Guest Post: My Bipolar Brain

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

My personal story of being diagnosed with bipolar is about 5 years long. At 16 years old, I started to notice my moods would switch from highs to lows my parents put it down to my age and hormones. I was also smoking cannabis occasionally at this point to help with my insomnia that I had been struggling with for a few years. 

By 17, my lows were so bad I decided to go see my GP, and unfortunately at the time this was probably the worst decision, because they didn't really listen to me and just threw some Citalopram at me assuming it was depression/anxiety. This didn't help at all, so I soon stopped taking it and tried to just think positively, and again use cannabis, to help with the insomnia. 

Just before my 19th birthday, I attempted suicide by overdose. At the hospital I lied and said it was an accident, and I just wanted to go to sleep for a while and shut off my brain. They accepted this as the truth and sent me home. I tried my GP again after realising I couldn't cope without some form of help, but he yet again pointed me in the direction of Citalopram. This time, I ended up  going back there, demanding some other medication as this wasn't working. Sertroline was the next drug of choice for me, but again this wasn't working for me and in fact, it was making me worse. I'd given up on the mental health services at this point, and I was drinking and taking drugs to try and block out the things going through my head. But of course, these just made the highs higher and lows lower, and I had also began self harming to cope. 

At 20 years old I lost my grandma, and this hit me hard. I stopped taking all drugs, but my self harm got worse and more severe, hurting myself in various different ways. My parents soon realised this wasn't going away, and took me again to my GP for help. They referred me to Insight - a counselling group through the NHS - but at my first appointment with them, they told me they couldn't take me on because of my self harm and sent me home. This was a huge slap in the face for me because I was finally ready to be open about my issues and they wouldn't help. This was when I was passed onto the mental health services at the hospital. More medications were thrown at me over the next two years - Mirtazepean, Venlafaxine, Duloxeutine, Diazapean and Quetiapine, as well as several different opinions on my diagnosis including depression, anxiety, OCD and borderline personality. When I would go in telling them I was worse, they would just up the dosage. 

My moods were erratic and swinging from highs to lows in hours or days. I was getting worse and no one seemed to be able to help me. My self harm was still ongoing and my parents were beside themselves with trying to understand and help me. In the end they made the decision to pay for private healthcare and take me to The Priory in Manchester. Soon after meeting me, they diagnosed me with bipolar and explained that the anti depressants they had been giving me were causing my bipolar to go into rapid cycling - this is when your moods switch a lot faster than normal, sometimes in just days or hours. I was confused when I had my official diagnosis because I was relived that we finally knew what was wrong, but now I had to deal with having this forever. I'd have to take medication for the rest of my life. 

A few months ago, I decided it was time to be open and I "came out of the bipolar closet" on Facebook to friends and family, through a charity skydive I was doing for Mind at the time. I'm happy to say that things are finally are getting better now, I have wonderful friends and family around me who understand and help me, and I find being honest has helped me massively. If i'm struggling, I just tell my family or friends 'my heads not very well today', and they understand. I'm also 3 months self harm free, which doesn't seem much to some people, but to me that's huge. My family know exactly what do to when I go into my states now, which is amazing. They of course find it hard that they can't understand what's going on in my brain, but they really try. 

Everyone is different, but some of the symptoms I endure as a bipolar sufferer are: 
When i'm 'on a high' - I can't eat - I can't sleep - I think irrational thoughts - I get very easily irritated and angry at the people close to me - Long drives and running away happens a lot - Putting myself in dangerous situations - High sex drive - Voices - Embarrassing my friends my dancing singing acting irrationally in public - I believe I can do anything - Creative - Motivated for everything. - Anxiety attacks - Rearrange all furniture in the house.
When i'm 'on a low' - I sleep for days - Over eating - Thoughts of self harm - Voices telling me to hurt my self - No motivation - Tearful - Anxiety attacks - Thoughts of no self worth - Paranoid thoughts - No sex drive - Sometimes I'm unable to leave my house.

So, my advice for anyone who is struggling and thinks they may have bipolar, see your doctor. If he/she doesn't help, see another. You know yourself, and if things aren't getting better and need to change, keep pushing and trying everything until you feel yourself you're starting to get better. And lastly, be open and honest with people, they will be more understanding than you think.

The author of this post has decided to remain anonymous.

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