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Interview 35

Age at interview: 39
Age at diagnosis: 18
Brief Outline: Multiple severe bouts requiring hospitalisation at times. Most helpful approaches include medication (currently depacote 1000mg/day, Efexor 75mg/day), fish oils, talking therapies, social support and cranio-sacral massage.
Background: Carrie Thomas is a Media Trainer living in London. There is a history of mental illness in her family. Her bipolar disorder began while studying at Oxford University.

More about me...

 

She felt she was on 'crop rotation' seeing a different registrar every time she visited...

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Well I'm pretty chronic really, you know I will be forty this year, so I've had this diagnosis for just under twenty two years' well I've had a recognised illness for just under twenty two years. I've had this diagnosis for twenty-one. I have a severe and enduring psychiatric disability. 

What I did do about eight years ago, and it was when I first started, when I asked to get referred to [consultant psychiatrist], because I didn't have him at the time. It's because the [hospital] have a whole teaching set up in London anyway' is that people go there for six months on rotation and it's like bloody crop rotation. 

Because when I'm healthy I wasn't seeing anyone more than two or three times a year, so I could see a different, a different registrar each time I went. And I thought this was really stupid you know. I'm a long-term patient here, I don't go enough, but it would be really nice for a bit consistency. Could I get referred to a consultant?
 
 

She feels Cranio-sacral therapy helped her to relax and get over a cold, as well as reduced the...

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And I'm also trying since about November now I think, about four months, I've doing cranial sacral therapy.

And what's that like?

It's fantastic.

Can you tell the people what it is?

Yeah it's bizarre. It's like a laying on of hands. It's the therapist will spend half the time cradling your cranium. Your lying on an osteopathic couch, and the other half working on the sacrum, at the base of the spine and it stimulates the cranial fluid to move around and, and basically it's, it's to enable your own immune system to, to be boosted if you like so that you can heal yourself. And I was very depressed last year and so I was on very high dosage of medication, certainly a very high amount of anti-depressant at one point, and I'd been able to come off the medication much more quickly and not suffer bad side-effects. And I'm sure that's because I'd been in this therapy at the same time.

Cranial Sacral. It's, at times it's deeply relaxing and at other times it's quite stimulating. I had a treatment last night and oh I completely relaxed. I went to dream land for a while, and I could scarcely walk when I came out, I was so sort of floaty but heavy. And I'd had a heavy cold recently and it moved a lot of sort of things like sinus fluid around, and it's just sort of dispersing it now. I feel much better than I have in days, and it really just helps you recover. Because that's all the treatment I have to pay for separately. That doesn't come under the NHS.

 

Her friends are supportive and watch out for mania, including over spending, and so will ask...

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Good friends. I've got a really good network of supportive friends and they will help me and you know, my close friends like Chris and Ian will, will be aware of what's happened to me before and like me, you know, will start to be aware of what the signs are for any sort of relapse. 

For instance before Christmas I was hiring a car for the Christmas period and I'd made quite a few train journeys just before that. And I had no credit left on my credit card and I rang a friend to say, 'Could I put this on your credit card and I'll give you cash next week?' and he said, 'Yeah sure okay', and gave me all the details and afterwards he just said to me, 'Can I just ask why you haven't got any money on your credit card?' and I explained and he said, 'Oh yeah, okay fine, I just wanted to check'. And I said oh thank you and thanks for doing it like that, rather then sort of coming out with, 'What do you mean you can't afford it, you haven't got any money on your credit card', but just to say, 'Why haven't you got any money, lets just check you haven't suddenly gone manic and overspent'. And I could actually explain well I, you know, I went to Newcastle to this friend's funeral, I went to this recently and that and I hadn't had my expenses back from this, and he was, 'Oh okay yeah of course I can lend you it'.

 

After having mania and being released from hospital she had debts and became depressed, and so...

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I got out [of hospital] just before Christmas in 98, I just crashed from a great, great height, yeah I think I was.... I was still quite high when I came out and that's why I should have been kept in because they'd have been able to catch me because I was basically, I was going to fall from mania, I was going to crash down at some point. and I worked over Christmas, that was the Christmas when I was doing some charity work. I was working for [organisation], at a hostel over the Christmas period and it was so depressing.  And then I just plummeted and I was, I was so depressed and I knew I was depressed and I was so suicidal and I had, good God, you know, I had seventeen thousand pounds worth of debt.

Seventeen grand?

And I had to get back to work to pay it off and it was also clear that I couldn't work. I wasn't in a fit state to work, I was far too depressed and I was worthless and how did I let this happen. And of course actually that spending is all part of mania. Just as retribution is part of depression, so it was, "Mea culpa, mea culpa", I've mucked it all up, you know, it's all my fault. So in January of 99, probably about mid January, third week or so something like that, I tried to kill myself.

 

Her tutor had to be told about her suicide attempt and was sympathetic - many students had mental...

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And because I was over eighteen, obviously they couldn't tell any of my family. But because I was living in a hall in college, ironically they had to let my tutor know because he was in loco parentis. So I found myself on a Sunday night going straight up to my tutor's house so I could tell him the full story before the hospital got in touch with him the next day. And he was devastated and very sympathetic and the scenario wasn't uncommon. Already he had another student who was reading English in the [hospital] at [city]. He visited.... I mean he had lots of artistic friends who'd been in and out of psychiatric units, he knew the whole set up very well. And the only thing he had to do was he had to inform the Master, because I was living in college.
 
 

Says that people should confront stigma if they can, and that Mental Health Media support people...

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Explode it (stigma) whenever you can I say, but I've been very out because I've campaigned a lot on this. There's also, there's and extremely useful charity called Mental Health Media, and they train, and I've actually did a bit of some of their training. They will train service users on how to face the media. If they want to go and talk to the papers say about a new service in their area, or there's been some bad press or something and they want to give their side of the story. Or want to, to give their case history or whatever, you know as an example. 

Mental Health Media trains people on how to do interview on radio, TV and for the press. They've just started a new tool kit to try and tackle stigma and discrimination, and they're training people around the country at the moment on how to respond if you face stigma and discrimination. And they also have a wonderful award ceremony each year at BAFTA called the Mental Health Media Awards, and the best radio documentary, radio drama, tv drama, tv soap, website and various other..... There, basically, it's like an award ceremony and they'll, you know there might be four different clips from soaps, and you decide which one best expresses and best, honestly pursues a mental health issue, and that informs an audience well, as well as providing good drama.

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