I have had experience of bipolar for nearly thirty years. My sister, Sheila, thinks that it started in my late teens. What seemed to trigger it were deaths in the family. I worked for 31 years and have been employed for the last six years. I initially worked in the offices but then worked as a cleaner and a catering assistant in a primary school. I worked there for 3 years
I am good at swimming, knitting, writing, typing, bowling and keeping my house looking okay and I am usually good with money. I like to think my garden looks ok but I’m not a terribly keen gardener.
I do not drive now. I last drove four years ago to help my Dad, when my Mum was ill in hospital. It was a very upsetting time.
I am good at badminton. I am fairly good at quizzes and I think my general knowledge is good. Bowling has developed me in many ways. I think I am patient but I am critical of others and may be hot tempered. Sometimes I am a bit socially awkward.
When I was in my twenties the disorder affected me badly. I worked in solicitors offices over a period of 23 years. One office was understanding but that was not the norm. When I was in between jobs, I temped, always in Edinburgh, always in Solicitors offices. I never borrowed money.
The illness has meant that it was a lonely situation to be in. I was divorced at the age of 28 but think that would have happened whether I was ill or not, just might have taken longer! My divorce was not complicated but it was very distressing.
I find it difficult to keep up with friends. I have been in a couple of awkward situations just through being alone in the house so much. My moods put people off, even those who I think should be sympathetic or at least empathetic.
I need 6-8 hours of sleep a night to stay well. I sometimes find it hard to concentrate. I have a “staying well plan” on my bedroom wall. It was prepared by my Community Psychiatric Nurse. It helps. I sometimes have a nap during the day to blot our reality. This to be avoided. I wake up wondering what day it is and it disrupts my routine. The extra sedatives are to slow me down and I usually feel like lying down and sleeping. I have been guided a couple of times by my Dad as to when to take extra chlorpromazine. I dislike the tablet. I do not tolerate it well. Taking the tablets your damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Years ago I was on Mellerill. It was discovered to probably cause erratic heartbeats and was withdrawn from the market. Its other name was Thioridazine. Russian roulette springs to mind.
I was admitted to hospital 12 times, each admission being for about four weeks, sometimes six. I have been on lithium carbonate since 1985. I was 25 then.
One theory is that a person has mania because of a disappointment in their life, but no one seems sure of anything. No one knows how lithium works. Sometimes it feels like the drugs don’t work. When I was prescribed lithium at age 25 I was in no fit state to consider the pros and cons. I have been on the same medication for a long time. Taking medication is like brushing my teeth – an accepted habit.
The romans had a theory about lithium and even treated people with manic tendencies with lithium bath salts. Lithium was discovered by the British and by accident was found to be good in controlling bi-polar disorder. It was discovered in about 1950 so I have been very lucky. Also, attitudes to mental health have changed a bit but I think we still have a long way to go. I was diagnosed in 1985 and have been on lithium since. Lithium can be a dangerous drug that can affect the kidneys. If one is not careful a fatty liver could result. It is recommended not to drink too much tea or coffee while on lithium. When high I walk fast and now have a “hammer toe” on my left foot.
When I am moody it is easy to fall out with people. I am quite hard on myself. I try to stick to facts in conversations. Bipolar has meant that I retired at 49. I find it hard to realise how things really are.
My advice to anyone just diagnosed with bipolar would be to try and relax and think of others. Try to think of yourself as well or unwell, not insane. Do try and remember that not everyone is comfortable talking about it and they should be advised to NEVER GIVE IN, NEVER GIVE IN, and NEVER GIVE IN.
Twice in my life I have been on anti-depressants. I had to be carefully observed by my consultant and CPN because the anti- depressants could have caused mw to become high.
I mentioned 12 admissions to hospital. In hospital it was lonely and very boring. At least twice I was admitted in the middle of the night. Once on a highland holiday my parents brought me down south to be admitted in my local hospital. When in hospital it felt like progress was slow.
It is hard to describe, hard to understand and impossible to predict. But the chance to write this project has helped me.
I once got dehydrated on a very sunny afternoon (in Scotland) and spent a week in hospital. This was described as kidney failure. I was discharged and sent to Hospital for one day; I was assessed and sent home.
My peer worker helped me to write out a WRAP “wellness recovery action plan”. It has a toolkit which lists activities to keep me busy. It also lists action points for when things are breaking down.
It lists early warning signs and triggers. For instance when phoning relatives, it is best to wait about 10 minutes before thinking of phoning.
When something is wrong with your head, it affects your whole body. I have a weight problem, I can’t blame it all on the tablets, but they definitely have an effect.
I take a tablet called Chlorpromazine. It causes drowsiness, and if drowsy, the advice is not to drive or operate machinery. In the past few weeks I have struggled to use my own initiative and have become obsessive. For a couple of days I felt over medicated. For nearly one day, I stayed in my house and forced myself to relax and concentrate on drinking tea and water.
I have had a problem with phoning helplines. My dad once said that I live my life on the phone. I spend a lot of money when I am high. Years ago I was offered work on my garden. It’s a tiny garden- they charged me £600. I can be gullible and too trusting to strangers. Once I had £40 stolen out of my purse that I had tried to befriend.
PS: You can be a pessimist an optimist or a realist. I am an optimist; I am so scared of hurting people. The best course of action is to be a realist.
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