Adventures in Psychiatry: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Well, once again it's been a minute since I uploaded anything. I'll explain more about the chaos that reigned with my final semester in The University Diaries series, which shouldn't be too far away hopefully... No. Today I wanted to vent/talk/debrief about my new diagnosis, Bipolar Type 1, and what led up to such earth shattering news. I'd grab some popcorn because this has been a real shit show. 

SamiWrites: Bipolar Affective Disorder
Bipolar Drug Cocktail: Venlafaxine, Lithium Carbonate,
Aripriprazole, Propranolol, Lorazepam

I'm not too sure when my downfall into bipolar hell first began. I'd been showing hints of bipolarity for years but whenever I mentioned this to an NHS psychiatrist (this will become a relevant factor later in the story) it was dismissed and chalked up to a non-existent personality disorder. From the beginning of the year life was fuelled by a crazed anxiety and fear of failure. It was dissertation write up time on top of exams and assignments. I just could not cope, or keep up. I don't think I'd ever cried more in my life than those first few months of the year. In my desperation I turned to study drugs, which in hindsight may have given my brain the tools to flip the switch into full blown mania. So March rolls around and I'm meant to be handing in my dissertation... ha. After 3 nights of no sleep and definitely losing my grip on reality my mind finally slipped away from me. At 1pm on deadline day I had to make a frantic call to my specialist mentor because I couldn't leave the house and was having extreme panic attacks that I just didn't have the energy for. To cut a long story short, I didn't hand in my dissertation and I collapsed with exhaustion. 

In that same month - I think? - I now know I had my first manic/psychotic episode. Initially I thought it was a dissociative episode brought on by stress, which is perfectly plausible. I have no memory of what went down, but I've been informed that I was reported missing and found in a hotel. Obviously, I was freaked out and went to my GP who referred me at my request to Elysium (ex The Priory). In her own words, despite the seriousness of the event, it would be "several weeks to months" before I saw an NHS psychiatrist and I needed answers literally right god damn now so I apologised to my bank balance and prepared for a situation I hadn't been in for a very long time - by my track record with mental health services anyway! 

So appointment day rolls around the end of that same week and I'm trying my best to stay calm and remember that this doctor is a person and not some god-like deity that will pitchfork me straight into hell if I say the wrong thing or look at him funny. Time was also a huge pressure. I had a very expensive hour to explain why I was there and put it into the context of ten years of mental health history he didn't have. Then get the answer from him and make sure we both understood and agreed. Well, it went beautifully. He is the best psychiatrist I could ask for and I do not begrudge the fee one bit. It was when I was attempting to give cliff notes of my history he started zoning in on my mood and response to medication, which combined with my family history, led him to believe that I had been living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder for some time. I was shocked, hurt, sickened and terrified. What scared me more was the suggestion of lithium. He offered me three drugs, two of which were almost a dead-cert to pile the weight on whereas lithium is more neutral... apparently. It's also the most commonly used and one of the few psychiatric medications where you can adjust the dose and see the response in blood work, which is what sold me. Anything to limit the guess work you always have with these drugs!

In April I was detained at home during a psychotic episode. It took 6 men to restrain me. I must have fought with some sort of primal life-or-death urge because I ended up very bruised! I was sedated and sent home the following morning as I was seeing my psychiatrist the following day. It was then that we added aripriprazole to my cocktail. I am not a fan of this drug, however we're after weight neutral so I don't spiral into an eating disorder relapse like quetiapine sent me into... vile times. I think exhaustion took over for a little while as I was still having symptoms but physically unable to really do what I wanted/felt compelled to do. 

Fast forward to May; mania and psychosis took complete hold of me. I was paranoid, hallucinating and very much a danger to myself. I have no memory of what happened, when it started, anything.. It's like I just woke up and then the lights went out again. I was rushed to my psychiatrist by my mother and boyfriend, and somehow, I really want to know what wizardry he used, he convinced me to come into hospital voluntarily. I don't remember the first 4 days of the 7 I was there, but I do know that it was not the horrific experience I had in the NHS acute ward and I felt very safe and cared for. The staff were amazing, the food was great - there was always a safe option to have - and not once did I feel like I needed to escape because I was scared of the other patients. They managed to stabilise me, including managing the lithium toxicity I somehow ended up in, and I was able to go home as planned. If I was an insured patient, he would have admitted me for at least a month but as I am a self-funding patient it was not possible to stay that long.

So here we are, in June. I'm still recovering from everything and trying to accept that I inherited the one condition I feared the most. It explains why I've struggled through my degree and while it does offer the chance of real stability, now the monster has been identified, it's a life sentence and I'm not ok with that just yet. I'm still graduating in July, and have an amazing holiday to Jamaica to look forward to. It'll be ok.... If you made it this far into my ramblings, congrats! Now I'm free of my degree, nearly, I'll be much more active on here again. 

Until next time! <3 

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