Thursday, 12 November 2015

Health: What the brain wants, the brain gets.

I've sat down to write this post several times over the last few weeks. But the words haven't come easily. Sometimes things are far too real and painful to vocalise.

Some of you will know I live with mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar in my mid-20s and prior to that I've been living with brain wobbles as I call them since my teens.

Stupid brain.


I would say that in the past six months my mental health has not been good, but if I'm being brutally honest with myself, it's not been good for much longer than that, probably around five years. But what I've done in the past five years, instead of seeking out treatment for my problems,  is construct a safe world in which I can function, just about. But by doing that, I have sacrificed the quality of my relationships, and my quality of life.

I gave up my job, my husband gave up his job. I have limited what I do and who I see. And although some of these choices can be seen as self-care, I feel like I've gradually lost all sense of who I am. This morning I was supposed to be going to London, I got half way down the street before I couldn't breathe, my stomach was in knots and everything seemed to be swirling around me. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and ran back to the house in tears. And this isn't the first time it's happened.

Earlier in the year, having realised it was all getting too much I tried to access some help from a local drop-in centre, but having had a bipolar diagnosis years ago, they were unable to see me and referred me to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) for an assessment, and this is where I hit my first stumbling block and really in part what I wanted to talk about today. I've seen lots of chatter recently about invisible illness, and what that means to people who have one. An invisible illness is where the symptoms and effects of an illness might not be apparent, but have a profound effect on the person living with it. And another factor of that, especially with mental illness is actually proving that you are ill.

On this occasion, when I went to see the person carrying out the assessment at the CMHT, I was having a 'good' day and I was very cheery, eloquent and bright. Things I am most definitely not when I'm having a 'bad' day. When I am having a bad day I can lose the ability to form words and sentences, I am unable to make the smallest of decisions, I physically struggle to breathe and I am chronically fatigued. So, when the woman assessing me saw a bright, funny woman sat opposite her, telling her she was struggling to cope and needed some help, she saw someone who was maybe just a bit stressed, or overwhelmed with her busy life, much like most people are nowadays.

Slap on a smile.


What she didn't see, and what I've become a pro at covering up, is the grown woman who is scared of picking the phone up, who feels like she has the weight of an elephant sat on her chest, who cooks up scenarios in her head about how much people hate her and how when her loved ones don't pick up the phone she automatically presumes they're dead. Who on any given day when things are really bad, just wishes the world would go away, she knows she doesn't want to be dead, thank goodness, but she also knows she'd like that unbearable noise that is her ridiculously over-active brain just to shut up for once. And who is unable some days to show any love or emotion for her husband and daughter because she is crippled with all of the above. That's the worse one, that's the most heartbreaking part of all this, that it is easier to feel nothing than open yourself up to anything else.

So, I digress. I was referred to another open door clinic where they advised I should take a mindfulness class and get some counselling. Now I am all for mindfulness, I have had a private session with a wonderful practicioner who for an hour managed to quieten my mind like no one else ever has, but the irony is I haven't been back because I've been too depressed. But, these public sessions I was put into, were something completely different. Faced with a room full of strangers, was daunting enough but then having to discuss our reasons for being there and ponder on such questions as 'what is happiness?' Well, my fragile being was not ready for it and as such I would spend the sessions sobbing in front of complete strangers. Especially when I couldn't find the answers, when I can truly say I don't know what happiness is anymore, because my brain hasn't let me feel it for a very long time.

Trying to appreciate the wonderful things. 


What I wanted to try and get across is that appearances can be deceptive, we can create a whole other life online, one that doesn't always show the true extent of our struggles, and nor should we have to. But we are also very quick to make assumptions about peoples lives based on what we see online and that can be dangerous.

I have in the last few weeks, having referred myself to the crisis team managed to be reassessed and am just about to start on some medication for my mental health with some wonderful support from my care coordinator. Medication is something I had resisted for so very long and something I felt almost guilty about, like I was taking a step backwards or letting myself down. What I now know though is this is what I need, just like an asthmatic person needs an inhaler.

There is no shame in accepting help and there is no shame in admitting you have a problem, it is in fact one of the bravest things you can do. Don't do what I did and build up a fortress so big that you can't let anything in or out. Try and be as receptive to help as possible. And if the blog posts seem a bit more infrequent or I don't answer an email or a tweet, I'm just trying to get better and similarly if I post a picture of my smiling face or a sunset it's because I'm trying to remind myself that there are wonderful things in the world and I must remember to capture that moment and appreciate it.

For anyone out there going through something, or fighting something I know it may seem incredibly lonely at times, but you are not alone, there will always be someone to listen and someone going through similar. You are worthy, you are valid, you do matter.

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13 comments:

  1. Thinking of you Becky. . I suffer with anxiety and I know exactly what you mean about that heavy feeling that you feel, the overthinking, the worry. I hope you don't take offence to this but I love your thought pieces on mental health issues, I am sure someone out there is reading this and has felt a little comfort and that is I guess a really great thing I really hope you start to feel better soon <3 xoxo

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  2. Thanks for sharing this Becky. I do not suffer from mental illness but i think it is very important to get everyone informed and to remove the taboo. I hop you will feel better soon and that the medication will help.

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  3. Thank you Becky for putting it down in words. Oh so so familiar. I am in fight mode at the minute forcing myself to do a little bit of something every day. Insomnia is my biggest demon at the moment spending hours with a racing mind trying to answer questions that I don't need to - screaming silently to myself - just go to sleep. I spend most of my days in isolation full of guilt for not achieving. At night my body is shattered but my brain has it all going on and in the day my head is numb. I know it's coming again and so I have to fight it. Going to a ' do ' with the in-laws next weekend and already creating scenes in my head of horrible people saying horrible things and being the outsider in the room when I know all I have to do is breeze in be fab and eat food but the demons are there chipping away. Been on meds before and they certainly helped - I am not ready for that again yet but recognise when it happens for me. it is time when I cannot just buy a bottle of shampoo cos my brain can't cope with a simple task or not to be able to make a cup of tea because I am in a paralysis and cannot move. So I just wanted to say I read it and for my part it got to somewhere it was needed - many thanks and I really hope that you find your way through it again soon.

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  4. blog about my #dismissal for misconduct after I'd disclosed my #depression http://goo.gl/W9Cyir

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  5. You are so right! So many people do not understand depression, anxiety and other 'invisible illnesses' or they say they do and then when it comes down to the crunch it is a lot of 'get over it' and 'cheer up'. Posts like this are so important in helping people realise bloggers aren't perfect and it will reach out to lots of other people who are suffering too. You are not alone hun. *huge hugs* xxx

    Miss Kitty Kaos (Adventures Of A Riot Grrrl)

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  6. Thank you for posting this. I'm hoping that this post has helped you and aided others in some way whether its to help them through their own feelings or help someone who isn't suffering, to understand mental illness a little bit more. It can happen to ANYONE and the stigma behind it just needs to just vanish.

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  7. Very brave post Beebs but an important one as I'm sure your experience is one many people can relate to and as you illustrate getting help isn't easy. Hopefully with medication you can help settle your anxiety and start on the road to managing this awful illness. You deserve to be happy. X

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  8. Congratulations on advocating for yourself and your health! It feels like an insurmountable task when you are in the trenches of depression, but going out and getting whatever treatments you need will make such a difference. You are brave, and strong, and I hope you share more of your journey.

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  9. Congratulations on advocating for yourself and your health! It feels like an insurmountable task when you are in the trenches of depression, but going out and getting whatever treatments you need will make such a difference. You are brave, and strong, and I hope you share more of your journey.

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  10. Becky, have only just seen this. I feel for you SO much as the whole bright/eloquent/sparky person vs the grey/emotionless/unable to function person happens to me. I have just started psychotherapy and the first two sessions I was the first, and the next session I was a completely different person as SAD had hit hard. I didn't go to my next session because I was ill (my physical respiratory health is so tied up with my mental health), and I can't go this week so it's going to be a four week break,

    ANYWAY, this isn't all about me, but I wanted to empathise with you as I know that heavy feeling - on me it sits just above my eyes like a huge, grey soggy hat of meh. Wrt medication, having had terrible trouble with antidepressants in the past, I finally found one that worked last year. It made such a difference up until about a month ago when I fell into SAD depression. I've now had the dose upped. I hate the feeling that I might be on this for a long time, but it does make me function better than I did before. As you say, there is NO SHAME in taking medication for mental health in the same way that there's no shame for me to take my asthma medication. Without either, I might be dead...

    Sending you enormous hugs. Thankyou for sharing this. I really, really hope you are able to get a reassessment soon and the help that you need. I've had to wait 2.5 years for the therapy I've just started, hope it won't be as long for you.

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  11. Oh Becky, I wish I could wrap you up in the biggest hug right now. What a brave post. This bit resonated with me especially: "What I wanted to try and get across is that appearances can be deceptive, we can create a whole other life online, one that doesn't always show the true extent of our struggles, and nor should we have to. But we are also very quick to make assumptions about peoples lives based on what we see online and that can be dangerous."

    I'm guilty of that too sometimes, even though I know what it's like to suffer with MH issues too. If you ever need anyone to talk to, please know I'm here for you any time. My MH has been up and down like a rollercoaster the last 6 months and I know how isolating it us. Again, massive massive hugs. xxxxxxx

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  12. Dear Becky, wanna wish you all the best. Your a real model for woman in our mental health. It's not easy to be ourself. I have a social phobia and depression but we know every good day is a winning one. Be yourself and don't case with you. All the best Prisha from Prishavista

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