Clair Vaughan can tell she's coming down from a bipolar induced high because random parcels have started turning up at her Bootle home.

Massive online shopping sessions, painting the fence in the middle of the night and frantically cleaning the house are some of the things she regularly does when in a period of hypomania.

After this comes a terrible low, which means it can be hard for the 41-year-old mum-of-two to even get out of bed.

"I’ve been known to clean the house and paint the fence in the night. And then the low inevitably comes and I struggle to get

out of bed and to do really basic things like cleaning and eating.

"I find it hard sometimes to stay alive because it’s just so hard. I’d rather not live like that."

Today is World Bipolar Day, recognised each year on March 30, the birthday of artist Vincent Van Gogh who was posthumously diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Clair is just one of an estimated 28,000 people on Merseyside with the condition. It took until she was in her late-20s to be diagnosed.

Clair, her husband and two daughters share a lively home with a menagerie of dogs, cats and brightly coloured birds. In her warm, sun-lit living room, the walls are decorated with her collages and mosaics.

Mum-of-two Clair Vaughan from Bootle
Mum-of-two Clair Vaughan from Bootle

She said: "I’ve always had some mental health problems from when I was a child and I can see I was up and down.

"When I had the girls I had postnatal depression. I went to the psychiatrist a few times and he decided it was something more than that, so I didn’t go back again because I didn’t want to think about it.

"A few years later I had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for a vomit phobia and the therapist was concerned about me so she got me a psychiatrist and that’s when I was diagnosed.

"It was frightening but it also made sense of the way I behave and feel. I was scared because of the stigma that surrounds it and I didn’t want something wrong with me and to know that it’s for life."

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There are different types of bipolar disorder. Clair has bipolar II disorder which means it’s common to have symptoms of depression and a period of hypomania (milder symptoms) instead of mania.

Having bipolar increases the risk of suicide by 20 times and the World Health Organisation identifies the condition as one of the top causes of "lost years of life and health" in 15 to 44-year-olds.

The manic stage of bipolar can also cause sufferers to spend money without thinking about the consequences.

"At the moment I have just come out of being high so now I’m seeing all the stupid things I’ve done and parcels are arriving from things I’ve ordered.

"Now I know that there’s going to be low as what goes up must come down."

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She continued: "I haven’t worked since I had the girls and when I’ve been high I’ve applied for jobs and they have been keen to have me until I mention the bipolar.

"Before I had the girls I was able to work even though I had really bad lows, I had a lot of experience as a nursery nurse and working with children with disabilities.

"But despite the experience, they don’t want to employ somebody with bipolar.

"I would like to be able to have a job because I feel useless at times, but realistically I know that when the lows come I’d really struggle to get to work and probably wouldn’t manage.

"My husband struggles but he’s a man so he always says he’s fine, but he does work hard and he does loads to support me but I think he struggles with the highs as I end up spending money we haven’t got."

Clair takes medication to help with her condition and has support workers that come to her home a few times a week to help her with basic things like shopping, cleaning and going outside.

But having to look after her animals is one of the things that helps her most in her daily life and her anxiety.

She said: "I find animals really help and I think they’re the ones that have kept me going because you have to get up and care for them.

"And I know that they couldn’t keep them if I did anything to finish myself off.

Helplines and support groups

The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website

"When the lows come I find I can feel suicidal, but I do find the animals help and Billy my dog has helped the most because no matter what I have to get out of bed.

"I have to feed him and he needs a walk, whereas I used to spend days and days in the house now because of him I’m out every day walking.”

For World Bipolar Day, Clair has set up a just giving page to raise funds for Bipolar UK.

She is going to shave her hair off – a decision she admits was made during a recent high but vowed to go through with even though mood has come down.

She said: "I want to raise money for Bipolar UK because I would like them to be able to find a cure but I also want to raise awareness that we’re not dangerous.

"I’ve had mums who have let their children come here and play and have tea, and when I have disclosed the bipolar they didn’t want them to come here any more.

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"Maybe if it had been more open when I was diagnosed I wouldn’t have been so scared of what it might mean.

"I wouldn’t have been so frightened to carry on seeing the psychiatrist and finding what else they thought might be wrong apart from postnatal depression."

What is World Bipolar Day?

World Bipolar Day was created to raise awareness and reduce the "social stigma and promote acceptance" of the serious mental health condition.

Bipolar affects 27 million people worldwide and, according to the World Health Organisation, it's the 6th leading cause of disability in the world.

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Stories of the Merseyside coastline

Bipolar UK says 1-2% of the population will experience the condition – estimated to affect 1.3 million people in the UK (about one in 50 people).

The disorder can have a devastating effect not only on the mental health of the person diagnosed, but it can also severely strain relationships with family and friends.

Those with the condition can also face financial hardship due to extended periods of not being well enough to work, or not being able to get a job in the first place because of the stigma attached to the disorder.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

According to the NHS UK website, bipolar disorder is characterised by "extreme mood swings" that can range from "extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression)" that often last several weeks or months.

During a period of depression, symptoms may include feeling sad, hopeless or irritable, lacking energy, loss of interest in everyday activities and even suicidal thoughts.

In the manic phase of bipolar disorder, a person with the condition may feel happy, elated or overjoyed, talk quickly and feel full of energy.

They may also be full of great new ideas, be easily distracted, irritated or agitated, not sleep and even become delusional, experiencing hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking.

A person in the manic phase can also make decisions or say things that are out of character and that others see as risky or harmful.

What should you do if you think you may have bipolar disorder?

The NHS advises that if you feel you may have bipolar disorder you should contact your GP, stressing "a diagnosis should always be undertaken by an appropriately trained medical professional".

The GP may then refer you to a specialist – usually a psychiatrist.

Bipolar UK offers advice on their website for those with bipolar to help support their wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak as many self-help meet up groups are currently suspended.