Blogger Sarah

Three years ago last month, my mind lost touch with reality in a very rapid turn of events that culminated in an acute manic episode of bipolar affective disorder. Having been diagnosed with bipolar in 2004, I had not experienced any mania or hypomania (a lesser manic state) in ten years, although I had fallen into a suicidal depression just six months earlier. So when my brain fell into full blown psychosis – with delusions and grandiose thoughts, fearful thoughts about loved ones and being in danger and a complete change in rational perception – it ripped apart the fabric of my life and all I knew. I am writing this to explain what psychosis is really like.

I was just 25 and although I had experienced a mixed state which left me hospitalised at 16 (and had experienced some psychosis then), this was by far the most challenging, lengthy and painful bout of mania and psychosis that I had experienced. I began to believe that my step father was behind why I was in hospital and wouldn‘t let him see me, I thought that the doctors and nurses were a gang holding me hostage. I was fearful of everything, talking and singing to myself, unable to sit still and became quite agitated at times with the staff and patients, which is completely out of character for me. I simply didn’t know what was real or unreal and I was so frightened of the staff and others while my brain was in this state. Eventually, I recovered after about two months of being given anti-psychotic medication and tranquilisers to help me rest (often I was pacing around due to agitation/ mania), in combination with individual and group therapies. I left hospital after three months.

I rarely talk about my psychotic state, which led me to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This is due to shame: I was ashamed of myself even though it wasn’t my fault – rather down to faulty brain chemistry and my medication that had stopped working. There is still a huge amount of stigma about psychosis and anything that makes you lose your sanity. My psychosis is part of my bipolar illness and happened completely out of the blue. My mood stabiliser hadn’t been holding me for some time but no one could have predicted quite how rapid my descent into psychosis and illness could have been (it took only a number of days and escalated at a weekend, leaving me to be admitted via A&E, which proved traumatising).

The shame of losing your mind is great and also acting out of character shatters your self-esteem. When I left hospital, I sunk into a depression due to the shame of how I acted in hospital and how my brain and its chemistry could go so catastrophically wrong. Kindness goes a long way when you are feeling ashamed. If you have a friend or family member struggling with this – be calm, show kindness, and show up for them. They need your support at what is an incredibly painful time. Let the person with feelings of shame about their illness know that they are human, that they are an important friend to you, and stand by them.

What truly helped me in those dark days was the attitude of my psychiatrist in hospital and in the day recovery unit I attended after. Despite being psychotic and unwell in hospital and quite agitated at times, my doctor persevered to get me on the right medication and put up with my changing moods. She knew that if I took anti-psychotics and then agreed to go on lithium carbonate (the main mood stabilising medication for bipolar disorder) that I would recover – even if it took me months to get there. It was a slow recovery but I got there in time. Her patience, perseverance and kindness saved me from a very acute episode of illness. Similarly, the psychiatrist and all the staff at the Day Recovery Unit helped me in my down days starting on lithium and having regular blood tests, recovering from being very unwell and they treated me like a human being, when I had felt so ashamed.

If it wasn’t for the Doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and other staff who looked after me  and helped build me back up, I wouldn’t be here today.

There is no need to feel ashamed, although you may do.

Although I still find it hard to talk about my descent into a psychotic state – I am so grateful to the NHS for all the help I was given and have been well for some time. I hope this article helps others in a similar position – you are not alone and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed.

Sarah blogs regularly at her page, Be Ur Own Light blog

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Comments

WOW, thank you sarah. Your

WOW, thank you sarah. Your story gives me strength. My ex fiancé was diagnosed with bipolar 3 weeks ago and has been in a mental hospital ever since. March 2016 she left me very suddenly, without any warning. We were together for 11 years. She was acting very strange, very angry and would not sleep more than 3 hours a night. She started seeing spirits and demons in our room. Anyway, she left and cut off all of her friends. 8 weeks later she came back and was very down and embarrassed about her actions. We got back together and she was diagnosed with anxiety. The next 5 months were good until November 2016, she had not slept in 3 nights and the next night, she started hallucinating. Saying she was cursed and I should run away. she was seeing all sorts of things. Her diagnoses remained anxiety however. She said she needed space and left me again in January 2017. In February, she took an overdose. Then at the end of March she began to get manic. Her parents blamed her behaviour on the breakup and were too embarrassed to admit their daughter had a mental illness. Psychosis and biploar is scary and very real for the person experiencing it. I don't know if my ex will come back to me but Im determined to stand by her as I have always done. Thankyou again for your story and I wish you all the best for the future.

Thank you

Hi Ben Wow thank you for sharing your story with me. I really wish your ex a good recovery journey. Make sure that she sees her dr and takes her medication. So important. There is no shame in mental illness. Bipolar is quite common and she can go on to live a 'normal' life again. Thinking of you, Sarah

Ashamed of Bipolar Disorder.

Luckily I have never been ashamed of my Bipolar Disorder, because of my parents and sister and brother in law who have supported me. It's not my fault and neither is it yours.

Thank you, I am not ashamed

Thank you, I am not ashamed of bipolar, but dealing with psychosis has been hard.

I've Gone Through a Similar Situation

Sarah, Thank you Sarah for writing this post. A year ago at this time I had my first manic episode in 16 years. I've been struggling with Bipolar Disorder for 30 years now, and am still trying to get a hold of it, Your story resonated with me because I go through the same psychosis, or what I refer to is distorted thinking patterns. I was admitted to hospital after my Dad made a 911 call last May when he realized that there was something seriously wrong with my behavior. I was admitted to hospital and apparently was described as being unresponsive. The days before, all I can remember is being full of energy, but somewhat out of control. People around me told me later that they knew something was wrong with me. But once in hospital, things got much worse. I paced back and forth for nearly most of my 3 month stay. I was put on a form (legally having me stay in hospital) for about 6 weeks. Through my entire stay I believed that the doctors, the nurses, and even the patients were conspiring against me, to either hurt me or plot for me to go to jail - I feared that I had hurt somebody, which landed me in hospital. I thought that old college roommates of mine were in disguise, plotting to put me in jail. I had an uncontrollable shaking of my right leg, and was paranoid beyond comprehension. It was literally the most scared I've ever been in my life. I felt so uncomfortable their that I stayed in my room most of the day, like I said, pacing back and forth; and thinking of every bad thing that I've done in my lifetime, but blowing things quite out of proportion. The psychosis you talk about is exactly the ay I felt. The only difference, I never REALLY got back to my real self, even when I was discharged. I had this overwhelming panic over my whole body. I've been out of hospital 10 months now, and the episode still haunts me. As with your situation, I went into a deep depression after my hospital stay, leaving me bedridden, for 20 hours a day. It's only in the past couple of weeks that I've truly felt like my normal self, and am writing these comments on sites as part of my therapy. I don't feel ashamed of my psychosis, but have been leery put my thoughts down on paper. Thanks again for sharing, and all the best.

Thank you

Hi Kevin Wow thank you so so much for coming here and sharing your story with me. It is amazing you are writing to me as part of your therapy. You will slowly get back to recovery- I believe in you! Bipolar is a really hard illness to live with and it can be very traumatising going through what we are going through. However, I know you have the strength inside to get through this. Thank you for commenting and I wish you all the very best in your recovery process. :)

Thank you

I don't have bipolar disorder but back in middle school and in high school I had major depression. The first time I was in a psychotic state for who knows how long and I don't remember how long since I had no concept of time. I wasn't sleeping and at one point I even forgot that I even had a mom or sister and I felt so isolated. I remember in one of my episodes I remember missing someone and that person was my sister and she wasn't home at the time, or at least that's what I thought since I never bothered to check her room. Then the phone rang and and I picked it up and at the other end I heard a girl sobbing/talking to me and I thought it was my sister. A few years later when I finally recovered from all the shame and embarrassment I experienced I finally asked her, and she said it wasn't her. I wonder sometimes if it's because she doesn't remember doing it. She tends to forget fhe things that upset her. There isn't a time I don't look back at all the things that happened. I just wish my mom and dad would have done something sooner because I wasn't just going to snap out it. I don't blame them because they genuinely didn't know anything about my illness. I also remember the time I was enrolled in a small music school and stole the owners sons bag and placed it outside in the long side maybe bscause I thought it was evil. The the owner of the bag was so mad at me I went outside to retrieve it and my teacher went after me. The teacher was worried and suspected I had schizophrenia I guess that's why he went looking for me. If I wasn't saved by my teacher I would have run off down the sidewalk and into the street in my delusional state and would have gotten lost or maybe even kidnapped . I'm not as ashamed as I was before but it still hurts passing the music school. I quit after I was dispatched from the hospital. The second time it happened I knew the signs and I received help but I wasn't enrolled into a hospital. Today I don't feel as ashamed as I was back then. Time was my therapy and I was able to move on. I still feel embarrassed as I pass my old music school and the same old side walk, but at least I can look at it at from a different perspective. I'm lucky to be alive. Thank you for this article, it really means a lot!

Thanks

Hi Amanda Your story is amazing and so inspirational. I know that feeling of shame and embarrassment well and I would agree that the feeling passes with time but never fully goes. Thank you for sharing your story with me and being so open! I am so pleased my article touched you and led you to reply. Thanks again, Sarah

Hey Sarah u r truly an

Hey Sarah u r truly an awesome person . I say that because their was a really close friend of mine who was really intelligent but after he some time he started reacting abnormally I asked him why he is reacting in such a manner he slapped me and said 'give me my drugs or just get lost' after which I broke my friendship with him . And a year after that I got to know that he is now suffering from bipoler disorder and has also killed his neighbours with a hammer brutally . So appreciate how u have pushed your self up from such a situation because if I would have stopped my friend then he won't be behind the bars as he is now.

Thank you for sharing

Hi Abestine Thank you for telling me about your friend. I am so sorry that he murdered someone. That is actually extremely unusual for bipolar sufferers- and I am sorry to hear this. I hope your friend gets the help he needs, takes his medication and gets support. Living with bipolar disorder is not easy, especially when you have psychosis. But you can get better if you take meds and have a good medical team around you. Thanks for sharing with me.

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