Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Connecting at Brecon’s Bipolar UK support group

This week's post is from a regular attendee at the monthly Bipolar UK support group in Brecon.

My name is Liz and I have bipolar disorder. I first experienced mental health difficulties at aged 16, and was diagnosed with depression at 22. I continued to experience depressive episodes, which became more severe and frequent during my working life, leading to early retirement when I was 48. 

I was treated with a number of antidepressants, but these had limited efficacy and activating side effects. I was told I had Treatment Resistant Depression and things seemed pretty bleak. 

Six years ago, in my early fifties, I was sectioned and admitted to a psychiatric ward with psychosis. Following this I continued to experience mental health symptoms, despite medication and therapy. 

In April 2016 I was seen at the National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff and given the diagnosis of Bipolar 1 Disorder. Since starting a mood stabilizer, I have been much better. 

I also attended the Bipolar Education Programme Cymru, an award winning education programme for people with bipolar developed by Cardiff University.

Following my diagnosis, I picked up a Bipolar UK flyer at the hospital. I later contacted Bipolar UK to find out what support was available in my area, and they put me in touch with the Bipolar Support group in Brecon. I have been attending the group for almost a year, travelling the 20 miles from Merthyr, and really value the sessions.

The group meets on the 4th Monday of the month between 7 and 9pm in Brecon and District Mind. The sessions are open to people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, family and carers, and it costs just £1 to attend. Refreshments are provided.

The meetings allow time to find out more about bipolar disorder, and to share how we are all feeling and doing. Sometimes we have outside speakers. These have included Jodine Fec, the Lead Pharmacist Mental Health for Powys Teaching Local Health Board and Support Workers from Gwalia Care and Support. We might also watch films with a bipolar theme – one was Infinitely Polar Bear – a comedy drama about a man from Boston with bipolar. Or sometimes we enjoy a bring and share meal together. 

Personally, I really value the mutual sharing and support, in a friendly and non-judgmental environment. I have my own social networks, but it’s not the same as talking to someone with bipolar disorder who has the understanding and experience.

You don’t have to speak at the meetings if you don’t want to, although everyone has the opportunity to do so. You can stay as long as you want – so leave whenever you wish. And you can come along to as many or as few meetings as you like.

The groups are aimed at people aged 18 and over, but young people aged between 16 – 18 can attend if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

The next meeting is on Monday 27 November 2017. If you would like to join us at this or any future meetings you would be very welcome. You can:
Stop press: We plan to screen a film about Graham Obree, the cyclist nicknamed “The Flying Scotsman” who lives with bipolar disorder, at a future meeting.

Many thanks to Liz for telling us about the Bipolar Support group at Brecon. This is currently the only such group operating in Powys, but if you would like to see a group in your area then contact Bipolar UK to express an interest. The more people who want a group in a specific area then the more viable it becomes.

All artwork by Liz.

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