Poetry by Jade Melissa Stuart from the book ‘A Wish Upon Words,’ which is available from Amazon –
You can find more of Jade’s poetry here at;
For a while now, I have been haunted by the superfluity of my existence
Of late, my mind has become weary from all the years of displaying resilience
I keep searching and am struggling to find a way out of what feels like a runnel
It is fading, the belief that there is a glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel
At this point, I no longer find inspiration in loved ones or ambitions I had
For so long, love received and goals set have worked to keep me motivated
Sadly, that only got me to this place of feeling emotionally depleted
My days seem to have become mere obstacles that must be overcome
The pain – even as I quit smoking – I still do whatever it takes to numb
I pretend to be jovial, I pretend to be interested, I pretend to be present
But, could it be that through all this, I may not be pretending to be “OK” after all?
Could it be I am trying to give myself a break and move away from this dark pall?
I talk openly about my struggles for I don’t want to bottle my pain so dire
I talk because a part of me wishes someone might help me out of this mire
Probably as an effort to help me feel better, I am told that we are all “not OK”
It could be an effort to deter me from burdening others or expecting any aid
As just another solution I’ve thought of, “go for therapy”, some folks have said
Sadly, access to (queer-friendly) mental healthcare services is a privilege
Not many of us seem to understand this as though it were a cryptic adage
Still, some folks understand my pain and that is all I can appreciate
It has taken some time but, now, I embrace the stomach-churning revelation
I ought to be to self the person I hope will offer emotional support and inspiration
Still, I find it all tiring and when night comes, I wish I would sleep everlastingly
I have had to learn to manage panic attacks which often overwhelm me agonizingly
Oftentimes, I find myself convincing self to get out of bed in the morning
On many instances, before leaving the house, I make sure to give myself a pep- talk
Other times, I wait until the coast is clear before, out of my room, I can walk
Through all the struggling, I find myself wondering, what is the point of it all?
What is the point of being alive? On me existential questions as these take their toll
Death does seem like a pacifying escape from what seems to be meaningless
But, before I eventually die, regardless of cause, how I yearn to just live.
– Joyline Maenzanise
Joyline is a contributing writer at On The Line, a South African publication. Some of her published work can be viewed here: Stories by Joyline Maenzanise : Contently
Image by Brian Minear Photography
As November closely approaches, we are also getting geared up to dive in to the madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – a major annual event which sees published author’s and aspiring writers amongst us preparing to face the challenge of undertaking 50,000 words during the course of November.
That’s averaging 1,667 words per day, and provides 100% commitment from the participant to meet that target.
To give you a vague idea of the amount of work 50k is, that’s pretty much just over the word count of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby… (47,097!)
This year, I have geared myself up for my first ever NaNoWriMo challenge, and took the sensible advice to start prepping early. To say I started three months ago, it certainly has come around quickly!
Whilst taking this challenge, I also thought it a great opportunity to do some fundraising for a charity that is very close to my heart.
Rochdale and District Mind is a local mental health and wellbeing organisation who primarily relay on donations and sponsorships to keep the Charity afloat. The volunteers work tirelessly to support and assist in recovery for those in need – myself being one of those seeking help when I turned 18.
Mind was the first services that I braved to access on my own. At the time, I was severely struggling with depression, cripplingly low self esteem, bouts of mania, self-harm and addiction after suffering in silence from my early teens. This pathway ultimately lead me on the right pathway to get my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder – from which I received the treatment I needed to get back on my feet, go back to university and raise my beautiful young daughter.
As of many people who I have to be thankful for, the kindness and the efforts of the service workers at Rochdale Mind saved my life.
As much as I feel I can’t give enough back, this is my way of saying thank you. For my NaNoWriMo project 2017, I will be undertaking my first fiction project, a novel, which focusses on the realities of mental health.
Please help support Rochdale and District Mind (and also encourage me in my word count!) by visiting my just giving page below and giving a small donation.
I’d also love to hear from those who are taking part with NaNo this year!
To find more about the incredible services and support that Rochdale Mind do please visit their website: https://www.rochdalemind.org.uk/
The Manic Years is looking to feature poetry with themes around Mental Health. To contribute, please email email@example.com to submit your poetry, along with your name and a link to your own writing if applicable.
Please submit your own individual works only.
Badgered and bullied
I always felt both sadness and rage
at home and school
just wanted a moment that was mine
where I didn’t feel swept and carried away
by some sea that was not mine,
and my best friend were books
few people seemed to understand me or care
those who did only wanted to use me;
I am putting those years behind me
looking forward to a better future because
I choose to be happy even on my hardest days
won’t let depression or anxiety conquer me
I am so much more than this misery, anger, and pain
that is trying to strangle the life from me.
– By Linda M. Crate.
You can find more of Linda’s words here at https://www.facebook.com/Linda-M-Crate-129813357119547/
Image rights by Pexels stock images.
Self-care is a really difficult thing to endure when you are feeling under the weather yourself.
This week, I have had to force myself to get up off the couch, get showered and eat. Life changes, illness, pain and other indemnities have left me feeling tense and angry over the last few weeks and this has of course mirrored itself in the forefront of my mental health. I am one again finding myself enraged with not only the unpredictable practicalities of life, but aiming the flaming arrows at myself everyone around me. Not good news for my close friends and family, my partner and my daughter – particularly when I can’t seem to gain any sort of control over it.
I had my bi-annually medication review with my GP a few days ago, and mentioned to her that with all that is happening – decline in my physical health, moving house, the change in weather – my mood has significantly dropped to the levels where I feel I’m in the red warning zone. She doubled my Sertraline, something which hasn’t happened in a long time, and two days later I can certainly feel the effects. This morning I managed to get myself out of bed without being too exhausted to want to crawl back in to it, I feel less like an emotional blubbering mess and my productivity and creativity has sky rocketed. Hallelujah.
I am starting to realise that the many medication tweaks and altering my environment to compliment my bipolar waves will be permanent. There is no easy ‘one state’ fix for me. These little adjustments are mandatory to see me through to a healthy life. I feel okay with this now, there will never be a single solution.
As the years go by, and I get further and further away from the messy life before diagnosis, I can feel how far I have come and how much I am learning from my past to implement in my future self-care. There’s so much value in experience.
Last year, I had the honour to be approached by the founder of The Recovery Letters blog, James Withey, who asked me to submit a letter for his upcoming book, the Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression, which compiled letters from people who had once suffered – to the currently suffering.
My contribution made it through to final print, and when I got the package through from Jessica Kingsley publishers with a copy of the book, I wept with absolute joy. Upon reading the extracts, the book offers a real inspirational insight in to what it feels like to suffer, and each letter is raw with relatable stories, advice and hope.
Here is my contribution to the book.
Please do support James for all the hard work he has done by purchasing a copy for yourself, or even as a gift for someone you know is going through a tough time. Each one of these letters holds so much value and hope for those who are suffering. Details of how to purchase can be found in the link below, along with the Recovery Letters blog.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Annie in her home, to have an open discussion with her about her past struggles with drug addiction. Annie, who is a single mum of a little boy, aged 3, lives by herself and has volunteered as a mentor for recovering addicts after she became clean. Here is the conversation we had together.
TMY: “When did it all start?
ANNIE: About two years after I started taking drugs.
When did you start taking drugs, how old was you?
Do you know why you started taking them?
Why I started taking drugs? Because I wanted to be the cool kid didn’t I?
Yeah my Brother used to do it all the time so I thought, ‘Oh I want some of that’.
Do you think you was influenced by him?
Yeah. I think you are at that age aren’t you?
Yeah, plus – I liked drinking a lot as well, and I could drink whilst I was on drugs.
Did you start out with… well, I know you’ve had a bit of a past with cocaine. Did you start out with anything else?
No, straight in to class A’s.
Gosh. Is that the time when you was at the flat?
No, I started all that when I went in to my first ever house.
But, when I was in that flat, I was taking it every single day. So when I first started it was once a week, just partying, then by the time I was 22 I was taking it every single day.
It’s quite a long time to be taking drugs, was it like the 4 year stint of it? You didn’t have a break or anything like that?
No. 6 years all together I was taking drugs.
That’s a long time.
When did it start to become to the point where you feel like you needed to take them?
Err, probably when I was about 20, and I used to sniff coke in the toilets at work –
What was you working as at the time?
A receptionist. In a gym.
Did you have anything going on? Like, in the background, did anything trigger it?
I don’t think so? Not at that time no. Well – I had a bit of an eating disorder at the same time, so maybe that as well.
I think illnesses like that, eating disorders, depression and other things go quite hand in hand with addiction, it’s that whole idea of self-soothing….
It was a similar situation with me when I started self harming, I started taking paracetamol and stuff, sounds really daft because you can’t really get addicted to a substance thats not addictive – it’s not chemically addictive –
You can get mentally addicted.
– Mentally you can, yeah. It’s just one of those. When did your eating disorder start?
Probably when I was about 20 – no not 20 – about 18 when I met D.
When you met D?
Do you think she kind of had an influence on you?
Yeah I think she was a bit of a bully really, she used to always call me fat.
I know. So…
I know there was a lot of stuff going on with her as well. So with this eating disorder, was there anything else? I remember when I was going through the whole diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder…
Oh they tried getting me with that as well. But it’s, completely wrong.
…Yeah. I think it’s one of those disorders that they kind of like label on people when they don’t know whats wrong with them…
Yeah. No, I never told the doctors that I was taking drugs or anything like that so they tried like, diagnosing me with everything. I even saw a psychiatrist once and he even thought that I was Autistic, until I told him that I was actually taking drugs! *Laughs`*
*Laughs* Right… did you go to the doctors for help with it?
No not with that, I just… my life was just falling apart, I thought my life was shit so I was at the doctors every week, telling him I couldn’t cope with my life.
Yeah. It’s intense, to go through something at such a young age.
So when did you first reach out about the drug addition thing, when did you first admit it?
Erm, probably when I was about 24, after my ex, A, had been in rehab. And then I got homeless because I couldn’t pay my rent, I was buying too many drugs. All my friends fucked me off, and I though ‘Oh I think I’ve got a bit of a problem here…’ And then the doctors as well tried to get me sectioned, and involve social services in my life because I was that off the rails and mental, but instead of having that… because you can never get rid of a section or get rid of social services being on your file or on your life. So I thought I’d better…*laughs*…try and sort something out with my life eh? And I thought I was going to die as well.. But I don’t know if that was paranoia or not…
Did you have any friends at the time who you kind of, spoke up to about?
Not really, I told my mum that I had a problem with drugs…but, she could’t really do anything.
Was she there for you?
Not really. No. My mum’s got problems as well so I don’t think she finds it easy to see other people’s problems.
Yeah. Does mental illness or addiction or anything like that run in the family?
Erm, I don’t know, my mum has mental illness but I don’t think anyone else does. And my grandad was a gambling addict.
It’s… with my family, I see like a long line of it. And it’s all different things as well, it’s not just the bipolar thing, which is meant to be genetic – which is quite a scary thought really – Erm… but it was everything like S.A.D – seasonal affective disorder – addiction, alcoholism, and I didn’t know about all this until I started opening up about it.
Yeah, people don’t talk about it.
I’m well paranoid about turning out like my mum.
She’s well bad with it, yeah. Like any time I say something that sounds like my mum, I’ll like, shit myself.
I don’t want to turn out like that, I don’t want it to be genetic.
What’s she got in terms of mental illness?
She’s just got really bad anxiety and depression, like savage depression. But her anxiety, I can’t be around her when she’s like that, it annoys me.
Like I said yesterday, when she was doing my head in because you can feel the nerves coming off her, like it comes off on you doesn’t it, people say that it does?
No, it definitely does.
It’s really irritating. It’s like having a child, it’s like a toddler, she’s like a toddler when she’s like that, I can’t handle her.
Has she always been like that?
No, she was like that since her mum died.
How long ago was that?
About 16 years ago.
Did you pick up on it when you was younger?
Yeah I think that’s where my panic attacks came from. From being around her too much.
Because you can feel it can’t you? But she would never go shopping on her own, and I went through a phase too where I couldn’t even leave the house, you know, I started getting the same things as she did.
Yeah. What about when you was a teenager? Did you feel like you was going through a lot with her, being the way that she is?
No, I didn’t even bother with my mum when she was a teenager, I rebelled against it all.
Yeah. I hated my mum as a teenager. *Laughs*
Well that’s most teenagers really isn’t it? *Laughs*
Yeah, so I didn’t really speak to her, I don’t pick up on it.
You seem quite close now?
Yeah, we are now apart from when she’s like this. But that’s just part of growing up isn’t it?
Yeah I think so. Yeah, I had the same with mine, because my mum’s been ill since my dad left, she was fine before then, absolutely fine, and then I ended up leaving home when I was 13, because I just couldn’t be around her. And it seems daft –
– It is hard. When you go through something yourself and you know you can justify it, and you know that you need people, but at the same time it’s a hard kind of ‘burden’ – if that’s even the right word – to take.
Yeah, it is. It’s well hard.
So did you tell your mum about the drugs?
Yeah. Erm, I think this was before… when was it? I sat my mum and dad down and said ‘I think I’ve got a problem’ and they was just like ‘Oh, right okay. Stop doing it then.’
Do you know what I mean?
Did you tell them the full extent of it?
Yeah. I told them I just spent all my money on drugs and that I needed help and they was just like ‘Well just stop doing it then’. Which, didn’t help.
But I think, after all that had happened with my ex, like he said my mum’s mum dying and your dad leaving your mum I think sometimes, it gets worse when something bad happened doesn’t it? So, like after that I started having hallucinations, like proper, and it didn’t get better until I stopped taking drugs.
That’s pretty bad.
So was it the doctors decision to send you to rehab?
No, I did that on my own.
Did you? Like a self referral? Where did you go initially?
Erm, I started going to.. Well, my ex D told me about R.A.M.P – Reduction and Motivational Programme – and you went twice a week for two hours, and they just talked and did presentations about coming off drugs.
Did you feel like you fit in there, like –
– Or was you completely in denial about it?
I was in denial about being in rehab, it took me about… even when I’d graduated from it, I thought I was alright, you know what I mean I just thought I’d got in to a bit of a shit with it. Even though I must have known in my heart that I was an addict, but I’d never admit it.
And then obviously I relapsed, I went a bit off the rails again, I relapsed for about 6 months, and then I genuinely thought I was going to die from it, then I just stopped myself.
How long, so your first attempt to get off them. Did you have support there?
Well I was in rehab wasn’t I?
I mean with anyone outside, like family, friends? Did they kind of take it seriously then?
Not really, no I don’t think they did to be honest, at first. But, I think when I graduated, they were all happy for me and glad, but I don’t think they understood. I don’t think many people understood, they were all like ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, you just like partying and having fun’. But, they only see the partying and having fun bit, they don’t see the… –
– … Yeah.
Behind the scenes.
Exactly. And the only reason I was partying and having fun was because my life was shit all the rest of the time, you know what I mean?
Yes. What do you feel was missing from your life at the time?
Honestly I think self-love. Because, I didn’t hate myself, but I din’t like myself. And I had no self esteem, and I think just knowing and accepting that people care about you, instead of pushing everyone away.
It’s easy to feel like when you are in a situation like that.
Yeah, if you see yourself as a bad person or not good enough, you are going to expect that everyone else thinks that about you.
And in the end they will think that about you because they cant be arsed trying with you, you know.
Tell me a bit more about this eating disorder, how extreme was that?
I think I got addicted to exercising first, thats how it started, I would do this exercise DVD like twice a day, every single day, and then it started to cutting down food. And at first it was sort of funny, because me and a friend was just licking the flavour off crisps and putting them back in to the bag so we had the flavour but you know, not having the calories. And then I started taking laxatives every single day, so if I did eat anything, I didn’t have to worry about it. It would just go straight through.
My lowest weight was about 6 stone 10, erm, I looked like a lollipop, but like I just thought I was fat all the time.
But I though if I was skinny, then I’ll be pretty, then people will like me. But that didn’t happen. *Laughs*
Do you feel like you have recovered from that? Or is there still something there?
Yeah, definitely. I still always see myself as bigger than what I am probably. Like I see people wearing dresses, and they are quite big and I think, ‘Oh they look so lovely, you can’t even see they are a little bit overweight’, but if I have anything on, if I wear something and I can see that theres like an inch sticking out on my belly, I cannot wear it.
Like.. I just cannot wear that outside because I look too fat. Do you know what I mean?
I don’t think anyone can truly be that comfortable, well – comfortable yes, they can be comfortable with themselves – but 100% happy? I don’t, even when they are dieting – ‘Oh, I’ll be happy when I get to 9 stone…’, and then when they get to 9 stone…
Hmm, I think it’s when people compliment you though when you have lost weight, it’s an ego boost. You think if I lose more I will get more compliments.
But yeah, I am happy with myself but at the same time I’m not. I don’t think I ever will be with weight.
This is the fattest I have ever been, and this is because of the pill, but like I always say, I would rather be pregnant than fat – I hate – like I actually hate being chubby. I can’t stand it. I feel disgusting. But what can you do?
It’s just one of those things, I think its a but part of being female as well, it’s media pressures and you know, some men who have these ideas that they need a pretty woman on their arm and not an intelligent woman on they arm… they are very physical aren’t they?
Do you know what though, sticking up for men, I think a lot of men don’t care as much as women do about the woman weight, or women think they care more than what they actually do.
You know. But some of them do, and some men are like proper up their own arses and expect that of women, but I think most normal men don’t really care a bit about belly fat.
I think it’s very magnetised in our eyes isn’t it?
It’s a bigger deal to us.
Yeah, and you want to be perfect when you have got a boyfriend don’t you, you want to be perfect for them? But, that’s never going to happen.
I wonder if men are the same?
I think they are, yes. Men don’t talk about it though do they?
No, no they don’t.
I know a lot of men who don’t like certain parts of their body. But they aren’t as bad as women.
No. It all comes back to that self-loving thing I suppose as well.
Did you get help for the eating disorder? Or did that all kind of dissolve when everything started getting a bit easier with the drugs?
No, that was the main goal in rehab, to learn to love yourself and learn to respect yourself. Because if you learn to love yourself you wouldn’t want to disrespect yourself by fucking your life up and putting drugs in to your body, *Laughs* so because the main reason most people take drugs is to cover up stuff. And it was about uncovering all that, and realising that whatever has happened to you, you are still a good person, you deserve a decent life, so most of the rehab was learning to love yourself. And empowering you and that. So that just came naturally.
So after the programme that you talked about, was there anything else involved in your recovery?
Like AA meetings? NA? (Narcotics anonymous).
NA, yes, but after rehab, because I got kicked out of rehab for having a relationship with someone, even though I graduated, erm… it was with someone who was in there as well, like all the help was cut off. And the only help that there was the AA/NA meetings, but, because I didn’t have to go to them, I just didn’t. Because I was pissed off that they kicked me out.
Did you fall back in to drugs after that?
Yeah, erm, I got kicked out of that, and then it was like two days later when I started drinking again. And I thought, well I will just drink, I won’t take drugs – because I know that I don’t have a problem with alcohol – and then about a month – probably not even a month after that – I thought ‘I’ll just have one line, just one little line’ and then I was straight back bang on it.
Do you feel like they failed you a bit with your aftercare? Do you feel like they could have done something better?
Erm. I don’t know, looking back maybe because I was really angry but… I did break the rules. There wasn’t much else they could have done. But, I think a lot of the clients, they’ve all got this sort of like, complex, this ‘Oh, I’m clean so I’m better than everybody’ and if you relapse they all look down on you, so none of the other clients spoke to me either. So, all that unity which was apparent, that was there, went.
That’s a big thing isn’t it?
Yeah, going from feeling in a bubble, because I lived in rehab didn’t I?
And I had everyone around me, like, who constantly lived there; went to meetings with them, spent all my time with them, all of a sudden all that to go, it was not nice.
It was like being booed out of your mums house, you know? But yeah, because it was a bubble, and then when that popped it was back to reality.
Yeah. How long was you back on the drinking and the drugs after that?
About 7 months. But yeah one day, I think I just took too much drugs and I genuinely thought I was going to die. I thought, if I ever manage to sleep tonight, I’m not going to wait up. And then the next day I was like that’s it, I cannot do it any more. I cannot do it.
Where did you go for help after that?
Nowhere, I just did it on my own.
Yeah. Because I’d learnt all the stuff when I was in rehab, but because I didn’t really believe it… I think the next couple of days I had a few drinks, and that was it, no drugs and I just thought, why am I doing this as well? So, I just cut it all off.
That’s big. That’s such a huge commitment to just decide by yourself. And in recovery, I think you need so many people to just cheer you on, but for you to actually say and make that decision yourself… it’s huge.
Yeah. I had to do it though. It’s jails, institution or death isn’t it?
Well, I would have ended up being sectioned if I didn’t die.
Yeah. Have you, do you still talk to the people from rehab? Anyone?
I still speak to my counsellor a couple of times per week. After I got kicked out, he rang me a few months after, just to see how I was and I lied to him and told him I wasn’t drinking and that. But then when I got clean, I spoke to him a few times, went to see him, had a few meetings with him and then obviously I started volunteering there myself, and I saw him every single day. But we still met for counselling like a couple of times a week. He’s not my counsellor now I’d say we are more friends, but if I ever do need help I will say to him ‘Can we just go and sit down togged and sort my head out?’
So.. I was well angry at him though for kicking me out, but like, I understand now.
Yeah. It’s good that you have someone there, and after so long as well, how long is it that you have been clean?
4 and a half years now.
Yeah. But I went in rehab nearly 6 years ago, but I’m 4 and a half years clean.
Do you ever think you will be tempted, or have you been tempted in the past four years?
Erm, no not by drugs. Only because it scares me so much, I’m scared of drugs. So… I remember once, speaking to my old counsellor on the phone, and I was saying – ‘Do you know what, Im really struggling with my life blah blah blah’- and he said, ‘Well what would you do if you ever went back to it all?’ and I said ‘Well I would have my son would I?’ I wouldn’t have him any more. And he said to me ‘No, your son wouldn’t have you.’ And I just thought, no I can’t do it, the fact that my child wouldn’t have me in his life? It scares the shit out of me.
He is very lucky.
What my son?
Oh I’m not sure about that!
No, he is. He is lucky.
I’m glad I got clean before I had kids. Because a lot of people when they are using and they already have kids, the kids don’t matter.
Because of the drugs, not because they are horrible people.
Do you feel like your mental health has improved since?
Yeah, well loads.
Do you feel like you have still got anything there at all?
Yeah I have some days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I have panic attacks still. I’m still on medication for it. I tried coming off my medication, I tried lowering it a bit but I just couldn’t cope with my life again.
Paroxitine. But erm, I know it’s really hard to come off. Like, when I come off that, when I lowered it I just, I just couldn’t… I just got depressed again. The medication is helping. But I started having panic attacks again. Some days I’m alright, most days, 6 out of 7 days I’m alright, but even with like my child, sometimes I just want to give him away to someone who can look after him better. But then a few days later I’m like ‘I can’t believe I was thinking that!’
But sometimes when I’m like that, I just want everyone to leave me alone, and I don’t want any responsibility, I just want to, you know…. I just want to have nothing.
Yeah, I erm, I think thats hit home that for me. Because I think exactly the same thing sometimes. Because I just love my daughter so much, but when it gets hard, it erm…. I just want to look after myself.
Yeah. Sometimes its hard enough just to look after yourself.
Do you worry about your son going through anything like this?
Yeah I think when my mum, and sometimes my dad can be quite anxious as well, and when they are being like that I say to they you know, can you stop around my child because I don’t want you picking up on anything. I want him to be happy all the time and not like, worry about things, because they sort of pick up on little things and you know, express them, which is probably fine, but when my son is running around and my dad is like – ‘Be careful with this, watch you head, don’t do this! He’s going to fall, he’s going to do this!’ – Because I don’t want him to have all this anxiety around him.
They are very intuitive aren’t they kids?
Yeah. So yeah, I don’t want him to… because he’s a natural worrier anyway, you know, he’s a really sensitive boy, and I was like that as a child, I was so sensitive. So I am worried he is going to turn out like me. But, at the same time every night I will sit down and I’ll tell him at least 5 things that I love about him, you know to try and bring out the positives. Because I never had that as a child. And I think this is where the self esteem issues have come from, it’s just trying to prevent it you know, because if you are happy with yourself, not much can get to you can it? Even though I know mental health can’t be stopped, but it’s just trying to not let him see it, because it can rub off on people.
Yeah, of course it can. Course it can. I feel quite grateful sometimes when I think about some of the things I have be through, because I know I have got the tools to share with her, like she will always have someone. Like, when I was younger, I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone. It’s not going to be the same with her.
I know what you mean.
And it’s erm, it makes me feel quite safe. I was the same with my mum, my mum was ill when I was growing up as well, and the only thing I didn’t want was to turn out like her. And I, well, I kind of did a little bit too much, and I ended up going crazy in my own way I suppose. *Laughs*
Yeah. Whatever is going to happen with your kids is going to happen anyway really, whatever happens, happens, but you can try an give them tools like you say. To be happy. That’s all it’s about really isn’t it? You just want them to be happy.
Have you ever thought about when he grows up, and when he starts going out drinking and partying for the first time, does that ever like, scare you?
Yeah! Because, I know what it’s like. Even though he’s a boy and it’s meant to be more different for boys isn’t it, you know, like ‘Boys can look after themselves..’ And you know, I know what it’s like. Because everyone does drugs, you know, everyone does them. I don’t know one person that hasn’t took drugs in their life. And obviously, because he’s not coming from me, got that genetic as well. That he might pick up on. But, I never want to really drink around him, or do anything like that around him. Because my mum and dad used to drink every night so I thought it was normal.
So.. I mean you can prevent it, you can try an prevent it as much as you wan’t cant you?
It’s that question of nature or nurture.
Yeah. I think he’s got the nature of the personality side. Definitely. Because I was so sensitive everything just got to me a lot, and when I was upset thats when I wanted to use or drink.
Yeah. So with your career you have volunteered and done the same thing, talking to people who are recovering addicts. When did you decide to go down that route?
I don’t know, I just noticed that they were opening a Women’s Only housing, and I thought I might as well give it a go, because it’s only women and I sort of know what I’m talking about. So I give it a go, I did the training and that, and I’d not been around recovery for years, like I don’t do this anymore, I don’t do that, and just being around it – I felt safe again. And I liked it, so it was good for me as well.
Yeah. A bit of a reminder about what you have done, and how far you have come.
Yeah, erm… it was like being back in that bubble again but not as… well, I was smarter about it this time, it’s not actually a ‘bubble’ it just feels like one. But erm, and then seeing other people happy as well, it makes you happy. Because I know now that I have a good life now, you know, I’ve got my child, I have everything I need in life, I’ve got my friends, and its just showing other people that they can have all that as well.
That’s really good. It’s really nice. I bet it feel liberating as well because it feels like – it sounds like – you are quite open about what you have been through, where as once before you may have been quit closed about it.
Yeah, I feel like I probably wanted to talk about it but I never did.
How open are you about it now? Like, new people in your life who are quite new and don’t really know what you have been through, do you ever say….
Yeah, I’ll always say it, I will always get it out of the way. When I met ‘him’ a few weeks ago, he was asking me why I didn’t drink hardly, and I said ‘To be honest, I had a bit of a problem a few years ago, I took too many drugs and ended up in rehab!’ And that, you either like it or you don’t.
I think it would be better telling someone at the beginning, than waiting 6 months and then saying ‘Oh by the way…’, because they would be like, why did you hide it?
Yeah. Do you feel more ashamed or do you feel proud that you can say that?
I’m proud that I have turned my life around yeah, I’m not ashamed of it because it made me who I am. I’m probably ashamed of some of the things that I did…
…You know, but I don’t need to tell anybody that because the people who need to know, and the people I have had to apologise to know, but not everybody needs to know what I got up to. To be honest when you say that you seem quite open, this has felt quite awkward at times for me.
It’s putting it out there I think as well isn’t it.
How do you feel now you have talked about it?
I feel alright yeah, because it’s not anything that most people don’t know.
Yeah. It’s a nice sorry to hear, I know there was a lot of bad things at the beginning, and how it all started off but… it’s a long way to come….”
RAMP (Reduction and Motivation programme) is a 12 week motivational programme aiming to help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. The programme is held by ACORN Treatment and Housing, a community recovery treatment centre in the North West, UK. Their contact details can be found at;
Tel: 0161 622 1577
Narcotics Anonymous (N.A) is a global organisation which aims to offer recovery through a 12-step programme and group meetings. They focus on recovery from the addition of both drugs and alcohol. To find more information of N.A or A.A. (alcoholics anonymous) in you area, this can be found the link below;
Talk to Frank is a great resource for information and support on drug and alcohol addiction. They also offer a confidential support helpline, email/text and live chat support. Information can be found at;
Helpline: 0300 123 6600
To take part in The Conversations, please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I have suffered with my mental health since I was young, and diagnosed at the age of 12. My mum had been a heavy drinker since I was 3 and I’d been in and out of foster care on several occurrences by the time I’d actually been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. In the years before this, at primary school, I had just been called “soft” and picked on because I cried all the time or overreacted to the smallest of things and then just I’d sit there in silence just thinking.
Fast forward to when I was diagnosed. I was in year 7 at high school and not living at home with my mum because yet again she had fallen off the wagon and become physically abusive towards me. I was given counselling again from a child counsellor I had seen a few years earlier. She was great, I could let of steam, scream and shout all while being allowed to be the child I hadn’t ever been. By the time I was 14 I had been back home and back in care several times, again my mum was physically abusive towards me on several occasions. I felt like a yo-yo, back and forth, up and down. In school I was a loner, I didn’t have many friends; there was a few that were aware of things and supported me, an in addition of having a mentor. I was the one that people made jokes about; I was different, I didn’t live at home with my mum, other people didn’t really understand my situation and they’d make fun out of the fact that my mum was an alcoholic. I felt isolated, like no one liked me or wanted me around. I began to feel nervous about being around people, although generally I appeared to be this bubbly person who was always happy (I was good at putting on a mask) – no one saw how things had actually affected me over the years, they didn’t understand either as most of them couldn’t relate, only those really close to me knew what was going on. I continued through school bobbing in and out of depressive and anxious bouts, controlling it fairly well from 15 when I had a stable foster placement where I was treated well.
When I was 16 I fell pregnant, I wasn’t with the dad… ‘Oh s**t, what am I going to do?’ I thought about all my options and after a few days of knowing I was pregnant I was madly in love with this little blob inside me, I moved back home to my mum and everything was great throughout my pregnancy, my mum had stopped drinking and was being supportive and we were getting on great. My little girl was born in autumn 2007. I was 17 years old, I had this tiny being in front of me needing me, completely relying on me ‘I can and will do this she needs me’… I wanted to be the best mum I could and prove everyone wrong about ‘teenage mums’; I breastfed her so I knew she was getting the best I could give her, all her things were new, she was always immaculate, I wanted to be the best that I could… After 3 weeks of horrific pain and a baby stuck to me permanently I gave up breastfeeding, I’ve never felt so bad in my life and that is where it all began again.
I felt bad, I felt guilty, like I had let her down… I hadn’t – I had done my best – but it didn’t feel like that at the time. I went to see my doctor straight away this time as I didn’t want anything to effect the way I looked after my little girl, I was prescribed fluoxetine, an anti-depressant. Diagnosed with postnatal depression and pretty much just sent on my way, I was taking the medication for a few weeks and I felt worse, they actually made me feel like I wanted to do myself harm, and after another two weeks I came off them because the side effects were horrendous and made me feel worse physically and mentally. After a few months of battling by myself, using the strategies I had learnt through the years; once again I was ‘okay’. I continued to be okay for a good while afterwards too, and when my little girl was about 10 months I met someone; we had known each other a while, he was older than me and my mum disagreed… He made me feel special, I felt lovable for the first time in my life and I felt like everything I had been through was worth it for this. I finally felt accepted and it was amazing.
Shortly after getting together, to everyone’s surprise and a few people’s horror we moved in together and quite soon after that I fell pregnant again. We were on cloud 9… Unfortunately after 3 weeks of knowing I was pregnant I had a miscarriage (I was bitten by a stray cat which caused septicaemia and led to a miscarriage). We were heartbroken and again it made me feel bad as it was my job to protect this little life and I had failed to do that, I know it wasn’t really my fault but at the time I felt like it was. After the miscarriage we moved in with my partners parents to save up for a bigger house and a few months later I found out I was pregnant again. This time we told very few people, just to save heartache having to tell people if anything had happened. It was a worrying 9 months but in spring 2010 I gave birth to my second daughter (my partners first). We were delighted and everything was perfect, again I breastfed but this time with the notion of stopping when I needed too with out feeling guilty about it because I had done the best I could do. Roughly 10 days after our daughter was born I received a phone call that would haunt me for years to come.
My Nan, my rock, the most inspirational woman I had ever had in in life had lung cancer and had been given a maximum of 6 weeks to live. Due to the severity of the cancer and her age there was nothing they could do for her. Five short weeks later, she passed away in hospital surrounded by all of us. The next few weeks and months would be the hardest I had ever faced in my life, in the first few days after her death I just cried. I have never actually felt as broken as I did right then and I had been in some pretty low places over the years. I had to try and pull myself together for sake of my partner and my girls – I couldn’t carry on like this, just basically functioning and doing what I HAD to do. About 6 months after my Nan passed away we moved house again, a fresh start, or so I thought. I fought with my Nan’s passing for a fair few years, but I never dealt with it I accepted it, I ran on autopilot, forgetting important things, leaving the housework and just generally not being myself; I ended up going to the GP because I needed help to deal with my grief. It had been 3 years, I didn’t want medication this time though but my doctor strongly advised it, I was prescribed citalopram and was referred for counselling which actually helped. I faced a lot of demons in those sessions, dealt with why I couldn’t let go and why her death had destroyed me like it had done. A lot of it boiled down to anger stemming from childhood, my Nan was always there for me.
After the counselling I felt great, I weaned myself off my medication with my doctors guidance, I even went back to college to get some qualifications. Once I left college I applied for every care job in my area and within a few months I got an interview, a week later I got the job. I loved it, I’d always wanted to work in the healthcare sector and the aim was to start at the bottom and work my way up. I’d been there almost a year when I again fell pregnant, we were over the moon as we’d been trying trying for quite a while. During the early weeks of pregnancy, work was fine, but due to the complex needs of the people I was caring for and the fact we were extremely short staffed that soon changed. I began getting agitated and upset in the mornings before I went to work and I would dread every shift, yet I loved what I did, by the time I was 15 weeks pregnant I had thought about handing my notice in for the sake of my mental health several times; I was taking my work home with me, which is never good in my line of work.
I worked until I was 19 weeks pregnant when I finally bit the bullet and handed my notice in. I thought it was for the best but in hindsight it wasn’t, although it was stressful it gave me a distraction from my own mind. For 12 hours I was this big ball of fun, the joker, I got on with my colleagues and had fun whilst working. Ironic really considering what was really going on in my head! The rest of my pregnancy went well and I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy I have ever laid eyes on. From the minute he was born, I worried. I wasn’t depressed, just anxious. Like the girls, I breastfed him and to my absolute amazement, I managed just over 6 months, I ate well, I slept so well (our son slept through from day one) and I was generally happy. When I stopped feeding him myself, I expected to feel guilty like I had done before this time I didn’t, I was fine, it was amazing! I finally felt like life was going my way…
Shortly after this my mum was on one of her usual drinking binges and was unhappy because I wouldn’t let her see the children; we’d had an on-off relationship for the previous 8 years due to her inappropriate behaviour and drinking which led to me me stopping her from having contact with them. She did the unthinkable and tried to have my children taken off me, luckily everyone saw through her lies and the children are still where they should be, at home with mummy and daddy… This again raised that horrible darkness that I hated so much! It made me question myself, ‘what have I done to deserve this?’ How can someone that is supposed to love me do this?’
Now almost 7 months later I’ve been lower than I’ve ever been in my life, until recently when I realised I can’t keep myself down there, I don’t want treating with medication so I have to make myself feel good! I have done it before… I need to be proud of myself and what I have been through! I need to realise that I have everything in the world to be happy about and that is my little family.
I will get there eventually, I have support from good friends and family. In a way I’m glad of the life I’ve had, and made me who I am and I will find that person again. For now I will keep going; Life is precious.”
– By Emma Burns.
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 to email@example.com and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.
Sharing saves lives –
The solid floor, cold against my tear stained cheek was my body’s point of reference to centre myself. I open my eyes and allow them to explore the tiny flecks of iridescent colours shimmering upon it’s textured surface. I feel my chest beginning to expand again and finally I can breathe. I pull myself up, slowly, and grab a towel to dab the wet under my eyes, carefully cleaning the mascara and making myself look presentable. Then I take one last deep breath and go back in.
I enter, and go back to the task I had abandoned. I try and concentrate – I’m merely transcribing from one place to the other, but I can feel the exhaustion pulling me under from my brain working on overdrive. I’m so tired.
It’s a funny thing mental health. Our tiredness is not the same as the socially accepted common occurrence that every single person goes through on a daily basis. Our tiredness, is the exhaustion that makes every cell in our body scream defeat. It’s being overwhelmed by taking in the colours and the sights and the sounds and the smells of our environment. It’s not being able to reply to a text message and socialise. It’s spending days fabreezing our dirty clothes in the wonderment of how many days we can go trying and failing to convince ourselves to take a shower. When we say we are tired. We don’t mean we are tired. It means we cannot go on.
It takes 20 minutes of the most simple task, and I can feel my mind ebbing away again. The million thoughts stumbling in to each other, getting tangled in their meaning and producing one generic output of of white noise. I stutter, and I can feel the heated aggressive energy buzzing in my chest again, clutching its burning hands around my heart and slowly squeezing the life out of me.
Breathe. You have got this.
I close my eyes and take a breath in, my lungs struggling to take in the heavy air. I’m suffocating. My breathing accelerates, my chest getting tighter and tighter. I’m trying my best to regulate it, but I’m too exhausted. I calmly get up out of my chair and go back to the bathroom. I have to let it pass. It will be over soon. You have got this.
Locking the door behind me, checking it again just in case I am disturbed, I rest my back against the door and let my knees give way, sliding down to the ground. I feel it speeding up now, short whimpering bursts of inhalation, my lungs desperate for oxygen, I am choking. I cover my mouth with my sleeve and give way to it, trying to breathe hard through the fabric in an attempt to achieve some sort of regulation. You have got this.
I have come a long way in my approach towards my panic attacks. There came a time, many moons ago in the abyss of the lost soul, when I didn’t know that I had mental health issues and I punished myself for being different than everyone else. My attacks were more frequent then, and often lead to incomprehensible bouts of rage towards myself – screaming fits, self-harm and any other form of punishment I could find which ultimately made them worse. Today, I felt myself taking a more gentle approach – I allowed my body to release whatever nasty energy it needed to release, soothing myself whilst the waves came. It took some years to befriend myself, and that came with recovery. These days I still to have urges to self harm, once an addict always an addict, but as I ponder through this current panic I find myself thinking ‘Why don’t I?’, and I hear my inner voice in return saying ‘Because you have no desire to punish yourself. Not any more.’
This thought was a huge revelation.
My breathing starts to slow and steady after a minute or so. I lower my dizzy self to the floor and feel the cold on my cheek again. I wrap my arms around myself an remind myself that it is okay. I have myself, and I am comforted by the thought. Then when I am ready, I pick myself up off the bathroom floor and return to my desk at work.
I struggle through 5 more panic attacks before I admit defeat and email my manager to tell her I am sorry, but I just can’t be here. I pick up my stuff and run out. The aftermath of that I know I will have to face up to later, but not right now.
Life has been a struggle. My partner left in January, and I have been getting used to life on my own. The guy who I shared my home with, the person who I called the ‘Love of my Life’ is now nothing but an empty space in bed. These days, I drift off to a dreamless sleep besides a ghost of a future that I can no longer hold in the palm of my hand. That road has been closed off. I have to find a new path to walk down now.
The debt letters from what he left us in frequently greet me when I get home late at night from a long exhausting day at work. Another reminder on snooze, that won’t make me forget how much devastation this person who I thought cared about me once upon a time left me in. The 5p’s I now have to regularly scrape up so I can feed myself at night, bills being more of a priority than ever. There is bitterness and anger embedded in me now. This is not me. Hardship changes you as a person, but I have to keep telling myself now to let it change me for the worst. Let it go.
I let it go for a few hours, and then it burns up in me all over again watching my Daughter sob in to my arms when she can’t understand why I won’t let her see him.
Work is heavy at the moment, and sometimes too much for my bones to bare. The 5.30am alarms, the 3 hour car journeys to and fro. The intense workload that I’m fighting and fighting and fighting through. It’s no secret that over the past month I have had to indulge in a sneaky nap on my desk at my lunch break. The effect of my meds on my memory doesn’t help. I walked out of work last week wondering around the street looking for my car, that exhausted that I’d totally forgotten what my car actually looked like. It’s bloody BRIGHT RED for Christ’s sake. I had to flip through the images on my phone to remember what it looked like.
And to top it all off, I am now riding yet another bipolar wave. The increase in my medication has triggered an unwanted physiological response in me that I cannot contain. Anxiety screams in my face. I got home after my fateful escape from work to my empty home, and after a few tearful ponderings, I realised throughout it all how strong I actually am.
I still fighting to give 110% when my illness only provides me with enough to give 50%.
I am still building upon that relationship with myself, and that makes all the difference.
I am a mother to a beautiful striving girl, and I am still pushing for the both of us.
I am a warrior and I will keep pushing on.
I grab a glass of whiskey, and I smile through the tears. If I didn’t have the ability to laugh at my sorry arse through this, then I’d have no chance of getting through to the other side. I am a wolf, and I will getting running – it’s what I am built to do.
to be continued…