Sarah's story brings hope to others

Published on: 26 Apr 2014

April 26 2014

SARAH Defrates was initially diagnosed with cyclothymia - a mild form of bipolar - five years ago. In 2011, after a re-diagnosis, Sarah was unfairly dismissed from her job as a receptionist, following incidents of name-calling by her boss.
Two years on, Sarah's life has been turned around by Gloucester Road business, Westbury Inks.
Being offered the position as marketing manager has given Sarah a new lease of life - and now, she wants to help others who have been affected by the disorder, through sharing her own story.
Sarah, 46, first realised that she had bipolar after visiting a friend's at Christmas. After being compared to someone with the disorder by her friend's son, she decided to do research into the symptoms and could relate to what she read.
Her behaviour was also picked up on by an ex-boyfriend, who said she was like "four seasons in one day". She also recalls her brother recognising her hyperactive behaviour when she was eight, referring to her as a "hyper bunny".
Sarah noticed that her behaviour worsened in 2008, when she became bankrupt and had to look after her two teenage boys on her own.
Cyclothymia is identified by a history of mood swings, ranging from mild depression to emotional highs. Mood swings tend to be fairly frequent, as well as persistent.
Avoiding any medication, Sarah has turned to self-help in order to keep her bipolar under control. Sarah, from Westbury Park, goes for an hour walk around the Downs each morning, and has a bath before bed to help her relax. She has also undergone intensive psychotherapy, as well receiving daily support from friends and family.
Convinced that she would never find work again due to her bipolar, Sarah was overjoyed when Westbury Inks offered her a job at the beginning of April.
"Westbury Inks has really helped me, I love it to bits there," she said. "Stuart [director] has been amazingly understanding and very supportive, and I've really appreciated being allowed to use my own initiative. I've created a good connection with customers, and I really feel like I'm part of the community - I feel more alive again working here, and it's wonderful to be accepted for being me."
To avoid overexertion, Sarah works 16 hours a week. She says that sleep is essential in her daily life, and she has learnt to ask for help when she needs it.
Sarah has also been dedicating her spare time to writing a book about her life.
She said: "I want to help others through telling people about my experience with bipolar - I like to think I'm being a voice for the voiceless. I feel like helping other people out with bipolar is my calling.
"I want to celebrate my bipolar - it makes me creative. It has allowed me to make more sense of life."
Having been called names such as "fruit bat" at her previous job, Sarah believes a greater understanding is essential for challenging stigmas attached to mental health.
"I think employers should look on mental health websites more, like Rethink and Mind, to gain more of an awareness about mental health," she added. "In the workplace, everyone should be looked at as individuals, everyone is unique and has different qualities to bring to a job - employers need that balance within the workplace."
Sarah has spoken openly about her bipolar on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Bristol, and has has also appeared on ITV news.
To find out more about Sarah's journey, and to join her mailing list to receive advance notification of her book release, visit: www.sarahdefrates.com.

Sarah Defrates outside Westbury Inks

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