Our stories

Joy’s story

For the first time since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I am starting to feel some hope.  Hope that I may in fact be able to experience some joy in my future despite having one of the main disorders I never, ever wanted to have.  I honestly would have chosen all manner of disorders over this one.  I hate it.  I hate that it robs me of my right to be me.  I hate that it can cause me to behave in a way I would never behave when I was well.

I was 43 when I had my first symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.  I was under a massive amount of stress trying to help my family.  (I won’t go into details).  I started being unable to sleep but kept going to work everyday despite that.  Then I started doing everything quickly, including speaking.  Now I know I was hypo-manic but at the time I had no idea what was going on.  I just kept pushing myself to work and help others.  The next thing that happened was I became completely manic with severe psychosis.  I had to be physically removed from my home and was locked up in a psychiatric ward in hospital as an involuntary patient.  There is a lot about that time I can’t remember but I do know I did a lot of singing and dancing whilst I was there.  I was put on Olanzapine and eventually came home.  I tried to return to work but unfortunately I became allergic to Olanzapine and had some nasty side effects including going Parkinsonian and being unable to sit still because I was completely agitated.  The CAT team became involved and changed my medication to a medication for schizophrenia. (I don’t have schizophrenia though.) It was called Solian but I call it the Zombie drug because that’s what it made me like.  I refused to take it after about a week of being completely wiped out by it.  Then I went on Lithium and that is when I really started to improve.  I still had sleep issues and found Melatonin very helpful if I took it the same time every night.  Of course, I had valium often when sleep would not come any other way.

I would say that the hardest part of this disorder for me so far has been the social and emotional costs. I had many awful things said to me by friends who could not understand.  I was told that I was a trouble maker and “what you have isn’t an illness”, “you should’ve prayed to God and then this wouldn’t have happened” and that if I wanted to get better I “need to pray to God” (not take medication).  One friend said “I’ve decided to forgive you (for what I did when manic) but “ I’ll know what you are by what you do in the future”.  My niece cut contact with me because it was “too hard” and she’s “got children now”.  Oh, the amount of pain such comments have caused me as I’ve struggled through the worst trauma of my life.  I do have to say though that when I went to the Bipolar Life support group nobody I met had been told similar things so hopefully the stigma is getting less.  My work, some friends and most of my family have been very supportive and understanding.  I am so grateful to all those who supported me.  The best thing I did for me was get myself pets once I got out of hospital.  The words repeating around in my head were “I wish I had died.  I want to be dead…….except for my dogs.”

I was in mild depression for at least a year after the manic episode and couldn’t feel much joy but when I saw my dogs play together their joy infected me and I couldn’t help but smile. They have also been the best way to get known in my community.  I didn’t know people in my area (being new to the area) but once I got the dogs so many neighbours and shop keepers started chatting to me.  The dogs get me exercising too.

One thing that really helped me was understanding more about the disorder.  After being told I was not sick but just being evil/anti-God it was a relief to me to learn that Bipolar Disorder is genetic and that it affects the limbic system (particularly the amygdyla) and pre-frontal cortex of the brain.  I am a health professional so for me this was so important to know.  It allowed me to understand and forgive myself for my behaviour when I was manic.  It allowed me to understand this disorder is not my fault.  So here I am now feeling like I am heading in the right direction.  It is taking a lot of work but here’s a list of what is helping me:

  • Taking my medication as prescribed every day
  • Seeing my psychiatrist and getting relevant blood and urine tests
  • Seeing my psychologist for cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Going to work (this actually helps me as I like my work and it keeps my mind active and off depressing thoughts)
  • My pets!!!
  • Going to the Bipolar Life support group
  • Seeing family and friends who are positive and supportive ( I have had to stop or minimise contact with those who did not understand my disorder and did not seem open to becoming informed about it. They were causing me too much pain and dragging me back towards depression.)