Monday, 19 September 2011

Living with Bipolar Disorder

Hello there,

As you may have guessed by the title this is not going to be you average blog post. I hope this doesn't put you off reading my blog, but I understand that mental health issues are not something that every one is comfortable talking about or reading about. If you hadn't twigged by now I have bipolar, and I thought I would share with you my experience and how it effects my day to day life. 
It seems recently that every man and his dog have been being diagnosed with bipolar (which in case you didn't know is mental health disorder which causes your mood to fluctuate between extreme depression and really "high" manic periods) and so it is becoming almost a common phrase and in my opinion it is not being represented fairly. I'm going to say now something which may cause some suffers to get quite cross but hear me out, bipolar disorder is a terrible illness which effects people very differently and is a daily concern, however I do think some suffers let it take over them and almost "blame" bipolar for ruining parts of their life. 
I think it's probably time now that I talked a little about myself and my experiences, I am not going to go into every minute detail as some things are really quite personal. Right, lets get into it, I began to notice I was feeling different things to my friends at the age of about 12, there didn't seem to be any really obvious idea as to why I was feeling as miserable as I was I just felt lost and angry. I hadn't had your stereotypical childhood, but there were no real "traumas" that could have "triggered" this depression (I'm calling it depression as that is what it was diagnosed as at a later date). As I progressed further into my teens I went through CAMS which is the children mental health service in the UK and really had an awful experience with it. Basically, they were shit! There was far too much focus of things that had happened in my childhood and no one seemed to listen to me about the fact that I was noticing that these periods of sadness would last for a very long time and then I just seem to go to that opposite extreme. For a while the Dr seemed to put it down to "teenage hormones", now if any one that is a teenager now I completely understand how frustrating it is when feelings you know aren't normal are described as "teenage hormones". If we move on a little bit to when I was about 16, this is really when things started to become out of control for me. I lost huge amounts of weight and my self confidence was at an all time low, I contemplated suicide almost daily and actually tried to commit suicide (badly I might add) a number of times because I was just desperate to feel nothing as I was being to understand that I wasn't going to feel "normal". As you may have guessed this put a huge strain on all my relationships, I wanted to be left alone but at the same time I craved attention because I just wanted to feel needed, it was a pretty rough time for every one close to me. Things hit an all time low when I was hospitalised, I was admitted to the Priory for treatment. For anyone reading this who is in a difficult place, try your hardest to talk to people and not shut yourself off so you don't end up becoming an inpatient as it is horrible. I was lucky enough to be in a private hospital so I had my own room, but during the day I was surrounded by incredibly troubled young people who I had no choice than to try and be friends with as I was away from everyone I knew. As odd as it sounds I did find some comfort in the girls who were in the hospital the same time as me as I knew they understood part of what I was feeling. Anywhoo I'll move on, Dr's in the Priory took note of the fact that my moods seemed to change dramatically and tried to tailor my treatment to deal with the depressive side, but at that time it was the mania (high periods) which I was finding the most scary because as sad as it sounds, I had become used to feeling depressed. I left the Priory just before my 17 birthday and tried to integrate back into sixth form, this did not go well. To begin with I had to deal with the fact that it was now common knowledge that I had mental issues and so to teenagers "psycho" and also many people thought I was a drug addict and told me to "go back to rehab". I am however not blaming my difficulties at school completely on other people, when I came out of the Priory there were a number of incredibly personal and heartbreaking issues that happened which seemed to trigger a complete manic period, one like I have never known. I am going to copy and paste some "symptoms" I have found which explains some of the things you experience in manic stage:
  • Easily distracted
  • Little need for sleep
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor temper control
  • Reckless behavior and lack of self control
    • Binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use
    • Poor judgment
    • Sex with many partners (promiscuity)
    • Spending sprees
  • Very elevated mood
    • Excess activity (hyperactivity)
    • Increased energy
    • Racing thoughts
    • Talking a lot
    • Very high self-esteem (false beliefs about self or abilities)
  • Very involved in activities
  • Very upset (agitated or irritated)

    Poor judgement was something that really plagued me at school, at this time I was so fed up of being the odd one out (because up until then I had some of the most amazing friends), that I lived in my own world completely. In this world I was normal and just trying to carry on with school and everyone else was different and had the most exotic and scandalous lives. I lived in a blur and was not certain what was real and what was fantasy. Basically, I was living up to my psycho nick name, and it was impossible for people to understand that it wasn't just me being a dick, I was almost drowning in my own illness. It was a horrendous time, where I didn't recognise myself and my family didn't know what to do with me.
    After trying for some time, my parents and I believed it would be best if I left school. This was a difficult decision as I have always been fairly good at school and received excellent grades, in my final year at school I performed really poorly in my AS levels and decided to cut my losses and leave with out A levels.
    In the following year the Dr really started to take my seriously and I was now old enough to access the adult mental health team in my local area. After just one meeting with them, the term Bipolar was being thrown around and I was adamant that I didn't have it. By this time I had lost all faith in myself and hated what I had become and I was certain that I was just born crazy, my plan for my life which used to be career, family, happily forever after and the sunset, was now unemployment, mental health institutions and ill health, being alone (dropping down to such a tiny weight had caused some problems with my health and had almost ruined parts of my old life plan) and finally and early death.
    I spent the majority of a year just sat on the sofa or in my bed just staring at my life going by. Miraculously during this time I met my now boyfriend who was at uni, and seeing his success and extreme normality sort gave me a kick up the arse and I knew I had to complete my A levels from home. 
    If we return back to the Dr, just after the first meeting with the mental health team the Dr decided to try me on some different medication. For those with bipolar taking anti depressants can actually make symptoms worse and I had been on a cocktail of anti depressants since the age of 16, almost as soon as I was off the anti depressants I started feeling better or at least more in control.
    I think the feeling of being out of control is the scariest part of bipolar, it's almost as if someone else is in charge of how you feel that day and there is nothing you can do to change it.
    If we fast forward in time, I completed my A levels from home and some how managed to get all A's, I had a stable boyfriend who seemed not to care that I was this loony and I was a part time nanny to earn a bit of money.
    I was seeing a mental health profession regularly, and although I think talking therapies are a bunch of balls, if I hadn't been to seem them I never would have been diagnosed with bipolar and would not have received the right medication.
    Now onto grown up stuff, it is ridiculous that people think bipolar sufferers aren't able to work, yes it is difficult because you feel constantly tired ( bipolar meds are normally taken at night because the make you so sleepy and really no use to anyone, and you are constantly either climbing the walls being manic, or weeping into your cereal being depressed... exhausting!). It is because of this tiredness that I think a part time job is ideal and I was able to get a job and work extremely hard at it and enjoy it.
    I'm using the past tense as I have since had to give it up due to physical health problems (nothing to do with bipolar).
    I honestly believe that I will be able to live as normal a life as anyone, even though I suffer with something hard, everyone deals with things and none are more important that others. Yes I sometimes have really extreme moments where I revert back to how I was when I was 16 but it's 4 years on now and they are much less frequent. It does effect me daily and it is a constant up hill battle, but I have come to terms with this and am able to deal with it almost independently.
    To any bipolar sufferers out there I know it's difficult and makes you want to give up, and I know how much you want to punch people when they say "life is a roller coaster"...well duh (Ronan Keating I HATE YOU). People are sometimes scared of mental health but as long as you accept that you are always going to be different it becomes much easier to deal with. Being different does not mean anything bad! It just means that you exceptionally un-average, which is a far more exciting place to be.
    It is super hard for people to grasp how intense the hold is that it has over your life, but you can not let it ruin you. I think bipolar chooses people who are strong enough to cope with it. As harsh as it sounds, I get quite cross with people who pin all their troubles on having bipolar and yes I do completely understand that it effects people differently and in different ways, but the constant thing with bipolar is that it is never constant! So you can never be stuck in a rut because the next day/week/month you will feel completely different.
    Surround yourself with people that are willing to help and love you regardless (your family is a good place to start... they don't have a choice), don't get upset that some people wont understand and will leave your life.
    I am very grateful for people in my life now, and for those of you who have left (mainly school friends) I apologise for how I was but no one is perfect yo!
    Any way that's all sorry for it being long and rambley and probably doesn't make much sense, I just thought I should get it out there and hopefully it will clear things up for some people.
    I am not angry or upset that I'm stuck with this illness ( as really that's all it is an illness, something that can be treated), and really normal is BORING.

    Peace out