Grief.

 

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Some people say, that grief washes over you like waves. Those some people, are absolutely right.

When the morning approaches, it hits my body before my mind even has the chance to wake up and acknowledge the day. I feel it; a solid, heavy burning weight, like my heart has been set alight before I even open my eyes. And then I do, and the anchor of reality sinks me.

This is how I have spent each and every once of my mornings for the past 3 months. Most of these days, I have succeeded to bite down hard and talk myself in to getting out of bed and facing the day. Others, I have not.

One day, around three weeks ago, I woke up and realised that I did not want to live. This was not a passive, drifting thought. This was a certified, stubborn fact. I did not want to be here. The weightiness of Bipolar depression, of a spiral hard hitting life events, a year worth of losses, are an unhealthy concoction for the mind and the spirit.

I went to see my GP just before the truth occurred to me, an she suggested that I increased by anti-depressant up by double. I reluctantly took the prescription, paid for the charge regardless of not being able to afford them and started on my higher dose. Then a few days later, I stopped. I stopped taking my meds altogether.

You would have thought, having lived with this for years exactly how dangerous it is to just stop, that I would have accumulated at least some wisdom to keep me alive along the way. The last time I stopped taking them, I ended up attempting to drive to the hospital to seek help but instead had a brain blip and ended up manically driving to another country instead. The time before that, I also had another brain blip, but this time it happened in an Asda Superstore which resulted in me being chaperoned by an ambulance and being left hovering around in A&E with none of the medical staff not knowing what to do with me. But no, I got to the point where everything that had a point did not have a point anymore. Including taking my medication. They were not working, so what was the point in taking them?

And so I fell. I fell further than what I thought could be humanly possible.

One night, out of panic, frustration, anger at the world and with the impulse to kick and scream and do something at least, I ran out of the house, got in the car and put my foot down. I ended up in the hills, in the middle of the night but instead of screaming or doing something stupid, I fumbled around frantically for a pen and ripped a scrap of paper and wrote the first thing my hand would write, without even thinking of what I was writing. I wrote one word and then froze with it.

FRAUD. 

Fraud. Is that what I have been feeling all this time? A fraud? The answer was yes. I did not feel like I belonged. I don’t belong in a room full of people. I don’t belong in society. My thoughts, my beliefs, my morals were all different and it pushed me further and further from this planet until I got pushed so far I could not find my way back in to it.

I took a train one evening. I got out in to town, I tried to enjoy myself, but it was there, ebbing inside my chest. Fraud. I took a train, but the train was cancelled and moved to another platform. It was busy. The whole of the commuters pushed and ran – why were they running? –  they ran like a flock of desperate souls to this other platform, and they all scrambled on to this train, pushing and shoving and elbowing in the battle, each one of them only looking out for themselves in their fight to get on to this train and get a seat at the cost of other people. I did not understand why they were running for this train like their lives depended on it. I did not understand why they were fighting to aggressively to get a seat. Was it really so important? I stood beside the crowd, watching them like rats in their desperate efforts and felt more like an outsider because I couldn’t understand it. They scrambled on to the train like I had been scrambling on to my last reason to stay alive.

I fell further. I stopped sleeping properly. I didn’t tell people. Occasionally, I mentioned it to my partner.

“I feel down.”

“I don’t feel too good today.”

“My anxiety is shocking.”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Then we would talk, and I would feel comforted for a moment. Then the next day I’d say, “I feel bad today,” and he’d say –

“Why? I thought you was feeling better?”

If a rant, and a cuddle and a cry on ones shoulder was all it took to make it completely disappear, then I would be the healthiest and most happiest girl on this planet. Depression doesn’t care whether you are rich with love and with the strength given by other people.

So I stopped talking as much. Because that, as all, felt pointless too.

I went on autopilot mode. I wrote bullet lists. I wrote LOTS of bullet lists. I checked them off one after another. Trying to pass the time and distract me from ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’ because sitting there with my own thoughts in my own mind was too much. I tried not to think about the present. I tried not to think about Christmas. I tried not to think about the future. I tried not to think about lying there sleepless in the dark, night after night with my mind tormenting me. My heart hurt. Like, physically hurt. I was walking around with a sharp shooting pain which wouldn’t ease.

Why am I getting pains in my heart? Am I going to die?!

No, Megan. You are not going to die. 

Then, few nights ago, to add insult to injury; I lost someone close to me.

This is the first family death to have occurred in my life, as I have been fortunate to have everyone still here up until this week. And it hit me, slowly with the steady pace that realisation sometimes does when it can’t be arsed smacking you cold in the face, but it did, and it came over me wave after wave after wave, just like they said it would.

The pain of losing a loved one is an unbearable ache. It is a burning fire in your chest that sits there uninvited and ever present, and occasionally gets washed over by the deepest waves of sadness whilst memories come flooding up to the surface. Then the waves go, and you carry that unbearable burning in you chest again. Rinse and repeat. With this in mind, I have come to another hard-realisation this week. The realisation that pure pain of depression and anxiety and feelings of ‘doom’ and the so many fragments of the things I have been experiencing over the past months which can no just be summed up in to a one word-diagnosis, felt the same as my grief did.

This is what I have not been well with, all this time. Grief. I am grieving. Not just at the loss of my Nan. I have been grieving these past few months. At the loss of everything this year, at the loss of myself, my home, my dignity, all the other things I have lost this year? I did not know, but I was grieving nonetheless.

And so, the next time someone asks me what it feels like to feel this bad, I can truthfully and most honestly say this. It feels like Grief.

With the push of my partner I ended up filling out another prescription with my meds, and to start taking them again. The doctors surgery wouldn’t release them without another ‘medication review’ (which I had just 5 weeks ago) and so I ended up having to fill up on one the out of hours appointments, thus wasting NHS services again.

“What can I do for you Megan?”

“Um…”

No matter how many times I have been there, said that, admitting that I am not okay and that I need help still fills me with shame, dread and other taunting emotions that, if you look at it from an outsiders point of view, I should not be obliged to feel.

“Have you, or have you feel like hurting yourself?”

“Yes.”

“How have you hurt yourself?”

Please don’t make me say it.

“Have you felt suicidal?”

“Yes.”

“Have you or do you feel like making any plans to act on these feelings?”

“No.”

Which is true – although they might seem like two of the same questions, I have picked up within the last few years that practitioners always ask and separate the following:

1. Do you feel suicidal?

2. Have you made any plans to commit suicide?

Although I made my mind up a while back now that no, I did not want to live – but it didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to die either.

He gave me two weeks worth of both my medications.

“Two weeks? So does that mean I have to make another appointment in a fortnight to claim my monthly rolling prescription back?”

“I can’t give you more than that just incase you decide to take them all at once.”

Oh. Good point.

And so I started my medication again, and wrote another bullet list.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. But I do know this. I am depressed. I am grieving. I am not functioning and I am not well. And it has taken me over three months to admit it.

But also,

I am still.

I am.

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“Sharing Stories” – A battle of postnatal depression, by Emma Burns.

“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 themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.

Sharing saves lives –

M x