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

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

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

How Bipolar type II has affected my life, by Jenna White.

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“My personal story with mental illness begins when I was 13 years old. I began to feel different than the rest of my peers and I showed signs of both depression and mania. I was put on mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and sleeping pills to quell the mood shifts. I began to self-mutilate, choke myself with scarfs and pop different pills in the medicine cabinet. Neither my Mom or Dad understood mental illness and chastised me endlessly with a hint of concern.

I began high school and in grade 10, and found the worst boyfriend I ever had. He was mentally, emotionally, sexually and physically abusive to me for a year and a half. I had grown up with abuse so I knew this was over the top but I knew how to handle it…or so I thought. I began to snort hard drugs like cocaine and speed. The boyfriend, Kyle, didn’t want me taking my medication because he didn’t believe in it. I was being broken spiritually and not getting proper help for my mental state.

At 15 I attempted suicide for the first time. I had “tried” before by popping handfuls of random medication from the cabinet but it wasn’t a serious gesture. This time I was in the bath, note written, a full bottle of Tylenol in my stomach and I was on my way. But suddenly I changed my mind and threw the bottle at my mom, evidently she made me throw up and we never spoke of it again.

Fast forward to when I am 19. My mental state was so terrible I was having black outs with a different personality. I had been a drug addict for 4 years at that point and it was all getting to be too much. I quit drugs and moved to Toronto Ontario with a boyfriend and his kid. In Toronto I was admitted to a hospital ward for 2 weeks for a final diagnosis: Bipolar II.

From then I’ve been admitted 3 more times in two different cities. I constantly struggle with medications and dosages which cause me to go into manic and depressive states. My family, social and professional life suffers from my disorder.”

-By Jenna White.

Jenna writes about the personal struggles with having a Bipolar type II diagnosis on her blog, Brandnewbipolar.

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

Living in Fear, by Marco.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-By Marco.

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

Speak. Louder.

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Recently, The Manic Years has had many of you emailing in your first hand experiences of what it is like to live with difficulties from a variety of backgrounds reguarding mental health. So far, the stories in the feature has inspired people, reached out to many and succeeded on expressing a multitude of inner turmoil that is so often hard to explain for some.

It is clear that attitudes towards mental health is changing, thanks to all the hard work of so many people have advocated for mental health, and the rights of those who struggle. Admitting you have a problem, and even asking for help is getting easier for some as having depression – and many more illnesses – is becoming more normalised.

However, we are still lacking in how information about mental health disorders is delivered, and many thousands, millions out there are still struggling to recognise what exactly they are suffering with;

“I can’t be Bipolar, because I am not happy, right?”

“I feel numb all the time, but it’s obviously not depression. Depression means you are sad, this must be something else.”

“I cut last night. I can’t explain why. I will just hide it and pretend like it didn’t happen.”

This is something I have come across (and even felt myself) over the years. People are being misinformed. People are not educted enough.

It is so important that we take a stand and speak out about our experiences. Go on to one of the most popular health websites, where it explains symptoms of anxiety and you get the standard list of symptoms; Heart racing, sweating, shortness of breath. Worry….

Can you relate this to your anxiety? Or is it so much more than that?

It seems that facts and figures aren’t enough, what does this information spread to our ‘non-sufferers’ out there? The people who have never experienced depression/anxiety and the rest as such?

CLASSIC SYMPTOMS; “Heart racing, sweating, shortness of breath…Worry.”

THEIR REPLY; “Just take some water. Sit down. Stop over thinking things! Problem solved.

Do you see the issue here?

Sometimes there is no logic behind mental health. There is no one solution. It is so much more. Anxiety is so much more than worry. Depression is so much more than feeling sad. Bipolar is so much more than a sad/happy state. Self-injury is so much more than an act of agression towards one’s self. If people who have never really fully experienced the wrath of psychological problems, then why should we expect people to recognise what is happening to them when they do get ill?

It is so valuable to others who are lost that those who have experienced mental disorders speak out about our feelings and our realities. Sharing not only makes it okay, makes people feel like they aren’t alone, but it also gives people something to relate to. It is the key to understanding when we are suffering. Speaking up, and speaking louder can save lives.

The ‘Sharing Stories’ feature will continue to do that, and I have many hopes that each and every one of your experiences will connect to someone, somewhere in the world and give them not just the knowledge they need for understanding what they are going through, but also the comfort they need to carry on and the confidence to speak out themselves.

Please drop me an email on themanicyears@gmail.com if you want to take part and be featured on the blog, if you have a story to tell or you just want to share your thoughts about your experiences. They matter, so much. 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 x

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Miranda.

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

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

Seeking Solace in Literature, by Lloyd Thomas.

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this!

(Hamlet, Shakespeare)

“In a way, Hamlet saved my life. When I read Hamlet or see it performed, the extremes of anguish and despair seem to en-cloak my heart in empathy. If you suffer from depression and haven’t seen Hamlet performed on stage, I really can’t recommend it enough. I don’t know if Shakespeare was a depressive, but he was definitely a genius, and he seems to represent depression in words better than anyone else I’ve come across in literature or music. This is from around 413 years ago, and I still wish I could cry like a normal person when I read it. Why don’t people write tragedies any more? Life is so often tragic, the world is just as tragic now as it was then, so why does Hollywood demand optimism? Some European films have come close to tragedy, but nothing quite as sublime as Shakespeare, Marlowe or Webster (my personal favourites). If anyone can recommend me any truly tragic movies, please don’t hesitate.

Anyway, I was going to explain how Shakespeare, and particularly Hamlet saved, or at least changed my life. I’ve tried to write songs off and on for the whole of my depressed adult life. It is nothing other than torture though, when one has such desperation to find words to describe their mind’s life, and cannot gain any confidence in, or satisfaction from what is written. I picked up the Works of Shakespeare for some poetic inspiration. Boy was I inspired, I found impossible brilliance in the Sonnets, and just flicked back a few pages to feed a growing curiosity. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. ‘Oh, I’ve heard of Hamlet’, I thought, ‘I’ll just read the first act and see what it’s like’. I was hooked before Hamlet even appears, but more so after his first words of the play, an under the breath utterance of retort against Claudius’ patronising words: ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind’ (Act I Sc II). Not to mention the following speech to his Mother on his profound grief for his Father’s death. Hamlet’s Mother has the cheek to ask him of his grief ‘why seems it so particular with thee?’, his response is beautiful:

Seems, madam! nay, it is; I know not seems.

‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,

Nor customary suits of solemn black,

Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,

No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,

Nor the dejected ‘haviour of the visage,

Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief,

That can denote me truly: these, indeed, seem;

For they are actions that a man might play:

But I have that within which passeth show;

These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

(Act I Scene II)

This brilliance is followed hard upon by the astounding soliloquy quoted briefly above to open this post. Look how I’m being pulled by different threads of thought and inspiration, and not getting to the point, blame the bard. The point is that by the time I had finished reading this sublime tragedy, I knew that I wanted to study English. Now that might not sound like a big deal to you, but to me, it was a new direction that wasn’t down, and if I hadn’t changed direction I’m not sure how much further I had to fall, so there’s how the play-write may have saved my life. My only disappointment with the English study so far: not enough tragedy. But then again, my mind is tragic enough as it is.”

-By Lloyd Thomas.

If you would like to read more of Lloyd’s writings on of a a variety of discussion topics including Mental health, Literature, and Current affairs. Follow his blog here at freewillisntfree.

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