It’s been almost two years since I shared the uncut blog, Conversations with my psychiatrist and I felt that it was time for an update. Today I had my first face to face appointment with my psychiatrist since February 2020. Back then, I was all over the place. I remember asking her what she thought was wrong with me, I had never experienced a mental illness before so I was confused. Her response was:
‘To be honest, I am not sure. But you need sleeping tablets as soon as possible. You need to sleep. You need to rest.’
Today we had a great conversation with much more clarity. I want to share some of it with you in that hope that it can be of comfort to you or someone that you know.
I spoke of my anxiety from the whole experience and determination to do everything in my power to ensure that I keep my mind healthy and I stay grounded in my body. I came off my medication 3 months ago after dropping it slowly and it has been going really well. But that fear hasn’t gone away. I had a nightmare last month that I was back in that manic state of mind again. I woke up so relieved that it was all a dream. There is part of me that is terrified of getting too excited in case I lose my balance again. We spoke about how mania feels, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was buzzing, I was off my face and high on life. Music sounded different. Everything was so much more intense and magnified. In some ways, I felt incredible. I felt like I could take on the world and there was so much love, life and light inside of me. But there was a dark side too. I was confused. I was angry. I was suspicious. We spoke about what a healthy type of joy and happiness feels like. I used the example of how I felt this morning when I got back in the car after a stunning cold water swim in the sun. I felt so happy as I sang along to the music playing on the radio. But it was a healthy and grounded type of happy.
We spoke about some intense spiritual experiences I have had in the past. I spoke about how important my faith remains and how it has been an anchor in my life and in my recovery. But I also shared that I am terrified of feeling so connected to that world that I come out of my body again. She encouraged me to keep my faith but to be on guard with how stimulated I get. Science has proven that faith is important in the world that we live in and that it boosts our physical and mental wellbeing. I told her how I interviewed an incredible pastor on my podcast last week. He said that he often meets people who really want to have those deep spiritual experiences that I described to him, but that faith is such a personal thing. Some of us have the type of intense personality that doesn’t hold back, diving right in with an open heart and mind. Others are more reserved about it. There is no right or wrong but like anything in life, those who don’t hold back are more at risk. Sometimes risks are great. But we must remember that we have a body and a mind that we need to look after, as well as a soul.
Tune in at the link below or at your favourite podcast station.
We spoke about the term bipolar. I asked if she thought I had it. My initial diagnosis was that I had a one off manic episode due to overstimulation,stress and insomnia. She explained that she can’t say for sure. I may have a mild case. But it may also have been a one off. Everyone has a unique story with their mental health. I believe we ALL have mental health. I have interviewed elite coaches who claim everyone has a bit of bipolar. I have interviewed mindfulness trainers who believe we should not attach ourselves to labels too strongly. There is a new scientific study coming out soon that claims that anyone who has a manic episode in their lifetime is bipolar, even if they have never experienced the lows of depression. Sometimes that can be managed without medication and with simple lifestyle changes. It should be a case by case diagnosis. Again, having been a mental health and wellness researcher for close to 9 years, I believe we ALL need a toolkit and a huge one at that. We can’t create a toolkit unless we try things. Talking and sharing openly should always be encouraged.
It has been 2 years since my manic episode. I wanted to come off the medication after 2 years to give it a try. 3 months in and I am thankful to be feeling well but if anything changes I would be starting it again without hesitation. Studies suggest that the first 6 months off medication can be the most vulnerable. There is also a 40% chance of relapse within the first 5 years of a manic episode. She laughed when I said:
‘Fantastic, a 60% chance of full recovery’.
I will be focusing on the 60% stat over the 40% but if I ever feel myself slipping, I will take action like my life depends on it. Because it does. It often takes a health scare for health to become our number one value. Be kind to yourself. You got this.
Remember that anyone can experience a mental health illness at any time. There is no shame and it can often be associated with high levels of creativity. Symptoms of mania involve feeling:
- Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
- Increased activity, energy or agitation
- Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments
If you think you may know someone who is manic then please call the GP and get them help as soon as possible. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out and get professional support. You can get better and there is so much support available.
Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and keynote speaker, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate. She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio. Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all. She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people.