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By Nan Spowart
BIPOLAR sufferer Gabrielle Quinn has found it difficult to find employment and even thinks she has lost out on jobs because of her disease, despite being able to control the condition.
“I pushed her and she hit her head on the couch, which knocked her out for a few moments,” the 25-year-old said. “I was horrified at what I had done.”
For Gabrielle, the incident proved to be a tipping point because it led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression.
Partner Vicki, 24, remembered how their frightening ordeal started.
“Gabrielle was very energetic but she didn’t sleep or eat,” she said. “It seemed strange and weird.”
The situation intensified when Gabrielle started to ignore danger and Vicki grew alarmed when she had to stop her from walking out into traffic.
Then, one night, shortly after the hyperactivity started, Gabrielle seemed to deflate and became very withdrawn.
As she’d suffered from depression before, Vicki thought she knew what to do and tried to cheer her up by tickling her to make her laugh.
“It was the worst thing she could have done because at that point I could not bear to be touched, so it was like poking a tiger with a stick,” explained Gabrielle.
“When you are psychotic you are stronger than normal, so I must have pushed her quite hard.
“But after that happened all the buzzing in my ears and the stress in my mind broke and I realised I had done something bad.”
Panicking, Gabrielle dialled NHS 24 and was told to take Vicki to casualty, but once there she became even more upset when medics tried to treat her rather than her partner, who had fully recovered.
“I was annoyed at the time but actually I had lost touch with reality,” admitted Gabrielle, who lives with Vicki in Glasgow.
“I had been depressed and my GP put me on antidepressants but they seemed to trigger a manic episode.”
At the hospital, Gabrielle was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on medication immediately.
“They gave me strong medication to get it under control and that did turn me into a zombie for a while, but it was to level me out.
“Now I’m just on one medication,” Gabrielle said.
“That was three years ago and I’ve only had mini episodes since then.”
Despite being able to control her condition, Gabrielle found it difficult to get work after her diagnosis. She believes she even lost out on jobs because of it.
“That hurt me and affected my confidence,” she said. But help came when she was referred to a mental health team and a key worker suggested she try volunteering with a charity while she was job hunting.
“I’m someone who always likes to be busy, so I looked into it and when I found out about the See Me mental health campaign, which aims to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health, I volunteered to help.”
As a volunteer, Gabrielle went along to events, including the Glasgow 10k, and talked to people about mental illness, drawing on her personal experience.
She said: “If you don’t speak out, nothing will ever change.
“It definitely helped me to get out and about and it built up my confidence, too.”
So much so that after a few months she applied for another job and is now working as a night auditor with a large hotel group. “It’s important not to give up and don’t try to go it alone,” said Gabrielle. “There is help out there but I am very lucky to have Vicki.”
Vicki’s unfailing support has been key to Gabrielle’s recovery.
The couple have been together for five years and showed their commitment to each other in a civil partnership a year ago.
“She has been there the whole time and I could not manage without her,” said Gabrielle.
“If I’m unwell, it’s normally Vicki who will spot it first.
“She knows what my triggers are and can stop me before I get out of control.”
Vicki found it difficult when Gabrielle was first diagnosed with bipolar but felt better after learning more about the condition.
“At first I thought it was a bit strange and weird. It can sometimes be difficult but I just need to make sure she sticks to a routine. I don’t mind it,” said Vicki.
“I just make sure she is eating and sleeping properly and not likely to go on a spending spree.
“It is worth it because that keeps her stable.”