Preferred name: Nicky
Age at Interview: 35
Age at diagnosis: 22
Background: Nicky lives with her partner in an inner suburb of a large city. She was born in Australia and identifies as having an Italian background. Nicky is currently working part-time in the mental health sector.
Nicky described being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22. She spent time in mental health units on two occasions and has tried a variety of medications. Nicky currently sees a psychiatrist and is prescribed an antipsychotic medication.
More about Nicky
During high school, Nicky remembered being bullied and 'not fitting in', which 'caused a lot of stress and anxiety'. She said her school 'didn't really care' and so a psychologist that she had begun seeing helped her enter an outside learning program for adolescents who were diagnosed with mental health issues. Nicky identified this as an 'opportunity to really come out of [herself] and learn to socialise with people who were undergoing difficulties' like hers. After finishing Year 11 in this program, she completed Year 12 in her original school. Wanting to become a nurse, she entered university, but found the practical part of working with patients in the mental health unit difficult because of '[her own] mental state'.
At age 22, Nicky deferred university for a year and decided to travel overseas, thinking this would 'make [her] happy'. Instead she 'ended up very manic and psychotic', and said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while in a mental health unit in the UK. Nicky said being diagnosed was good as it meant she could begin treatment, but that it was also 'really scary' becoming unwell in a foreign country.
This experience was Nicky's first hospitalisation. She described it as 'very different' from hospital in Australia, because 'they had a mixture of patients... all sort of piled in together', which she found intimidating. Nonetheless Nicky's second experience in a public mental health unit back in her home city was also 'traumatic' because of issues of stealing and overcrowding.
Following her hospitalisations, Nicky worked in aged care for a time, finished her undergraduate degree in health sciences, and completed her honours degree in public health. The pressures after she graduated caused Nicky to 'become very manic'. However, with the support of her parents and the Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team, she described how she was able to avoid going to hospital.
Nicky is currently prescribed an antipsychotic medication. Despite side effects like dry mouth and fatigue, she said it 'suited [her]'. She associated her manic episode overseas to 'misusing' antidepressants, which she said intensified her symptoms of mania. In Nicky's experience, medication 'brings you to normal' but can make you feel 'very flat'. Side effects from previous medications she tried included facial tics, slurring of words, and weight gain. Nicky has also been involved with group therapies which were recommended by her psychiatrist.
Nicky currently sees a psychiatrist. She feels she knows him 'pretty well' and would want him to advocate for her. In her view, psychiatrists should have the 'the final say' regarding treatment when someone is unwell. Nicky emphasised the importance of carers and stated that it is 'beneficial' for them to have 'some control over their loved one's care'. Her mother and father were important as carers when she was unwell.
Recovery, to Nicky, is 'developing insight into your mental health', 'accepting' being unwell, and focusing on connections with others. She described how being 'part of the workforce' was important for her 'quality of life' because it made her 'feel valued and a part of the community'.