Stephen Fry. Demi Lovato. Mariah Carey. Me. What do we all have in common? Well, we all have Bipolar Disorder.
I know for some people that may be a pretty difficult sentence to write, knowing that it would be put out on the internet for all to see. But for me? It really isn’t. I’ve always been very open and honest about my condition because I am not ashamed of it. I’ve come to the conclusion that I should start sharing my story on my blog. There’s a selfish element involved as I think I will find it quite therapeutic. But I do also hope to help others, be it fellow patients or their friends and family.
Today’s post is going to be an introduction to my story, through which I will be sharing my diagnosis journey. It’s a bit of a long one, so grab a cuppa and get comfy.
In the summer of 2013 I started to notice that I was suffering from low moods again. The reason I say again is because I was not stranger to depression, having been treated for it twice before in the past. When I was 13 I received counseling. When I was 19 I received counseling again, but this time I also took anti-depressants. I kept telling myself it was because I was on a post wedding come down, having gotten married at the end of 2012. The thing that stopped me asking for help was the fact that sometimes I felt absolutely fine, on top of the world even. Little did I know at the time that that was actually part of the problem.
Fast forward to December 2013 and I had my family round to my house to celebrate my birthday. Everything was going great, and a few of us were sat in the kitchen talking about I’m A Celebrity, which was currently on television. I still remember it vividly. We were talking about Rebecca Addlington and bullying. I was trying to get my point across but my mind was racing and I couldn’t seem to slow my thoughts down enough to say what I actually meant. Instead it was coming out jumbled, erratic and in hind sight, possibly a bit aggressive. My sister didn’t agree with what was coming out of my mouth, and wasn’t holding back in telling me so, whilst I was still trying to correct myself and getting increasingly frustrated. I had become really defensive, as I felt both my mum and my sister were talking over me. Again, in hind sight it was probably the other way round, but my perception of the conversation was just completely off.
The more frustrated I got with myself, as well as everyone else, the more defensive I became. I felt like the walls were closing in on me and that it was me against them. In the end, I just snapped. The fight or flight reaction kicked in and I wanted out. I kicked everyone out of my house, including my young niece and nephews, who had no idea what was going on.
Whilst everyone was leaving I ran upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. There was so much adrenalin pumping around my body that it was making me feel physically sick. In our bathroom we had a small unit where we kept all of our medicines. Before I even knew what I was doing, I grabbed a packet of paracetomol, ready to take them all. I didn’t understand what was going on and I just wanted it to stop. Suddenly, my husband Kevin was at the other side of the door trying to get in. It was as if someone had snapped their fingers in front of my face to bring me back down to reality. I put the tablets back and left the bathroom.
I came over completely exhausted and just wanted to go to sleep. So Kevin guided me in to the bedroom as if I were in a trance and put me to bed, telling me everything would be ok. That night I slept a solid 16 hours.
When I woke up the next day I knew enough was enough. I kept thinking of myself sat on that floor, holding on to the tablets, and I knew that it couldn’t happen again. I knew I didn’t want to die. Something needed to be done. I decided a visit to see my GP was in order.
Having never moved far from the area I grew up, I still had the same GP that had dealt with my previous history of depression. I booked an appointment to see him, where I was given a prescription for Citalopram, the anti-depressant I had taken before. (I had taken it for a year the first time around, so was no longer on it).
Feeling relieved that I had a solution, I then went home and decided to call my mum. I apologized for what had happened at my birthday and explained how I’d been feeling, as well as my recent trip to the doctors. This conversation was to be a major turning point in my life. My mum didn’t sound surprised and said that she had discussed my behavior with my eldest sister, Michelle, who at the time was doing a Psychology degree. They both felt that something more was going on, and that that something more was Bipolar Disorder.
Quick as a flash my defenses shot back up. I screamed at my mum. Then I hung up on her and called my sister, who I then screamed at as well. Once I had hung up on her I just started sobbing hysterically on my bed. I had experience of people with Bipolar Disorder both in my personal and my professional life. I finally realized what was right in front of my face. And I was terrified.
I text my mum telling her that I thought that she could be right and she called me right back telling me that we would get it sorted. Even at the age of 27, everything always seems so much better when you have your mum there telling you everything was going to be ok.
We booked another doctors appointment, which she would accompany me to this time. Even though it was right before Christmas, we somehow, through some kind of miracle, managed to get in. I let my mum take the lead and she explained what had happened, what her and my sister thought, and that she wanted me to be referred to the local mental health team. In hindsight, having heard about other peoples experiences, I know I was incredibly lucky that my GP agreed to refer me, even though he said he didn’t believe I had Bipolar.
Christmas and New Year came and went and I knew I wouldn’t receive my appointment straight away due to the time of year. Before I knew it though, it was the end of January and I still hadn’t heard anything. I called my doctors surgery again (I had chased it up a couple of times already), and they discovered that the referral had never actually gone through. I was paranoid that it was because my GP didn’t believe what was going on. But they assured me it would get sent through that day. Within a couple of hours I received a call from a social worker who was doing a welfare call to let me know they had my referral and to see how I was getting on as there had been such a delay. My appointment came through, and even though I would have to wait another few weeks before I could see someone, I felt better knowing I was now in the system.
On the day of that first appointment my mum and Michelle came with me. I was absolutely terrified about what would happen, and had images of being sectioned and admitted against my will. Fortunately that never went any further than my overactive imagination.
We met with a social worker who did an initial assessment to see if I need to be referred further, and if so, if I needed to go down the Psychology or Psychiatric route. After talking for about an hour she told me that she suspected I was suffering from a mood disorder of some kind, and that she would arrange for me to see a Psychiatrist, who would make an official diagnosis.
During this time I was barely leaving my house, and if I did, I had to have someone with me. I had started suffering from panic attacks, where I would come over dizzy and faint, and either feel sick or actually be sick. It was one of the darkest times of my life. I felt like everything was so outside of my control, and I’d never felt so vulnerable.
In April 2014 I finally came face to face with a Psychiatrist. Again, she did an assessment. She also had a few questions for my mum, who was with me. Then it came time for a diagnosis. Bipolar Disorder.
So there we have it, that was my journey to receiving a diagnosis. I told you in would be a long one! (so well done if you made it this far!). For my next mental health post I will share with you my treatment plan and what I do to manage my condition on a day to day basis. I plan on doing a number of posts to share my experiences as someone with Bipolar Disorder, including working full time, travelling and dealing with grief. If you have any other suggestions of things you would like me to cover then please leave them down in the comment section below.