Living with bipolar disorder: Steve’s story

RRV with blurred paramedic

Talking to someone about a mental health condition they have can be difficult. But talking about your own mental health can be even harder.

Last month saw the fourth annual ‘Time to Talk’ day where a colleague shared his experience of living with a mental health condition here on Need to Know.

But we need to keep the ‘time to talk’ message going – it’s always time to talk.

I’m Steve, and I’ve been with the Trust for more than eight years, working in West Norfolk. I have a mental health problem. This didn’t happen overnight; it’s been there in the background for a lot of my adult life, but it’s often dismissed with a prescription for anti-depressants, written after a five-minute consultation after seeing your doctor.

For me, things came to a head in September last year. At work I was still trying to maintain the general ‘happy face’ and outlook but outside of work, things felt like they were falling apart. The depths to which those moods took me were so dark, they resulted in sleepless nights planning the next step - which at the time seemed the only thing left to do. There would be no cry for help, there was no need, this next step just seemed the only way out.

It was only by opening up a little about my moods to two close colleagues, and their response telling me to go back to the doctor, that things started to get better. The GP called the crisis team for an immediate referral and consultation.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which actually makes sense when looking back at how my moods can change. Just having that diagnosis helped; I did not feel quite so abnormal, as many people have it and it is treatable. I was put on different medication which has helped.

But a diagnosis like bipolar does have other consequences. You start to wonder about your colleagues’ reactions and think, ‘ok, so there’s no need for anyone to know. I shouldn’t feel like I need to ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak just because I have a mental health condition’. Not that ‘coming out’ is something new either, been there and done that. But I want my colleagues to understand that I might not be myself at times, that I might behave differently sometimes, but that being at work is better for me.

Having any long-term mental health condition can affect other aspects of your life, and work is no exception. There’s a long list of conditions where, if you have one, you have a legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). That resulted in my driving licence being revoked, and a year-long medical licence being issued without C1. This is standard practice, as anyone with a new diagnosis of bipolar has to be ‘stable’ for one year before getting their C1 back following a medical.

The Trust has been supportive. Following my initial time off, I came back to work on the staff support desk up in Norwich EOC, and hope to start soon on the ECAT desk. My ultimate goal will be to resume my frontline position when I get my driving entitlement back at the end of this year. I miss being out there; even the late breaks and late finishes!

But in the eight years I have noticed a change - the workload is relentless and with the introduction to many more staff, we don’t often have colleagues to regularly work with. I feel that something’s been lost; the team meetings, nights out on the town, and the feeling of being in a sort of ‘work family’.

But we are a team, so let’s look out for one another. You don’t need a degree in psychology to realise someone may be struggling and offering a listening ear. It’s always time to talk.


“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending” Brené Brown

If you feel you might need some support yourself, or want to talk to someone about what help the Trust can give you, you can contact the wellbeing team on 01234 243092, or email them at The Trust also has an Employee Assistance Programme, which you can call on 0800 085 1376, or visit their website (Username: EEASTlogin, password: wellbeing).

Published 16th March, 2017

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