Loughgall woman Jackie Hughes may have bipolar disorder but, as she says in the forward to a new booklet she has written, the condition does not define her.
Jackie (51), a mum-of-five and former care assistant, has charted her moving struggle with the disorder, using notes she has kept assiduously since first being diagnosed four years ago.
The booklet also describes her normal and busy life before her illness and her children’s stories of how they have adjusted to it.
The booklet is just one of Jackie’s achievements since she first shared her story with the Portadown Times a year ago.
Since then she has also channelled her creative talents into upcycling furniture and producing decoupage artwork, in particular decorative stones which have proven popular with people looking for unusual decorations for their homes.
She said, “I have progressed since a year ago, and even though I have bad days, it’s not as much as in the past. I recognise the warning signs and know what action to take.”
In the past year, Jackie, her husband Paul and family have moved house. Although it was literally just around the corner to the ‘home place’, it was still a big decision but the “right one” as the garden was too big for Jackie to manage.
Jackie’s illness has left her unable to take on tasks she previously did without thinking, including gardening, shopping and cooking. Instead, she has found therapy in her artwork and writing.
She receives regular support from her community psychiatric nurse and has also availed of the services of Lifeline, a charity for those experiencing distress or despair.
She attends a counsellor every week and also enjoys the friendship and art classes at the Richhill-based Out of the Shadows Hen Shed.
Jackie, who is thankful for the support of her family, is also excited about the future, with a number of significant dates coming up.
She is due to become a grandmother for the first time and is looking forward to a trip with Paul to Las Vegas, courtesy of their daughter Christina, a haulage driver, who bought it as a Christmas present.
Having benefitted from a lifestyle management course run by the local health trust, Jackie plans to do a further course and hopes one day to be one of those delivering it.
She said, “That’s my goal. Bipolar isn’t the end of the world - it’s a new avenue for me.”
The booklet costs £3 and Jackie can be contacted on 07511 203 220.