Jerry’s story (interview)

What is your diagnosis?
Bipolar Schizoaffective

How old are you now and when did you get diagnosed?
I am 57 now.  When I was 15 I had racing thoughts when I got stressed.  Deep depressions started when I was 19.  At age 27 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 6 months after a serious motorbike accident.  9 months after that I was diagnosed Bipolar Schizoaffective.

How many episodes have you had?
15 episodes.  Some episodes lasted 6 months before I got to hospital.

Have you anything to say about suicide?
I’ve attempted suicide once.  I wanted to use a gun but could never get my hands on one.  I’ve felt suicidal many times and sometimes have had fleeting thoughts about it.  Now I’ve got to the stage where my mental health is so good that I don’t think I’ll ever attempt suicide again.  I no longer have even fleeting suicidal thoughts.

That’s great.  How have you managed to get healthier?

  • I was a heavy drinker and smoked marijuana but I gave these both away to help myself be stable.
  • Getting stable accommodation.  In the past I lived in various group homes.  I’m now in a stable and affordable home.
  • Keeping busy.  My social life is good.
  • Getting good sleep.  I was taking 5 Valium a night (not recommended).  Now I take melatonin and it really helps me sleep.  At first I felt it caused a hangover but now it doesn’t.
  • Financially, I am starting to work on a good budget.  I’m an impulsive spender and I believe this is due to my illness.
  • A good social worker.  The social worker helps me with transport for food shopping and has a social chat to check how I am going.
  • Listening to music.  I find it better than watching TV.
  • Taking medication.  I’m scared to miss it!  Medication helps me sleep.  I also have an injection once a fortnight which helps me keep stable too.  It has taken a good 20 years to be on the medication regime that works for me.

Tell me more about your social support.
I have the best group of friends.  In the past I’ve given them a ride for their money with abusive phone calls when I was manic.  They coped with it all and they even came looking for me when I was psychotic and living on the streets.  In the past I’ve had a few friends discriminate against me but they are not in my life now.  I have 5 amazing friends and they’re real good support.  My mother has given great support and she started off COPES.  COPES was set up for parents of children with a mental illness.  She’s retired from that now.  If I want to, I have access to social agendas run by EACH with other people with mental illness.

What did you think about living in group homes?
You live with more than one person, maybe up to 3 people.  They also have a mental illness.  In my experience, it never works out.  For me, I was a “goer” and the people I lived with weren’t.  I don’t think group homes work.

Have you anything to say about E.C.T?
I’ve had E.C.T. twice. In those instances, it was the only thing that worked on the psychosis (medication was not enough).  I would recommend E.C.T. if you get offered it.  I originally fought it but I realize now that it was the best thing for me.

Any final thoughts?
After my journey to now I am quite confident that being on medication I will:

  • Not breakdown/have another episode
  • Feel good 95% of the time (everyone gets bad days)
  • I’m very happy now.

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