won't take medication. When you do, you're neither happy nor sad - I don't want my life to be like that. I'm open to other solutions to help me, whether that's reflexology or aromatherapy. Manic depression enhances the way you look at the world. When you're in the depression, you plan your funeral, but afterwards it feels as if you've got a new lease of life, a new view of the world - until next time. There will be a next time, but it's best not to dwell on the future. I have learned to live with it.

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