We need your stories!

sticker,375x360.png


For the past couple of years people have been submitting to the blog their experiences of mental health from a wide range of disorders and issues in the Sharing Stories series…So far, the stories have managed to speak out to those in need and even give others the confidence and support get the help they need –  opening up about their own experiences.

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.

Register your interest to themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to take it from there.

Sharing saves lives

M x

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

Depression will always be with me, by Keigh Ahr.

“Not all stories about mental illness are dramatic. Some, like mine, are rather mundane; no hospital visits, no incarcerations, no shattered lives. Yet even a simple cut on the skin, or a garden variety cold, can lead to more serious conditions if not treated properly. That’s how I choose to view my own struggle with depression – what should have remained a minor problem became, through years of neglect, a significant burden that threatened to harm myself and my family. And I suspect my story, due to its very lack of dramatic detail, is actually quite common.

During my teenage years, I began experiencing moments of acute sadness and anxiety. I knew these episodes were different from the ordinary feelings of unhappiness and stress I also felt, because my behavior at these times would be far different. I would stop talking unless it was unavoidable; lay in bed on weekends for hours, lights turned off, in nearly catatonic paralysis; have no appetite and difficulty sleeping, and the lack of food and rest only worsened my condition. Some of these episodes had a triggering event (bullying, a bad grade, not landing a role that should have been mine in a school play), but others would arise for no apparent reason, like an earthquake in my mind. These episodes would last a couple days, maybe three or four, and often came with a conviction that the feeling would never end. I was a fool for believing I could be happy – now I know the truth, that I’ll be miserable like this the rest of my life. And then suddenly, the mood would stop, rarely due to a triggering happy event. I would feel “normal” again, and marvel both at my past behavior and sudden recovery. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, and my lack of comprehension made me very afraid. I hid from that fear, hoping against all reason that the dark moods would never return.

Years passed, turning into decades. A lifetime of graduations, jobs, hobbies, lovers, friends and family. Times both good and bad, pleasure and pain, victories and defeats. But even in years when I was generally happy and relaxed, those episodes of acute sadness and anxiety never completely left. I’d feel an episode come on, and would be powerless to stop it. The same conviction would return: This time it’s for real – I’m never getting over this. My behavior during these bouts became more irrational. Have tickets to a ball game I was eagerly anticipating? An invitation to a good friend’s party? When I was depressed, I not only couldn’t make myself go, I relished the sensation of disappointing myself. And then, just as before, the feeling would vanish, and I couldn’t believe the decisions I had made. By my late twenties, it didn’t seem right to continue experiencing these bouts of mental anguish. I sought counselling, which always proved effective (by the third session I’d feel energized and empowered) yet temporary (a new attack would come within months after the last session). Still, I had become a functional, productive member of society, and resigned myself to accepting these periodic bouts as just part of what made me who I was, as permanent and unchangeable as the color of my eyes and skin.

I then met a wonderful, patient women. We married, and brought forth two delightful children. These were good times, but while the attacks may have been less frequent, they certainly did not diminish in intensity (I’m grateful to have never become physically violent during any of these episodes). And when I regained my composure, I could no longer ignore the impact of my episodic emotional violence.

The truth can hurt as it sets you free. When the person whose happiness is so important to you says that she’s tired of walking on eggshells around you, or that your children are afraid of you, and her words speak to a reality you’ve already seen in the eyes of your family… those are words you cannot ignore. You are forced to react. You can respond by finally embracing those feelings you’ve feared for so long, and let the consequences be damned, even if you turn into a monster.

Or,

You get fed up with thirty years of denial. You realize you’ve been sick for a very long time, and won’t be getting better until you get help. It was the only choice that made sense at the time.

I’ve been in counselling on a regular basis, and taking antidepressants for a decade now. I had been concerned about the medication making me feeling ‘unnatural’, artificially happy perhaps, but that hasn’t been the case; I still feel as much disappointment, frustration, and sorrow as before. And if I’m not careful, I can still succumb to those agonizing bouts of despair that plagued me so frequently in the past. What’s different now is that I can sense when those feelings are creeping into my psyche, and have the ability to keep them from taking hold. I’m not cured, and doubt I’ll ever stop treating this disease. But my wife loves our weekend getaways, my children enjoy going to superhero movies with me, and my hope is far more powerful than my fear. Life, yes, is good.

I began this story comparing my depression to a minor injury or disease, as a means of summarizing what has been, for the most part, a fairly uneventful experience. But that comparison trivializes the impact depression has had on my life, so at the conclusion I want to pivot towards a different medical metaphor. I don’t know many diabetics (and apologize to any of my readers should this coming analogy not be true to your experience), but depression seems to me a similar chronic condition. There is no cure, and ignoring the problem can be literally fatal, but with proper medication and attention you can live a normal life, however you choose to define that term. Depression will always be with me – I don’t like that, but like a diabetic, I can’t wish my condition away. But I no longer fear it.

Thank you for reading. May you enjoy health and happiness you deserve.”

 – By Keigh Ahr

You can find Keigh Arh’s blog here at The Diligent Dilettante.

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

These days: Living with Bipolar disorder, by Russell Myers.

fullsizerender

  “What do you say when telling people about your mental health problems? How much do you reveal? Do people really want to hear your life story? Will they think you’re looking for sympathy? Do they want to know how your birth Mother left when you were young? How you always felt different and isolated from others despite the appearance you put up? You know what though it’s just all so bloody Freud isn’t it? I can see myself on Freud’s couch as he asks me to tell him about my Mother before prescribing me cocaine to alleviate the on-going madness in my head. Thing is that’s all in the past and I learnt a while back to not let that control my life. So instead how about I tell you about what it’s like to live with it.

I have bipolar, manic depression, extreme moods or whatever else you wish to refer to it as. It’s a funny condition bipolar not funny ha ha but in that it’s a maelstrom of conflicting emotions and ever changing moods.

It’s certainly interesting living with it each day and I’ll be honest there are some days I can’t bear it. Some days I just want the pain to stop, the noise in my head to just be quiet for a few moments. I want that solitude of silence but I know that silence is alone and in the dark. A dark place where a thousand voices whisper inside my head. A place where my own voice struggles to be heard above all the others.

The paranoia creeps in and a numbness begins to crawl over like a black cloud of hopelessness. The voices continue to whisper, turning over and over in my head “you’re worthless, pathetic, a waste of space, nobody wants you, needs you, you should die, nobody will notice or miss you”. The voices are convincing to because it’s your own voice, one your familiar with but it’s lying. It tricks you, deceives you, convinces you and it takes all of the little strength you have left to not cave into their lies. They want to drag you into their pit, that hole of despair, the place where depression dwells and it wants to suck the life from you. I hate these days.

Hang on though there’s something else……

Bipolar can take you another way. A place of excitement, fun, laughter and joy. Bipolar can bring you mania and wow that’s just fantastic in every way. The need to start a business selling unicorn tears, learn guitar, buy a boat, walk to Spain, become a Shaolin monk or learn to unicycle so you can get yourself to Edinburgh or any other random or unachievable idea you can create in your head. Thoughts race through my mind at a thousand miles an hour and logical thoughts have no place there. It’s not about what I can’t do but about what I can do and that I want to do it now. It feels great, amazing, fluid, beautiful, exciting yet erratic, destabilising and narcissistic. A cycle begins of promiscuous behaviour, excessive spending and in the past drug use with no sense of danger only a hunger for adventure.

There’s no room for manoeuvre, no patience for those that don’t understand what I’m trying to say, achieve or those who don’t think I should follow my dreams. I am too important for others not to get it and I never understand why they don’t. This lack of understanding by others gives birth to something else, a monster that is the most difficult to control. The monster that is rage and anger that builds up quickly and manifests in a way that is both terrifying and uncontrolled. I become something I am not, verbally abusive and aggressive towards myself as I punch myself around the head and face with my fists or any heavy object that’s nearby before collapsing exhausted and crying. Then I feel it again, that dark place, those pitch black claws grabbing me and pulling me back down. I really hate those days.

However there’s the other days. The days when I can go out with my friends, I can cook dinner, study for my degree, look after my son, laugh, love and live because despite those days I am not my condition, I am not bipolar, it’s just part of me and something I live with. For despite it all and regardless of those days I am above all of this; a Father, a Son, a Friend. I am strong and brave and stubborn and it’s due to this; that these days are the ones that I keep in my thoughts when I’m having one of those days; because it’s these days that I cherish the most, and it’s these days that will be my strength when I need them most of all.”

-By Russell Myers.

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

When you feel wrong, write – By Charlotte.

charlotte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Charlotte, Birmingham.

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

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

Sharing saves lives – M.

Living in Fear, by Marco.

sharing stories

“I never quite appreciated anxiety when I was younger. I always figured it was just a feeling of nervousness associated with something, like an interview or a presentation. It’s only now that I realise how serious a mental issue anxiety is.

My name is Marco and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression some 9 months ago now. I have since dealt with my depression, however my anxiety still lingers. It affects pretty much everything I do, from work to social situations to family life.

Since my diagnosis, I have been through a low intensity CBT course to try and help me out (I didn’t want any kind of medication) and have now moved onto high intensity CBT. Not only has CBT helped me recognise my thought processes that contribute towards my anxiety but it’s also made me realise that anxiety has always been present in my life. I can now look back at my childhood memories through to present day (I’m now 27) and recognise the same anxiety-influenced thought processes and behaviours. The amount of times I avoided certain situations because of fear is… well I don’t think I can put a number to it to be honest.

And that’s what anxiety is like for me. It’s like living in a constant state of fear. Fear that something will go wrong. Fear that I’ll make a fool out of myself somehow and be ridiculed. Fear that, no matter what I do, I will never be able to break out of this anxiety cycle.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people don’t realise just how much of an effect anxiety has on everyday life – an opinion I’ve more than likely formed based on my own complete ignorance to the issue in the past. For me, it affects my work, not only because I find it incredibly difficult to focus on what I’m doing, but also because I find it incredibly difficult to form relationships with those I work with. It affects my social life in that I find it almost impossible to truly be myself in social situations unless the people around me belong to my absolute closest of friends. It affects my ability to relax because I constantly feel like I’m running out of time and that, if I don’t do something with my time, everyone I love is drifting away from me. It affects my health because it’s both mentally and physically exhausting – most of the time stopping me from sleeping properly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Nowadays I write for my blog called Never Mind the Cancer where I talk about my life with anxiety, depression and cancer, which I had almost 5 years ago now (something I think also contributed towards my mental health issues). I write not only to help myself, but also to help those with any of those conditions realise that they’re not alone and to give them something to relate to.

I also write because I want to change the way we think about these conditions. If we talk about them, our understanding will grow and our fear and the stigma surrounding them will slowly diminish.”

-By Marco.

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

Life after Death, by Sommer Phlipot.

PicOfSommer_TheGreenGlasses

“There is a song by The Lumineers. It’s called Deadsea. There is a verse that really spoke to me at a time where I was at a significant crossroads;

“Yes, there are times we live for somebody else Your father died and you decided to live It for yourself you felt, you just felt it was time And I’m glad, cause you with cats, that’s just not right.”

My Father died and I had decided to live my life for myself. That’s exactly what I did. And boy did that open the mother of all cans of worms. I had sloppy execution and made some decent mistakes. But in the end it worked out for the better. I found my true self. I found happiness.

Up until then I had lived a life of people pleasing. I feared upsetting people through my words or actions so I carefully walked the line. I settled and accepted less of myself for the sake of others. I sacrificed my mental health out of fear of being judged as weak and incapable. I feared acknowledging my demons for they may consume me. Lead me into a room of darkness. Never to return. Loosing everything. More than once I was willing to trade my life for peace.

I bottled everything up. Placed the jars neatly on a shelf. Bottle after bottle. Jar after jar. Each labeled with some personal cryptic Dewey Decimal system. All organized and precariously stacked. I had done this since I was an elementary aged child. Once in a while a jar would slip off. Shattering into a million pieces. I’d be distraught in my attempt to hurriedly sweep it under the preverbal rug. Shards rising from the fibers.

I was almost 30 when my Father died. After he left, the entire storage system fell apart. The jars started falling off the shelf in rapid fire pace. I kept trying to catch them. It was so overwhelming. I slowly began to implode. I couldn’t keep the sadness hidden. I couldn’t ‘people please’ anymore. I was cloaked in apathy and I didn’t care what a single person thought of me. Not one.

I cried. I let it out. And, to my disappointment, it fell onto blank stares. No support. Nothing. So I gave up. I lost all inhibition. I continued not to care. I lost a dramatic amount of weight which was again met with blank stares. So I started over. I decided to live my life for myself. And I did. I walked away.

Three years after my Dad died I asked for help. For myself. It was the scariest moment of my life. I had never felt so vulnerable and empowered. I showed up at the hospital and they gave me a counselor. She put me in a 12 week DBT program then she and I began to meet weekly. I cried a lot. Accepted that medication would complement my treatment plan. I met with additional psychologist who diagnosed me with depression, anxiety and PTSD. Hearing the diagnosis was difficult. I felt labeled and damaged. But I continued with my weekly sessions. They transitioned to bi-weekly and then monthly over time. At some point my counselor referred me to an induvial who specialized in anxiety. He sealed the deal. I met with him weekly, then bi-weekly, monthly then bi-monthly. I felt brave. I felt in control of what can’t be controlled. I had controlled the power to accept it. I accepted my ever present anxiety, learned to harness it at times and let it run its course during other times. I’ve accepted that I’m susceptible to depression. And that allowing the depressed moods to run their course is much healthier than fighting it, pushing it away, placing it in a jar.

It’s such a sad and heavy burden to feel alone while surrounded by people. It’s still here at times. It can be overwhelming. The difference is I’m not adding to the damage that’s been done. I’m able to cope with most curveballs thrown my way. Some take longer to catch than others. I’m able to talk about it. Own it. But the old wounds are there. They seep sadness into my days. I’ve learned that I just have to allow it and then mindfully redirect my thoughts back to the present. Because the present is where life is lived.”

-By Sommer Phlipot.

You can follow Sommer’s personal journey with mental health and self-improvement on her blog here at The Green Glasses.

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.

Alis Volat Propriis/She flies with her own wings, by Miranda.

sharing stories

“Of all the things a preteen girl worries about; crushes, periods, schoolwork, and zits; sorting through the fear of dark mental and emotional issues while trying to self-diagnose and manage them shouldn’t be one. Puberty is confusing enough, but depression is often overlooked as a mere symptom of an adolescent’s move into developing and growing into the complex emotions of adulthood.

Growing up in home riddled with depression and anxiety, coming from a family prone to these conditions generations back, the oppressive weight and darkness that accompanies these conditions was my “normal”. The whispers of despondency began when I nine and grew louder into screams as I moved into my early teens. I learned to not speak of my thoughts because I was usually shut down by those who didn’t understand or have time to listen; my fears were outweighed by the trials of others and I needed to be strong and supporting. I saw the effects of medication on those around me and didn’t want to become that; to lose myself in a medicated haze. I wanted the voices to be silent but didn’t know how to quiet them except to turn them into white noise and learn tune them out.

I began to research depression when I was 12 hoping to find, at the very least, coping mechanisms outside of the pharmaceuticals, if not a cure. My immaturity and inexperience often drove me to suppression followed by lashing out at those closest to me, or giving in to addictive desires. I craved love but didn’t feel worthy so I built walls to hide the broken parts and protect myself from being hurt more. I built my identity around not showing weakness not realizing I never strengthened those parts of me I needed to support a healthy mind on my own.

My life was saved by life itself. There are several distinct points growing up were it was almost too much to go on when the sheer beauty of life itself shown in to light my way. Moments where a certain glimmer of light through the trees, a phone call from a friend reminding me of my value in the world, and moments where I discovered a power within myself to choose to be happy even in hell remind me that even with the darkness; life is worth living. Sometimes the dark and screaming are masked over and easily ignored, even forgotten; other times it roars. Most of the time, I have been able to find a level of happiness and contentment in the challenge of finding ways of living the life I want creating paradise in chaos, but sometimes that vision is dimmed when the baggage gets too cumbersome, or the road too steep. Is it worth it carrying on? Which is harder; putting in the extra effort to be normal, or letting go and giving into the darkness?

Now a couple of decades later the screaming has been filtered out by that beauty, though it is not silent. I’ve never sought a medical diagnosis short of observations made by various counsellors over the years; I go in every now and then for a mental check and servicing; to tune-up and tighten up the loose ends, validate the direction I’m taking, and receive unbiased constructive-criticism. I’m still afraid of medication so I run, I mange my diet, I keep busy and when the screaming gets louder I keep busier; anything to stay ahead of the storm. I was lucky to take on a career that put me in the role of providing communication training; my role required continuous self-evaluation and understanding of what makes me tick to find ways of managing those aspects in a way that was healthy, and fed my soul. It meant looking deep into myself to embrace and understand the darkness. My ambition is to be the person I needed when I was trying to find my way; someone to guide, help, and sometimes stand back to let me learn my own lessons. Someone who sees the struggle and acknowledges it; who can provide a safe place to let go. Someone who can help another fly.”

– By Miranda.

You can find more of Miranda’s inspirational words by visiting her mental health blog here; Uitwaaien Kairos.

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.

Music and Blogging, by Scott Hamilton.

sharing stories themanicyears

My name is Scott. I live in the North East of England and was originally diagnosed with depression and anxiety over twenty five years ago.

I was a quiet kid, kept very much to myself as I was growing up. My family appeared pretty normal at first but cracks have shown with all of us at some point. My first major episode came in my late teens. I started developing signs of depression and anxiety whilst studying for my A-Levels. I went to the doctors serval where I was told any combination of these things:

“It’s your hormones.”

“It’s common for someone your age.”

“You’ll grow out of it.!”

Mental health as we know it didn’t exist in the late eighties and early nineties. You were kind of told to get on with it, buck your ideas up.
I started getting worse. By the end of my studies I’d become a mess. The strict rules of sixth form led to some metaphorical butting of heads. I was alienating people. I was slipping into a pretty bleak struggle with myself and I was pretty damn intent on breaking me.I started self-harming as a way to manifest the white noise and shit in my head. If I could make it real it would exist. If it existed I could try to deal with it. I would punch walls until my knuckles bled. Even now I can’t flex my hands without the knuckle joints of my little fingers popping. I started isolating myself even more, growing more and more despondent every day. That was until I took my overdose.

Even now I know it wasn’t premeditated. I didn’t think that I wanted to kill myself. I just wanted everything to end. I wanted an absence from existence. I just wanted the journey I was on to just stop. I took a lot of pills and washed them down with some beers. After I few hours I let my family know what I’d done and was rushed to hospital where I ended up vomiting for hours, puking the poison and parts of my stomach out of my system.

I saw some counsellors but knew I wasn’t quite right afterwards. I kind of rode the waves of my life, battling the ensuing panic attacks and depression whilst trying to find some purpose to my being here.

Something saved me.

As corny as it sounds I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for music. It literally saved my life and connected with my soul. It became something that would inform and influence me. I ended up singing in a kind of arty punk cabaret band, influenced by performance art as much as music. It provided me with a much needed outlet for the trapped white noise in my head – it gave a voice to my plague of fears and doubts. Onstage I’d writhe, contort and throw myself into the moment I’m an attempt to exorcise the negativity. If I didn’t come off stage cut, bruised, marked or bleeding it had been a bad gig.

Eventually I started on medication. I was first prescribed Prozac in the late nineties. I always felt it worked for me when I needed, and would spend time on and off it. Sometimes it would leave me dazed and confused, other times I could function like a normal member of society. Since then I tried, and occasionally had success, with several different meds. At the moment Venlafaxine is doing a great job of keeping me relatively on an even keel. Some days are better than others but I much prefer that than being too numb to care.

My last major spell with anxiety and depression started five months ago and was the result of me not being able to process some things properly. The anxiety robbed me of my ability to go outside and enjoy my life for a while. Counselling and the afore mentioned meds pulled me back to a point where I could go back to work and try to live my life the best I can.

One of the things that I found really helpful was starting to write a blog, The Order Of The Dog. Within a few hours of my first post I’d had messages of support and compassion. I even had people email me to tell me their stories and what had happened to them. This spurred me on. I ended up creating a small closed support group on Facebook, also called The Order Of The Dog, after someone messaged me to say that my blog had helped her understand her daughter’s suicide attempt. I knew then that things had become more than just about me, I’d been able to strike a chord with others too. I try to post my blogs a couple of times a week, here on WordPress but also on Blogger too. I mainly talk about my issues but I’ve also starting telling the story of other people too which I’ve found incredibly rewarding.
The whole thing of being able to talk openly in such a way has been incredibly therapeutic and I know it’s really helping me as well as other people. Not only that but I’m also helping create an awareness at my workplace around mental health issues and support. I’m finding I can be a tool for change rather than let everything change me. I like who I am (most of the time) and I can help create an acceptance and understanding of what I’ve gone and continue to go through.

-By Scott Hamilton.

You can find Scott’s Wordpress blog at TheOrderOfTheDog , and find his facebook Support group here.

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.

“Sharing Stories” – Tales of Depression, by Gary Cooper.

“Hi, my name is Gary Cooper, 26. I am a Lecturer in Biological Science, Zoo Keeper and I have depression. Throughout my life I have, like many others, suffered the tragedy of loss, of relationships, friends and quite recently; Family. Surprisingly it is none of the above that defines who I am, I’m just a guy trying to make his way through life the best he can. I suffer from chronic pain these days and surprisingly my depression has subsided, probably because the pain tends to keep my mind from wondering. Anyway i’m sharing some of my writings in the hope that at least one person can find comfort and maybe feel a little less lonely in this big crazy world.

If I could give anyone suffering from depression / social anxiety any advice it would be this;

We need people, without them we can never truly understand ourselves; how we treat others can say a lot about a person. So be kind, be patient, be the person you want others to be, remove negative people from your life and be with the people that matter to you and make you feel like you matter. Enjoy the little things in life.”

Giving to others gives back.

”It’s always crazy this time of year, getting students through their qualifications but this year has been pretty rough, i can see the light at the end of the tunnel just a few more sleepless nights on the cards before next week ! I can do this.”

Sharing Stories

Things like this that makes waking up in the morning a little easier, written by one of my students when asked to write about what they liked about college.

“One student made my day today, through all the hard work it’s amazing how a positive comment from one person can make it all worthwhile. This is my first year teaching, taken on a hell of a lot for a newbie …… it’s more than hard work but it will all be worth it in the end, presentation of awards evening next Thursday, I will watch my course group stand up and receive their qualifications, nobody will ever be able to take that feeling away from me and that’s what’s keeping me going.”

Thoughts on losing yourself.

“Losing somebody close to you or feeling betrayed by a person or a number of people; forcing yourself to deal with this and suppressing the resulting emotion makes you switch off inside, your mind makes the decision somewhere along the line that it is easier to carry on in life being contented and numb rather than to feel the highs and the crippling lows that come with it. You lose your sense of yourself; you forget what makes you special and no longer place any real value on yourself. If your mind won’t let you get excited or have any real sense of achievement or happiness for worry that it will ultimately cripple your soul again, how you possibly see yourself as being of value. This means you search for beauty in the wrong places, you wonder why you only find people physically attractive now and not adorable, why you only muster a smile at a joke rather than cry like you used to, why you haven’t got a competitive bone in your body. You make acquaintances with everyone but never true friends because you can’t distinguish between desirable and undesirable qualities. There is a disconnect between your dreams of your life as a child and what you believe to be a harsh reality, a total and disappointing lack of any magic. This isn’t true and is a warped perspective – as a matter of urgency you need either go for counselling as I did, or make the decision, at some point every day to go back to the situation that caused this. You need to write down everything that you used to feel and where/why along the line you’ve lost hope. Then you need to make a conscious decision every day to let yourself feel happy and excited about life again because you deserve it. Let your mind know that it is ok to feel the pain next time it comes because without it you can’t enjoy anything; let your mind know that you will deal with it next time no matter what.

This problem can be especially difficult if you’re the rare type of person that is always self-analysing, and trying to improve on who you are, stretching your social boundaries and putting yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, that important and developed image of yourself (that you spend your whole childhood creating), whilst your spiritual side develops and your view of the workings of the world become clearer, you have confused your sense of self which is what makes us human. The image of who you are becomes too vague and you lose any sense of self – and thus self worth – and you naively but understandably come to the decision that nothing really matters. Along with the above you need to rein it back in, close your bubble that you have allowed to expand too far. Make your world yours again, it is yours and it is personal, unique and beautiful. People are interested in it and you and you are fascinating and fervently loved by select group of equally fascinating and lovable human beings who have remembered what is important in life. Because you think the opposite you have ironically turned into a selfish person who refuses to be interested in the people most close to you, no one expects you to be interested in the world, just a selection of the world, so choose wisely and be passionate about it.

Write down your qualities and think hard about why they are attractive, think about the kind of people you want to hang around with and what you want out of life, and how you want to make your stamp on this world. If you do this every day, it will take a few months to connect with yourself again. Strip away everything and feel the uniqueness of your soul, remember that that is what makes you attractive, this is the only thing that you used to function as a child which is why your childhood memories are so clear (the good and the bad). Function as you did then, live life in the moment and stop over analysing, just be. If you believe the noises of the world, rather than the silences of your soul, you will be lost.”

By Gary Cooper.

Do you have a Mental Health experience you would like to share? Send your story, name and picture in to themanicyears@gmail.com and be featured in the Sharing Stories series.