“I feel in control of my life again” – Nadia’s story
Nadia reflects on her difficult journey through mental health services, from adolescence to adulthood. Though she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder much later in her life, she is now the most stable she has ever been.
Growing up, I always felt different to my peers. I was emotional, loud, reckless and desperate to be liked. I was also severely depressed which is when my mum took me to the GP for the first time. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and started on anti-depressants. Little did I know this would be the start of 20+ years in and out of mental health services.
After a few days of taking this medication, I was euphoric, irritable, barely sleeping and acting completely out of character. Looking back at it now, I believe this was my first hypomanic episode. It was at this point in my life that I start researching what was ‘wrong’ with me. Information from websites, like Rethink, helped me figure out what I most related to.
Receiving the diagnosis at the age of 28 was bittersweet.
At my first CAMHS appointment, I told the psychiatrist that I thought I may have bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder (BPD). These suggestions were quickly dismissed because I was ‘too young’ (16) to be diagnosed. I bounced back and forth with mental health services until my 18th birthday, when I was told I was too old to keep seeing CAMHS but not severe enough to be moved over to adult mental health services.
When I moved to university, I went completely off the rails. I fell into addiction and stopped taking all my medications. I was drinking heavily, regularly using substances, got myself in a lot of debt, lost countless relationships and put myself in really dangerous situations.
I was lucky to meet my current partner during this time and he really supported me through the highs and lows. He’s actually the one who encouraged me to give mental health services one more try. When I graduated from university, I landed a job at a small charity working with young people.
I was drinking heavily, regularly using substances, got myself in a lot of debt, lost countless relationships and put myself in really dangerous situations.
I managed to get an appointment and after a six month wait and 40 minute chat, I was officially diagnosed with BPD. I was started on an antipsychotic and referred for intensive therapy. I still questioned if I had bipolar but was told again that I did not fully meet the criteria. The therapy helped me in ways I never thought it would. I know I was probably being naïve, but it was so much harder than I ever imagined it would be.
I saw many psychiatrists as they kept leaving the NHS, and in February 2023 I was assigned another new one. I once again mentioned I thought I may have bipolar disorder type two, and this was the first time with a mental health professional where I actually felt listened to. She agreed that I met all the symptoms and diagnosed me.
Receiving the diagnosis at the age of 28 was bittersweet. I was happy to finally have answers and hopefully be able to start a treatment plan that worked. But I was also so angry. I was angry that I could have avoided so much debt, three suicide attempts, trauma, lost friendships if I’d just been listened to earlier.
Little 12-year-old me never would have thought I could be where I am now.
I am so happy to say that after six months on a new medication, this is the first year since I was 12 that I haven’t had a depressive episode in the autumn. My mood has been the most stable it’s ever been, and I feel in control of my life again. Through all of this I have stayed in the same job, with the same partner (eight years now!) and I’ve even worked my way up to becoming the Chief Executive.
I still have episodes, but they are less severe and less often; they don’t interfere with my life anymore. I’m actually waiting to be reassessed to see if I still have BPD as I feel after therapy, I no longer meet the criteria.
One of the biggest things I had to come to terms with, is that therapy is not going to ‘fix’ me, but teach me better ways of coping. Little 12-year-old me never would have thought I could be where I am now, I never thought I would amount to anything. Yet here I am.
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