This guest blog was written by film maker and musician Violette Kay. Her film the Joy thats Mine Alone about life with art and bipolar disorder, can be viewed at :
This guest blog was written by film maker and musician Violette Kay. Her film the Joy thats Mine Alone about life with art and bipolar disorder, can be viewed at :
(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))
Trigger Warning: sexual assault, details of assault and severe mental illness
Its been a while but I thought I would put type to keyboard and write a blog for more mental health awareness.
Since my book was published, I haven’t written many follow up personal blogs, purely because the launch of my life story into the public domain felt overwhelming and scary. 6 months on, I am used to it being out there but I have been working hard in EMDR trauma therapy to help myself.
See, the truth is that right now the Bipolar Disorder for me is stable and under control on my medicines. I still get side effects- weight gain, dry mouth and thirst, but my mind is generally healthy in terms of the Bipolar- no mania or depression. Anxiety and panic yes but Bipolar, not really at the moment.
Yet, almost lurking unseen after I left hospital in 2014 and began my recovery was the fact I was traumatised by my experiences of going into psychosis (losing touch with reality via delusions, false beliefs) and my experiences when being sectioned. I will just give an overview as the rest is in my book- but this included- being restrained, being attacked by other patients and seeing them self harm, being injected with Haloperidol (an anti psychotic) in front of both male and female nurses in a part of the body I didn’t want, being chased round A and E by security men in genuine fear of my life, dealing with lawyers and going to tribunals while ill, thinking I had been abused by family and was locked up by a criminal gang and fearing my family were against me. My bipolar mind could not cope.
Just before this all happened, I was very vulnerable and was sexually assaulted by a man I knew through friends and all of this trauma stayed with me.
I did what most of us with severe mental illness and assault survivors do- I tried to rebuild my life. I tried to work in schools helping children with special educational needs. I tried to work for a mental health charity as a peer support worker for people like me. I began to blog and write and share as therapy- from charities to national newspapers. Bit by bit, as I wrote out what I has been through, I started to slowly heal. But, the symptoms of the extreme panic remained. I lost jobs because of it. I became depressed. I started dating but I often had to cancel dates- (before I met Rob, my husband who listened to me talk about it all and didn’t bat too much of an eyelid.)
I was in a state of flux, a state of transition. I knew I had trauma still living in my brain and body. I had been physically and sexually assaulted, I had been mentally violated- I had been sectioned twice in a few months and now I was sent home to try and rebuild my life as a 25 year old single woman.
I share this important blog, not to share that I am a victim- because I am not. I want to share that I believe for about 5 years, I have been suffering with some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My therapist believes the same.
The panic attacks that grip me with fear before work or the day ahead when I have to leave the house. The fear of going out or travelling at night alone. The fear of being taken advantage of and having to trust men again (thank you to my husband for helping ease this pain). The fear of exploitation, of losing my mind, of not trusting mental health professionals any more.
My panic attacks get triggered by certain events- it could be having to speak about my life or book, or seeing people I don’t feel comfortable with, of feeling exposed, of worrying about others judgement. I am still healing from all I have been through and experienced. The PTSD means that I have to take medication (Propranolol) to function sometimes. It means that I experience flashbacks in my body- I feel gripped with fear, I get chest pain and shallow breathing and I start to cry. I had one the other day at 4am….. thank the lord for meds so I could calm down and sleep.
My therapist is incredible and we have been working since October to process the roots of my trauma and panic disorder. We use a combination of rapid eye processing with talking therapy which helps to tackle each and every trauma- and we are still at the tip of the iceberg. It takes time to process the deep rooted experiences in my brain- we are getting there slowly.
For me, in many ways my future is uncertain. My medicines have long term physical side effects. Motherhood will be more of a challenge due to medication and my mental health- I am still processing the choices I will have to make, which I will write in another blog.
I want to end this blog by saying- if you know someone with anxiety, PTSD, another anxiety disorder or something like bipolar or schizophrenia- Be Kind. You never know what someone has gone through.
The NHS waiting lists for help are too long, services are too underfunded- all my treatment has been private provided by my family due to being stuck on a list for years. I am lucky, not everyone is.
I hope this blog gives some information about my experiences of PTSD since leaving hospital 6 years ago. It is by far the most personal thing I have posted since publishing my book but I hope it helps you feel less alone.
Positivity and Hope are key. Meeting my husband and my therapist changed my life for the better as I slowly rebuild and find an equilibrium again.
It has been a while since I have written a personal blog as there has been so much going on here that I was just focusing on getting through it all. Robs dad had surgery to remove a second brain tumour and is thankfully recovering well, the surgeon amazingly got all the cancer. Success.
Alongside this, I have been in therapy since November with a wonderful therapist and we are doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy). This therapy helps to process trauma that can get ‘stuck’ in the brain if not processed. That trauma can stem from childhood upwards- I was an anxious child from an early age even though I had a good childhood! I have also been through a lot due to my bipolar episodes and hospitalisations. So, I am working with my therapist to process memories and we are doing it slowly.
My therapist will either ‘tap’ on the side of my legs while I recall the memory to help process it or my eyes will follow a light or her finger as we process. Understandably, there has to be a lot of trust in this type of relationship as well as me being protected and not triggered by the therapy. For this, we have developed a ‘safe place’ memory that I go to when we bring up anything too distressing. We have just started to go deeper with this and I will update you with our progress. I am far less anxious than I was and it has been really helpful to build a positive, working relationship with my therapist.
The reason I started therapy was because I was having intense panic attacks and finding it difficult to manage my life due to it. I hope that by working on these triggers that I can react differently and live a healthier and better life. Stay tuned!
A month or so ago, I also went to see my psychiatrist for the first time in 2 years, mainly as I had worries about my weight and physical health. My medications means I have put on a substantial amount of weight and this is worrying me health wise more than anything. I have been advised to diet and exercise and maybe work with a nutritionist. So, this will also be a new journey and I will try my best with this, not easy as the meds may stop me losing weight due to slowing metabolism or encouraging cravings. We considered reducing my Quetaipine, a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic to help but because I have been more mentally stable, I have decided to keep it at the same dose for now.
Rob and I have also started to look at new homes, which has been good. There is a lot happening right now and important that I rest, look after myself and keep calm.
Life with bipolar disorder can be uncertain. I have some fears about the future, which I will talk about in another more detailed post. My medicines thankfully keep me mentally well, but coming off them for future life changes eg pregnancy could be a big risk for me and one I am not sure I should take due to being bipolar 1 (risk of mania and psychosis). This is not currently imminent, but is still a future fear, especially as I love children. A decision for a later date.
Overall though I am hopeful and excited about life and will keep you all updated with my therapy and health journey and news.
Thanks for reading and following Be Ur Own Light as we come up to our 4th anniversary,
(image: Time to Change)
*Trigger warning: discusses thoughts of suicide and mania, please read with care *
This blog has been courageously written by my Dad, Mike, about his journey with bipolar disorder and the hurdles he faced in getting a diagnosis. For those of you who have read my book, you’ll know some of this. This is the first blog that Mike has written for us and I want to share it on today, Time to Talk Day by the charity Time to Change. So here is Mike’s story….
My experience of Bipolar 1 Disorder was that I was undiagnosed for 9 years. I was never sent to a psychiatrist and was put on the wrong medication (I hadn’t heard of mood stabilisers and seemingly neither had my doctor).
So- What is Bipolar Disorder? (formerly known as Manic Depression)
To me, Bipolar symbolises the two extreme poles of mood- mania and depression. The North Pole is Mania. Mania is wonderful for me- you think you can be anyone, you think you can do anything, achieve anything, You are flying. You think ‘why can’t everyone be like this and experience everything?’. You are much more uninhibited. You may shop more, you spend more money, You think you can FLY!
But you can’t fly and you fall, you fall off a cliff into varying degrees of deep, dark depression, which can last for months.
Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood, mania. The elevated mood is significant, known as mania or hypomania depending on its severity and whether symptoms of psychosis are present. Psychosis means when your mind lose touch with reality, with delusions or hallucinations.
During mania, someone feels abnormally, happy, energetic, irritable and not requiring sleep they often appear to be bouncing off the walls, starting new projects, trying to achieve too much. In some cases, addictions during mania may also present.
During depression, someone with bipolar disorder may be crying, experiencing negative thoughts and giving poor eye contact. You will notice this if you ever have a conversation with someone who is depressed. They may also be suicidal or talk about self harm.
My first manic episode occurred in 1991 and I went to the doctor and was prescribed Valium (an anti anxiety calming medication), which was handed out like sweets in those days.
The Valium didn’t do me any harm but they certainly didn’t do me any good. In the next 9 years, I had three manic episodes followed by three increasingly devastating depressive and suicidal episodes, the last of which lasted 5 months.
In my first manic episode I was going out a lot late at night to clubs and bars and spending too much money. My second and third manic episodes were much more controlled as I recognized what was going on but I was still much more outgoing than usual and spending too much money.
My depressive episodes were serious and eventually suicidal and lasted 3, 4 and 5 months respectively. I often stood on the edge of a London Tube platform thinking about ending it all. I would drive down the motorway at speed not turning the corners until the last possible moment. I would stand in the bathroom with hands full of tablets thinking about overdosing and ending my life. Mostly, I was at home in bed doing nothing but sleeping , eating and surviving.
The person you would meet today is not the person you would have come across at that time.
Looking back there was no real connection made between these episodes and I wonder 1. Why I was never hospitalised and 2. Why I wasn’t diagnosed more quickly.
First of all, 30 years ago far less was known about Bipolar Disorder so the doctors weren’t quick to diagnose it. Secondly, it was only after 9 years that my GP reviewed my file and noticed that I had never been referred to a psychiatrist.
This was the breakthrough that changed and saved my life.
I went to The Priory hospital to see a psychiatrist, describing my episodes. Within 45 minutes I had a diagnosis,
”You have a mental illness. It has a name, It is Bipolar 1 Affective Disorder. You have it for life and it is treatable with the drug Lithium.”
Lithium balances out the chemical imbalance so you end up between the poles and mood is then stabilised. I am pleased to say that in the past 20 years, the medication has worked for me and has stabilised my bipolar disorder, so I no longer get episodes of mania or depression.
I am also pleased to say that as quite an emotional person I still experience the normal feelings and emotions that come with everyday life.
Starting on Lithium is not easy as you have to be weaned onto it. There are side effects, the most common being weight gain and you have to have regular blood tests to make sure the level of Lithium in your bloodstream is correct (non toxic) and it is not affecting your kidneys.
I do wish that I had been diagnosed earlier and not had to suffer manic and depressive episodes as I did.
These are the 4 takeaways I would like you to have from reading this, this Time to Talk Day:
1. With mental health it’s good to talk about it , It’s good to fight stigma and it’s good for your own healing.
My journey started in 1991 and I would hear things like ”you’ve got a weakness. Why don’t you pull yourself together?”, which were unhelpful
2. Think about how you can help people in your community by recognizing the signs that someone has depression or mania.
3. Live a positive life- I am an example of a bipolar sufferer who can maintain a positive life. Bipolar is an illness that needs treating. It is treated with medication but it can take time for the medication to be right as each person has individual brain chemistry.
4. Listen to those who are struggling. Most of us listen to reply. If you watch two people deep in a conversation or you are in one yourself your focus will be very much on the other person and you will be listening at 90%.
But if you are listening to understand and you are feeling and sharing their emotions then you are truly listening at 100%. Check out the Samaritans help line too.
(image: Mike Segall)
Mike Segall is a professional speaker and mental health advocate, sharing his lived experience with bipolar disorder to groups in the UK. He is also the father of the founder of this blog, Eleanor.
As some of you will be aware, back in 2017-2018, I helped as a volunteer with fellow volunteers (Lisa Coffman and others) to found the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) in our communities across the country here in the UK. The initiative, led by the mental health charity Jami and conceived by Rabbi Daniel Epstein, now runs in 150 Jewish communities.
This year, my dad Mike and I were delighted to be asked to share our father and daughter journey with bipolar disorder to Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue.
I have social anxiety- which includes at times a fear of public speaking. In December, I had a breakthrough, where I spoke for a short time at a conference called Limmud alongside my Dad and read from my book Bring me to Light. So, when we were asked to do this talk at Chigwell, I felt it could be possible.
I armed myself with the fact that I knew kind people in the community including the Rabbi and his wife and friends of my husband Rob (its the community he grew up in). I also wanted to share my story to help other people.
So, we stayed with a lovely lady in the community and had friday night dinner with the Rabbi and his family. On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a little nervous but took my trusted anxiety medication for when I need it- Propranolol, and walked to the synagogue with Dad.
I managed not to have a panic attack and the thought of speaking to help others got me through (as did distraction, deep breathing and drinking a glass of water).
So, at the end of the service, we were called up to speak. Dad went first and talked about his journey with bipolar disorder from when it started for him in 1991 to finding recovery. Then, it was my turn.
I stood up there in the pulpit speaking to a packed audience with a prepared speech. I felt scared but also empowered and began to relax into the talk. I knew that by sharing what happened to me, being sectioned and so ill and talking openly, that I could break stigma and touch others. I was also so proud of my Dad for speaking so openly.
It was only after, when talking to people after the service, that we realised that about 150 people came to listen to our talk! We had some important conversations with people after our talk including someone very newly diagnosed and someone else whose niece had bipolar and is currently very ill.
I couldn’t and still can’t believe I was able to do that. However, since I have been very tired so trying to de-stress and rest as much as I can!
We just want to thank everyone who came to hear our talk and supported us, to every person who thanked us for coming and shared their stories with us. We are so grateful for such a positive reception and thank Rabbi Davis and the Chigwell community for having us.
The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat has had events in communities all across the country. It runs yearly and you can find out more here
I have sat down many times in the past few weeks to try and compose this blog and I havn’t felt able, the weight of it felt too much to put down on ‘paper’. The past month has been a lot more challenging for me, I have had an increase in my anxiety, particularly the social anxiety, fear of judgement and the world in general.
This has meant I have had to cancel media appearances and my book launch for friends and family and I sadly missed an old friend’s beautiful wedding and another old friend’s hen weekend 😦 (as well as missing going to the theatre to see Waitress with a wonderful friend). I have been having panic attacks again about socialising when feeling so vulnerable. This has been really, really hard because I hate letting anyone down, I have just been feeling ill at times and having to cope with the heightened anxiety and its ‘fun’ accompaniment (insomnia, racing thoughts, negative thoughts and chest pain).
My book got published and while that was amazing and a lifelong dream, it also felt exposing as I revealed a lot about my life that many wouldn’t know. So I felt like hiding away because it felt scary (social anxiety again).
Additionally, I started therapy 7 weeks ago to give me tools to a) understand but b) deal with the underlying anxiety about life and while it is helping (I am doing a type of trauma therapy called EMDR), I think it might be bringing issues I have buried to the surface from past trauma. This could be why I am getting triggered in social situations at present. I have a fear of negative judgement and also of crowds. I am working on this in therapy as I have been through a lot so far in my 31 years on this planet!
This time of year is also not helping me at all- the nights drawing in and the gloomy mornings. I struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and I start feeling lower this time of year. I am well medicated so my depression is mild in comparison to what it gets like when my medication doesn’t work but it is the anxiety I need to work on and expose myself to feared situations slowly.
To my friends, thank you for your kindness and for trying to support me (and coax me out) through this difficult patch again- you know who you are. If anyone wants to come round for a Disney night with chocolate- please do!
Despite the negatives, there have been some successes in the past few weeks- seeing family, going to the cinema with Rob to see Last Christmas, going to the garden centre with my sister and bro in law, attending my therapy sessions, promoting the book online, job applying (exhausting but I’ve been doing it), speaking to friends regularly and trying to socialise even if I don’t always make it. I am working on that.
Oh and I have been volunteering for Christmas4CAMHS charity- that provide presents for ill children on mental health wards. I have been helping them gain awareness and raise funds via social media. This has been one of the most rewarding things I have managed to do in the past 2 weeks. Thank you Ro for letting me be involved and giving me some purpose to help others.
Social anxiety and depression are hard things to live with, but I know it will pass again in time and to reach for support if I need it. I am already on anti depressants and anti anxiety meds (as well as the therapy), so will have to wait and see what helps. I have an SAD lamp so need to use it when I wake in the mornings. Perhaps I should push myself to go for walks, although I am currently enjoying being a doormouse. If anyone else is struggling, please reach out- we are stronger together.
Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a condition involving chronic changes in mood. It oscillates between a manic high, a depressive low, and a normal functioning state. People with this condition often find themselves at the mercy of extreme changes in mood.
However, it is worth noting that this condition is far from untreatable. In fact, with the help of a good clinical psychologist, medication, and a healthy lifestyle, a person with bipolar disorder can lead a happy, productive life.
If you know someone living with bipolar disorder, it helps to be mindful of offering them your care, understanding and support. Here are four things you can do.
Knowing the Facts
Learning about bipolar disorder is the first step in helping a friend with the condition. This is the best way to understand what they are going through.
Like other mental health concerns, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding bipolar disorder. Differentiating the truth from the false assumptions can add to your knowledge and understanding and, ultimately, help you in providing the right kind of support that your friend needs.
Here are some of the common myths about bipolar disorder that have been debunked by experts:
Myth #1: Bipolar disorder is a grave mental illness
In the past couple of decades, experts have established that there are mild forms of bipolar disorder which are, in fact, much more common than severe conditions.
The two main types of this disorder are bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I is characterized by severe episodes of depression and mania while bipolar II entails severe depression but milder manic attacks.
Beyond these two, a bigger group of people experience other forms of mania that occur in shorter periods.
Myth #2: Mood swings automatically mean a person is bipolar
Experiencing extreme mood swings is believed to be one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder.
This is completely false. Mood swings can be caused by several different circumstances, such as a woman’s menstrual cycle, use of drugs and other substances, and even the weather. In some cases, hormonal imbalances, neurological issues, and autoimmune diseases also wreak havoc on a person’s mood.
What sets bipolar disorder apart from these reasons for moodiness is the significant change in a person’s attitude, behaviour, and personality over several days at a time.
Myth #3: Bipolar disorder is difficult to cure
It may seem so, but not really. In fact, there are many different kinds of treatments that are effective for individuals with bipolar disorder, including antidepressants, mood-stabilizing drugs, and psychotherapy.
Showing Compassion, Not Pity
Compassion is crucial for your friend’s recovery. However, many people find it hard to differentiate compassion from pity.
Avoid showing your friend that you feel sorry for then. Instead, recognise the challenge of living and let them know that you are always there for them no matter what.
Not Telling Your Friend What to Feel or How to React
Saying “cheer up” to a person with depression, or “calm down” when manic highs occur, are not the correct approaches to communicating with loved ones with bipolar disorder. In fact, telling them what to do may only cause them to feel antagonized.
Instead, ask them what you can do to help, or offer to do things that can help them feel calmer or happier. When they are no longer feeling distressed, talk about potential strategies that you can try together to help them get better next time.
Lending Your Ears
Listening to a friend in need can do wonders for people living with bipolar disorder. Lending your ears means you should listen sympathetically.
Let your friend know that they do not have to put on a brave face in front of you and that you are ready to listen whenever they need you. You should also take their words seriously, especially if they speak about self-harm or suicide.
Being There for a Friend in Need
Admitting that you need another person’s help or support is not always easy for everyone. It may be especially difficult for people who are being treated for psychological conditions. If someone close to you is living with or has a history of bipolar disorder, make sure to let them know that you are always ready to be there for them.
Justine Corry is a clinical psychologist and enjoys helping people get to the heart of what is not working in their lives. Along with Dr. Gemma Gladstone, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 10 years of experience within private practice.
(image: Trigger Publishing)
This blog has been a long time coming. I have been so busy promoting my book on social media and in the press that I havn’t actually sat here and told you WHY I decided to write this book. So, here goes.
Firstly, can I just express so much gratitude to this here WordPress blog because without it, I would not have got commissioned at Metro.co.uk (thank you Yvette) or for other places online. This blog gave me the confidence to write and to expand my writing’s reach and for that I will be forever grateful.
In 2013/ early 2014, I sat on the couch, crying and living with a suicidal depression. My bipolar was unstable and all over the place- I felt so low and like there was no way out. However, as I sat and cried- a friend of mine’s face peered up from the newspaper. He was looking for the man that saved him from suicide and was launching a campaign called Find Mike to find him. That man was Jonny Benjamin (who now has an MBE). I had known Jonny for many years as a teenager through friends, but he became my inspiration and my hope that I too could do good things despite having mental illness. He very kindly has provided an endorsement too for my book- thank you Jonny!
With the help of my psychiatrist, I recovered temporarily from the depression but then spun very fast into mania and psychosis (possible due to a large dose of anti depressant). I was sectioned and in hospital for 4 months as an inpatient and a further 4 as an outpatient.
Throughout this time, I could not think about writing because my mind wasn’t stable enough. But as I pieced my life back together, started taking a new mood stabiliser to help control the bipolar episodes and started to recover slowly, I found the power of blogging about my social anxiety due to trauma of the bipolar, to be so helpful. I found that others would share their stories and would reach out to me about their mental health too.
Although life is not perfect and I am still living with an anxiety disorder, I have found a way to write and speak about mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar at 16 and there was a lot of shame for me about it back then in 2004. These days, I tell my story for other scared 16 year olds newly diagnosed but also to break down barriers and stigma against mental illness. To explain you can have bipolar or be sectioned or have psychosis but you can recover and you don’t need to spend life in hospital forever. To explain that while this cruel illness runs in families, that with the right healthcare, staying more stable is possible.
I started writing my book with Trigger Publishing because they believed in my story when I sent them my proposal. They are part of the mental health charity the Shaw Mind Foundation and royalties go towards the charity as well as some to me.
I hope that when you read my story, you won’t see it as a despairing ramble- but rather a story of hope, of life, of light triumphing over the darkness- but the darkness making the good times shine brighter. I also bring my bipolar to light, I share it with the world- as scary as this is, so that others can also tell theirs.
I wrote this book too provide a place to talk, start conversation and help heal myself through writing it but sharing that feeling of hope with others too. The book cannot change things that are so needed like urgent mental health funding of the NHS so we have parity of esteem. Yet, i hope it is a starting point about how important mental health treatment is for people to move forward in their lives.
Bring me to Light is out on 5th November 2019 in the UK and is available worldwide. It will be out in the USA in 2020. It can be purchased on Amazon, in book shops and at triggerpublishing.com
I will be sharing press articles and more about the book as it happens, but I hope this blog explains why I wrote my book. Thank you all for your ongoing love and see some of you at the book launch!
(image: Eleanor Segall)
Its that time of year again here in England. The candy- floss pink cherry blossom are on the trees. The sky is a cornflower blue and the sun is streaming down, just waiting for the odd April shower. And I was outside to see it and enjoy it today.
Why is this a victory? Because over the winter I was mildly depressed and hardly leaving home. The lack of light had really got to me and I just wanted to curl up inside with a blanket. Now the days are getting longer and the spring is here, I am thinking about rebirth, waking up anew and starting afresh.
I am writing my book still (cover and title to be revealed) and I will be starting a new job in PR soon. Tonight, Rob and I are going out to celebrate that over dinner. Our wedding is 3 months today 🙂 and coming round fast.
Theres a lot to do, plan for and a lot of change (mostly positive but still a shift). I know that this is not a bad thing however this week I did start feeling overwhelmed. That was because my step grandpa passed away and we had to go to Wales for the funeral, followed by a week of mourning in our home. It was a challenging week, he will be so missed.
Yet what I have learnt from life is that there may be constant intensity or ups and downs, with everything happening at once but we have to learn to try and go with it.
Going with the flow is not something I do well. I get anxious, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, sad like any other human. I hope and I pray and I try to see signs from God and the Universe. Getting fresh air and sun is good for me and you too .
Ultimately I am learning life is a blessing but I need to guard my mental health carefully (and thank goodness for medication and a strong support network)
How are you this Spring?
(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.’
Read full blog here: