Thursday, 5 February 2015

Health: #TimeToTalk Day

**Trigger Warning** This piece contains references to mental health and suicide.

Some of you may or may not know that I have Bi-Polar. I was diagnosed around 10 years ago now. As today is Time To Talk day, I thought I'd take a look at what led me to my diagnosis and how I manage my illness now. 




Today, February 5th, Time To Change are asking people to take 5 minutes out of their day to talk about mental health. For me, it was something that was always there, as a child I remember being quite emotional at times but incredibly outgoing and energetic too, I think I've always 'felt' very deeply. When my period arrived, aged 13, everything seemed to spiral. I was having a very hard time of it at school. I was subject to years of sexual abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend which, along with the raging hormones contributed to my already unstable mood. To my parents, I was just a moody, nasty, angry, unpredictable teenager. I would go out and drink a lot with friends and loved to being the life and soul of the party. Despite everything going on I was able to come out of school with some okay GSCE's and went to college, it was around this time I met my first serious boyfriend. It was a very difficult relationship, he was depressed himself and I don't think we were very good for each other. I'd left college and moved in with him and got a job in a petrol station, glamorous, I know. One gloomy evening on a late shift I was in the grips of the most horrendous period pains and at the tail end of an especially horrible bout of PMS. On the counter was a tray of pain killers that we sold in the shop. I opened up a box and took two for the pain. Then another two. Then another two. This carried on until I'd taken a good 30+ tablets. The petrol station barely got any customers thankfully and I somehow managed to cash up and lock up. All the while sobbing and repeating "I'll show them". I don't know what I was going to show "them", I think, in hindsight, I was going to show them how much pain I was in. I just wanted someone to know how much I was hurting, physically and mentally.  On the way home I stopped by the side of the river that runs through our town centre. I sat on the edge and dangled my legs over the side, still crying. I have never felt so alone in all my life. 

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When I finally got back to the dingy flat my boyfriend and I shared with his brother, I started to feel sick, I rushed to toilet and started to vomit violently. When my partner finally arrived home from his late shift, I was slumped at the top of the stairs, exhausted and empty. He immediately knew something was wrong and urged me to tell him. He called a taxi and rushed me to the hospital. Now, bearing in mind this is was 1999, I wasn't treated particularly well in my local A&E. The nurse scowled at me and asked me if I was "the same one who came in last week". To which I abruptly said no. Then the doctor promptly gave me a lecture on religion and asked me how dare I "take gods life into my own hands". To which I replied, "I'm and atheist", he then tutted and left me in the cubicle for four hours. The blood tests returned okay, thankfully I had thrown up most of it from my system and the cannula they had inserted or no reason was none to gently ripped out of my hand and I was sent on my way. About two weeks later I got a letter to the effect of "in light of your recent suicide attempt we've made an appointment with a psychiatrist for you" which I of course aged 19, upset and confused and scared, just threw in the bin. I think my biggest memory from it all was how disappointed and angry my dad was, he just couldn't get his head round it and shouted at me a lot. For years he wouldn't let me go near the medicine box, he would administer paracetamol to me, not letting me touch the packet. It was his way of dealing with it I guess. My mum on the other hand was more understanding thankfully. 

Over the next few years I had some quite serious episodes, including the time I disappeared for 5 hours and every one was frantic. I dipped in and out of mental heath care, always very reluctant to take medication (I still am to this day) and always struggling with talking therapies. I'm basically not a very good patient. 

It was around 2005/6 that I had another breakdown, it was a real biggy this time. I don't really know or remember what I was like in the run-up to it, I can't tell you if it came out of nowhere or if it had been building up. I simply don't remember. But one morning I found myself at the doctors. Again, an experience my memory is a little bit scratchy on. I just remember hearing someone screaming and realising it was me and a very overwhelmed slightly scared looking doctor ringing the Crisis Team while I wailed in the background. Someone also contacted my mum and I was bundled into a taxi to the hospital via my mum's work. For some reason we were put into the relatives room in A&E where people are told of their loved ones fate. As any fight or emotion I had left finally exited my body, I remember being huddled up on the sofa looking round at this dingy, faded room, with stained sofas and peeling floral border, and out of nowhere I said to my mum "well if you wasn't fucking depressed when you got here, you would certainly be depressed when you left". To which we both cracked out laughing. Not long after a team of three guys came in, we talked for a long time about me and my life and my health and they eventually surmised that it sounded like Bi-Polar, but I would be referred to the Consultant Psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis.  In the mean time, the Crisis Team community nurse would visit me at home every other day to see how I was doing. The nurse was a really nice guy, we would just chat and have a cup of tea and it gave me something to look forward to every day, I wish I could remember his name, but I'll never forget how nice it was just to chat to someone impartial and friendly who made me feel normal again. 

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A few weeks later I was assessed by the team and consultant and it was confirmed that I was indeed suffering from Bi-Polar. I was prescribed Fluoxetine and Carbamazepine, the first an anti-depressant, the latter a mood stabiliser. I don't know if they ever helped, or whether I was going through a lucid kind of stage, I do know I hate taking anti-depressants. They just don't sit right with me, they either strip me of any traits of my former bright, witty self or they comatose me to the point I can't physically talk or move. I've just not had the best time with them. So when I met Michael and we set a date for the wedding, I decided to come off them. Firstly, let me make one thing clear, every one is different and for some anti-depressants are literally life savers, and you should never come off them without informing your doctor and getting advice. I didn't do this, because I'm an idiot, but thankfully there were no adverse effects. For me personally, I wanted to get them out of my system, especially the carbamazepine as it's known to cause birth defects, before we started trying for a family. 

Once I was caught up in all the wedding planning I found I could cope without them. I thrive on being busy and wrapping myself up in projects you see. Then once back from honeymoon we moved house and within a matter of weeks I found out I was pregnant. The pregnancy was physically a huge drain on me, I was very ill and lost over a stone in weight, but mentally I was in the best place I've ever been. 

Oh so pregnant and oh so ill, but the brain was a-okay! 


After Poppy was born, I sort of fell out of the care of mental health services. I had a beautiful new baby to concentrate on, I just wasn't interested in being mental. I know that sounds silly, and I guess I was in denial, but I just wanted to be normal, I wanted to be a glowing new mum, I didn't want my little girl bringing into a world where mummy had to go to her appointment or take her tablets. So for the first few months I was fine. Things did inevitably start to unravel and I was on and off different meds for a couple of years. But gradually I started to make some changes which helped me and my brain. I gave up work, and started to do small bits of part time work from home. It's not ideal and we struggle terribly, but for me it has been a life saver. I started the blog and went back to university, both of which have been invaluable to my mental health and most importantly, I've stopped being unfair to myself. Every day I would tell myself what a terrible person I was, how I was a failure. 

What I've come to realise over the years is that I am ill, I have an illness. And some days I am well, some days I am not. And that's okay. On the bad days, I close the door, wrap myself up in the duvet and have a rest. I write off the day and know that tomorrow might be different. I've stopped placing pressure on myself to conform. I'm not ever going to be 'normal' and that's okay. I am a very emotional person, I cope differently to other people and that is fine. 

You're doing just fine. Fancy a cuppa?


I know not every one can just quit their jobs, or shut the door, but what you can do is understand you are not alone, and you are not a 'weirdo'. You are a person, a wonderful, complex, valid human being who despite everything is still here. Stop beating yourself up over something you can't change, learn to live with your illness and find out what works best for you. Try out some new hobbies, buy a colouring book (they're amazing by the way), watch that film you love more often. No, they won't cure it, but they help. Spend a little more time looking after you. You are completely worth it. 


8 comments:

  1. You are wondrous and I love you very much. I'm proud of you for sharing this xxx

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  2. inspiring to read and so open and honest 😊 x

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    1. Thank you. I think it's important to share stories Xx

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  3. I also have bipolar and I really struggle with it. Not so much the feeling high and low, more the blaming myself and beating myself up. Sometimes I get myself into such a state and I feel so alone. Reading this has made me feel like maybe, even if its just for now, I'm not so alone after all.
    Thank you for writing this, you're an absolute inspiration. xxxxxxxxxxx

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    1. Kate I completely understand and feel those feelings too. You are most definitely not alone in the way you feel or what you're going through. It's important to try and remember those feelings aren't true and it's just your brain playing tricks on you. You are a wonderful person Xx

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story with us Becky.

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Thank you for your comment, I love reading what everyone has to say! B x