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Olivia X

Age at interview: 45
Age at diagnosis: 40
Brief Outline: Olivia is divorced and has three children. She works in scientific research. Ethnic background: White British
Background: Olivia is divorced and has three children. She works in scientific research. Ethnic background: White British

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Olivia was going through a number of stressful life events and was finding it difficult to manage day-to-day life. She was taken to see a psychiatrist by relatives who were worried about her sometimes erratic or ‘over the top’ behaviour. The psychiatrist spoke to her for a short while after which he diagnosed bi-polar disorder, for which he prescribed lithium and olanzapine. When she disagreed with the diagnosis and said she didn’t want to take the medication she was sectioned for assessment under the mental health act, which resulted in her losing custody of her children for a time as she was going through divorce proceedings and her mental capacity had been called into question. She spent a short while in a psychiatric hospital where she was eventually prescribed Seroquel (quetiapine). In order to get her life back on track she felt she had no choice but to take medication as the judgment surrounding custody of her children rested on her complying with the psychiatric assessment. Looking back Olivia feels that the psychiatrist she saw initially did not pay enough attention to the fact that she had a lot of difficult problems in her life at the time, and feels that she would have benefited more from some practical help with coping with everyday life, rather than being prescribed medication. ‘I would have liked a proper psychiatric consultation because it was literally within ten minutes he told me I was bi-polar’.
 
 Olivia feels that the medication helped to stabilise her, but said it made her feel ‘flat’ and she feels she lost her sense of identity and ability to function creatively. ‘I didn’t have any energy…. I just became sort of uninterested in stuff….. before I was a proactive mum always engaged, always trying to help out with projects at school ….. I just gave up’ .As a research scientist Olivia also found it difficult to function properly at her job because of ‘a general slowing down of my brain in general’.
Although Olivia was unhappy being prescribed the medication - because of her situation, she feels looking back that it helped to stabilise her moods and become calmer. Initially she was taking the medication during the daytime and found that it made her feel drowsy and it affected her ability to function properly, but taking it at night time helped her to sleep better.
 
When Olivia stopped taking the medication after 9 months, she was still finding life difficult because of ongoing problems at work and the issues in her personal life were still not resolved. ‘I didn’t miss the medication at all, but I knew I still had a new life to create and knew that was an overwhelming task. I was still depressed, but I wanted to get away from being interfered with by medics. I wanted to be myself again’.
 
Olivia felt sure that she would be able to cope with life once the difficulties she was experiencing in her life were resolved, and now, looking back, feels that things have settled. She says that this episode has taught her a lot about herself, her moods, her reactions to things, and the way other people react to her. 
 

Olivia X was taken aback when the psychiatrist...

Olivia X was taken aback when the psychiatrist...

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The psychiatrist that I saw I was quite resistant to and I thought that he was making some snap decisions he initially thought I had, well he, I was definitely emotionally dysfunctional so he initially said bipolar disorder but I was, couldn’t accept that as a diagnosis, I just said ‘No I’ve got the divorce, I’ve got this shitty situation at work, it’s not that - it’s the situation I’m in, it’s not me - it’s all these things I’m having to deal with,’ and so he wanted me to go on olanzapine and lithium and I have a friend who’s on lithium clinical trial and I didn’t want to touch the stuff so I said no because I want to look at what the toxicological l issues are, I want to look at the side effects, you’ve not taken my blood pressure, I’m feeling quite wired and tense, I probably have got high blood pressure, you know. There’s all these physical things you haven’t, nobody’s looked at and also I had had no periods for like two months so I said maybe this is menopause, nobody’s looking into this. and I had also had my breasts were making milk a little bit as I had a three year old, my son was three at the time but I had stopped breast feeding at six months so it was all a bit peculiar that my breasts were making milk. So I said all of these things should be looked at because I could be physically ill or it could be a hormonal thing. And so I was bit challenging to the psychiatrist which I think he didn’t really appreciate.
 
I would have liked a proper psychiatric consultation because it was literally within ten minutes he told me I was bipolar. And in fact to say that is a little bit like taking the rug from under your feet because you’re basically saying I think you’re loopy, you know. And I think that’s appalling I think you couldn’t just suddenly say to someone you’re got cancer, you couldn’t suddenly just say, you know, and he didn’t have a check list or anything that he was going through in a methodical manner, it was just purely on my behaviour. Now if he said look I’m going to be judging your behaviour I would have gone in and I could have been as nice as pie and then he would have had no behaviour to judge whatsoever, I just went in very relaxed and myself and a bit over the top probably.
 
And he couldn’t make anything of it so?
 
And he just thought you’re wild… wild equals bipolar, bipolar equals olanzapine and lithium.
 
So really within ten minutes or so of speaking to him he was offering you lithium?
 
Yes.
 
Without any other tests or diagnosis?
 
Yes, yes.
 

Olivia X was shocked by the way she was treated ‘I had no concept...

Olivia X was shocked by the way she was treated ‘I had no concept...

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The psychiatrist that I saw I was quite resistant too and I thought that he was making some snap decisions he initially thought I had, well he, I was definitely emotionally dysfunctional so he initially said bipolar disorder but I was, couldn’t accept that as a diagnosis, I just said ‘No I’ve got the divorce, I’ve got this shitty situation at work, it’s not that - it’s the situation I’m in, it’s not me - it’s all these things I’m having to deal with,’ and so he wanted me to go on olanzapine and lithium and I have a friend who’s on lithium clinical trial and I didn’t want to touch the stuff so I said no because I want to look at what the toxicological l issues are, I want to look at the side effects, you’ve not taken my blood pressure, I’m feeling quite wired and tense, I probably have got high blood pressure, you know. There’s all these physical things you haven’t, nobody’s looked at and also I had had no periods for like two months so I said maybe this is menopause, nobody’s looking into this. and I had also had my breasts were making milk a little bit as I had a three year old, my son was three at the time but I had stopped breast feeding at six months so it was all a bit peculiar that my breasts were making milk. So I said all of these things should be looked at because I could be physically ill or it could be a hormonal thing. And so I was bit challenging to the psychiatrist which I think he didn’t really appreciate.
 
This has escalated so quickly and had been so extreme. And I mean that episode still haunts me to this day, how quickly something, your liberty can be taken away, shocking, shocking, absolutely shocking. I actually believe it’s against the law what they did, you know, because I didn’t really feel like I got any consenting. It was just like you’re ill we’re having you that’s basically the way it was handled, and then we’ll put you in a place that isn’t even therapeutic, you know, I would have been better off at home with my parents pissing off and leaving me alone, you know, that’s basically what would have been better for me. And some were all being sent on a nice little holiday to a hotel somewhere in the countryside, that would have been therapeutic, this was not therapeutic, it was prison; I was in prison as far as I’m concerned. So if you, if I have any advice to anybody it’s like take super care of the power that the psychiatrist has because I had no concept that this was, if I’d, if I’d said to the psychiatrist I don’t believe your diagnosis, I don’t want to take your medicine I didn’t know that he could do that to me, you know, absolutely shocking.
 

Olivia X said the NHS hospital she was taken to was like a prison...

Olivia X said the NHS hospital she was taken to was like a prison...

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So the psychiatrist then felt that I ought to go under observation and go into an acute hospital so I got sectioned for assessment which was shocking in itself because two police turned up here and I, and another psychiatrist and a social worker and I just found the whole thing really shocking and I was like shouting at them because I couldn’t believe the intrusion, the way it was done was just mind blowing.
 
I got taken to an NHS secure hospital which was mind blowing as well... because the people in there are just like all different state of affairs and the facilities are pretty rudimentary so you don’t have very much privacy I was in a six bed unit there weren’t that many resources there so there was nothing, you couldn’t go outdoors, there was nothing entertaining to do. You literally were in this sort of bubbly vacuum of nothingness really. The people in my ward were in various states, the woman next door to me wanted to kill herself, the woman on the other side of her was so, me, was so demented she kept falling out of bed, I had a book that I took with me and she couldn’t even turn the pages. You know it was just going into the most incredible situation with people you are never likely to normally meet.
 
There were a couple of guys that were stalking people and just didn’t have, you know, they were so psychotic they didn’t know that that wasn’t right, it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying to be on this ward.
 
So I got to the private hospital which is a famous one, all very glamorous and well obviously it was much more comfortable and much more therapeutic and you have a lovely hotel -like room and, you know, you feel more civilised and, you know, you feel more sort of cherished and I got put on suicide watch. Now I’d not even mentioned suicide to anybody but it’s like this super acceleration of if you’re behaving badly then suddenly you’re suicidal which I’d never, I’ve got kids, I’m not, you know. So that happened for three days they kept on checking me every hour through the night, all my stuff, you didn’t have anything sharp that sort of thing. So I just went with it, my periods started and I instantly felt better so maybe there was a PMT issue going on here as well. and basically I just behaved like a good little girl, went to all the relaxing things, the psychotherapy which was like being with a gay best friend, and took the Seroquel which I was told to take by the psychiatrist there who thought I was hyper manic or a paranoid psychotic and took that, started to take that and I think a few days later you did start feeling this sort of, it makes you sleepy and I asked her can I not take it during the day can I just take it at night because I can’t see the point of me being this sleepy during the day when you’re wanting me also to, to take part in group therapy and one to one therapy and swimming and yoga and all sorts of lovely jolly things, you know. So I took it at night and it did help me sleep more and obviously the dose sort of slowly ratcheted up and I’m quite small so I think I got 200 milligrams really because of my size which isn’t very much because I know people who have taken 600 and something like that. So and that just took me to a level where I was getting consistent sleep and my moods were just becoming more regular.
 

Olivia X said there was no therapy offered at the acute hospital...

Olivia X said there was no therapy offered at the acute hospital...

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Talking through in group therapy and hearing other situations that people were having to deal with. Horrible situations that happened in people’s pasts, horrible just, you know, stuff like from the news really. And accepting that they were taking similar sort of, not necessarily the same medication but they were taking similar sorts of medication in order to dampen down all those fears that where rising in them for whatever trigger had risen some of their ancient fears so. I think once I was in a community of people that were prepared to express their problems which I hadn’t, there was no group therapy and talking therapy at the acute hospital I went to.
 
Even though everybody was casually telling each other what their problems were there was no structure to it and there was no and how do you get out of that hole to it. And at least the private clinic there was, you know, like and here’s how you do, you know they introduced us to CBT, they told us about the methods, you’ve got this fear, how big is this fear, is it real, does it really affect that situation and so you started to like wake up to how you can control those thoughts and things so. I think learning CBT really, really helped because it did stop me and made me analyse. And also being amongst people who were wanting to be protected and wanting to get better actually helped me to get more in that mindset. And I also, it helped me to get my problems into relative respective as well.
 

Olivia X goes to a yoga class, which is relaxing and calming...

Olivia X goes to a yoga class, which is relaxing and calming...

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Oh yes, yes yoga. So I got introduced to it at the private clinic and I carried on with it.
 
And how would that, do you think that benefitted you in any way?
 
What’s lovely about that is I’ve actually found a class where the ladies are just, they’re not like physically perfect and so you’re not feeling like you’ve, you know. They’re obviously hale and hearty women who’ve played hockey when they were at school and they’re really nice and solid.
 
Keeping active
 
Yes exactly they’ve got this, one of them, they pair up in the class and one of them is very gentle, very nurturing and the other is very ‘come on we can strengthen and we can do it.’ But it’s non-competitive so you’re all doing it at your own level and just being in a room with 20 people who are not competing with each other, they’re not trying to prove anything to each other, on a weekly basis is actually lovely.
 
Calming for the mind.
 
Calming for the mind because you know very often when you‘re socialising, you’re socialising at parties you’re sort of trying to prove yourself or keep up with the flow or, there’s nothing like that ....we’re all just at peace in a room. We don’t really, you know, everybody is like affable they say hello, they say goodbye you sometimes support each other with activities but mainly you’re in, you’re just in a space with no one critiquing you, no one.
 
It sounds valuable.
 
It’s very good, very, very good.
 

Olivia X disagreed with the diagnosis given by the psychiatrist...

Olivia X disagreed with the diagnosis given by the psychiatrist...

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I would have liked a proper psychiatric consultation because it was literally within ten minutes he told me I was bipolar. And in fact to say that is a little bit like taking the rug from under your feet because you’re basically saying I think you’re loopy, you know. And I think that’s appalling I think you couldn’t just suddenly say to someone you’re got cancer, you couldn’t suddenly just say, you know, and he didn’t have a check list or anything that he was going through in a methodical manner, it was just purely on my behaviour. Now if he said look I’m going to be judging your behaviour I would have gone in and I could have been as nice as pie and then he would have had no behaviour to judge whatsoever, I just went in very relaxed and myself and a bit over the top probably.
 
And he couldn’t make anything of it so?
 
And he just thought you’re wild… wild equals bipolar, bipolar equal’s olanzapine and lithium.
 
So really within ten minutes or so of speaking to him he was offering you lithium?
 
Yes.
 
Without any other tests or diagnosis?
 
Yes, yes.
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