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Oliver - Interview 33

Age at interview: 23
Brief Outline: Oliver is 23 and a fulltime postgraduate student at university. He was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at 8 and later on, just previous to the interview, with early onset bipolar disorder. Originally from the United States, Oliver has mainly been dealing with consultants back home and has had difficulties getting to see a specialist over in the UK. Oliver says he wants to find ways to get better; 'I want to find the right solution, not just the easy one'.
Background: See 'Brief outline'

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Oliver is 23 and a full time postgraduate student at university. He was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) when he was 8. Having ADHD made aspects of life difficult for Oliver when he was growing up, especially social interaction, getting his homework done or keeping to agreed appointments.
 
Originally from the United States, Oliver moved over to the UK a few years ago to do his undergraduate degree and stayed on to do a PhD. Two years previous to the interview had been a difficult time for Oliver. During the winter break from Uni, he went to see his consultant back at home who diagnosed him with early onset bipolar disorder. Oliver had for a long time been thinking whether he might have bipolar and hence felt the official diagnosis vindicated these thoughts.
 
Oliver describes his experience of living with bipolar as a continuous cycle “boom and bust”. On a boom, he’s full of energy, taking on a lot of different activities from drama and sailing to Martial Arts. His mood will go up and he’s feeling great. Gradually, things start to go wrong, Oliver won’t have enough time to keep up with everything he’s taken onboard and “it all becomes a big mess”. The bust will then set Oliver off to downhill spiral and feeling low and depressed. For Oliver, this could all happen within a space of one month.
 
At the moment, Oliver is trying to find a good consultant in the UK who would “embark on a project” with him to help him get better. Oliver says he wants to find a solution, but “not just a simple solution, but a solution which works for me”. Oliver’s been to a GP twice to seek help but both times his experiences were dismissed and he didn’t get a specialist referral which he’d wanted. Oliver says he wouldn’t like to take medication but that he would consider it, if it was “the right answer” for him. He doesn’t drink alcohol at all and Oliver‘s consultant said him not drinking alcohol might’ve been “one of the best things” he’s done as alcohol doesn’t necessarily suit people with bipolar mood disorder.
 
Since the diagnosis, Oliver has done a lot of research into the condition and says not to rely on the doctor “to tell you everything”. He also recommends a book called “An Unquiet Mind” written by a world renowned expert in bipolar by Kay Jamison about her own experiences of living with it. Oliver says if nothing else, reading up about the condition has helped him understand it better.
 

Oliver has never tried alcohol and his consultant said it might be the “smartest thing” he’s done...

Oliver has never tried alcohol and his consultant said it might be the “smartest thing” he’s done...

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I don’t drink alcohol, I never, I’ve never even tried alcohol. I don’t know if there’s something about it that’s almost sort of instinctively made me uneasy about it and this guy was like, “That might have been one of the smartest things that you’ve ever done, if you really do have bipolar disorder ‘cos that, that’s the sort of thing that bipolar disorder people are particularly susceptible to being dependent on,” and the other thing is that I had also prescribed anti-depressants, and didn’t take them. And he told me that anti-depressants are actually a really negative thing to prescribe to bipolars and that you have to approach it in a different way.
 
And so it was vindicating in a sense that it was like, okay, my reticence towards these treatments or things that normal people do were actually good decisions under this diagnosis.
 

Oliver was diagnosed both with ADHD and bipolar disorder and was told that they had some similar...

Oliver was diagnosed both with ADHD and bipolar disorder and was told that they had some similar...

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He said that he thought I had early onset bipolar disorder, and that if you think of a continuum between ADHD and bipolar disorder, I’m right there. And so it wasn’t, it wasn’t just sort of an either / or situation, but um, and it was interesting ‘cos I spoke to a friend of mine who’s doing Experimental Psychology here and he says that in children ADHD and bipolar disorder are almost indistinguishable from a diagnostic perspective. And, and yeah so that was kind of terrifying and kind of vindicating but also frustrating and, I mean you know I’ve been told you have ADHD, since I was 8. I’ve been tested for it in various ways from various different people, and it was like, “Oh, now I’m hearing something different.”
 
And one of the questions I asked them was like, “How many, what’s the likelihood that I will get this diagnosis from someone else?” And he said it would be pretty unlikely, and I appreciated his honesty about it, and there was another, there was another doctor that I’ve seen kind of for ADHD stuff and he concurred. He said that he had wondered whether I had issues with a mood disorder before and thought that that was a reasonably accurate.
 

Oliver says there were times when he wasn’t “a very good partner” and felt unable to provide for...

Oliver says there were times when he wasn’t “a very good partner” and felt unable to provide for...

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I have ADHD, it’s like I’m not good at crystal ball kind of stuff, at least not when it comes to myself. I can think about other things, I can think about economics, I can think about sociology, I can think about how networks evolve over time and think about the big picture stuff. When it comes to me it’s just like, I just think about it too much and then and then I start stressing myself.
 
 
I wasn’t a very good partner at that point in my life. I was despondent, I was uncommunicative, I was, I couldn’t help her, I was in need and could not provide and suddenly she was starting a new degree having been a fairly reclusive person for most of her undergraduate life, really all of her undergraduate life, she suddenly had new research people that she could actually identify with and she wanted to, and she felt like I was just dragging her down. And she would, she was scared to come home and sort of depressed because I felt depressed.
 

Oliver wrote his Master’s thesis in three days. He says there’s a link between ADHD and “manicness”.

Oliver wrote his Master’s thesis in three days. He says there’s a link between ADHD and “manicness”.

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I wrote my Master’s thesis in three days, okay. I wrote 60 pages in three days, they weren’t that good, I mean I think the ideas in it were quite good, I’m very pleased with what I came up with, it wasn’t polished. I really could’ve re-written small sections of it to make it a lot clearer, there were some awful spelling mistakes and few things that just didn’t make any sense, but there, there were quite some hyper-productivity, okay.
 
The interaction between the manicness and the ADHD, so with ADHD there’s a stimulus component, like I will fall asleep in the middle of a conversation if it’s that boring, like my brain actually just turns off, the only other person I’ve ever met that does that was my grandfather, and he would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, then wake up and then continue. He was just hilarious.
 
You know like my brain needs to be fed constantly. And so all these things are feeding my brain, it’s all great and then and it means that like I can just sit down and then just write something and it’s great and I send it off to someone, “Wow it was great,” you know. And you know it’s just, it all works together.
 
And then, and then it, and then it all breaks. And then people are like, “What happened?” You know my supervisor, they got me all this funding like every, everyone had massive expectations of my Master’s Thesis, there was this big craziness.
 

Oliver says he won’t expect a GP to be that familiar with mental health problems, among broken...

Oliver says he won’t expect a GP to be that familiar with mental health problems, among broken...

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And when I came back from the GP saying, ‘cos that’s the way it works in this country and my understanding, if you want to see a psychiatrist you have to get a referral, there is a first line, a first hurdle that you have to get over in order to get help from somebody. And I understand you know you’ve got a national health service, it’s a very expensive thing, you need to make sure that the right people get the right care, but it’s difficult to expect a GP to know all of the things they need to know to be able to diagnose something.
 
And if the guy in the US says that very few people would give me the diagnosis he’s given me, and that’s of psychiatrists, I can’t really expect a GP to be able to… and I realise, you know that’s his training, he’s got all sorts, you know he has to deal with the other, you know, a broken knee and you know the common cold and you know, and you can’t expect that, but the, it makes it hard. And I think and everyone I’ve spoken to has said that the way he, the way he dealt with me wasn’t a very good way of doing it.
 

Oliver has learnt to trust his own instincts and to demand from the doctors all the information...

Oliver has learnt to trust his own instincts and to demand from the doctors all the information...

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And so it’s learning to trust my own instincts about who I am and how I’m gonna respond to things, that’s really important. And if a doctor tells me something and I disagree with it, trusting myself to disagree. And ideally if I do disagree to ask them about it, and to have a doctor that can say, “Well this is why I think you should do this.” And to treat me like an equal partner in, or an equal player in the endeavour of making my life better.
 
And that’s one thing that I sometimes haven’t gotten from doctors and usually when I do then I [laughs], I stop, or I don’t do any of the things that they’ve suggested, I might still see them but like, it’s just like, “Okay well, if you aren’t gonna give me the info I’m not gonna put whatever this chemical is in my body, ‘cos I don’t know what it’s going to do to me, and you haven’t proven to me that it’s going to actually make things any better.” And I know that some medication can make things worse.
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