Wednesday 7 March 2018

Learning to Manage My Bipolar Disorder

By Karen Manton

First Experience of the Illness

My first experience of Bipolar disorder was at the tender age of seventeen years. I had just commenced my first full time post working for the local authority. I was also in quite a destructive relationship.

The first symptom that I had was insomnia. I was going to bed of an evening but just finding that I was unable to sleep. My mind was racing with thoughts and it was as though no matter how hard I tried I just could not switch my brain off. The first night passed and I was aware that I had not had a wink of sleep. Soon one night turned into more until eventually I had not slept at all in a whole week.

By this time, I was totally past myself. I can recall leaving my home to catch a bus to work and feeling like this very tiny person in a big world. When I arrived at the office I could no longer concentrate. I did not have a clue what I was doing anymore and could simply not focus. My manager was aware that I was very poorly and went to visit my parents to explain just how I was presenting. It was obvious by now that I needed help.

GP Visit

As mam was becoming increasingly concerned she accompanied me on a visit to my GP. I was very angry and upset by this point and all I could do was shout, swear and tell the doctor that I was ‘confused’. This was becoming a very used saying of mine. It was exactly how I felt as I had no idea what was happening to me. The doctor seemed fairly bewildered by what he was witnessing and explained to my mum that I had ‘Anxiety and Depression’ which meant very little to either of us. I left with a prescription for anti-depressants.

The next few months I just stayed at home eating, putting on weight and being very sad. By now I had ended my relationship and taken some sick leave from work. It was to be quite some time before I became well again. In the end I decided to stop the medication and start to socialise which seemed to help.

My First Section

It was to be six years before I had my next episode, January 1992. I was to be sectioned following a phantom pregnancy. I was in hospital for exactly a week.

I then retired from work due to ill health after repeated episodes of stress. I struggled to concentrate in the office and would find that I just could not cope with any pressure.

I had felt extremely frightened after being sectioned. It was an horrific ordeal and had left me feeing very vulnerable.

Further Episodes, Further Sections

Sadly, I was still not given any diagnosis, so I had no idea that I had a mental illness. Because of this I was continuing to have episodes of extreme highs and very debilitating lows. Each episode would always start in the same way with a lack of sleep. I would then completely lose my mind. My imagination would just run away with me. I would think that I was Jesus reincarnated and that I was immortal. This was just so frightening to everyone around me. It would result in further hospital sections.

For some reason the episodes began to happen every two years. Something would happen in my life, maybe a bereavement but it would my reaction to the that that would trigger the illness.

Unfortunately, this was to happen in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002 and yet each time the medical team could not give the diagnosis that was so desperately needed. It would just follow the same pattern of becoming ill, seeking help, commencing medication then stopping medication. This was such a sad and distressing time in my life. I began to feel that I would never become well again!

At Last a Diagnosis

I was to finally receive my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in 2002. Thankfully for me a new psychiatrist had come aboard. At last someone was prepared to listen to me and to make some sense of what was happening to me. When I was feeling a little better I had prepared some questions to ask my consultant. As strange as this may sound I was delighted when he told me what was wrong with me. I could finally embrace this illness and do what was needed not only to become well again but this time to remain well.

I was determined that this time I would never darken the doors of the mental hospital again. I wanted to learn how to manage this illness and I would do whatever I could not to let it beat me again.

My new consultant and his team were just amazing. He knew the secret to me remaining well was to stay on the medication. This had made me well and therefore it was vital that I stuck with it.

Following my discharge from hospital I remained under the care of my consultant and do so to this day. I feel this is my safety net.

I have remained on my medication as a few years ago we attempted to stop the tablets, but I had a wobble with my illness and this worried me that I may have had to go back into hospital. Thankfully, because of the fast action of the consultant he prescribed the medication needed and I remained at home and made a speedy recovery.

A few years ago, I embarked on twenty-two weeks of cognitive analytical therapy which provided great benefits to me. This taught me how to reflect on my life without it causing me to feel distressed.

From then on, I made the decision it was simply not worth the risk to me becoming ill again. After all what does it matter if I need to take tablets. The important thing is they give my quality of life.

Searching for Brighter Days; Learning to Manage My Bipolar Brain

It has been an extremely difficult journey for me in learning to manage my illness. I have suffered a great deal with Bipolar. It has meant that I have recently had to leave yet another office job due to stress.

I then decided it was time I should write my life story as I have certainly lived a life. I set about this last year and was delighted to have my book published in September by Trigger Press, the publicist for the Shaw Mind Foundation. They decided that my book belonged in their ‘Inspirational Series’.

In my book I describe my very difficult childhood and then how I enter adulthood under the shadow of the mental illness. However, I also share how I became well and have managed to remain that way. I talk about my search for those ‘brighter days’.

About the Author

Karen Manton was born in Grangetown, Middlesbrough in the North East of England. From leaving school she worked for the local authority. Having suffered from Bipolar Disorder from the age of 17 Karen retired at a very young age on ill health. She later returned to work in Social Care but after suffering further ill health resigned from her post. She then decided to write her life story, Searching For Brighter Days: Learning to Manage My Bipolar Brain. The book has been published by Trigger Press part of the Shaw Mind Foundation. Karen is now a Mental Health Ambassador for the foundation and will be continuing to work alongside them.

You can contact Karen through her Facebook page, where she shares helpful information about Bipolar Disorder.

Her book Searching For Brighter Days: Learning to Manage My Bipolar Brain is available on Amazon and from her publisher, Trigger Press.


1 comment:

  1. 'Searching for Brighter Days' - Sounds like an interesting read. Most importantly: I hope Karen stays feeling well.!!