Mental Ilness

Where did that come from?

It’s always there. That feeling, that reminder. It comes from nowhere. It’s quite indescribable. Is it a feeling? Is it a thought? Why does it hurt? It’s that little black shadow peeking in to remind you that it’s always there, waiting in the wings to make you feel sadder and more lost than ever. It feels like a punch in the stomach or like something is pressing on your chest and constricting your breathing.

This week has been a stressful one, I’ve had tears and I’ve been tired but they were validated and “real” emotions. I could explain them away so easily. I’m stressed because of work. I’m sad because i’m stressed and because i’m tired. Easily explained. So then why last night did I sit and suddenly feel like I had been emotionally and physically battered. Where did it come from? Had it been triggered? Surely there was nothing to trigger it. I haven’t felt particularly sad or happy. Just “normal”.

You find yourself bargaining. Please not now. Please just one more day, I don’t think I can do it again yet, i’m too tired. It hurts too much. You start sacrificing things. What else could I do? What will make the dark shadow happy? I rarely drink alcohol, I’ve said no to drugs, I try and sleep most nights and I haven’t hurt myself in anyway. I’m doing my best aren’t I? What else do you need from me? Then you switch it, oh god, this feeling isn’t going away so what will stop it? Should I get drunk? Do i have to self harm? I don’t think I have it in me tonight, I don’t feel brave enough for that. I don’t want more pain, I’ve got enough. I don’t even want to die. I just want to be asleep. I just want the pain to stop for a minute. That dark shadow is still starting to spread over the brain, shutting off any light. Is it going to be too late?

I know what I’ll do. I’ll find medication or pills. I’ll take it all. I don’t care if I wake up in three days time. At least it’ll be three days without feeling like this. No. That’s stupid. You’re more sensible than that.  You haven’t worked this hard and this long to start getting dependent on drugs. Well… Ok…. four sleeping pills. Easy. What can I do whilst waiting to sleep though? I can’t even breathe. Deep breathing. Calm. Click your fingers. There’s a razor in my bag. Breathe. There’s a razor in the bathroom. Breathe. Stop it. Just keeping breathing. Breathe. That pill cutter… imagine that feeling…. JUST STOP. BREATHE. SLEEP.

 

 

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Mental Ilness

Do I not bleed enough?

Sorry what’s that? There’s people worse off than me? Tell me again, really hit it home hard because I only feel sad, anxious, depressed, in pain, exhausted, angry, drained and like I should die, so please feel free to add guilt to the list too. Tell me again that it’ll pass. Tell me again what I COULD have that would feel so much worse than this. Tell me again how lucky I am. Tell me again how my depression is only mild. It’s only mild? I don’t feel sad enough, angry enough, tired enough? I don’t cut my wrists deep enough? I don’t bleed enough? I haven’t tried to kill myself? Is that what it takes these days to be taken seriously? To take up a hospital bed or a coffin. You’ll get help then right? Or not? Are you then an attention seeker? A time waster? An NHS resource drainer?

Listen to the advice you’re given. Take the tablets, attend the appointments and learn how to cope. Learn to cope even when you feel like you can’t go on anymore. Push through. You’re still working full time? You can’t be that ill. You smile a lot, joke a lot, laugh a lot, make people feel better about themselves. You can’t be slowly dying inside. You can’t be hurting. Look, you had fun today. Maybe you’re just a fraud. You have so many friends. You’re loved. You haven’t had a bad life. What could possibly be wrong? Why are you so sad?

In ten years, I’ve only had a stable happy mood for three consecutive days. Any other time I mood cycle like crazy.  At 26 years old I felt content, pure, happiness for the first time in my life, and I wish I hadn’t felt that because I now know what I could have. I had a taste of what feeling “normal” could be. I held it in my hands for a short amount of time only for it to be snatched away leaving me more devastated than ever before.

But I could always have something physically wrong though couldn’t I? What about cancer, diabetes, a broken bone? That would be worse wouldn’t it? Would it? Or would I have something to show? Would I have something to explain? Would there be a cause? A treatment? Would I have a doctor or nurse to fight for me? Would I be able to talk about it freely, explain how I feel? Would I go to appointments and not feel pure fear because then I would be taken seriously? I wouldn’t have to talk about something that I don’t even understand myself. I wouldn’t be judged, I’d be understood.

Let’s get this straight now. This is a real, legitimate illness that I am sick to death of playing down or pretending isn’t happening. It’s a life long condition. It effects about 1% of the total population. It effects both men and women equally. There is a suicide attempt rate of 25-50% with 10-15% succeeding. There aren’t many hopeful statistics either I won’t lie: After 10 years, of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder:

  • 25% Completely recover
  • 25% Much improved, relatively independent
  • 25% Improved, but require extensive support network
  • 15% Hospitalised, unimproved
  • 10% dead (mostly suicide)

(http://www.pendulum.org/bpfacts.html)

My god don’t get me wrong, I’m a fighter and I’ll be damned if I let this win but something needs to be done to stop people going through unnecessary suffering. There are so many people out there being let down by the system, people who don’t have good friends and family around them. Mental health services need to be improved in the UK once and for all. We really shouldn’t have to fight to get help, at the same time as fighting our own selves.

 

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Mental Ilness

Like a Failed Shopping Trip

I’ve found myself tired of the ups and downs of mental illness lately. This week especially has been a very low week, possibly my lowest, although when I met with a mental health nurse last week I tried to explain that although I could possibly be on a three one day now, this time last year, the same feeling might have felt like a zero. Likewise,  if i feel like a zero now it could have been minus two before. That comes with learning, about yourself, the illness, life and just coping strategies in general. . This week has been filled with tears, that absolutely hopeless feeling, the sadness that feels a bit like a physical pain and the strongest thoughts and ideas of suicide I have ever felt.

Tonight I’ve decided to liken mental illness to a difficult shopping trip, you’ll have to bear with me on this…

Sometimes you really need to go shopping. It’s been a long day, you’ve been busy and you’re already pretty tired but you need food, there’s nothing in the house. Arrive at the supermarket, you start at the beginning near the fruit and veg aisle and you work your way up through each aisle getting what you need. You get about half way in to the shopping trip and you realise you forgot the milk, so you have to go back to aisle three to get it. You carry on, ticking things off your list, picking things up that you didn’t need. You might bump in to a few people you know, which delays you even more. You get back up to half way and carry on where you left off. You make it down another two aisles before you realise you forgot the meat so yet again you go back.

The shopping trip is taking so much longer than you expected. You’re more tired, more anxious and more irritated. There are other people managing their shopping, why can’t you be like them? They’ve got it all mapped out, following their lists in order. They seem to be working through this quickly, and then leaving, carrying on with life. Pretty much what you would expect from a basic shopping trip.

Finally, you get to the till and to your dismay you realise you forgot your purse. You realise that all that effort and time is wasted because now you have to go home, and start again. You’re embarassed and you feel stupid. Mostly you’re just tired. You really thought you were getting somewhere but you didn’t achieve much at all.

It’s easy then to think you can put off the shopping, you don’t need to eat, you’ll go another day. Maybe just go to the local shop, baby steps. Or you could ask someone to come with you, for company, to get it done quicker but then you feel weaker, ashamed and like you’re a burden just for struggling with something so simple. Yes there’s people worse off, they don’t have anything, there’s no supermarkets near them. You didn’t see the other people struggling that day but it doesn’t mean you don’t know they are around and that you wouldn’t help them if you could. You’re not being selfish, you’re just trying to achieve what you set out to do that day.

The backwards and forwards motion of it all is tiring, frustrating and sometimes just hopeless and disappointing. You have an overwhelming idea that you’ll never go shopping again, that you don’t need shopping. That those supermarkets are better off without you but then you realise you’ve made it this far. You’ve been shopping before. There are always people willing to go shopping with you.

Shopping/the supermarket here is life. Keep going, keep learning, keep going back even when you have to keep starting all over again and NEVER be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You’ve made it this far.

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Mental Ilness

You’re Only Hurting Yourself

I thought today about how it’s been five months on Wednesday since I self harmed, that the scars are almost faded and I no longer have to worry about my arms being on show. For a moment I was really proud of myself and then I realised that was a lie because pushing a blade through my skin and watching it bleed is not the only way I could have harmed myself and I may not have physically hurt myself but I became intent on hurting myself emotionally (and yes physically in other ways), almost testing myself to see whether I’d break. Almost, and I’m being honest here, hoping that I would break.

Sometimes it’s like i’m watching my life from the outside, hovering above myself like it’s not me, like it isn’t real life. I’ve had moments where I’ve woken up, I’ve cried and then I’ve forgotten again. I’ve had mornings or nights where I’ve literally washed away the pain, or the dirt or the shame in the bath and moved on. I’ve told my friends fun drunken stories missing out the darker undertones and the uglier details, playing down the fact that before replying to their text, I had been sobbing in my bed or on the floor. Occasionally now I’ll walk down the corridor at work and I’ll have a flashback or someone will come too close to me, or I’ll see someone that looks familiar or a voice too close to my ear and I’ll shudder. I’ve become more guarded, more vulnerable and someone who hates to be touched.

In summary I’ve changed. Mostly in a positive way, I’ve learned coping strategies and I’ve repaired relationships and things about me that were weak. I’ve gained knowledge and insight about myself and how my brain works. I’ve learned to control my mind . I’m 100% not the same person I once was. I continue to learn more about myself and the world around me every single day. I don’t have the innocence I once did and I have certainly learned that you can’t trust everyone, often the people you love the most will be the people who hurt you the most, sometimes just because it’s so unexpected.

The urge to cause myself pain is something I think will never leave me, I think it is just a way in which my brain works. Just the other day I had an urge to hurt myself, so I took myself up to the gym in the hope that I could do it in a positive way. I power walked and I ran until my side hurt and I’d taken all the skin off my heel until it was bleeding  but I knew it was worth it. I knew it was a way of refocusing that energy.

Yesterday I had hair rage. Whilst doing my hair I had such an intense and overwhelming  barrage of all emotions that I fell apart. I cried to my mum that she had to leave for the family BBQ without me, that I needed time, I tore around my room in circles, in a rage and trying not to cry until finding a razor and sitting with it, knowing it was the only way to release some emotion. I was excited about that euphoria, even if temporary. Then I told myself I couldn’t, that I had an unbreakable deal with someone and I couldn’t bear to tell her I’d broken a promise. It was too much though and I knew I had to do it in a hidden place so no one would find out so I pressed down on to my leg until a slight graze appeared but I couldn’t go through with it, granted the razor was blunt but I also knew that I was stronger than that. My heart wasn’t completely in it. I just wanted it all to stop.

Deep down I know I’m still just existing rather than living my life. I barely sleep unless I don’t take my thyroid pills for a couple of days in order to get some rest, I’m constantly hiding an illness, I’ve spent nights in pain or even got myself so worked up I’ve had to stay in the bathroom for hours because I’m sick. I sit at work and think about just walking out, taking sick leave, or quitting altogether because I’m worried i’ll get to a point where I have to anyway, that maybe i’ll fuck up so much that I can’t do it anymore. Jump before you’re pushed.  I’ve been off medication a few weeks now, and I tell myself it doesn’t make a difference, that i’m the same but I know that’s not true. Deep down I can feel that decline, already there’s a difference in what I can cope with. I’ve stopped talking to people, I’ve stopped going to places, I’ve deleted my facebook, I’ve almost cut ties with everyone. Everything is just so loud. Yet I know I’m being stupid. I’ve gained the awareness and control to quickly jump in and straighten myself out again, almost like a reflex. Even when I wish I wouldn’t.

I also know I’m just scared. Scared to ask for help, scared to reach out. I know that it’s not like last time. This time I don’t want to be ill, I don’t want to turn in to that person who  just hurts all the time. I know exactly what makes me happy I just can’t quite get there. I have an appointment on Wednesday back in the community and I desperately want it, but I also know that tomorrow, stupid me will pick up that phone and postpone it. Or i’ll walk in there and tell them everything is fine. It’s like a war in my head but none of them are winning so it’s just staying in the middle. I can’t seem to help myself. Somehow this time feels different. This time I feel like I either have to get better once and for all, or I don’t.

 

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Mental Ilness

Sadness

This weekend has been a weird one. Mainly because I have cried on and off since Friday evening. Sometimes of sadness, sometimes because of frustration and grief but mainly sadness. A really deep sadness that hurts. I cried today because I was disappointed. I suddenly felt a huge disappointment that yet again, when I was starting to feel positive and like everything might come together, it turns out it could have just been another mood change. I forget what this feels like every single time. I fall for it every single time. I’m tired of it, literally drained. Only this time, after the tears had ended I realised that I don’t actually care. I feel this time that I can’t be bothered to be upset about it, I can’t be bothered to fight it again. I feel like i’m going through all the right motions, saying all the right things but apart from that sadness I feel nothing. I have no desire to hurt myself, or to die. I just want to give up. I can’t be bothered to fight anymore.

I get up in the morning, I go to work, I do my work, I stay at work later to avoid people, I stay at work to avoid family meals. Sometimes I drive about or do other things so that when I do go home everyone is in bed, sometimes I go home and just stay in my room. Yesterday I went to a family event, something I very rarely do, usually faking an illness or pretending I’m busy. I had a good time, I was too tired to even get anxious about the people that would be there or the games we had to play. I did it all. I didn’t care. I’ll go out tonight, I’m not nervous or anxious like I usually would be, apart from trying not to cry, there’s not much else I can do.

I go to my nans at the weekends to cat sit, I make sure I’m gone by the time she gets home. My friends ask me to do something during the week or the weekend, I say I’m busy. If i get tired of thinking or feeling sad, I just go to sleep. It’s like going back a few years in time, only this time it feels different somehow. I’m not drinking alcohol but I don’t care about that either because I don’t want to be around people anyway. I don’t want to be around myself either.

I thought I hit rock bottom a few weekends ago but then I had proper emotion, I had every emotion. Maybe my guard has come back again, push people away before they push you away. Don’t talk anymore, don’t show feelings and don’t show a weakness. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to hurt you. It’s easier to pretend things are okay rather than admit that things really aren’t. I’m supposed to be going to the doctor tomorrow but I know I’ll just cancel it in the morning because I’ve forgotten what I was even going for.

The thought of even doing my hair, my make up, going to work, doing any task is exhausting. I just really don’t care.

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Mental Ilness

Anger

Everything is so bloody loud tonight I can’t actually cope anymore. I want to scream at everyone to shut the fuck up because I’m so ridiculously exhausted I just want to sleep, but I can’t and not only that but I can’t complain because why should everyone else be quiet before it’s even 10pm. My own thoughts are loud. My family are loud. Every single little noise is deafening. I sleep downstairs so whilst everyone else is up watching TV and having a lovely time talking like they’re at opposite ends of a room,  I just want to close my eyes and block out the world for a few hours. I just want everything to shut up.  Then I feel awful because no one is even doing anything wrong, but I can’t explain to anyone how loud everything is in my head. It’s not their fault that some horrible voice is twisting everything they say to make me feel bad, to make me hurt.

I had forgotten how this tiredness felt and I’m desperately trying not to cry from just being so furious all the time. I know that anger is one of the only emotions that I can’t control and I think that is why this is happening. I’m sat here now trying to stop the tears because I don’t want anyone to see me cry and I’m sat here desperately trying not to self harm, but it feels like a lullaby right now, like somehow all this emotion and all these mixed feelings will spill out with the blood. I know its temporary but even a temporary feeling is better than nothing. This time I’ll just do it where no one can see it. I need that feeling when you’ve done it, where just for a while everything is quiet and numb. Where you feel absolutely nothing.

I’m almost tempted to drive to my friends, to my old flat where I know it will be quiet and where I can sleep. Or just sit with her if she’s awake. I don’t really care. I won’t even have to explain what’s wrong because she never makes me, and to be honest I don’t know myself. How do you get better when you don’t know what is wrong? I’ll never understand that.

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Mental Ilness

Time To Change

I hit rock bottom. I know that. Okay, I’ve hit rock bottom a few times before and I’ve got back up and got better only to find myself there again a few months or even a year later. This time it’s real and this time I think I only just survived it. Before now I’ve never really dealt with the consequences of the way in which I live my life. I’ve been drunk like that before, I’ve been in all sorts of places out of my head, I’ve been grabbed by men in parks, I’ve been followed home and I even once had a stalker. I just pretend those things don’t happen and I get on with trying to go through life and wondering why I find it a struggle. Bottling it up until I get so frustrated I end up crying over something stupid at work. I’m very good at hiding what’s going on and unless I chose to tell someone, I’m not sure anyone would know what was going on or what I was up to. Take last weekend for instance, everyone present that night apart from two people think I got in that taxi and went home at midnight, little wine headache the next day but nothing out of the ordinary. One person knows I didn’t go home when I said I did, she knows I went back to the hotel for a few more drinks and to party a  bit more at the hotel. The other person knows pretty much all of it, thank god, otherwise I probably would have lost my mind.

The point is, i’m at rock bottom but this time I have to make the choice. Do i stay here and carry on struggling my way up and down again or do I make a change forever and finally get myself the life I really want to live. It’s difficult. I don’t think my mind has ever felt quite so fucked up as it does now. I have so many thoughts and so many questions and  I’m absolutely terrified only this time I don’t feel right talking to anyone about it, I feel I’ve done enough of it.

One thing I have realised is that I’ve been hugely selfish. I never thought of myself as a selfish person but just by thinking that this world was better off without me, for thinking that it didn’t matter if I lived or died, that is selfish. I know people care. I have people tell me they love me every day. What right do I have to decide that they can just get on like nothing had happened? Why do I get to decide whether I’m in their life or not, surely that’s their decision to make? I asked a friend today whether she ever wondered what she did to deserve having a mental friend like me and whether she wished she hadn’t met me. She replied that if that was the case why would she text me 24/7 and always force me to leave the house. I realise that just because I don’t like myself, doesn’t mean other people don’t.

I feel guilty every single day that I wake up that I burden people, mostly one person. I feel bad that I’ve shared my problems and that I should be strong enough to do it on my own. I forget that I did that for so long, I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, I’ve made it this far after all.

Someone said to me the other day that a lot of people help others to get something back in return. This really upset me because in my head I felt that meant that she thought I did it because I wanted people to be there for me back or that I just wanted SOMETHING in return. Maybe this isn’t the case? Maybe I wanted something in return mentally and I guess I did, like to feel better for helping others, to distract myself from my own problems or to use other people to hide behind. I’m not sure, I haven’t actually asked her yet. It’s one of the many things running through my brain and one of the many comments I perhaps haven’t quite understood but never clarified, choosing only to take something as a criticism which is something I do quite regularly.

I’ve realised many things though, within all this thinking time. I’ve said it before but I cannot expect people to understand me, to accept things if I’ve never told them the whole truth. I can’t expect people to understand why I suddenly don’t want to drink when they don’t know what forced me to make the decision. I’m not even saying I will never drink again, but something has to give while I get better again. Whether that’s months or years or decades. I WANT to get better, something I never wanted before. I can’t sit here and get sad when I watch a musical or theatre show because it’s something I want to do but not actually work for it or try. I want to do the things I love and I want to enjoy my time here on this earth.

Yes, I know that tomorrow I will wake up and not want to get out of bed and go to work. Yet i’ll go, I always do. I’ll moan because I don’t want to do anything with anyone during the week, but I’ll go, sometimes by force but I’m lucky I have friends like that. I’m SO grateful for having the best bunch of people around me. I know I have a long way to go, I know there will be many obstacles in front of me and it’s not going to be a straight forward, one direction, no nonsense, fast journey. It’ll be slow, I’ll have to keep learning and I might go off the course. But maybe, just maybe, I will get where I want to go. I’m happy to keep learning and I’ll go at whatever pace is needed.

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