How I’ve been stressed out and the effects on my body

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The last month has been incredibly stressful. The main reason for this has been that I found out that I’m not eligible for ESA (Employment Support Allowance) payments. Although I have been working for the past three years, I haven’t accumulated enough National Insurance contributions. This is because I was on a zero hour contract, meaning everyday off ill, every holiday I took, every time I scaled back my hours, I was not paying into National Insurance. I can’t receive ESA based on income either, because my husband works more then 24 hours a week. Which means I am living off the minuscule amount of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) I receive, and what feels like pocket money from my partner. I felt absolutely fucked and a complete abject failure. I stopped working to look after my health but have been debating with myself whether to go back to work. The moral of the story here is never to agree to zero hours. Always ask for a contract with a fixed amount of hours each week. I took on zero hour work, because I was recovering from an extremely difficult period of poor mental health and believed the flexibility of not having to fulfil a certain amount of hours each week was a good fit for me.

Stress for me is a trigger for a manic episode. In the most stressful times of my life I have been overcome with delusions of grandeur, insomnia, hyperactivity, over spending, irritability and full blown anger. I’m beginning to struggle with sleep and can feel that niggling irritableness creeping in. Now I’m more aware of the warning signs and can ask family and friends to be mindful and keep an eye on my behaviour.

The beginning of a stressful period has always affected me physically. I will feel physically weak and constantly exhausted, until the mania kicks in. This time though, I have acquired another symptom, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Symptoms began last week and I knew what it was straight away. I’m aware of the symptoms as I know a couple of people that suffer from IBS. I felt bloated and a sudden and urgent need to go to the toilet. Once I’d been, I felt I still needed to go, but couldn’t. Even though I was having diarrhoea, it didn’t feel like a virus or food poisoning. It was the worst possible timing as we were about to go away for a long weekend. The weekend was paid for generously by the company my husband works for. I had been looking forward to it as we will most likely not be able to have a holiday whilst I’m not working, which is the foreseeable future. There were activities planned for the three days away and I felt incredibly embarrassed that I kept having to run to the bathroom. I spent the Saturday morning alone in the bedroom, crying. Life felt unfair. Unfair that I already had a debilitating misunderstood mental health condition and was now suffering from symptoms of IBS.

I’m hoping that the IBS is only linked to stress and that I can learn to manage it. I have cut out greasy, fatty foods, cut down on caffeine and alcohol and plan to go to the gym regularly. I went to the gym today which is a massive achievement for me, but that’s for another post! Although it’s embarrassing I’m still going to talk about it, the same as I’m open about Bipolar.

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