‘Here’s to the sun’ – the appreciation of stability in Bipolar disorder.

After two weeks of aimlessly wondering around with a dreadful anxiety as a companion, she is slowly starting to turn the dimmer down on her radiation. She is still here no doubt,  but she is getting bored now.

Instead of letting my mentality slip, I have spent the past lonely days and nights acknowledging her and carefully carrying on with my days as usual. Let me give myself a moment here to pat myself on the back and say a huge well done for showing some sort of strength with this one.

It still gets every time how sour I can feel even when things are absolutely fine and dandy in my life. For some reason, I still find myself screaming Why to the high heavens because it just doesn’t make sense for me to be feeling the way I feel when my life is running smoothly and I have a great routine. And then I switch my mind back on and remind myself, ‘Oh yeah, I almost forgot I have a chronic illness…’

I hate saying that I have an illness. Not in the way that I feel I haven’t accepted it (although I do have my moments) – but in by saying so I feel like I am using it as an excuse. Does anyone else feel that way with theirs?

I was having a catch up with a rather skeptical friend this week, who has always been quite closed and blind sided to like likes of depression and other disorders. I was explaining that I was having a bad time with anxiety and that I was being productive and just seeing when it will pass this time around. She looked at me and began to explain kindly to me that sometimes overthinking about things makes it worse.

And then she started to explain the anxiety she feels when things in her house are messy, and she gets really uncomfortable and frustrated when things aren’t tidy, and the more she lets it get on top of her, the worse she feels about it.

I then proceeded to look at her blindly.

What I said in reply was that I was at a good place in my life right now, and that the anxiety I feel I believed was different then the normal environmental anxiety you feel on a daily basis.

What I wanted to say was, that if the anxiety I feel offered me a one way ‘no-concequence to others’ cliff jumping ticket, I would happily take it without question and still have a smile on my face when I reached the bottom.

I guess, even with a label, people who have never experienced the wrath of the storm will more than likely never take it as serious as it actually is.

Which is okay.

But it does tend to push you a little bit further in to that lonely box of yours sometimes.

On a lighter note, my anxiety is still lingering, but I am getting to the point when I can see a stable 5 at the end of the tunnel, and I feel like I can muster the stamina to reach it. Bipolar is like the weather, it is unpredictable, it is inevitable, but so is the sun.

So as I (hopefully) wander in to the sunlight, I will do my best to appreciate the good days, and take my mind off the fact that I will  indeed, shift again someday, as that it how we are built.

Here’s to the Summer.

*raises glass*

 

 

 

‘Sharing Stories’ -Hypomania in Bipolar disorder, by Samantha Pottinger

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“When I went to my GP I described my behaviour and feelings. I was expecting to be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, given that I’d gone from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time. The best way I could describe it was like the feeling of an overexcited child at Christmas.  My favorite foods and drinks tasted amazing, music sounded better, I would be overwhelmed by the beauty of scenery, my nephews and niece looked cuter, colours would look more distinct. I would get fits of the giggles and struggle not to burst out laughing whilst walking down the street. My mind would be racing and instead of having no business ideas I had so many I couldn’t switch off.

Hypomania does not mean that one feels happy all the time, it’s more like an obsession with engaging in hedonistic activities and an intolerance of displeasure. It can result in serious irritability and impatience. Although being overwhelmed by positive emotion is certainly more pleasant than being overwhelmed by negativity, it’s still uncomfortable. In a hypomanic episode I feel overstimulated and overexcited about everything, I really resent my job for taking up my time up and stopping me from doing the things I enjoy (whereas in a depressive episode my job is one of the few things keeping me going).  At work I get over excited by all the interesting books I see and take out several but then I don’t read them because I’m too restless and can’t sit still. I can’t watch films either because I have too much energy. I end up spending too much money because I get overexcited about everything I see and then end up getting frustrated for having to wait so long for the next pay day.  I have lots of pent up energy and get really frustrated if I can’t release it. I can even remember being jealous of people saying they were tired!

Although hypomania has its disadvantages, it can be quite a pleasant feeling. I think my hypomanic episodes are the reason I’ve never had any interest whatsoever in taking illegal drugs, I see my ability to feel high naturally as a blessing. I become more creative and my brain is a lot sharper and I’m sure my hypomanic phases helped give me the energy to fit my studying in with work and are responsible for some of my good marks.

Depressive episodes are certainly unpleasant but for me, the fact that I went for the therapy meant that I’m left with useful mind tools for when I see it recurring and I can empathize with and help others.

My doctor mentioned (but didn’t diagnose me with) a milder form of Bipolar disorder called Cyclothymia. Some people find labels helpful, others don’t. Personally, I feel that we are all prone to fluctuations in mood as we go through ups and downs and transitions in life, (who feels ‘neutral’ all the time?) I think that being a HSP or ’empath’ as I’ve talked about in my blog just means they are a bit more pronounced in me.  It can make life a bit more challenging to deal with but as you become more self-aware, you can learn to manage better and stop your condition from over-ruling your life.

If you have or think you might have a diagnosable mental health condition, don’t be afraid to seek support from your GP, mental health organizations or read some mental health blogs. But remember there is nothing wrong with or ‘freaky’ about you and having a mental health condition does not make you not inferior.

You are not alone.”

-By Samantha Pottinger.

 

Samantha incorporates her experiences with mental health and bipolar disorder in to her health blog Samantha the Sane Vegan.

 

Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Get involved! Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone else’s life.

Send your story with your name and location to themanicyears@gmail.com, and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.

Sharing saves lives.

M x

 

 

 

 

Tackling ANXIETY – A Proactive Approach

Relapses are inevitable in mental illness, particularly in Bipolar disorder. They come as Seasonal shifts, the sunny hypomanic spark and the cold winters of depression. And then you have the weather changes in between; the bad days, the good days, the sleepless nights, the medication side effects, the bad choices and the days in bed.

One of the symptoms that I seem to be battling with at present is Anxiety. One of my worst enemies, the one who has won me over time and time again. My anxiety presents itself in many forms; this time it has been brought to me by the change in psychiatric medication. There is a huge problem with this, my anxiety has not come through worry or a difficult time in my life. So when there is nothing particularly wrong with your days, how on earth do you even attempt to tackle it? This time I have taken myself out of the sit-and-wallow approach, and become more proactive instead – Here’s a short list of the changes that seem to be working out for me…

 

Acceptance

That’s right. I am not fighting against something that cannot be fought against. I have said hello to my company, welcomed it as a dear friend and I have told myself that it might be here to stay for some time. There have been many, many times in my life where it has broken me, I have pitied myself and I have knelt down on my knees and prayed to god to take it away. This time, I am sucking it up and trying my hardest to live side by side until it decides to rest for another time.

 

Routine

Having a rock solid routine has been a savior. Whether that is in getting up earlier in the day than usual, going to bed in a timely manner, what time of the day I eat… Predictability has brought along stability. The amount of times I have gone to the doctors and they have thrown the ‘Make sure you get yourself in to a good routine!’ suggestion at me. News flash: IT ACTUALLY WORKS. I think the hardest part will be trying to stick to it, but I’m doing a pretty good job for now.

 

Keeping active

I have always viewed as anxiety as some form of unwanted energy, and so the more active I keep myself the more it seems to burn away. Whereas some anxious episodes have kept me bedridden and housebound (I know, it’s extremely difficult to get out in public when you keep having attacks), this time I have taken the more productive approach and do you know what? It is helping. I have upped the walks, and taken on swimming – the more I do, the quicker time goes by – and I feel so much better, mind and body, in doing so. There is something about that water when I go for a swim that has the magic to melt away all that niggling harvested energy form the day; and it helps me sleep at night to. Bonus.

 

Distraction

Desperate to pass the time, I have found myself this week picking up my phone and spending a questionable amount of time playing… games. I am not a games person at all, (I prefer to be more productive with my time!) but as I have been dallying about catching Pokémon, battling people with trivia and popping bubbles; I have realized that when I am in the moment my anxiety disperses. So in that light I will be carrying on, for as long as it takes, sitting out time being unsociable (I have an excuse, right??).

 

Having Zen time

Ever since I got diagnosed I have, without fail, used hypnosis on a daily basis. It is one of the tools I use to battle insomnia (it works!!), and along with it I have gone from spending hours tossing and turning restlessly in bed, to a peaceful night by my mind drifting away to soothing words and sounds. Since my anxiety has taken hold of me, I have ramped up the daily Zen time; whether that be a ten minute meditation on my dinner break at work, talking a quick silent walk in the fresh air, or switching my music to the more classical variety in the car. My Zen is slowly transforming from a necessity to a luxury, and I have found mini breaks of this throughout the day (when I find the time!) has developed its ability to reset my body time and time again from that buzzing energy to a silent calm.

 

Anxiety, however unpleasant it may be, will always persistent in my life. It comes with the package of having a long term mental illness. So in the meantime, I will be walking side by side with it, and taking it one day at a time until it decides to give me a much needed rest.

 

The psych medication change – here come the unwanted side effects!

Writing has always soothed me in times of distress.

 

With long term psychiatric conditions, there is always the risk of your medication taking you along for a bumpy ride, particularly during med changes. This one for me is tuning out to be a miniature hell.

The switch from quetiapine to abilify ended up going in the wrong direction; So back on the quetiapine I went (only 25mg, but the abilify made me unable to switch off at night – when I say unable – I mean two hours of disturbed ‘sleep’) and I broke down the abilify to one every other day; as well as not sleeping, my irritability levels were through the roof.

If you can call it irritability at all, there must be some label for what I have been constantly feeling (I have been using the work ‘antsy” a lot)…

Imagine that feeling you get when someone scraped their nails down a blackboard. That horrible and unbearable energy which makes you clench your jaw. It’s like someone scraped their nails and then paused time – I am carrying around my antsy in my body all day with me.

I am drowsy, yet I cannot bare to sit still and have the constant pressure from my brain to move around to escape from it.

I am paranoid again. To say they are antipsychotics they are not doing a very good job at the moment, and with paranoia comes anxiety.

 

I am very tempted to just sack the new meds off all together, Lord help me.

“Sharing Stories” – When you feel wrong, write – By Charlotte.

 

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“The first time I knew for definite that something had gone wrong in my brain was in the middle of a GCSE exam.

“You’re going crazy,” a random thought popped into my head. “You’re about to have a breakdown.” Now up until this point I’d been answering questions about photosynthesis, happy as Larry. But this thought just wouldn’t shut up. “You’re losing it,” the thought said. “You’re about to go completely batshit crazy.”

“Eh?” I tried to think back. “What are you going on about?”

Long story short, I ended up having my first colossal panic attack – or a whatinthenameofarsingarseholeishappeningohmygodimdyingoratleasthavingaheartattackwhatthefuckpleasesparemebabyJesus– in front of everyone and after that I had to sit every single exam for the rest of my education in my own little room like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

There had of course been signs leading up to this. My mum had recently been diagnosed with cancer and I’d managed to convince myself that if I got A*s in everything then she wouldn’t die (side note: God let me off with 6A*, 2A, 2B, the absolute babe). I’d started writing endless lists which I’d rip to shreds if the colours didn’t match; organising my DVDs into genre, age certificate and alphabetical order; brushing my teeth six times per day; and genuinely believing that if the green man on the traffic light flashed quickly after I’d pressed the button, it meant I was going to have a good day. LOL.

I’d also completely stopped talking. To the point where I could quite easily go a day without saying a word. To the point where I haunted the school corridors like a silent, creepy ghoul. I just couldn’t talk about how I was feeling or what was going on at home so I shut down and ultimately focused my efforts on being an anxious, obsessive little weirdo.

I was eventually referred to a child counsellor, who confirmed I was depressed and prescribed me medication – which my parents decided I was too young for. The ‘talking about my feelings’ thing wasn’t really for me, so I pretended I’d gotten better and spent the next six years swinging between feeling fine and feeling distinctly not fine, occasionally dabbling in anti-anxiety medication and half-arsed counselling appointments.

During this time, I started writing seriously. I’d always written stories, and it became the one thing that made me feel good about myself. I knew I had a knack for it, and seeing something through to completion – even if it was a weird-ass story about a tomato plant – gave me both a distraction and a sense of purpose.

Somehow I managed to turn this into a career and I now work as a professional writer. And for me, this has been the best therapy. There are lots of things I am horrendous at – small talk, parking and being on time for stuff to name a few – but I am a good writer, and being able to write every day is essential to me feeling okay about myself.

Don’t get me wrong, writing isn’t a magical elixir for anxiety. There are times when I feel absolutely shit and I’d rather throw my laptop out of a window than write another word. There are times when I stress-buy £30 worth of chocolate and crisps from Morrison’s and then have to gradually smuggle them into work as office treats so I don’t put on five stone. There are times when I lie in bed and sob and sob and then idly think ‘Hey, I’m actually pretty amazing at crying, maybe I have the potential to be an Oscar-winning actress’ and then get a grip and wash the snot off my face.

Mental health doesn’t have a beginning or an end. At the moment, I am fine. And I have been fine for a long time. Tomorrow I might not be fine. But I don’t wallow in what might be. I know I can write my own future.”

– By Charlotte, Birmingham.

 

Charlotte’s work and publications can be found at https://charlottebrazier.com/.

 

 

 – Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone elses life.

Send your story with your name and location to themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.

Sharing saves lives – M.

The appointment – The switch in psychiatric medication

If anything summed up the dark side of the standard of mental health care in my current cummunity it would have been this appointment.

Psychiatric appointments, with a consultant Psych, are like liquid gold these days. So imagine the shock I got when the postman dropped off a letter with an actual date that she was available to hear what I had to say. And to strip this down of all it’s glory; I didn’t even ask to see her in the first place.

 

9 months prior.

After meeitng my eccentric new Quack at my local healthcare centre, and sneakily flipping through my medical notes and snapping pictures of the annotations on my iphone when she’d left the room, I had failed my case against coming off the Zombie med. For those who have read my journey, I had been on Quetiapine by that point for the past year and a half, and unfortunately gained 3 and a half stone – I was protesting that now I had crossed over the unhealthy line on the BMI chart and that for that sake (as well as not being able to drive/look after my daughter/not go a day without taking a nap/function altogether etc) – and she managed to try to convince me that because my mood was controlled  I was not causing any trouble; she had me walking away with a prescription of the extended release version of the same devil drug.

Then the biggest mistake she made was that she would promise to see me in 4-6 weeks time, and that I would easily be able to get hold of her receptionist if something went wrong.

That apointment never happened, until I unexpectedly ended up sitting in that chair in her office two weeks ago, whilst she insisted in calling me by the wrong name. (In case you were wondering, she had decided to label me as Bruce. It is not even a complete anagram of my surname).

 

1 month prior.

As it turns out, the appointment they had randomly allocatede me to, I couldn’t make it. I had just started a new job and didn’t want to be taking time off so soon. So i tried to get hold of her receptionsist. This is how that wen’t down.

Friday – Tried to ring the local trust from the generic number they gave me. Went round in circles for half an hour as the automated system didn’t have an option for psychiatric appointments.

Monday – Finally got through to a human being. Went round in circles for half an hour as human being didn’t have an option for psychiatric appointments.

Tuesday – Two days before appointment. Got through to Psych’s receptionist. She was very pleasant.

“So can you tell me why you can’t make this appointment, Miss Bruce?”

“It’s B****. I am unavailable and I’m going to have to reschedule.”

“Well you are going to have to give me a good enough reason for not wanting to turn up to the appointment you made…”

“I’m sorry, but this was an unexpected appointment. And I am unavailable at the time of the appointment.”

Silence.

“Can you tell me why you can’t wake this appointment?”

“I have just started a new job you see, and I do not want to be taking any leave this early in to me starting. Especially two days before.”

“Well you should have rang up sooner Miss Bruce.”

“It’s B****.”

*Considers explaining how easy it was to get hold of her, but i’d blatantly had enough of trying to get this appointment I didn’t make*

“Look can I please just reschedu-

NO, no, no, no, no – I will tell you when you can reshedule for.”

*!!!!!!!!

“Okay……”

“It’s going to have to be June i’m afraid…”

“Perfect, I’ll have it for then.”

“But if work is the issue here, then you are going to have the same problem when it comes to this next appointment…”

I was done by this point. But, gritting my teeth, I proceeded to politely explain in hope she did not think I was a dumbass who couldn’t grasp the concept of what she was saying to me.

 

“Okay, have a great day Miss Bruce, thank you so much for calling…”

 

Condescending B***h.

 

The Event itself.

The ‘assessment’ went quick itself. Can I call it an assessment? Not only did the psychiatrist not review my notes (she admitted this when I walked in to the room), but she hardly gave me the opportunity to tell her what had been going on in my life since I last saw her. There is a huge issue here, as she couldn’t even recall when the last time she saw me actually was. I told her, again, that a major part of the medication was the worrying amount of weight that has made itself a comfortable lodger on my physique, and how difficult it was for me to try to evict. I am not the slim size 8 anymore that I was after having my first child. I was now a size 14.

She proceeded to tell me that yes, with Quetiapine, you usually have problems with your appetite.

Don’t get me wrong, I may have had some serious sugar cravings. But that was not the issue here. My whole metabolism has grinded to a halt. System down.

We reviewed medication, again, then after going through every option apart form the one we discussed, I politely reminded her about the Abilify that we had discussed.

“Great idea!”

No SHIT.

She was happy then. No more questions asked, and I walked away with a prescription of Abilify, A few mil’s of Quetiapine to wean off and help me sleep for the next week and some Diazepam.

Diazepam. That’s right. She had let a drug addict walk away with a prescription of Valium, all because she couldn’t be bothered to read her notes properly.

I took it of course. My GP, who on the contrary knows me very well, won’t even prescribe that to me.

And so, after some messing about to get a ten minute appointment, I am now off the Zombie drug.

I am free (for now!)

 

*Hypomanic post to follow.

 

Want to write for the blog? We need your stories!

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For the past few months people have been submitting in their experiences of mental health from a wide range of disorders and issues in the Sharing Stories series… stories are still needed!

Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone elses life.

Send your story with your name and location to themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.

Sharing saves lives.

“Sharing Stories” – Bipolar; The rollercoaster I didn’t pay to get on, By Allison Padgett

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“You’re crazy! You’re a bitch! You’re a mess! I wish you’d just get your shit together! Why can’t you be normal? Just get out of bed! It’s like you’re two different people! It’s all in your head! You’re just lazy! Good for nothing! Worthless! Pathetic!

These are just a few of the things I’ve heard over the years in my struggle with my mental health. Some of these things have been said by friends. Some of these things have been said by loved ones. And some of these things I’ve said to myself.

Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really bad day. You wake up late. Forget the most important thing that you needed for work at home, but you’re already late, so you have to make up and excuse not only about your lateness, but about your not bringing that important thing. Your boss calls you in the office to “discuss” your performance or lack there of. You then begin to cry, but it’s only eleven AM, so you have to keep working and act like someone didn’t just make you feel like an idiot, when you know you’re not. Then, you start doubting yourself and start believing what was said. Next, no one asks you to join them for lunch because you look like you’re having one of your “days”. You try to work, but the thoughts play in your head like a CD stuck on repeat. You accomplish nothing, but more failure and your closest coworker gets mad at you for not holding up your end of the bargain. You try to tell them that you’re sorry. You try to tell them that you’ll do better, but they don’t believe you and you start not to believe yourself either. Finally, you go home only to think more about being worthless and wishing you could just die. You think that you’re probably just a burden on everyone and should just quit. Quit your job and life, itself. You’re hungry. No, you’re not hungry enough to fix anything, so you sit in silence and try to go to sleep early. Ha! The Sandman laughs in your face. Sleep doesn’t come because you continue to listen to that CD. Over and over. You believe it. You know you’re just a pathetic human being. Then you finally fall asleep miraculously, only to be awoken by a nightmare that you’re being thrown in a dumpster filled with other people “just like you”. Then, much to your dismay, your alarm goes off and it’s time to start the struggle of life for one more day.

Sounds like hell, doesn’t it? It sounds unreal.

It was a day in my life. On my “down” days, I felt like this. Sometimes even worse. So your worst day, is a day in the life of someone with bipolar disorder when they cycle down. Oh sure, I cycle up, too. Here’s what that feels like…

You are woken up by your alarm and today, you don’t feel like throwing it across the room. Could it be? You’re not sure yet. You get ready for work and today you feel like listening to the radio. What? You get to work and say hello to everyone you see. Good Morning, everybody!! You start your workday and do your work without interruptions of doubt. All of the sudden, while chatting with your favorite coworker you both realize that it’s almost time to go home. Already? Awesome! You drive home, windows down, singing your favorite song and thinking that sunlight is pretty great. When you get home, you cook your favorite meal and enjoy it in front of the TV, watching your favorite rerun of Friends. (The Prom Video, obviously) Then you take a nice warm bath, look in the mirror one last time and smile. Today was your day! Today was an amazing day! You pick up that novel you’ve been meaning to read and then fall asleep easily, without the constant feeling of worthlessness.

Sounds like a pretty good day, right? Sounds like what most people would call a normal day. For me, these days are precious. They are coveted. I yearn for these days. I beg for these days and when they come they’re gone too soon.

I haven’t always been bipolar. I’ve been to so many doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I’ve been told I’m depressed. I have anxiety disorder. I’m just hormonal. I need to exercise more. I should just eat better. I have toxic people in my life and if I rid myself of them, then I’ll be fine. Fine, they said. But, fine never came. Fine felt a million miles away.

So, I started doing research. I listened to some of those closest to me. One ex said I acted like two different people. He named them “Allison and Callison”. It took 10 years before I knew what that meant. I’m not two different people, but my brain just might be. So, I called an emergency mental health hotline. No, I wasn’t having a true mental health emergency, but I needed someone to listen to this epiphany. I needed someone to listen. I needed some one to listen to ME. Not judge me. Not try to over analyze me. And not throw the latest pill at me and tell me it’s been a miracle for other patients. So, he listened while I explained what I knew in my heart was finally right. I think I’m bipolar, I said. I had actually said it. Bipolar.

The next step was making an appointment with yet another psychologist. But this time was different. I had an idea of what to say. I’d never been completely open with any provider before, but this time I was. I explained my lifelong battle with my brain. And she listened. She gave me a test. It wasn’t long. I had to answer about twenty questions. I answered all, but a select few, with a resounding YES. I didn’t know what the test was for, but I knew whatever it was, it understood me. The results? Bipolar Type 2, with hypo-mania. YES!! I knew it. But, wait. What the hell do I do now? Another pill? No. That’s not why I came. Pills don’t work for me. I should know. I’d been on every single one. But, she was adamant that this pill was for bipolar disorder. This pill was “right” for me. I gave in. I went to the pharmacy and filled it.

Then, I waited. They always say to wait two to three weeks before you give up.

I waited three days. Yes, three days. On day four I woke up different. Good different. Something felt good. Not high, good. But, I just felt good. What? No self loathing this morning? No hatred of all things morning? Ok. That’s great. Now, I’ll need to go on and get up. I have things to do. I got up. I showered and dressed and then I had an errand to run. I hopped in my car and immediately turned on the radio. I rolled the windows down and began driving. About three miles down the road I came to a stoplight. One of those looong stoplights that if you don’t hit at just the right time, you’ll sit forever. So, I sat. I looked around at all of the other people in their cars. Some just sitting. Some on the phone. And some smiling at me. Why were they smiling, I thought. Oh, shit! I’m smiling, too. Then, it hit me! I’m happy. And I began to cry. I cried because I was happy. I cried because I felt what most people call normal. And right there at that stoplight, I knew my struggle had just gotten a little easier. So, I cried some more. I cried for the years I’d missed not feeling this way. Then, I stopped crying. I stopped because I wanted too. I stopped because I could.

So, what now? I had a diagnosis and a medication that managed it. I felt like someone or something had given me back my life. No, wait. I felt like someone or something had finally given me life.

And, so goes the beginning of my life with bipolar disorder. Is it always as easy as it was that fourth day? No. Is it ever as bad as my worst day? No. I still cycle up and down. Just not as frequently and not as high or as low. I’ve had to add some medications and I’ve taken a few away, but right now I’m managed. I still deal with the stigma. How many times have I heard someone laugh at someone else’s expense and joke that they must be bipolar? A lot. I just kind of look down and smile to myself. They don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know that every single day is a battle. But, they also don’t know that I’m finally winning.”

– By Allison Padgett

Thank you to Allison for submitting her story. To read more of Allison’s journey upon Bipolar, homeschooling and living with her Husband’s Brain tumour diagnosis, please support her blog at https://immamabutimstillme.wordpress.com

 

WE NEED YOUR STORIES….

– Please drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com if you want to take part and be featured in “Sharing Stories”, if you have a story to tell or you just want to share your thoughts about your experiences with mental health. I am so proud of everyone who has contributed and who has joined me in this journey so far, and I do hope our army gets stronger. A bigger voice. A fight to speak louder. – M

 

 

“Sharing Stories” – The Beginning, by Hazel Hillboro.

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“I don’t really believe in mental illness,” I said.  This is always a great way to start off a conversation with psychiatrists.  You can almost see the smoke come off of their pencils as they try to write fast enough about how crazy you are.  I wasn’t joking, though.  I was on psychiatrist #4, and I still didn’t believe in mental illness.

I perched on the edge of my comfy blue chair and eyed the kleenex box next to me.  I wondered if psychiatrists get immune to people crying sort of like kindergarten teachers do.  Kids cry all the time, so I’ll secretly think things such as, “I’m sorry Timmy took your cookies, but actually I don’t care.  Stop crying.”  I wondered if psychiatrists have also become jaded and learned not to care.  I made a mental note not to cry, just in case.  I looked around at the “calming” decorations: beach scenes in frames and a random fake plant in the corner.  A plethora of degrees on the wall behind the psychiatrist’s desk were hung proudly to make me think she knows what she’s talking about.

“It’s like this,” I continued. “I see people all the time posting on facebook and twitter and such, ‘love me because I have an anxiety disorder,’ or ‘how to love a person with depression,’ or ‘my depression is really bad today, so everyone be nice.’  I mean, it seems like they wear their ‘illness’ as a badge of honor, a way to get attention.  It’s an excuse to be an asshole without having to apologize.  That’s dumb.  I’m a teacher, and the teachers at my school offer around xanax like tic tacs.  I realize we have a stressful job, but come on.  We’re not all mentally ill.  People just need to learn how to deal with their lives better.  People who broadcast their ‘mental illnesses’ drive me nuts.”

My psychiatrist stopped writing to look me straight in the eye.  “There may be people like that in the world, and they may be annoying, but I would rather work with someone like that than someone like you, because you just tried to kill yourself and still refuse to believe you have a problem.”

Oooooh snap.  Shut down by my shrink.

I mumbled something along the lines of “good point” and sank back into the chair.  I wasn’t going to get out of this one easily.  My vision blurred, and I grabbed a kleenex.  Stupid psychiatrists and their stupid kleenexes.

“What kind of meds have you been on?” she asked.

“All of them,” I answered.  “I don’t remember them all.  Name one.  I’ve probably been on it.”

I’d been diagnosed with depression and anxiety multiple times over the years, I’d taken medications with varying degrees of little to no success, and I’d given up on ever getting better.  I’d just tried to kill myself the day before, and I’d been dragged to this psychiatrist pretty much against my will.  I mean, not literally kicking or screaming or anything, but when one doesn’t have any will to live, it’s basically like, “Fine.  Another doctor? I don’t want to go, but I also don’t actually care.”

She ran down a standard list of medications.  Prozac?  Yep.  Zoloft?  Uh huh.  Klonopin?  Of course.  Xanax?  Got a collection.  You get the idea.  So many pills, so little time in a one hour appointment.

Finally she asked if I’d been on oxcarbazepine.  Umm…no?  Is that even English?  Did she just make that one up as a trick to say if I’d say yes to everything, even random made-up words?  The answer, however, was no.  I had not been on that drug.

She asked if I’d be willing to try it.  That’s like when the teacher asks you, “Would you like to give the answer to #5?”  You can’t very well just say, “No.”  I said fine, that I would take it.  I can’t say I had a lot of hope that it would be any different (my resume of drugs taken was impressively long with very little results, as you may recall).  I took the prescription, got the pills, and immediately googled two things:

  1. Can I overdose on this drug?  (No)
  2. What is the success rate for this drug? (Pretty good…for bipolar disorder)

Bipolar disorder?  What?  I obviously didn’t have bipolar disorder.

(If you haven’t already figured this out, I was also a pretentious idiot)

If I had anything (which I didn’t believe), then it was depression, not bipolar disorder.  I was incredibly uninformed about this disease.  I thought it just meant that people got really moody – happy one minute and furious the next.  Basically PMS on steroids.  I had no idea that bipolar people could sometimes go days without sleeping for no apparent reason (which I had absolutely done) and be super productive.  I didn’t know that it made them act completely out of character for themselves sometimes for weeks on end, and that they could then crash into a horrible depression.  I didn’t know that bipolar disorder can go undiagnosed for an average of ten years before stumbling on a correct diagnosis.  No one goes to a doctor to say, “My life feels absolutely perfect and I just solved a bunch of problems by staying up for a week straight.”  They go to a doctor when they feel depressed, hence the misdiagnosis.

My psychiatrist is very smart.  I think she knew that if she told me I had bipolar disorder, I wouldn’t have believed her.  I would have refused to take the drugs and decided she was the crazy one, not me.  Only a few days after I started taking them, though, I felt like I woke up from a years long coma.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I could think clearly.  I could be rational.  It was strange.

Isn’t that sad?

I started blogging as a way of reaching out to two groups of people.  The first is to people who have a mental illness or love someone who does.  I am just starting down this road, and it’s scary as hell.  I hate knowing that my brain can’t function properly without drugs.  I hate thinking that I will probably have to deal with this for the rest of my life.  I guess, selfishly, I’m looking for anyone out there who can give me a “me too” or a “been there” or a “you can do this.”

I’m also writing this for people who are like I was only a few months ago. I fully subscribed to the “ignore mental illness and it will go away” philosophy, and I am now a true convert who knows firsthand how damaging that view can be. I almost lost my life over it. I would like to help other people know that mental illness is serious, it should be taken seriously, and they should stop shaming those of us who have to struggle silently.”

-by Hazel Hillboro.

 

You can follow Hazel’s experiences on living with a Bipolar life here at Behind these Hazel eyes.

 

– Please drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com if you want to take part and be featured in “Sharing Stories”, if you have a story to tell or you just want to share your thoughts about your experiences with mental health. I am so proud of everyone who has contributed and who has joined me in this journey so far, and I do hope our army gets stronger. A bigger voice. A fight to speak louder. – M

“Sharing Stories” – How Bipolar type II has affected my life, by Jenna White.

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“My personal story with mental illness begins when I was 13 years old. I began to feel different than the rest of my peers and I showed signs of both depression and mania. I was put on mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and sleeping pills to quell the mood shifts. I began to self-mutilate, choke myself with scarfs and pop different pills in the medicine cabinet. Neither my Mom or Dad understood mental illness and chastised me endlessly with a hint of concern.

I began high school and in grade 10, and found the worst boyfriend I ever had. He was mentally, emotionally, sexually and physically abusive to me for a year and a half. I had grown up with abuse so I knew this was over the top but I knew how to handle it…or so I thought. I began to snort hard drugs like cocaine and speed. The boyfriend, Kyle, didn’t want me taking my medication because he didn’t believe in it. I was being broken spiritually and not getting proper help for my mental state.

At 15 I attempted suicide for the first time. I had “tried” before by popping handfuls of random medication from the cabinet but it wasn’t a serious gesture. This time I was in the bath, note written, a full bottle of Tylenol in my stomach and I was on my way. But suddenly I changed my mind and threw the bottle at my mom, evidently she made me throw up and we never spoke of it again.

Fast forward to when I am 19. My mental state was so terrible I was having black outs with a different personality. I had been a drug addict for 4 years at that point and it was all getting to be too much. I quit drugs and moved to Toronto Ontario with a boyfriend and his kid. In Toronto I was admitted to a hospital ward for 2 weeks for a final diagnosis: Bipolar II.

From then I’ve been admitted 3 more times in two different cities. I constantly struggle with medications and dosages which cause me to go into manic and depressive states. My family, social and professional life suffers from my disorder.”

-By Jenna White.

Jenna writes about the personal struggles with having a Bipolar type II diagnosis on her blog, Brandnewbipolar.

 

Please drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com if you want to take part and be featured in “Sharing Stories”, if you have a story to tell or you just want to share your thoughts about your experiences with mental health. I am so proud of everyone who has contributed and who has joined me in this journey so far, and I do hope our army gets stronger. A bigger voice. A fight to speak louder. – M

Follow the Sharing Stories Facebook page! – The Manic Years – Sharing Stories of Mental Health