My mental health journey
Hi I’m Kate and I have bipolar, emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I developed PTSD from military service, a past domestic abuse relationship and a traumatic delivery with my daughter.
I was diagnosed fairly late in life at 33, before I had been diagnosed with having agitated depression. My GP was treating me with anti-depressants but as it was bipolar rather than depression, the medication actually put me into bipolar mania. The other difficulty I experienced is why would you go and see your GP when you feel incredible? Like most people with bipolar, I enjoy the mania and often miss it. For me mania brought me extra energy, creativity, I didn’t need to eat or sleep, increased libido and my flirting game was strong. I thought that the mania I was experiencing was just what ‘normal’ people felt when they weren’t depressed, so diagnosis was made difficult because I didn’t know about bipolar and its effects.
Not long after I was diagnosed, I fell pregnant with my daughter Grace. This made getting the right medication for me difficult as I could only be on certain meds for the duration of pregnancy. Unfortunately, mental health medication is a bit of a balancing act and it can take a while to get the right type and dose.
When I was 5 months pregnant my mental health became too much for my partner and he left me. In June 2016 I gave birth to my daughter. I had a horrendous time during delivery. The gas and air interacted with my bipolar and gave me psychosis, something I knew nothing about. It was without doubt the scariest experience of my life. My midwife was not prepared and after 32 hours of labor I had to have an emergency C-section.
When Grace was two, I had a mental health relapse and had to make the heart-breaking decision to send her to live with her Dad. I know that it was the right decision as I knew I wasn’t able to give her the stability she needed. I didn’t want her to be back and forth all of her life. I made the ultimate sacrifice as a mother and put my child’s needs before my own. I have had to go through the courts and worked closely with the children and family court advisory and support service (CAFCASS) and Social Services and have been awarded access to my daughter. In the case I have felt that my mental health has been used against me, but I was determined to get access for both my daughter and her maternal family.
Addiction is a big problem in mental health conditions and 10 months ago I found recovery through the 12-step program. This is the longest I’ve been sober in my adult life. I know that relapse can happen at any time, but I now know my triggers and what me or my support network can do to help. I found writing a safety plan and giving my therapist, my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) and my Mum a copy extremely useful.
I’ve never felt as stable as I do now. Self-care, sobriety, a strong support network, reducing my social circle to healthy friends, recovery group meetings, a great mental health team and weekly therapy sessions is the winning combination for me. Ultimately you must find what works for you, as what works for me might not work for you. I have found that being completely honest, open and upfront with my psychiatric team has helped immensely and I have a great relationship with my CPN.
I have been writing a mental health blog for the past three years and I am currently writing the book. I am a massive mental health advocate and aim to break down some of the stigma that unfortunately surrounds mental health.
The biggest advice I have for you is to remember it’s ok to not be ok, you’re not alone and reach out when you need help, even if all you have the strength to do is message someone. Mental health is a minefield, but together we can win the war.