Recovering from addiction: A Conversation with Annie.

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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

The Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression.

the recovery letters

Last year, I had the honour of being 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: http://therecoveryletters.com

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 life with Depression, By Andrew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually of course it all came to a head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-By Andrew.

Stories are still needed!

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

Send your story with your name to themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to publish on the Blog.

Sharing saves lives –

M x

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