Sober October

How are we in October already?

As the impending winter brings a magnetic pull towards the back end of 2021, I am already finding myself in the midst of denial over the start of October. I permitted myself another day of September by drinking on the 1st October and calling it the 31st September, kicking myself for dragging myself and my partner in to doing ‘Sober October’ (whose brilliant idea was that?!). The colder months are hard enough as they are without denying yourself a glass of wine in the evenings.

So yes we shamefully cheated, then woke up on the second day of the month with a joyful “Happy October!”

It’s good to give yourself allowances sometimes.

This month, starting a day late, will be alcohol free. I am ready for this now, I promise.

As the late summer dwindled away, I could feel that this year was going to be a difficult one, particularly with the familiar feelings of a niggling anxiety stirring up in my chest with the summer sunsets. Sunsets have always been an indicator of my own mental state since I was a child. I either enjoy them, or I feel myself sinking along with the sun. I have had two great winters over the last years – surprising, considering the mess of last years lockdown – but this year I am pretty confident I’m not going to get away with it.

There has been a very strange energy in the air over the last few weeks, an energy I usually blame blindly on the lunar cycles, but it has been hanging around since September and I am feeling it in everyone. Family, friends, colleagues, even my cat seems to be off and uneased. People are going through illnesses, troubles with work, finances and heartbreak. Even my mobile signal seems to be struggling like it’s not ready for this time of the year either and wants to hibernate. Our thriving chilli plant on our kitchen window has perished. As unsettling as it is to see every living being around you hanging their heads and looking miserable, its given me somewhat comfort to know that it’s not just me who is struggling away and clinging on to that extra last day of September just to hang on to a tiny bit of joy.

In a way, a way that I want to pretend I have not acknowledged, Sober October might have come at the exact right time after all. Drinking makes me anxious, yet i’ve fallen in to the lockdown trap of being a borderline alcoholic which I have somehow made excuses to carry through to this year.

If you are reading this, it is not too late to take the Sober October pledge, especially if you are also feeling that heavy energy. It might just transform your month and set you up for some healthier habits to see you through the winter. Just see it as though you’ve give yourself a few extra September days, like me…

We need your stories!

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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

The use of medical marijuana in Marfan Syndrome, by Tony.

“I am a 27 year old man, I have depression and suffer greatly from chronic pain. Over the past couple of months my health has deteriorated massively, I can no longer walk far or for long, my arms and legs ache daily and suffer from shooting and stabbing pains in my back (from scoliosis) and the unrelenting urge to have to use the bathroom to satisfy my Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I am a Teacher; my work is very physically demanding and that is without the mental demand needed to provide quality teaching sessions.

It is now Wednesday and I have not been able to make it into work this week. My Doctors took me off all my pain, my anti-inflammatory and my depression medication and this week so far has been sheer hell – the feeling of being trapped by the limits of your own body is terrifying.

What would you think of me if I told you I smoked medical marijuana? Would you think I was unsuitable to teach your children? Would you demand I lost my position as a teacher because of the misconception of an ancient medicine?

My first encounter with cannabis was a positive one. I was around 17 years old at a house party and some friends of a friend were smoking weed. I had always thought of drugs (especially from what i’ve seen in the media) as something to stay away from. The night I tried cannabis for the first time was a long time before my pain progressed, but little did I know that that night I was medicating myself; I felt happy, the worries melted away and I felt confident. That night I kissed a girl I had my eye on for a while (it was also her house party)… needless to say my first experience was a positive one.

It’s hard to say how much smoking cannabis is improving my quality of life right now. Off the pain meds – the pharmaceutical drugs – I find myself more at peace with this chronic stabbing pain I feel as I write this. My muscles are less tense, my mind is clearer, I can walk small distances without being in a great deal of pain. It seems to be the only thing thats helping my life at the moment after countless trips to the GP.

I have Marfan Syndrome, a degenerative tissue disorder.

It affects my eyes, spine, heart, skeletal system and all the connective tissue that supports it. My body is constantly in pain – it’s horrible. This illegal medicine is helping me and not getting me high, it helps me to function a relatively normal life with pain, but it’s not available at your GP . It is not available to all the people/children in the UK suffering from one of the many syndromes and diseases that cannabis has proven to benefit; it makes me angry and so sad for the people and children and families that aren’t ‘allowed’ by law to ease their own suffering with a plant – like I said, I used to be against drugs – but let’s talk about drugs, alcohol and tobacco killing *thousands of UK residents every year, comparative of the total number of deaths world wide from smoking cannabis, which is unheard of.

This drug is helping me but I have to keep it secret, the one thing thats helping me and I can’t talk about it for fear of losing my job, my life. It looks like my health is deciding my choices for me these days, how can I deny something that’s helping me? I think you can see at the moment that I don’t have a choice; I’m forced to obtain this medicine from people who grow it. It is not regulated/ tested/ there are no set perimeters that qualifies the usual street skunk as medicinal. I’ve watched documentaries in Colorado where weed has been legalised for medicinal use and I’ve seen dispensaries full of medicine, people treating their many ailments with cannabis, as we did thousands of years ago. These people are getting better, and it gives me hope for the future, when the government puts people before big companies, then we will finally see change. When anybody can grow a plant in their home without fear of prosecution, people may finally be able to take back control over their own lives.

I know that would put my mind and body at ease.

I am a Teacher, a Brother, a Son, a Best friend, I am in pain, I am depressed, I need help. But when nobody can help you, sometimes you need to help yourself and I will never feel selfish again for doing something that positively increases my quality of life.

I’m 27, I have Marfan syndrome, chronic pain, joint dislocation, plantar fascitis and a heart condition; I smoke cannabis everyday. It helps me relax and stop worrying about what the future holds for me.

It takes the edge off the pain, for me that means everything.

It makes me feel a little bit more like how I used to be before this condition starting ripping my life apart.”

– By Tony.

*In 2014, there were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 14.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

* Reports from this year also showed that there were 3,346 registered deaths in England and Wales related to misuse of commonly abused drugs. – ONS, Office for National Statistics (2014).  

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 else’s life.

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

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.

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  “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

A tribute to those suffering from Schizophrenia, by Jeremi.

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A tribute to those suffering from schizophrenia:

I wake up in darkness
I feel the eyes looking at me
Others say ignorance is bliss
But they can’t see!
I strap on my knife
They are out to get me
This blade will save my life
Take a toll or three

I argue with my thoughts
Why do I refuse to listen?
Why can’t I see thought’s roots?
Tormented by thoughts of poison
I predict their steps
Wish I knew how I do
They can’t explain this
Nobody has this ability too

My solace doesn’t solve
I feel so tired of the chaos
I plead myself for escape
My skin on myself feels gross

A taste in my mouth lingers
A tap on my shoulder from someone absent
The air entwining my fingers
Death’s sweet scent

You better run, my blade is thirsty

I saw you, you want to get me
I will take you with me!

Then she stops my arm
Looks at me with loving sadness
“You need help I assume”
Her soothing words all bliss

They gave me pills
My world changed
No more of it’s chills
I never knew that I was derranged

I lived with madness so long that I never knew what life truly is… I never saw my own fatal flaw

– By Jeremi.

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

Hypomania in Bipolar disorder, by Samantha Pottinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are not alone.”

-By Samantha Pottinger.

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

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

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

Sharing saves lives.

M x

When you feel wrong, write – By Charlotte.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Charlotte, Birmingham.

 – 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.

Bipolar; The rollercoaster I didn’t pay to get on, By Allison Padgett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Allison Padgett

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

WE NEED YOUR STORIES….

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