Driving with bipolar

Blog post posted on 07/10/19 |

I passed my driving test in 2006 and in 2013 I was diagnosed with Bipolar. After seven years of driving I was faced with the fear that my licence could be taken away from me.

As my medication was part of the anti-psychotic drug family, it had a massive effect on my cognitive functions – often leaving me tired and agitated at times. I now call it my ‘zombie’ zone.

Luckily for me I had an amazing GP and community mental health team who were there to support me and advise me on what I had to do next.

Losing my licence just wasn’t an option. I had a job that I loved and a young son to look after. I needed to stay on the road. It would have been so easy to claim ignorance and not declare that I had a mental health condition, but it would have also been very selfish of me.

I contacted the DVLA as instructed by my doctor, to explain my situation. I was pleasantly surprised, they were helpful and understanding. I had to send in quite a lot of paperwork and medical reports, but thankfully I was given the ok to keep my licence.

The second thing I had to do was put a plan in place for the days when I felt unfit to drive and discuss this with my employer. I needed support and reassurance that I could work flexible hours if I felt unwell.

The worst thing I could do would be to get in my car after no sleep or a bad reaction to my medication. The thought of putting myself, my son and other road users at risk still sends a chill down my spine.  

Six years on and I have learnt a lot about my condition. I know my triggers and I know to take my medication before 9pm to make sure I am fresh and alert to drive to work the next morning. I can’t wait to start my Advanced Driver Course, not only to become an enhanced driver, but to look at other ways to reduce stress on my daily commute.

Stigma around mental health issues are still very much apparent, but if we all have the confidence to be open and honest about it, then more people will begin to understand it.

By Sam Turner-Meyern, IAM RoadSmart’s membership marketing manager