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Three years after being diagnosed with bipolar II, I’m still trying to find the right medication for me

Annie’s experience of mental illness has dramatically affected her life and she’s still struggling to find treatment – she believes research has the power to change that.

I was officially diagnosed with bipolar II at the age of 23, over a decade after my symptoms first began – and over a year since I first sought help.

Looking back, my symptoms started when I was 13 – I fluctuated between anxiety, depression and mania – but this was put down to teenage mood-swings at the time.

At 23 years old, I experienced a manic episode which spanned two months, followed by an incredibly difficult period of depression. I went to the GP and came away with a prescription for an antidepressant and a place on a 12-week waiting list for therapy. 

When the antidepressant made me feel even more anxious I went back to the GP who offered me an alternative. My depression had got so bad that I was worried for my safety and told my family that I had sought help. 

At this point, my parents took me to a private consultant – but it would be another 9 months before I was given a diagnosis. Now three years on, my consultant and I are still trying to find the right combination of medication that works for me. The minimal understanding of mental illness means that some medications have done more harm than good.

I had to take a whole year off work due to my condition and this trial-and-error approach to treatment. I’m now back, but have arranged to have remote access so that when my depression and anxiety is really bad I can work from home.

In periods of mania, I struggle to focus because my brain is moving so quickly and I have a sedentary office job. To manage my condition, I run before work, walk in my lunch break and do sport after work. I have to keep this active or I feel like I can’t function. Sometimes I have to go to a meeting room and do yoga to calm down or go for a walk to burn off nervous energy.  It has been difficult to explain and I have learned to use humour and “banter” to deflect attention from my bizarre behaviour. 

When I first heard about MQ and mental health research, I thought ‘Brilliant! They might be able to cure me!”. But right now, more realistically, I think mental health research means understanding what people are going through and how to diagnose people better and sooner.

If we can catch people’s illness when symptoms first arise then people will be in a better position to learn coping tools, which could even prevent suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people – if we can remove the stigma and start improving diagnosis and treatment through research – then maybe we can reduce that. 

We all have the capacity to suffer with our mental health at some point in our lives and we simply do not know enough about it. The main treatment for bipolar disorder is the same for me as it was for my great-grandmother. How can we not have progressed more to find different options that work? Mental health is important to everyone and we should all be invested in improving it.

I want to see MQ expand – I think it’s incredibly important that they exist and I am sure that whatever they do going forward will lead to something ground-breaking.

We're funding research to tackle the major challenges in mental health to help people like Annie. Find out about our projects here

Last updated: 24 July 2017

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