(image: Centre for Mental Health)
‘Like so many sharing their stories this World Bipolar Day, I have lived experience of bipolar disorder. I am now 30, but was just 16 when I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 (the most severe form of the mood disorder) as an inpatient at the Priory Hospital North London. It was hard to deal with this diagnosis at such a young age and I didn’t know then what my future would hold. I was hospitalised due to having three episodes of illness: mania and depression in one year, which led to psychosis, where my mind lost touch with reality.
Bipolar is a serious mental illness that causes a change in mood states to either big manic highs or devastating depressive lows, with a normal state of functioning between episodes. As someone living with this, I also have experienced psychosis during my mania which needs quick hospitalisation as my mind spirals wildly out of control. I have been hospitalised twice for my bipolar (in 2004 and 2014), both times due to an extreme episode of mania and psychosis.
As a teenager in hospital, I was depressed, anxious, fearful and vulnerable. I believed (falsely) that I had been sexually abused and my reality became based on this false belief (delusions). The doctors got me back to full health through a combination of starting on new medicine (mood stabilisers) and giving me anti-psychotic medication to bring me down from the mania. Over four months I also had one to one therapy, group therapy with the other teenagers in the adolescent unit and was supported by an incredible team of nurses and a psychiatrist who believed I could get well. I eventually went home once my mind was stable and started a long process of counselling and recovery.
I was able to go to university and get my degrees, travel, make friends, date and live my life. However, in 2013, after some life stressors, I began to experience a depression which featured suicidal thinking. It was very scary and we believe it is because my medicine Carbamazepine wasn’t working any more as I got older.
Depression of this kind is incredibly hard to deal with. I stayed in bed all day most days with breaks for meals. I had no energy, no hope, no reason to get up. I was unmotivated and couldn’t cope with life. I barely washed or spoke to friends. Luckily, due to my fears about the suicidal thoughts, I shared this with my family and medical team. I didn’t want to act on it, just escape from the pain my mind was in.
Unfortunately, a few months later, the depression turned into a period of mania, possibly caused by my mood stabiliser not working and taking anti-depressants. This is always a risk with bipolar, that medicine can send you high. I was agitated, speaking very fast, with racing thoughts, raised libido and was vulnerable as a result. The psychosis then started, with my mind starting to believe falsely that I was being held by a criminal gang orchestrated by my family. It was so scary. I was sectioned, treated with medication again and over several months engaged with therapy in hospital, while they tried to bring my mood and mind back to lucidity.’
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