NaNoWriMo 2017 for Rochdale and District Mind

 

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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.

 

DONATE HERE!

 

I’d also love to hear from those who are taking part with NaNo this year!

 

Thank you!

 

To find more about the incredible services and support that Rochdale Mind do please visit their website: https://www.rochdalemind.org.uk/

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When mental illness gets the best of you, we remind ourselves of who we are.

 

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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…

 

‘Sharing Stories’ – A life with Depression, By Andrew.

“My name is Andrew. I’m 44, married with two lovely kids. I have suffered with depression since my early teens. This is my journey.

The depression came about because of an accident, not to me but to my Father. We jokingly say that he fell off the back off a lorry; actually he was leaning against a support on the back of a wagon when it collapsed, he and a fellow worker fell, and my Dad was left with a fractured skull and an altered personality and has never worked again. I can’t remember exactly how I was told, I think it was by my friend’s Mother and I vaguely remember having to stay with them for a few days.

I do remember walking into the living room when my Dad got out of hospital; I was warned to be gentle as he was quite fragile. He had two black eyes and looked very frail. At the age I was at the time your Dad is Superman! He wasn’t supposed to be like this! I seem to remember vowing that I would have to be the man of the house. I say dad never worked again, he did work for a little while because he had another accident at work when he cut his head open!

As I said, I believed I needed to be the man of the house, a role I was not ready for, although no one else had any expectations of me. There is something else that prayed on my mind at this time. When my Dad was 16 his father died, I was paranoid that history was going to repeat itself especially how ill he was. I remember being very relieved when I turned 17, we had cheated history.

When I left school I went to Art College to do my Btec in fashion. I had been ‘well built’ for most of senior school, I decided I was fat so pretty much stopped eating. I’m not going to say I have anorexia but it was pretty close. I went from a 38” waist to about a 24” at my worst, I collapsed in a bathroom in Paris on a college trip, and I wasn’t well. It got to the point where it hurt more to eat that it did to not eat. I have a picture of me during that time, wearing a baggy jumper to hide my body; I look like I could snap if I bent over.

After college I started working in the fashion industry, probably one of the most stressful environments to work in. I lasted about 15 years with various episodes of the dog but I still didn’t know what it was, I had talked about suicide with my then girlfriend (now wife) but I thought that was normal! Eventually the first glimpse into what was actually happening to me came about. We were told the company I was working for wanted us all to move to Leicester as that was closer to head office, this was never an option for me as my wife worked here and we had just had a baby and moved to a new house we loved. Of course the alternative was redundancy. I became ill, I would sleep up to 22 hours a day, I became dehydrated as I couldn’t stay awake long enough to drink. I kept going back to the doctors who kept sending me for tests, diabetes, thyroid, all sorts. I asked if it could be stress related. He then asked if I was stressed. I explained that I was being made redundant; we had just had a baby and moved into a house that was about twice the mortgage of our previous home (in our previous house we had been broken into 4 times over 2 years including twice in one week). After three months on the sick the doctor decided I was ill because I was overweight!

After I left the fashion industry I started a business making clothes and soft furnishings, my wife went back to work full time. I also started a part time degree in textiles, this had become a pattern for me; taking too much on so I would fail, this would then prove to me how useless I felt; how much of a failure I was and why I was not worth knowing or loving.

Eventually of course it all came to a head.

My wife had to go to Austria with work and it would be over a weekend, it would have been almost impossible for her to come home so her company paid for me to meet her in Saltsburg. We had a long chat as things had not been great between us for a while, we decided I needed to go and see a different doctor and tell him what was going on. I flew back home and my wife went back to work. I didn’t eat while Nicola was away, I was punishing myself; food felt like the one thing I had control over. I sat one night, kids in bed and took every pill I could find and quite a lot of whiskey, and sat back, feeling calm for the first time in years. This was it, my time to clock out.

Of course it suddenly struck me that it would be my kids that would find me, I was a horrible person but I couldn’t do that to them! I took myself to the toilet and made myself throw up until I had nothing left then stayed up all night in case I fell asleep and didn’t wake up. It’s funny but shortly after this we had a party for my daughter’s birthday and lots of people commented on how well I looked! I had shaved my head as my hair was falling out; I had a hunted look in my eyes.

We went to the doctors and told him how I felt; he asked Nicola if I ever hit her or the kids. I was horrified at the time but I can see he was asking all the right questions. My life was in freefall and I had absolutely no control. I was prescribed anti-depressants and sent home and told to wait for the crisis team. They arrived at our house not long after us, two ladies, one went and spoke to Nicola and the other sat and let me talk. They visited a couple of times until I was relatively stable. I’m not sure if it was a complete nervous breakdown but it’s as close as I ever want to be!

The doctor recommended MIND to me, they were great and dug into what was causing the depression as well as giving me coping strategies. The first time I went there I felt like the world was in colour and not the black and white I had seen it for years. I went on to see MIND several times after that as the depression would find its way back.

I finally felt strong enough to ask the doctor if I could have some counselling which he arranged. I remember sitting in the waiting room with Nicola; everyone had various nervous twitches, no one would give eye contact; and when you caught a glimpse of their eyes it was terrifying, I wondered what they saw when they looked at me for sure I had the same.

I felt terrible about the amount of medication I was on, largest dosage of anti-depressants plus another type to help me sleep – all of this just to help me feel ‘normal. I had told my Therapist that this felt like the last chance for me as I couldn’t go on feeling the way I was, I realise how melodramatic that was now but I meant it at the time. I think I realised that this might work and I was ready for it too when the therapist asked what I wanted, previously when asked I would say that I just wanted to be like everyone else, this time I said I just wanted to be comfortable being me! I can see now what a huge shift that statement was.

I had a full course of CBT which I feel gave me the tools finally to get to grips with my issues.

I’d like to say that that is the end of my journey, I had hit rock bottom and over the course of about 7 years I had crawled my way out of it, from near death and self harm to loving life. Growing up I could never see myself growing old, I was sure I would be dead by 37! I started to become ill again a few years ago and after a lot of tests I was told I had Ankylosing Spondalitis (a form of arthritis that affects any joints) but the medication was often worse than the illness. Earlier this year my diagnosis was changed to Fibromyalgia which can apparently be brought on by depression. I have been unable to work since my latest flare up in January, at the time of writing this it’s the end of July.

For people who don’t know what Fibromyalgia is, it’s basically constant pain, all over. I can’t walk far; I have no upper body strength any more, can’t lift, can’t even put my arms above my head without pain. So of course the depression is back. I’m waiting to be referred for more counselling as I type but I at least know what is happening this time so I feel better placed to cope.”

-By Andrew.

 

 

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 Blog.

Sharing saves lives –

M x

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” – 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

“Sharing Stories” – Of losing hope, by Róisín.

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“I’m not 100% sure of what’s gone on in my life, but it’s been awful really. My Dad was an alcoholic who abused me, and my Mom didn’t mean to be neglectful, but she had to work all the time because my dad refused to get a job.

When I was just starting school, she got us together and left him. Of course, I had bonded really well with my Dad. After all he only beat me because I deserved it – it took years to realise that he beat me because he was an angry drunk – so I fought so hard to spend every second with him; I was wild, I would scratch my mom and scream and throw things around my room. He got a girlfriend, things got worse; she was abusive too, and so fucked up. I was always afraid. Always.

I stopped eating, began purging. Then I started self- harming, and I was close to death. Then at 13, I got sick. But not from that…

My mom brought me to hospital, and I found out that I had a brain tumour! If I had left it any longer, they said I would have died. They thought I was so underweight because I was ill, and I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I won’t tell them, I can start over now.’ Oh silly me, huh?

​Well, skip forward two years and I tried to kill myself. Even though the wounds I made were not life threatening, they knew what I’d do if I was left alone; so they admitted me there and then. I ended up in an inpatient unit; hse run, you know, and I still to this day have nightmares about it. I don’t mean that in the ‘it was so bad, metaphorical nightmares’ kind of way, I mean literal nightmares; I wake up and I can’t move or speak. My Psychiatrist recently told me I had Borderline Personality Disorder -and wow, that just messed me up; but he’s referring me to a specialist; so maybe help is on it’s way? I’m tired right now, losing hope. I hope they can do something.”

-By Róisín.

Huge thank you to Róisín for opening up to us about her struggles, and I wish her all the best on her journey to seeking support.

 

Themanicyears is still looking for people to share their stories. If you have an experience with Mental Health you would like to share on here, please do not hesitate to drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com, and get your story published on our “Sharing Stories” feature.– M.

 

Control.

Where about on the line in the past few months did I let this slip?

I want – I need – to regain my control back over my life, as currently it seems my emotions are living my life for me. Making my decisions for me, ultimately leading to self-destruction. And what’s worse is, I’m letting this happen.

When did I become a big softie, and what degraded me to have so little self-esteem?

I’ve relapsed again with the pills and the self-harm. I know that I’m worth more than to hurt myself and delay my progress. If I’m not careful, I am going to ruin my life.

In addition to the latter, I’m letting people around me control me. Easily lead, always have been, it’s a major character flaw. But it’s still all down to the personal decision process. Do I let people lead me on and influence me? Yes. Do I have to fall for this? No… No I do not.

I think it’s time to turn this around. Close my eyes and think about what I want in life, what my short and long term goals are and fight. Make peace with myself, befriend the enemy. Be clever. Be quick. Be kind to myself. Look up to the stars more, realise how much of a tiny proportion of insignificance my life and my issues are compared to the universe itself and what really matters. This is my life and I’m fed up of being hurt, by myself and by others around me. Regain that control, take the drivers seat and step it up a notch.

Make my own decisions. Stop caring about matters that don’t give anything back in return. I don’t have to be self-destructive and I don’t have to be in pain. What do I want out of the time I’ve been blessed with on this Earth? Stop caring about what others want – that’s their problem. Be realistic. Fall in love with my own personal reality; not with the mere idea of fantasy. Don’t get caught up.

What an impact a tiny spark of self-respect can have.

I  believe that you control your destiny, that you can be what you want to be. You  can also stop and say, ‘No, I won’t do it, I won’t behave his way anymore. I’m  lonely and I need people around me, maybe I have to change my methods of  behaving,’ and then you do it. – Leo  Buscaglia

Relapse.

It all got a little too much for me last night. The anxiety, the intense urges… It got until 1am and I was dosed up with codeine which just wasn’t producing the same calming effect as usual. So i let myself indulge in a rather controlled act of release just to et me through the next few days.

The quickest and most effective way to release that tension and euphoria in to my system. And my sweet GOD had I missed the sharp sweet sting and outburst of relief as I dragged a razor blade across my skin on the inside of my arm.

Its purely an addiction. I don’t possess intense hatred towards myself anymore and I do use it as an act of punishment. I have come to terms with who I am and I have made friends with me. I know that I am worth more than to inflict pain on myself for revenge purposes. Nope, it was because I needed it. It’s my spiracle of comfort an I forgive myself for allowing it to happen, I admitted it to The Boy immediately (after I’d come down from my self inflicted high of course – much to his disgust and disappointment), and I booked myself a GP appointment to let them know I was back there whilst I wait for the real docs to see me.

I am not ashamed this time. It was needed, and I let myself have my own way for once. Girl has to hive herself a break from being strong once in a blue moon.

I’m just glad it didn’t build up enough to have one of my blackouts.

Megan = 1, Bipolar emotions = Nil.

Blackouts.

This evening, I was lounged on the couch nursing myself from my crash when I started running my finger down the bridge of my nose. It was a tactic used as a source of comfort when I was a child.

These days, it’s a subtle reminder of the horrific night of my first Blackout. The feel of the scars that run across my skin tonight made me finally decide to bring my shameful episodes out in the open.

2004.

I still remember the panic on my friends drunken faces as they suddenly sobered up and picked me up off the street. They got me inside to clean me up, and tried to calm me as I was frantically begging them to tell me what had happened.

“Please don’t panic, it’s not as bad as it looks…”

There was blood everywhere, all over my clothes, all over the tissues they cleaned my face up with. All over the kitchen knife I’d just had confiscated off me.

I was having one of my house parties, having a good time with my closest friends. And then all of a sudden I was sat on my doorstep sawing in to my face.

That was the first time it happened. I call them my blackouts, and to this day even my Psychiatrist hasn’t been able to tell me exactly why I repeatedly go through this. For ten minutes to a whole 12 hours I lose my memory and end up in an absolute mess.

I have a theory. I’ve began to predict a pattern that the blackouts only occur when I’m suspectedly high in mood. I’ve started to convince myself that when I am high, these emotions just get too intense for me that I lose control. 80% of the time I have ever engaged in a self-harm act – whether that me slicing in to my skin or taking an overdose – I have no recollection of it. My memory is always fuzzy up to a point, and then nothing. And when I’m down? Yes I used to SI when I was depressed back when I was at college (and addicted to it by then), but it was in a controlled way that I can honestly say my actions were of my own accord. I knew what I was doing and I put up with the consequences afterwards.

But when you feel you had no say in your actions, like someone else takes over your body and puts your life at risk then its a completely different story altogether. The amount of times I’ve woken up in bandages, bruises, nauseous from the amount of pills I’d taken the night before and not had a clue how I’d gotten in to that state is frightening to me. Waking up in a locked bathroom alone and scared in a pool of my own blood, with the last memory I had of me frantically cleaning the apartment at 2am in tears of joy at how lucky I was to have such an incredible life and how amazing I felt! I was scared of myself, and throughout my teenage years, when the number of these episodes increased and got more severe, I began to hate myself.

And so, that’s when I decided to start taking over and I began to self-harm in a controlled way.

The blackouts still happened, but this time, I was addicted to the sensation of the release it gave me. When I’d ran out of room on my body to hide it, I’d stopped caring. When The Boy begged and pleaded me to stop punishing myself, I started to cross – addict in to other hidden ways to hurt me. The painkiller addiction started. I wanted to stop this behaviour, but I was hooked. Relapse after relapse after relapse pretty much sums up my life from ages 16-21.

These manic blackouts obviously have some kind of dissociation/amnesiac explanation to them. And I am yet to find someone who can eliminate them completely from my life.

Of all the posts (yes, even The Wolf one!) This has yet been the hardest post to write. I hope something will come of me getting it all out in the open as yet another secret of my subconscious has been unlocked.