A Journey To Recovery
A Journey To Recovery10 mins 379 10 mins 379
As a child I was diagnosed with ADHD. My teenage years were chaotic and my first suicide attempt was at age seventeen. This attempt failed and nobody knew about it as I hid for days in my room extremely ill. Therefore, at this point, I did not receive any care, treatment or a diagnosis. I then had seven years of undetected instability. Friends and family believed that my behaviour was simply just due to the way I was. They believed it was just part of my personality. I had tried to jump out of windows and moving cars, I would run around the street in complete agitation, I jumped off a roof, I was extremely impulsive and over spent a lot leading to quite a lot of debt. I started having panic attacks aged twenty-two. The anxiety was so severe that I stopped eating and was extremely underweight. The panic attacks were so severe that they resulted in several stints in accident and emergency. I literally thought I was dying. After this, I started to suffer with mild depression. I rang my doctor to seek help but was told that I would naturally feel down after suffering with severe anxiety. So again, I did not receive any diagnosis, care or treatment.
When I was twenty-four I had a prolonged period, about three months, of undetected mania with psychosis. This is when my partner of seven years left me and took my children. I was unaware that I was ill. Again, family and friends and my ex-partner thought all of the erratic behaviour was just my personality. The irritability, agitation, impulsivity and inability to keep myself safe and poor decision making meant I was not only a danger to myself, but also a danger other people. Around this time, I sliced my arms until I was dripping with blood. At this point my family called the police and an ambulance so I was transferred to accident and emergency. During my assessment in the emergency department, as I did not realise I was unwell, I told the psychiatric nurse that I was fine and it was a mistake. She believed me and told me that I was merely ‘just a bit sad’. So again, I did not receive the care or treatment I needed for my latter diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The mania continued and I began drinking heavily and taking illicit drugs in an attempt to self-medicate for an illness I did not know I had. I hardly slept at all going days without sleep altogether.
Soon the mania and psychosis subsided and I hit rock bottom. I could not stop crying all day long and had suicidal thoughts and ideation. The pain I was suffering with was so unbearable that I decided to seek help from my doctor. My doctor gave me antidepressants. After a few weeks of taking sertraline, also known as Zoloft, with the dosage raised to 150mg per day, the depression subsided. However, I suddenly went too high, so again I was manic with no help or diagnosis. I was off the rails. At this point, I researched borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder, and when reading articles on each one, I realised I was exhibiting symptoms of both. I rang my doctor again, and at this point I received a referral to mental health services. At his point I was still taking my antidepressant.
When I was first assessed by a junior psychiatrist, I was prescribed my first antipsychotic, namely chlorpromazine, yet I was still undiagnosed with any mental illness. I had an allergic reaction to the drug and was suffering with severe nightmares. I came off this medication as requested by the junior psychiatrist and was prescribed another antipsychotic, namely quetiapine (also known as serquol). When I began taking quetiapine, I was on the lowest dosage of 25mg quick release per day, and this made me so lethargic that I could not keep awake or get out of bed in the mornings. My family and friends at this time believed I was merely lazy. However, soon the sedative effects of quetiapine wore off and I began self-medicating on the drug at levels of around 300mg a day. This dosage at this point had no sedative effect, even at such a high dosage compared to how the lower dosage had affected me when I began taking the drug. It was as if the severity of the mania that had returned was overriding the sedative effects of the drug and I was literally un-sedatable. At this point I was referred on to the head psychiatrist and was put under the care of the crisis team who would assess me at home daily.
I was completely out of control again, and I was up and down in rapid cycling mode. The police and the crisis team were regularly called by a good friend as I was suicidal amongst all the chaos. I had also completely trashed my whole house on several occasions and what I believed to be paranormal events were occurring regularly, which I believed to be real rather than a symptom of psychosis. All this lead to an agreement with the crisis team, that I would voluntarily be admitted to the acute psychiatric ward. This was my first hospitalisation and this was on the 13th of October 2013.
As soon as I was assessed during my first hospitalisation, I was immediately taken off my antidepressant as the doctors believed it was causing hypomania. Still to this day I cannot take antidepressants for this reason. I was put on an even higher dosage of my antipsychotic medication. I was on 600mg of quetiapine a day, for which the doctors and nurses believed would sedate me. However, it did not work. I was running around at one hundred miles per hour – I just could not stop doing multiple tasks at one time from morning to night. I hardly slept at all. Apart from the fact that the antipsychotic was not working on its own, it had terrible side effects. I was having cold sweats every night, I was having vivid nightmares, I was gaining weight at an immense speed and I was spontaneously lactating. Bloods that were taken at this point showed that my prolactin levels were too high. I had to have an MRI scan to rule out a tumour in the brain as the cause of the lactation before I was taken off quetiapine. In the space of two days, the quetiapine was reduced from such a high dosage to being completely off it, while I was starting another antipsychotic, namely risperidone. The rapid reduction of one antipsychotic and the side effects of the new antipsychotic (at a very low dose) made things worse. After two days of racing thoughts, nausea and symptoms of vertigo I refused to take the new antipsychotic. I then discharged myself and immediately overdosed. This lead to an immediate section back into the psychiatric ward. I was then put on a mood stabiliser, namely Depakote, which was gradually increased to 2000mg per day. Eventually I was stable as the mood stabiliser was working. This first hospitalisation lasted three months and resulted in an initial diagnosis of cyclothymia, borderline personality disorder and poly substance misuse.
I began seeing a consultant psychiatrist as an outpatient and was assigned my own CPN which is a community psychiatric nurse. It was not long before everything began to fall apart again. I had nine hospitalisations equating to two years of my life. Reasons for being hospitalised included severe depression, full blown mania, suicide attempts, mixed episodes and psychosis. All in all, I attempted suicide around ten times which were all overdoses, as in my eyes, I wanted to fall asleep peacefully and never wake up again. Cutting my wrists and arms were not a suicide attempt but self-harm which I will talk about in a later post. I was not hospitalised for all of my overdoses as not all of them were detected. I am lucky to be alive. Due to my suicidality, I began to collect my medication daily so I did not have enough to kill myself. To this day, I am only allowed to collect my medication weekly because of my history of suicide attempts. I will go into much more detail about suicide in a later post.
I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one, clinical depression, PTSD, psychosis, anorexia nervosa, agoraphobia and poly substance misuse. It took a long time for both my inpatient and outpatient psychiatrists to get the medication correct, bearing in mind that during my intervals when I was not in hospital, I was non-compliant with my medication and was still using illicit drugs as a form of self-medication. My last hospitalisation was on the 13th of October 2015 which was when I was put on a four-weekly antipsychotic injection called Abilify (also known as aripiprazole). I was released from my last hospitalisation and referred to the crisis team. For a while I had no concentration whatsoever, my memory was terrible (which I still struggle with today), and I was still exhibiting mild symptoms of psychosis such as delusions which were heavily religious. I also had mild depression. I was told that it would take six months for the Abilify to work properly. For an extended period of time I was choosing to force myself into the hypnogogic state of sleep under which I undertook lucid dreams which I believed were astral projections to different realms at God’s will to save others from their sins and that this was the reason for my suffering. At one point I even tried a homemade Ouija board to try and contact the dead or God to ask if I was allowed to kill myself. In time the Abilify removed my psychosis. I have now had my mood stabiliser changed to lithium as an outpatient which is working well so I am in remission from bipolar disorder.
Today, my mood is generally stable. Everything is not perfect as I have mild fluctuations in mood but I have had no more psychotic episodes. There are a lot of negative side effects with different medications and I am on anti-side effect tablets for this. They work to a certain degree so I still have side effects but I put up with them as where I am today compared to where I was a couple of years ago is immensely better. Sometimes I wonder if there is much of the real me still living with so many tablets and an injection, but I am happy and this is all that matters. I have to take about twenty-one tablets a day which can become annoying as I have to base each day around medication but it is a small price to pay to be stable and happy. I have never received any therapy for bipolar disorder as my psychiatrist believes that bringing up all the trauma in my life will simply cause me to have another episode. My memory and concentration span are greatly affected permanently due to how ill I have been and as a side effect of some of the medications I am taking. I also suffer with social anxiety which I believe stems, in part, from how institutionalised I have become from so many hospitalisations. In this way, I can find it hard to leave the house or even leave the bedroom, but to be honest, I just get on with it.
An important message to anyone reading this, is that, it is true that whatever does not kill you will make you stronger. My whole life is an example of this. And you know what, I would not change all the trauma and mental illness in my life as it has made me the person I am today, stronger than ever. ‘’I love the person I have become, because I fought to become her" (Casi Diane).