Category: Carers


Stay well strategies for everyone

Stay well strategies:

  • sleep well
  • eat well
  • exercise
  • manage stress
  • spend quality time with family and friends
  • engage in the local community
  • get professional support
  • use alternative therapies
  • work in a supportive workplace
  • have a holiday



What is mental health?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of well-being in which someone:
– realises his or her own abilities
– can cope with the normal stresses of life
– can work fully and productively
– is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

A healthy person has a healthy mind and is able to:
– think clearly
– solve problems in life
– work productively
– enjoy good relationships with other people
– feel spiritually at ease
– make a contribution to the community.

Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorder.


Looking for people who live successfully with bipolar disorder

Opera glassesWhen you have bipolar disorder, there is no such thing as a free ride. When life is good, really good, there is always a price to pay. After I published my book, I had the best time of my life. Ever. Then my doctor became concerned about my increasingly elevated mood. I had been going to bed at 3.00am and getting up at 6.00am and not feeling tired. What was I doing until 3.00am every night? Well, among other things, I was annotating a copy of my book with quotations about art and life. Lots of quotations. In tiny little writing. I thought I would give it to someone as a present – an example of the creativity of a bipolar mind. Great idea?  I thought so, but my doctor didn’t.

She looked at my annotated memoir and said it would be a very bad idea. She said I had to act swiftly because I was headed for an inevitable, unavoidable depression that she wouldn’t be able to pull me out of. I cried when she told me that. Buckets. She said my mood was very unstable. She said I shouldn’t go to work the next day, but I needed the money and I was paid as a casual. No work equals no pay. If I did go to work the following day, she said under NO circumstances was I to speak to anyone, especially not to the boss. I suppose I really shouldn’t have just done that recorded radio interview that was going to be on the radio the following Saturday. I didn’t tell her about that.

She prescribed Seroquel. Seroquel takes me to the death zone. The smallest crumb renders me seriously unconscious for 12 hours and the following day I can’t function. The decision to take it is not one I take lightly but I took it and I didn’t go to work the following day. The hypo mania put up a big fight.

Then I fell. It was a bad fall. A very bad fall.

But spring is here and I am back blogging. Things are looking up. I am fine. Well, I think I’m fine. I look fine. Perhaps I am  fine. I don’t know what ‘fine’ is any more. What I do know is that I am really, really proud of the things I have achieved. Sometimes the achievement has been getting out of bed or getting in to bed and staying asleep. Sometimes it has been living with anxiety. Sometimes it has been doing public speaking in spite of how awful I feel. I can always pull myself together to present about bipolar. It’s too important. Sometimes it has been doing something really nice for someone. Mostly it has been living with rapid cycling Bipolar 1 and anxiety, and trying to keep everything together. Which I (mostly ) do. I am very proud of that.

I have met plenty of people who struggle with bipolar just as I do. I want to meet people who have bipolar like me and live in harmony with it. I want to meet people who have stable relationships, untainted by mood swings. I want to meet people who have had trouble with bipolar in their past and now sail in calm(er) waters. Is it you? I am told that you’re out there, the experts insist that you are. I don’t believe them though. I don’t believe you exist. Do you? If you do, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


Bipolar: one in ten

I spoke to a group of students a few weeks ago about mental health and mental illness. They were just regular students, with (I assume) no greater risk of having mental illnesses than anyone else. I know what the statistics are for various mental illnesses.

Anne Presenting at TAFEThe statistics according to the researchers are:

Bipolar: one in a hundred
Anxiety: one in ten

In this class of 20 there were two students with bipolar disorder and four who have experienced panic attacks.

The statistics in this particular class were:

Bipolar: one in ten
Anxiety: one in five

And they were just the ones who told me. Not scientific data, however, food for thought.

Presentation at TAFE #2Here’s the feedback from the teacher:

Subject: Guest Speaking
Date: 7 August 2013 11:45:19 AM AEST
To: “” <>

Dear Anne,

I wanted to firstly express my thanks to you for giving up your time last night to come and speak to the students. It was an invaluable opportunity for both the students learning and also for myself as the teacher. I will be able to draw on your presentation as we progress through the rest of the course.

I have never seen a class so focussed (apart from the one student who is having issues to sort out at the moment) and listening to every word and piece of wisdom you were able to share. The mix of activities: speaking, reading, video clips and group work were great.

I think we will be continuing to reflect back to what you have shared (remember when Anne said….) to assist us in linking theory to a real life example.

Thank you Anne for coming and sharing your experiences with us.

Best wishes.

Regards …


Canberra book launch and ABC Radio 666 interview with Alex Sloan

Simon Corbell, MLA, ACT Attorney General, launched my book in Canberra yesterday at Calvary Hospital. He gave the most wonderful speech and it was a very special day.

Thank you Simon, Ray Dennis (Calvary CEO) and Greg Bayliss (Communications Manager at Calvary).

Simon Corbell #1


ANne #2

Straight after the launch I was interviewed on ABC radio by Alex Sloan. That was awesome too.

Thanks also to Alex Sloan and Hannah Flannery.

I have got an an audio copy of the interview, but I don’t know how to embed it here. I will figure it out and post it when I can.

666 Radio interview 12 June 13


Art From Adversity book trailer

Here is the book trailer for my book.


I’ll stand by you

Sometimes it is really hard to stand by someone who has a mental illness. You want to help them, and you do help them. Time and time again. Again and again. You forgive them. Again and again. But how many times do you stand by them as they make one bad decision after another, expecting that someone will always be there to pick up the pieces?

Someone very close to me has bipolar disorder. I haven’t spoken to him since his Armenian mafia phone call to me in the middle of the night. I can’t talk to him at the moment. His mental health is too precarious and I think my book has the potential to tip him over the edge. When I am next talking to him, I will tell him this, ‘I will stand by you, I will always love and support you, but I have limits and there are boundaries. Don’t call me at 1.30 am again telling me that you should be in a psych ward, call the Mental Health Crisis Team. Don’t ask for my advice if you are not going to do anything about is. I really hope that the Armenian mafia don’t get you. I can’t always help you, but one thing is certain – it might be hard, but I’ll always stand by you.’

Have you got a brother like this? Or a husband? Or a child? It’s easy to say ‘I’ll stand by you’, but not so easy to do.


Life with bipolar is hard

I have just read an article written by Julie Fast in her newsletter. She talks about how hard it is to have bipolar disorder and she says that, even though we can be positive, life is not easy. Anyone who has bipolar knows this.

I have a family and I am (mostly) able to function, even though my priorities are no longer to be Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson. I am (mostly) able to cope with my two day a week job, but sometimes getting there is a challenge. I smile at the people I work with and the few I tell are genuinely shocked when I say I have bipolar disorder.

I don’t look sick and I do not want to see myself as a ‘sick’ person but bipolar affects me in big and small ways, and is with me every day. As Julie says, ‘It’s really hard’ and we need to be more honest about it.

Everyone has their own reality of bipolar disorder, and carers do as well. I do not want to identify myself primarily as a person with a mental illness, even though it is undeniable that I have one and that I and advocate for people who do. I am a writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother and friend who has bipolar, not a bipolar person who is a writer,artist etc. It is not just the rhetoric of political correctness to refer to myself this way. The distinction is really important to me.

I have  my own story and so does every other person with bipolar disorder. We need to tell our stories. That’s why I wrote my book.  To tell my story. My truth about bipolar.

Julie Fast is a real inspiration. Check her out.


Genetic basis of bipolar disorder

Oct. 10, 2012

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified small variations in a number of genes that are closely linked to an increased risk of bipolar disorder, a mental illness that affects nearly six million Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Using samples from some 3,400 individuals, we identified several new variants in genes closely associated with bipolar disorder,” said Scripps Florida Professor Ron Davis, who led the new study, which was published recently by the journal Translational Psychiatry.

A strong tendency towards bipolar disorder runs in families; children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

While the genetic basis for bipolar disorder is complex and involves multiple genes, it appears to be associated with a biochemical pathway known as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling system. The Davis laboratory and others have previously shown that the cAMP signaling plays a critical role in learning and memory processes. The new study focused on this signaling pathway.

“As far as I know, this has not been done before — to query a single signaling pathway,” said Davis. “This is a new approach. The idea is if there are variants in one gene in the pathway that are associated with bipolar disorder, it makes sense there would be variants in other genes of the same signaling pathway also associated with the disorder.”

The new study examined variations in 29 genes found in the two common types of bipolar disorder — bipolar disorder I (the most common form and the most severe) and bipolar disorder II. Genes from a total of 1,172 individuals with bipolar disorder I; 516 individuals with bipolar disorder II; and 1,728 controls were analyzed.

Several statistically significant associations were noted between bipolar disorder I and variants in the PDE10A gene. Associations were also found between bipolar disorder II and variants in the DISC1 and GNAS genes.

Davis noted that the location of PDE10A gene expression in the striatum, the part of the brain associated with learning and memory, decision making and motivation, makes it especially interesting as a therapeutic target.


Bipolar disorder and disability

Higher education reduces the risk of becoming disabled. But this does not apply to everyone. Doctor Helle Schøyen has researched the connection between bipolar disorder and disability.

Bipolar lidelse
Helle Schøyen believes that early and effective treatment can help prevent recurring bouts of depression. Schøyen has carried out research on the connection between bipolar disorder and disability. Foto: Colourbox

Research has shown that the well-educated are less likely to become disabled. But when working on her doctorate, Helle Schøyen discovered that this did not apply to sufferers of bipolar disorders.
‘This relationship does not exist where bipolar disorder is concerned. We have however noticed that persons with bipolar disorder are often single and disabled, and earn less than other comparable groups. This is in spite of the fact that they have the same level of education as the normal population in the area’, says Schøyen.
Bipolar disorder includes what was previously known as manic-depressive disorder. Science defines it as ‘a mental disorder characterised by recurring episodes of mania and depression.’ One needs to have had at least one manic or hypomanic episode in order to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Intelligence and education

Education is not the only factor that has helped prevent disability amongst the general population. Intelligence also appears to provide protection. Schøyen looked at IQ and the functional level of people with bipolar disorder, both before and after the illness began to leave its mark.
‘We were surprised to discover that among bipolar sufferers, neither intelligence nor degree of function affects whether one becomes disabled’, she says.

Apparently well-functioning

Helle Schøyen is a psychiatric specialist and she has worked at the Psychiatric Clinic at Haugesund Hospital and Stavanger University Hospital. For her, this seemed the obvious approach to researching bipolar disorders.
‘I meet many people that have bipolar disorders through my work. They are usually well-educated people who are apparently well-functioning individuals. They are however, eventually affected by the illness. Many have great difficulty functioning at work, in the family and in other situations’, according to Schøyen.
To determine whether the severity of the bipolar disorder affected the risk of becoming disabled, she compared those who were treated as outpatients with those who were hospitalized. It turned out that there was no difference between the two groups. ‘It would appear that the risk of becoming disabled doesn’t depend on the severity of the bipolar disorder’.

Is education an easier option than work?          

Many bipolar sufferers work fulltime throughout their lives, whilst others are incapable of working. But is it possible to reverse the situation for those who have become disabled?
‘This was not a theme in my thesis, but I know that a survey is being carried out. My results indicate that work is affected regardless of how well educated one is. This could tell us if it’s part of the disease process, or if it’s “easier” being educated than it is to be at work’, explains Schøyen.
She thinks that the time aspect could also play a role. As the illness is recurrent, it can make working difficult. Being regularly depressed and having a long-term illness, often leads to disability, according to statistics.
‘It is a little surprising to discover that women are less at risk of becoming disabled than men’, she adds.

Early detection is important                                                                  

Schøyen’s study underlines the importance of early detection.
Providing early and effective treatment can help to prevent recurring bouts of depression. These appear to have a particularly detrimental effect on the bipolar patient’s ability to function. By trying to prevent recurrent relapses, one can perhaps prevent a decline in the social and occupational functions of bipolar patients.
Schøyen has based her thesis on patients who are part of ‘The Bipolar Research and Innovation Network study’ (BRAIN) and Thematic Area of Psychosis (TOP). They have been compared with a control group from the general public, supplied by Statistics Norway.

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