The Bipolar Lift extends holistic, no-cost support to individuals living with bipolar disorder and their families. The organisation's mission revolves around enhancing the overall wellbeing of these individuals by providing emotional and practical assistance. This involves engaging in dialogue through one-on-one or group sessions, embarking on nature walks and excursions, and offering guidance on personal financial matters. By addressing these pivotal areas of an individual's life, the organisation aims to elevate their general well-being and assist them in regaining control over their lives.
Moreover, each service recipient receives a customised self-help plan that acknowledges and caters to their unique needs. While physically located in Nottingham we offer in-person support for local service users, while those beyond the area can access assistance through telephone and Zoom communication.
The Bipolar Lift emerged from an individual who personally lives with bipolar disorder, highlighting its genuine dedication to filling an unmet requirement within our community.
A variety of services are available to Nottingham and Nottinghamshire residents (Zoom nationwide), including:
"I will never forget how much help The Bipolar Lift provided, they listened to me and even accompanied me to my psychiatrist appointments and helped in my recovery"
With years of experience, our team of volunteer Mental Health Social Workers, Health & Wellbeing Manager and well-being volunteers will assess you and create a custom self help plan that's right for you. We understand the importance of educating you on the most effective ways to take care of yourself, so that you can become the best you can be by overcoming any employment, welfare, debt etc, issues you may be facing.
"Great service and I know I can rely on The Bipolar Lift to help"
By offering holistic support, we expect to significantly improve the quality of life of those in need and enable people to live fulfilled, happier lives while managing their condition.
BBC Interview by Rebecca Brice
After a Bipolar Diagnosis -
Finding The Path Forward Through The Labyrinth
I found myself in the car park outside the Mental Health Department of the hospital. The sun was glaring in my eyes as the low December sun reflected off the puddles; it had been overcast and drizzly when I’d gone in. But even though the weather had shifted and the sky had cleared to an alpine blue, my mind was even more clouded than when I’d gone in to my appointment.
Coming here wasn’t something new to me; I’d been attending appointments every couple of months for about 2 years. Today was definitely different though. Usually I’d leave an appointment with some notes in my bag about medication changes and other things I needed to remember, and I’d get in the car and go. My life had changed today in less than half an hour and I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself now.
I’d just been diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. It’s true that it had been suspected since I first started coming here to see my psychiatrist - that’s why my GP referred me to secondary care. Today was the day that it had been confirmed and I’ll admit I was surprised how much it blindsided me that I now had this label floating above my head.
What it feels like right after you get a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
As you’d probably imagine, getting a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition, what’s classed as a Serious Mental Illness (SMI), feels like a huge deal. In a fraction of a moment, my sense of self was thrown into disarray…my life up until that point started to reel around my head through the prism of this new diagnosis. Ahh, so much of this makes sense now. But alongside these little explosions of clarity and relief came a sense of sadness that at 36, I hadn’t had this knowledge about myself years ago.
I knew what Bipolar Disorder was, obviously, as I’d done a good amount of reading about it when my GP had first suspected that’s what was going on with me. But to know what something is as a concept, on the pages of a book, and then to have it confirmed that you actually have it is a very different feeling.
I’m not sure how long I sat outside the hospital building, the cold brick wall chilling my legs through my jeans, but it was a while. Finally I thought about what to do next; do I call someone and get the news off my chest? Just carry on with my day and deal with this later? I was due to go to work after my appointment and as I couldn’t think of any better plan, I walked to the car, got in, and turned on auto-pilot.
For the rest of the day I only felt half-preset. The news was churning around in my mind and thinking of how I was going to tell my partner, my family, if I was going to tell anyone else beyond that. Sharing the news felt like a lot of pressure because I imagined I’d have to have some sort of explanation to back up the statement “I’ve been diagnosed Bipolar” and to be honest, I didn’t really have anything. I also really didn’t have the emotional energy to give a Ted Talk to help everyone else understand.
When I got home that evening I told my partner and eventually told my mum. I decided to send my mum a text message, because I felt like I could decide exactly what I wanted to say much easier that way. As time went on I shared my news with my close friends and the managers at work, because I felt the support I needed would only be as good as it could be if people knew what I was going through.
This was almost 3 years ago now, and although that’s not particularly long, I feel as if I’ve been through enough to be able to share some insights to others who are newly diagnosed and how they could navigate those first few days and weeks.
What your next steps might look when you receive the correct diagnosis
You’re now at the start of a long path of self-rediscovery, not just of your relationship with yourself but other people’s relationship with you, too. These following points are some bits of advice and observances I’ve gained along my journey so far, and I want to share it with others at the start of their own.
1.Be kind to yourself
The first thing to remember when you receive your diagnosis is that being kind to yourself should be your biggest priority. You’ve just been given a life-changing piece of news and it’s completely valid to feel as if your world has been turned upside down. As I said previously, even if you suspected you had it, knowingyou have is a very different feeling.
It can take a long time to get your head around the fact you’re Bipolar, and for it to sink in. You’ll be learning about Bipolar Disorder for the rest of your life, but accepting the diagnosis is a big first step, because only by accepting it can you start to do the right things for yourself and your wellness.
Don’t rush yourself, and keep an open mind when you’re learning about symptoms and treatments.
2. Educate yourself on the disorder
I’d highly recommend reading as much as you can about the condition. Whilst it’s true that no one else’s experience will be exactly the same as yours, you’ll definitely be able to empathise with parts of other people’s story. Just by reading other’s experiences, you can feel a lot more validated in yours.
Whether you read blogs, forums, go to a support group, listen to podcasts or prefer to pick up a memoir, there’s plenty of choice out there. Just remember to only take from them what feels helpful, and that the people writing any content you read aren’t always professionals.
3. Don’t get caught up in the past
It’s natural to look back on your life and in retrospect start thinking about your experiences differently now you know you have Bipolar. Do try, however, not to get stuck in the common emotions of “if I’d have known sooner things could have been different”. They certainly could, but at least you’re able to give some deeper understanding to how things did pan out.
I personally found it cathartic being able to look back and attribute things to my Bipolar mind’s way of working. By understanding yourself through this new lens, it can really help you learn your true self and start to be a more genuine version of yourself.
4. Getting the support you need
Support comes in a range of shapes and sizes and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Whether you choose to take medication, request therapy, or a combination of both, it’s important to know that you have a choice in the matter.
Taking medication for Bipolar Disorder is playing the long game. Not only do the drugs prescribed for mental illness take a while to start showing beneficial effects, it’s not uncommon to need to trial several different ones before you settle on what works for you. This is especially true if you have co-morbid conditions like myself. Starting and stopping medications can take a while too, due to having to titrate up and down dosages between switching.
It requires lots of patience and an unwavering trust that through it all, through the side-effects and disappointment, it will be worth it in the end to reach some level of stability.
If you’re offered therapy, psychoeducation or you choose to pay for some private sessions yourself, get as much out of it as you can. You’ll ideally need someone who’s experienced in dealing with people with Bipolar, as standard CBT and some other forms of therapy aren’t generally tailored to the condition.
5. The journey doesn’t follow a linear path
As you can probably tell from the previous point, it’s not always a straightforward path towards stability, and stability won’t always remain even if you reach it. The important thing is to not get disheartened if you feel as if your symptoms resurface, even if you’ve had a period of stability.
Remember that medications and therapies are there to help you experience more stability, or enable you to handle symptoms better and bounce back more quickly.
They never promise to “cure” mental illness, so don’t see episodes as a set-back. They’re pretty much to be expected, it’s just about how you deal with them and making sure you have a good support plan in place.
The best you can do is try to learn something from any episodes you experience. Did you notice anything that may have triggered it? Did a coping technique you tried or process you followed help when you were struggling? Make notes of it in your journal, if you decide to keep one, because it may just help you out next time around.
6. Telling others about the news
You’ll probably want to talk to your friends and family about your diagnosis, but don’t feel as if you’re obliged to do that before you’re ready. Maybe telling them will be the first thing you want to do, to get it off your chest. On the other hand, you might decide to wait a while until you’ve got your own mind a little more settled. There’s no correct timeline, way to do it or even obligation to tell everyone. It’s completely your decision.
When you do decide to tell people around you, try not to have a predetermined idea of how they’ll react or what they’ll say. Getting the news for them is likely to be a big deal too, and they may not know what to say or how to act for the best. It’s likely they’ve never had someone share this with them before, so forgive them if they take a while to react or come out with something a bit dumb…they’re probably trying their best.
I think the most interesting response I got was from my mum who said “ah well, at least it’s not Schizophrenia!”. Little did she know that it’s not that far removed, in fact it’s on the same spectrum, but I think it was her way of trying to make me feel better.
7.Creating a support network
It’s helpful if your support network is varied, purely because each type of support will give you something different and unique. Whilst it’s important to have the backing of medical professionals for things such as medication monitoring, it’s useful to spread your net wider than what you’ll be offered from the health service.
Peer support makes a huge difference to those living with mental illness. There have been several studies that have shown a reduction of readmission figures when the patients received peer support after their discharge from hospital. This is the same for those living in the community with psychiatric conditions, who generally experience a better level of resilience and self-understanding when exposed to peer support.
There’s a gaping cavern between primary (GP level) and secondary (CMHT and psychiatry) which leaves many people with Bipolar often stuck and unable to get the right support. Especially as there’s such seemingly poor communication between the two.
Having someone to help you plug this gap is really helpful and you can do this with either a charity who can act as an advocate for you, such as Bipolar Lift, or a government funded independent service like Healthwatch. Reach out to them to see how they can support you in accessing the therapies you need.
Where to start when everything feels like a whirlwind
If you’ve just been diagnosed, reach out to others who get where you’re coming from. Even if you don’t have a group nearby, there are plenty of national Bipolar charities who you can talk to for advice. Many even have forums you can join to talk to others going through the same thing.
You can start by getting in touch with Bipolar Lift and checking out the information on their website for practical help and advice. Their staff have lived experience, so they’re well placed to offer you support and advice.
This blog was written for The Bipolar Lift by Melanie Clarke, aka Bipolar Nerd Girl. Melanie lives in Yorkshire, UK and has a diagnosis of Bipolar and OCD. She advocated for better support for those living with mental illness, and writes blogs on a range of topics which you can read here - https://bipolarnerdgirl.ghost.io/