1. What is your mental health issue?
I suffer from Bipolar Affective disorder. It first manifested as depression, but I was later diagnosed with Bipolar. As part of Bipolar, I also have psychosis, where I have times when I experience auditory hallucinations. I also suffer with panic attacks and bulimia.
2. Do you have medication and/or therapy?
Currently, I am only receiving medication for Bipolar. I take lamotrigine a mood stabiliser, aripiprazole, an anti psychotic and sertraline, an anti depressant. I am hoping to receive some form of therapy organised through my psychiatrist.
3. What therapy/medication have you tried and has any worked for you?
The combination of medications I listed in the last question are undoubtedly the most effective of all the medications for Bipolar I have been on. The side effects are minimal; they make me extremely tired, but I take them before I got to bed so they help me to sleep. Before this I was on quetiapine, which I can only describe as making me zombified. I was constantly tired and lived in a haze of forgetfulness and had a complete lack of concentration. I was then on respiridone, which initially worked well, but because of a hormonal balance I had to stop taking it.
For panic attacks, I found CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) to be helpful. It helped because the panic attacks I was experiencing at the time were environmental. After stressful periods of time I would have an intense and painful panic attack. It taught me how to change my thinking when I was stressed.
4. How long have you had problems for?
I was first severely depressed when I was fourteen. I became a school refuser, and was referred to a psychologist. I had multiple bouts of mania (which I didn’t realise was mania at the time) during my late teens and twenties. I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar aged twenty seven.
I started experiencing panic attacks when I was twenty, and developed bulimia during my early twenties.
5. Do your family/friends know?
My family and friends are all aware of my mental health problems. I encourage them to talk to me and read my blog if they are unsure or confused about my illness.
6. Does this affect your work and daily living?
In a word, yes. I am currently unable to work a full time job, with my income coming from sporadic freelance writing jobs, selling my artwork on Etsy and DLA (disability living allowance), now known as PIP (personal independence payments). Daily life can be a struggle if I’m in a depressive episode, where I’m unable to do anything, let alone work or socialise with friends. Relationships can become strained when I’m unwell. I’m difficult to be around, because I either shut down completely, or become angry and rude.
7. What makes you feel calm?
Listening to music, especially alternative eighties and nineties songs, as they remind me of happier times. Bubble baths are my absolute calming, safe space to be in. Snuggled up reading a good book, especially an old favourite.
8. What do you do in crisis?
The number one thing is to tell someone I’m in crisis. Being alone during these moments can be unbearable. I need someone to give me a hug and talk to me, even if it is innocuous and dull. If I’m alone I’ll ring or message my husband or my mum. I try and distract myself from the intense feelings I’m experiencing.; whether that’s listening to music, having a bath, or playing a video game. Sometimes this isn’t enough and I have to ring the local crisis team, or my psychiatrist, who is awesome at organising emergency appointments when I’m in crisis.
9. What advice would you give to others suffering?
My advice is to find support as soon as possible. At appointments sometimes you need to be confident and assertive to be taken seriously and to be given a diagnosis or support you need. I know it’s incredibly difficult to do that when you’re ill, so take someone close to you that understands what you’re going through.
Become an expert on your mental illness. The more you know, the more you will understand and find solutions to combat your mental illness.
10. What makes you smile?
My husband, my family and friends. My hyperactive cat, Matilda. Animals, especially ducks, bears and otters. Nature, hot summer days, music and art.
11. Describe your mental health issue in 5 words –
Debilitating. Bewildering. Complicated. Painful. Terrifying.
12. Insert a picture to make people smile –