Hannah Touhey is a blogger and artist. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2012 during her final year of university. She has kindly given us permission to repost her 'Top 10 list' for other people who are affected by bipolar disorder. This is the second part of the two-part series.

  1. Use community support that is offered to you – A Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), for example, is really helpful in getting a diagnosis as they can see you more frequently and get a real sense of who you are and how your moods change. CPN’s will report back to your psychiatrist and are particularly good for feeding back an elevated mood which you might otherwise not have picked up on yourself or raised with your psychiatrist.
  2. Engage with services – It sounds gross, but the more willing you show the more support is offered to you. The NHS are very pro-responsibility; this means you need to take ownership and help yourself, and sometimes if you don’t and are deemed to have capacity then support may be withdrawn. It sounds unfair, and in some circumstances it is, but if you show that you are willing to try then services are much more likely to be sympathetic. An example of this in my journey would be my constant changing of medication. I have been a royal pain the bum in my refusal to settle with a medication which doesn’t feel right, but by making all of my appointments, taking mood diaries and following a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), I have proved that I am not being deliberately uncooperative, and as a result they have pandered to my stubbornness surrounding medication. If you are having trouble with adhering to anything that services have offered or recommended for you, have an open dialogue with them about why this is.
  3. Try different forms of support out, and then dismiss the ones that weren’t useful to you, but crucially don’t rule anything out initially – Medications will generally feature in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but these can include a range of anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. At the beginning I was loathe to take anything extra on top of my mood stabiliser, but these days I recognise that I can sometimes curb an episode by taking an anti-anxiety medication or sleeping tablet for a few weeks, when prescribed. I was also offered therapy, but found that I was able to articulate my feelings to my CPN effectively without the need for a therapist. However some people have found this outlet very productive; without experimenting I wouldn’t have found the right plan for me or felt satisfied that it was my best option.
  4. Give treatments time to settle in and take effect – You might find that something that makes you super drowsy at the beginning eases off after a week or two. When I first started taking medication for anxiety, for example, I found it relaxed me a little too much and I had to take it at night. Now it’s settled a little I can take it in the morning and my body is tolerant enough for it to just calm me if I’m feeling overly anxious.
  5. Listen to your gut! – My mum instilled this in me from a young age, and it is exceptionally useful in this instance. If your gut tells you you don’t have the right diagnosis then listen to it and discuss this with your support team when you’re calm. If you’re being told to stick out another week on a medication that is making you feel terrible then explain this rationally to your team. My gut has come in handy (aside from the IBS) many a time; from when I knew something wasn’t right with the way I was feeling at the beginning to refusing to accept weight gaining medications. As long as you have capacity and explain your thought process calmly and logically it must be taken seriously. As with anything in life, a carefully thought through and explained argument will go a lot further than an over-emotional and chaotic one!

Read part one of Hannah's blog You can also find more of Hannah's work on her own blog 

Please note that this is a blog related to personal experience of the writer, and is not intended to replace medical advice from a qualified practitioner.

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