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30 Years of Bipolar

www.bipolaruk.org.uk twitter.com/bipolaruk facebook.com/bipolaruk


Bipolar UK’s 30th Anniversary 30 Years of Bipolar Bipolar UK was founded against the backdrop of the 1983 Mental Health Act when ignorance of mental illness was rife. In that year, 43 individuals attended the first group meeting in central London for manic depressives (the then medical diagnosis for bipolar). The views expressed at the meeting spanned the spectrum, but a number of common concerns raised included: •GPs and psychiatrists were evasive about the illness •Conflicting advice was being offered by legal and medical professionals •There was a major disagreement about whether manic depression was inherited or not. The report of the meeting’s proceedings included the following appeal: “We should work to dispel the stigma, secrecy and widespread ignorance of manic depression. Manic depressives should be more open about the condition and still find suitable jobs.” 30 years on has much changed? The life stories and personal experiences in the following pages reflect a mix of inspiration, hope and despair. In many regards awareness & understanding of what is now known as bipolar has come a long way. From that first group meeting, a charitable organisation was born which over the years has developed into the national bipolar charity providing a range of support services and helping people with bipolar to manage the illness for themselves. Although small in size in national terms, Bipolar UK works with and supports more than 65,000 individuals and families every year. Moreover demand for our services is accelerating at an unprecedented pace.

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But as highlighted in the following pages, there is still a long way to go. When you compare funding, support facilities, research and resources over the past ten years with, for example, a severe physical illness the disparity is glaringly obvious. The current Health Minister recently called for "parity" between physical and mental health; sadly that is still a long way off. We at Bipolar UK are determined that it doesn't take another 30 years before that is achieved! Here we are in the 21st century and we probably all know at least one person or family struggling with the challenges of this complex and sometimes devastating illness. There are more than three million people affected by bipolar in the UK today and, incredibly, it still takes an average of more than ten and a half years to receive a correct diagnosis. Bipolar remains one of the main causes of lost years of life and health for 15 to 44 year olds and, compared to other illnesses that have a lesser impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma. As the national bipolar charity we are privileged to work with and support individuals and families affected by bipolar every day. When we raised the idea of focusing on 30 stories for the 30th Anniversary of Bipolar UK, we received hundreds of offers from individuals willing to tell their stories. Echoing the ethos of that first meeting 30 years ago, they all “stood up� to be more open about their illness, and by so doing, challenge society at large to show more understanding and support for people with bipolar. It is now time for that challenge to be answered.

Clare Dolman Chair of Trustees

Suzanne Hudson Chief Executive

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1983 Since age 15 or so, I had seasonal mood swings: high in the summer, low in the winter. This worked very well in terms of the British exam system as my O and A Levels were timed perfectly for when my brain was at its sharpest and quickest and my energy levels were highest. As a result, I performed very well. But the summer of 1983 was the second summer in a row that those energy levels and that speed of thought had gone too far. I slept for only five or six hours, waking early to start the day with the first of many cigarettes and a large rum and coke. I then pressed fast-forward for the next 18 hours, breaking hearts, crashing cars and insulting friends and family. I knew everything there was to know and my generosity knew no bounds (I famously gave a friend a cheque for £1 million to help start his business fortunately my father had stopped my bank account so it was only good for framing). I was eventually admitted to hospital for my own good (I nearly escaped and thank God that I didn’t or I might not be here to write this 30 years on). I was heavily sedated, put on lithium (a lifesaver for me which I still take now) and told that I had manic depression. That was something I had never heard of and in 1983 there was little information available to help me come to terms with such a life-changing diagnosis. One psychiatrist said I would never be able to have children which - for an otherwise healthy 23-year-old in a stable relationship - was a devastating thing to hear. Luckily, another psychiatrist said that wasn’t the case and I had two children a few years later, though the lack of knowledge of the challenges of childbirth for women with bipolar meant that my first pregnancy led me to suffer a postpartum psychosis and to have to spend several weeks in hospital away from my baby. This experience has informed my current work as a research psychologist working with women with bipolar facing difficult decisions when they consider having a child: currently, Bipolar UK provides the only source of information and support available to them. - Clare

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1984 1984, what a year. I felt young, indestructible, perfect even. It takes years to truly accept in one’s own mind that things are not quite right. At the age of 21 you have no concept of mental health and think it’s just you, the way you are. Many, many years on, and after much soul searching, I still have recurrent and frighteningly low depressive episodes and still lose control of my life. Does society understand? Does my family? They show extreme patience and love, my family, but understand? You never could unless you have bipolar. Society seems to care not a jot and everyone moves on with their lives and that’s all that matters. The stigma engulfing mental health still exists even with high-profile celebrities admitting their diagnosis via moneyspinning biographies. The destruction caused by highs, where one is so untouchable, and every thought you have becomes gospel in your own mind, can be devastating. I truly believed I could and would win millions on gambling, as my mind was above and beyond anything that anyone else could offer. It was only a matter of time and patience before my big win came… after several attempts and blowing our hard-earned savings on more than one occasion my mind still, at times, believes I am untouchable, on a higher psychological plane. The self-destructive lows that surround depression take over your mind. Every thought and feeling is so ugly, and drenched in a stench where you are useless, worthless and insane. A dark cloud looms within the mind’s eye and nothing can move it. Nothing makes sense on either level in retrospect, yet at the time things make perfect sense. Long periods can pass where one gets by and for no reason either of the above can reoccur with little or no notice. Is my bipolar just me or a mental health problem I have no control over?

- KH

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1985 In February 1985 I was discharged after 5 months spent in a psychiatric ward. The diagnosis was bipolar disorder; the answer was lithium. Sadly I was given no education about my condition, I think it was frowned upon. I had to come to terms with an awful lot: the terrible scars on my wrists, embarrassment about my wild behaviour when high, and the financial problems brought about by overspending again when high. I had difficulties gaining employment as a nurse, so I got a job in a nursing home and kept my mouth shut. In those days the diagnosis made me feel like a second class citizen. My next admission was in 1988. I didn’t know how to catch a high early and nip it in the bud. Eventually I had to work part time and then finally gave up work after my son was born in 1990 and I was ill again. Nursing was a huge loss but my son and my daughter (1994) kept me busy. My moods continued to swing, however my last admission was with James in 1990. I read lots of books about bipolar and became able to recognise when I was becoming unwell and do something about it. In 2000 I went on a Bipolar UK Self Management training course. I thought it was fantastic and so helpful I received a lot more tools to help me battle with the illness. Fortunately I was given a fantastic opportunity to train as a facilitator of the Self Management course and spent the next twelve years travelling around the country, meeting lots of lovely people with bipolar and sharing with them the skills I had learned. Despite taking my medication and doing everything I can to keep well I still have ups and downs but they are more liveable with. My Christian faith gives me hope and strength to keep going. I no longer consider myself a second class citizen and have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact I feel proud of all I have achieved in life despite having bipolar. - Anneka

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1986 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1986 after an episode of severe depression and later of hypomania. I had experienced such episodes from my early twenties without seeking treatment. I became guilty and depressed the year after my father died, and later around the anniversary of my Mum's death, when for a year I had been very active at work and socially. I had coped on my own until I deteriorated to the point that I was forced to take time off work. There is a history of depression in my family, my Dad had suffered from depression and mania late in life, and there is anecdotal evidence of other members of our family with histories of mood swings. Two cousins had the diagnosis, both committed suicide; other relatives experienced similar problems. I suspect I am especially vulnerable because of the abandonment I felt on being sent to prep school aged seven or eight. I deliberately avoided diagnosis because I did not want to face up to this reality, which on a positive note gave me extra energy, creativity and the ability to work long hours, but at other times meant I became irritable and grandiose, lacked energy or joy in life and had a desire to kill myself. I recovered with the loving support of my wife, children and friends, by constantly reminding myself I would eventually improve, as well as by remembering people (I was a psychiatric social worker for twenty eight years) who had been devastated by a loved one’s suicide. In an attempt to help people understand the condition and challenge discrimination I volunteered with a Bipolar UK Support Group and became involved with Mind. I won a watershed decision against the General Social Care Council for discrimination against people with a mental health diagnosis. There have been improvements, such as increased awareness, but prejudice still exists. Colleagues didn’t contact me when I was off work, pain clinic staff were influenced by my psychiatric history, dismissing physical illness symptoms as all in the mind (and delaying treatment I needed) and people still keep away from support groups because they fear stigma. - Pete 7

30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1987 It began in 1986 when I was detained for a month due to an episode of very high behaviour. Medication, escape, return and torture followed. Then I was discharged with no aftercare and no diagnosis. In July of 1987, aged 25, I was detained again and diagnosed as having manic depression. Lithium Therapy commenced and I have been taking it for 26 years without any serious side effects. I remained well for several years and was able to work again until I suffered a massive manic attack at the end of 1999. I had to be detained on three occasions under Section Three during 2000 2002. The illness would not go away and I lost my career, marriage and home. Eventually I was given Depakote under licence and became well enough to be discharged. All the new atypical antipsychotics had not worked for me. I remain on the Depakote and generally feel much better. But I did have an episode in 2007 and had to be detained yet again for five months. I vowed this would be the last time and read more to keep up with new developments. I read ‘Pendulum’ and followed up the research papers. I wrote a short paper for a research project at Brighton and attended a discussion and interview with Clinical Psychologists at King’s College. I enrolled on the BDRN Project at Cardiff University and I keep in touch with this. I attended my local Bipolar UK Support Group and in June 2008 I started and completed a 20 week group for bipolar clients which was run by the local area NHS Trust. I then turned my attention to physical health and stopped drinking. This had been a huge problem for me since a very early age. I was then able to go to the gym and swim enough so that I could feel some gains. Then I started to heed the advice about food and mood and this helped too. Finally, with both my parents having passed away, I felt free to move to the other end of the country where I am enjoying a fresh start and am being treated with dignity and respect by my new Mental Healthcare Team. - Jeff

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1988 As a very small child I first exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder. Adults dismissed me as ‘shy’ or ‘difficult’ and puzzled over the fact that my abilities at school ranged wildly from sheer brilliance to baffling failure. Despite experiencing several episodes of severe depression as a young adult, no doctor tried to address the cause of the problem. It was much easier to fob me off with antidepressants and the explanation that I was ‘hormonal’. In those unenlightened times, acknowledgment of a psychiatric illness would have been an embarrassment to my family. At the age of 35, when workplace stress, bereavement and difficult personal circumstances drove me to a total collapse, my symptoms were finally given the attention that they required. Good fortune put me in the hands of a psychiatrist who took the time to explain what was going on inside my head, and, crucially, provided reassurance that it wasn’t my fault. He trained me to monitor myself and recognise my danger signals; this has enabled me to get along without constant medication, using antidepressants only for brief periods when symptoms begin to overwhelm. Before diagnosis I was an introvert, avoiding company and conversation because I couldn’t seem to interpret and process what was going on around me. Through this solitary existence I turned to books for company, and from the age of six had a particular penchant for Sherlock Holmes. In the 1980s I joined various Sherlockian interest groups and gradually found it possible to develop relationships with other people through this common interest. Shortly before his death, the actor Jeremy Brett (who played Sherlock Holmes on television) spoke publicly about his own experiences with bipolar disorder, which opened channels for me to broach the subject with some of my Sherlockian acquaintances. This was an important start for me in learning how to explain bipolar disorder to other people. Ten years ago I received an additional diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which, combined with bipolar, presented even more challenges. Fortunately, I respond well to light therapy, and have found the confidence to speak to magazines, newspapers and on radio regarding my experiences with SAD and depression. - Jean

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1989 I was diagnosed in 1989 when I was 37 and married with two young children. Up to my marriage in 1977, I had not been happy. I was so serious. It was pressure at work over five years that brought on my breakdown. Bipolar has impacted me quite badly, leaving me with periods of depression and anxiety. I am more prone to them than in my pre-breakdown days. Being bipolar gives a mental image people do not understand. The pile of pills in the corner put fear into people’s hearts. I feel sorry for my children and my late wife; it was hard for them living with a bipolar sufferer. I unfortunately was initially put on too low a dose of lithium at the low end of the therapeutic range and ended up in hospital. My GP was worried at the time about lithium poisoning. My sister also is bipolar but she has managed to stay out of hospital, receiving care from her partner and the NHS at home. I should have been diagnosed years ago, in my teens. - Peter Peter’s daughter describes her experiences: My name is Michelle and I am 31 years old. I have grown up with my Dad having bipolar and being very unwell with his condition throughout my childhood. It was difficult for my Mum to bring my sister and me up whilst looking after Dad. I remember he used to have a Community Psychiatric Nurse who visited the house to support him. Often my sister and I would listen at the top of the stairs. We knew Dad wasn’t well. His anxiety can be quite challenging to overcome. It can be difficult to support him whilst trying to manage my own life with a full-time, stretching career and a very busy personal life. I am, however, always on the lookout for signs that he may not be well: overspending, excessive worrying or him getting up really early in the morning. Bipolar is a terrible disease and I do not think enough people understand the challenges it brings, not only for the sufferer but also for family and friends. - Michelle

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1990 31 October 1990 was a very significant day. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at the age of 46, having experienced a first episode aged 24. I was given a packet of lithium and told to come back in a month! I joined Bipolar UK in December 1990 and became increasingly involved at group, regional and national levels. I was privileged to participate in the design, development and delivery of Bipolar UK’s Self Management Training Programme which was provided to several thousand people throughout the UK between 1998 and 2012, and have contributed to the new programme, which is in development. Approaching my 70th birthday I can reflect on a life with bipolar. On the negative side I had to retire from a senior teaching post, on ill health grounds, in 1990, having previously lost a management job in manufacturing because of an episode in 1977/78. A third of my life has been “lost” to the harrowing experience of profound depression. At times, when hypomanic, I made unwise decisions and behaved in an over-assertive manner, causing distress, confusion and pain to others. There are positives: a heightened awareness and sense of well-being, periods of creativity and conspicuous success at work, the development of non-judgmental and non-discriminatory values. I’ve met hundreds of wonderful people through the organisation and in my work as a statutory advocate in psychiatric hospitals. Keeping well and stable is a “science” and an “art.” Taking medication (not always consistently) has helped to maintain stability and keep depression at bay, but medication has never been sufficient. Self management training (or psycho-education) has taught me to better understand and accept the illness, raised awareness of triggers and warning signs and enabled me to develop effective management strategies. My wife and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary in 2016. She deserves the greatest tribute for her love, friendship, understanding and compassion. My son, since his teenage years, has mirrored these qualities. Congratulations Bipolar UK on your 30th birthday. I would encourage readers to give of their time, talents, and money to an organisation that can change people’s lives by offering them information, support, and HOPE. - Clive

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1991 I write this article for two reasons. First, with the reassurance that by doing so it may well provide some comfort, support and understanding to others. Second in memory of a young lady, Zoe, who sadly committed suicide at the age of 25 and whose mother bravely wrote about the immense challenges of the illness. To this day I see her as my rainbow and think of how she suffered rapid cycling. Having been diagnosed myself at 25, I can only look back now (aged 47) at my life with this illness. From high-octane, rollercoaster highs with an orchestra inside my heart that plays to the world, to darker than dark grave-like lows. Being paralysed with Bipolar for over two decades I can now air this extraordinarily candid confession. I describe my coming to terms with my diagnosis simply as a bullet in the brain. Had it not been for my wonderful mother Valerie, terrific dad and incredible daughter I honestly can say I would never have been able to cope with this roller coaster ride as I see it. Today I live a fairly stable life. However I am not a lady who tolerates medications for my illness and as a result my condition fluctuates rapidly. Sadly when experiencing low cycles I can spend months at a time in total isolation and I endeavour to defer my highs. There is sometimes a middle road and yes some decent quality and stability returns. It is paramount that I keep a healthy diet and for me vitamins and supplements are important. I am also very fortunate to live near the coast and gravitate to nature and long walks. I also attend a Support Group. I feel strongly that every community should have this facility as it makes an incredible difference for many who suffer. I just hope the government looks upon mental health as a priority sooner rather than later. For me the Support Group is a prescription for living. - Hayley

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1992 It was the end of the first term in my second year at university and I had just had a three-month high. The university counsellor I was seeing referred me to a psychiatrist. I was prescribed lithium and diagnosed with bipolar. The three months previous had been confusing. My behaviour had been aggressive, confrontational and delusional. I had also been visionary, enthusiastic, creative and brave. I had fallen out with my housemates and left a lovely shared house for a grotty bedsit. However, it was at the bedsit that I made friends that lasted for my time there and beyond. Previously I had had about four episodes, but this was the first time I was diagnosed. I think there was a lack of understanding from the general public about bipolar in 1992, and the same goes for university. I was quite depressed during a lot of my course. Some people were supportive, but often I was avoided or even ridiculed. To an extent, people still fear bipolar. I have felt the need to hide it in various relationships, although I do not do that now. Generally, bipolar has affected my life in many ways, obviously by having bipolar episodes and also the fear of taking too much on. One psychiatrist I saw said she didn’t think I should work at all. This is a potentially damaging thing to tell anyone. My last psychiatrist was good, although I have been discharged from his care - I think partly due to cutbacks. The mental health services, although now more recovery-focused, still seem to be dominated by medication. I think medication has its place, and it can help, but it’s only one component of care. Talking is good, although a while ago when I wanted some counselling from my GP’s surgery the GP said, yes I could have it, but he didn’t think it would help much as I was bipolar! I have been active with my local Bipolar UK Support Group and have made many friends through that. I think peer support is an invaluable resource and it has certainly helped me. - Simon

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1993 In February 1993, my child was born. I had awaited his birth with much planning. Everything had to be ready. I remember changing the earth of my indoor plants two days before he was born!! They say it is a great joy to have a baby, and it was for the first three months, until that terrible eve in June when my child fell out of my arms, onto a hard hallway floor. Those seconds between losing a grip and him landing, will haunt me for the rest of my life. Then I heard him cry; he wasn‘t dead. I picked him up and he was okay. I ate my dinner and fed him (I was breast feeding). Then l put him to bed. I noticed a soft swelling above his left ear. He was taken to the doctors the next day and very fortunately he was okay. However, the shock created a reaction in my brain which was to turn my whole life upside-down and be with me forever. Slowly, over the course of three days, I became extremely sensitive to people around me, feeling I was persecuted! I did NOT sleep and ate very little. I became paranoid, I became psychotic. After a short/very long three days I was taken to hospital. My son and I were separated. He had not left my side ever. Following my discharge five months later, I finally received a diagnosis of bipolar. The short version of my recovery that year is to say that I had to LEARN how to cope with public transport. Even now I feel uncomfortable in crowded places. I had to LEARN how to understand that I was a good mum. 20 years on and my son and I have a very good relationship, love, understanding and respect. He is at present studying at university. In the past 20 years I have had many manic times needing short term hospital treatment, and a couple of bad depressions (never suicidal). My network around me is good. I have seen a huge positive change in attitudes and understanding of people about bipolar, both here in Sweden where I live and also in England, which I visit regularly. - Marie

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1994 It all started in 1993 and, although I could not see any difference in myself, everyone around me could. I was a devoted wife and mother of 3 children and enjoying family life in our new home. During an evening course I enrolled in, I became infatuated with a younger guy as there was this incredible chemistry that drew us together. All I knew was that I HAD to be with him as much as possible, day or night. This was the bizarre thing, as I never ever felt guilty about leaving the family home to go and meet this fellow. To me it was the only important thing to do and it took over my entire life. My whole sense of reality had disappeared. All through this period I hardly slept or ate, and talked so fast people could not understand me. I used to get angry at them if they asked me to speak slowly, as I felt I was OK and they were acting weird. My conversations would hop from topic to topic. In January 1994 a counsellor friend showed me a brochure on bipolar and everything listed described my behaviour - it was comforting to put a name to my actions which were now out of control. I had a very hard time adjusting to the fallout and the guilt of it all still haunts me. The hurt I caused my husband and three children, sadly, is always there. Thankfully, initially with psychotherapy and now taking medication every day I lead a full and happy life. My moods have remained pretty stable for the past 21 years. I think society still has a long way to go before it totally understands bipolar, as it is a mental illness and that in itself scares the public. We are always scared of the unknown so education is the key. In Australia I belonged to an organisation where volunteers with a mental illness would relay their own personal story to high school students. Myths were dismissed about the different mental illnesses and valuable knowledge was gained within the class. I have learnt to live and respect my bipolar as it is entwined within me. WE are ONE. If I happen to have an “off day� I pick up my ukulele and play. - Jenny

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1995 I was admitted to hospital for the first time in 1990. I was studying for an HND in Computer Studies and the pressure of that, coupled with other triggers, caused a big breakdown. I spent a few weeks in hospital. I was let go from hospital with little support and was only on medication for a few months. I wasn’t given any support and five years later at the age of 26 I was sectioned. I spent weeks in hospital and was finally given a diagnosis of manic depression. I had three more admissions in my 20s: 1998, 1999 and 2000. By 2000 I had started to understand my illness and self-manage and this admission was a voluntary one. This gave me lots of confidence and started the ball rolling in managing my bipolar. In 2000 I made the decision and developed a desire to get well, and use my bipolar as a positive influence rather than a negative one. I found a Bipolar UK Support Group in Islington and stopped drinking alcohol. These two steps were big steps on my road to recovery. I also discovered an Arts Centre in Hackney called CORE Arts and even though I hadn’t been interested in art before, I started my journey as an artist. I have been doing it 13 years now and in the last few years I have exhibited at the Tate Modern, and had many exhibitions, both solo and group. I have exhibited at the V&A childhood museum and published a book on my art and aspects of recovery. I also started volunteering with Bipolar UK and have been with them for 8 years this year. This March I will have been well for 14 years. Even though I get ups and downs, I have learned how to manage my condition. I like the word “condition” over the word “illness”, because I feel bipolar mood shifts are part of me and my character, and help me be creative, empathetic and sensitive – so to call that an “illness”, for me, is misleading. - Gary

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1996 I have bipolar 1 disorder and feel profoundly lucky to now be living a happy, healthy and busy life. My full-time business gives me the opportunity to travel widely and I particularly enjoy meeting new people and speaking the six European languages which I teach. My daughter loves living at home and we regularly take vacations together. I am well because I have been successfully treated for bipolar disorder. It is utterly shocking that the illness struck me like a bolt from the blue. It ushered in post-natal depression following eclampsia in pregnancy. My world fell apart. I was not fully aware of what had happened to me and had become too unwell, too confused, felt so tired, lost, bewildered and disoriented. The first business which I owned and had very successfully built up over a 15 year period came crashing down. It had employed around 20 staff. The trauma that ensued kept company with the severe depression which lasted 16 years. A ‘’bomb’’ had exploded on my life. Yet, even then, I simply did not know what had happened. Not really. Then, one day, I opened my mail. By that point in time I could barely function and had lost much of my memory. I discovered a simple leaflet with a signpost on it. It read: LOST CONFUSED UNCLEAR PERPLEXED DISORIENTED BEWILDERED. The individual fingerposts pointed in different directions. It was from Bipolar UK. I immediately recognized these symptoms in myself. It had been 16 long, hard and painful years. Finally, finally there was hope. I cried uncontrollably that day. Six months later, I was well, healthy and happy. My memory had returned to normal, and the medical treatment I had sought was entirely successful. I can never live again those 16 years of my beloved daughter’s childhood. But I can tell this true story. A simple signpost that guided me to treatment, rehabilitation and recovery. I will never forget it. Because it saved my life. This simple Signpost Of Awareness. - Victoria

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1997 1997 was the year when I was first diagnosed with bipolar. My immediate and very negative response should be set in the context that my father had also suffered from bipolar and that I had been his principal carer for the last twelve years of his life. Bipolar ruined my father’s life. Born into a prosperous upper middle class family and with a successful early career as a barrister and PR executive, he died bankrupt, divorced and in care. His experience haunted me for years. My worst nightmare was to come down with the illness myself. Consequently when I realised that I had bipolar, I attempted suicide twice in less than one year rather than face consequences that I felt were too dark to confront. In the event, I am very glad I survived. The treatment of bipolar has been transformed by better medication and well-resourced community care, while the stigma that my father suffered from – he lost most of his friends – has been dispelled by the favourable publicity about the condition that has followed Stephen Fry’s “coming out” eight years ago. Far from having my life ruined, I have made new friends, forged a new career writing and lecturing about bipolar and, best of all, benefited from a happy marriage, at the late age of 50, with someone who also has mental health problems. My close relationship with Bipolar UK – I was a founding trustee, its second chair and until recently editor of Pendulum – has given my life new meaning. I take great delight in the fact that the charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Not that this happy ending to my life with bipolar was easily won. It took ten years of trial-and-error to find the right cocktail of medication and eight years of group therapy to help me come to terms with my condition. I have had to scale back my work activities and I now earn a quarter of what I did at the time of my diagnosis. However it has been a price worth paying. One of the great by-products of experiencing a serious mental illness is that, like me, you learn to appreciate what you have rather than pining after what you don’t have. I have a more fulfilling, if simpler, life as a result of bipolar and I am glad of it. - Michel

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1998 I first admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital when I was 23, two years after my father had thrown himself out of a high speed train. During this admission, which lasted a week, I received talking therapy and no pills. I thought that I would experience the world through every perspective. No mention of either depression or mania was made by the doctors but I think one can gauge the expansiveness of this vision and the vulnerability underlying it. If it hadn’t been for my university I would have stayed longer and investigated things a little more with a junior psychiatrist who I did have a rapport with. Another couple of years and I had finished my doctorate. I felt lonely, I had just separated from a girlfriend and with the fulfilment of my academic ambition I felt at a loss. The hospital I was admitted to this time was in wonderful grounds, there was space for healing. Unfortunately I had to leave that town and attended another psychiatrist, but I didn’t feel I could speak with her. This was the first time I was put on medication. They made me quiver with horrible restless legs and I had to give up my volunteer job in a home for the disabled. When I developed writhing motions in my upper body too I realised this psychiatrist had started to do more harm than good. I seemed to be no nearer a diagnosis. I went to live abroad for a year. All I had was an antipsychotic medication for comfort. I was alone and felt trapped. On returning I met a worse psychiatrist. He said he couldn’t understand how I was still troubled by my father’s death. My academic career seemed to be in tatters, my brother seemed to have inherited my father’s drink problem and without a diagnosis my mother’s support was sporadic. My first mania was very overpowering. A lot of anger spilled out. I was only beginning a recovery. I believe my bipolar is both genetic and environmental. Today I couldn’t survive without lithium and quetiapine or some such. - John

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


1999 What do you say in such a short space about something that has so profoundly changed your world? I think you say thank you to the people who have stood by you and helped you to trust yourself and make your way in the world again. That includes Bipolar UK, which has been there for me since the outset of my diagnosis and into the future, starting as the inspiration of stories of others and has grown to the impact of my local Peer Support Group. This very human inspiration was in short supply to me when I was diagnosed as a junior doctor in psychiatry in 1999. My gift of empathy for others back fired on itself. The temperament that I had always relied on and the enthusiasm that I had exploited in my favour were now out of my control. I was cautioned by professionals that this was best kept to myself. So, I hid in shame, scared for my future. Two years later it was clear that I was functioning below expectations. Kind hands guided me to a robust assessment of my non-response to medications, except for a vicious side-effect profile. I found my way onto a treatment plan where I could regain a confidence in myself beyond the weight I had gained and the loss that I felt. Through this and beyond I have experienced a creeping sense of power in my choice to understand my diagnosis as best I can, as psychiatrist and human being. Self-management to me is embracing a traditional medical model whilst understanding the most from sharing the common lived experiences of others. I am fortunate to have my medical training but more fortunate that Bipolar UK has given me a sense of connectedness. I am happy to be one of their faces of 30 years of service if it helps one person see life beyond diagnosis: a happy home and a rich rewarding career including the role of co-facilitator to the Norwich group - beyond what, at its worst, I had ever hoped for. Thank you Bipolar UK. - Sarah

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2000 In a funny way, my experience of bipolar has changed my life for the better. Family, friends, professionals and Bipolar UK have all supported me. First, we (me especially) had to become aware of the problem; to accept that I had the condition, and then to take action. The birth of our second son (now 16) triggered a terrifying episode of postpartum psychosis. I was on a ridiculous diet and had a traumatic home birth. I tried to ring up Downing Street to tell Tony Blair to ban coke! My mind was racing and I couldn’t switch off. Doctors initially diagnosed post-natal depression. Fun wasn’t fun; every day was like wading through treacle. I felt numb, uncreative, indecisive, a failure and sometimes suicidal. Anti-depressants led to another high. My son woke up at 3am to find me baking bread. He gave me a plate of cucumber sticks spelling “Good Night”. It was his way of saying, “Please Mummy, go to sleep, I want you to be OK”. Finally after three years, I was diagnosed with bipolar. Now I use the “oxygen mask principle”. I try and look after myself first, using recovery and self-management techniques such as nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. I always take my medication. Counselling, emotional education and neuro-linguistic programming help tremendously and plenty of hugs! Understanding the effects of food and drink has been essential for my recovery. Eating three meals a day and three small snacks works wonders. If they all contain protein, my blood sugar level remains more stable. It has taken years to wean myself off coffee, alcohol, squash, chocolate bars and brownies - they cause a short-term spike, followed by a crash: the sugar rollercoaster. When I avoid long food gaps, my husband will tell you, I am much more emotionally stable! I sleep better too. Yoga and mindfulness practice enable me to sit calmly, breathe more deeply and watch my mind. I notice my thoughts, feelings and needs. Today, I live more in the present - not dwelling on the past or constantly thinking about the future - just now. - Amanda

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2001 Among the worst things is the realisation upon diagnosis that you’ll have to take medication every day for the rest of your life; this often has side-effects, in my case tremor. Also, it’s terrible worrying about being happy in case you get too happy i.e. manic. At certain periods, I have felt not depressed, but flat, and was acutely aware that I could and should be happier. Then there is the stigma of having a severe mental illness. I have felt lack of contact from some of my husband’s friends in Greece, to whom I was previously close, although most of my friends in the UK have been loyal. Although I was employed since my diagnosis, I’ve had negative experiences in the workplace. My last employer even produced a six-page document, which I found, detailing a dozen different ways by which to terminate my employment. I took one option, I retired three years ago. I keep busy with exercise and sport, various interests and volunteering, including being a Team London Ambassador for the Olympics in 2012. The best of having bipolar disorder is having met all the people I wouldn’t have otherwise known. These include the staff of Bipolar UK, with which I did the self-management course and for whom I facilitated two Support Groups. I must add the people in Springfield Hospital (from the pastoral team and hairdresser, the pharmacists to the ward staff and clinicians). In the community, I relish the good fortune of having had a consultant in whom I have complete faith, and a fine GP, and I once had an excellent Care Coordinator and psychologist. I also received good support from my employers whilst working. Also, it’s good to be creative. I celebrate the many fellow service users who have shared their thoughts and experiences, including those undiagnosed people who tell me they have suffered depression. Above all, I am grateful to my husband and two children who are always there for me. - Pippa

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2002 I was 37 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had experienced 18 months of brief periods of depression that began to last longer. I went to my GP who diagnosed depression. I disputed this; I wasn’t depressed all the time. I was prescribed antidepressants, which initially made me feel suicidal. This is when I went off sick from work. The dose was then increased and within a few days I was experiencing my first episode of mania, which was followed by another episode of depression. This roller coaster of highs and lows continued. I was referred to my local Community Mental Health Team and 4 months later got my diagnosis. I was prescribed a mood stabiliser. However, the roller coaster of highs and lows continued. I was unable to return to work and consequently lost my job. My care co-ordinator started doing early warning signs and coping strategies work. I worked hard towards my recovery. I became better at controlling the highs, despite them feeling great, by not over stimulating myself, putting in strategies to stop over spending, cutting out caffeine, making sure I did calming activities, limiting my socialising and using lavender oil on my pillow to help me sleep. However, the lows were much harder to control. I experienced terrible negative thoughts and challenging them was tiring. I began to make myself do things despite the fact all I wanted to do was stay in bed. I had a routine of groups at the community mental health team, this helped a lot. I also started going to a Bipolar UK Support Group. This helped as there were other people like me. There was no normal in my life for 2 years; various combinations of drugs were tried, but I carried on rapid cycling. I had a very supportive family and husband who always believed I would get better. I was prescribed Quetiapine, this finally stabilised me and gave me my life back. I was able to return to work. Working helps as I have a purpose in life. However, I am susceptible to stress. I currently work in a community mental health team as an associate practitioner, something I would never have done if I had not been diagnosed. - Teresa

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2003 I was not diagnosed until the age of 28, but I started developing symptoms of the illness at the age of 18, when I was just starting to leave home and find an identity for myself. The next ten years of my life were a series of major depressive episodes with the occasional very welcome period of hypomania. Because I was almost always unwell and was not treated with mood stabilisers, I found it very difficult to hold down a job or maintain friendships. Relationships with family were fractious, and romantic relationships ended painfully for all concerned. After ten years of this, I was unemployable and completely isolated. I was such an emotional wreck that I turned to recreational drugs for escape. I became psychotic, caught a minicab from London to Yorkshire and lived with some very undesirable people who went out of their way to taunt, humiliate and exploit me. The drug-induced psychosis and the paralysing depression which followed both almost killed me and saved me at the same time. I attempted suicide and almost died, sustaining very serious injuries. However I survived, and finally received a correct diagnosis. It took me a couple of years to recover sufficiently to even start volunteering again. However my rehabilitation truly began in January 2007 when I joined Bipolar UK as an office volunteer. Since then I have slowly learnt to be a functional adult, capable of taking responsibility for my behaviour and my life. Also I have gradually learnt how to form lasting romantic, social and professional relationships. Now I am a married man with a circle of close friends. Four years ago I applied for a paid position at Bipolar UK and joined the team. One of the aspects of my job I enjoy the most is talking to bipolar sufferers and their carers on the phone. At the time of writing this, I have successfully applied for a full-time position with another charity. It is with great regret that I am leaving Bipolar UK, but I don’t see bipolar as a major factor in my life now and it is time to move on to pastures new. - James

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2004 The diagnosis came only weeks before the event that changed my life forever. The diagnosis that meant so little at the time as it was just a word that described a set of symptoms that at the time might as well have been a recipe on how to make bread. Too ill for it to mean much, too far gone to make sense of what was happening but not too far gone for help if quality, informed help had been there. October 7 2004 Kathryn, full time Children and Families Qualified Social Worker, home owner and mother, October 8 2004, Kathryn, woman who jumped off a 90 foot building and survived. Surviving something like this and adapting to being a “Permanent Disabled Person” has had its challenges, not least facing the rest of the world. I am fortunate. I have survived, I have made new friends and I have become a writer. The doctors at the hospital invested in my life, in me as a person and I owe it to them and myself to stay well now I know what I am dealing with. The achievements I make in life are now recognised, a term that the average able-bodied, non-disabled person is unfamiliar with. I am blessed with an ability to see things from all sides and I am blessed to be in a position where I am opportunity aware and even despite this condition which nearly cost me my life, I am glad it has joined me on my life journey. I have come to understand this “life partner” of mine and “we” have learned to work alongside each other to my advantage rather than to my detriment. I create when the mood takes me and rest when I need to. I do not feed it with substances and have a strong respect for it. Without my “life partner”, my bipolar, this sequence of events in my life would not have happened and I would not be in the place I am now. I returned to work three years ago as a Disability Advocate for a local “Centre for Independent Living”, I now work as an Employment Development Worker and feel my contribution to society is valid despite what others may think of me. I have written several books: Cultivating MadCow, The Wibbly Wobbly Woman, The Perfect Lady and The Mental Monologues being only a few and I am currently working towards setting up a small publishing company. I live for the moment in the safe knowledge that nothing, nothing could ever be as bad as wanting to take your own life in this way and I will always be all right and if I’m not then I’m sure there will be another book in it somewhere. - Kathryn

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2005 Bipolar has affected my life from my teens but it was only in 2005 that I received a formal diagnosis. It was as if a puzzle had finally been completed. Suddenly my periods of severe depression and manic episodes or highs all seemed to fit into place. I could often go on for hours in manic periods not sleeping and having no recollection of my actions, then all too unexpectedly rapidly decline into a state of suicidal depression. It is very difficult to explain my emotions to others, and whilst often I know I am being irrational or unreasonable I simply cannot control my emotions or behaviour. Recognising my “triggers� and managing my moods are daily tasks which I undertake to simply live life to the full. A positive attitude is lifesaving and without it I would simply give up and let bipolar win. This is not an option as a wife and mother. Fortunately I have a family who stand by me throughout these turbulent times; a husband and two children who merely love and accept me. They have been my saving grace along with the help of a consultant psychiatrist and a fantastic Crisis Team. For me the key has been developing a network of trusted friends and specialists with whom I can be open and honest. The Crisis Team in Dorset have been amazing in offering me support 24/7 as well as someone for my husband to talk to when he is worried. Long-term stability is now in sight. However, this has taken many years, many different doctors and many different combinations of treatment. Fortunately bipolar has been portrayed in the media in a more positive light in recent years and this has enabled my friends and family to understand more. Those in the public eye have spoken of their own personal struggles and highlighted that bipolar is a disability but one which can be managed. Bipolar is part of my personality and without it I wouldn’t be me! - Laura

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2006 Before I start: prior to 2006 I always had highs and lows, but never really seemed to take much notice until one day things seemed to spiral out of control. If I was not on a low mood I was always on a high mood - in other words spending excessive and vast amounts of money and finding out I was always in trouble with the banks and loan people. I could not control anything. The first port of call was when my wife Claire caught me trying to end my life by attempting to cut my wrists in the kitchen of my mother-in-law’s house. The next day I was diagnosed with depression at the doctors and given tablets but they also referred me to a Mental Health Team who reluctantly agreed to see me. I went to my appointment around two weeks later and was sat down in a quiet room and had to drag all my life story up, and as notes were taken I was sitting there, feeling terrified, wondering, “What on earth is going on?”. I was not at first diagnosed with anything by a psychiatrist but told to go away, but I requested a second opinion and was seen by a senior consultant who diagnosed me with Bipolar Ultradian Cycling Disorder, which means my mood changes from one minute to the next without any notice. I have since moved by the sea front, have a comfortable lifestyle, and my meds control most of it with the help of a great mental health team. I must admit I have seen since 2006 around six psychiatrists: all have come and gone, and the last one was fired due to a lack of confidence in me or my condition. All I can say is people will judge you by looking and wondering if it’s catching, but all I do is try and not let it get me down and carry on taking my meds. There really needs to be more education and resources out there but until then it seems we are on our own. - Paul

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2007 My natural outgoing and creative personality was never seen as too abnormal, but by the time I reached high school my swinging moods began to escalate and become dangerous. During that time, I was either too down to take part in anything or didn’t feel challenged enough and soon lost interest. In spite of my obvious developing highs and lows and continuous meetings of care nurses, group sessions and psychologists, I was still just an “interesting case”. My parents and I were told bipolar didn’t really develop until your early 30s so instead I was put on anti-depressants. Though this did help with my lows, the highs became worse and I was soon losing myself in hazardous, manic behaviour. Late 2006 saw my first suicide attempt. I was taken out of school and my parents asked the doctors for a second opinion. Along with advice taken from my GP, who had known me all my life, I was diagnosed with bipolar and once on the correct meds, my behaviour began to level out. Since that point there have still been many highs and lows. However, each time I learn a little more, and I’m at a stage now where I feel I can manage my condition better. I’m always very open about it and feel it’s the best way to be. In saying that, it wouldn’t be honest for me to say it’s been easy. Sometimes life has to go on hold but learning preventative measures means it’s easier to cope. Not only this but I’m fortunate to have an amazingly supportive family who have also learnt how to help me as best they can. For me, accepting and understanding it is an integral part of living successfully with bipolar. - Hannah

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2008 The first time I remember feeling suicidal was when I was eight years old and the last time when I was 58 years old, after which I was diagnosed with bipolar. I should have been diagnosed much earlier, when I was in my teens and twenties. After having my second child I had a series of “highs” and devastating “lows” and was admitted to hospital. After discharge, I became overly religious, feeling that God had healed me, and I took myself off my medication. When I told the psychiatrist this at a follow-up appointment he shouted, “You are absolutely MAD! Go away! I have lost patience with you!”. A damning mistreatment and missed diagnosis. At the age of 58, after having gone through 30 years of 2 devastatingly traumatic marriages I tried to commit suicide. I also was experiencing “highs” at this time – spending vast amounts of money. It was at this time that I was diagnosed with bipolar. I was devastated, firstly because I was aware of the stigma surrounding the illness and also the fact that there was no cure for this biological condition. I was extremely angry with the health care professionals who had failed to diagnose me over the years. Newly diagnosed, I was lucky enough to be referred to an excellent clinical psychologist. The work we did together was invaluable. I learned about bipolar and, most importantly, about my own bipolarity, which, of course, is so individual. My main trigger factor is prolonged stress within relationships, particularly with men, and I know now what situations to avoid to keep well, and, also, I religiously take the medication prescribed that keeps me stable. Someone I know was recently discussing someone and said that this person was really odd, “but, then she would be – she has bipolar”. I have also just terminated a 5 year friendship because I discovered my friend thought I was ill all the time and just had good days and bad days and so had made “allowances” if I said something she didn’t like or agree with! We MUST raise public awareness. - Kate

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2009 My name is Michelle, I am 43 and I have bipolar type II. Before getting bipolar I had a history of depression. After having three depressions over three winters my doctor suggested I might I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I was referred to be assessed by a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), where I was initially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I later went on to have my first hypomania where I was still told I had BPD only. I gave up with the CMHT and sought GP help; I swung between having antidepressants or tranquillizers. I was twice hospitalised after suicide attempts. Still my initial diagnosis plagued my experience of getting the correct diagnosis and medication. Two psychiatrists had diagnosed me with bipolar but surprisingly those diagnoses were not acknowledged. Attending a Bipolar UK Support Group, I learned of a “second opinions clinic” at Cardiff University Hospital. In April 2010 I was assessed and given a diagnosis of bipolar II and suggested medications. I took an advocate with me to my CMHT ready for a battle but they accepted this new diagnosis. After some juggling, I’m presently on medication which was recommended at my reassessment. For over a year now I feel a different me. I’m aware that I still have mild episodes which need to be “tweaked” with extra medication now and again. Today I have turned my life around, gone full circle and now help others. After undertaking courses in self-management, bipolar education, suicide prevention, and mentoring, I currently volunteer for Bipolar UK. I do admin in the office and give face to face and telephone mentoring. With help I set up a Support Group in my area and run it with another facilitator. I go to events with Bipolar UK and tell “my story” at awareness meetings. I am a strong-willed person and I believe obstacles in life are to be dealt with. I’m not a victim to my illness. I don’t rely on medication alone but to be optimistic and face the illness. Bipolar is the worst thing that’s happened to me but I accept its nature, that life might not turn out as I planned it, but I’m still alive, and by helping others I focus outwards and feel a balance! I hope my bipolar story is inspirational. - Michelle

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2010 The truth is when I tell people about my bipolar they rarely understand. People are scared of being classed as mentally ill. I have to take a cocktail of tablets just to help me stabilise my moods and they seem to be working. Unfortunately unless you have bipolar, or have been around someone for years who does, it is hard to know how to deal with it. Some days I'm on Cloud Nine, the happiest place I could be, everything seems perfect. Then in the next few hours I can just turn and not want to live or get out of bed, and people can agitate me for no reason. I take things out on the people closest to me. I'm so lucky I have people round me who care for and look after me, as sometimes I don't think I would be able to cope. Being a professional darts player with bipolar is very hard as I never know what mood I am in. I can say things in interviews or to people which I don't even mean sometimes. I just get a rush of anger, then ten minutes later I think, “Oh no, what have I said?”. I am very fortunate that a lot of people try and understand. Unfortunately, other people disregard it and don't want to understand. I wasn't diagnosed until my late 20s. I think if I had help when I was younger, life would be different. When I had my breakdown I was taken to hospital. Since then I have been there twice and now I'm on the right path. You can never say never, but I'm mentally stronger, my moods are more controlled and I am more positive towards life. Bipolar is not something that will just go away. Unfortunately it is something that you live with, each day can be different. I have had breakdowns, I have knocked my house down, I have bought fancy cars, all in search of happiness and a perfect life. You could take me to the moon and I would try and buy it, but that's part of my disorder. It's starting to get better and I know that the things that make me truly happy are having a home, my dogs, safeness where no one can criticise me in some way. I must never forget that bipolar has also given me some special gifts such as being good at darts and working on cars: my attention to detail is so high that everything has to either be perfect or not at all. Sometimes this can be very hard work as I can drive myself insane wanting that whole “perfect” life which is unrealistic and unachievable.

- James

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2011 I have suffered from something originally termed recurrent clinical depression (potentially treatment resistant) for over ten years. During 2011 (whilst in and out of crisis care accommodation) I learned that it was actually more likely that I have bipolar affective disorder, type II. So yes, getting a bipolar diagnosis was difficult taking many years to come. Not completely new to me, this bipolar diagnosis made perfect sense, especially with hindsight. Years earlier I myself queried its possibility on a number of occasions and with numerous mental health professionals. However, no one investigated further, and I constantly felt that we were missing something. I was even reassured that the treatment would be the same irrespective of depression or bipolar diagnoses. I shelved my hypothesis until 2011 when the Crisis Team consultant psychiatrist independently suggested it. I was more relieved someone had taken ownership for my case, taken the time and effort to examine it in detail and had tried another approach than I was to receive a new diagnosis. Initial feelings of enlightenment aside, the diagnosis has not had any great impact. It can be useful when understanding my experiences or when sharing them with others. But unfortunately I still relapse and it has not led to any miracle cure - the ideal scenario. Medications are still trial and error but hopefully the shorter duration of some of my episodes may be attributable to the lithium started in 2012 - without the diagnosis, lithium may not have been considered. Explaining how bipolar has affected my life and that of those around me within 350 words is an impossibility. Positively I am now an active mental health campaigner and hence inspired to write this. Refusing to add to the stigma I will provide my real identity. I am a person suffering from bipolar, it affects my life dramatically but it does not define me. Society definitely has more awareness of bipolar but there is still far to go. A misconception exists that bipolar is a “trendy” or “glamorous” illness suffered by arty/creative types “for their cause”. In my experience this is far from the case - it is messy and dirty. I often don't understand bipolar myself so how can someone who has never experienced it begin to? - Leigh

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2012 Much happened in 2012: I underwent spinal surgery; I was in hospitals far too much for my liking; I was the lowest and highest I have ever been; I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. When I was diagnosed, much was made about the lifetime vulnerability to more episodes of hypomania and depression. I suspect I have been failing to appreciate this. I believed my morning and evening cocktails of medicine would come to an end and that I could be back to how I was a couple of years ago. I have been more careful about getting too stressed. My psychiatrist seemed to have sensed all this and so referred me to attend an educational NHS support group. She thought that I didn't understand my diagnosis. I think she was right. One thing which has hit me surprisingly hard was having to surrender my driving licence as I was unfit to drive (and I know I still am). I know I should be able to apply for it back, once I can evidence six months of stable mental health, but I am finding it difficult. I do feel it is a blow to my confidence as I've always enjoyed driving. Friends and family continue to be extremely supportive to us - and nonjudgemental, even looking up basic information on the Internet to educate themselves. This has been great. My aims for 2013 are: avoiding being a psychiatric inpatient; continuing to change my lifestyle; earning back my driving licence; sorting out my sleep; returning to work from an absence which started last April. Currently, my return to work is the main thing on my mind. For my self esteem, I want to return or at least try. But the thought of it keeps recalling memories of high stress, making me predict and catastrophise. My body then seizes up and anxiety tends to strike. Nonetheless, it's not impossible and I intend to try. Wish me luck. - Nicole

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


2013 I was diagnosed with bipolar in March 2013 - after nearly ten years of battling with my demons. I now believe, however, that I have had bipolar all of my life. My childhood years were tough, I was born with bilateral club feet and with that I had the stigma of also having a visible disability. In my teenage years and mid to late twenties I was a heavy drinker, which kind of hid the pain and anguish I was feeling… I have always had erratic mood swings, urges to spend and irrational/suicidal thoughts. I was initially diagnosed with depression in 2013, and went through a variety of anti-depressants - none of these worked. I also had three voluntary admissions to a psychiatric hospital between the years 2003 - 2012. Bipolar has affected my life in ways I would not wish upon my worst enemy. The most recent admission to hospital was in February 2013. I was on a huge “high” and took a large overdose. I was in the Coronary Care Unit for around a week then I managed to bluff the hospital staff that I was mentally OK. Upon release I simply took another large overdose and ran away, luckily for me I was found slumped in a phone box by a member of the public. I was taken to the Coronary Care Unit again then transferred to the psychiatric hospital - this was where my diagnosis finally happened. I have lost my job, home, wife, sense of “me” and also some friends. Twelve weeks after having to sell the marital home I am still in temporary accommodation - the local council simply do not understand the psychological and physical impact having bipolar has. Living in temporary accommodation, including a homeless hostel, for two weeks nearly pushed me towards either suicide or simply packing up and running away. I am now “OK”: the combination of medication, exercise and the correct diagnosis seem to be working well. I see my Community Psychiatric Nurse weekly, I have the Crisis Team keeping an eye on me and I am trying hard to rebuild the wreck that is my life. - Marc

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


About Bipolar UK Bipolar UK is the national charity dedicated to supporting individuals and their families affected by the much misunderstood and sometimes devastating condition of bipolar. We provide a range of services to enable people affected by bipolar and associated illnesses to manage and take control of their lives. Each year we support and work with more than 65,000 individuals through our services and information/advice publications. We also work in partnership with research organisations and campaign for new developments to tackle key issues. We believe the key to coping with bipolar is an early diagnosis, acceptance of the illness and adapting your lifestyle. Management of the illness can be achieved through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy and self management. With less than 10% of our income from statutory sources, we work hard to raise the necessary funds to support our work and services. Over the past 18 months service demand has accelerated at an unprecedented pace. We have no option but to develop and expand our work.

11 Belgrave Road London SW1V 1RB www.bipolaruk.org.uk info@bipolaruk.org.uk 020 7931 6480

Bipolar UK is a Registered Charity No. 293340 / Company No. 1955570 Š 2013 Bipolar UK

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30 YEARS OF BIPOLAR


"While people keep asking me NOT to talk about this illness in public, and that remains shockingly plenty, I will continue shooting my loud little mouth off about it for totally obvious reasons." - Paul Abbott “Does society understand? Does my family? You could never unless you have Bipolar.” - KH "10 years to arrive at a correct diagnosis! Really? I can believe it. It happened to me. It’s happening to others right now. It could be fatal. I am delighted to be a patron of Bipolar UK and support their outstanding work." - Bill Oddie “How can society understand something which they never had? How can people relate to you with a mental illness when they don't understand?” - James Wade

“I am delighted to be a patron of Bipolar UK” - Kay Redfield-Jameson

“Churchill said you could judge a civilization by the way it treats its prisoners. I think today we can say that a civilization is judged by the way it approaches mental health.” - Stephen Fry

“Everyone involved with Bipolar Awareness Day 2013 stood up to be more open about their illness and in so doing challenged society at large to show more understanding and support. It is now time for that challenge to be answered.” - Bipolar UK 36


30 Years of Bipolar