‘Bipolar Disorder: What I wish someone had told me’- my first blog for Mind Charity

MindEleanor
(image by Mind Charity)

Original post at Mind website: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/bipolar-disorder-what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me/#.WiUudVVl-M-

When I was 15, I started suffering from depression and anxiety. My heart would race, I couldn’t sleep and it was so debilitating I had to take six weeks off school in my GCSE year. I still got my GCSEs and I recovered for a while. However the following months were filled with a manic, high episode and then a depressive episode featuring psychosis which led me to be hospitalised voluntarily on an adolescent mental health unit. It was there, aged just 16 years old, that a psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar affective disorder, which runs in my family.

Bipolar is a serious mood disorder where sufferers can experience depression and low phases lasting for months and manic, high phases which can make sufferers feel out of control due to the symptoms.

I am now 29, but when diagnosed at 16, this felt like a life sentence. I was a shy teenager, always wanting to fit in and now I was told I would have a chronic mental illness, have to take constant medication to keep well and keep regular tabs on my moods. What I didn’t know was that due to the severity of my illness, the doctors told my parents they didn’t know if I would be well enough to go to university. I proved them wrong, but this is what I wish I had been told when first diagnosed

Not everyone with Bipolar rapid cycles

I go for months between episodes and on my medication sometimes have no Bipolar episodes at all. In society, people think being bipolar means your mood changes a hundred times a day. This is not the case. Often months and years pass between episodes because everyone with the illness is different.

Some people do rapid cycle with their moods and for others it’s much slower. Let’s change that stigma.

You can do whatever you want to do, just make sure you set realistic goals

Whether it’s going to University, starting a new job, travelling around the world- you can do it if you are feeling well. Make sure you look after yourself and ask for reasonable adjustments in the work place, if need be. It’s ok to disclose a disability- but as long as your episodes are fairly under control (and in this everyone is different) you can still achieve. Small achievements are just as important, just make sure it’s achievable and realistic for you at the time.

Medication can help keep your moods on an even keel, but it is trial and error

It took me almost 11 years of living with the disorder before I found the right medication to keep my episodes at bay, and my moods properly stabilised. I experienced severe depressive and manic episodes when on the wrong medication for me.

Mood stabilisers, such as Lithium, really can help. When I changed from a teenager into a woman, my previous mood stabiliser Carbamazepine stopped holding me and I became unwell. Make sure you chat with your psychiatrist about the right medicine for you, and don’t be afraid of drugs like Lithium- it has saved my life.

Everything is trial and error and you may also need to be on a combination of anti-depressants or anti-psychotics. These medications all have side effects but if it helps your mental health significantly it can be worth it, just make sure you do it under the guidance of a psychiatrist.

You can live and live well

In 2014, I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode and was very unwell. It took me the best part of a year and a half to recover from the affect. However, since recovery I have worked for mental health charities, started a blog Be Ur Own Light (www.beurownlight.com) to tackle mental health stigma and blogged for Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, Bipolar UK and other publications such as the Huffington Post UK. Living with bipolar disorder means you have to be resilient. You can live. Yes, you may have other mental health challenges (I suffer from anxiety) but you can still achieve what you want, however big or small. Live your dreams.

When you are first diagnosed with bipolar disorder or suspect you may have it due to your moods and symptoms, you can feel incredibly out of control and overwhelmed. The most important thing to do is to take it day by day and get the right support. You don’t have to live a miserable, reduced life, rather with the right help and combination of medication, therapy and support networks – including a good medical team- you can thrive.

Things may feel bleak and scary. However, you can move forward into the light. Be kind to yourself. Your illness is not your fault and you can recover again. That’s what I wish I had known when my journey began and what I want to share with you.

Advertisements

Achieving positive change in Mental Health: Guest post by Tony Weekes of Unity MHS

inmyright

My name is Tony Weekes. I feel honoured to have been invited to post on Be Ur Own Light. I have witnessed at first-hand the mental suffering of close family members. In trying to ease their suffering, I have tried, sometimes succeeded, other times failed, to surmount the problems – which they have faced – caused by the current care system’s serious lack of funding and the resulting lack of cohesion.

I am not a professional in the field of mental health but I could not sit back and do nothing. So, I founded Unity MHS, a grassroots movement to revolutionise mental health care in the United Kingdom through education, recognition and intervention.

As a not-for-profit Company limited by guarantee (not a charity), Unity has no shareholders. Therefore, our driving force is the commitment we maintain on our mission rather than personal or financial gain. Our mission is two-fold:

  • To challenge the way society views mental health.
  • To facilitate vast improvement in access to ongoing care and socio-economic empowerment for those suffering with any kind of mental ill health.

I strongly believe that when mental health is viewed with the same level of importance as physical health, the funding necessary for the care system to operate as one unified force will be made available in an instant. Additionally, considering the component parts of the current system, I believe that most of the logistics required for UK mental health care to shine already exist. It is the consistent lack of investment which has allowed the system to show great strain under the pressure it faces.

The general-public are only now becoming aware of the possible mental health crisis we face as a country, or even as a planet. The conversations are becoming increasingly more open. However, it is only a widespread shift in public opinion, which will give the greatest burden of illness in the UK the priority status and corresponding national investment it desperately needs.

Hence, I set-off on my mission by writing In my right mind – a book which seeks to tackle this crisis from angles which may never have been considered in the public domain – to instigate that shift in the public’s perception of mental health.

Moving onto the second part of our mission, we aim to facilitate improvements through ongoing education, recognition and intervention in mental health. How can this be achieved?

Education:

There are two social entities which represent what should be the front line on a proactive approach to mental health. These are our schools and our families. The teachers at the school which my children attend actively promote working in educational partnership with parents. We believe this should and will also be the case with their mental well-being. Schools and parents will be given the tools they need to build resilience and notice signs of mental distress in youngsters at home and in the classroom. This will also give us all the knowledge to observe and act accordingly in the case of adolescents or even adults showing the signs of mental illness.

At Unity, we have developed a program with this aim and are in talks with a number of schools about implementation.

 

Recognition:

The earlier that the possibility of any form of illness is recognised, the sooner it can be diagnosed and the more effectively it can be treated before it gets more serious. The importance of early-  recognition for the whole system, cannot be over-estimated. Once we have the knowledge required to notice what may be the early signs in any setting, with a good treatment plan in place then arguably any form of mental illness can be managed over time with persistence.

 

Intervention:

In many instances, in-patient care will be necessary. Arguably, this is the area where the current system is showing the greatest signs of strain as there are simply not enough beds available. This results in patients sometimes being discharged before they have received the level of care needed or in other instances, people being admitted for care hundreds of miles from home, away from their all-important support network.

For any form of serious illness, varying degrees of rehabilitation are needed to ensure that recovery from the illness can be sustained once a patient is discharged. Our greatest challenge is to generate all the resources necessary for these beds and the other resources necessary, to be made available sustainably. With the right treatment, for the right amount of time, followed by ongoing care and support in the community, social and economic empowerment would make positive long-term recovery more likely and hopefully minimise the risk of relapse.

The NHS is a world leader, Unity will also make mental health care here world renowned.

tonyw

Tony Weekes is a mental health activist and founder of grassroots movement Unity MHS and author of the book, ‘In My Right Mind’. He campaigns for better mental health and can be found at www.unity-mhs.org  and his book at www.unity-mhs.org/book. Tony can be contacted at progress@unity-mhs.org

Living with Bipolar Disorder: my True story- for Counselling Directory Website

elliesegall

Be Ur Own Light author Eleanor tells her story for Counselling Directory. 

Article: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/experience_236.html

I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at just 16 years old. I had been admitted to hospital after a year of depressive and anxious episodes, followed by a hypomanic episode (a lesser episode of mania). People with bipolar have a mood disorder which means our moods can become extreme and oscillate between low and high.

After a year of not understanding what was happening, I finally came to accept the diagnosis. You see, bipolar runs in my family. There is evidence it can be genetic but, as I was so young, no one suspected that my depression and hypomania could be bipolar disorder. I was hospitalised as a teenager in 2004 due to a mixed state of depression and psychosis (where your mind loses touch with reality).

Luckily, with medication and support, I was able to live a fairly ‘normal’ life for several years. Despite having to go down a year at school, I made it to University and completed a Bachelors and Masters degree. I went travelling with friends to India and Ghana, regularly took my medication – mood stabilisers and antidepressants – and was supported by various psychiatrists and therapists, as well as my wonderful family and friends.

But the trauma of what I went through caused an increase in my anxiety levels and I developed social anxiety, fearing what others thought of me. I also became slightly agoraphobic and suffered from panic attacks. Bipolar is such a complex disorder and sometimes anxiety can be a part of the depressive side of the illness.

Over time, I believe that my main medication stopped working. This coupled with several life events, meant I became unwell fast. In 2013, I began to sink into a very low depressive state which led to suicidal thinking. I became very unwell, but supported by my family and upped dosages of medicine, I got better again. However, this was short lived.

In 2014, I spiralled into the worst manic episode of my life. I had racing thoughts and pressured speech, was very fearful of those around me and began to experience delusions (false beliefs about the world). I was incredibly vulnerable and unwell. Unfortunately, the episode happened very quickly and although I hadn’t been in hospital for 10 years, suddenly I found myself there, waiting to be treated.

Being in hospital this time was hard; it took a while for the psychiatry team to bring me down from the manic state. I was in hospital for four months, attending therapy groups (I loved art therapy) and working with occupational therapists, nurses and a wonderful psychiatrist who believed I would get well again.

I did get better again in time. I had a further four months of support when I left hospital, where I was put on the correct mood stabiliser for me – Lithium – which has helped keep the moods at bay. I attended day therapy sessions on anxiety management, recovery, art and social groups and I slowly came out of my shell again. I was in shock and quite traumatised at what had happened to me. However, over time and with support, I accepted it and began to recover.

Since that difficult time, I have worked for and volunteered with mental health charities and supported communal projects. I also started my blog, Be Ur Own Light, in 2016 to explain to family and friends about my mental health. It has been read worldwide and its aim is to tackle mental health stigma and share real-life stories.

I also began to write for the Huffington Post UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and Bipolar UK, amongst others. Writing is therapy for me.

My message would be that the right medical team, coupled with support networks, psychotherapy, medication and doing things you love to do, can help you feel much better and find recovery. I, like so many with mental health issues, am still a work in progress but to reach any form of recovery is a big milestone and I will fight to remain well. You can too.