A Story of Self Sabotage

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I am an expert at self sabotage. Over the years I have inflicted these self destructive tendencies on to myself. One example was when I was at college, studying childcare. The first year went smoothly and I was achieving A grades on every assignment. In the second year however, I changed.

My moods became erratic and I suffered from what I now know were bouts of mania. The class had a new lecturer for the year and our personalities clashed instantly. I would refuse to do assignments because to me they were illogical and pointless towards passing the course. When it came to coursework, this particular lecturer would hold me back and tell me my work wasn’t good enough. I became obsessed, and would bitch and moan, rant and rave about her to everyone. I ignored her suggestions and advice and accused her of singling me out, because I defied her during classes. I wasn’t going to pass the course if I didn’t take on board what she was saying and finally there was a meeting between me, her, another lecturer and the head of the course. I was infuriated that it had come to this and convinced myself I was being victimised. I knew more than she did. I was more intelligent and she was wrong. The meeting did not go well. Fearless anger was directed at them. I don’t care what this meant for the future. The three of them were waiting for me in the room. They had their chairs at angles, making a semi circle. I was motioned to sit in the chair opposite.

“Katie, we’re meeting here to discuss your academic performance and your attitude towards one of your lecturers, who is here today.” The head of department turned to the lecturer, who shuffled in her chair before she began.

“Yes I would like to say your attitude towards me has been unacceptable. You constantly argue the point with me and challenge me in front of other students. I have given you advice and support with your coursework after lessons, but you have ignored my suggestions and become aggressive. You seem to think that I don’t know what I’m doing; that I’m incompetent and you have told me this.” She had been sat forward in her chair, speaking animatedly. I could hear the frustration and anger in her voice, masked by her politeness. The head of the course remarked,

“We don’t expect this type of behaviour from our students Katie. Do you have anything you want to say?” I sat fuming across from them. I remember staring furiously at my lecturer as she had spoken. I hated her. I hated her ugly clothes, and the disgusting worn leggings she always wore. I wasn’t about to choose my words carefully after what she had said. Not being able to help myself, I said with barely taking a breath.

“I don’t agree with you, I don’t agree with anything that’s been said. I work really hard, I know what I’m doing. I have already taken A levels and have passed all of them with high levels of attainment. I’m intelligent and articulate, more so than you.” I glared at my lecturer as I said this, looking her up and down. To me she was a disgusting piece of shit with her worn out baggy clothes and red bloated face. I continued, “Because of this, I think she’s jealous and has taken a dislike to me. She has chosen to single me out from the rest of the class and victimise me. I am the victim here, the victim of her unprofessionalism. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my work. Last year I had straight A’s and all of a sudden, since she started my grades have dropped, and all because she doesn’t like me.” I refused to speak to her directly, not wanting to show her any respect. Until my last remark when I turned to her sneering, “And yes, I do think you’re incompetent.” Shaking, trembling with anger I stopped, silently awaiting for their reply. My lecturer responded, this time with more vitriol than before,

“I don’t appreciate your tone. You’re acting completely unreasonably.” She turned to the others, ignoring me, “See, this is what I was discussing with you both earlier, this is the attitude I’ve had to deal with everyday.” I couldn’t believe that she was treating me this way, pretending I wasn’t in the room, that my existence didn’t matter. I shouted,

“Don’t act like I’m not here, it’s insulting! This is the attitude I have to deal with everyday.” The other lecturer, who had been sitting quietly throughout piped in,

“You seem very angry. I think maybe you should calm down, so we can have a reasonable conversation.” That was the worst statement she could possibly have made. I felt patronised, treated as a small child that couldn’t regulate their emotions. I was twenty one years old, an adult, who didn’t need telling how angry she was. I was seething. How dare they treat me this way, me! At that moment I thought of myself as the most important person on the course, that I was special and deserved to be treated as such. No, actually I believed I was above everyone, the most important person in the world. They couldn’t treat me this way, singling me out when I was in the right and they were in the wrong. I couldn’t make them see the situation my way and I couldn’t understand why.  It was infuriating. The anger inside continued swelling and I was ready to burst with righteous anger. The head of the course began again with a more resolute tone than before.

“Katie, you need to understand your behaviour right now is completely unacceptable and is exactly the kind of attitude we have been speaking about today before you arrived. We expect you to show some respect for your lecturers, even if you don’t agree with everything they tell you. Now according to your lecturer, with the quality of work she is seeing at the moment, you will not pass this course. If you refuse to go to one to one tutoring and your attitude does not change, I’m afraid we will have to ask you to leave the course.” How could they? How could they! I though to myself it was unfathomable that i could be treated this way. In my mind I was being punished for being intelligent and daring to have my own opinions. I couldn’t contain myself. I said with a nasty, vindictive tone as I pointed to each one,

“Well fuck you, fuck you, and especially fuck you.” The room was quiet and stunned. I continued, “I’m not letting you force me out, I don’t give a fuck about this course.” I stormed out the room, me heart beating hard and my head pounding.  I went to the bathroom and cried angry tears. I was intensely frustrated. Then I began to laugh, laugh while I cried. I didn’t know what else to do. But I felt vindicated. I had made my point.

I realised later, when I was in a more stable frame of mind what exactly I had done. I was two months away from finishing the course. I could have just shut my mouth and carried on, but instead I decided to throw away two years of work. I had no back up plan, no job to go to. I sabotaged my life. Through sheer luck, everything worked out, but this is just one example of how I sabotage myself when I am unwell. It can happen when I’m manic, but depression likes to get in on the act too. Looking after myself and looking out for the warning signs of an episode and staying away from triggers is my best defence against self sabotage.

 

 

Self Honesty

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Honesty. A subject I harp on about often. I like to think I am an honest, upfront individual and that this is reciprocated by the people around me. Mutual respect – if I’m honest and open with you, then I should expect the same in return. However, there is something that evades me – self honesty. I am not honest about what is going on within my own mind. I creep around an emotion for fear that if I face it I will become engulfed by it. It’s not a healthy attitude to have when you suffer from Bipolar.

At the end of last year, I was in the middle of a severe bout of depression. It was one of the longest stretches of time I had felt so low. Everyone has had that moment when you NEED to cry. Whether it be through physical pain, grief and loss, a break up or just after a ridiculously shitty day when everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. So you scream, cry, sob, but then afterwards you feel a release. You feel better, somewhat restored and ready to face life’s next challenge. Engaging with that raw emotion and facing up to it is what allows us to carry on during difficult circumstances.

Looking back to late last year and I found it immensely difficult to cry. That sounds strange, coming from a person who has faced up to the fact they are depressed. I have made excuses for myself; that I’m a strong person and I don’t need to cry. Blaming the medication for dampening down emotions. The people around me won’t want to see a blubbering wreck. Even that crying is self indulgent. But these are all lies. I had been lying to myself and denying a healthy response to my ill health.

This is something I have learnt to recognise on my own. Counselling through talking therapies was unfortunately unhelpful, but for one point. Six sessions past and I had not cried, not even once. I had found the whole process frustrating. The exercises, assessments and ‘homework’ straight out of a textbook and not tailored to suit my needs. This frustration boiled over during the seventh session when the counsellor informed me I would not be referred for further support and assessment as he had failed to,

“Gain enough evidence.” I felt that there was this magic combination of words that I had to use to continue to receive help, that I was completely unaware of. His questions began again and I returned with answers as best I could. Then he stopped me and said,

“I’m not getting what you are trying to say.” All I could manage before I started to cry was,

“I don’t know what you want me to say, I’m explaining how I feel.” And that was it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I couldn’t drive I was crying so much and I had to stop at my Mums’ halfway home. When I managed to compose myself enough to get home, I spent the evening sobbing. The next week I was hollow, numb, burnt out. The next weekend I felt something again. But again I couldn’t cry, something was holding me back that I didn’t want to recognise. I was scared to cry, to have that release. If I cry, I will break that barrier, I will be out of control and unsure of what I would do to myself.

This was where I found myself at the end of last year. I had repeated the pattern, years later. I wanted to be strong, and not give in to the depression. It culminated on Boxing day when I could no longer bottle up how awful I really felt. the tears flowed, and along with them the negative, painful emotions I had suppressed.

I am slowly realising I need to take my own advice. Facing a problem head on; being honest with myself about the emotions I am feeling and facing up to them. It will be painful, but I will heal faster and hopefully gain further self awareness.

A letter about Depression: Shutting down and Disappearing

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To my family and friends:

I’m sorry I disappear. Sometimes I disappear physically; not bothering to keep in touch and sometimes emotionally; I shut down to cope with being unwell. I do this to an extent to protect myself. I don’t want to be judged or rejected for who I am.

Unpredictable tendencies have shrouded my adult life. If you have spent a considerable amount of time with me you may just have noticed. One week I can be full of energy and enthusiasm , ideas and creativity flow easily. I don’t want help from anyone because I feel that I can do anything and everything. I may talk incessantly and very quickly. I may make jokes and comments that are confusing and might only make sense to me.

At times I can become very depressed. I don’t mean that as if others describe it; as having a rough day, a down day, feeling fed up. It may last days or it may last for months, I can never tell. That only thing I know is that suddenly I can no longer function as I used to. All my energy and enthusiasm has gone. I will feel numb and become difficult to talk to. I don’t want to see anyone or go anywhere. I can feel overwhelmed with the idea of talking to people, to the point of crying uncontrollably.

When I’m low I shut down and my concentration wanders. I’m not being rude when I don’t respond to what you say, or take weeks to reply to a message. I simply can’t interact socially; I can barely get out of bed.

Sometimes you may feel you need to tread carefully with me. I can be overly sensitive, irritable or just aggressive. I know that this can be frustrating, it is for me. I have never liked the term ‘treading on eggshells.’ The idea that people I care about feel they can’t act naturally around me is upsetting. If you feel you can’t, then let me know; it might help us both feel more comfortable in each others company.

I have always found it difficult to keep in contact with friends and extended family. I don’t want to use it as an excuse but I think my illness is one of the main reasons for this.  If I have lost contact I wasn’t trying to be rude or standoffish I was merely trying to feel healthy again, to be on a level kilter for a change.

I will never apologise for being honest about having Bipolar. It needs to be talked about and I can’t be around people that are uncomfortable or disagree with this notion. I may lose friends, but I’m ok with that. People are too often happy to live their lives in denial, pretending everything is as perfect as their Facebook page. I will never be like that.

I hope we can stay in touch, and that my openness about my illness has helped you understand why I sometimes act the way I do.

Hearing Voices During A Manic Episode

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I have written on the blog before about depression and hearing voices, but never in detail about how I hear voices during periods of mania.

During mania, the voices can be comforting. I have many ideas racing through my head during a manic phase and the voices I hear add to the jumble. They give me ideas and fill with me confidence that elevates my mood further. They urge me to try new things, or will encourage me to fulfil my own compulsions. The voices will tell me stories and I will write them down. I have always had an active imagination, but the voices feed it. It’s exciting, a thrill to have these ideas implanted in my head. But are they already my ideas? It feels that they are foreign and new to me, but I know they are coming from inside my own mind, somewhere. It’s very confusing. When I’m stable or depressed, I’ll look back at what I’ve written. It usually doesn’t make any sense. It can be a stream of consciousness or a confused mixture of ideas that are laughably ridiculous.

Sometimes all I hear is a mumble, or words that are completely disassociated from one another. I try and pay more attention and bring them into the foreground of my hearing, but for some reason I can’t. It’s an irritant and draws my attention away from whatever I’m trying to concentrate on, like a mosquito buzzing around a room when you’re trying to sleep.

I often speak out loud to them and they reply very audibly, as if they were in the room with me. The conversations can be about anything. I don’t instigate them, the voices do. Because they are so comforting and well known to me, it doesn’t make me jump with surprise when I hear a question, or a statement in my ear. A voice will start speaking in a friendly tone and a conversation will begin. A voice doesn’t suddenly pounce on my mind, it happens naturally and without fear.

I remember instances as a teenager and adult when I’d be in my bedroom, or home alone when a voice has perked up. When I’m manic I’m already itching, ready for anything. I feel like a piece of kindling that only needs the smallest spark to set on fire and rage. Rage either with hysteria or ferocious anger. Sometimes it’s the voices that provide the spark. They, or it, would start speaking to me. They who were always animated, always ready to push me further. Now, most of the conversations are a blur, trapped in a haze of mania. I can recall bits and pieces. All of a sudden they would be there, and I was always happy to hear them. I would run extremely excited, like I had just spoken to a friend on the telephone whom I hadn’t heard from for years. Or start running around the house, like a small child given too many sugary sweets, full of energy. I’d wait eagerly for someone to come home so I could laugh and talk at them endlessly, desperate to share what had just happened. My family or partner would look at me confused and bewildered, probably wondering what could have happened for me to act in such a way. Something would always hold me back from explaining why I was so filled with exuberance, something that knew it wasn’t healthy to have such a rich and fulfilling conversation with the voices in my head.

I’ve had conversations with people where I’ve become distracted or ‘zoned out’ because there was a voice speaking to me. I might make a joke that no one understands but myself and the voices, our own special inside joke. I’ve laughed out loud for seemingly no reason, when a voice has told me a joke I couldn’t resist laughing at. When strange looks have been given my way, I would say I’d just remembered a joke I’d heard earlier. The voices have become my friends and I think I would miss them if they were gone. If my mood becomes very elevated, I know they will be there and I look forward to hearing them.

 

 

 

A Response to BBC Panorama – A Prescription For Murder

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The reporting of anti depressants was shameful in this programme. This show was only about scaremongering and hysteria surrounding medication and mental illness. It’s harmful towards people with mental health problems. The programme will increase the stigma of mental illness and taking medications, which is already a problem for so many sufferers. The damage caused could be irreparable to audiences views on anti depressants and their views of mental health sufferers.

I think it’s important to acknowledge people with mental illness are far more likely to be a harm to themselves than to anyone else. According to Time to Change, “90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress.” and statistics show that “Only 1 per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.” That means 99 per cent of violent crimes were committed by people who were not suffering from a mental illness. People with mental health problems are also far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. The Royal College of Psychiatrists report that people with a severe mental health problem are five times more likely to be the victims of assault, with women being particularly vulnerable. Substance misuse is a far bigger problem and has much more of a tangible link to violent crime than mental illness.

The title in itself is damaging, “A Prescription for Murder” and seems to be there to increase ratings. I’m not exaggerating when I say this programme is dangerous that could lead to people not seeking help who are in desperate need. Imagine you’re a young person or someone that has never taken anti depressants. After seeing this programme would you be put off taking SSRI’s? I think so. Even if you are extremely unwell this show could deter someone from seeking help, with consequences that could be serious to that individual. Its’ title is misleading in its’ insinuation that the prescription will cause people to commit murder, when they are focusing on a tiny proportion of the global population.

I am also offended by the online twitter team. The tweets completely missed the point as to why so many people were angry. Tweeting to “see your doctor if you’re concerned about side effects” is an example of this. People are upset about this show because it is stigmatising and harmful, not because of a lack of information of what to do if you’re concerned about medication you’re taking. There was also a link to a BBC article about support for mental health. The image of someone clutching their head used in the article is stigmatising. Both Mind and Time for Change have guidelines for reporting on mental health, and images that should be used. Here is a link to Time for Change’s Responsible Reporting section. The programme and the image used in the article show that these guidelines were blatantly ignored in favour of ratings.

As someone with Bipolar, I take a mixture of mood stabilisers, anti psychotics and anti depressants. I have written about how Psychiatric Drugs Saved My Life It’s true that if I was taking anti depressants they would alter my mood and I have become manic because of them. What’s also true is at these times I was only ever a danger to myself. I was misdiagnosed with depression and with the proper treatment I am now much more stable. Although the connection between SSRI’s and violence is played up, what is downplayed is the connection between misdiagnosis and how anti depressants alone can be harmful for people with severe mental illnesses such as Bipolar. This isn’t a new revelation.

What also upsets me is the rhetoric that medication for physical health is seen as a positive and very much needed. However, as soon as the media start talking about mental health medication it’s only seen as negative, and dangerous at that. This is more harmful to the majority of people with mental health problems than any medication could ever be.

The BBC has a duty to be impartial and fair. They have a duty to report respectfully and without bias. I don’t believe this has happened with this programme. The media needs to be held accountable for how they portray people with mental illness and it’s our duty to make sure they are. If you wish to make a complaint about this programme the link is here

Surviving a Festival whilst Living with a Mental Health Problem

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I love music festivals. To me, a good festival is other worldly, where you can get lost in the music and the atmosphere. With a mental health condition though, the very idea of attending can feel overwhelming, and a daunting task. I’ve put together a survival list that should not only allow you to cope, but also have a fun and memorable time.

Research festivals Finding a festival that suits your music tastes is important, but also one that allows you to feel secure in the environment around you. For instance, there may be a festival in your local town, so you don’t have to camp (and the added benefit of being able to shower in your own home)! Festivals all have they’re unique vibe, so it’s a good idea to look into what the general atmosphere is like before booking tickets.

Get plenty of sleep For me, a lack of sleep is a major trigger for my mental illness. If I miss out on sleep for a couple of days it can cause a bout of depression or mania. Regular, good quality sleep for any mental health problem is vital. Take some earplugs with you to drown out noise, and don’t feel pressured to stay up all night; if you need to sleep it will make the next few days much more enjoyable.

Take time out Festivals are loud and in your face. They’re full of excitable people, strangers and the unexpected. You don’t need to be partying every single second of the weekend. Not everyone likes to admit it, but none of us can be on the go constantly. Instead plan what you want to see and add to that times when you can take it easy. Whether that’s sitting watching the world go by, or going back to your tent for a breather.

Pack and take your medication It’s so important to not neglect your medications whilst at a festival. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll take them later.” Put an alarm on your phone and take them when you normally would. A sudden withdrawal from medications can make you feel mentally and physically extremely unwell. Don’t be put off taking them with you. Your bag may be searched so take your prescription script with you to confirm these are your medications and for your use only.

Plan your day This will help you feel more secure and give structure to each day. It can be as loose or as itemised as you want it to be, we’re all different when it comes to planning! A plan will help you remember to take time out, and when to take your medications.

Go with a group This is good advice for anyone, mental health condition or not. A group is more fun, but also safer. If you lose friends at a festival, the likelihood is you’ll never be separated from everyone when you’re in a group, or for long. Make sure it’s with people you trust that understand you may find the weekend difficult. Chances are when you need to take time out or need a rest, someone else in the group will be feeling exactly the same way.

Tell someone if you’re struggling Bottling up that you’re finding things difficult can ruin a festival weekend. As I’ve already said, going with a like minded, caring group of people is the best option. There might only be a couple of people you feel you can confide in, so tell them before the festival that you may need some support at some point. If they’re true friends, they won’t mind sitting out the festival for awhile to be there for you.

Know your limits I mean this in terms of how much you can see and get involved in during the weekend, but also alcohol and other drugs. Being forced by others to do more, drink more, take more, is not ok. Think about what you are capable of and comfortable with before the festival starts. This isn’t an easy one, as personally it has taken me years to realise what my limits are, and stick to them.

I hope this post has been helpful, and feel free to add your own tips in the comments!

Bipolar Mania and Money – A Path to Debt

Money is a bizarre concept. We all want more of it and often our relationship with it can turn into an obsessive, fear-inducing nightmare. A certain amount of vigilance regarding our money and spending habits is healthy, but what happens when that self control dissipates for months on end?

I should point out that I am far from materialistic. Growing up I was taught the value of money and living in a politically minded left wing home where we often had to make do without I learnt that life and living meant more than the consumption of goods. That attitude has never abated and I find myself ‘needing,’ new clothes for instance, when my current ones are worn out or torn; not how other people ‘need’ that designer bag or the latest phone.

However, during my early twenties certain aspects of my decision making became irrational. I found myself in a wonderful but intense relationship with a person so tightly wound it was doomed to failure. During that time I was a student, then after that earning a measly salary, but I spent like crazy. At one point I had four credit cards and two store cards. The difference here from ‘needing’ things was that I just didn’t think about the consequences. It became impulsive. For example, my laptop screen cracked. Rational me would have weighed up whether the current laptop was still usable and if not, could I live without one or could I afford a new one. At the time I couldn’t afford to replace it but I marched into town and bought the first one I saw. The relationship I was in was difficult as neither of us had much privacy – so I would book hotels for the weekends. I paid for us both for a week away in the Cotswolds. This spending stopped very suddenly and I found myself in a deep depression.

A year or so later, still with credit cards to pay off and earning slightly better I was at it again. Out of the blue, I booked a flight to Japan. I spent time travelling in Tokyo and Kyoto and loved every minute of it. Again everything went on the credit card – the hotels, nights out, presents for friends and family…I wasn’t concerned about the money I was spending, I was driven by this compulsion to do whatever I wanted.

Continuing along the same vein, when I returned from my holiday I decided I would rent a flat by myself. I couldn’t afford it, but somehow I had enough bravado to convince the estate agent and my family, that I could. I ended up hardly eating and spending one of the coldest winters I had ever experienced in a freezing flat as the gas meter forever needed topping up. I was still remarkably happy though, until the confidence and euphoria left me again.

All of this extortionate spending meant I would eventually have to deal with the consequences. The aftermath of the spending whilst I was manic was desperate. I have had my cards declined, forced to move back in with my parents’ and threatened with bailiffs. The amount of debt I had accumulated was eye watering. Nine years later I’m still paying off debts, and new debt has been added when I have had further episodes of mania.

Although I regret the inevitable stress I put myself through when I eventually gained perspective and the debt I accumulated, I do not regret the experiences I had. I find it difficult to explain why I continued to spend. I was not in denial, I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t care or worry. I knew that everything would turn into sunshine, lollipops and electro rainbow kittens. Looking back on these occasions now I was unwell. I exhibited other behaviours that were not me or I felt that my personality – my passions, ambitions were amplified. In short I was not my usual self.

Since then, I have become much more self aware. Sometimes I need others to be aware for me. That is easier said than done, as when I do spend excessively I am in high spirits and I believe that none of my decisions could possibly be wrong. Parcel after parcel will appear on the doorstep, my partner feeling exasperated at the amount of money I’m spending yet again. I have gone to extremes such as cutting my credit cards up and then shredding them. I have given my partner my cards so I can’t spend when I go into town. I have thought about closing my PayPal account as it makes it far too easy to spend money online.

Over spending during mania is often overlooked; it’s seen as not as harmful as other symptoms. In my experience, it has exacerbated stressful situations when I have returned to some form of stability, or become depressed. It can have lasting effects on the way you live your life.

My mental illness Q & A – Mental Health Tag 2017

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1. What is your mental health issue?

I suffer from Bipolar Affective disorder. It first manifested as depression, but I was later diagnosed with Bipolar. As part of Bipolar, I also have psychosis, where I have times when I experience auditory hallucinations. I also suffer with panic attacks and bulimia.

2. Do you have medication and/or therapy?

Currently, I am only receiving medication for Bipolar. I take lamotrigine a mood stabiliser, aripiprazole, an anti psychotic and sertraline, an anti depressant. I am hoping to receive some form of therapy organised through my psychiatrist.

3. What therapy/medication have you tried and has any worked for you?

The combination of medications I listed in the last question are undoubtedly the most effective of all the medications for Bipolar I have been on. The side effects are minimal; they make me extremely tired, but I take them before I got to bed so they help me to sleep. Before this I was on quetiapine, which I can only describe as making me zombified. I was constantly tired and lived in a haze of forgetfulness and had a complete lack of concentration. I was then on respiridone, which initially worked well, but because of a hormonal balance I had to stop taking it.

For panic attacks, I found CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) to be helpful. It helped because the panic attacks I was experiencing at the time were environmental. After stressful periods of time I would have an intense and painful panic attack. It taught me how to change my thinking when I was stressed.

4. How long have you had problems for?

I was first severely depressed when I was fourteen. I became a school refuser, and was referred to a psychologist. I had multiple bouts of mania (which I didn’t realise was mania at the time) during my late teens and twenties. I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar aged twenty seven.

I started experiencing panic attacks when I was twenty, and developed bulimia during my early twenties.

5. Do your family/friends know?

My family and friends are all aware of my mental health problems. I encourage them to talk to me and read my blog if they are unsure or confused about my illness.

6. Does this affect your work and daily living?

In a word, yes. I am currently unable to work a full time job, with my income coming from sporadic freelance writing jobs, selling my artwork on Etsy and DLA (disability living allowance), now known as PIP (personal independence payments). Daily life can be a struggle if I’m in a depressive episode, where I’m unable to do anything, let alone work or socialise with friends. Relationships can become strained when I’m unwell. I’m difficult to be around, because I either shut down completely, or become angry and rude.

7. What makes you feel calm?

Listening to music, especially alternative eighties and nineties songs, as they remind me of happier times. Bubble baths are my absolute calming, safe space to be in. Snuggled up reading a good book, especially an old favourite.

8. What do you do in crisis?

The number one thing is to tell someone I’m in crisis. Being alone during these moments can be unbearable. I need someone to give me a hug and talk to me, even if it is innocuous and dull.  If I’m alone I’ll ring or message my husband or my mum. I try and distract myself from the intense feelings I’m experiencing.; whether that’s listening to music, having a bath, or playing a video game. Sometimes this isn’t enough and I have to ring the local crisis team, or my psychiatrist, who is awesome at organising emergency appointments when I’m in crisis.

9. What advice would you give to others suffering?

My advice is to find support as soon as possible. At appointments sometimes you need to be confident and assertive to be taken seriously and to be given a diagnosis or support you need. I know it’s incredibly difficult to do that when you’re ill, so take someone close to you that understands what you’re going through.

Become an expert on your mental illness. The more you know, the more you will understand and find solutions to combat your mental illness.

10. What makes you smile?

My husband, my family and friends. My hyperactive cat, Matilda. Animals, especially ducks, bears and otters. Nature, hot summer days, music and art.

11. Describe your mental health issue in 5 words –

Debilitating. Bewildering. Complicated. Painful. Terrifying.

12. Insert a picture to make people smile –

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Psychiatric Drugs Saved My Life

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I’ve been reading more and more accounts that are anti medication, anti psychiatry recently. As mental health awareness is being raised by celebrities, bloggers, media outlets and pushed further up the political agenda (supposedly), there seems to be an increase of those who seek alternatives to the advice of medical professionals. There are numerous conspiracy theories of how medication is forced on us only for profit. That the pharmaceutical industry works only to secure customers long term, or for life. That they purposefully create medications that cause difficult withdrawal symptoms, with the hope it forces people to stay on them for longer. That Psychiatrists are somehow ‘in on it’ and make money by pushing drugs on patients that don’t need them.

All of these conspiracy theories are harmful to those that need help. They create a stigma around mental illness that it isn’t a problem at all, or in fact, it isn’t real. This is pure unadulterated bullshit. This is just another example of people pushing their own agenda. Whether it’s the ‘healthy eating and exercise cures all’ agenda, or ‘mental illness can be treated by psychologists alone’ agenda, or even the ‘mental illness doesn’t exist because my religion tells me so’ agenda. With so many conflicting, loud, brash opinions bombarding us, no wonder so many people are reluctant to find help they so desperately need.

Of course, like everyone, I have an agenda also. The exception is that I have my own lived experience as evidence and current scientific fact to back me up. I have said to people on many occasions that psychiatric drugs changed my life for the better. No; actually they saved my life. Bipolar disorder was wearing me down, year after year. I have been suicidal without medication and have come close to taking my own life. Nothing was working for me; until I found the right medication. I am not ashamed that I rely on medication to stay healthy, the same as many rely on insulin to stay healthy for diabetes. And why should I be ashamed? Without medication I was a mess. I was either manic and a danger to myself, or severely depressed and a danger to myself. I lived a healthy lifestyle and exercised (especially when manic). I tried therapy before I was diagnosed with Bipolar, but it didn’t work. Being asked constantly,

“Why do you think you feel that way?” or “What made you act like that?” was not helpful when I had no clue why I was trapped in an endless self destructive cycle. I went to therapy for answers, but all I got were questions thrown back at me. I talk about my experience in the post, My experience of Talking Therapies

My own lived experience tells not just a story, but provides evidence that medication does work. With the right balance of mood stabilisers and anti depressants, I feel stable. I am able to not just live my life, but create enjoyable experiences and lasting, positive memories. Without it, and I’m not creating hysteria around my condition, I could easily die. It’s a fact. Anyone who has spent time with me when I have been depressed or manic will be extremely aware of this. I don’t deny that a combination of medication, enough refreshing sleep, therapy, a healthy diet and exercise helps to combat mental illness. These as a combination are the most successful treatment.

Bipolar should never be seen as ‘In Fashion’

Fuck this

This weekend I was at a party, and started speaking to a group of people I didn’t know very well. We got onto the subject of one their friends, who was being accused of faking Bipolar. They felt that she was attention seeking, and were scathing about her behaviour. Then came the inevitable conversation about the status of Bipolar in society. One girl chimed in and had this to say,

“Well everyone these days is Bipolar, because it’s ‘in’ and fashionable.” There were nods of agreement. The very idea of this notion makes my blood boil. I decided it was time to speak up, and educate these people who seemed ignorant of what having Bipolar really means,

“I have Bipolar. It took twelve years for me to be diagnosed. It’s not fashionable, in fact it’s terrifying and debilitating at times.” I went onto to tell them about this blog, and how my post 101 Things Nobody Tells you about Bipolar would be particularly helpful for them to read. The conversation was quickly moved on.

To me, Bipolar will never be fashionable. It’s a life long severe mental illness that takes effort and determination to live with and even more work and drive to find some form of stability. People seem to hold onto the idea that Bipolar can make you seem more interesting; that others will see you as edgy and vibrant, or brooding and mysterious. It’s infuriating that there are people playing make believe because they want their lives to seem more exciting. All this does is add to the stigma. It’s harmful to those that are actually suffering and trying to reach or maintain good mental health. I find it insulting that people would go to such extremes and use an illness I live with to impress others.

I would do almost anything to trade Bipolar for stability. It is beyond me why anyone would romanticise or glamourise this illness, or purposefully want it. Mania, or the idea of it, seems to be the most enticing notion. Some people want to be the life of the party, and go on epic adventures, and see mania as an excuse for this. The difference between being confident and exuberant and mania is stark. I talk about it in the post Bipolar: The difference between feeling good and mania I often say that Bipolar is an explanation for some of my behaviour, but never an excuse.

The reason seemingly more people are now diagnosed with Bipolar is not because it’s fashionable, but because there is more awareness. According to Bipolar UK  2% of the population in the UK have a lifetime prevalence of Bipolar, so the idea that ‘everyone has Bipolar’ is untrue. As a teenager, I was fairly ignorant about mental illness, whereas teens now seem to be much more clued up on the subject. Even though stigma is still prevalent, we are able to talk more openly and society as a whole is becoming more aware.

From the conversation I had on Saturday though, there is still a long way to go in terms of education about Bipolar and mental illnesses. People are quick to judge and repeat stigmatising myths they’ve heard surrounding conditions. The media in particular have a duty to publish articles that are informative and accurate and do not glamourise mental illness. One of the reasons Bipolar is seen as fashionable is because celebrities are being honest about their condition and people want to emulate them. If you want life to be more exciting do something about it, but don’t fake an illness. If you see it as in fashion you are not aware of what Bipolar really is; a disorder that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. It can harm, destruct and kill in all it’s forms. It is most definitely not a fashion statement.