I thought doing a Q&A would be something a ‘lil different, so I asked instagram for some questions…
Mental health questions
What do you think of symptom copiers?
It’s frustrating! There was someone I was in hospital with and I noticed that whenever I said I was feeling a certain way, she’d say the same thing a few hours later. If staff commented on my symptoms or offered me PRN, she’d approach them saying the same thing and ask for something to calm down. I wasn’t sure if I was just being paranoid, but then said patient actually said to me ‘I don’t know if I’m actually manic or if I’m just bouncing off your symptoms’.
She was nice and we got along well, so I didn’t hold it against her. In some cases, people might just be latching on to symptoms to try and explain/put a name to what they’re struggling with, or they might be naive and not understand what experiencing those symptoms really mean (like saying they hear voices when the voices are in their head). Or they could be struggling with something that makes them want the ‘attention’/support they would get from claiming to have those symptoms. And I think a lot of the time, people probably aren’t even aware they’re doing it. If you’re surrounded by people with MH issues, like in an inpatient setting or an online support group, it’s so so easy to pick up things from other people because you’re suddenly exposed to a huge range of different symptoms and experiences.
At the end of the day, symptom copiers will be either caught out by MH professionals, or will end up receiving treatment that they don’t need- and which has the potential to harm them. (Fun fact: one nurse told me that in the old asylums, patients were put into hospital for things like having a child out of marriage, were put on all sorts of strong psychotropic medication, and ended up going mad because they didn’t need it). So I try not to get annoyed when I see people mimicking symptoms, because ultimately, the only person they’re kidding is themselves.
What medications have you tried (and which ones worked best for you)?
Fluoxetine, mirtazapine, sertraline, trazodone, citalopram, quetiapine, aripiprazole, haloperidol, chlorpromazine, olanzapine, lithium, propranolol, buspirone, promethazine, diazepam, lorazepam, clonazepam, zopiclone.
Lithium has helped the most- I had my first good stint at stability on it (7/8 months, until I stopped taking it). Trazodone when combined with an antipsychotic or lithium has lifted my mood, but without a mood stabiliser I’ve gone sky high. Quetiapine has done quite well at stabilising my mood in the past and helps me sleep (too much though…). Haloperidol worked really quickly at bringing me down from a manic episode. Olanzapine was a life saver for anxiety/OCD traits, but the side effects were intolerable. Buspirone helped quite well with anxiety in the past, but I was rubbish at remembering to take it three times a day. Lorazepam has been a godsend in hospital and is definitely the benzo that works best for me- diazepam obviously isn’t as strong while clonazepam left me feeling foggy and sedated. I was on a short course of diazepam for a week a few years ago for anxiety with severe chest pains, and while I didn’t notice an immediate effect, by the end of the week my symptoms had cleared up. Zopiclone is hit and miss- some nights it works amazingly, and some nights I’ve been on it combined with promethazine, a small dose of lorazepam and quetiapine and still not slept. Bar sertraline and citalopram which were A W F U L and caused lengthy mixed episodes, the rest I didn’t notice any difference/benefit really!
What do you find helps you when your down/triggered?
Most, if not all, of the things that ‘trigger’ me are anxiety related- so benzos help the most there (oops). If I’m feeling really down, I sleep it off. Otherwise, creative things like painting, scrapbooking, and in IP I got really into making pom poms? Distracting myself with TV series helps too, and then general self care stuff- showers/baths, painting my nails, lighting candles etc.
What do you make of the mental health system in England vs N.Ireland?
This is a really good question, but honestly, I didn’t experience enough of services in England to make a detailed comparison. But a few things:
- Referral put in to getting a CPN in England= 6 weeks. Which I thought was pretty quick
- Was given a crisis number on assessment- in NI, I was only given a crisis number after an admission, plus it put you through to the ward, rather than a separate crisis line
- Things in NI are less advanced- in my trust both the ED and PD teams consist of a couple of staff, there’s no specialist ED unit in the country and only one adolescent unit
- So few specialist resources= long waiting times, or you just don’t get offered the services
- No ‘in between’ services between once a week appointments and inpatient admissions, so there’s no real alternatives to hospital- it was only in October 2016 that we got a crisis team
- To me, and probably partly because my trust is rural, services in NI feel ‘close knit’- all the IP nurses know the nurses in the general hospital, the CMHT, the CAMHS team, the supported accommodation, the OP psychiatrists. Which meant a nurse was able to tell me all about my new OP consultant that was moving to the trust from the Republic of Ireland, and I know half the CMHT staff from banking on the ward. Plus until very recently, my IP consultant worked in both the community and the ward, so I knew him for 3 years before I ever went into hospital, ditto the social worker I had, and I know my new OT from the ward too. Idk it’s hard to describe. The different teams/services in England feel entirely separate, whereas although they’re physically separate here, it feels more ‘intimate’ because the overall size of the mental health services serving the area is smaller, so they all know each other/know of each other, even if they’ve never worked together…if that makes sense
- HCAs/NAs have much more of a role in IP in England. In NI, there’s one (or none) per shift, they don’t sit in the nurses station unless it’s tea time/handover, and their role is more things like changing beds and helping with meals or personal care, and sitting with us! In England, the NAs were allowed to write notes, there were more of them than nurses on shift and they just generally seemed to have more of a ‘nurse’ role
Also, now that you know you have bipolar, do you think you would recognise being manic as opposed to just being “in a good mood”?
Yes! When I’m hypo/manic, I feel ‘buzzy’, like there is literally energy inside me, or restless and impatient. Mania is more out of control, it’s fun (sometimes), you get swept up in it and it just feels busy and happening and I’m over the top and dramatic and everything is urgent and needs to happen nownownow. For me, being ‘just’ in a good mood is feeling at peace and content? Like I’m able to sit and enjoy the moment and while I might laugh too hard or talk a little quicker, it doesn’t feel hysterical the way mania does. Mania is chaotic and good mood is calm.
What do the highs of bipolar feel like for you?
Buzzy and jiggy! Buzzy as in:
- Energy coursing through me; giddy and excitable
- Talk a lot of nonsense and very fast (one nurse said when I first got admitted she couldn’t make out what I was saying lol)
- Can’t sit and focus on one thing for any more than a few minutes or obsessively research, hopping from topic to topic, filling notebooks with ‘interesting’ facts, and sometimes I’ll jump up mid sentence and move on to the next thing
- Drive fast, feel compelled to spend money (often on silly/unnecessary things)
- Act out of character/without thinking of the consequences (I live in the countryside, no street lights etc, and once attempted to walk home from town at 3am in below freezing temperatures after going home with a guy I met in a taxi…and ended up being picked up by police)
- Sleep starts to slip. It’ll take me longer to get to sleep because my thoughts are going too fast, I’ll wake easily during the night, I won’t want to sleep, and will bounce out of bed after 3-5 restless hours and feel buzzy, awake, rearing to go (and ill, because my body needs 9 or so hours to feel rested)
- I like being ‘up high’. We had scaffolding up around our house and I would climb out my first floor bedroom window onto it and on one occasion, danced naked on top of it in the middle of a storm. In hospital, I would climb on the tables, the arms of chairs and bedside lockers, and I climbed onto the roof
- The buzzy feeling is nice. I sing at work, have everyone buckled over with laughter, flirt with my managers (who both have girlfriends), flit about the place in a frenzy. I feel alive, awake, everything is bright and light and vivid and exciting and I will often tear up over normal things (like snow, walking home from uni) because everything just feels SPLENDID and I get overwhelmed at how great life is!!
- I experienced grandiose delusions, believing that there is magic and glitter in my veins, and the doctors/nurses/my family, were trying to steal it by pumping me with pills, believe I’m royalty (and the police were coming to arrest my sisters for treason), believe I can cure the other patients on the ward, believe if I jump off a height I would fly
- Have this big theory that I can ‘see the light’ and am transcendent because I’m of higher intelligence, and so I’m invincible/indestructible/have passed ‘beyond the limit of the sky’
- I generally lose insight- I refuse to believe there’s anything wrong, that I have an illness or that I need medication and believe that everyone is conspiring against me because they’re jealous/worried that I have the intelligence to ‘challenge the system’
And then the jiggy bit is the horrible bit.
- Worms squiggling in my brain
- There’s a tangle/niggle in my brain that won’t GO AWAY and I feel unbearably horribly disgustingly restless
- Time crawls, I get frustrated that people can’t keep up, or that things aren’t happening as fast as they are in my head
- I can’t sit still AT ALL. I constantly jig my leg up and down, or swing it backwards and forwards
- I pace, abscond from the ward to go on walks. I pace so much I lose a lot of weight, my ankles swell with fluid and I damage my foot
- I’m told if I don’t slow down, I’ll have a heart attack
- I forget to eat or can’t stomach food because my body is physically affected from not sleeping
- I get irritable, I scream/shout at people for trying to ‘steal my buzz’, cry at meds time because I really believe I don’t need them
- I sing for hours at a time
- During my last episode, which had ‘mixed features’, I felt suicidal
- Occasionally (but moreso when I’m starting to come down from the high), I experience ‘labile mood’
- Jiggy is a spinning tornado and losing control and everything turns dark/sinister/ scary and TOO FAST
What’s one of your funniest moments?
Not even funny, but it’s a story that somehow makes everyone laugh. A few years ago I was at this party and a waitress came round with a tray of canapés and I took one and she asked me if I was a vegetarian. I was really taken aback and mortified and was too embarrassed to put it back (apparently, only vegetarians were allowed these particular canapés) so I said yes. A while later, she came around again with this ‘dutch specialty’, which was basically meat stuffed with meat, and my boss at the time told me I had to try them, and, too embarrassed to say no, I took one while the waitress glared at me with a curious smirk on her face.
See, not funny at all! But any time I told the story, I cried with embarrassment, which made everyone laugh and think it was hilarious. Which it isn’t.
Would you ever skydive?
No way! I think about this a lot actually, but it makes me shiver just thinking about it. But I’ve parasailed and paraskiing is on my bucket list.
Do you have a bucket list?
Yes! It’s still in the making and I add things to it as I discover more cool things I want to see/do, but some of the things on it (the whole list is at my university accommodation so I can’t remember it all) are: See the northern lights, go to the top of the Rockefeller centre at night, eat at a Michelin star resturant, visit Blue Lagoon, paraski, go on a Spa weekend (preferably at Galgorm), be able to do crow’s pose (yoga), see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, spend a Christmas working/volunteering.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I’m gonna say Manhattan. I just loved the vibe there. If I could go anywhere, I’d say top of my list is Iceland!
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, three sisters.
Favourite animal and why?
Gotta be honest, I’m not a huge animal lover, but kittens because they’re cute and a zebra/pony cross because ponies are adorable and stripy ponies? Even better.
Tough one! I like psychological thrillers and movies that’ll make me cry. All time favourite is maybe maybe Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Favourite make up?
Favourite foundation is Clarins Mineral Loose Powder because it’s so light on, but gives really good coverage and I always get compliments when I wear it. I have a good eyeshadow palette from Revolution and the Naked 2 palette, both of which I love, but aside from that, I tend to just try different things if people recommend them or stick to the usual Rimmel/No. 7/Maybelline/Barry M.
Currently, Rockabye Baby.
I’m gonna say salmon with pesto and cream sauce, rice (or sweet potato mash) and green beans.