Bipolar disorder: "Without support and treatment, I might not be around to talk about it anymore!"
Published Mar 8, 2023 • By Claudia Lima
Nathalie has always been anxious by nature. After experiencing risky behaviors and a manic episode at work, she was hospitalized.
She tells us about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how today, thanks to her treatment, her follow-up and her family and friends, she is able to maintain a good quality of life.
Discover her story today!
Hello Nathalie, you have agreed to talk to Carenity and we thank you for that.
First of all, could you tell us more about yourself?
My name is Nathalie. I am 42 years old. I live near Lyon, in a couple and without children. I am currently unemployed.
I like walking and hiking. I like board and money games, photography, cinema, and music. I read books on social phenomena, personal development, etc. I also enjoy going out, eating with family and friends and dancing.
You have bipolar disorder. Could you tell us when you first noticed the symptoms? What were they? Did you realize what you were experiencing? What prompted you to seek help?
I was always an anxious, distressed and often depressed child. During my teenage years, it didn't get any better. At the age of 17, I was already taking my first antidepressants and anxiolytics.
In 2008, at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder.
I was working in a professional high school in Lyon when the symptoms of my manic crisis appeared with hallucinations (visual, auditory, olfactory), delirious statements, emotional lability, I could go from laughter to tears. I had risky behaviors, I found myself riding my bike on the ring road. I was in a state where I had lost all sense of reality and control.
The school nurse was alerted by colleagues and I ended up in the school doctor's office who called an ambulance. I thought I was going to be interviewed and become a great psychoanalyst!
I was admitted directly to a psychiatric hospital for a month and a half. I had a great time.
Which doctors did you see to get the diagnosis? How many did you see? How long did it take for the diagnosis to be made?
It was the head doctor of the psychiatric department where I was hospitalized who made the diagnosis.
In my medical career, I had met several city psychiatrists and had changed doctors twice. It took about ten years before I could put a name to the illness.
Were you able to receive all the information necessary to understand the disease? Did you do your own research?
When I was discharged, I was followed up in a CMP (Centre Médico-Psychologique).
I read a lot of articles and even a book on bipolar disorder. And of course, by talking to mental health professionals, you learn a lot.
What is your current situation? Are you satisfied with it? What is your treatment? How did you judge/experience the medical and/or psychological support?
I am always followed in a CMP. My treatment is Abilify® (aripiprazole), Lamictal® (lamotrigine) and if necessary, I have Seresta® (oxazepam). For insomnia, I take Zopiclone.
I feel that I have been very well taken care of. Without support and treatment, I might not be here to talk about it. I am satisfied with the medical and social teams I met.
Do you experience manic or depressive phases or both? How do you manage it? Have you ever been hospitalized because of your bipolar condition?
I am prone to so-called "hypomanic" phases, that is, I remain in reality but there is an exaggeration of the state of mind, I am either euphoric or irritable and I have restless behaviors. These states do not require hospitalization, they are easily treated with an increase in Abilify.
When these phases occur, I consult my psychiatrist without delay. I can spot the symptoms and I don't wait because there is then a depressive state behind it which is very painful to live with. Bipolar patients call it the "down" phase.
The longer the hypomanic phase lasts, the longer the depressive phase will last.
My last hypomanic episode was in January 2021. In spite of taking medication, I experience these recurring mood states. I tell myself that without treatment, it would probably be worse.
Have you changed your lifestyle, your habits since you were diagnosed with bipolar?
Since my diagnosis, I've been more physically active, I go for walks of 5 to 10 km. I'm also trying to get back into running, but it's more difficult because I'm overweight. I go to the gym regularly with my sister. I ride my bike and use the treadmill.
The medication is partly responsible for my weight gain.
What impact does the disease have on your private and professional life?
The disease has an impact on my professional life because of my mood swings and hypersensitivity to people's eyes. One day I will be motivated to go to work, another day I will want to quit.
I've often quit my temp jobs on a whim. Or because I didn't like the relationships with my colleagues.
In my married life, I have no problems with my spouse. We have been together since July 2021. Our relationship is going very well, we support each other, and we love each other.
Have you been supported by your family and friends? Do they understand the disease?
My sister and my partner are the two closest people I have. They understand me and give me a lot of emotional support. I can count on them.
Apart from your medication, do you use alternative methods? Which ones? What have been their benefits?
For the past few weeks, I have been going to a psychosocial rehabilitation center that offers cognitive remediation sessions and also a social skills group. I still have one more session to go. The goal is to develop relational skills.
I also do cardiac coherence, 5 minutes, 3 times a day, 6 breaths in and 6 breaths out. This helps me to better manage anxiety and stress. Afterward, I will participate in mindfulness meditation sessions. As I am prone to mental ruminations, this should help me to reduce them.
How are you doing today? How do you manage your daily life? Have you accepted your illness?
I can say today that I have accepted the disease. In spite of the "down phases", I do a lot of things to fight against them.
Thanks to sport, my entourage, my treatment at the CMP and the psychosocial rehabilitation center, I have a relatively satisfactory quality of life.
What are your plans?
I have 3 projects: travel, buy a house in the country and a car without a license.
Finally, what advice could you give to Carenity members who are also affected by bipolar disorder?
What I can advise people affected by bipolar disorder would be to spot the symptoms when they occur, especially in the hypomania phase, and to react immediately, by consulting a psychiatrist quickly.
Do not isolate yourself.
Doing a lot of sports is good for you and keeps you away from depression and stress.
Any last words?
I would like to thank the entire Carenity team for publishing this interview, which I hope will be useful to readers.
Take care of yourself!
A big thank you to Nathalie for her interview!
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