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Newsletter January 2018 – Bipolarlife
Bipolarlife Newsletter January 2018

issue 100  (our 9th year)

January 2018

Bipolar Life Victoria

Upcoming Support Groups Meetings

click group location for further information

click group location for further information


Bipolar Support Group – Ballarat


A new bipolar support group will be opening shortly in Ballarat in early February 2018. Meetings will be held at the Eastwood Leasure Complex, 20 Eastwood St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350.

The first meeting is on Monday 5th February 2018 at 7:00pm with ongoing meetings every first and third Monday of each month. We discuss experiences, coping strategies and other related issues in a confidential environment. Attendance is free and no need to book, just come along.


Planning Ahead For Your Next Episode

By Paula Bostrom

I just finished filling out a WRAP plan with the help of my therapist. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan. The plan can be found at mentalhealthrecovery.com and is free to print out.

This isn’t the first time I’ve filled out the plan. Years ago while I was in an acute treatment unit for severe depression (before my bipolar I diagnosis) I half-heartedly filled one out as part of a recovery exercise. The plan has you list things to do that will help you maintain your wellness and what happens if things start breaking down.

In addition, WRAP can be used as part of your toolbox to list coping skills and wellness tips. It keeps everything in one complete package to help you remember.

I have no idea what happened to my WRAP plan from many years ago. I don’t even think I filled it out completely. There were sections of the plan that I didn’t think were important at the time.

My life today looks very different from when I first filled out the WRAP. Mania changes everything.

During my last manic episode six months ago, I almost got arrested, people had to watch me swallow my medication to be sure I took it, I was having visual and auditory hallucinations and I insisted I could walk to another town 50 miles away.

I barely avoided being hospitalized because my family, therapist and psychiatrist scrambled to help. I was lucky. My therapist later told me that one unfortunate move on my part and it would have been a completely different story. She said I was very unpredictable.

Mania is very unpredictable. I’m glad this past episode ended as well as it did and I’ve been compliant with my medication ever since, but both my therapist and I agreed that a plan needed to be in place for possible future episodes.

So, with more seriousness than the last time, I once again filled out the WRAP, paying special attention to the Crisis Plan part of it. It included listing my symptoms and people who I would like to take over when the symptoms become unmanageable and I can’t make decisions for myself. It had me list people I don’t want involved (there’s a certain doctor at the mental health center I go to that I don’t get along with), and medications and treatments I want to avoid if possible. There is a plan for staying home to get the care I need to reduce the chances of hospitalization, and what treatment facilities I would prefer if necessary.

There was one part that was especially difficult to fill out. I had to list what I needed my supporters to do if my behavior endangered myself or others. When I’m well and rational I could never imagine doing anything to harm anyone else. When I’m manic, rational thinking and self control is virtually gone and I find myself driving down the highway at 100 mph. It was hard to insist in the plan that my supporters call the police or drive me to the ER for a mental health evaluation if things break down to that point. (Although these steps may seem obvious to some, others may need specific instructions to realize the seriousness of the situation.)

At the end, the WRAP can be signed by you and by witnesses. If you appoint and name an agent to act on your behalf it can even be a durable power of attorney.

It wasn’t easy to fill out, but the WRAP is now in the hands of all my family and friends who are supporters, along with my therapist and doctor. I hope the crisis part of the plan sits there in my drawer without ever being used, but if it has to be, at least I have some control over this unpredictable illness.


Bipolar Carers Group

Our new Bipolar Carers Support Group meetings are held at South Yarra on the first Tuesday of each month commencing at 7:00pm (except January) – see https://bipolarlife.org.au/south-yarra-bp/

Close family and friends (bipolar carers or caregivers) can be a primary source of support for a person with bipolar disorder. Discussions include ways caregivers can take care of themselves, deal with the bipolar disorder and the personal impact it has on them.

Enquiries to admin@bipolarlife.org.au
David  9826-1422


Looking for new ways of living well with bipolar?

If you are over 18 and have bipolar disorder you may be eligible to help us trial new, online self-guided interventions designed to improve quality of life in people who experience bipolar. We are comparing two types of interventions that have been created by international experts which both include videos, exercises, tools, forums and an online coach.

To find out if these interventions are helpful, you would also be asked to complete 4 assessments (which include a telephone and online component) over a 6 month period. You will be reimbursed for participation in these assessments.


If you would like more information about the research or would like to participate go to: www.orbitonline.org

Our Stories

James’ Story


When did you first get symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

In my early twenties I showed the first symptoms of depression.  I went to counselling which helped.  In hindsight there were also periods of elevation in mood and some strange behaviour in my 20’s.  However a defining time was in 1997 (I was 27) when I landed a great full time job following uni (I was highly qualified with a PhD in marine / fisheries science). – the position was in New Zealand though and I was in such a distressed state before going, I went to the GP the day before the flight and the doctor advised anti-depressants – but I point blank refused to take them.  I did start a course of sleeping pills to help me sleep though. It was either cope or lose this big opportunity.

In New Zealand I wasn’t coping though and spiralled downhill fast.  After a few weeks I went to a GP who again diagnosed severe clinical depression, and prescribed Prozac, which this time I complied with.  But due to me not responding, the dose was increased a few times times, and due to not having any mood stabiliser on board I “switched”- had a manic Bipolar 1 episode. I had very strange behaviour and thinking – I was very paranoid, confused, had delusions (thought the phones at work were bugged, that people in the street and my doctors were trying to trick me). I was very hyperactive but thought that it was the sleeping pills!

After seeing some specialists – by myself – I was put on Melleril (an antipsychotic) but the pharmacy gave me pills with ten times the dose that was written on the prescription! Thankfully I didn’t take them as I had just enough sense to question it. I had a racing heart (200 bpm) so called 000 and the ambulance came – I was put in a hospital overnight – I thought the hospital staff had my mum on the phone (on speaker) the whole time. After hearing that I ended up in hospital my employer took things a lot more seriously, but it was a career limiting time. I had to go back to Australia to get cared for. The employer made my role redundant in the mean time and I never got back into the profession again. I applied for other jobs but never got them.

After 6 months I started working again, but as a labourer which I did for a couple of years. The exercise was good for me and gave my mind a rest.  I then started temping (computers and admin roles) and moved into reporting and data analysis as time went on, which was a better use of my skills. However at this stage I didn’t realise I was bipolar.  I saw psychiatrists on and off since the New Zealand episode.  In fact I wrote up four pages of notes on how my thinking was strange – including thinking that I was bipolar – oh the irony! My health record says “allergic(!) to Prozac”. At one stage they initially thought maybe I was schizophrenic but didn’t treat me for that.

When did you first get official diagnosis?

In 2010, so that took about 13 years from that major Bipolar I episode in NZ.

How did your first diagnosis come about?

I had a melt down at work.  I saw a different GP to usual.  I was on an anti-depressant.  He wanted to increase my anti-depressant but I said no because I’d been looking at self-diagnosis tools, etc.  The GP diagnosed Bipolar then and there. When I first got official diagnosis and new medications I cried at the chemist. It was confronting but also a relief to finally have some answers.

Things that have helped me:

  • Medication-getting that right helped a lot. And talking the medication everyday when I should.
  • Seeing a good psychiatrist regularly.
  • A psychologist did help in the past.
  • The Bipolar Life Support Groups. Meeting others, talking and listening to other people’s experiences.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones at work (to minimise annoying background noise).
  • Self-education – understanding my disorder through books and online.
  • Family support – my mum has been very supportive.
  • A stable environment – own house, stable job.
  • My dogs – company (I live by myself).
  • Sleeping well – I try to keep the same bed time and not stay up too late. (One night recently I worked on a work issue all night until 6 am.  I talked to the psychiatrist about this and nipped it in the bud.)
  • Listening to music – all sorts depending on my mood of course!
  • I keep a comprehensive diary using an app on my phone called eMoods. I log my sleep, moods, medication, anxiety, weight, etc.
  • Getting out and about with my girlfriend and seeing new things.

How I am going now:

I’m enjoying my work again after some flat times recently. Studying hard and learning new technologies. My boss is happy with me. I’ve nearly paid off my house. I have a girlfriend (who doesn’t know about the Bipolar yet but will soon). I’m going on an overseas holiday soon in April. My finances are going very well. My moods are stable and I can see that on my app (eMoods). I’ve managed to get off one of my meds – Olanzapine. I’m happy with life.

Save the Date

WEBINAR – Thursday, Feb 1, at 12:00 pm and at 7:00 pm

“Everything I Learned From My First Manic Episode in 16 Years”.

Daniel G. Taylor is a Mental Health Copywriter & Speaker

Webinar sign up link:-
2:00pm to 1:00pm     https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8607197312893873665.
7:00pm to 8:00pm     https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8607197312893873665.


LECTURE – Tuesday, February 6, 2018 from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Current Issues in Mental Health

Jim Goodin is a former Vice Principal with 30 years’ experience in regular, secondary and special needs schools. Currently the President of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia (Victoria) and co-chair of the Victorian Mental Health Week Advisory Committee, Jim is also committee member on many other Boards and Committees including the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Chisholm Institute Course Advisory Committee and the Melbourne Bipolar Network. Jim was also the former Vice – President of the Australian National Association for Mental Health and former President and Secretary of the OCD Foundation (now ARCVic).

Jim’s knowledge of mental illness comes from professional, voluntary and family experience. In this important talk, Jim gives the latest insights into the mental health sector and what the future may hold. The seminar will present very useful and current information to both consumers and professionals.

Isaac Schweitzer Room,The Melbourne Clinic 130 Church Street Richmond
(enter via Tweedie Lane)


We need you!

If you are between 18 and 60 years of age you may be eligible to take part in important new brain research.

This study is investigating thinking skills and emotion in people with bipolar disorder. It will involve a brain scan and participation in a range of thinking skills. The tests will take place over two 4 hour sessions at the Advanced Technology Centre at Swinburne University, Hawthorn. You will be reimbursed for your time and travel costs.

Further Information: James Karantonis                      jkarantonis@swin.edu.au                    03 9214 5628

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