I am so much more.

 

woman

 

Badgered and bullied

I always felt both sadness and rage

at home and school

 

just wanted a moment that was mine

where I didn’t feel swept and carried away

by some sea that was not mine,

 

and my best friend were books

few people seemed to understand me or care

those who did only wanted to use me;

 

I am putting those years behind me

looking forward to a better future because

I choose to be happy even on my hardest days

 

won’t let depression or anxiety conquer me

I am so much more than this misery, anger, and pain

that is trying to strangle the life from me.

 – By Linda M. Crate.

 

You can find more of Linda’s words here at https://www.facebook.com/Linda-M-Crate-129813357119547/

 

Image rights by Pexels stock images. 

Advertisements

Self Care.

IMG_2816

 

Self-care is a really difficult thing to endure when you are feeling under the weather yourself.

This week, I have had to force myself to get up off the couch, get showered and eat. Life changes, illness, pain and other indemnities have left me feeling tense and angry over the last few weeks and this has of course mirrored itself in the forefront of my mental health. I am one again finding myself enraged with not only the unpredictable practicalities of life, but aiming the flaming arrows at myself everyone around me. Not good news for my close friends and family, my partner and my daughter – particularly when I can’t seem to gain any sort of control over it.

I had my bi-annually medication review with my GP a few days ago, and mentioned to her that with all that is happening – decline in my physical health, moving house, the change in weather  – my mood has significantly dropped to the levels where I feel I’m in the red warning zone. She doubled my Sertraline, something which hasn’t happened in a long time, and two days later I can certainly feel the effects. This morning I managed to get myself out of bed without being too exhausted to want to crawl back in to it, I feel less like an emotional blubbering mess and my productivity and creativity has sky rocketed. Hallelujah.

I am starting to realise that the many medication tweaks and altering my environment to compliment my bipolar waves will be permanent. There is no easy ‘one state’ fix for me. These little adjustments are mandatory to see me through to a healthy life. I feel okay with this now, there will never be a single solution.

As the years go by, and I get further and further away from the messy life before diagnosis, I can feel how far I have come and how much I am learning from my past to implement in my future self-care. There’s so much value in experience.

 

The Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression.

the recovery letters

 

Last year, I had the honour to be approached by the founder of The Recovery Letters blog, James Withey, who asked me to submit a letter for his upcoming book, the Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression, which compiled letters from people who had once suffered – to the currently suffering.

My contribution made it through to final print, and when I got the package through from Jessica Kingsley publishers with a copy of the book, I wept with absolute joy. Upon reading the extracts, the book offers a real inspirational insight in to what it feels like to suffer, and each letter is raw with relatable stories, advice and hope.

Here is my contribution to the book.

 

From Megan. 

 

“Dear You,

 

Struggling with Depression is one of closest things a human being can endure to being stuck in time.

I’m sharing these thoughts from experience. It has been a journey I once kept contained within myself; one that I never thought I would even begin to understand, let alone gain the understanding of those close to me. The day I closed my eyes to the light and woke in the darkness was a day I was convinced that I’d lost myself completely.

 

How do you even begin to make sense of it when your life suddenly pauses and you find yourself stuck within an infinite stretch of nothingness; watching everyone around you carry on with their lives, running towards the future whilst you are left behind? That numbness you just can’t seem to comprehend, slowly replacing the oxygen you once breathed in, poisoning your bloodstream the more you struggle for air. The sadness you can’t shift, lurking around every corner you turn and echoing it’s cries through each painful movement your body tries to make. That vicious hum of anxious energy that strikes time and time again when you have your back turned, potent enough to stop your heart mid-pulse and cruel enough leave you hanging there until you are convinced it will be the last beat it will ever sing.

That desperate search to track down the glimmer that was once yourself, becomes a one-way road that always leads you back to where you first started. After a few effortful attempts running down the same path over and over again, you eventually find yourself getting more and more exhausted with every step you take; until your mind and your body begins to run on an empty soul; a dried up motor that rusts and cracks under the heat. Depression for me was a never ending moment in time, one which I thought I’d never escape from.

 

One of my first Therapists – one of many to follow – gave me some valuable recovery advice back then which has stayed with me to this day. He said to me;

 

“There is a clear difference between believing that you can’t, and knowing that you can’t.”

 

When I heard those words, my perspective finally shifted enough to stop myself from running down that same one path. The reason why I had stalled in this endless loop of despair and a tunnel vision of doom was because I had made myself believe that recovery wasn’t an option for me. But in reality? The opportunity to get better was there. My eyes just couldn’t shift the fog that was my own damned perspective.

 

And then all of a sudden, the possibility of recovery became real. It was as simple as getting out of my head and remembering where I was – more importantly who I was – at that very moment.  

 

So to you dear friend, please remember this. The next time you feel like you are stuck in time, the truth is; you are not. It only feels like you are stuck there. Remind yourself, that outside that perspective of yours, the clock really is ticking away. And it’s leading you to discover the most breath-taking, most beautiful opportunities you thought you could only dream of before now.

Hold on for hope, Recovery begins with you.

Love, Megan.”

 

Please do support James for all the hard work he has done by purchasing a copy for yourself, or even as a gift for someone you know is going through a tough time. Each one of these letters holds so much value and hope for those who are suffering. Details of how to purchase can be found in the link below, along with the Recovery Letters blog.

blog: http://therecoveryletters.com

Recovering from addiction: A Conversation with Annie.

image1-2

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Annie in her home, to have an open discussion with her about her past struggles with drug addiction. Annie, who is a single mum of a little boy, aged 3, lives by herself and has volunteered as a mentor for recovering addicts after she became clean. Here is the conversation we had together.

TMY: “When did it all start?

ANNIE: About two years after I started taking drugs.

When did you start taking drugs, how old was you?

Eighteen.

Do you know why you started taking them?

Why I started taking drugs? Because I wanted to be the cool kid didn’t I?

*Laughs*

Yeah my Brother used to do it all the time so I thought, ‘Oh I want some of that’.

Do you think you was influenced by him?

Probably.

Yeah. I think you are at that age aren’t you?

Yeah, plus – I liked drinking a lot as well, and I could drink whilst I was on drugs.

Did you start out with… well, I know you’ve had a bit of a past with cocaine. Did you start out with anything else?

No, straight in to class A’s.

*nervous laugh*

Gosh. Is that the time when you was at the flat?

No, I started all that when I went in to my first ever house.

Okay…

But, when I was in that flat, I was taking it every single day. So when I first started it was once a week, just partying, then by the time I was 22 I was taking it every single day.

It’s quite a long time to be taking drugs, was it like the 4 year stint of it? You didn’t have a break or anything like that?

No. 6 years all together I was taking drugs.

That’s a long time.

Hmmm.

When did it start to become to the point where you feel like you needed to take them?

Err, probably when I was about 20, and I used to sniff coke in the toilets at work –

Did you?

– Yeah.

What was you working as at the time?

A receptionist. In a gym.

Did you have anything going on? Like, in the background, did anything trigger it?

I don’t think so? Not at that time no. Well – I had a bit of an eating disorder at the same time, so maybe that as well.

I think illnesses like that, eating disorders, depression and other things go quite hand in hand with addiction, it’s that whole idea of self-soothing….

Yeah

It was a similar situation with me when I started self harming, I started taking paracetamol and stuff, sounds really daft because you can’t really  get addicted to a substance thats not addictive – it’s not chemically addictive –

You can get mentally addicted.

 – Mentally you can, yeah. It’s just one of those. When did your eating disorder start?

Probably when I was about 20 – no not 20 – about 18 when I met D.

When you met D?

Yeah.

Do you think she kind of had an influence on you?

Yeah I think she was a bit of a bully really, she used to always call me fat.

Did she?

Yeah

Gosh.

I know. So…

I know there was a lot of stuff going on with her as well. So with this eating disorder, was there anything else? I remember when I was going through the whole diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder…

Oh they tried getting me with that as well. But it’s, completely wrong.

…Yeah. I think it’s one of those disorders that they kind of like label on people when they don’t know whats wrong with them…

Yeah. No, I never told the doctors that I was taking drugs or anything like that so they tried like, diagnosing me with everything. I even saw a psychiatrist once and he even thought that I was Autistic, until I told him that I was actually taking drugs! *Laughs`*

*Laughs* Right… did you go to the doctors for help with it?

No not with that, I just… my life was just falling apart, I thought my life was shit so I was at the doctors every week, telling him I couldn’t cope with my life.

Yeah. It’s intense, to go through something at such a young age.

Hmmm…

So when did you first reach out about the drug addition thing, when did you first admit it?

Erm, probably when I was about 24, after my ex, A, had been in rehab. And then I got homeless because I couldn’t pay my rent, I was buying too many drugs. All my friends fucked me off, and I though ‘Oh I think I’ve got a bit of a problem here…’ And then the doctors as well tried to get me sectioned, and involve social services in my life because I was that off the rails and mental, but instead of having that… because you can never get rid of a section or get rid of social services being on your file or on your life. So I thought I’d better…*laughs*…try and sort something out with my life eh? And I thought I was going to die as well.. But I don’t know if that was paranoia or not…

Did you have any friends at the time who you kind of, spoke up to about?

Not really, I told my mum that I had a problem with drugs…but, she could’t really do anything.

Was she there for you?

Not really. No. My mum’s got problems as well so I don’t think she finds it easy to see other people’s problems.

Yeah. Does mental illness or addiction or anything like that run in the family?

Erm, I don’t know, my mum has mental illness but I don’t think anyone else does. And my grandad was a gambling addict.

It’s… with my family, I see like a long line of it. And it’s all different things as well, it’s not just the bipolar thing, which is meant to be genetic – which is quite a scary thought really – Erm… but it was everything like S.A.D – seasonal affective disorder – addiction, alcoholism, and I didn’t know about all this until I started opening up about it.

Yeah, people don’t talk about it.

No.

I’m well paranoid about turning out like my mum.

Are you?

She’s well bad with it, yeah. Like any time I say something that sounds like my mum, I’ll like, shit myself.

*laughs*

I don’t want to turn out like that, I don’t want it to be genetic.

What’s she got in terms of mental illness?

She’s just got really bad anxiety and depression, like savage depression. But her anxiety, I can’t be around her when she’s like that, it annoys me.

*Seems agitated*

Like I said yesterday, when she was doing my head in because you can feel the nerves coming off her, like it comes off on you doesn’t it, people say that it does?

No, it definitely does.

It’s really irritating. It’s like having a child, it’s like a toddler, she’s like a toddler when she’s like that, I can’t handle her.

Has she always been like that?

No, she was like that since her mum died.

How long ago was that?

About 16 years ago.

Did you pick up on it when you was younger?

Yeah I think that’s where my panic attacks came from. From being around her too much.

*Nervous laughter*

Because you can feel it can’t you? But she would never go shopping on her own, and I went through a phase too where I couldn’t even leave the house, you know, I started getting the same things as she did.

Yeah. What about when you was a teenager? Did you feel like you was going through a lot with her, being the way that she is?

No, I didn’t even bother with my mum when she was a teenager, I rebelled against it all.

Did you?

Yeah. I hated my mum as a teenager. *Laughs*

Well that’s most teenagers really isn’t it? *Laughs*

Yeah, so I didn’t really speak to her, I don’t pick up on it.

You seem quite close now?

Yeah, we are now apart from when she’s like this. But that’s just part of growing up isn’t it?

Yeah I think so. Yeah, I had the same with mine, because my mum’s been ill since my dad left, she was fine before then, absolutely fine, and then I ended up leaving home when I was 13, because I just couldn’t be around her. And it seems daft –

It’s hard.

– It is hard. When you go through something yourself and you know you can justify it, and you know that you need people, but at the same time it’s a hard kind of ‘burden’ – if that’s even the right word – to take.

Yeah, it is. It’s well hard.

So did you tell your mum about the drugs?

Yeah. Erm, I think this was before… when was it? I sat my mum and dad down and said ‘I think I’ve got a problem’ and they was just like ‘Oh, right okay. Stop doing it then.’

*Laughs*

Do you know what I mean?

Did you tell them the full extent of it?

Yeah. I told them I just spent all my money on drugs and that I needed help and they was just like ‘Well just stop doing it then’. Which, didn’t help.

No.

But I think, after all that had happened with my ex, like he said my mum’s mum dying and your dad leaving your mum I think sometimes, it gets worse when something bad happened doesn’t it? So, like after that I started having hallucinations, like proper, and it didn’t get better until I stopped taking drugs.

That’s pretty bad.

Hmm. Yeah.

So was it the doctors decision to send you to rehab?

No, I did that on my own.

Did you? Like a self referral? Where did you go initially?

Erm, I started going to.. Well, my ex D told me about R.A.M.P – Reduction and Motivational Programme – and you went twice a week for two hours, and they just talked and did presentations about coming off drugs.

Did you feel like you fit in there, like –

No! *laughs

– Or was you completely in denial about it?

I was in denial about being in rehab, it took me about… even when I’d graduated from it, I thought I was alright, you know what I mean I just thought I’d got in to a bit of a shit with it. Even though I must have known in my heart that I was an addict, but I’d never admit it.

Yeah

And then obviously I relapsed, I went a bit off the rails again, I relapsed for about 6 months, and then I genuinely thought I was going to die from it, then I just stopped myself.

How long, so your first attempt to get off them. Did you have support there?

Well I was in rehab wasn’t I?

I mean with anyone outside, like family, friends? Did they kind of take it seriously then?

Not really, no I don’t think they did to be honest, at first. But, I think when I graduated, they were all happy for me and glad, but I don’t think they understood. I don’t think many people understood, they were all like ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, you just like partying and having fun’. But, they only see the partying and having fun bit, they don’t see the… –

The aftermath?

– … Yeah.

Behind the scenes.

Exactly. And the only reason I was partying and having fun was because my life was shit all the rest of the time, you know what I mean?

Yes. What do you feel was missing from your life at the time?

Honestly I think self-love. Because, I didn’t hate myself, but I din’t like myself. And I had no self esteem, and I think just knowing and accepting that people care about you, instead of pushing everyone away.

Yeah.

Definitely.

It’s easy to feel like when you are in a situation like that.

Yeah, if you see yourself as a bad person or not good enough, you are going to expect that everyone else thinks that about you.

Yeah.

And in the end they will think that about you because they cant be arsed trying with you, you know.

Tell me a bit more about this eating disorder, how extreme was that?

Oh.

*Thinks back*

I think I got addicted to exercising first, thats how it started, I would do this exercise DVD like twice a day, every single day, and then it started to cutting down food. And at first it was sort of funny, because me and a friend was just licking the flavour off crisps and putting them back in to the bag so we had the flavour but you know, not having the calories. And then I started taking laxatives every single day, so if I did eat anything, I didn’t have to worry about it. It would just go straight through.

Okay…

My lowest weight was about 6 stone 10, erm, I looked like a lollipop, but like I just thought I was fat all the time.

Yeah.

But I though if I was skinny, then I’ll be pretty, then people will like me. But that didn’t happen. *Laughs*

Do you feel like you have recovered from that? Or is there still something there?

Yeah, definitely. I still always see myself as bigger than what I am probably. Like I see people wearing dresses, and they are quite big and I think, ‘Oh they look so lovely, you can’t even see they are a little bit overweight’, but if I have anything on, if I wear something and I can see that theres like an inch sticking out on my belly, I cannot wear it.

Yeah.

Like.. I just cannot wear that outside because I look too fat. Do you know what I mean?

I don’t think anyone can truly be that comfortable, well – comfortable yes, they can be comfortable with themselves – but 100% happy? I don’t, even when they are dieting – ‘Oh, I’ll be happy when I get to 9 stone…’, and then when they get to 9 stone…

Hmm, I think it’s when people compliment you though when you have lost weight, it’s an ego boost. You think if I lose more I will get more compliments.

Yeah.

But yeah, I am happy with myself but at the same time I’m not. I don’t think I ever will be with weight.

No.

This is the fattest I have ever been, and this is because of the pill, but like I always say, I would rather be pregnant than fat – I hate – like I actually hate being chubby. I can’t stand it. I feel disgusting. But what can you do?

It’s just one of those things, I think its a but part of being female as well, it’s media pressures and you know, some men who have these ideas that they need a pretty woman on their arm and not an intelligent woman on they arm… they are very physical aren’t they?

Do you know what though, sticking up for men, I think a lot of men don’t care as much as women do about the woman weight, or women think they care more than what they actually do.

Yeah.

You know. But some of them do, and some men are like proper up their own arses and expect that of women, but I think most normal men don’t really care a bit about belly fat.

I think it’s very magnetised in our eyes isn’t it?

Yeah.

It’s a bigger deal to us.

Yeah, and you want to be perfect when you have got a boyfriend don’t you, you want to be perfect for them? But, that’s never going to happen.

I wonder if men are the same?

I think they are, yes. Men don’t talk about it though do they?

No, no they don’t.

I know a lot of men who don’t like certain parts of their body. But they aren’t as bad as women.

No. It all comes back to that self-loving thing I suppose as well.

 

*Silence*

 

Did you get help for the eating disorder? Or did that all kind of dissolve when everything started getting a bit easier with the drugs?

No, that was the main goal in rehab, to learn to love yourself and learn to respect yourself. Because if you learn to love yourself you wouldn’t want to disrespect yourself by fucking your life up and putting drugs in to your body, *Laughs* so because the main reason most people take drugs is to cover up stuff. And it was about uncovering all that, and realising that whatever has happened to you, you are still a good person, you deserve a decent life, so most of the rehab was learning to love yourself. And empowering you and that. So that just came naturally.

So after the programme that you talked about, was there anything else involved in your recovery?

Just meetings.

Like AA meetings? NA? (Narcotics anonymous).

NA, yes, but after rehab, because I got kicked out of rehab for having a relationship with someone, even though I graduated, erm… it was with someone who was in there as well, like all the help was cut off. And the only help that there was the AA/NA meetings, but, because I didn’t have to go to them, I just didn’t. Because I was pissed off that they kicked me out.

Did you fall back in to drugs after that?

Yeah, erm, I got kicked out of that, and then it was like two days later when I started drinking again. And I thought, well I will just drink, I won’t take drugs – because I know that I don’t have a problem with alcohol – and then about a month – probably not even a month after that – I thought ‘I’ll just have one line, just one little line’ and then I was straight back bang on it.

Do you feel like they failed you a bit with your aftercare? Do you feel like they could have done something better?

Erm. I don’t know, looking back maybe because I was really angry but… I did break the rules. There wasn’t much else they could have done. But, I think a lot of the clients, they’ve all got this sort of like, complex, this ‘Oh, I’m clean so I’m better than everybody’ and if you relapse they all look down on you, so none of the other clients spoke to me either. So, all that unity which was apparent, that was there, went.

That’s a big thing isn’t it?

Yeah, going from feeling in a bubble, because I lived in rehab didn’t I?

Yeah.

And I had everyone around me, like, who constantly lived there; went to meetings with them, spent all my time with them, all of a sudden all that to go,  it was not nice.

No.

It was like being booed out of your mums house, you know? But yeah, because it was a bubble, and then when that popped it was back to reality.

Yeah. How long was you back on the drinking and the drugs after that?

About 7 months. But yeah one day, I think I just took too much drugs and I genuinely thought I was going to die. I thought, if I ever manage to sleep tonight, I’m not going to wait up. And then the next day I was like that’s it, I cannot do it any more. I cannot do it.

Where did you go for help after that?

Nowhere, I just did it on my own.

Did you?

Yeah. Because I’d learnt all the stuff when I was in rehab, but because I didn’t really believe it… I think the next couple of days I had a few drinks, and that was it, no drugs and I just thought, why am I doing this as well? So, I just cut it all off.

That’s big. That’s such a huge commitment to just decide by yourself. And in recovery, I think you need so many people to just cheer you on, but for you to actually say and make that decision yourself… it’s huge.

Yeah. I had to do it though. It’s jails, institution or death isn’t it?

*Laughs*

Well, I would have ended up being sectioned if I didn’t die.

Yeah. Have you, do you still talk to the people from rehab? Anyone?

I still speak to my counsellor a couple of times per week. After I got kicked out, he rang me a few months after, just to see how I was and I lied to him and told him I wasn’t drinking and that. But then when I got clean, I spoke to him a few times, went to see him, had a few meetings with him and then obviously I started volunteering there myself, and I saw him every single day. But we still met for counselling like a couple of times a week. He’s not my counsellor now I’d say we are more friends, but if I ever do need help I will say to him ‘Can we just go and sit down togged and sort my head out?’

 

 *Giggles*

So.. I was well angry at him though for kicking me out, but like, I understand now.

Yeah. It’s good that you have someone there, and after so long as well, how long is it that you have been clean?

4 and a half years now.

Wow.

Yeah. But I went in rehab nearly 6 years ago, but I’m 4 and a half years clean.

Do you ever think you will be tempted, or have you been tempted in the past four years?

Erm, no not by drugs. Only because it scares me so much, I’m scared of drugs. So… I remember once, speaking to my old counsellor on the phone, and I was saying – ‘Do you know what, Im really struggling with my life blah blah blah’-  and he said, ‘Well what would you do if you ever went back to it all?’ and I said ‘Well I would have my son would I?’ I wouldn’t have him any more. And he said to me ‘No, your son wouldn’t have you.’ And I just thought, no I can’t do it, the fact that my child wouldn’t have me in his life? It scares the shit out of me.

He is very lucky.

What my son?

Yeah.

You think?

*Laughs*

Oh I’m not sure about that!

No, he is. He is lucky.

I’m glad I got clean before I had kids. Because a lot of people when they are using and they already have kids, the kids don’t matter.

Yeah.

Because of the drugs, not because they are horrible people.

Do you feel like your mental health has improved since?

Yeah, well loads.

Do you feel like you have still got anything there at all?

Yeah I have some days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I have panic attacks still. I’m still on medication for it. I tried coming off my medication, I tried lowering it a bit but I just couldn’t cope with my life again.

What medication?

Paroxitine. But erm, I know it’s really hard to come off. Like, when I come off that, when I lowered it I just, I just couldn’t… I just got depressed again. The medication is helping. But I started having panic attacks again. Some days I’m alright, most days, 6 out of 7 days I’m alright, but even with like my child, sometimes I just want to give him away to someone who can look after him better. But then a few days later I’m like ‘I can’t believe I was thinking that!’

Yeah.

But sometimes when I’m like that, I just want everyone to leave me alone, and I don’t want any responsibility, I just want to, you know…. I just want to have nothing.

*Silence*

Yeah, I erm, I think thats hit home that for me. Because I think exactly the same thing sometimes. Because I just love my daughter so much, but when it gets hard, it erm…. I just want to look after myself.

Yeah. Sometimes its hard enough just to look after yourself.

Yeah.

*Silence*

Do you worry about your son going through anything like this?

Yeah I think when my mum, and sometimes my dad can be quite anxious as well, and when they are being like that I say to they you know, can you stop around my child because I don’t want you picking up on anything. I want him to be happy all the time and not like, worry about things, because they sort of pick up on little things and you know, express them, which is probably fine, but when my son is running around and my dad is like – ‘Be careful with this, watch you head, don’t do this! He’s going to fall, he’s going to do this!’ – Because I don’t want him to have all this anxiety around him.

They are very intuitive aren’t they kids?

Yeah. So yeah, I don’t want him to… because he’s a natural worrier anyway, you know, he’s a really sensitive boy, and I was like that as a child, I was so sensitive. So I am worried he is going to turn out like me. But, at the same time every night I will sit down and I’ll tell him at least 5 things that I love about him, you know to try and bring out the positives. Because I never had that as a child. And I think this is where the self esteem issues have come from, it’s just trying to prevent it you know, because if you are happy with yourself, not much can get to you can it? Even though I know mental health can’t be stopped, but it’s just trying to not let him see it, because it can rub off on people.

Yeah, of course it can. Course it can. I feel quite grateful sometimes when I think about some of the things I have be through, because I know I have got the tools to share with her, like she will always have someone. Like, when I was younger, I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone. It’s not going to be the same with her.

I know what you mean.

And it’s erm, it makes me feel quite safe. I was the same with my mum, my mum was ill when I was growing up as well, and the only thing I didn’t want was to turn out like her. And I, well, I kind of did a little bit too much, and I ended up going crazy in my own way I suppose. *Laughs*

Yeah. Whatever is going to happen with your kids is going to happen anyway really, whatever happens, happens, but you can try an give them tools like you say. To be happy. That’s all it’s about really isn’t it? You just want them to be happy.

Have you ever thought about when he grows up, and when he starts going out drinking and partying for the first time, does that ever like, scare you?

Yeah! Because, I know what it’s like. Even though he’s a boy and it’s meant to be more different for boys isn’t it, you know, like ‘Boys can look after themselves..’ And you know, I know what it’s like. Because everyone does drugs, you know, everyone does them. I don’t know one person that hasn’t took drugs in their life. And obviously, because he’s not coming from me, got that genetic as well. That he might pick up on. But, I never want to really drink around him, or do anything like that around him. Because my mum and dad used to drink every night so I thought it was normal.

Yeah.

So.. I mean you can prevent it, you can try an prevent it as much as you wan’t cant you?

It’s that question of nature or nurture.

Yeah. I think he’s got the nature of the personality side. Definitely. Because I was so sensitive everything just got to me a lot, and when I was upset thats when I wanted to use or drink.

Yeah. So with your career you have volunteered and done the same thing, talking to people who are recovering addicts. When did you decide to go down that route?

I don’t know, I just noticed that they were opening a Women’s Only housing, and I thought I might as well give it a go, because it’s only women and I sort of know what I’m talking about. So I give it a go, I did the training and that, and I’d not been around recovery for years, like I don’t do this anymore, I don’t do that, and just being around it – I felt safe again. And I liked it, so it was good for me as well.

Yeah. A bit of a reminder about what you have done, and how far you have come.

Yeah, erm… it was like being back in that bubble again but not as… well, I was smarter about it this time, it’s not actually a ‘bubble’ it just feels like one. But erm, and then seeing other people happy as well, it makes you happy. Because I know now that I have a good life now, you know, I’ve got my child, I have everything I need in life, I’ve got my friends, and its just showing other people that they can have all that as well.

That’s really good. It’s really nice. I bet it feel liberating as well because it feels like – it sounds like – you are quite open about what you have been through, where as once before you may have been quit closed about it.

Yeah, I feel like I probably wanted to talk about it but I never did.

How open are you about it now? Like, new people in your life who are quite new and don’t really know what you have been through, do you ever say….

Yeah, I’ll always say it, I will always get it out of the way. When I met ‘him’ a few weeks ago, he was asking me why I didn’t drink hardly, and I said ‘To be honest, I had a bit of a problem a few years ago, I took too many drugs and ended up in rehab!’ And that, you either like it or you don’t.

That’s good.

I think it would be better telling someone at the beginning, than waiting 6 months and then saying ‘Oh by the way…’, because they would be like, why did you hide it?

Yeah. Do you feel more ashamed or do you feel proud that you can say that?

I’m proud that I have turned my life around yeah, I’m not ashamed of it because it made me who I am. I’m probably ashamed of some of the things that I did…

*nervous laughter*

…You know, but I don’t need to tell anybody that because the people who need to know, and the people I have had to apologise to know, but not everybody needs to know what I got up to. To be honest when you say that you seem quite open, this has felt quite awkward at times for me.

Has it?

Yeah.

It’s putting it out there I think as well isn’t it.

Yeah.

How do you feel now you have talked about it?

I feel alright yeah, because it’s not anything that most people don’t know.

Yeah. It’s a nice sorry to hear, I know there was a lot of bad things at the beginning, and how it all started off but… it’s a long way to come….”

RAMP (Reduction and Motivation programme) is a 12 week motivational programme aiming to help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. The programme is held by ACORN Treatment and Housing, a community recovery treatment centre in the North West, UK. Their contact details can be found at;

Web: https://acorntreatment.org

Tel: 0161 622 1577

Narcotics Anonymous (N.A) is a global organisation which aims to offer recovery through a 12-step programme and group meetings. They focus on recovery from the addition of both drugs and alcohol. To find more information of N.A or A.A. (alcoholics anonymous) in you area, this can be found the link below;

Web: https://www.na.org

Talk to Frank is a great resource for information and support on drug and alcohol addiction. They also offer a confidential support helpline, email/text and live chat support. Information can be found at;

Web: http://www.talktofrank.com

Helpline: 0300 123 6600

To take part in The Conversations, please drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com.

Megan x

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

 

17431675_10155182127718885_1044870403_o

 

The solid floor, cold against my tear stained cheek was my body’s point of reference to centre myself. I open my eyes and allow them to explore the tiny flecks of iridescent colours shimmering upon it’s textured surface. I feel my chest beginning to expand again and finally I can breathe. I pull myself up, slowly, and grab a towel to dab the wet under my eyes, carefully cleaning the mascara and making myself look presentable. Then I take one last deep breath and go back in.

I enter, and go back to the task I had abandoned. I try and concentrate – I’m merely transcribing from one place to the other, but I can feel the exhaustion pulling me under from my brain working on overdrive. I’m so tired.

It’s a funny thing mental health. Our tiredness is not the same as the socially accepted common occurrence that every single person goes through on a daily basis. Our tiredness, is the exhaustion that makes every cell in our body scream defeat. It’s being overwhelmed by taking in the colours and the sights and the sounds and the smells of our environment. It’s not being able to reply to a text message and socialise. It’s spending days fabreezing our dirty clothes in the wonderment of how many days we can go trying and failing to convince ourselves to take a shower. When we say we are tired. We don’t mean we are tired. It means we cannot go on.

It takes 20 minutes of the most simple task, and I can feel my mind ebbing away again. The million thoughts stumbling in to each other, getting tangled in their meaning and producing one generic output of of white noise. I stutter, and I can feel the heated aggressive energy buzzing in my chest again, clutching its burning hands around my heart and slowly squeezing the life out of me.

Breathe. You have got this.

I close my eyes and take a breath in, my lungs struggling to take in the heavy air. I’m suffocating. My breathing accelerates, my chest getting tighter and tighter.  I’m trying my best to regulate it, but I’m too exhausted. I calmly get up out of my chair and go back to the bathroom. I have to let it pass. It will be over soon. You have got this.

Locking the door behind me, checking it again just in case I am disturbed, I rest my back against the door and let my knees give way, sliding down to the ground. I feel it speeding up now, short whimpering bursts of inhalation, my lungs desperate for oxygen, I am choking. I cover my mouth with my sleeve and give way to it, trying to breathe hard through the fabric in an attempt to achieve some sort of regulation. You have got this.

I have come a long way in my approach towards my panic attacks. There came a time, many moons ago in the abyss of the lost soul, when I didn’t know that I had mental health issues and I punished myself for being different than everyone else. My attacks were more frequent then, and often lead to incomprehensible bouts of rage towards myself – screaming fits, self-harm and any other form of punishment I could find which ultimately made them worse. Today, I felt myself taking a more gentle approach – I allowed my body to release whatever nasty energy it needed to release, soothing myself whilst the waves came. It took some years to befriend myself, and that came with recovery. These days I still to have urges to self harm, once an addict always an addict, but as I ponder through this current panic I find myself thinking ‘Why don’t I?’, and I hear my inner voice in return saying ‘Because you have no desire to punish yourself. Not any more.

This thought was a huge revelation.

My breathing starts to slow and steady after a minute or so. I lower my dizzy self to the floor and feel the cold on my cheek again. I wrap my arms around myself an remind myself that it is okay. I have myself, and I am comforted by the thought. Then when I am ready, I pick myself up off the bathroom floor and return to my desk at work.

I struggle through 5 more panic attacks before I admit defeat and email my manager to tell her I am sorry, but I just can’t be here. I pick up my stuff and run out. The aftermath of that I know I will have to face up to later, but not right now.

Life has been a struggle. My partner left in January, and I have been getting used to life on my own. The guy who I shared my home with, the person who I called the ‘Love of my Life’ is now nothing but an empty space in bed. These days, I drift off to a dreamless sleep besides a ghost of a future that I can no longer hold in the palm of my hand. That road has been closed off. I have to find a new path to walk down now.

The debt letters from what he left us in frequently greet me when I get home late at night from a long exhausting day at work. Another reminder on snooze, that won’t make me forget how much devastation this person who I thought cared about me once upon a time left me in. The 5p’s I now have to regularly scrape up so I can feed myself at night, bills being more of a priority than ever. There is bitterness and anger embedded in me now. This is not me. Hardship changes you as a person, but I have to keep telling myself now to let it change me for the worst. Let it go.

I let it go for a few hours, and then it burns up in me all over again watching my Daughter sob in to my arms when she can’t understand why I won’t let her see him.

Work is heavy at the moment, and sometimes too much for my bones to bare. The 5.30am alarms, the 3 hour car journeys to and fro. The intense workload that I’m fighting and fighting and fighting through. It’s no secret that over the past month I have had to indulge in a sneaky nap on my desk at my lunch break. The effect of my meds on my memory doesn’t help. I walked out of work last week wondering around the street looking for my car, that exhausted that I’d totally forgotten what my car actually looked like. It’s bloody BRIGHT RED for Christ’s sake. I had to flip through the images on my phone to remember what it looked like.

And to top it all off, I am now riding yet another bipolar wave. The increase in my medication has triggered an unwanted physiological response in me that I cannot contain. Anxiety screams in my face. I got home after my fateful escape from work to my empty home, and after a few tearful ponderings, I realised throughout it all how strong I actually am.

I still fighting to give 110% when my illness only provides me with enough to give 50%.

I am still building upon that relationship with myself, and that makes all the difference.

I am a mother to a beautiful striving girl, and I am still pushing for the both of us.

I am a warrior and I will keep pushing on.

I grab a glass of whiskey, and I smile through the tears. If I didn’t have the ability to laugh at my sorry arse through this, then I’d have no chance of getting through to the other side. I am a wolf, and I will getting running – it’s what I am built to do.

 

to be continued…

 

‘Sharing Stories’ – 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.

 

The Interval – a glimmer of stability in a mad, mad world.

sun

 

Life is stable.

 

As stable as it could possibly be in my situation anyway. I’m back on my old medication; a very low dose of Quetiapine, mixed in with an anti-depressant for the fun of it, and things have settled pretty well.

I have been discharged from the care of my Psychiatrist and back to my GP. I have been taking my medication as early as possible, to induce the right 8 hours a night’s sleep in me, swapped partying for meditation and writing, and I have been plodding along with life just fine.

I have been through the up’s and downs and the in’s and out’s of Bipolar for quite some years now, and I am learning to appreciate the times when I do find myself drifting on calm waters; because I have spent 95% of my life fighting the struggle for it.

The peace has given me a lot of time to reflect, and concentrate on other things – looking after my daughter – rather than trying to look after myself – building strength in my relationships, and thinking about the next steps I can take to prepare myself for a career leap. It’s been enjoyable, this quiet interval in my life, and one that I know would be wasteful of me if I wasn’t to use this time to focus on bettering myself and my surrounding environment. To an outsider, it doesn’t seem like such a praise to make, to just get on with my days.

But for people like us, it a destination we have taken a long, long road to get to.

It’s a hell of a journey when only a few months ago you found yourself forcing yourself out of bed in the morning, braving work un-showered and barefaced, with barely your hair touched with a brush. When you found yourself locked in the toilets on your lunch break with your tear-stained jumper over your face, suffocating the sobs that burst out of your chest after one of your hourly panic attacks. When you found yourself in that unbearable training session, stuttering at the most simplest conversations between you and the colleague sitting next door, because your mind has been taken over by the incomprehensible fear that is named these days as ‘social anxiety.’ When you found yourself questioning why and what stripped you of your confidence and started gnawing away at your former self – leaving nothing but shattered pieces of You that can’t seem to be put back together again.

But today, I am whole. I am me, and I am going to use myself for all my glorious ways, my kind smiles, my laughs, my childish dances in the moonlight. I am going to make the best of all those whom I love around me, pray for them and sing along with them and make those memories I can store away for one of those inevitable rainy days.

Because they will come, the rainy days. They will knock the wind out of my lungs and have me down on my knees begging for release from this life.

 

But today, I am whole.

‘Sharing Stories’ – 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

 

 

 

The Power of Hypnosis – and how it plays a huge part in my recovery.

 

p02v2pkq

 

 

I remember the first time one of my therapists in my early days of my recovery, gave me a disk to use for my homework to tide me over until we were to meet again during the following weeks appointment. The disk contained a series of hypnosis tracks, which were bestowed on me to encourage this phenomenon they called ‘mindfulness’.

My first thought?

What a load of bullshit.

There I was truly believing this guy was trying to pawn me off with some notion that deep breathing exercises can promote spiritual awareness and other flibbergabber, and in all it’s mighty enforce it’s healing powers, click it’s fairy dust fingers and fix me on the spot.

There was no quick fix for me, I was fully aware of this, which probably lead to me dismissing the hypnotherapy and meditation so instantaneously. I was too far-past-fucked-up for any alternate therapies to turn me in to the normal human being I was striving to be. But desperate as I was, I half heartedly gave it a go.

The first time I tried and tested this unusual exercise, I found myself laid on my bed, earphones in and compact disk whizzing away in my walkman, chuckling away at the guy on the tape’s creepy ass voice which was no relaxing than a failed attempt to be seductively chatted up by some drunken Smooth-Steve in a jazz bar.

 

‘Now close your eyes, and take a deeeeeepppp breattthhhhh in….’

 

How on earth was I supposed to relax when I had the feeling that someone was going to jump out at me and startle me in my trance? There was something so unnatural about lying there with my eyes closed without the intention of taking a nap, and even more uncomfortable with my earphones blocking the sound and therefore my awareness of my actual surroundings.

Despite my ignorance, I kept at it, and with a bit of practice managed to see past the giggle fits and the nonsensical nature of it. By habit, it became a valued piece of my nightly routine, and one that I comforted for when the day had ended.

A few years ago, I had long gotten over the CD and it was a forgotten practice, along with my CBT training and group therapy. At this point in my life, I had just been struck down with my Bipolar diagnosis alongside a very difficult split with my Daughter’s Father. I had lost my home and my sanity along with it, and I felt like my life had struck head first in to a brick wall; an obstacle I could not forsee any possibility of getting over. In a desperate attempt to grasp on to something to steady myself in that crazy time, I turned again to hypnosis. I found a hypnotist and life coach – Joseph Clough – downloaded his podcasts and away I tried to plod on with my days. I listened day and night, his voice was the only soothing sound which cradled my mind to sleep in the evenings, and the voice that pulled me out of my bed when the sun and my responsibilities rose up to start the day the next morning.

It was a difficult time, one that is hard to remember even a couple of years down the line, but those podcasts saved me. They were the motivator that adjusted my mind to start thinking anew – eventually leading to all the possibilities which were open to me – the opportunities I decided to take which lead to this point in my life today.

Joseph Clough’s work was to become friend to me for the next couple of months, as I carried on with his words of wisdom whilst pulling myself upright and slowly stitching my life back together.

As people with Bipolar disorder and other mental health issues probably know, insomnia can be an issue that marks a huge impact on our lives. Whilst the newly prescribed Quetiapine; the antipsychotic that was knocking me out cold when I first began to take it; was enough to settle me in to slumber in the evenings, the effect eventually wore off. I found myself tossing and turning a frustrated insomniac, relentlessly fighting for at least an hour or two before I was to face the day that was approaching. I turned again to hypnosis.

This time, I found an app of sleep hypnosis tracks by Darren Marks, and found my usual busy chatty mind drifting away to the sound of his powerful words in no time. Sleep that was once a battle, was now something that came automatically to me, and my listenings of sleep hypnosis tracks has chisled it’s permanent mark in to my nightly routine.

I have practiced the art of hypnosis every single evening for almost three years now, and it has never failed me. Whether it presents it’s purpose to reset my system after a long hard day, or to take a few quiet moments with the Headspace app in the middle of my lunch break at work  – it is one of the little luxuries I am sure to indulge in without fail; and thus, has aided a great deal towards my long term recovery.

You can find some of my top hypnosis artists and tracks in the links below.

 

Darren Marks: http://www.learnoutloud.com/Results/Author/Darren-Marks/19978

Joseph Clough: http://podbay.fm/show/369607516

Headspace: https://www.headspace.com

We need your stories!

sticker,375x360.png
For the past few months people have been submitting in their experiences of mental health from a wide range of disorders and issues in the Sharing Stories series…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.

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