Written by Fliss Baker
Twitter is a wonderful thing! I’m four thousand miles away and I’m meeting the like-minded. For info I’m a writer, author, volunteer and guest speaker in mental health and I love it.
Oh, and I have a diagnosis of bipolar.
I receive ongoing professional treatment in an attempt to manage my depressive and manic cycles. I am also in recovery for an eating disorder.
It’s important I introduce myself before my illness because as much as it rules my life at times, I will not let it define me.
Back in 2008 I worked long hours as a Senior Account Manager in a Branding and Design Agency. I was a high achiever and always over productive. However, family and personal relationships started to breakdown, I felt isolated and grew to hate myself. I over exercised and restricted my diet to the point my stomach crunched with emptiness and any food consumed needed to be purged. I was controlled, in turmoil and filled with tormenting thoughts. I remember living behind a pane of glass, isolated from the world with an overwhelming feeling that something was very wrong.
My whirlwind memories leading up to my diagnosis reflect irritability, the impossibility to sleep, a constant need for order, lateness, forgetfulness, pain and loss. My friends finally intervened and took me to the doctors.
I was trialed on an anti-depressant and immediately experienced vivid suicidal thoughts so I was trialed on another. Unfortunately I had a severe drug poisoning reaction and battled serotonin syndrome. I experienced physical symptoms including seizures and psychotic symptoms. This, I was told, jet fueled me into mania.
Soon I was rapid cycling from depression to mania and living in a world of confusion. I begged for peace, willing anything to lift the darkness and struggled to find energy only to skip endlessly in the garden, write poetry for hours, verbal vomit to anyone that would listen and snap at any interruption. At times I felt invincible and my big ideas developed into an obsession with God and feeling ‘chosen’.
In June 2008 I was seen by a Psychiatrist and was immediately admitted into a psychiatric hospital. I was in and out four times over the year struggling with the bipolar symptoms and medication effects. I lost and gained weight, felt sick, had itchy skin, constant fatigue and was reduced to self-harming in order to cope. Medical professionals supported me by giving me safe self-harm strategies, counselling and relaxation techniques. Art therapy reignited my passion for writing!
Discharge from hospital brought its own challenges. All of a sudden I was back in ‘real life’ with lack of understanding and stigmatizing comments. It felt lonely.
I received professional community support and went back to basics. I had to complete a timetable with short activities and build my life again. I still underwent medication changes but was carefully monitored.
Unfortunately my bipolar was never fully stabilized and in 2012 I was readmitted into hospital. It was scary and I received nine counts of ECT which resulted in severe memory loss. I haven’t regained my memory for much of that period.
Thankfully, I was started on new medication that lifted me and gave me the platform to help others with mental health problems. If I could summarize my ‘quest’ I want to support others by sharing my story. I want to increase understanding, encourage acceptance and normalize. Mental health is ‘ok’ to talk about, it’s common and we are not alone.
I volunteer for a UK charity MIND and Mental Health First Aid England. I am a Contributing Writer for a UK online women’s magazine and New Life Outlook an American health network. I have poetry published, wrote a book about my story ‘Madly Seeking Sanity’, pen name ‘Lola Jane’ and a regular blogger.
I have built my life around flexibility, reducing stress and the realization that I can only do my best. I have learnt, understood and help myself with the support of friends and family. We have all learnt together through experience! I know myself and I know the things I love and although sometimes I struggle I try and force myself to remember that.
It’s a challenging, unpredictable life but it is enriched with goodness and I want to inspire others. I thought I’d lost the Fliss I knew but I found her again. Speak up and speak out because it helps and any judgement only comes through ignorance. Hold your head high and use your wisdom. Never forget who you are and what you can do. Mental ill health doesn’t have to rob you of your life.
Madly Seeking Sanity by Lola Jane – available to buy from Amazon