I Gave Up Alcohol For My Mental Health

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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.

Guest Post: How I Became an Alcoholic at 14 – by Charlotte Underwood

In this guest blog, Charlotte describes her experiences of alcoholism as a young person and how there is hope and a way to overcome.

When you think about an alcoholic, many may think of an adult who is either out partying every night or drinking home alone after work and passing out on the sofa.
This is just not the case, this is just a stigmatised version the media portrays, I know this because I was an alcoholic for a year, except I was only 14 years old, barely out of childhood.

I am not sure of the exact cause of why I started, it was a long time ago but I believe I had a lot of pent up anger that I did not know how to let out, I was not informed of mental health so I did not understand why I was so different to everyone I met. Unfortunately, I also found that people preferred me when I was this confident, reckless teen and at that time, as I was bullied and unpopular, I would do anything to keep that attention.
It started off with just one sip of a cheap alco-pop that my older friend had given us when we went around his house, it tasted like pop but it gave me this little buzz and I couldn’t forget that, I remember that day because I walked home red faced and bumped into my crush, who found it hilarious!

I started to sneak into the fridge to steal my mother’s white wine, which was of very high percent! I would also steal her disaronao and then water it down, thinking she wouldn’t notice, though she actually did months later! Cheap larger was also a poison of choice, as my father would often buy a bunch for my brother who at this point was 17 and into the party scene. If all failed and there was nothing in the house, I would manipulate and persuade my older friends to steal from their parents or buy me, just so I wouldn’t go a day without that buzz, I would do anything.

No one really knew what was going on, I kept it pretty quiet, my friends just thought I drank a few times a month and my parents had no idea to start, yet there was not a day that went by that year where I did not drink, even if I was at school, I was hooked, I loved that floating feeling.

At one point, I invited all my friends over, I wanted to get wasted because I was trying to get an ex back and I needed the confidence, so we manage to sneak past my parents and get a £100 worth of booze into my room, as we had a gig to go to later, in a rush we hid it in my cupboard before we went, I was too drunk at this point to think straight. This mistake lead to my parents finding it, I do not know to this day why my mother was going through my room but she did find my stash and my parents were mad, not at my drinking but at my lying and lack of care for myself, that I was not safe; from this day I was forced to go cold turkey.

I still drank occasionally after this, I was just a teenager, not binge drinking but I was known to over drink when I was stressed or if a partner wanted to be intimate, as I was a victim of abuse, assault and rape, which I felt was my problem because ‘it was my duty’ to please my partner, which I could only do drunk. It is sad that I was no taught about mental health and the right to my own body at this age because I let my own self endure painful experiences due to feeling like I just needed to be quiet and take it, to avoid drama, it’s so important to remember you owe nothing to anyone.

But there is an upside, a fairy tale ending to this bitter story! I am now married and I live in my house with my dog and a cat (who loves my husband more than me), I do not work due to mental health but I do write often and spend a lot of time working on myself, so I am in a much better place, I am due to start therapy very soon.

I have not binge drank in a very long time, not since I met my husband, that is nearly 3 years. If I drink now I will barely finish a glass because frankly I just don’t like the taste of alcohol anymore. What helped me out of this was firstly removing myself from toxic people and situations but also due to being respected by my husband, he does not force me into anything and loves me for me, so I am nothing other than my true self nowadays. It is also worth mentioning how much talking about my mental health and writing about is has helped as I have learnt more about myself and how to manage my pain, as well as making peace with my past, it no longer defines me.

Alcoholism is a serious issue and it is very damaging to our body’s, sometimes causing long term damage both mentally and physically but I have found, most of the time, there is always a route cause and a reason for a person to drink heavily. There is such a bad stigma attached to people who drink, like teens and the homeless but we need to ask ourselves why they do it and find ways to help them, understanding saved me and maybe It can save others.

How I Learnt to Deal With Nighttime Panic Attacks

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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.

Taking Medication For Your Mental Illness Doesn’t Equal Weakness

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Every evening at 10pm, my husband’s phone starts to beep. It’s a daily alarm to remind me to take my medication. I go to the kitchen drawer where the tablets are kept, and rustling around (because it’s our lets shove everything we don’t know where to keep in this drawer, drawer) I’ll find them. I’ll take the 100mg Lamotrigine, 50mg Aripiprazole and 50mg Sertraline. They’re a combination of a mood stabiliser, an antipsychotic and an anti depressant. Taking medication is a part of my night time routine, as much as washing my face and brushing my teeth. I never hesitate to put them in my mouth and swallow them with a gulp of water.

These tiny pills keep me stable. They allow me to function and get up in the morning. They counter the negative thoughts that lead me to feeling desperately depressed and suicidal. They stop any manic episode from emerging and causing me to become a whirlwind of self destructive hyperactivity. They silence the cruel and vicious voices in my head when I’m depressed, or the delusions that make me believe I can do anything when I’m manic. With all that in mind, why would I not take them? Why would I choose to be poorly? I’ve learnt that I can’t live without medication, otherwise bipolar completely overruns my life. It sweeps in like a high tide, submerging my true self, and the low tide never arrives. It controls my life, and I’m resolute that I’ll never knowingly let that happen again.

It’s not a weakness, or a flaw in my character to take medication. I’m not naive, I haven’t blindly allowed a doctor to prescribe them. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact I needed medication to survive. Long discussions with my psychiatrist allowed me to make informed decisions about what approach I wanted to pursue with my treatment. I didn’t settle for meds that left me with debilitating side effects. I tried a number of meds and combinations of them to find what worked for me. It was a long process but ultimately more than worth the time and effort.

I’ve always prescribed to the idea that those living with long term mental illnesses are strong. We manage to live through our struggles everyday and emerge stronger than we were, whether we realise it or not. Part of our strength comes from admitting we need help. It takes someone of a firm and resolute character to come to the realisation that their mental health is having a marked effect on their life. To take medication when there is still shame and stigma surrounding it proves we can withstand the negativity.

Of course, the choice is there for us. I fully support and understand when someone doesn’t want to take medication. Therapy and lifestyle changes is enough for some. What I disagree with is being shamed or not seen as being as strong as these individuals. I am. Every evening when I take those tablets I’m not seeing them as a sign of weakness. I haven’t failed. With them I’ve achieved so much and become a healthier version of myself.

 

The Warning signs of a Depressive Episode

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Depression can be sneaky and creep up on you when you least expect it. I find the warning signs can happen either all at once, quickly and anticipated, or more slowly, like the depression is stalking me. I’ve written in detail about depression in my post 101 Things No one Tells You About Severe Depression This list is not exhaustive, and the warning signs can differ from person to person.

Feeling tired all the time. I will feel exhausted and sleep will no longer feel refreshing. I can sleep during the day; something I hardly ever do when I’m stable. I will constantly feel tired and all I will want to do is to go to bed.

Irritability. The smallest annoyance will have me losing my temper. Someone eating too loudly, people walking slowly in the street, not being able to find my hairbrush are all examples that will leave me seething and ready to snap.

Lack of concentration. I love to write, read and play video games, but when depression is near, I can’t concentrate. My world feels fuzzy with blurred edges. I find my mind wandering, often to darker thoughts, or simply zoning out.

Increase/decrease in appetite. My appetite will change completely. I’ll either want to eat all the time and find food comforting, or I’ll feel nauseous at the idea of eating.

Low self esteem. I’ll start thinking less of myself. I’ll look at my body and think I’m disgusting. I’ll look at my work and think it’s awful and want to rip everything up and start over.

Socialising less I enjoy going out and socialising, so it’s blatantly obvious that something is wrong when I turn down an invitation, or don’t turn up. I’ll feel a knot in the pit of my stomach at the idea of seeing friends.

No motivation My drive and positivity will go out the window. All I want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch tv, constantly. This isn’t just an ‘off’ day, this is when my motivation will disappear completely for weeks.

No longer enjoy my favourite activities As with a lack of concentration, my hobbies that once gave me pleasure and filled me with happiness, no longer do. Every suggestion made I turn down, not able to see the fun in anything.

As I don’t always realise I’m becoming depressed, I rely on my partner and close family and friends to keep an eye out for these warning signs. I’m much better than I used to be at spotting a change in my mood toward the low side, but I still occasionally miss a change in behaviour that’s glaringly obvious. Knowing these signs has made me feel more in control of my mental illness. I can act or make a change before the depression becomes severe and I find myself in crisis. There isn’t always an answer, but knowing I’m going to be ill means I can prepare for it. I let people close to me know how I’m feeling and I talk to my GP or psychiatrist. I’ve also written about mania in my post The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode

If you’re worried that you may be depressed, please make an appointment to see your GP. Many doctors surgeries offer double appointments, of 20 minutes rather than 10, so you can have more time to explain how you’re feeling and discuss options with your doctor. I always make double appointments when I’m struggling with depression, as I find it more difficult than I normally do to express how I’m feeling, and to get my point of view across. It means you won’t feel rushed and pressured to explain everything.

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So, What Is Bipolar Disorder?

 

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Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme lows, and extreme highs. What I mean by this is extreme mood swings. Lows can lead to suicidal depression, and highs resulting in mania. Bipolar is extremely difficult to diagnose, as it affects people differently. Not everyone has extreme mania, which can result in reckless behaviour and delusions and hallucinations.

Depressive Symptoms 

If you’re depressed, it often manifests as being tired all the time, crying over little things or for no reason at all. You’ll find yourself losing interest in hobbies and activities you used to enjoy and not wanting to socialise or leave your home. Depression can leave you feeling worthless, hopeless and fill you with dread. The most serious aspect of depression is having suicidal thoughts, planning and possibly acting on them.

Manic/Hypomanic Symptoms

Hypomania begins with accelerated speech, where you talk very fast and people find it difficult to keep up with what you’re saying. You’ll not need to sleep or eat as much as you used to. Thoughts are uncontrollable and constant. With mania, your judgement may become impaired and you start to act impulsively. The most serious aspects of mania are characterised by a complete lack of control and putting yourself in dangerous situations, as well as delusional thinking (believing wild ideas about yourself or others) or hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling things that are not really there).

According to the charity Bipolar UK;

  • More than one million people in the UK have bipolar.
  • It can take on average 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis.
  • Individuals with Bipolar are misdiagnosed, on average, 3.5 times.

Below is a mood scale that explains the extremes of Bipolar. Most people will usually find themselves between 4 and 6 on this scale. With Bipolar, mood swings could leave you falling anywhere on the scale.

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My Experience

As  I’ve already mentioned, Bipolar unfortunately can take a long time to diagnose. I first became very ill when I was 14 and was misdiagnosed with depression. It took until i was 27 to finally have a definitive diagnosis of Bipolar. The problem I have found is many people misunderstand it and only ask for help or are given support when they are depressed. Bipolar in young people can sometimes be misdiagnosed as ADHD, because of the manic symptoms they are showing.

I was on antidepressants on and off for years. Initially I was given counselling as a teenager, and took antidepressants in my twenties. They didn’t help me, but made my mood what I would call hyper. I couldn’t stop talking, I did reckless things, drank too much, took drugs. I would feel amazing and full of confidence on anti depressants. I would often become very angry and upset people and get into arguments and fights.

Now I’m doing really well, I’m stable and I’ve found the right combination of medication that helps me manage Bipolar. It’s taken four years to find the right combination of drugs that help me stay relatively stable. I need to be very strict with myself and take them everyday and limit how much I drink, or they won’t work how they are supposed to. I’ve been told by my psychiatrist that it is a life long condition, and I need to learn how to manage it.

So where did your bipolar come from? 

To be honest i have no idea what the cause of it was. I came from a happy family, although we struggled with money and had arguments, nothing traumatic happened to me during my childhood. My Dad believes that my Grandmother had it, but she was never diagnosed that we know of, and we think I may of inherited it from her. As a child I was quite quiet and would bottle up my emotions, and then I became very depressed as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was about 16/17 when my behaviour changed and now I realise it was probably mania. It was like my whole personality changed overnight and I became very loud, talkative and hyperactive.

Advice on what to do next

I think it’s important to be careful before diagnosing someone with Bipolar. It is a severe and life long condition and the medication is serious stuff. Doctors I understand want to be careful before referring patients. To be diagnosed, you have to have a psychiatric assessment with a psychiatrist, but you first have to be referred by a GP or counsellor. Often it helps to take someone with you to an appointment. Sometimes a doctor needs to see supporting evidence from family or a partner before you are taken seriously.

My advice if you are worried that you or someone you know may have Bipolar is to keep a mood diary. Track how you are feeling everyday over a period of a few months and take it with you to see a doctor. I know that seems like a long time but it’s better than waiting years to be heard. It might also help to sit down and write a chronology of your problems from when they started up until the present day. Both of these can then be evidence to show a doctor, and will show if there is a pattern of depression and mania.

 

Physical illness when I’m mentally well – it’s not fair!

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It’s a regular occurrence, whenever I find myself mentally stable, I become physically ill. It seems so unfair. I have lived with this phenomenon for years. As my mind starts to heal, my body relaxes and I find I’m much more susceptible to becoming physically ill.

I have been stable for about four months. The first flare up was my back and I found myself in excruciating pain. I’ve been referred to a physiotherapist but I still wake up every morning in agony. It seems I’ve had this problem for a number of years, but my body has never fully relaxed. When I’m manic I’m full of energy and on the go. During depression I’m often extremely anxious. In both situations my body is tense, so my back pain hasn’t been so obvious. This week I’ve had a terrible cold. I haven’t had a full on cold like this for years, and it just so happens to coincide with me being stable. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

As a Bipolar sufferer, I have always suffered from what I call the comedown, or hangover from mania. Mania can be euphoric, but it is always exhausting. After an episode, I almost always become physically ill. I haven’t looked after myself properly for what can be months at a time; exercising till I nearly faint and hardly eating or sleeping. No wonder my body rebels when I finally relax.

I’m not sure what the answer is to this. My body is obviously reacting to how I have pushed it to extremes and how stress and anxiety has weakened my immune system. I’m hoping with longer bouts of stability, I find better physical health. I’m already finding that I’m eating more healthily and looking at finding a suitable exercise regimen.

Stability

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I’ve found myself in a a strange situation. It’s one I haven’t experienced for years. It’s called stability. My life has been full of desperate lows and extreme highs and not much in between. It’s been like this for over a decade. It’s true I have had periods of stability, but usually they only last up to a month. This time it’s different. This time I’ve experienced stability for nearly four months.

It feels strange and alien to me. I’m used to living an intense life, full of drama, fear, anger and emotional heights and depths. The euphoria I feel during a manic episode is unparalleled to any other I have experienced. I’ve experimented with drugs but nothing comes close to a full on bout of mania. I always say I don’t need to take hallucinagens because psychosis has that covered.

Back to life being surreal right now. I’m not used to this. I’m not used to feeling calm and organised, feeling happiness without worrying it will morph into something toxic. Or days when I wake up and I feel slightly on the down side, but being able to carry on without depression creeping up on me. I feel like I can accomplish things, without obsessing over a task and becoming completely absorbed by it. I’m wondering if this is normality, or if there is such a thing. Is this how healthy people live?

I’m lucky that I have finally found a combination of medication that works for me, and hasn’t given me extreme side effects. I’ve put on some weight, but now I feel stable, I’m less likely to drink and crave junk food. It’s something I could change if I wanted to.

I’m not always sure I like this feeling. Life feels quite bland and monotonous. It’s like my world is slightly overcast and grey, instead of full of darkness or bright sunlight. I don’t know how to act or to live like this. Sometimes I daydream about the fun side of mania and how if I stopped taking my medication I could get back to that. However, I then remember all the negatives that come along with it. The delusional thinking, the intense anger, obsessive and dangerous behaviour. There’s also that air of foreboding surrounding me that at any time I could become seriously ill again. If I push myself too much I’ll trigger an episode of mania or depression.

It’s a bit cliched to say but I’m taking each day as it comes. Life I know shouldn’t be full of extremes constantly and should be quieter. Sometimes yes, even boring. I’m grateful that I’m in this position and I’m trying not to take it for granted.

My Triggers for a Bipolar Episode and How I Manage Them

Bipolar can be triggered in a number of ways and it can be different for each person. It has taken me years to correlate certain situations and experiences with the onset of a Bipolar episode, depressive or manic. Here are the triggers I’ve identified that effect me;

Stress – I don’t deal with stress very well, tending to unhealthily bottle up how I’m feeling and how much I’m struggling. A build up of stress sets off an episode of depression or mania. I am slowly learning to recognise when I’m stressed and deal with it head on. I am more aware of stressful situations and plan ahead if I know an event, social situation or work will cause me stress. Looking at a stressful situation from a logical and objective point of view helps me to minimise it’s impact. I ask myself simple, logical questions such as, “What’s the worse possible outcome?” “How likely is that outcome?” “What practical steps can I take to reduce the stress in this situation?” If I can find an answer to this last question I’ll ask others for help. I think this is key; knowing when to ask for help. It’s too easy to keep pushing ourselves and forcing ourselves to deal with situations alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, a notion that I still struggle with, but I am working on. I’ve blogged about how stress effects me in the post Why I gave up my full time job

Sleep – If I sleep less than fours hours a night for three or more days I often find myself in a hypomanic or more serious manic state. During the week I have to be strict with myself and go to bed between ten and eleven every night. On the weekends I stay up later, but by Sunday again I need to turn back to my routine before bed. What I need to work on here is a more concrete bedtime routine. What usually traps me is not being able to fall asleep and then giving up, and staying awake for most of the night. A routine will help me to relax and making falling asleep that much easier.

Alcohol and other drugs – Too much alcohol and other substances have a negative impact on my mental health. They often make me depressed, and alcohol especially stops my medication working the way it should. Alcohol in itself is a depressant, and teamed up with other substances I take causes me to behave erratically for days afterwards and can lead to depression or mania. I still drink, but not to the excesses I used to. At one point I was drinking everyday, which was extremely detrimental to my mental health. I go into more detail in the post How much is too much: Alcohol and Bipolar  

If these three are all combined together it can be dangerous. I am much more likely to become very ill if all three are in the mix. Stress often leads to me not being able to sleep, and in turn I will drink to help me sleep and to relax after a stressful day. Having identified these three main triggers has had a positive impact. It’s not always possible to avoid stress, but I know in theses situations that I have to watch out for warning signs for a Bipolar episode. I’ll make family and friends aware that I’m stressed, and rely on their support; whether it be a listening ear or helping with the practicalities of the stressful situation.

Awareness and understanding of these triggers is empowering. I am more capable of dealing with Bipolar than I was a couple of years ago and that can only lead to positive outcomes and stability.

 

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.