As it is Mental Health Week I thought that I would discuss a little about my experience living with Bipolar. As you probably already know I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in October of last year but I have been experiencing symptoms since I was 16.
It all started when I finished my GCSEs and started college. I decided to stop going to lessons and stop doing homework (this might not sound unusual but at school I was an A* Student who would be ashamed if she ever got a detention!). I also became aggressive at times to my boyfriend who was attending the same college if he didn’t agree with me. I even hit him once (or maybe twice :/) and made a huge scene by doing so because I believed (at the time) that I was always right and everyone else was always wrong. I was close to getting thrown out at the time but decided to leave and become an apprentice.
This decision was made because I went into a deep depression and needed counselling again (I had been a couple of sessions from the age of 13). I stopped talking to friends and completely isolated myself. I had self harmed, felt worthless and hopeless and had lost all my confidence. I started counselling but didn’t mention what had happened at college as I didn’t see it as a problem and nobody had told me that it was. I was just feeling really really low and almost suicidal. This lasted a while until there came a point that I felt I didn’t need counselling as I was fine, more confident and felt happy and excited for the future and able to cope with anything, so I applied for an apprenticeship position and got the job!
I seemed to be doing well during my apprenticeship as I was bubbly and my confidence was really high. I would complete tasks simultaneously and felt that the NVQ work was way beneath me (I completed the NVQ work so quickly that I had finished all the units within a month – even though the course was 12 months – and the assessor was receiving my work faster than she could mark it! But this wasn’t a bad thing I just thought it was because I was more intelligent than the course and was pleased that it let me get on with other jobs (although they felt beneath most of the time too). I also started spending a lot and would spend almost all my wage on something. I mainly bought stuff for my boyfriend and family (especially my sister). I would buy her a brand new ipod and have it engraved and specially wrapped even if there wasn’t an occasion and when she broke it (by accident!) I would just replace it. I would come home with something almost every couple of weeks. Sometimes I would even come home with clothes that I had just picked up without even looking at the price or knowing how much money I actually had.
After my apprenticeship finished I started working full time for a different company. Whilst working I became even more distracted and would try to complete all the jobs I had that day at the same time and sometimes my mind would race and I would file my work away without even knowing where I had put it. I would spend money even more excessively and completely wipe my bank account out on expensive gifts, dinner out, clothes that didn’t even fit. I would have bought the item before the thought had even entered my mind no matter what the price. I even had my card declined a couple of times and would get really agitated and annoyed!
I also started taking risks with my health as I had started having symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease about a month before I started my new job and my mum took me to the out of hours doctor (I was in the process of changing doctors at the time) who told me I had gastroenteritis and that it should calm down soon. Even though I was in pain I still went to work and strongly believed that not even the pain could beat me as I was the best. It got to the point where I would get off the train and walk to work (towards the end sometimes I was sick on the way), get to the office building and be feeling like I was about to faint – as I was extremely anaemic at the time – but because I felt that I was capable of anything I would use the stairs instead of the lift. I would quickly go to the toilet when needed (up to 10 times a day at best) and sometimes go and be sick and then return to doing the multiple jobs I was doing. It wasn’t until I started feeling depressed again that I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with IBD and given blood transfusions because I was so anaemic (I probably should have used the lift!).
Once I was discharged I went back to work for a little bit but then I had to be readmitted and became really depressed once again. This time I was sent to therapy and started on Sertraline to help with the depression. I attended the appointments with my Grandad but then later on I attended by myself (because I could drive) and after a couple of sessions I didn’t go back as I believed I didn’t need to because I was feeling really great again and on top of everything so I told my family that the therapy had finished and that I was ok.
I then had more admissions for my other health problems (which you probably already know) and in between this period I would have times where I was crying my eyes out and feeling so low and times where I felt invisible and would be smiling all the time. Sometimes even when I was having investigations I would try and reject the use of sedation or local anaesthetic but the doctors told me that I did need this to have the investigation done then on other times I would be refusing to have the investigation done altogether.
I became so depressed in August last year that I was in the ward shouting and begging the doctors to kill me and was trying to suffocate myself with the pillow. I saw my neurologist who started me on 10mg Citalopram to help me cope.
In October my speech started getting really fast, I was thinking that I could conquer the world and that no one was better than me. I became aggressive and thought that I could solve the worlds problems by myself. I didn’t sleep, hardly ate or drank and had so much energy that I would pace around the room.
One night I decided that I needed to go driving again (even though I couldn’t because I was diagnosed with epilepsy) so I got my car keys and my Aunt, Mum and Sister came running down the stairs to try and stop me. As they had taken the keys away from me I decided that I wanted to go walking. My aunt was trying to stop me but I was aggressive and started hitting her until she moved out the way. I then began walking the streets at 2am in the morning with my mum in the car trying to get me home, my grandad searching for me and my aunt and sister walking bare foot with me and everytime they came close I would push them away. I wouldn’t even stop to see if a car was coming. I walked for ages until a couple of my mums friends (one is a paramedic – luckily) came and managed to get me safely to their house where I calmed a little and managed to eventually go home.
The next night I grabbed my Boyfriend’s car keys and tried driving again but the same thing happened and my family and boyfriend stopped me. I became so strong trying to get away that they tried to keep me inside until eventually I was on the floor sobbing thinking there was nothing wrong with me and my family were trying to make out that I was. However, I started posting on Facebook for someone to come and save me as my family were making out there was something wrong with me. A paramedic was called and the police arrived as well for safety. I was taken to A&E and started screaming in and out of the waiting room, throwing my phone, demanding that there was nothing wrong with me and my family were making it all up as I was better than them. The triage nurse called me in for a blood test to see what medication I had taken as they thought I might have overdosed on something. They had to call security as I was screaming at her not to touch me as hadn’t listened and was beneath me and even said to her “Why do I have to listen to someone like you! You don’t know half of what I know! I can change the world!”. My Sister managed to calm me down a little somehow and I had the blood test done to prove I was right! (Which I was in this instance). I saw a A&E Doctor who sent me home as I didn’t have any other “organic problem” – which I guess means physical problem – and that my family should leave me and that the worst case would be that I get picked up by the police.
My family didn’t know what to do so they took me home and my mum was calling as many people as she knew to get me help. She called my neurologist who suggested I go back to A&E and see a mental health nurse to be assessed. It took a lot of persuading from everyone and I decided to go at first to prove there was nothing wrong. They referred me to Crisis Team to be monitored daily with a phone call in the evening and prescribed Lorazepam to calm me down.
Things didn’t go well with Crisis Team when I was shouting at them for ages saying that there was nothing wrong and that people just didn’t want me to be happy.
But it didn’t end there I then decided to storm out one day when my family were questioning me on things like – “If you are the smartest person in the world why was you admitted to hospital and not treat yourself!” – Honestly I couldn’t answer but at the time I was really rude and aggressive. I decided to get on the bus and ended up shopping. I became really paranoid and called my mum asking her “Why she had hired people to come and hurt me?” and asking “Why was Grandad following me?”. I became so convinced that people were out to get me because they wanted me dead because I was a threat to them that my mum had removed herself from the house when I got home and my boyfriend came round to try and give me more lorazepam to calm me down. He managed this and decided to take me for a drive to calm me down. When we got back to my house I would’t get out of the car. I wouldn’t eat anything, wouldn’t drink anything and wouldn’t take my medication. I wouldn’t even drink from a bottle that I could have bought myself as I thought that this was already posioned. My mum called her friend round (the one who had helped me before) and called the Crisis Team who said that I would have to be admitted to the Mental Health Unit. I talked to them on the phone and they said I should go there because no one can hurt me there and I will be safer.
I arrived at the Mental Health Unit where I was assessed and seen by a few different Psychiatrists and Mental Health Nurses who explained to me why I was feeling this way and that it is due to Bipolar. They increased a medication I was already on for epilepsy and that was a good mood stabiliser (Sodium Valporate) and stopped the Citalopram. I was discharged after a couple of days and placed with the Crisis Team again.
This was fine for a little while but then I started experiencing a mixed state – where I was feeling really low but was also experiencing some of the manic symptoms as well. I started believing there was nothing wrong with me again and the Psychiatrist that visited spent 2 hours at my home convincing me that it is just due to an illness and I will feel better. I was started on Quetiapine XL and this eased it a little until I started hearing voices in my head who convinced me that my boyfriend and sister where sleeping together behind my back and where laughing at me. Even though deep down I knew this wasn’t true I couldn’t stop believing it and was in floods of tears. I went running out of the house and walked to the park where I sat and cried. Eventually I agreed to return home and my medication was increased.
I started therapy and started to stabilise so my mum was able to go back to work and the Crisis Team were able to discharge me to First Response. However, this didn’t happen as I didn’t hear from First Response and as it was Christmas there wasn’t a therapy session. I became depressed again and reverted back to self harm and very low mood and no motivation.
I tried calling First Response but they couldn’t help me as I didn’t have a referral and as I had been discharged from Crisis they couldn’t help either, so my mum took me to my GP who sent me back to Crisis.
I was with Crisis until beginning of February when they discharged me to First Response. During my time with them they started me on Sertraline and I was under Occupational Therapy to help with social anxiety. I was seen by a care co-ordinator at First Response but they left so I am now awaiting another care co-ordinator who will hopefully be permanent and provide the help and structure I need.
I have become somewhat better than I have been but currently everyday is a battle. I wake up in the morning and don’t want to get out of bed or I have thoughts of self harm and have to push myself not to do it (I try thinking of my family and boyfriend as much as possible). I may be in the bath and think that it might just be easier to go but I push through it. “Normal everyday” tasks are harder as they leave me tired at the end of the day and I have to mentally prepare myself to do them. The best way I can think to describe it is there is me on one side and bipolar on the other and they are both fighting to take over and what ever one is stronger at the time wins.
I know this is still new to me and I am still learning different ways to cope but if you ever see or know someone that is suffering with any type of mental illness from depression to bipolar and everything in between it is important to remember that they are facing the constant battle between who they are and there illness and there illness doesn’t define who they are. They just need you to recognise that they might not want to talk that day and it is nothing personal they are just having “one of those days”.
The best way I can think to describe Bipolar is there is me on one side and bipolar on the other and they are both fighting to take over and what ever one is stronger at the time wins.
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