No mention of bipolar: Lisa Rodrigues: A very personal ‘personal best’ – None of us has to say the word BIPOLAR

I heard from a reader of rethinkingbipolar yesterday. They said how this blog had helped them greatly. This has inspired me to start blogging again. I never stopped completely. It is just that i have not published much while going through divorce, moving house several times in a year, closing down my office, being given several new diagnosis and generally beating myself up for being such a loser. I never wanted to be a divorcee – now I just need to accept that I am and get on with what I set out to do with rethinking bipolar – and that is to get more people to realize bipolar is nothing like what it says in the text books and most importantly people and perhaps all of us can one day move on from the diagnosis.

I am doing something unusual here by reproducing an entire article because it impressed me so much. (The link to the original has stopped working. 3rd March 2018)

Please do read all and see what I say at the end…

——————————————————– A Brilliant Article ——– Please read on ——————————————–

Lisa Rodrigues: A very personal ‘personal best’


Lisa Rodrigues recently told HSJ (Health Service Journal) that she will be retiring from her role in charge of Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust in 2014. In this article, she makes a further important personal announcement.

Britain’s Personal Best is an Olympic legacy charity aimed at getting people to do things they have never done before to help others and themselves. Challenges can be physical, intellectual, artistic or just brave.

When I became an ambassador for Britain’s Personal Best, I had an idea of what my own challenge was going to be. It helps that the dates for the first annual Britain’s Personal Best weekend of 4-6 October coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October. World Mental Health Day aims to reduce the stigma still associated with using mental health services.

So this is my Personal Best, which I dedicate to World Mental Health Day 2013. I’m coming out.

Like one in four members of the population, I too have experienced mental illness; in my case depression, anxiety and the occasional bit of mania. I’ve been told I was a waste of space by an accident and emergency nurse while he washed out my stomach after an overdose. I’ve sat opposite a psychiatrist and been unable to find an answer when pressed to think of a reason for living. And I know how it feels to be an utter disappointment to my parents, teachers and friends.

Managing wellbeing

It would be a cop out to say that this was many years ago. Some of it was, but it is also right here and now. I have learned, by trial and error, ways to manage my wellbeing. I use mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy. I gave up alcohol 12 years ago because I’m bad at moderation and it was a trigger for feeling ghastly. I suffer if I don’t exercise, outside if possible, and I need healthy food. I’m married to the kindest of men, and have a wonderful family and amazing friends. Some of this is luck, but there is judgement involved.

A major part of staying well is doing a job that stretches, motivates and moves me, although it’s tough and daily I face things that are deeply distressing. Suicide is devastating for families, but also very tough on staff, whether or not we learn with hindsight we could have prevented it. The 24/7 responsibility of being the accountable officer of high risk services, especially these days, weighs heavily. And I really hate conflict.

But I also love my job. We change people’s lives for the better. I love the continuity of having started my NHS career as a nursing assistant at a learning disability hospital in Sussex − over 40 years it has evolved into one of the best services my trust runs today. I love our patients; their bravery, quirkiness and the almost impossible challenges they pose. And I love our staff, for their kindness, endless patience, intelligence and long term commitment to people others may have given up on.

Shift in attitudes

I’ve recently told my board I plan to leave Sussex Partnership next summer, when I’m 59. That’s all part of my personal care plan. In my 13th year, I’m getting ready to leave well and to have some time out to think about my next thing.

I talked to Sue Baker at Time To Change before taking the plunge to write this. She clinched it. Over the last five years there has been a considerable shift in public attitudes towards those who experience mental illness, although still a way to go. Sadly, the ones who’ve shown the least change are NHS staff, including senior leaders. Expectations of people’s ability to live full and productive lives despite having experienced mental illness remain low.

Some readers might think my disclosure is self-indulgent psychobabble. Others may feel that someone so flaky shouldn’t be running a big mental health trust. My reason for writing it is because of views like these.

As I look back over the last 12 years, I’m proud that despite occasional days when I can barely face getting out of bed, I hold down a responsible job and am respected by my team, staff, peers and the people we serve. I said back in January that I wasn’t always CBE material. But I’ve done my very best with the material I’ve got. And that’s what Personal Bests are all about.

With love and thanks to Sue Baker of Time to Change, Steve Moore at Britain’s Personal Best, HSJ’s Shaun Lintern, my wonderful chairman and team. And to Betty, Steve, Alice and Joey.

Lisa Rodrigues is chief executive at Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust

———————————————————- That is a Brilliant Article —————————————————–

Roger’s thoughts on this article reproduced from

I love the idea of doing our personal best rather than having to do what others expect of us,

Thinking about rethinkingbipolar the thing that really stood out for me was Lisa saying,

“I too have experienced mental illness; in my case depression, anxiety and the occasional bit of mania.”

So easily, Lisa could have said that she had ‘bipolar’ or ‘something like bipolar’ but instead she has chosen not to label herself in this article. Do any of us need to use the labels that psychiatrists use? I suspect that almost everyone who has read this blog could also say, “I too have experienced mental illness; in my case depression, anxiety and the occasional bit of mania.” None of us has to say the word BIPOLAR.

About Roger Smith (in the UK)
Helping you to think about bipolar disorder in different ways so that we can eliminate the disorder and eventually eliminate the need for this diagnosis.

4 Responses to No mention of bipolar: Lisa Rodrigues: A very personal ‘personal best’ – None of us has to say the word BIPOLAR

  1. Margaret Taylor says:

    Thanks for posting this Roger in its entirety. It’s a wonderful article about an individual who has remained successful despite occasional limitations. Kudos to Lisa for being so honest. My comments are, firstly, who hasn’t experienced anxiety in their life? Why is that considered “mental illness”. In rethinking bipolar, I would like to see the word “mental illness” removed from the problem. I believe “emotional distress” would be more to the point. I don’t believe the problem starts in the head (something that is difficult to fix – hence the stigma with the word mental), so much as it is a problem with the heart, soul and circumstances. Lisa’s belief in CBT supports this. For me, anxiety begins in the gut and extends to not being able to sleep properly, which then leads to difficulty handling emotional conflicts and in turn causes more sleeplessness, more poor choices, on and on. It’s a vicious cycle. Having said that, I believe cortisol, vitamin B6 and B12 also play a role.


  2. Ruth Redd says:

    I agree entirely- I don’t like the labels we are given either. I find the anxiety is so difficult to deal with but when I feel better and the symptoms go I think ‘what was I worried about?’ but each time it returns it hits me like the first time…….
    Thanks Roger for the information


  3. Great article which is truly inspirational. It’s good to hear that in spite of the very real struggles this lady has had to contend with she has met them with true grit and determination.

    The thing that stands out for me is how balanced her account of her experiences was. She acknowledged, with absolute honesty, the times when she realised that she needed to change things to in order to overcome and improve. For me this is most definitely the kind of person I’d want to be in charge of mental health services or any other part of the NHS. If she is able to manage her life as well as she has given some of the tough experiences and turn it into one with many successes I would love to give her free reign in the NHS.


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