Mental health: “You need to surround yourself with a team of caring professionals"
Published 13 Apr 2022 • By Candice Salomé
Camille has bipolar disorder and OCD. As a teenager, she first sought help for depression, but the treatments she was given were not effective. Her psychiatrist then diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. Since then, and thanks to effective treatments, she has been able to get her mental health back on track. She is now in "remission" and no longer takes any medication.
In an effort to destigmatise mental illness, she has opened an Instagram account where she shares advice and stories from other members.
Read her story below!
Hello Camille, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us on Carenity!
First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Camille, I'm 28 years old and I've been dealing with bipolar disorder (type II) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) for almost ten years. I am also the creator of the Instagram account It will be fine.
Ten years ago, you went through a period of severe depression. Could you tell us about the first symptoms you experienced? How long did it take for you to get a diagnosis? What treatments did you receive?
Ten years ago I made an appointment with a psychiatrist at random in the phone book. I had been feeling different since my early teens, I could sense that something was wrong, but I didn't know what. I was depressed, lonely, and very anxious, and this state of mind affected my behaviour and therefore had consequences at work and socially.
From the first appointment with this psychiatrist, he prescribed antidepressants. I don't think I remember us making a new appointment. It was the summer holidays and I was moving to another city when I returned to school, so I started seeing another psychiatrist. I also had a lot of anxiety and had panic attacks.
What impact has depression had on your personal and professional life? Do you know what may have triggered the depression?
It was the beginning of my psychology studies, the beginning of my adult life, so my mental illness had a huge impact. I couldn't get up in the morning to go to class (I slept up to 15 hours a day), I had difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
Socially, it wasn't easy for the people around me: I was impulsive, depressed, moody and unable to manage my emotions. I was constantly overwhelmed by anger, by sadness, and fear.
I don't know why the depression started. It is an illness with multiple, complex origins.
How has your mental illness developed or changed over the years? What treatments were you prescribed? Were you satisfied with them?
I was first treated for depression. But we realised that the treatment was not enough. Depression didn't explain all my behaviour, the extent of my suffering. I was not well.
Bipolar II is characterised by alternating hypomanic and depressive periods. In my case, the hypomanic phases are rare and short. That's what made them difficult to detect. Until one day I had a more intense, more significant hypomanic phase and the question of bipolar disorder arose.
I had just learned about bipolar disorder at university and my psychiatrist told me about it at the same time. In addition to antidepressants, I was prescribed various mood stabilisers (until I found the one that stabilised my bipolar). That's how the diagnosis was confirmed: when the treatment took effect.
This treatment and the unfailingly benevolent support of my psychiatrist enabled me to put my life in order, to calm my emotions, and to better manage my impulsiveness and the ups and downs of the illness.
A few years later, you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Was your initial depression a misdiagnosed? Or did you have both conditions from the beginning?
I don't know. I don't know if I had depression and then later on bipolar disorder appeared or if the depression was actually a depressive phase of the bipolar disorder. I'll probably never know, but I'm fine with it!
How has bipolar disorder manifested itself in your life? What impact has it had on your daily life?
As I said before, the depressive phases are more present in my case. During these phases, I am depressed, "turned off", tired, and I have dark thoughts. Smiling, pretending that everything is fine, dealing with everyday things, seeing friends, etc. All this requires a lot of energy.
During the hypomanic phases, I have a surplus of energy, I become very impulsive, agitated and my thoughts and speech go at a mile a minute.
There are also mixed phases (mixing the two phases with several symptoms mixed in) and phases without symptoms.
Now, after several years of experience, my different bipolar phases are fewer and less intense. They are not pleasant, nor easy, but they don't affect my ability to function nor my professional or social life.
What care or treatments did you receive following this second diagnosis? Were you satisfied with it?
I was treated with antidepressants and mood stabilisers. My psychiatrist put me in contact with several psychologists after the diagnosis, but I don't think I was ready at that time. I finally started CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) two years ago, and it was the right timing, I was more stable and more mature.
Four years ago, you were declared "in remission". What does that mean? How do you feel at the moment?
After several years of treatment, my psychiatrist and I decided to reduce and then stop the medication. I wanted to be able to do without it. I didn't want to be dependent on medication. And I felt that, despite all the benefits of the medication, they also made me less creative, more "sleepy".
Remission (and I don't know if this term is widespread among mental health professionals in relation to bipolar disorder) is therefore the ability to manage the disorder without treatment and without impacting the different aspects of the patient's life.
As far as I am concerned, the illness is still there, it is part of me but it no longer controls me. I can feel the phases coming (especially as depressive phases tend to be seasonal), my relatives are informed and vigilant, and I know what to do to feel better.
Why did you decide to launch your Instagram account "It will be fine"? What message do you want to convey to your followers?
The hardest part of my diagnosis was keeping hope alive and dealing with the loneliness.
As I'm sure anyone would do in this situation, I searched the internet. I wanted to find testimonials, to find people who were doing well, to discover innovative solutions... But the only thing I could find were people in the same situation as me, lost, who didn't know if they should still believe. I thought at that time that I would never get well, that I was doomed to suffer from the disease. Fortunately, I'm rather stubborn: tell me I can't do something and you can be sure that I'll only think about achieving that goal!
And that's what I did!
So, I started It will be fine It will be fine where I share positive and optimistic stories (not only about bipolar disorder) to try to give hope to people in pain. It also seemed important to me to popularise as much as possible some key concepts of psychology, because it is also through mental health education that we get better.
Finally, in recent years, there seems to be more openness about mental illness. This is why it is important to continue the work of destigmatisation. Many accounts on Instagram are involved in this, and I try to do my bit.
What topics do you cover? What feedback do you get from your followers? What does it bring do your daily life?
I talk about mental illness in general, not just bipolar disorder or OCD. The feedback I've had is positive: it's an extremely caring and supportive community. When I share a story, the comments are always non-judgmental and full of support.
On a day-to-day basis, it helps me not to forget my psychology classes. On a more serious note, it often cheers me up, especially during depressive phases.
What are your plans for the future?
In terms of my Instagram account, I'm not sure. I didn't even think the account could evolve that much and that it would be useful for others. I'm really happy to see that it has been able to cheer up a few people. I'll take it one day at a time.
What do you think of health communities such as Carenity? Do you think these communities can change the way we deal with chronic illness?
I used Carenity when I was diagnosed a few years ago, especially for information about medications. I used to go to my psychiatrist and tell him that the feedback on this or that medication on Carenity was excellent. The forum also made me feel less alone. I think it's important to create positive and caring communities: that's what keeps hope alive.
Finally, what advice would you give to Carenity members who, like you, are affected by depression and bipolar disorder?
First of all, they should take their medication. If the side effects are too strong or if the medication is not working, don't hesitate to talk to your psychiatrist to change or adapt it. Mental health education is also essential: knowing your illness, being able to recognise the symptoms, etc.
For bipolar disorder, routines and habits have helped me a lot too.
Finally, there is another element that comes into play, which is to be surrounded by a team of caring professionals who want to work with the patient. But this is not always easy to find. I am aware that I was lucky in this respect and that my diagnosis was rather quick compared to the usual figures.
Any final thoughts?
I know that it is difficult to be hopeful at times, that the little voice of mental illness often speaks louder than the voice of optimism. But even if it is a difficult and long road, remission or even recovery (depending on the disorder) is possible. In any case, that's what I wish for you!
Many thanks to Camille for sharing her story with us on Carenity!
Give it a "like" and share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!
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