Samantha J’s Story

If there were a button you could push to be cured of Bipolar, I would push it with only a second’s hesitation. Not only is it difficult to live with it at times, it is invisible to the naked eye, there is no plaster cast to see, peak flow or blood sugar test to measure. It is that reason that I am writing this, to give a glimpse inside my head and life, to make mental illness visible. Although now more and more so, society is kinder but it can be impatient with some of the aspects of a person with mental illness and may treat us unfairly.

I also want to show that there is a way through with a light at the end of the tunnel as my journey brings me a radiance which many others who have not had the chance to experience cannot appreciate. Through this story I do joke sometimes which is not to be confused with flippancy or minimisation but the way that I deal with things, I have had enough times of fretting over my lot. I am by nature a practical woman and of a logical predisposition with no hope of natural artistic ability.

I am nervous about writing down my story; it has been a ‘secret’ usually non- issue. What will happen if someone I know reads this? What would it do to that relationship? It may be nothing, admiration, avoidance of me in fear of the unknown or discomfort, or worse patronisation or pity? Would word spread, would friends distance themselves? Would everyone talk about me behind my back? Affect my vocation and social activities? Such are the fears of those in the cupboard so to speak. What if????

My first experience with problems with my mood started in my late teens, in hindsight I was acting out of character for a time but well, teenagers tend to do that. I started to have panic attacks triggered by open spaces, generally sports fields but it escalated and when very depressed crossing a road became a nightmare, the ground seemed to disappear away from a great vast sky. This phobia has continued with me to some extent or another since, now usually only when driving through farmland with very wide fields either side panicking me to one extent or another.

Once however when very depressed this worsened to one day crossing a road with traffic coming and in the middle of the road I could not get to the other side. It took all my will not to run in front of the cars to get to the other side. The only way to manage this I have found is to slowly expose myself to the situations I fear, especially during and after a bad patch and they became easier to overcome, but avoiding or pushing it too far or fast makes it worse.

When I was in my late teens came the first period of time in my life when my world was suddenly turned upside down. I was becoming more isolated from my family with my erratic behaviour and my isolation worsened my situation. I felt lost, scared and unsure of what was happening, “this is not me”, I was entering a black hole I could see no way out of until I thought I had found what seemed the only solution, all the medications I could find.

I went to bed waiting to drift off wherever one does but ended up freaking out, wandering around seeing visual hallucinations of evil monkey men, people convulsing on the ground. I again went to bed but the next morning I woke up. I did not consider at all at that stage it might be part of a mental illness, in fact I did not know what that was. I looked back at that time as the worst six months of my life, lost my job, lost my self-respect.
A few months after the suicide attempt I became pregnant, and now there was not just me to consider. Although I was a single teen mother (not very socially acceptable) I enjoyed providing a good home for my son and did do so for three or four years. I decided to further educate myself, having missed on tertiary education having a small child so I started to train as a nurse.

I was 24 yrs old and in my final year of nursing training; my son was 6yrs old. From being a model student with excellent marks, I began to fail my subjects, couldn’t concentrate on practical placements. At home I was up at night not able to sleep, I didn’t eat often but when I did it was high sugar, fatty foods. Worst though was the state of my mind. It was the inability to concentrate or problem solve and the inability to think at all in my head cotton wool. My thoughts were so intense but with much the same content. I was constantly in defence mode, me against the world, just wanting to finish my studies. The tutors were not very helpful, with no support I often felt I was expected to sink or swim and maybe finish my studies early. Confused I did not initially know where to go for help. “What is happening to me?”

I went to my doctor and he put me on an antidepressant and then I went to the polytechnic counsellor who was helpful. After one month of antidepressant I was fine, couldn’t be better, stopped the antidepressant and counselling and I breezed through the remainder of my studies. Looking back I think the anti- depressant had sent me into a bit of a high or jolted me back into place but I loved the state I was in, and I was confident and had so much energy.

During this time I was living with the greatest guy, who was ever so patient and caring. I loved him, but what was going on in my head meant that I was not able to be a part of a couple, at times isolating in my own depressed world which I did not know how to verbalise or once in a while being an elevated, moody, unpredictable bitch. We would break up annually, part of my mood cycle of the time I reflect. Then once we just stopped getting back together again, this and how I treated him is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

I moved to another city for a Nursing Internship in mental health. I had enjoyed my mental health placement feeling privileged to work with people in often their most vulnerable times of their lives. After a year or so I found myself inexplicably drinking more and more heavily. I would spend my days off drunk or hung over. I felt miserable. My son didn’t like it when I drank, so I would drink only at night, so my mission was to get him into bed. I saw my problem as the alcohol, so on advice and to stay away from any sort of Mental Health service I started attending AA. I did the “steps” as best I could,, attended many meetings, but after 18 months, people who had started going to AA at the same time as me were getting better and settling down, but not me.

I was frustrated with myself I would go along really well for a while then something would take control of me and I would do things that I would never dream of doing normally. Sometimes it was like I shut down but other times it was like when I got drunk and lost my inhibitions, but I was not even drinking. “What the hell is going on? This is not me!”

I sometimes would act out on a wanderlust leaving my poor son at home asleep. One time he woke up and I wasn’t there. I had smashed a radio in a rage about something. He thought I had been kidnapped and went to the neighbours who were also my landlords. On my return I found a terse note on the door saying to go to bed and pick up my son in the morning. I am so grateful they didn’t report me. That was when I really got the message then though and decided to get help.

People at AA were getting frustrated with me, but one suggested that I try an residential rehab, so desperate I did. So mid 1997 I took some time off work and got a referral. I was diagnosed as depressed; I wasn’t aware, maybe I had been miserable for so long it had become normal. Life had become the basics, work, feed my son, meetings, sleep and as for housework well I’ll do it tomorrow. While I was at the rehab I had my first experience hearing voices; I didn’t tell anyone.

I was “alcohol and substance dependent” [turns out I’m not, self-medicated with alcohol and dope but I haven’t been dependant on it] and “depressed” but hearing voices opened a whole new can of worms I was not interested in. They would give me a hell of a fright because I would hear someone talking to me from over one of my shoulders, there was someone talking, I thought I was alone (well I was) and then I am fortunate that they are very rare, and not too overly distressing.

Misdiagnosed with Unipolar depression I started on an antidepressant which made me agitated and jumpy so I was started on another. Things quickly (I am finding a pattern here) picked up; I got my dream job and started spending time with my son and felt CONTENT, a wonderful feeling. Then in December all hell broke loose. I had a mixed episode, energy but with a low mood and black thoughts my brain not in shut down and this depressed thinking took on a life of its own. I was taken off the antidepressant and started seeing a psychologist who assessed me as having avoidant traits and saw a psychiatrist for the first time.

I took a month off work, it was the first real holiday I had had since I started my studies. I had not wanted to stop work before; I had been too scared that if I stopped I would never get back. Things settled down, I know now it was because once again the antidepressant had sent me into an episode of altered mood and without it I stabilised. Unipolar or Major Depression is a common misdiagnosis that people with Bipolar disorder are offered in the journey for correct diagnosis enabling correct treatment. I have had several deferential diagnoses along with depression including paranoid Delusional disorder/ Schizophrenia and alcohol dependence and substance abuse.

A few months after the antidepressant was stopped however I entered a very dark period of my life, entering the bleakest depression. Struggling but with acceptable functioning at work my days consisted of no energy, sitting or lying around with heavy, painful thoughts in contrast to the lack of being able to think at all when I am usually depressed. These bleak thoughts consisted of how there was no hope anymore, everything was wrong and there was only one way out. I thought I had too many things wrong that could not be made right. I thought I was such a bad person I didn’t deserve anything. At the time I was barely able to think rationally to challenge these false thoughts, now I know that to have been my depression talking. The things that kept me going at that time was writing in my journal to get my head around things and for a while at least turning each negative thought around, but after about a month I had lost the energy and ability to do that.

Things came to a head and I gave up and took a large overdose of all the medication I had on hand. It was then I had my first admission to hospital, I ended up being a patient in a different part of the same mental health service that I worked in. It was embarrassing and conflicting as I knew many of the staff, but I was so desperate I just wanted help. I was in for one week, then three weeks later for another week.

It was then that I started another antidepressant, which can make you a bit sedated but it didn’t send me into a high apparently. I also took an antipsychotic as I was experiencing paranoid thoughts again. I felt people were talking about me and could hear my name in conversations around me and they wished for something bad to happen to me. I also developed a skill to explode the sun with my watch if I aimed the reflection at it. More than a few super evil villains would like that one. The anti psychotic kicked in and pretty soon I was back on my feet, my thinking returned to normal and the sun was safe. I returned to work which I got my enthusiasm back for and a few months later I stopped seeing the mental health services and started seeing a counsellor who was unhelpful.

Seeing a counsellor did also mean that I was not receiving enough assistance from Mental Health services. Warning: When things are going alright don’t mess with it (will I ever learn that? I will tell you when I do). If a health professional is under disability, one is ‘supported’ by one’s professional body i.e. Nursing Council and I had to get a report for the disability committee to see that I was continuing to practice safely. I saw a psychiatrist for a review and he suggested a medication review and to go on another antidepressant as the current one was a bit sedating. Well to cut this already long story shorter (Antidepressant and antipsychotic changes) -> Mixed episode +messy depression +chaos +hospital= my psychiatrist won’t let me back to work as “now what has changed?”

I had attended a Nursing Council directed Alcohol and Drug counselling which mostly had involved me confirming I was hardly drinking and not smoking dope then discussion on local matters. Long ago I had learnt to be aware of how, when and where I was drinking. Along with stability of my mood, I was hardly drinking and not drugging at all but I decided that another rehab would be a good idea, which would give me a chance to assess where I am at in my life and what is causing me problems, and to get the shrink to let me back to work whilst I still had a job to go to!

I did not get much out of this second rehab being the “keep the naughty druggies busy” and talk about the use of towels for one hour rather than talk about our feelings about the towels, not my cup of tea. As psychiatric medications are considered by some uninformed as all “mind altering substances” they were seen as best not to be taken, so the antipsychotic I was taking was withdrawn, equally keenly by myself. I saw a psychiatrist for a 15 minute consultation and tapered off over the next few days. I finally gave up on staying at the facility when I was experiencing restlessness due to a side effect making my leg tap up and down. I was asked to write a letter to my knee, I think in the hope it would amend its wicked ways. I persevered but left a week early.

Following this, despite the early homecoming I returned to work which provided me with structure, a feeling of being of value and of use and of course finances. With consensus by all this was initially not to be community based but within a ward team for a period of time so I could be in a supportive team environment until as expected by myself at least, all went well. They kept an eye on me for a while until they discovered that I was competent and able to do my job to a good standard but were not prepared to let me back into the job I had striven for and loved. I missed my old job but I enjoyed the new team I was working with and the caring for people in a different setting in a different way. I was pleased to be working and even though it was less stressful my mood had still not settled down and overall my life and that of my son was still chaotic and I had little overall enjoyment.

Bipolar disorder is one of those mental illnesses that respond well to medications and whilst they do not cure me, they have let me manage my mood disorder. As at the Alcohol and Drug rehab I had gone off the antipsychotic that I had been taking (and happened to be acting as a mood stabiliser) a few months later the inevitable happened. I experienced the best and worst and the best things, I had an episode of pure, classic, meet all the criteria, mania. Best, because I felt wonderful for a while.

I was not just happy I was overcome with the joys of life, I had so much energy, knew everything, I had so many plans and not enough time to do them because I just kept on coming up with newer and better plans and schemes and theories. People had to be told and I told them even if it was in the middle of the night. I couldn’t wait, I couldn’t stop moving and fidgeting. My thoughts were racing at a million miles per hour, so fast that sometimes my mouth couldn’t keep up. I spent quite some time at the local Buddhist monastery as I held a belief I was a Bodhisattva or enlightened being who had remained on earth to enlighten others (very thoughtful on my behalf). The monks were very patient. The worst, because after awhile it wasn’t so fun anymore, people started to annoy me, I got irritable and nasty and after a couple of weeks or so I became suspicious of people, that they were trying to get to me to hold me back.

Then one morning my mood seemed to drop, I was devastated I didn’t want to go through another depression. It was a catastrophe and thought myself better off dead. By now I had learnt that when my thinking is like this it is a major alert and I need to get help. That afternoon I was in hospital, by that night my mood had switched to a glorious high, so I discharged myself against medical advice, after all I knew much more than the doctor. Next morning I was back not depressed, but I knew things weren’t right and something needed to be done.

Then the best thing again in that I was able to be treated correctly for my mood disorder, I knew my history well so it was not a shock but there was a quick revision of diagnosis and Bipolar took centre stage. It takes an average of ten years before a correct diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is made from first onset of symptoms, meaning being misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated, which causes unnecessary harm, that can occur until it is correctly treated and recovery effectively starts. I could and have felt in the past a bit hard done by and bitter about it all, but I don’t tend to dwell on these things anymore as being angry with people or circumstances does not help, just me sitting being miserable about it, and stopping me enjoying and living in today.

I had an increase to what is technically known as a huge whack, of a medication that I had been taking since I was a child at a low dose as an anti-convulsant to a level that is therapeutic as a mood stabiliser for mood disorders and got better.

A couple of months later I was back again. Like the proverbial Phoenix from the flames reborn. Over the next year, although I did eat and sleep more due to the medications, I felt better than I had in years. I was able to start making up to my son, giving the security he needed after the time that I had not been there for him and scared him with out of control Bipolar incidents. My biggest ever regret has been the neglect of him over that time, practically and emotionally.

After six years away I decided to return to my home town with my son to be with family and have a break from nursing to do some undergraduate studies of interest. I enjoy learning and relished the idea of being a student so I signed up and started attending the lectures and tutorials. Unfortunately the change in city and lack of routine were not of help to my stability and now away from the specialist mental health services I was seeing a non-specialist Doctor for medications. I figured I knew better and decided to try something out; the elevated mood in the past had been triggered by antidepressants so if I stopped them I could reduce my mood stabiliser.

Apparently it does not work like that and things started to unravel, firstly for the better with energy and zippier thinking (okay a bit worrying there), discovering my fashion sense (floral skirt, bright green shawl and bare feet, one would think would be suitable dress for a university, I looked up-to-the-minute cool). I thought I was delighting the lecturers by answering every question put out after all I did understand this all to a Masters level (in my universe). Well, in fact I knew more than the lecturers, what they did not know was what I had figured out was Chicago School of Economics and the Druids were the centre of a world conspiracy, running the World Bank and controlling the countries of the world through the World Monetary Fund. I was going to identify the agents out there patrolling the populous and sort that lot out one by one. My mood was less escalating, less off to the moon, more on a comet to the star Betelgeuse.

Maybe surprisingly I was getting very good marks for my essays which were not helping my getting enough sleep staying up all night. I had some self-awareness and knew things were going wrong but not enough to do enough about it. I went and saw the University GP service and was given a script for a medication to help sleep but promptly did not take it as I had work to do. I was then referred to the ‘Mental Health Emergency service’ whom I saw daily but still did not do the things I should have and knew I should have done as by then it had gone too far for me to put a halt to the ascent into the cosmos.

One night I was surfing on the net, watching TV and listening to the radio at the same time and keeping up with them all too. I had had a glass or two of wine which I had been avoiding as I am aware of its effect on me at these times. When my mood and behaviour is elevated I prefer dope which I had not had despite its calming effects then there are a whole load of other issues come with that. I was used to the middle of the night/ early morning by then, profoundly boring, monotonous in that I would discover each morning, woops I have done it again been busy, busy doing this, busy doing that all at the same time, when the birds start (5am everyday apparently to let their other wee birdie friends know they had survived the night) and another plan for going to bed and getting some sleep was out the window.

In the end it just takes one event that gets you in bother and I found it. This was an ill thought out phone call which brought the police around to my home in the middle of the night/ early morning. Now I like ‘Men In Uniform’…. a lot, on so many levels, they are lovely and I have a deep appreciation for them, in so many ways (all except parking wardens who are evil) and this was my downfall. Normally I would have hurried them away, “sorry Officer McHunky I do not know why I did it, I really should be in bed” but then normally I would not be up all at that time and get myself into a situation where they would be there in the first place.

Instead I invited my new friends in throwing my bright green shawl over my shoulder in an alluring way with a bit of a wink. One was married and one was not… the unmarried Officer McDreamy’s name was actually Fingers. We had a lovely time until he told me to put my hands on my head and I decided then I did not want them in my house anymore and loudly let them know. They decided to just leave handcuffs off and I decided to forgive them and let them stay and again fell in lust with Officer McDreamy. A call was made to a shocked Mother to come and pick up my son. She has never come across this at all, as I had been in another city when all this had gone down previously and the sight of her daughter flirting with a policeman came as a surprise. She took my sleepy, upset but accustomed child to her home (thank goodness for family support, moving back to my home town was not such a bad idea).

I then headed off with Officer McDreamy and the other one to the Emergency Department where I was to be seen by the ‘Mental Health Emergency service’ staff. I was placed in a room with a couch and a couple of chairs and sadly Officer McDreamy and the other one left after making sure all was well. I was left to have a sleep, await the wine to get out of my system and push the duress alarm bell a few times to let them know I was still there and bored.

A Psychiatric Registrar came to talk and he asked in the end if I would consider a stay (for a few days, yeah right) in the hospital. Apparently the ‘Mental Health Emergency service’ had placed in my plan for low threshold for admission. That sent a chill down my spine but with enough self-awareness to know that I was not going to get back on track under my own steam and things were getting out of control. Also I would have done anything for this Registrar, Officer McDreamy was gone now so he was my new focus of attention. Elevated mood can cause high libido, but I prefer just to flirt, it is fun (funny for others probably). So then with a reassurance an admission would not affect my chances of entry into the Mental Health service as an employee, I went along.

I will give excerpts of my six weeks in the acute ward due to poor memory and raw feelings even now. My perspective and that of others is not necessarily the same, and it is not just mine that was wrong. A lot of anger, at not being allowed to leave the ward, about feeling treated like a child, about having just come from working in an acute ward in another city and now being there 24/7 with no hourly rate. Anger at being jumped on and restrained for reasons I am not clear on and fear that they may happen again not knowing what I had done. Further anger at the amount of time that it took to start a new medication and at being under the Mental Health Act and the judge with discriminatory ideas who did not know a thing about mental health making significant decisions about people’s human rights.

I felt fear at being locked into the locked area where instead of deescalating, I felt like a tiger in a cage and acute fear that I would be locked in a room in seclusion for reasons I might not be sure what I had done. The intensive care areas are less ‘low stimulus environments’ feeling more like jail cells. It is well known that a stay in an acute unit can in fact cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and this occurred with me. The first time I went back to that ward in my role of Staff Nurse from another ward I shook and could not talk. Acute Inpatients wards are not safe paces to be for women and will not help anyone stay clean as there is a huge amount of dope going around, which I found to supplement my adjusting mood stabilisers for a time, in the meantime making me very paranoid and messing my brain around something nasty.

I do however feel gratitude for the all the staff for their care, patience and safety. Patience for putting up with my critique of their practice against my (perfect) own, they displayed patience for this manic woman who shouted and said the F*** word a lot and acted like Pratgirl and Bitchwoman. I imagine there were times they would “just nod and smile, nod and smile”. I have gratitude for the other patients who were non-judgmental and with whom I spent many enjoyable and supportive hours. It has been other people with Bipolar who have been the most support and provided their non-judgmental acceptance especially through support groups which provided guidance, comradeship, humour and information.

I am grateful to my family for supporting me whilst in the ward and for learning as much as they could to help me out later on. Gratitude especially to the doctor who took me off the Mental Health Act and gave me my keys back, I had been asking (demanding) them for some time. I am surprised at the amount of emotion I am feeling about this admission even now after eight years. I have been there to see my own clients and somewhat desensitised these feelings, maybe it is the fact that it has had a profound effect on my career, partly to do with the Bipolar but the discrimination internalised and external. I do now have a good reputation there, as a skilled, knowledgeable competent nurse. That time was also the start of my real recovery.

I was initially wary of Psychiatrists due to previous experience I was reluctant to move past medication prescribing due to my fear of past experiences which did not work, such as a focus on “so your parents were divorced” or “Are you smoking dope… how is your housework… etc etc… blah… blah?” Same thing every time, with no follow up to help me to manage any of this, no plans, just judgement and cannot go to work. “Bad woman”, “bad mother”.

On discharge I was allocated a consultant psychiatrist and a case manager who was initially a psychologist. The case manager helped with everyday stressors and to get back on track again. He was the one I would see if I were concerned with arising issues in my life or my mood. I might then be referred for an extra appointment with the psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists who have come my way have their own strengths, philosophies and models of care, but this new Consultant Psychiatrist had what I needed. He was skilled at assessment of my mood state even when I was not sure what was going on and panicking I was getting depressed or “elevated in mood”, was it Bipolar, stressful time or PMS, what is Bipolar and what is normal emotion which is all very complicated and hard learnt. He was patient when I was raging at the unfairness of the world but pragmatic and put things into perspective and generally took the wind out of my sails whilst being empathetic.

I was allowed to make my own decisions which helped to make me take responsibility and take my power back, but given suggestions and “strong suggestions” when safety was an issue. There were learning opportunities which allowed me to develop my own insights and take them on as my own and when I could not figure out which way to go or bogged down he always seemed to have an answer usually obvious in your face common sense that I needed. I have certainly learnt to communicate better and actually ask for help when I need it and not by the time it is too late. I am grateful for his non-judgemental care and support over six years, my life is so much better for it. It is partially to him that I dedicate this story.

After awhile it became a case of ironing things out with mood problems reducing and my being better able to identify early warning signs and get to my action plan which includes getting help soon as I am not able to manage it myself. There has been only one serious time when I became severely depressed with a delusional idea which was distressing and as it was of a sensitive nature, I will not get into it, but I was very agitated, upset and in psychological pain and the closest I had been to hospital for years.

I have had several case managers which include nurses and social workers who have offered their expertise and care over time working with me to monitor and manage my moods, be supportive and reassuring with an ear to listen to my joys and sorrows. I prefer not to have a nurse as case manager due to professional boundaries, that there is a potential for role confusion for both parties. There are far fewer issues working with social workers as that is not a problem but just about working within the wider mental health service. I have met many caring, skilled clinicians of all disciplines over the years in both of my roles as clinician and patient with a small minority stupid and/or arseholes.

After six years under the care of the specialist Mental Health service I now see my GP as case manager who is caring and who prescribes for me and helps me greatly when things are not going well. I had a change in medication which I have a love/hate relationship with. I love the stability but hate the side effects and have recently had a change that caused insomnia a huge trigger for mania. I got on to it and have worked out a plan with my GP to manage this (mental note, follow the plan). Elevated mood has occurred but I have the tools and the willingness to return to status quo. I must say I have learnt that an appointment does not offer the full story, just a snapshot.

With depression I tend to try not to isolate myself especially staying in bed, worse comes to the worse I go sit or lay on the couch under a duvet or to get out and even to be around other people like at the art gallery or other public place. Putting washing into the washing machine and turning it on is easy and a good way of feeling better about myself. I have learnt that my practice before all this and then afterwards was parallel as that of a Childcare nurse who once she had her first baby wondered what the hell she had been on about teaching child raising to innocent new mothers.

That old question; what to call us “People with experience of Mental Illness”? I do not agree with that phrase as I am not ‘experiencing’ Mental Illness most of the time; ‘Client” too formal and ‘service user’ and ’consumer’ firstly implies everyone is in fact receiving care from a Mental Health service whereas many are treated by their family doctor, it moves further from care to a business and they say nothing about the person or illness. ‘Patient’ is potentially putting people in a passive role as the health professional does all the work and is better suited for a hospital.

A New Zealand Maori term “Tangata Whai Ora” meaning “Person seeking Wellness” is what I consider the best as the other names are constructs placed on us with assumption recovery only happens within and by health services being a remnant of the past. Arguments have been had and debate held with various idealistic frameworks put forward. There are as many views on this as there are people and call it mere semantics but language is a powerful force.

No story for me at least, of Bipolar can be complete without mention of medications, they keep me sane. Epilim was the first mood stabiliser for me then a change to Lamotrigine which was excellent for depression. I have not had depression so bad ever since. Then the original mood stabiliser Lithium came onboard when Lamotrigine was not enough to hold things. Then when I was very depressed or manic and had delusional ideas antipsychotics came on board also helping with the crappy concentration, memory and attention. They act well as mood stabilisers.
Antidepressants are useful for a short time but I remain wary of them and it is sign I am feeling really crap if I take a course. I generally take what is prescribed unless I have a better idea which usually does not work as I am not objective enough.

I rattle at times look for a mix which is 1) working to keep my mood in check and manageable and that has 2) side effects I can tolerate and 3) what self-awareness I have as to having Bipolar. If I do not think I have it, i.e. “it is all a mistake” happens after a long time and I have forgotten what it is like to have the experience of an episode or what happens when I do reduce or stop a medication. I have a Love/Hate/Resentful/Appreciative relationship with the medications.

I do not however wish to have ECT, my memory is bad enough, it is not a permanent solution and despite assurances that it causes only some short term memory loss, anecdotal evidence says that long term memory is affected. It does have a good response rate, and some swear by it and but many others do not. Despite the reassurance of anaesthetic and muscle relaxant I find the risks out ways the benefits. I have put it in my Advance Directive.

Unfortunately having a mental illness does not give one artistic ability, I am a useless musician, okay artist having taken art classes and am pleased with my work; at least they are able to be recognisable but a truly awful poet. Having Bipolar may augment artistic brilliance, but if it isn’t there don’t count on a career as a violin virtuoso. As a logical, intellectual type I can enjoy the nuance of music, write some humorous poetry and have picked up the techniques for art but cannot naturally bring artistic brilliance with the feeling of an artist. I tend more for discovering the Fourth dimension and hidden meaning including the meaning of the universe and enlightenment. It has not stopped me attempting artistic pursuits to express the emotion and meaning in life. I am not much good at it but I am very enthusiastic.

I have a spiritual side of me I do not know if I had to an extent before, I have a strong belief of God, and if I am in need of comfort, guidance or forgiveness I know where to seek it. This is consistent, no matter how I am, I do get angry with God at times for the injustice of having Bipolar (others suffer with worse in life) and for abandoning me at times of need. I do not regularly attend church as services are in the morning and when I am depressed I am not able to attend at that time due to my circadian rhythm and I sometimes get frustrated with organised religion anyway.
The choices I have now I would once have never dreamed in the midst of it all. It is not to say Bipolar is out of my life but it is now 10% instead of 90% where once it was other way around, once upon a time in the full force of chaos . I do still have periods of time that my mood fluctuates but I hope it never gets to anywhere near 90% again.

All the rest now is rather boring Bipolar wise, well I have a job I like, my son has moved out of home and I have done some travelling to Europe and thereabouts. I have “reconnected” with my family. I do not know what I will do next; keep renovating my new house or do more travelling or both. I continue with work where I have responsibility, some autonomy and a great bunch to work with.
First and foremost it is to my son that I dedicate this story, who has followed me (dragged behind me) on the rollercoaster, been scared silly by the rollercoaster and turned out a wonderful, good person despite it all.

“If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through” – Chinese proverb

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Covid-19 Policy

Bipolar Life adheres to the Victorian government guidelines and mandates regarding Covid-19.

If at any point Victoria has to go into a lockdown we switch to Zoom meetings.

For further information on current regulations please go to the Victorian Government website.

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