'With Bipolar you can't just put a plaster on it & it stops.It's with you for the rest of your life'
I experienced my first episode at the age of 16. I woke up in hospital. I was scared. I'd never experienced anything like this before. I remember there was a young girl, she must have been about 16 and she tried to commit suicide by jumping out of the hospital window. The hospital said that I was manic, they then prescribed me Olanzapine. I was in hospital for under 28 days, fortunately whenever I have been in hospital its has only ever been for less then 28 days because once the 28 days is up the hospital decides whether to put you on a different section and extend your stay. If you follow the procedures, take the medication and they see an improvement in your mental state you can be discharged before the assessment is due. Since the age of 16 I have been in hospital 7 times.
When hospitalized, you are mixing with different people and everyone has a different form of illness. I've been in hospital with criminals that are on remand, their doctors have written to the prison to say that they are not mentally fit enough to be in prison. I never felt at risk because the crimes they committed were usually drug related and these patients were not the violent or aggressive type.
Once I was in hospital and a man kept banging the door to ask to be let in. We were all confused, we were trying to get out yet he's trying to get in? The hospital turned him away and said he needed to have a referral. He managed somehow to get the referral and was admitted a few days later. It turned out he had tried to stab a police officer and was using his mental illness to get off the crime, he said that he hadn't been taking his medication. He was released later on with no charge. You also see and experience so much, there is a lot of violence alot of sad moments, in some hospitals you can't have access to your phone so you kind of lose yourself to the world. To be honest in the hospitals you also meet some really good staff who genuinely want the best for you and you do see some pretty inspiring things like one patient now has his Masters degree,that's big.
When I returned to school after my first episode at 16 no-one really wanted to be around me at first. They didn't really understand it. It's kind of expected at that age kids don't really have a lot of empathy, it's like they knew what was going on but they didn't know what was going on, if you know what I mean.
In my 2nd year of sixth form me and my friends started fucking about, playing up. My sixth form was mixed but next to us was a girls only sixth form, we were there all the time. I remember the head of the girls sixth form reporting to the head of my sixth form that I was too loud. I was approached by the member of staff who was responsible for me, he said that I had to go to the doctors to get checked out, he said that If the doctor said that I was ok to be in school then I could return otherwise I wasn't to come back. They sent a letter to my mum and she took me to the doctors. When you are bipolar and you have an episode you can talk really fast and become really emotional. Instantly the doctor diagnosed me as having bipolar, this was when I was 18.
I never liked taking my medication. I remember once having breakfast and finding a crushed up pill inside; my mum had been hiding them in my food to make sure I kept taking them. I had to take my medication before and after school. It would make me feel sleepy and I would find it difficult to concentrate.
They say that bipolar is like a seesaw. 1 minute you are up and then the next minute you are down. You never feel level. That's why they give you medication. But the medication just makes me feel lethargic so I'm too tired to be happy and show emotion, it shows how powerful a tiny pill is. The problem with me is that I take things to heart and I'm always questioning things which doesn't make life any easier for me, but they say that 'a wise man knows nothing'.
What is an episode like? Well I can only speak for myself there are different extremes for everyone, but I believe that everyone who has it goes through highs and lows. When I am high I feel like I'm on top of the world. I can do anything and everything, I'm always excited and I don't really sleep. Just like Stacey in Eastenders, when she was diagnosed with bipolar and she tried to jump off a cliff. Once my Aunty wanted me to sell a playstation for her, I went to Oxford Street and where the 4 mains connect I sat right in the middle. When the green light showed, horns were bibbing at me but I never moved. I took off my shoes and top and just sat there. When I did eventually move I walked all the way home bare foot in the rain, my mum opened the door she was in shock at what I looked like, I was drenched with no top and shoes on. She panicked and took me straight to the doctors.
Then there's the lows. I just crash. I lock myself away for a long time and don't want to be seen. Especially if you've recently come down from a high and you feel embarrassed about what you've done, you want to avoid going to certain places in case people recognise you. In 2016 I experienced my biggest low, my dad died, I became really depressed for a long period of time, the only thing that kept me going was that I had a job in Kingston, I'd travel about 2 hours a day to get there, it was like a breath of fresh air.
With Bipolar you can't just put a plaster on it and it stops, it's with you for the rest of your life. The problem is when you are put on a higher dosage, how are you supposed to work? You feel lethargic all of the time. But you just have to push through as much as you can. Also for me the question is, should I tell my work that I have bipolar? They say that all health matters and everyone is welcome but further down the line if I can't handle the stress will telling them about my illness backfire? So I normally don't say anything and just deal with it when it comes to it. Also when you are in hospital life is paused on the inside but still goes on. On the outside bills start to accumulate, I'm fortunate I have a family that can help to provide me financial support when I need it but if you don't then its very hard to deal with especially as you are also struggling with your mental health. It would be good if the Government formed some type of strategy which would help support people who have been sectioned. It's just an idea.
Also its very difficult to be admitted into hospital unless you are going through an episode and are a harm to yourself or others around you. Perhaps there could be some type of system which could help people who believe they need the help to be admitted. I know that means finding the extra resources etc which could be challenging but it's just another idea.
The advice I give to anyone who is seeking help with bipolar is first of all not to keep anything in and let it all escalate; talk to your friends and family because they know you the most, ask them if they have noticed a change in your behaviour. Contact your GP and contact the relevant services for advice and support. Medication is important even if it helps you to sleep. Try and come back out of hospital and return back to normality, go back to your usual routine. Try to talk to a Psychologist although they might be quite expensive privately, but it is always good to speak to someone who is neutral as it is likely you will be more open. Attempt to pinpoint why your behaviour is the way it is, focus on the triggers, how did it start? Do your research, certain medications don't always work for everyone, there are side effects, find out what works for you and discuss this with your GP. Nothing can cure you of your mental illness but you can develop skills to help you with your thought process, it might take days, months, for me even years. The main thing though is to be honest and open with yourself.
I'm an open book and happy to answer any questions anyone wants to ask as I can relate.
The name on my Instagram page is: cuppakof
If you feel that you are experiencing any of what Kofi has spoken about please seek help from your nearest GP. There are also other sources which provide help and advice for example:
Mind 0300 123 3011
Rethink 0300 5000 927
Support Line 01708 765200
Also if you feel that you have an experience with regards to mental health that you believe others could relate to then please get in touch.