Where to Start Talking About Mental Health

img_4925

 

Starting the conversation about mental health can feel overwhelming; but it doesn’t have to be. Someone struggling may need the smallest gesture to pull them through. You have  the tools to save someone’s life, even if you don’t realise it. Here are a few things that you can do to help someone in your life.

  • Ask someone how they’re doing. Simple right? If you have an inkling something isn’t right, really ask them if they’re ok, like you mean it. Like you’re not hoping and wishing for a simple “I’m fine.”
  • Ring or message someone you haven’t heard from for awhile. It could mean they’re  struggling and have isolated themselves. Knowing that someone is thinking of them could be what starts them talking.
  • Listen. So they’ve started talking to you, what do you do now? Listen attentively. Repeat back key phrases and sum up what they’ve told you in your own words. It will show that you’ve heard and understood.
  • Share. Maybe you or someone else in your life has gone through a difficult time? Share that experience so they feel less alone.
  • What can you do to help practically? Maybe they want someone to go with them to a doctors appointment. Maybe they want help cleaning their place or help making a meal.
  • You don’t need to fix them. Someone feeling like they’re in a desperate place doesn’t need to be told to “Take a bath.” “Go for a run.” or “Drink some camomile tea.” We as human beings want to fix problems and sometimes we can’t fix them completely.   If you’re not a medical professional then being there, talking to them and listening are the best things you can do.

It can also be draining to be there for someone struggling, so it’s important to look after yourself so you can be there for them. If you’re extremely worried about someone, it’s important you encourage them to find help. You can encourage them to ring their mental health team if they have one, make a doctor’s appointment, or go to A&E. There are also a number of helplines they can ring if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

UK Helplines 

Samaritans: 116 123

Mind Charity: 0300 123 3393

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774

CALMzone: 0800 58 58 58

charitynopanic: 0844 967 4848

CharitySANE: 0300 304 7000

Papyrus: 0800 068 4141

Rethink: 0300 5000 927

 

The Problem With The Term ‘Mental Health’

ACS-0006

I’ve lost my connection to the term ‘Mental Health.’ It means different things to different people, and that’s a problem. I consider myself a mental health blogger, but I’m thinking of changing that. To be honest I’m a mental illness blogger. I’ll explain why.

For some people, myself included, mental health equals mental illness. It’s a term we use to write about our illnesses, to explain and engage with others about what we go through day to day. For others, mental health covers everything to do with the way we think and act. People proclaim,

“We all have mental health!” Which is true, and I have no problem with people discussing their individual experiences. My problem is that vital voices are being drowned out. ‘Mental Health’ has become this huge umbrella of different meanings. The ideas that are more accessible and easier to digest for the general public will undoubtedly receive more attention.

It feels that mental health is becoming more and more synonymous with wellbeing, mindfulness and self care. Again, all great if you struggle occasionally with the stresses of life or have mild mental illness. It’s not for everyone and it certainly isn’t a magic cure. I’m growing more and more concerned that these subjects will shift the idea of what mental illness is, and trivialise it. I don’t need to read anymore articles about mindfulness, I get it, I know what it’s about. I don’t want people to start preaching to me about how if I practised self care and had a hot bubble bath with some aromatherapy candles, I could break out of a manic episode. No, what would do that is a review of my medication and the support of my psychiatrist.

We need voices that talk about bipolar, psychosis, personality disorders and schizophrenia. Voices that have the right platform and are listened to, because these aren’t easy subjects to open up about. It feels terrifying to begin, the real fear of being judged and ridiculed, stigmatised for something you have very little control over. By using the term mental health, these important discussions are being lumped in with articles about adult colouring books and how to meditate. Self help articles in my opinion should not be compared with articles educating about severe mental illness. There is a vast difference in the two.

As an example I recently had a conversation with a friend of a friend. He asked about blogging and I replied that I was a mental health blogger. He instantly started talking to me about how he is sometimes anxious whilst travelling and how he’s managed it through thinking positively. That’s great and I was genuinely pleased for him. When I started talking about what I blog about and how I’ve recently started a series about psychosis I could see his eyes widen. He quickly changed the subject. This is the problem. Anything beyond being anxious on the train was too much for him to handle. By his response, that was what he was expecting and it was because I used the term ‘mental health.’ If I’d said I wrote about mental illness, I think his expectations would have been different.

We need conversations about the underfunding of mental health services in the NHS and to create that link to the general public of why so many people are struggling and ending their lives. We need conversations about how those with severe mental illness are not all dangerous, but are more likely to be the victims of crime. We need conversations about how poverty, housing, being an ethnic minority or part of the LGBT community can have a negative impact on mental health.

Maybe it’s time for a new term, or a shift in how people use them. If you’re writing about general well being, say that. If you’re writing about mental illness, then say that too. Don’t jumble up the two, it’s causing more harm than good.

When Speaking About Mental Health, Language Matters

20180413_111519

 

Why does language matter? What is the difference between describing someone as ‘Is Bipolar’ or ‘Has Bipolar’?

Firstly, language is a powerful tool of expression. We tell stories with language and these stories conjure up images and ideas in the listener. We can impact the way people think or perceive the world around them with the language we use. Language can change people’s opinions of others and more importantly when it comes to mental health, themselves.

When we say someone ‘is’ their mental health diagnosis people immediately jump to their preconceived notion of the illness. They see what their experience of it is; what they have heard and seen in the media. It causes us to stereotype without really realising that’s what we’re doing. When someone says to me I ‘am’ bipolar it makes me feel that this diagnosis defines me. That my personality and the essence of what makes me who I am has been dwindled down to a mental illness. All that I am is bipolar, and this is all anyone ever sees. It impacts my self esteem in a significant way. It is limiting and dehumanising. It takes away our individuality to be spoken about in this way. Although I believe labels are important and a tool to receive treatment and provides answers to behaviours, being seen as just a label can be damaging.

When you say that someone ‘has’ a mental illness it has a completely different impact. I feel like I can be seen as a person and individual. It shows to me that the person understands mental illness and how it affects me. They understand that I might be struggling and need support.

There is still a huge discrepency between how we use language for physical and mental illness. Whereas physical illness sufferers are seen as fighters, those with mental illnesses are seen as weak. If you have a physical illness you’re often seen as blameless, it’s ‘just one of those things.’ With mental illness you’re seen as a failure and ‘you could be doing more to help yourself.’ Mental illnesses are biological, we have a genetic susceptibility and they are often coupled with environmental factors. It isn’t a weakness or failure on our part, but the misuse of language continues to contribute to the stigma.

It’s important that we use language delicately and with care when discussing mental illness. Think about how much impact your words have and how they can shape a person’s self worth.

 

I Gave Up Alcohol For My Mental Health

wp-1522770217504..jpg

My last psychiatry appointment was a tough one – I was told with certainty that I should, no, needed to give up alcohol. My response was a hopeful one, surely half a bottle of wine on a Saturday night was alright? The answer was a definitive no, even that amount of alcohol was far too much. We agreed that I should go sober, and I agreed reticently. I left feeling dejected, grumpy and silently cursing my psychiatrist. Although I felt fed up, I had known before my appointment that this change needed to happen.

Why go sober? 

My psychiatrist explained that alcohol reduces the effectiveness of many medications. Alcohol is a depressant, and pretty much cancels out the work my mental health medication does. In other words, I might as well not bother taking my medication every time I drink. If I have three days in a row of drinking, then that’s three days without medication. For me that can cause the beginning of withdrawal symptoms, that feel like having the flu. Or, more seriously, it can cause a bipolar episode of severe depression or mania.

The mental and physical effects

After a heavy weekend, or a number of days in a row of a ‘few’ drinks in the evening to help me unwind and relax I start feeling the negative effects of alcohol. I’ve noticed a correlation between heavy drinking and heart palpitations, that often leads to a full blown panic attack. Panic attacks are a debilitating and exhausting experience, and I’ll feel drained for days afterwards. Another experience I’ve had after drinking is psychosis. Earlier this year I drank heavily over my birthday weekend and at the end of it began to hear voices. I wrote about the experience in this post, My Hearing Voices Journal Alcohol free, I wouldn’t have gone through these experiences, and would have stayed mentally well and stable.

How I did it

I literally just stopped! Seriously though, it’s been tough, especially on nights out and at family celebrations. I’ve been drinking since I was fourteen, so to just suddenly go completely sober was a massive challenge. I was open about it with everyone, and my partner, family and friends have all been extremely supportive. I reached out to the twitter community and was given heaps of advice and tips on non alcoholic drinks so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on nights out. Soda and lime cordial has been my saviour when I’m out at a bar, along with flavoured sparkling water when I’m having a night in. It’s taken a terrific amount of self determination and will power, but I knew it was something I had to do for my mental health.

How I’m feeling now

Two months later and I feel fantastic! I’m clear headed, have more energy and haven’t had any palpitations or panic attacks. I’ve been stable and haven’t experienced psychosis or any depressive or manic episodes. I feel physically healthier and I’ve lost weight. I know my medications are working as they should be now, and that’s given me the impetus to stay sober.

I may have left my psychiatric appointment with a feeling of dread and wondering how the hell I was going to go sober, but I’m so glad I stuck with my decision.

How I Learnt to Deal With Nighttime Panic Attacks

wp-1519209396079..jpg

I wake up with an intense nausea that floods my system. Running to the bathroom I’m convinced I’m going to be sick, but I’m not. Then comes the pain. It stabs at my chest and upper back to the point I can hardly breathe. I went to bed feeling relaxed and contented, but now I’m pacing the house, my heart pounding terrified I’m having a heart attack. The reality of panic attacks is the physical pain that cuts through you in great swathes. Having a panic attack at nighttime is very different to having one during the day. At night everything feels more intense, the atmosphere changes to one that is ethereal and other worldly. People that you count on to talk you through the experience are asleep and unavailable. You feel alone and desperate and not sure if you can get through the night. I’ve learnt some techniques to help me cope over the years, that have quelled the panic attack before it becomes too difficult to manage.

Thinking Logically

I know this is a panic attack. I know it’s painful but it won’t kill me. Twice I have been taken to hospital by ambulance because of the unrelenting pain I was in. Twice I’ve spent hours having multiple tests to find what was wrong, for everything to come back clear. What I know now is that although I have found myself in a great deal of pain, it won’t turn into anything sinister. I will talk myself through the situation by repeatedly telling myself this. I have to say it with conviction, to convince myself it will be okay.

Getting Out of Bed

Lying in the dark in bed during a panic attack is the worst possible thing I could do. The pain is all the more intense as I lie there, with nothing else to distract my mind. All the worst scenarios run through my head and all I achieve is making myself more and more anxious. I force myself to get up, go into another room and turn the light on. I force myself to have a drink of water and to do something, anything, rather than staying in bed worrying.

Therapy

I had CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) to manage my panic attacks, and to understand why I was having them so frequently. Therapy helped me to realise that I wasn’t dealing with stressors in my life, and that my worries and anxieties were manifesting as panic attacks. I learnt to face what was causing me stress in a situation and to deal with it there and then. Panic attacks for me often occurred after a stressful event. Once my body and mind were relaxed again, like going to bed on a Friday night after a difficult week, I would wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack. It became vital to realise when I was going through a stressful time, so when that stress had disappeared I wouldn’t end up having yet another nighttime panic attack. I was taught breathing techniques to calm myself, which I still use today

Distraction

If thinking logically doesn’t work on its own and I’m up and out of bed, I’ll try and distract my mind. It might be watching a favourite tv show, something light and entertaining that I’ve seen before. I might sketch or get out a colouring book, that keeps my hands busy and forces me to focus. I love to play video games so I might turn on the console and try and figure out that Zelda puzzle that’s been bugging me. If I occupy my mind effectively and for long enough, I won’t even realise the pain and panic has gone.

Using these techniques has cut down the amount of nighttime panic attacks I have drastically; I haven’t had a serious one in a year and a half. What I’ve leant in therapy often preempts an attack completely. Changing the way I manage stressful situations and work through them has had a significant positive impact on my life.

We Need to Stop Apologising for Being Ill

20170918_114250

 

This is something I find myself doing often. I have lived with mental illness for over a decade and I still find myself uttering that one word; sorry. Sorry I let you down. Sorry I couldn’t make it. Sorry for being ill.

An example of this is my partner and I recently went on holiday. Due to a mix up, I was left without one of my medications, and in the end went for three days without it. Including the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing, I also started to feel very low and tearful. We didn’t leave our lodge for two days because I was convinced I would break down or have a panic attack. The one thing I kept saying again and again was sorry. I felt I had ruined our holiday and it was all my fault.

When it comes to my mental health It’s so ingrained in me to apologise that I do it without really noticing. I find myself saying it before I’ve realised what I’ve said, and what it implies. Apologising implies it’s your fault. Mental illness is not your fault, it isn’t anyone’s fault for being ill. We are blameless. We didn’t cause ourselves to be ill, and we certainly didn’t ask for it.

So why do we do it? I think the stigma that lives in our society is mostly to blame. Mental illness by many is seen as a sign of weakness. The ‘just snap out of it’ and ‘cheer up’ brigade often think this way. We’re told by them we need to be stronger and to just get on with life. By others it’s a character flaw. There is something wrong in how we think and live and that it can be easily fixed. We’re lazy, so exercising regularly and working hard will cure all our problems. If we’re constantly being told we’re weak, flawed and lazy, no wonder we’re always apologising.

Another major reason we find ourselves apologising is guilt. We often find ourselves feeling guilty for a multitude of reasons. Our room or our house is a mess, we can’t get out of bed, we cancel plans with family and friends. But is this guilt an ordinary part of mental health problems, or does the pressure of being happy and normal cause it? I think maybe the guilt is always there, but the demands put on us by society exacerbate this feeling.

Back to the holiday I took with my partner. I kept saying sorry. Through tears and sobs I was still apologising. However, my partner would say to me, until it finally made sense, “Don’t apologise, you’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not angry or upset, you can’t help being ill.” That’s the key to all of this; to surround yourself with accepting individuals. Keep hold of those friends that understand and really mean it when they tell you it’s ok. Ignore  those that demean your mental illness and cut them out of your life if necessary. Educate the rest.

It can feel very lonely living with a mental illness. We want others to love us and not to frighten them away. We fear that we have made them angry or upset. So we say sorry, hoping they will stay. We need to show ourselves some compassion and to truly believe that we are not at fault for being ill. We shouldn’t apologising even if some people think we should. Even if we don’t always realise it, to go through what we do everyday, we are far stronger then them.

My mental illness Q & A

20170715_114934

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 –

11012420_10206956154601890_7989774091199621924_n

 

Am I ‘faking it?’ Thoughts on having an invisible illness

20170626_122644

 

I look perfectly well.

I can get out of bed. I shower, I wear clean clothes. I apply make up. I smile and chat and laugh.

But I’m not ok, I’m far from it. This picture was taken when I was severely depressed in March of this year. My medication had been lowered and it wasn’t working as it used to. I was left feeling like I was on the edge of a precipice, and I was barely clinging on. At the time of writing, my medication has been reviewed and increased, and I’m feeling more stable, more like myself. But I still look the same. I look as healthy as I did when I was struggling. Having Bipolar, or any mental health problem, means understanding what it’s like to have an invisible illness.

I have good days, good weeks, and if I’m lucky good months. These are the times I can get on with life. I can go out and enjoy living without the ogre of Bipolar looming large. Although, there is a voice. A voice that at first irritates and then consumes my thoughts,

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re faking it.”

It tells me I’m just lazy, or attention seeking. That I’m making all of this up. Even when I’m depressed, or in the midst of a psychotic episode or panic attack, the voice is there. Sometimes I believe it. It’s a dangerous voice, because on more than one occasion I’ve stopped taking my medication when I believed what it was telling me. That has never ended well. Missing Medication: Withdrawal and Side Effects

I know I’m not the only one that lives with this voice and the fear that they’re faking. For me, it comes from years of misdiagnosis, and the worry that maybe this diagnosis is wrong too, and actually, really, there was never anything wrong. Even after nearly five years of being diagnosed with Bipolar I still compare myself to others with the condition and convince myself I’m fine. Deep down though, I know Bipolar is a complex disorder, and everyone has a different experience of it.

It comes from people misunderstanding mental illness, believing sensationalist ideas, or making sweeping comments such as,

“I don’t believe in mental illness.” or,

“Medication and psychiatry is all a lie.”

To be told that everything you know is happening in your mind, that you feel so intensely is fake, a lie is suffocating. It’s wrong of these people to make such judgements. It’s strange to me that although mental illness touches 1 in 4 people in their lifetime, it is still so widely misunderstood and underrepresented in society. That leads back to the beginning of my post. Because it’s invisible, mental illness is difficult for people to relate to or understand. People often want to find an explanation for behaviour and because they can’t see mental illness as a cast or bandage on someone’s body, or on an x-ray, they look for other ways of defining what it means. As humans we want answers. We want to fix what is broken. There aren’t always answers for where mental illness comes from. There aren’t any quick fixes, and for some it’s a life time of mending over and over again what’s broken.

I know that seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication has saved my life. I know that I wouldn’t be here without the intervention of medication. No amount of exercise, calming baths and cups of tea would’ve had the same effect. I have to remind myself of this fact on a daily basis. I know I need to educate and inform friends, family and strangers about Bipolar and mental illness in general. The more people I talk to, the quieter that voice becomes.

 

My First Panic Attack

I had my first panic attack when I was 18. It was Christmas time and I was back from Uni. I remember being in bed when I suddenly felt a wave of nausea. The feeling built up gradually, to the point where I was convinced I was about to vomit. I rushed downstairs to the bathroom but nothing happened. My Mum had heard me coming down the stairs and appeared at the doorway to check if I was ok. That was when the pain hit me. A sharp, intense pain penetrated my chest; it felt like I’d been stabbed. I began to pace the house but each step I took the pain resonated from my foot up to my chest. With every action, the pain continued to intensify, as did my desperation. By that point I was crying with fear. I was convinced I was having a heart attack; that I was going to die. My Mum at this point rushed to the phone and rang an ambulance. Unable to control my breathing, I began to hyperventilate. Again this was a new experience and again I was terrified. Anyone who has experienced this knows how difficult to reign back in your breathing pattern is, especially when you don’t understand what is happening to you. I didn’t understand that I needed to calm myself and try to relax and that by doing so would release some of the pain. The ambulance arrived whilst I was sitting on the sofa, hunched over with my hands clamped over my head. The paramedics were incredibly calm and patient with me, especially as it took about 15 minutes for them to convince me to move. I’m a very prideful person and even in the state I was in, I didn’t want to be helped or go to the hospital.

It was my mum who first suggested it might have been a panic attack In hospital the doctor took an ECG, which came back normal and then ordered an x-ray of my chest, that again, came back as fine. His opinion was I’d pulled a muscle in my chest. My conclusion; he had no idea and was bullshitting.

For the next 3 years, I had numerous panic attacks, I couldn’t honestly say how many. I found heat of any kind soothed the pain and calmed me down. I would take a shower, sit on the floor with my back to the radiator in winter. Finally I bought a lavender pillow I could heat up and then place on my back or chest. The attacks would feel like they lasted for hours, and some did. Most attacks would occur in a cluster of two or three over the space of a week. The most frustrating element of the panic attacks was they would nearly always happen in the early hours of the morning. After each bout, I would be utterly exhausted.

I was finally offered CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) when I was 21. Before this, I was fobbed off many, many times by doctors who knew what was wrong with me. They’d say have a relaxing bath, drink some herbal tea before bed…blah, blah, blah. What I really needed was to learn why this was occurring and what I could do about it. The six CBT appointments I had were incredibly helpful. I learnt to accept that this was something that happened to me and that when it did, I could control it. Each time I had an attack, I would say to myself, ‘I know this is a panic attack. I know nothing terrible is going to happen to me. I know it is up to me to control and stop this.’ My counsellor showed me relaxation techniques and how to regulate my breathing so I wouldn’t hyperventilate and help calm my thoughts. My favourite relaxation technique was to tense and then relax my body starting with my toes and moving up to my neck.

Since CBT, the amount and severity of attacks have diminished and now I rarely suffer from them. This year, I have only had one major one. What I’ve realised is the anxiety and panic attacks are intertwined with Bipolar. They are part of the cycle; it often starts off with mania, that then subsides to a point where I feel devoid of energy. The offshoot of this is either a massive panic attack, a deep depression or both. I now look at panic attacks as my body’s way of saying ‘No, I’ve had enough of this nonsense, you’ve been using my reserve battery for too long, so I’m fucking you up for a bit.’ One piece of advice from my time talking to Gp’s that wasn’t entirely useless was having a bath. When I’m stressed or panicky, I’ll run a bath full to the brim with bubbles overflowing. It’s my safe place. Lying back in that warm water soothes me and distracts me from the pain and pressure I’m feeling. I lived in a house with only a shower for three years, but now I have one again I make sure I take a bath every single day to relax.

You can watch my video about panic attacks here

You can follow me on:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

How much is too much: Alcohol and Bipolar

wp-image-2001354615jpg.jpg

I love a good drink. Alcohol plays a major role in how I relax and how I socialise. Over the years, as my moods have changed, so has my relationship with alcohol and my consumption. When I lived alone, I was in a manic state nearly the entire time and I drank often in my flat when no one was around. After it became a problem, I made a promise to myself never to drink alone again. I’ve kept that promise, well as much as I could. I’ve had  some rare slip ups to this rule when I’ve been feeling very depressed. Alcohol was there and I knew it could numb the pain I was in.

Anyway, the point of this post is to explain how alcohols effect on me has changed recently. Take yesterday evening. I was sat at home, after having more than a few drinks the night before, I thought I’d have a quiet night in to myself. I’d been feeling slightly delicate that day, probably because we had started with beer and then graduated on to whiskey. Though feeling a bit rough, it wasn’t a problem; until about five that evening. My heart began to race. It felt like it was going to explode. There was a sharp, shooting pain in my back that radiated into my chest. It felt like the beginning of a panic attack. I sat as relaxed as I could taking deep breaths through my nose and exhaling out my mouth. The pain refused to dissipate. To calm myself, I ran a bath. The bath has become my safe place and the heat soothed the pain I was in.

I knew it was the alcohol that was effecting me because this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Before Christmas, I was drinking heavily. The nearer we got to the festivities, the more often I was having panic attacks. Move forward to Boxing day evening and I was in terrible pain, my heart again racing at a ferocious speed. I had to retreat upstairs to the spare room I was staying in and cry. I sobbed, sitting on the bed, feeling that I could no longer cope with these nearly incessant bouts of panic. The next day, with my husband, we made the connection between the panic attacks and alcohol. Without fail, the day after drinking I would have these attacks and it seemed to be the only explanation.

We decided it would be in my best interests to not drink until my birthday at the end of January. It worked and I didn’t have a attack for the entire month. I saw my psychiatrist during this time and he agreed it was most likely alcohol making me feel this way. I was also severely depressed and he felt the alcohol had contributed. Alcohol, he said, interfered in how the medication I was taking worked.

The depression has lifted now and I’ve decided only to drink on special occasions. Unfortunately this means dealing with the fallout the next day and I need to decide whether having a few drinks is actually worth it.

You can follow me on:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube