Excerpts from the 46 minute video

Manic Depressive Illness
A guide to living with it

"There seem to be a number of types of bipolar disorder. There's bipolar 1 disorder which is the type I have, and that's basically extremes of mood ranging from mania which is often severe enough to need to go to hospital, and severe depression that again is severe enough to need 24 hour care with risk of suicide. That's called bipolar 1 disorder. There's bipolar 2 disorder where the person has fairly awful episodes of depression and episodes of hypomania which aren't severe enough to get the person into hospital so the person just appears to be pretty creative and energetic at times and pretty depressed at other times."
- Dr Meg Smith, President, NSW Association for Mental Health

"Every night of the week I was going out. I was not sleeping. I believed I was the Virgin Mary. At the peak of the psychosis I wanted to save everybody in the red light district of Sydney, and I was a danger to myself. I wasn't a danger to others but I was endangering my reputation" - Vicki

"I was in hospital for the first time for a very long time, I was in for about five or six weeks. That was when I was first diagnosed. That was when the doctor first came to me and said 'You have manic depressive illness' and I didn't have any idea what that was. I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and said 'Thanks very much. I'll see you later.'" - Gerald

"Things were totally out of perspective. I was thinking about the lawn - 'how am I going to mow the lawn? I can't do it. I can't possibly do it.' When you are depressed you can't believe how hard these things are. I lay around for six months and then I sort of thought 'things are getting all right. I'm going to go up to Queensland on a trip. This is going to be good.' Anyway I'd swapped over. I'd swapped from depression to going high or manic, whatever they call it. So anyway I headed off on this trip and went up to Queensland and did parachuting which I know a lot of people do it but ... I've always been terrified of heights." - Ross

"I view bipolar disorder as a very treatable condition. Although the mood swings can be quite severe, these days we have very good treatments for the condition so I am optimistic for the vast majority of people that I treat with bipolar disorder. Probably the centrepiece of treatment is medications because it is a very physical condition but these days we are becoming aware that there are significant psychological and social factors that can worsen the illness or contribute to it or can be disrupted by the illness so we are becoming increasingly aware of psychological treatments." - Professor Philip Mitchell, Director, Mood Disorders Unit, Prince of Wales Hospital

"You think to yourself 'Oh no I couldn't have bipolar disease.' You just think that's somebody else, that shouldn't be you. That's the hardest thing, trying to accept that you've got the illness" - Ross

"Acceptance is definitely the hardest thing. For so long you are just denying it, you're telling everyone else to get stuffed and you are not going to take the medication. You don't need the medication. You're fine and everyone else is stuffed and everyone else can get buggered. It's like you versus the world. But when you are doing that, you are expending so much energy. It's you versus the illness and you versus the world. But then when you take the illness as part of you it's almost like the illness can work for you" - Gerald

"When we consider the medications for bipolar disorder I tend to think of three phases of the illness that we are treating. The first is the treatment of acute mania, the second is the depressed phase of the illness and the third is the prevention - stopping future episodes of depression and mania. If we look at the treatment of acute mania and the prevention, the treatments are quite similar. We are using what we call mood stabiliser medications. Mood stabilisers are medications that treat the acute unwellness during mania and prevent newer episodes."
- Professor Philip Mitchell

"You can religiously take your pills but if there is some stress in your life it's not going to protect you entirely. It may mean that you won't have quite as severe an episode as you would have had without the pills, but it may be that you are still going to have an episode of mood disorder anyway despite taking the medication." - Dr Meg Smith

"You need to know that there could be side effects for medication. But I never stopped taking my medication because of the side effects, and I think that stood me in good stead. At the time some people didn't agree with me but they were the ones getting ill and I wasn't." - Vicki

"I think it's important to recognise that people can prevent relapses of mood disorder. You might not be able to prevent the first episode because you've got no idea that it is going to happen. You may not be able to prevent the second episode because hey you're still learning, but one of the things that I find really interesting and amazing is that as people get older they do learn to prevent the episodes. I think there is a number of things that people can do. One is to look at your previous episodes and say 'What was going on in my life around about those episodes? What kind of triggers are likely to set me off? Is it illness in a close friend or family member? Is it travelling? Is it shift work? Is it breaking up a relationship? What is it? What are the sorts of stresses that trigger me off? What happens when I get under stress? Do I stop sleeping? Do I stop eating? Do I take on more activities? What actually happens?'" - Dr Meg Smith

" I like smoking the stuff. A lot of people do, but the outcome just isn't worth it. Just about everytime I have smoked it in the last three years I've ended up in hospital. Almost every time. Maybe every time. Maybe every time." - Gerald

"I view marijuana as poison for somebody who has bipolar disorder. That may seem like an extreme statement but I have seen so many people with bipolar who just so rapidly go into a manic or depressed episode after taking marijuana." - Professor Philip Mitchell

" I was constantly depressed and tired. I couldn't motivate myself to do anything. And it was really scary... it used to really freak me out. I was hallucinating, I would see things all the time, like silhouettes of people running at night time especially." - Charlene

"I used to drink every day, quite a bit. I miss it now. I miss it. I'd like to drink again but I can see that it's one more problem for your brain so you don't really need it do you?" - Ross

"Being healthy for me is important. When I think about the happiest times in my life it's always been the healthiest times in my life. I play a bit of organised sport on the weekends too. I know all the people there, I've been going for a number of years. The familiarity of it all. It's very therapeutic for me to do things like rugby and the running and things like that at fixed times during the week because it makes me feel safe. I play a bit of organised sport on the weekends too. Also I like spending time with my friends and taking my dog for a walk. Just little things like that I enjoy doing, and reading, things like that. If I can do a little of each of those things every week, I'm a happy camper." - Gerald

"I swim. Yeah it's great. Helps me lose weight from the weight gain from the pills I've got to take. Keeps me fit. Yeah it's good. I've just started a yoga course. We deal with yoga stretches to stretch out your body. Get's rid of all the tension in your body. Yeah this is the other thing too. For me at least meditation. If you can get to some course. There's so many different types of meditation. If you feel uncomfortable about it it's not always about people sitting in strange positions with their legs around their heads. There's a whole range of types that you can do." - Carlos

"I do find it difficult giving lectures at 8 am in the morning if I'm on medication. That's something I've had to work out with my supervisor at work. So I do have to take resposnibility to say to my supervisor 'Look I'm on medication at the present moment, I do get a medication hang over. I really don't function very well in the mornings when I'm on medication. But I'm happy to work in the afternoons and the evenings.' Because I need to get a reasonable nights sleep I can't work late one night and start early the next morning. Okay sometimes that's unavoidable in which case then I have to take the following day off to recover, but it really does mean working out how my job and the things I'm doing are affecting my mood and my mental state." - Meg

"In addition to the medications it's important to be aware that many people will benefit from psychological treatment or counselling. The illness has a huge impact upon sufferer's self esteem and confidence." - Professor Philip Mitchell

"They'd all gone through it. So you've been the Virgin Mary, well so have I, so what. And it sort of normalised it if you like. Sounds funny to say but it did normalise it. It was like well okay, so it's something that happens. People think that they're the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ when they're manic. It's a common sort of thing. So it helped me to recognise what the symptoms were. And it wasn't so horribly me and unique. One of the awful things about mental illness is feeling that there's something peculiarly horrible about you - you're the only one in the world who has ever gone through this terribly frightening, terribly terrifying experience. It's somehow comforting to know that other people have gone through it too and they've survived, and they've come out the other end." - Meg

"You are more than your illness. You are not manic depressive. You are John Smith who is 33 years old, who barracks for Essendon, who works at so and so, has got two kids, a dog, and a few mates, whatever. That's you. Oh and you happen to have manic depression." - Carlos

" Bipolar disorder is a very treatable condition. For the vast majority the commencement and the continuation of adequate and appropriate treatment just makes such an enormous difference and I've seen that with many patients that I've treated. I view this optimistically, this condition although it's difficult and disorganising and a terrible condition but when the treatment's right it makes such an enormous difference so I view this very optimistically." - Prof Philip Mitchell

"I think you've always got to be conscious of this illness. It never really goes away completely but you can control it to the point where it doesn't control you, you control it, and life just is there for you to take and experience. It's a wonderful life. Yeah." - Gerald