I dreamt of being a lawyer since I was eight. During my second year at the university, I started looking for a job and soon joined a law firm.

I was happy and was working from dawn to dusk, taking breaks only to study.

The work brought me great joy. Obviously, not everything went smoothly right off the bat, but my boss enjoyed teaching me. I quickly got the hang of it and soon started representing clients in court.

I didn’t experience any major mood swings at the time. I had a clear schedule I stuck to and was in love with all this hustle and bustle, clericalism and dress code. This was the job I did the longest. Before starting my maternity leave and between the births of my two kids, I kept working until it became too difficult.

A hypomanic episode happened after my first son was born. At night, I was frantically making jam and baking cakes using pricy ingredients. Not only the family budget took a hit, but also my husband who had to handle most of the chores and responsibilities, and didn’t get enough sleep. Meanwhile, I was obsessed with crazy ideas about business, my own coffee shop, and internship in France.

This continued for about six months. I mastered the art of making pastries, but got burned out to the point that baking a simple pie was challenging for me. After that, I had several more hypomanic episodes, during which I made handmade beauty products and was obsessed with personal growth and self-care.

When I developed depression, I was pregnant with my second baby, while the first child was not even one and a half years old yet.

Our second son was born in 2014 when the war started. It was a mixed episode which I can’t really define as postpartum depression. Only non-stop work helped to reduce constant anxiety and stress. That’s how I got involved in volunteering.

Initially, I was managing my own charity projects. My husband was at the checkpoint at the time. We didn’t have any days off. I would stay home once in a while, but typically our eldest son Misha was with his grandpa, and my youngest Kolya would go everywhere with me in his baby wrap since he was three months old.

We started volunteering by organizing food supplies for soldiers. We were standing in the street with a handmade poster, collecting food and water for several military bases. Later, we were purchasing tactical knee pads. The photograph with our youngest son was taken for the report during that time. He was our son of[KS1]  the regiment*, so to speak.

After that, we launched our charity sale which was a full-fledged project. We were building relationships with other volunteers and shopping malls where we were selling handmade goods, like gingerbread cookies, motankas (i.e. traditional Ukrainian dolls), jewelry, and souvenirs created by Dnipro-based craftswomen. The proceeds from sales would then be used to purchase first-aid kits, warm clothes and combat boots for the soldiers.

That was also when I started cooperating with hospitals. I brought medications and food for the wounded, and assisted with their care. I stayed in touch with the patients, their families and volunteers 24/7. The money we raised was growing, and so we started handling medical care of the soldiers.

Our sale project existed for about a year or 6 months. When it got shut down, I began volunteering in hospitals, and also helped the families of the fallen soldiers with morgue matters and burial. This was by far the toughest experience in my life.

After that, we were crafting camouflage nets with other volunteers. I have completed a training program in battlefield medicine and was on duty as a combat paramedic.

My military volunteering came to an end in 2016. At the time, I was also working with the M.ART.IN-club NGO which is my second official job. Its mission consists in helping mothers with children who got in trouble. I was involved in their projects as an administrator, manager, lawyer, photographer, content manager, cookie seller and art therapist.

Currently, I am more of a volunteer rather than an employee at this organization. M.ART.IN team and I share the same outlook on life which is why I’m always ready to help them.

I have a bunch of hobbies. There were days when I worked as a barista in a coffee shop, and other days when I was waitressing. Several times, I sang in a band in a cafe, at a festival or just outdoors. I teach an art class at an art gallery. I had my own art exhibition and a workshop, which is why I can safely call myself an artist. I did several photo shoots, although I didn’t sell any photos. I made a music video for a band and it was broadcasted during the gig. I enjoyed it so much that I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

My colleague and I were renting an art workshop for a year. I was juggling everything from drawing, managing a page to filming and event planning. My energy levels were going through the roof until the stage of disease changed.

One of the jobs was kind of a failure. I started working in a call center but quit after three months.

I had different hobbies and jobs, and during hypomanic episodes I would give them my all. That being said, when depression takes over, I am struggling because I don’t have a job, don’t give enough time and attention to my loved ones, and simply can’t force myself to go out. With that in mind, I figured that I need to stick to freelance in order to have a flexible schedule. That way, I can complete my tasks ahead of time while I am being hypomanic or feel stable, and not beat myself up for failing to meet my commitments if I spiral into depression.

Being involved in the Bicovery project is perfect in that sense. It inspires and motivates me. I love sharing my pieces with you all and hope that my experience will help those who need it. We are going to reveal more information about the project soon which has every chance of becoming a new chapter in the lives of those who live with bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, don’t miss the upcoming stories!

* Widespread colloquial expression among Russian speakers which emerged after the Soviet movie “Son of the Regiment” came out. Essentially, it means a child who has lost his parents and is growing at the military base. However, it can also have other meanings.

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