Psychosis and Me – Bipolar Disorder

Psychosis is an impairment of thoughts, detachment with reality, possible auditorial and visual hallucinations and delusions. I have suffered psychosis on many occasions. I will be talking about my experiences of psychosis bearing in mind the symptoms I have just described.

 

In terms of visual hallucinations, before my first hospitalisation, I had undetected mania and psychosis. On this occasion, I was terrified of what I seen. The doors in my house were all being slammed shut in front of me with no wind when I was on my own. The pictures on my walls were shaking and my jewellery that was hanging up was clattering. I was so terrified that I went up to my bedroom with my dog and tied a belt around my neck until my eyes were blood shot and it resulted in a nose bleed. I spent the rest of the night rocking back and forth cuddling my dog screaming until daylight came. On a different level, as a child I used to see a little girl wearing an old fashioned long white night dress with long blonde hair. This did not scare me and I never told anyone about this before.

 

One major episode of visual hallucinations was during a psychosis when I was with my late partner at home. I had been seeing things all day long and did not tell him what was going on as it felt normal to me at the time, so, even though my experience should have been terrifying, I was not afraid. The wallpaper was contorting, the roof became the waves of the sea meeting the walls as the sand. My curtains were on fire and there were rats everywhere. Every time I went to the bathroom the mirror in front of the toilet should have reflected tiles, however, there was a different reflection each time I went in. It would reflect a door, portal or window where I could see people talking outside the window and on one occasion I seen a dark shadow man in the reflection. I believed the room with the toilet where I had these hallucinations was the devil’s portal as it was on the left walking up the hall, whereas the shower room which I seen fairies in was God’s portal as it was on the right. I will elaborate on my delusions shortly. My partners eyes were completely black and slanted like the eyes of the devil. He realised there was something wrong when we went to bed and I started trying to lift all the ribbons on the bed and catch the butterfly’s in the air. It was not long before I was admitted to the psychiatric ward again.

 

A final example of visual hallucinations was in hospital where I woke up to rats all around my bed. When I got up and went into the allocated garden, there were spiders crawling everywhere and everyone had black eyes like the devil.

 

In terms of auditorial hallucinations, for me, they were not always voices. By this I mean they often correlated with visual hallucinations, for example, the sound of rats, the sound of flames, the sound of the sea and so on. In terms of hearing voices, I will give a couple of examples. During one occasion, I was lying in bed passively listening to the radio. The female reporter was talking about the war in Iraq. I then realised that I did not have a radio, the TV was off and there was nobody else in the house. I then seen the shadow of a huge bird fly over my bed. I was hospitalised shortly after this.

 

In hospital, I have experienced voices giving me conflicting information on what I should do. One particularly terrible experience of hearing voices while I was in hospital was when a girl asked me to call the doctor for her because she had slit her wrists. The doctor, who was female, told me that putting knives through the palms of her hands would help her, similar to the stigmata. Religious themes are particularly recurrent through mania and psychosis in my case.

 

In terms of a cross over between hearing voices and visual hallucinations, I have two examples long before I was ever hospitalised, medicated or diagnosed. On one occasion, I was in the local bar for one pint of larger with my best friend. We only stayed there for about 45 minutes for one drink. A previous colleague of mine came over and whispered in my right ear that myself and my step-brother were invited to a party in her house. My friend never left my side the whole time we were there. When I told my friend about the invite a little while later, she told me that this had not happened. But to this day I have a clear memory of it occurring, even though it did not make complete sense as my step-brother was not in the bar. Another example was not long after my son was born and long before my daughter was born. I was sitting on my bed on my own and the baby monitor lit up with a crying child screaming ‘’mama’’. The baby monitor was off at the wall and my son was in bed with me. I was absolutely terrified.

 

I will mention here about my extreme vivid and lucid dreams as I believe that they fit into both the category of hallucinations and delusions. They also followed the religious theme that was common with mania and psychosis. My dreams were always so lucid that I believed that I was astrally projecting to different realms which I believed were heaven, hell, purgatory and parallel universes. Each time I was dreaming the theme was based around helping someone in need. This correlates with my delusions which I will talk about shortly. It was as if I was in a video game in the sense that I did not choose the scene or anybody who was there but had control over all my actions while I was there. I believed God chose where I went. All my senses went with me, especially physical pain. I became so good at these lucid dreams that I could get up, have a cup of tea in the hospital, and go back to sleep to the exact same place I was before I got up. At one point the dreams became so real that I had to keep a diary so I knew when I was in this reality. In this sense, it was not ‘I think therefore I am’ (Descartes) but instead I record therefore I am.

 

My heavily religious delusions resulted in a severe detachment with reality. I will mention that I was premature and had to be resuscitated when I was born. I believed that God’s plan was to take me back to heaven as one of his angels. However, due to the doctor’s involvement in saving my life I believed that God had to adjust his plan so that I was a prophet on earth with my sole purpose to help others and this was why I suffered so much in my life. I believed that I was not born from a family but came from the sea as I have had recurrent dreams of drowning, so I attributed this to dying in a previous life. I also believed I was an indigo child. I believed that I could read other people’s thoughts, and the fact that I was always close did not help. On one occasion, I was arrested under the mental health act for running around in a storm looking for a priest for an exorcism with five suicide letters in my handbag. I believed I was followed by a demon from the age of 17 which is when I started having nightmarish lucid dreams. I believed that I was weakened to the power of the demons control over me when I was depressed. I believed the demon was attacking me by orders from the devil as I was so special to God. I wore three sets of rosary beads for a prolonged period of time as protection from my demon. I even bought The Lesser Key of Solomon to try to work out the name of the demon that was following me. At one point, I believed I would get pregnant and give birth to the son of God. I believed my daughter was born to bring world peace and that my son was a prophet just like me as he was exhibiting signs of autism. I had an obsession with the number three. I kept waking every night for several months at 3.33am on the dot each night. I believed this was the devils hour and this is why I was waking. I remember saying to a psychiatric nurse during one hospitalisation that ‘you can stabilise my mood but you cannot change my beliefs’. I was wrong. To me I was special and different since I was born, but in all honesty, I am different which I accept and I am not ashamed.

 

In terms of impairment of thoughts, I have exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia. During one hospitalisation, I told the doctor that the thoughts in my head were not mine but had been put there by the demon that was following me. On the opposite side of the coin I have had several admittances to accident and emergency where I was nearly catatonic and it felt as if all the thoughts had been removed from my head. During one episode, it felt like I had been paralysed in my bed and could not move as all these pictures of old cobbled streets came flashing into my head. I kept asking for the key. I was completely out of touch with reality. Similarly, on another occasion, I was lying in bed and felt like I was rapidly getting very small and moving further away from everything around me. During this experience, I lost an hour of time. I do not understand what happened to me in this instance.

 

Delusions can be easier to live with than real life when you have been through a lot of trauma in life. In this sense ignorance is truly bliss. I used to be afraid of vivid nightmares and severe paranormal hallucinations, however, now that I have been through so much and suffered with psychosis on so many occasions that nothing scares me today. I cannot live in fear as this would result in no quality of life at all. I still hear voices today if severely sleep deprived and on very rare occasions will visually hallucinate. But I live each day with whatever may come my way, and I am happy, and for me that is the most important thing.

Mania and Me – Bipolar Disorder

I have suffered with both hypomania and full blown mania. I have bipolar disorder type one as I have had major depression, full blown mania, mixed episodes and psychosis. Hypomania is a milder form of mania, which is categorised by elation and hyperactivity, whereas mania is categorised by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions and over activity.

 

When I am manic I have extremely severe racing thoughts. The best metaphor I can use to explain what it is like to have severe racing thoughts is, when you look at clothes in a washing machine when it is turned off, you are able to see items of clothing. However, when a washing machine is on full spin it becomes impossible to see individual items of clothing. These items of clothing represent my thoughts. When my thoughts are racing on full spin, I am unable to decipher what each thought is. When I am like this I find it extremely difficult to speak as I race from one topic to another, forgetting what I was previously thinking about. I also find it very difficult to answer questions as when I begin to answer the question, I have forgotten what the question was. It is as if I am accessing more of my brain capacity than normal which causes far too heavy a flow of thoughts. A quote which I find quite relevant here is, ‘’Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively’’ (Voltaire).

 

On occasion my thoughts have raced far too fast leading to psychosis and I have become almost catatonic. It is like the thoughts have spun so fast that they have spun out of existence. On two occasions this has been particularly bad. It was as if someone had taken all the thoughts out of my head and I was unable to speak at all, remember or feel emotion. I was unable to do anything: I could not dress myself, I could not get from A to B without being held by the hand and led, I was unable to work out how to do a urine sample in accident and emergency. These instances were the most terrifying experiences of my life as I thought I was going to be in a catatonic state, unable to anything for myself, for the rest of my life in a psychiatric ward. In these cases, I have been rushed straight through accident and emergency and was told I was not exhibiting symptoms of bipolar, but rather symptoms of schizophrenia. This makes me wonder sometimes if I am schizoaffective which is both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

 

When I am manic I hardly sleep at all. I will be up all night moving furniture around, changing rooms about, walking the dog in the middle of the night, compulsively cleaning and generally in a very energetic restless state. I need to be active all the time doing multiple tasks all at once, however, it is difficult to complete any one task due to lack of concentration and racing thoughts. I would get up in the morning after having no sleep and run three miles due to my excessive energy levels. I become over excited about everything. I am an extremely creative person and this is emphasised when I am hypomanic or manic, so when in hospital during mania, I am never out of occupational therapy. I have been so manic before that I left the country with a minute’s notice. I impulsively overspend and I am still in a lot of debt today because of this. I make poor decisions so I can become a danger to myself and others. I am often extremely euphoric when manic, however, this is not always the case with mania.

 

A common misconception with mania is that you are always happy. Take it from me, this is not always the case. I often become extremely agitated, irritable, reckless, self-destructive and aggressive. I am unsure why, but I have often blacked out my actions when manic. I will tell you a few stories of my actions during mania that may shock you. So, please bear in mind that I was unwell and my actions were not a conscious choice, as I am in no way an aggressive person.

 

During agitated mania, on one occasion, I tried to run over my partner at the time with my car. It was a blessing that he ran out of the way and I missed. I have trashed my whole house on many occasions. I have tried to jump out of moving cars. On one occasion, I left my flat at around three in the morning and kicked every other flat door. On another occasion, I blacked out, therefore I am only aware of my actions from what I have been told happened. I smashed everything in the kitchen and apparently had a knife to my throat, then tried to stab my late partners friend, but my partner stopped me (just as I had stopped him from stabbing his father by grabbing the blade of the knife. He suffered with schizophrenia). The police and an ambulance were called, however, when manic your physical strength is elevated, so it was impossible to get me into an ambulance. Apparently, I did a backflip and kicked the police man in the head (I cannot even do backflips). After this about six other police officers came running in and I was restrained. I was taken to a cell and was assessed by a doctor in the police station. I was losing my speech and could only explain to the doctor that my brain had crossed wires. I was sectioned straight into the psychiatric ward. On another occasion in hospital I kicked a piece of furniture at a nurse while I was trying to break the window latch to leave hospital. I was immediately restrained and injected. I have also set my blankets on fire while in hospital as I could not break the window latch to jump to my death, so, I had decided I wanted to burn to death. I was put under immediate 24-hour observation. On another occasion when I blacked out, I slit a cross shape into my late partner’s chest. This was most likely related to the religious nature of my delusions when I was unwell. As I said, when manically unwell, I really am a danger to myself and others. I have many more stories, and I could write a book on them, so, I will not go into any more detail.

 

‘’Do not judge me by my past as I do not live there anymore’’ (Auliq Ice). Do not judge me by my actions when manic as they were not conscious decisions made by myself as I was severely unwell and completely unaware that I was unwell (which is normally the case with mania). I truly regret my actions; however, I realise now that I am in recovery, that this was not me. I must look forward in life as dwelling on the past will never allow me to progress both in life and in terms of recovery. To anyone who is reading this and can relate, please don’t beat yourself up about things that you have done when you are unwell as this is not the real you. Forgive yourself as I have, even though it is difficult to do, as living with guilt is impossible.

Depression and Me – Bipolar Disorder

I suffered stints of depression from an early age, however, it was not until around the age of twenty-four that I sought help from my doctor, before being referred to mental health services resulting in hospitalisation. When I sought help from my doctor I was given an antidepressant known as sertraline (also known as Zoloft). The antidepressant worked well after about two weeks, however, it made my manic. Still to this day I cannot take antidepressants for this reason.

 

Depression is one of the darkest, loneliest and most painful states to be in. I suffer severe depression. It is worse than any physical pain that you could suffer, as the brain controls everything. To illustrate this I will talk about my partner who passed away from cancer two years ago. He suffered with schizophrenia, and he said that the schizophrenia was much worse than the cancer. I have myself, during depression, wished that I had a terminal illness so I knew I would die and die legitimately. By this I mean rather than suicide, although I have self-harmed and attempted suicide on many occasions. I did a Twitter poll recently in which I asked ‘’What is worse, mental suffering or physical pain?’’ 88% of voters chose mental suffering.

 

Depression is crying from morning to night with no hope or self-worth in unbearable pain. I become extremely apathetic and lose interest in everything I love and nothing in the entire world can change my state of mind or my mood. I also stop eating and therefore I always lose a lot of weight so become physically unwell. When I am depressed I seem to lose all my basic survival instincts. It’s as if my brain and my body have literally given up which is just how I feel. Like I have given up on wanting to live.

 

The pain becomes a physical pain in the pit of my stomach like I am being torn apart from the inside. I feel like this when I am screaming and crying in mental agony. In this state, minutes feel like weeks. True depression is not merely sadness or feelings or emotions over something bad such as trauma. It is over nothing specific.

 

I become so lethargic and find it so hard to get out of bed, not just because of tiredness (as it is exhausting and emotionally draining suffering with depression) that I find no reason or motivation to get out of bed. Someone who is depressed is not lazy. I would rather be unconscious and never wake when I am depressed. It also takes so much energy to do any basic tasks, even just washing or having a shower.

 

I have been hospitalised many times for severe depression and related suicidality. On one occasion, I was crying all day and night, and the nurses kept having to provide me with extra medication when they would find me crying on the bedroom floor rocking back and forth screaming in mental torture in the middle of the night. This was to sedate me so sleep was my only window of peace. During depression in hospital I would not leave my room, socialise in any way, eat or attend occupational therapy.

 

During one hospitalisation, I was so depressed that I would sit on my bedroom window sill as I was tempted to escape through the window and jump in front of the next fastest moving car. However, the only thing that stopped me from doing so was the fear that I would not die but instead be in a paralysed state under which I would still mentally suffer and not be able to do anything about it. I terribly feared being severely depressed forever.

 

When you are so severely depressed, you really are hopeless and feel like there is no way out except through dying. However, take it from me, this is not true. Depression will not last forever and you will come out stronger than ever, I promise you this. A quote I found (could not find the author of this quote) illustrates what I have just said: ‘’The one who falls and gets up is much stronger than the one who never fell’’. In this way ‘’I love the person I have become as I fought to become her’’ (Kaci Diane). If you are reading this and you are suffering with depression, you know what, you are awesome as you are still here, and this makes you a fighter. Be proud of yourself for your strength and courage to live.

Life in a Psychiatric Ward – Bipolar Disorder

I have been admitted to an acute psychiatric ward nine times in two years, which meant I was hospitalised for most of this period of time. This was between 2013 and 2015. In this post, I will be focusing on my experiences of life in a psychiatric ward.

 

My first admission to hospital was on the 13th of October 2013. During my first admission, I was manic and I was very elated, therefore, I was not afraid of being admitted to hospital. Like every hospitalisation I have had, I was assessed by a psychiatrist on admission. During assessments, I was always asked very personal questions, which, depending on my mental state, were either very easy to answer or very difficult to answer. By this I mean, if I was elated I would be excited about answering the questions but often went off topic, if I was psychotic I would struggle to speak to answer any of the questions, or if I was depressed I would often be crying too much to answer coherently.

 

During the first 24 hours of all my hospital admissions I had all my private property removed including my phone, laptop and anything that posed a danger to myself. At first assessment, the psychiatrist would decide if 24-hour observation was necessary for reasons such as suicidality, psychosis and so on. When under 24-hour observation a nurse would constantly be with the patient.

 

I have been under constant observation on many occasions for suicidality, psychosis and manic aggression. During observation, I would not be able to use the bathroom by myself, I would not be allowed to shower by myself and at night a nurse would be at the bedroom door the whole night assessing me. With a mental illness, I have often suffered with paranoia in the sense that I believed people were watching me or talking about me. Under observation I was literally being watched all the time. This made it extremely difficult to sleep at night. I believe it would be difficult for anyone to sleep at night while being watched, let alone someone with paranoia and sleep problems. I will note here that sleep deprivation causes a lot of problems for someone suffering with a mental illness. You lose a lot of your dignity when under constant supervision, however, in many instances it was entirely necessary.

 

Every time that I have been sectioned I have not been allowed day pass which is when you are allowed a short interval of leave from the hospital. I have been in hospital over birthdays, public holidays and Christmas. I was not even allowed pass on Christmas day to have dinner with my family. On Christmas day one year, there was an exception made which meant that my children could visit on Christmas day to open their presents under the tree on the main ward. I much appreciated this decision by the head psychiatrist.

 

I have had periods in hospital when I was allowed day pass, sometimes accompanied and sometimes unaccompanied for a brief period depending on my mental health. At times during different admissions I had abused my pass and had it removed. For example, I had accompanied pass during one hospitalisation where my friend had arrived to take me to the cinema, however, we went to a local bar and I arrived back to the ward intoxicated. During my first admission to hospital it was a long time before my inpatient psychiatrist allowed me to have accompanied pass out of the ward. I was terrified to leave as I had been in the ward so long without leaving. I called this the Shawshank redemption complex. It was as if I had already became slightly institutionalised at this point even though this was during my first hospitalisation.

 

Institutionalisation involves harmful effects such apathy and loss of independence arising from spending a long time in an institution such as a psychiatric ward. This has been the case for me as I feel institutionalised in certain aspects, and this was particularly bad in the past. I lost all my self-confidence, ability to do daily tasks for myself such as cleaning and cooking, even though this was addressed in occupational therapy, and I still to this day suffer with social anxiety, which, I believe, in part, stems from being institutionalised. I am also not used to being alone so am unable to sleep when alone as I become afraid, as, when in hospital, I was never alone. I was so used to spending most of my time in hospital in a bay with the curtain closed or in my own room (which was normally the case due to the severity of my episodes of bipolar disorder) that even today my bedroom is my safe place. I find it difficult even today to leave the house. However, in terms of carrying out basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, have improved drastically over the last two years or so. I do not resent having been institutionalised as I really was so unwell that all my hospitalisations, voluntary or not, were completely necessary for not only my safety, but also the safety of others.

 

I may not have been afraid of going into hospital on my first admission, but this was not always the case. At times, I was so anxious I was terrified of the other patients. I was also paranoid. During one particular hospitalisation, I was bullied by another patient. This patient was severely unwell as was I. So, this made my anxiety even worse and I would not leave my room and wanted to discharge myself from hospital. However, the doctor would not allow me to discharge myself as I was so unwell. They were aware of the bullying and were extremely helpful and supportive towards me. In most cases I got on well with most patients, and still to this day I have friends that I met in hospital, who I am in regular contact with.

 

I witnessed a lot of incidents regarding other patients during my multiple hospitalisations. I witnessed patients being thrown to the floor to be restrained (which has also happened to me), I witnessed patients coming back after ECT in a wheelchair completely out of it, I witnessed patients being dragged by nurses to their rooms, I witnessed patients smuggling cannabis onto the ward after day pass, I witnessed patients being locked in their room screaming for help as there was a lack of nursing staff to deal with their needs. I have had severe depression in hospital in which I was screaming and crying in unbearable pain, but I have also heard the screams of others in the same situation which is heart breaking. I have seen nurses and patients being attacked by other patients. I met a lot of people who had been through a lot of trauma just like myself. My friend in the ward had attended accident and emergency trying to seek help as she suffered with borderline personality disorder. She was told that they could not help her so she ran to the roof of the hospital and jumped off the roof breaking her back. She had been an all-Ireland runner which she will never be able to do again. Some hospitals still do not take mental health seriously which is demonstrated in this case. An example in my own case would be when I overdosed and had kidney failure. When I was physically well again I was discharged from hospital with no admittance to the psychiatric ward on this occasion. However, I was hospitalised several days later for another suicide attempt. I could write a book about all the things I have witnessed so I will not go into any more detail on this subject.

 

On one occasion, I escaped from hospital during a period when I had been sectioned and had no day pass whatsoever. I was extremely agitated so I wanted to leave the hospital. However, the doctors would not allow this due to my mental state. I was extremely underweight so I knew that I could fit out of the small gap when my window was opened. While the nurse had gone to the clinical room to get me some medication to calm me down, I seen my opportunity, so I went out the window determined to walk fifteen miles to get home. However, I was stopped by the police who brought me straight back to the ward. When I got back my bedroom window had been locked and I was still extremely agitated so I pulled the blinds off that covered the window and kept kicking the window to try open it again. Then my room was flooded by nurses. I was pulled to the floor and restrained and given an injection in my bum. Still to this day I do not know what they injected me with. The injection did not work, as they hoped it would sedate me, however, it did work after about eight hours. I was put under observation while I was running around my room screaming and pulling my hair out of my head in severe agitated mania.

 

Being restrained is horrible but has been necessary on occasions such as I mentioned before. While restrained it is usually the case that you are unaware that you are unwell. I have been restrained by the police as I would not get into the ambulance that my family had called. So, I ended up in a cell waiting to see a doctor before admittance to hospital. I was so agitated in the cell that I was head butting walls and pulling my hair out screaming, then I would stop and cry, then I would be catatonic and not move and this cycle continued while I was locked in the cell. Other reasons for being restrained include refusal of medication. I have witnessed another patient being restrained for absconding from the ward, but, even though she came back voluntarily with no aggression, she was pulled to the ground for restraint and me and the other patients heard her head crack against the floor. Seeing instances like this is extremely upsetting and terrifying, especially when you are unwell yourself.

 

Whether I was under observation or not, I would be seen daily by my named nurse to access my mental state, and assessed weekly by the multi-disciplinary team including a psychiatrist, junior psychiatrist, care coordinator, named nurse, social worker and an occupational therapist. I always found these meetings to be quite daunting as I did not like being in a room with so many people staring at me due to paranoia and anxiety, and this team had control over what would happen to me in terms of release, medication and observation. Each day became quite monotonous: I would cue up for medication four times a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner were always at the same time and attendance of occupational therapy was the norm. Weight, food and fluid intake were also monitored each day.

 

Occupational therapy became a break from the monotony of routine and being locked up. In occupational therapy, the activities were usually art based and cooking for rehabilitation. I am a very creative person, so when I was in the right state of mind I really enjoyed it. When I was very depressed I would not attend occupational therapy, however while manic I was never out of it and I would continue doing multiple tasks at once even when occupational therapy was over. The occupational therapists were so used to me that they would not force me to attend when I was low, as they knew I would attend when my mood picked up. Furthermore, once a week a therapy dog would come into the ward. I really enjoyed this and it would lift my mood especially when I was extremely depressed.

 

There were of course rules in the ward. These included not being able to go out to the garden after midnight, visitors could only attend during visiting hours, checks on patients were carried out every half hour day and night and so on. I will mention it is difficult to sleep when a torch is shined through your bedroom window every half hour. I have been in different hospitals throughout all my admissions, and, each hospital has differing rules and procedures. For example, one ward required you to sign out and back in when you had pass, whereas the other wards I have been on did not. Another ward had a separate section where people who required observation went, whereas the other wards did not. Some of the rules seemed to me to be a bit silly. For example, you were not allowed plastic bags in your room in case you tried to asphyxiate yourself as a form of suicide. Therefore, every so often a nurse would go to every room or bay asking the patients in each room if they had any plastic bags, and of course everyone said no. However, I answered yes and told them I had one in each of the two bins in the bedroom. So, it was factually true that, if any patient wanted to kill themselves in this way, they could. It just seemed silly that you could not have bags in your room because of this fact. There were also times when the rules were broken by the nurses in the patient’s best interests or patients breaking the rules themselves. For example, during a period in hospital when I had severe depression, the nurses found me sitting on the floor rocking back and forth in tears in the middle of the night. They allowed me to go out to the garden after midnight to get some air and have a walk. In terms of patients breaking the rules, during one hospitalisation, myself and some other patients were playing poker in the dining room, and unaware to the nurses, we were playing for money. We were not playing for much money, but we were still breaking the rules. As mentioned before, there were instances of patients smuggling cannabis into the ward.

 

I would like to mention that, in a sense, there is not really any such thing as a voluntary admission. You can voluntarily admit yourself to hospital, however, you cannot voluntarily discharge yourself from hospital. It is the psychiatrist’s decision whether you can leave the ward or not. In many cases the admission itself may be voluntary, but it is a choice made in the sense that, if you do not go to hospital voluntarily, you will be sectioned. This has happened to me on many occasions, and in these instances, I always agreed to go in voluntarily unless I was extremely manic.

 

All in all, I have, although institutionalised, benefited from my hospitalisations. When you are in a psychiatric ward you are assessed all the time. This lead to me receiving the correct diagnosis and care that I really needed. I am extremely grateful to my mental health team both inpatient and outpatient, as without their care, I would not be living today.

Bipolar and Me – Hospital to Recovery

As a child, I was misdiagnosed with ADHD. My teenage years were chaotic and my first suicide attempt was at age seventeen. This attempt failed and nobody knew about it as I hid for days in my room extremely ill. Therefore, at this point, I did not receive any care, treatment or a diagnosis. I then had seven years of undetected instability. Friends and family believed that my behaviour was simply just due to the way I was. They believed it was just part of my personality. I had tried to jump out of windows and moving cars, I would run around the street in complete agitation, I jumped off a roof, I was extremely impulsive and over spent a lot leading to quite a lot of debt. I started having panic attacks aged twenty-two. The anxiety was so severe that I stopped eating and was extremely underweight. The panic attacks were so severe that they resulted in several stints in accident and emergency. I literally thought I was dying. After this, I started to suffer with mild depression. I rang my doctor to seek help but was told that I would naturally feel down after suffering with severe anxiety. So again, I did not receive any diagnosis, care or treatment.

 

When I was twenty-four I had a prolonged period, about three months, of undetected mania with psychosis. This is when my partner of seven years left me and took my children. I was unaware that I was ill. Again, family and friends and my ex-partner thought all of the erratic behaviour was just my personality. The irritability, agitation, impulsivity and inability to keep myself safe and poor decision making meant I was not only a danger to myself, but also a danger other people. Around this time, I sliced my arms until I was dripping with blood. At this point my family called the police and an ambulance so I was transferred to accident and emergency. During my assessment in the emergency department, as I did not realise I was unwell, I told the psychiatric nurse that I was fine and it was a mistake. She believed me and told me that I was merely ‘just a bit sad’. So again, I did not receive the care or treatment I needed for my latter diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The mania continued and I began drinking heavily and taking illicit drugs in an attempt to self-medicate for an illness I did not know I had. I hardly slept at all going days without sleep altogether.

 

Soon the mania and psychosis subsided and I hit rock bottom. I could not stop crying all day long and had suicidal thoughts and ideation. The pain I was suffering with was so unbearable I decided to seek help from my doctor. My doctor gave me antidepressants. After a few weeks of taking sertraline, also known as Zoloft, with the dosage raised to 150mg per day, the depression subsided. However, I suddenly went too high, so again I was manic with no help or diagnosis. I was off the rails. At this point I researched borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder, and when reading articles on each one, I realised I was exhibiting symptoms of both. I rang my doctor again, and at this point I received a referral to mental health services. At his point I was still taking my antidepressant.

 

When I was first assessed by a junior psychiatrist, I was prescribed my first antipsychotic, namely chlorpromazine, yet I was still undiagnosed with any mental illness. I had an allergic reaction to the drug and was suffering with severe nightmares. I came off this medication as requested by the junior psychiatrist and was prescribed another antipsychotic, namely quetiapine (also known as serquol). When I began taking quetiapine, I was on the lowest dosage of 25mg quick release per day, and this made me so lethargic that I could not keep awake or get out of bed in the mornings. My family and friends at this time believed I was merely lazy. However, soon the sedative effects of quetiapine wore off and I began self-medicating on the drug at levels of around 300mg a day. This dosage at this point had no sedative effect, even at such a high dosage compared to how the lower dosage had affected me when I began taking the drug. It was as if the severity of the mania that had returned was overriding the sedative effects of the drug and I was literally un-sedatable. At this point I was referred on to the head psychiatrist and was put under the care of the crisis team who would assess me at home daily.

 

I was completely out of control again, and I was up and down in rapid cycling mode. The police and the crisis team were regularly called by a good friend as I was suicidal amongst all the chaos. I had also completely trashed my whole house on several occasions and what I believed to be paranormal events were occurring regularly, which I believed to be real rather than a symptom of psychosis. All this lead to an agreement with the crisis team, that I would voluntarily be admitted to the acute psychiatric ward. This was my first hospitalisation and this was on the 13th of October 2013.

 

As soon as I was assessed during my first hospitalisation, I was immediately taken off my antidepressant as the doctors believed it was causing hypomania. Still to this day I cannot take antidepressants for this reason. I was put on an even higher dosage of my antipsychotic medication. I was on 600mg of quetiapine a day, for which the doctors and nurses believed would sedate me. However, it did not work. I was running around at one hundred miles per hour – I just could not stop doing multiple tasks at one time from morning to night. I hardly slept at all. Apart from the fact that the antipsychotic was not working on its own, it had terrible side effects. I was having cold sweats every night, I was having vivid nightmares, I was gaining weight at an immense speed and I was spontaneously lactating. Bloods that were taken at this point showed that my prolactin levels were too high. I had to have an MRI scan to rule out a tumour in the brain as the cause of the lactation before I was taken off quetiapine. In the space of two days, the quetiapine was reduced from such a high dosage to being completely off it, while I was starting another antipsychotic, namely risperidone. The rapid reduction of one antipsychotic and the side effects of the new antipsychotic (at a very low dose) made things worse. After two days of racing thoughts, nausea and symptoms of vertigo I refused to take the new antipsychotic. I then discharged myself and immediately overdosed. This lead to an immediate section back into the psychiatric ward. I was then put on a mood stabiliser, namely Depakote, which was gradually increased to 1500mg per day. Eventually I was stable as the mood stabiliser was working. This first hospitalisation lasted three months and resulted in an initial diagnosis of cyclothymia, borderline personality disorder and poly substance misuse.

 

I began seeing a consultant psychiatrist as an outpatient and was assigned my own CPN which is a community psychiatric nurse. It was not long before everything began to fall apart again. I had nine hospitalisations over the next two years, which resulted in being in a psychiatric ward for most of those two years. Reasons for being hospitalised included severe depression, full blown mania, suicide attempts, mixed episodes and psychosis. All in all, I attempted suicide around ten times which were all overdoses, as in my eyes, I wanted to fall asleep peacefully and never wake up again. Cutting my wrists and arms were not a suicide attempt but self-harm which I will talk about in a later post. I was not hospitalised for all of my overdoses as not all of them were detected. I am lucky to be alive. Due to my suicidality, I began to collect my medication daily so I did not have enough to kill myself. To this day, I am only allowed to collect my medication weekly because of my history of suicide attempts. I will go into much more detail about suicide in a later post.

 

I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one, traits of borderline personality disorder and poly substance misuse. It took a long time for both my inpatient and outpatient psychiatrists to get the medication correct, bearing in mind that during my intervals when I was not in hospital, I was non-compliant with my medication and was still using illicit drugs as a form of self-medication. Throughout my hospitalisations, I was put on the maximum dosage of Depakote which is 2000mg per day and on my last hospitalisation which I was admitted on the 13th of October 2015, I was put on a four-weekly antipsychotic injection called Abilify (also known as aripiprazole). I was released from my last hospitalisation and referred to the crisis team. For a while I had no concentration whatsoever, my memory was terrible (which I still struggle with today), and I was still exhibiting mild symptoms of psychosis such as delusions which were heavily religious. I also had mild depression. I was told that it would take six months for the Abilify to work properly. For an extended period of time I was choosing to force myself into the hypnogogic state of sleep under which I undertook lucid dreams which I believed were astral projections to different realms at God’s will to save others from their sins and that this was the reason for suffering. At one point I even tried a homemade Ouija board to try and access the dead or God to ask if I was allowed to kill myself. In time the Abilify removed my psychosis. I have now had my mood stabiliser changed to lithium as an outpatient which is working well so I am in remission from bipolar disorder.

 

Today, my mood is generally stable. Everything is not perfect as I have mild fluctuations in mood but I have had no more psychotic episodes. There are a lot of negative side effects with different medications and I am on anti-side effect tablets for this. They work to a certain degree so I still have side effects but I put up with them as where I am today compared to where I was a couple of years ago is immensely better. Sometimes I wonder if there is much of the real me still living with so many tablets and an injection, but I am happy and this is all that matters. I have to take about twenty-one tablets a day which can become annoying as I have to base each day around medication but it is a small price to pay to be stable and happy. I have never received any therapy for bipolar disorder as my psychiatrist believes that bringing up all the trauma in my life will simply cause me to have another episode. My memory and concentration span are greatly affected permanently due to how ill I have been and a side effect of some of the medications I am taking. I also suffer with social anxiety which I believe stems, in part, from how institutionalised I have become from so many hospitalisations. In this way, I can find it hard to leave the house or even leave the bedroom, but to be honest, I just get on with it.

 

An important message to anyone reading this, is that, it is true that whatever does not kill you will make you stronger. My whole life is an example of this. And you know what, I would not change all the trauma and mental illness in my life as it has made me the person I am today, stronger than ever. ‘’I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her’’ (Kaci Diane)

My Childhood and Mental Health

From a very young age I suffered with sleep problems and had very deep questions about reality. From as young as I can remember, I would lay in bed with racing thoughts unable to sleep, as I was asking the questions; Is my life a dream? Am I part of someone else’s dream? Am I in a coma? Is the colour of these pillows and those walls the same colour to me as it is to you? I never told anyone about my thoughts, and my grandmother would be sitting beside me telling me to count sheep to go to sleep.

 

I have quite a far-reaching memory of my youngest years. I remember the imprint of my pram, it was white with navy polka dots. I also remember learning to walk in my grandmother’s hall. My father died when I was two and a half years old. I remember asking where he had gone yet I have no memory of him, which is strange as I mentioned, I had much earlier memories than this. I presume it is a coping strategy that my brain has blocked these memories.

 

As before, I stated my issues with reality, I was always and extremely deep thinker. I was told that when I was about five or six years old, that my mother took me to my father’s grave so I could put a picture I had drew on my his grave. My mother started to cry and I told her to stop being so silly, ‘it is only his bones that rest there, not his soul’. This is most likely why even today I do not see the point of open coffin wakes. This was reiterated when my partner Declan died of cancer aged 25. While his sisters fussed over his hair asking me if he would be happy with the way it looks, I kept thinking – he is cold and rock hard, that is just a body and he has gone somewhere better. This is confirmed by an NDE I had after overdosing (which I will discuss in detail in a further post).

 

From as young as the age of five I can remember cutting my arms and standing in the kitchen with a knife to my throat or abdomen threatening to kill myself. My behaviour in primary school was off the rails. I began to see a child psychologist while I was in primary school and was diagnosed with ADHD, however, my grandparents who were raising me declined medication. I do not know if this was a sensible decision or not.

 

After primary school, I went to an all-girls catholic grammar school. I did not fit in and my behaviour there was also off the rails. I remember carving ‘no food’ into the back of my arm in maths class. I have never been diagnosed as having an eating disorder, although I currently have issues with food for different reasons when I am unwell. I began to see a councillor in this school. I did not find it helpful at all.

 

When I was in my late teens I started taking illicit drugs including cannabis, ecstasy, aerosols and cocaine. I believe this was self-medication as I did not at this point have my true diagnosis. Obviously, the drugs made things worse and I was mitching off school and spending my lunch money on drugs while living in a drug house. I had my first overdose aged seventeen which nobody knew about as I was on my own. I was sick for days but did not seek any help. It was about a year later I contacted my doctor when I was feeling very depressed but his only suggestion was counselling while I was hoping for medication.

 

I did not have a normal childhood. It is only now in later life after multiple hospitalisations that I received the care I had needed but not received for years previously. I have now a correct diagnosis and medication has really helped me along with the support of my mental health team.

My Bipolar Life Story

My name is Maria and I am from Northern Ireland. To tell my life story I am going to have to start from the very beginning. I will not be focusing on my in-depth experiences with bipolar disorder on this post because you really need to hear my life story to get to know me first.

 

I was born on the 17th of August 1988. I was born two months premature and had to be given CPR. I weighed only four pounds and was in an incubator for a while. I am mentioning this as several psychiatrists have asked me if I had a normal birth during assessments.

 

My mother and father got married when I was two and a half years old. My father died on honeymoon in a skiing accident in Austria. I have memories before my father’s death and I remember asking where he had gone. However, I do not remember him. I don’t know why this is. I presume my memory is blocking it as a safety mechanism.

 

After this, my mother was extremely suicidal and depressed so she did not want to raise me at the time so I was raised by my grandparents. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, but my grandparents declined medication. I don’t know if this was a sensible decision.

 

During my teenage years, there was involvement with social services due to my behaviour and in my late teens I took a lot of illicit drugs which I believe was self-medication. I had my first overdose at 17 which no one was aware of as I was on my own. I met my partner around this age who I was with for 7 years. He left me and took my children when I had my first proper breakdown before we were due to get married. The wedding was cancelled. It was probably a good thing as a relationship should be based ‘in sickness and in health’. Furthermore, he was extremely controlling and paranoid. He used to turn up to my work when I was pregnant to see who I was talking too and believed I was having an affair with everyone I spoke too including my friends. I was walking on egg shells for seven years. I worked 60 hours a week until I was eight months pregnant and he sat at home doing nothing and did not pay for anything. I was paying for the whole wedding and all the bills, while working, studying to a layer in university and raising two children. He spent all his money on cannabis.

 

During my first hospitalisation lasting three months, I was initially diagnosed with cyclothymia, borderline personality disorder and poly substance misuse. I had a further nine hospitalisations which led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder type one, traits of borderline personality disorder and poly substance misuse.

 

I met my next partner in hospital. He had schizophrenia. I was with him for about a year until he died of cancer aged 25. I nursed him at home alone before his admission to a hospice.

 

My next partner, who also suffered from schizophrenia was physically abusive towards me and would not let me take my psychiatric medication or seek help. He took my phone and bank card away from me. I sliced my arms and legs to pieces and he would not let me out of his sight to seek help. I managed to get away though he followed me throwing me about and pulling me by the hair calling me names while I walked up the road until two men stopped him and called the police.

 

I am now in remission from bipolar disorder and have been out of hospital a year and a half. Things are not perfect and I still struggle every day. I take around 21 psychiatric tablets a day and a four weekly anti-psychotic injection. I now live in England with my partner who is lovely, kind and caring and he takes care of me which I have never really experienced in my life.

 

It is completely true that what does not kill you, even though I have tried about ten times, will make you stronger. Without my struggles in life I would not be the person that I am today and I am proud to be me. I am recovering and I am happy. Never lose hope as things will get better. My entire life is an example of this. I am hoping to train as a psychiatric nurse if not this year, next year. I want to give back the excellent care that I have received from my wonderful mental health team who I am utterly grateful for.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

My name is Maria from Northern Ireland and I suffer with bipolar disorder type 1. I will be starting my blog by answering the question: What is bipolar disorder. I will be focusing on my own experiences of bipolar disorder in further posts. This post is aimed to educate and inform people about what bipolar disorder is.

I will be starting with a very important issue, that is, that bipolar disorder like all other mental health illnesses, are illness just like any physical illness. Just because you can’t see it does not mean it is not there. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain involving serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. It is a treatable, cyclical, genetic illness that can be controlled. A common misconception about bipolar disorder is that it is a split personality which is completely untrue. The polarity in bipolar disorder relates to mood: shifts in mood – hence it was previously known as manic depression I.e. a swing between mania and depression. It is a mood disorder, not a personality disorder. Furthermore, there is no simple test for bipolar disorder as everyone is an individual and will exhibit different symptoms of the illness in different ways. This also elaborates how you are not defined by bipolar disorder – you have bipolar disorder, you are not bipolar disorder.

The cause of bipolar is unknown, however it is hereditary. It affects around 2.4 million people in the UK which is about 1.1% of the population over the age of 18. It affects both men and women equally. Bipolar disorder falls into three groups ranging in severity and these are cyclothymia, bipolar disorder type 2 and bipolar disorder type 1, from the mildest to the most sever respectively. I will briefly explain each one:

  • Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder that is categorised by shifts between mild depression to emotional highs. Symptoms are often mild enough that treatment is not necessary so it often goes undiagnosed or undetected.
  • Bipolar disorder type 2 is categorised by episodes of hypomania (a milder form of mania) and major depression.
  • Bipolar disorder type 1 is categorised by episodes of full blown mania and major depression and include mixed episodes and in some cases psychosis.

Episodes of bipolar can be rapid cycling going from a high to a low very quickly with no break in-between, or episodes can last for several weeks or even months.

I will be describing depression, hypomania, mania and psychosis in a little detail bearing in mind that I will be explaining each in more detail in further posts.

  • Depression ranges in severity and includes symptoms such as hopelessness, worthlessness, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns and suicidal ideation or thoughts. Studies have shown that around 50% of people suffering from bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at some time.
  • Hypomania is a milder form of mania that is marked by elation, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Mania is more severe with periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions and over activity. A major misconception about mania is that the person suffering with mania is always happy. This is not the case as the individual may have agitation and irritability. Someone who is manic may not be aware that they are unwell so can become a danger to themselves or others.
  • Psychosis involves impairment of thoughts and a detachment with reality. It can involve delusions and both auditorial and visual hallucinations.

There is no shame in being bipolar and many celebrities are openly bipolar such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, Stephen Fry and Robin Williams who sadly killed himself in 2014.

Treatment for bipolar disorder includes medication such as mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. Therapy for bipolar disorder is usually CBT which is cognitive behavioural therapy. There are also self help methods such as RAP i.e. recovery action plan.

If you think that you or someone you know is suffering with any of these symptoms, please do not be afraid to seek help. It is extremely important to seek help. As I already stated, there is no shame in being bipolar as the shame lies with those who stigmatise and judge.