Woman with bipolar disorder evacuates airport in London – 25/05/2023 – Equilibrium
At the age of 22, model Rosie Viva caused Stansted Airport, in London, to be evacuated and all passengers waiting for their flights to be removed from the site. She would be diagnosed days later with bipolar disorder.
Viva hadn’t slept all night. She was excited to fly to Croatia and vacation with her parents.
Her sleep had been shaky since her recent breakup with her boyfriend. But even so, she strangely felt very happy.
At one o’clock in the morning, she decided to run around London. And, when dawn came, she went to the airport, still not sleeping, believing that it was a dream.
She’s kissed a stranger in a coffee shop, shoplifted, and bought everyone breakfast at McDonald’s.
“I honestly didn’t think this was real life,” Rosie Viva told the BBC Access All podcast.
She was hyperalert. Her vision and hearing were clearer than ever, and she felt that her heartbeat “was like the end of a concert”, it was so loud.
At Stansted Airport, Viva began to question what she was experiencing and had the sudden urge to call her mother.
“When she answered, the illusion was shattered,” she says. “I realized that this was real life and I had reached the limit. My feeling was panic.”
Viva looked around, saw a hole in the wall and dashed towards it.
“I jumped over the baggage counter,” she says. “There was a fire alarm on the left side and I just remember squeezing it with my hand. All I remember is [depois] it’s hearing the alarms go off and seeing the cops running towards me.”
Guards caught up with Rosie Viva as the airport was evacuated. They quickly realized that she was hallucinating and needed to go to the hospital.
The arrival of the police could have been a cause for disruption, but she says: “I just remember a strange moment of relief because I was getting help.”
Rosie Viva hasn’t been feeling well for a long time and her reactions to events always seem more “extreme” compared to her friends.
“When something very small would shake me, I would have three weeks of depression, which just didn’t help,” she says.
On other occasions, she was unable to go to work “because a boy haunted me”, not knowing why she behaved the way she did when others did not.
She had seen her doctor several times, but she didn’t know how to describe what she was experiencing. And the assistance she received was never of much help.
That breakup with her boyfriend had been one of the first signs that something seriously was wrong. Rather than feeling shaken, Viva was radiant and energized. Friends of hers believed that she was trying to hide her broken heart.
After that, in Viva’s words, her language and thoughts became “super spiritual and religious. My parents lost a son to leukemia when he was seven years old and I started sharing online that I felt like his reincarnation.”
This factor would later become an important indicator that Viva was in a manic state. And with the lack of sleep, she was suffering from psychosis, seeing and hearing things that weren’t there.
Hospitalization, diagnosis and treatment
After the incident at the airport, an ambulance took Rosie Viva to the emergency room, where she stayed for 24 hours. Her older sister accompanied her and her mother had flown back from Croatia.
“I had moments when I understood what was going on,” she remembers. “But then he’d say things like, ‘Is it okay if I go on vacation?'”
Viva was assigned a bed in the psychiatric ward and was admitted under the UK Mental Health Act to ensure she was safe and received proper treatment. She would then be hospitalized for three months.
“I have moments that I partially remember,” she says. “Basically, I didn’t sleep for another two months. That level of psychosis was just bizarre because I didn’t recognize my parents for about two weeks.”
“I can’t verbalize how I felt – being locked in a room because of the way your mind thinks,” Viva continues.
After two days in the hospital, Rosie Viva was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. She says it took about six weeks for her new antipsychotic medication to take effect and for her to understand what that diagnosis meant.
According to the organization Mental Health UK, bipolar 1 disorder is characterized by at least one extreme breakout episode, known as mania, lasting more than a week. People also suffer from depression between bouts.
Viva also has “rapid cycles”, in which she suffers from mania followed by episodes of depression several times a year. She says she also suffers from minor mood swings, which can occur hours apart.
It is a lifelong illness that can be managed with a variety of treatments, including medication.
“There is no manual,” according to Viva, who manages the condition as best she can.
“Honestly, I take my medication religiously and have come to accept that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she says. “Now, if something upsets me and I get down, I wouldn’t say my medication cures the depression, it just makes me feel a little more rational.”
After being discharged from hospital, Rosie Viva was offered three-year outpatient support by the NHS – Britain’s public health system – to devise a management plan based on food and exercise.
Viva believes she is “progressing” when she eats well, drinks little alcohol and has a good sleep routine. Running has also become her “place of joy” as it helps burn off excess energy in a way that relaxing exercises like yoga cannot.
Going for a walk “without my cell phone and listening to the sounds of the world” is also essential for her to find perspective in difficult times.
Viva made a film about her experience, called Modeling, Mania and Me (“Working as a model, mania and me”, in free translation), for the series Shot by You on British television Channel 4. The film is an authentic look into her life with bipolar disorder.
“It was a relief I had never felt before,” she says. “It was almost like talking to a therapist or a friend.”
The incident at Stansted Airport took place four years ago. Rosie Viva learned to live with the condition alongside her modeling career for big brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. She was also appointed as an ambassador for Bipolar UK.
“I’m still a normal 27-year-old who thinks, ‘How am I going to handle this on top of everything else?'” she says. “It never gets easier, just the way you approach the condition makes it that much smoother.”
Listen to the episode of the BBC Access All podcast (in English), which gave rise to this report, in the site BBC Sounds.
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