Bill Oddie joins celebrities to call for support for the RSPCA
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Most recently, back in June 2021, Oddie took to Twitter where he opened up about his nearly year long health struggle. To his 79,000 followers, Oddie, who used to present the BBCs Springwatch said that he has been “nigh on comatose” after medication to treat his bipolar disorder gave him lithium poisoning. As well as bipolar, Oddie has battled through depression, which became so bad at one point he thought it might kill him.
Taking to social media, Oddie tweeted: “For nearly a year I have been nigh on comatose.
“Knocking on Heaven’s door with lithium poisoning. Saved by consultant at Royal Free Hospital.
“Then months mostly avoiding life and people. Depressed or asleep.
“Scaring my family and myself. No joy and no hope.”
The NHS explains that bipolar disorder is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. In order to stabilise these moods, lithium is commonly prescribed.
Lithium is not only used to treat bipolar, but other mood disorders such as:
- Mania (feeling highly excited, overactive or distracted)
- Hypo-mania (similar to mania, but less severe)
- Regular periods of depression, where treatment with other medicines has not worked.
There are two different types of lithium: lithium carbonate and lithium citrate. The former which comes as regular or slow-release tablets and the latter as a liquid. For lithium to be effective, the dosage must be correct. If it’s incorrect, you may get side effects such as diarrhoea and getting sick.
For Oddie, side effects of lithium were far more serious, which he explained in another tweet: “Just so you know, I have been very ill most of this summer. Lithium toxicity. Almost fatal!
“I am still here but very confused about most things! But then aren’t many of us. It fuddles my brain.
“Confusion. Will I return? I Really dunno. I do hope so. Please wish me luck. XX.”
Lithium toxicity occurs when there is too much of it in the blood, and is classed by the NHS as a medical emergency. The health body recommends to go to A&E or call 999 immediately if they experience one or more of the following:
- Loss of appetite, feeling or being sick (vomiting)
- Problems with your eyesight (blurred vision)
- Feeling very thirsty, needing to pee more than normal, and lack of control over pee or poo
- Feeling lightheaded or drowsy
- Confusion and blackouts
- Shaking, muscle weakness, muscle twitches, jerks or spasms affecting the face, tongue, eyes or neck
- Difficulty speaking.
In order to avoid levels of lithium from getting too high, individuals should have their blood tested regularly. But certain lifestyle habits can also help to avoid toxicity. These habits include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Reducing salt intake
- Avoiding drinking too much alcohol.
As previously mentioned, the reason why Oddie was taking lithium in the first place was to help his bipolar and depression, which back in 2009, got so severe he was hospitalised.
In an interview with MailOnline at the time, Oddie said: “The last year was probably the worst 12 months of my life because I suffered from bipolar [disorder] and terrible depression which began in January and February and basically I only emerged from that before Christmas, which was extraordinary.
“Basically, I thought I had had it – it was that bad. I spent two periods in hospital. One was in a private clinic.
“The second was with Camden’s crisis centre. Their team moved in rapidly and looked after me and gave me extremely good care.”
Those with bipolar disorder often also have depression, as this is one of the two episodes they can go through. During an episode of depression, individuals may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.
In complete contrast, during a manic phase, those with bipolar may feel extremely happy, have lots of energy and find it hard to go to sleep or eat. Although some may feel creative during this phase others experience symptoms of psychosis where they see or hear things that are not there but become convinced they are true.
If a person is not treated, episodes of bipolar-related mania can last for between three to six months and cause severe disruption to an individual’s life, hence the need for medication such as lithium.
Alternative treatment to medication includes talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or self-help advice such as ensuring you do regular exercise, planning enjoyable activities, eating healthier and getting more sleep.
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