Adventures in Psychiatry: Six Months On

It's hard to believe it's been six months since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and started lithium and later on aripiprazole to manage my psychosis. I'm also struggling to believe I've spent six months in private psychiatric care and can't help but wonder how different things would have been if I'd remained within the NHS system. Something tells me I made the right decision, despite the massive expense. Each 30 minutes with my psychiatrist costs £140 and I've recently started private psychotherapy at £90 an hour. I shouldn't be paying for therapy as I have Bupa coverage for my anxiety, which is what I'm being treated for in terms of therapy, but they're refusing to pay at the moment. I hate insurance. 

Adventures in Psychiatry: Six Months On
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So what has all this expense given me? Having now has (significant) experience within the NHS system and now six months within the private sector I know which has served me better. I have been able to have open, candid discussions with my psychiatrist which I have not been able to do previously and in case of an emergency I can access an appointment within 24 hours. Of course, if you can't talk to your prescribing doctor you're not going to make much progress and we have built a really good rapport and working relationship which I value greatly. I trust him, and I do not use that word lightly. 

What about lithium? It has been my saving grace. Lithium kept me relatively stable throughout the mammoth task of finishing my degree last month; the pressure of which is what sent me into my first manic-psychotic episode six months ago. I still live in fear of another episode and every mood shift is filled with anxiety, hence the therapy. You could say I'm slightly traumatised by everything that happened and the effect it had on my family. I feel horribly guilty, as much as I know it wasn't my fault and had absolutely no control... ah control, the cornerstone of my life. Yep, I definitely need therapy! Life on lithium isn't anywhere near as scary as I thought it would be. It's a scary drug, there's no denying that, but I have few side effects apart from a tremor and some weight gain and as long as I get my levels checked every 3 months then it's all good. It does amaze me that after a decade of trialling drugs it took one appointment with my psychiatrist to nail it. I guess that's private care for you!

Aripiprazole is a bit more of a challenge. Not because of a massive side effect profile, per se, but it's piling the weight on and I'm really struggling to take it for that reason. It's the most weight neutral out of all the antipsychotics so I'm just unlucky that this combination has put what must be an extra 15lbs on me, but I daren't weigh myself to see the damage. Anorexic thoughts and behaviours are rampant so seeing that number will just be asking for chaos to reign once again. I'm trying my best and the drug is working; my symptoms are really reduced and I can function again. I don't live in a state of being constantly barraged by hallucinations and paranoia/delusions anymore which is so peaceful and calming. I can actually sit in silence again and have it be ok! The only other problem I've noticed is that while I was doing my academic writing boringness my ability to think clearly was really clouded and I couldn't phrase things properly. It's incredibly frustrating!

Overall: I think I'm doing well and learning to live with this condition and educating myself as much as I can about bipolar, much like I did with depression and anxiety. It's my way of coping. If I can understand the biology/psychology behind this then it feels easier to deal with. I just hope I stay in this place of stability and functionality. 

The next big test for these drugs will be on 19th when I get my results. I'm not hopeful. 

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