REAL STORIES OF PEOPLE WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER – On treating bipolar disorder with Carmen, Part II.

The second part of the interview with Carmen describes her experience with treatment for bipolar disorder. Particularly her perception of the care of psychiatrists, psychologists, and hospitalisation.

Carmen, could you tell us more about your experience with treatment for bipolar disorder? How do you feel about taking medication?

I’ve taken various medications combined in different ways to make them work as they should. Generally, there are different medications for the depression phase and others for the manic phase.

When I’m depressed, I’m on antidepressants, but it is crucial to stop taking them when in hypomania. With bipolar disorder, doctors have to try different medications to see which ones fit the best for a patient’s case. Medications also have many side effects. For example, I have experienced skin rashes or digestive issues after taking certain medicines. Eventually, me and my doctor found the combination of medications that suit me mentally and physically. The most important is to take the medication regularly and on time. Unfortunately, I have to say I have experienced combining medicines with alcohol, which is really not okay.

Do you have any experience with non-drug treatments, such as psychotherapeutic or psychological care?

I believe it is very important to follow psychiatric treatment as well as psychological and psychotherapeutic treatment. I’ve been through pretty much everything and I would encourage anyone with mental health problems to seek professional help. Honestly, I’ve only had the best experiences. The main benefit behind seeking help is that someone listens to me, and I can talk things through and get feedback.

What is your experience with hospitalisation?

I have only had positive experiences with hospitalisation because they have always helped me. I think it helps that there are people with the same or similar problems. People there struggle with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, so I feel we are all in the same boat. I would encourage anyone with long-term mental health issues not to be afraid of hospitalisation cause there is nothing wrong with it. A dedicated and experienced team of doctors and nurses took care of me. There are various therapy programs such as group therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, relaxation, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The length of hospitalisation varies. In my experience, it lasted three to four weeks, but one time I was there for six weeks. It usually depends on the treatment and the condition of the patient. Truthfully, I only have the best hospitalisation experience, which has always helped me. I’ve been hospitalised about ten times, in Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice and at the National Institute of Mental Health, which I recommend.

You have mentioned the various therapeutic activities during your hospitalisation. Which ones were the most beneficial for you? 

I mostly enjoyed occupational therapy involving manual tasks such as bead stringing. I have lots of bracelets, and I carry them around. But the most beneficial were CBT techniques and memory training. Memory, especially when depressed, stops working, and it’s good to strengthen it. The group therapy sessions were also interesting; one patient usually had the floor and told the others his story, and the others responded. It was exciting and rewarding to listen to the experiences of others, even if they were sometimes unfortunate. I also enjoyed therapeutic exercise, which taught me the importance of working out.

Do you have any favourite experience from your hospitalisation?

For me, the best experience is always getting out of depression and back to normal. Suddenly, I come alive and start over. I enjoy everything; I can spend time with my kids and myself. I also have pleasant experiences with my fellow patients. You make new friends who know how you feel. I am in contact with some of them even after my release; sometimes, we exchange text messages and stay in touch.

Do you take any habits back from your hospital stay into your everyday life?

There are more habits, but the most important thing is a regular regime. A breakfast-lunch-dinner routine and supplementing it with some activity. For example, for me, going for a walk outside is essential. 

Do you have any methods or strategies that help you with depression or mania ?

Yes, for me, sports usually help. I like badminton or being out in the air and cycling or skating. Being around friends helps me or being alone listening to music also.

Carmen told us about her experience with the treatment of bipolar disorder, what options she has used within the Czech health care system and what she perceives as beneficial. In the next article we will learn more about how bipolar disorder can affect relationships and what risks it entails.


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