Strategies for Balance and Resilience












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Lynn Hodges Blog

By saraneville, May 19 2014 05:15PM

Many health professionals know relatively little about what it feels like to have bipolar disorder. If they can’t empathise, is it possible to provide adequate support? During the last 5 years, I’ve been using my personal experience to help them understand.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2004. Since then I’ve embarked on a difficult and enlightening journey of self discovery. I wanted to understand more about my condition and how it affects me, to help me come to terms with it. My research and my experience led me to write a book, and now I run programmes for health professionals, including doctors, psychiatrists and social workers, passing on the benefit of what I’ve learnt as a bipolar sufferer.

I’ve come across hundreds of people working in health and social care, many of them excellent at what they do. They’re very good at organising medication, visiting and generally listening; but they have no personal experience of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person bipolar. They don’t understand how black depression can be, or how frightening mania is or how stressful it is for families who live with bipolar. My course sets out to tell them what it’s really like.

I talk about my harrowing experiences of being sectioned in the UK, how unnerving it can be to have intervention from a crisis team, and about the insecurities one faces in the early days of recovery at home. It can be emotionally draining to re-visit such distressing moments in my life. My sisters, who have also carried the burden of my illness and have been central to my recovery, come along to speak to some groups too, to describe their experience of bipolar.

Working in groups we discuss the answers to challenging questions and scenarios, that I hope will help doctors and social workers to empathise more closely with bipolar patients, and understand how small changes in their working practice can make huge difference to the experience of the ‘service user’.

Feedback is always overwhelmingly positive: ‘Fascinating insight that will help me in my professional life as a social worker,’ ‘Why aren’t all training courses this good?’ ‘Refreshing to attend a course run by someone with first-hand experience,’ ‘Excellent! This programme is practical and useful. Not a box-ticking exercise.’

I currently only work in the South East of England and I’d like to see more courses like mine run up and down the country. I’d like to see all health professionals given the opportunity to attend workshops run by people who have used the system – the ‘service users’ themselves. That way, health professionals will come to understand that the small, incremental changes they make can make all the difference to patients who are not only mentally ill, but often struggling to navigate their way through an unwieldy, bureaucratic system.


By saraneville, Apr 11 2014 05:42PM

It's 50 days since I decided to take drastic action and get my ever increasing weight down. I’m on an extreme health diet programme where I eat only 600 calories a day. So far I've lost 2 stone 4lbs. Whoop! whoop!

It hasn’t been fact this challenge has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I realise now just how much I was eating. You probably know that one side effect of taking Lithium and anti-psychotics can be weigh gain. I used to be a svelte size 10 until I was diagnosed with bipolar and put on medication. Over the next 10 years I put on a stone a year.

For years I’ve blamed being fat on my medication; and there is some truth in it, but when I think more objectively I realise I’ve been using the medication as an excuse.

Eating less and exercising more seems to be the simple answer for me. I’ve found that focussing on my goal of losing three stone and visualising what it would feel like to be slimmer, has helped me stay on track.

It’s interesting how negative people can be, saying things like ‘well, the weight will go back on after the 100 days!’ I am here to prove them WRONG. I refuse to go back to my old eating habits. I realise that food has been my emotional crutch. Well, no more I say! I already feel so much better about myself. And I’ve noticed basic things, like I can put my shoes on more easily and get off the sofa unaided, whereas before I was struggling. What a way to have lived!

If you suffer from an increase weight gain due to your medication, trust that you can still lose weight with the right health plan and guidance. The diet I’m using may not be right for you, so consult your doctor before you make any changes to your lifestyle.

I’ll keep you posted on my 100 day slimming challenge.


By saraneville, Mar 15 2014 06:08PM

I have been living in a blur for the past couple of months, having the odd good day but generally finding myself in a Bipolar low, struggling to operate at my normal level. I think the weather plays a very big part in the life of a bipolar person, maybe more so than for other people generally. The fact is, I need the sun to start feeling good in myself.

Now, at last, I feel that this is the start of a new awakening.....hearing the birds sing in the morning, seeing the flowers bud, the lovely Daffodils and Irises forcing their way up through the ground; it feels like life is in bloom and there is hope all around! It might seem airy fairy, but I can only write what is true to me – perhaps you recognise the way I feel and understand the difference the sunshine makes to you? I also feel more energised and motivated; lighter in step as I decide to take myself off on country walks, where nature is all around. Life is regenerating and I feel regenerated with it, gaining mental strength and feeling more resilient than I did during January and February.

This is a recognisable annual pattern for me and I have come to know from experience that I feel at my best during spring and summer. These months help me manage my mental illness and appreciate that I will come out of the darkness into the light and I will smile and embrace life once again. How do you feel this spring?

Lynn Hodges

By saraneville, Mar 2 2014 12:08PM

Today I spent my time delivering a speech on Advance Care Planning to a group of health professionals who all work with vulnerable adults. I am in a strong position to speak on the subject because I have Bipolar and have been admitted to hospital with and without a plan. I know from painful experience, that having an Advance Care Plan gives you a voice when you may have lost mental capacity.

An Advance Care plan is an opportunity for you to inform the health professionals what you want to happen when you are in hospital. My advance decision is to ensure that I am NOT given sleeping pills to bring me down from mania, nor do I want to be given ECT as a treatment. My wishes and preferences are that my children are looked after by my sister Kay, my utility companies are informed of my situation by my care co-ordinator, my mother is not to be informed of my illness due to her own ill health. I also state in my advance care plan that I would like to go into a female only ward. I also mention that I am an active person and enjoy walking as a way of helping my mental health. I state that I am an extrovert by nature and should be given lots of activities to keep me interested on the ward.

I typed my Advance Care plan and dated it and got my care co-ordinator to sign it as proof that I was in my right mind when I wrote it. Once this had happened I was then advised to give a copy of it to my two sisters, my GP and my psychiatric doctor. I also gave a copy to my children so they could give it to the doctor on the ward should I have a relapse.

I have been in a Mental Hospital three times in my life. When I went in for a third time I had an Advance Care Plan that was given to the Doctor. I was pleased to say I had a very different and more positive experience when I had a plan. I was not given sleeping pills allowing me to come down from my manic episode naturally. I healed just as quickly without the side effects of the drugs.

I would strongly recommend writing an Advance Care Plan. We all know with Bipolar the chances are we will relapse and have to spend a period of time in hospital. Remember the Advance Care Plan gives you a voice.

Contact me if you need advice about how to put an Advance Care Plan in place, or how to write one.


By saraneville, Feb 19 2014 04:09PM

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2004 and I have had three manic episodes that have had me hospitalised. After the last time, in 2009, I was put on an anti-psychotic and I’ve remained on a dosage of 15mg for the past five years. When taking the drugs I noticed an increase in weight, a lack of emotional engagement and a decrease in my sex drive; and once I was on the drugs no doctor ever mentioned changing my medication, reducing the dose or coming off the pills all together.

I decided this year that I would think about that – and maybe come off my anti-psychotics. So, I spoke to my doctor who agreed that over a course of six weeks I could reduce my medication by a certain amount every two weeks. My care-coordinator kept a very close eye on me, to make sure I didn’t begin to get high (because it’s the anti-psychotic that keep you down). I am pleased to say no signs of mania have occurred.

Today is my first day without medication, other than Lithium. I feel elated in a positive, calm and controlled way. My feelings or emotions for want of a better word are now working properly. I can cry when I want to, laugh and engage with people once again. .....I feel I have lived in a blur for five years and now I have been set free. It is a wonderful feeling!

It is important to remember that anti-psychotics have a place when treating mental illness, though how long you have to stay on the medication depends on the individual. It’s imperative that you speak to your doctor. Don’t feel that you have no options, especially if you’ve been on the same prescriptions for years. Have a frank discussion about how you feel about your meds and how you can work with your medication, rather than feeling that it controls you. Finally, don’t make decisions on your own; speak to friends, family, care co-ordinators and medics. Never come off medication unless you’re advised to do so.

But think about this: Is it time for a change? If the answer is yes, then maybe you should make an appointment or begin a dialogue that can make it happen.

Good luck.