“I am more than my bipolar disorder” – Vhea’s story


After experiencing a manic episode, Vhea was detained under the Mental Health Act and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. With support from her family and friends, she now works as a mental health nurse, hopeful for the future.

I wanted to start this by sharing how I see myself. I see myself as loving, compassionate and thoughtful. I particularly enjoy singing, dancing, reading, writing and learning Spanish. I commenced my blog this way because once you have a diagnosis of a mental illness, it is so easy to allow this to define and shape your identity. I am more than my bipolar disorder.

In 2020 as an eighteen year old, I underwent a manic episode during quarantine, which led to a two month psychiatric admission under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. I exhibited all the symptoms - the grandiosity, hyperactivity, impulsivity, sleepless nights, delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations.

I was in disbelief that I was unwell and refused to be sent by my family to hospital. To me, I was happy and on cloud nine. My mania and psychosis caused me to have such a massive disconnect from reality.

What I held onto, during my admission, was my faith in Christianity. This brought me everlasting hope, to the point I assumed I was in heaven and was constantly singing worship songs. In an environment, which was meant to be of great distress and anxiety, I was rejoicing. 

  • My mania and psychosis caused me to have such a massive disconnect from reality.

But once I realised that I was in hospital, toward the end of my admission and discharge, the depression sunk in. The side effects of the antipsychotics had a detrimental impact on my self-esteem. In 2021, I had lost myself entirely. I felt purposeless, remaining in bed all day feeling sedated, unable to shower. I reached the point of severe self-neglect. I even went to the point of dropping out of university, where I studied English literature. I left as I felt incapable and incredibly anxious.

But, in trials of difficulty, my parents brought me strength. My father would visit me daily on the ward to provide me with food and my mother took months off work to care for me. With my understanding of how stigmatising mental illness can be, especially in ethnic minority backgrounds, I remain grateful to my family for supporting me.

To bring about healing, I encourage those experiencing mental illness to talk about their struggles, to build a posture of vulnerability because in your transparency to others, you bring hope and resurrect life to those who feel lost.

  • I’m currently living an extremely fulfilling life with hope for the future.

It was truly my friends and church which were driving factors toward my recovery. I’d find statistics filled with hopelessness regarding the mortality rates of those with bipolar disorder, but I’m currently living an extremely fulfilling life with hope for the future.

In fact, I’m currently in my third year of studying mental health nursing. Though I was once a patient, I’m currently on my last placement at a male psychiatric ward! My lived experience truly helps me to work with compassion and see the patients for who they are. 

So, for those reading, let this be an encouragement that despite the tribulations now, you will see how life will have a miraculous ability to turn itself around towards greater glory.

I always remind others that when you have a pulse you continue to have a purpose, although you may not know what it is yet, every trial builds us up in so much perseverance and resilience. I’d never want to take away my experience of a psychiatric admission because it led me into the career that I’m about to walk into. Everything works out for good.

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