So it has been exactly one week since I shared my story on here, since I opened up and decided to face my fear and begin to write the story that I have dreamed of writing for so long.
I was not expecting anything really to come from writing about my experiences. Not yet just yet anyway.
Since clicking that button to post my last blog piece, where I talked about my experiences of bipolar mania, it has been a little bit of a whirlwind.
A lovely, positive whirlwind of connecting with others in the same boat, or with those who are also fighting the battle against mental health stigma.
I have felt touched at every single person that took the time to reach out to me on here and via Twitter.
I have had some wonderful conversations with some wonderful human beings, from fellow bloggers to authors to mental health advocates to life coaches to psychologists, people from near and far corners of the world.
I am touched and humbled that each of these people chose to reach out and encourage me in my writing journey.
These conversations have ignited my passion for writing and sharing my story even further than I even thought possible.
I feel sure now that I am supposed to write, I am supposed to share my story with the world.
Writing has always helped me but now there is a chance it may be able to help others too, and this fills me with joy from head to toe.
I have always believed that having a sense of purpose is vital in life, and after this wonderful whirlwind of a week I am more determined than ever to write, to share my truth with the world and to use my experiences to help both myself and others to feel less alone, to feel strong and hopeful and to not ever want to give up on life again.
Feel free to comment or to reach out to me on Twitter if this post has resonated with you at all.
I love meeting and connecting with other kindred spirits out there in the world.
Thanks for reading!
Beautiful blog. I actually almost cried reading it. I can empathise so much.
It is so amazingly special to think of our struggles as our superpowers.
What struggle of yours have you turned into your superhero superpower?
Please feel free to tell us in the comment below!
I recently heard about this thing where people say you have to see mental illness as a superpower. At first, I thought that sounded really strange and I didn’t think that could have any truth to it.
I started doing some research on this whole superpower thing, and I found thousands of articles talking about the topic. Once I started reading about it, it occurred to me how beautiful this actually is.
What a lot of the articles said, was how having a mental illness gives you a better understanding of emotions. Specifically talking about BPD, it said because you experience so many emotions, and you experience them so intensely, you have a unique understanding of how any emotion feels. Another article talked about how people with BPD almost always make an impression on other people. Because people with BPD are so scared of being alone, we always make sure…
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This is a blog post that I’ve thought and dreamed of writing for quite some time. At the same time I’ve also felt worried and scared about writing it.
I believe that the fear I feel about going “here” with a blog post is the fear of being judged or feeling exposed and not being able to unsay this once it’s out.
As I write this I feel nervous but also excited.
I strongly believe that speaking out about mental health is the way forward in order to both challenge stigma and promote acceptance.
Those close to me already know a lot about the personal struggles that I’ve been through, but here is a part of my story for you to read, should you wish to.
I want to take you back to when I was 20 years old.
I’ve always had my ups and downs in life, sometimes feeling euphoric in the midst of joy and laughter, other times so low that I could not see much point to life.
So here I am 20 years old and it was was spring time and I had a definite spring in my step. (Excuse the pun.)
The sun was out each day and I was feeling good, as good as I’d ever felt.
Really, super happy.
That’s good though, right? Who wouldn’t want to feel happy, after all?
The thing is I ended up feeling a little too happy. Without knowing it my happiness, my all new increased confidence, my ability and willingness to chat away with anyone, were all initial warning signs that I was beginning to have a manic episode.
Mania is a part of having bipolar disorder, it’s when someone’s mood swings too high, and if left unchecked mania can also be accompanied by grandiose ideas and hallucinations and it can lead a person to act completely out of character.
Acting out of character might be a bit of an understatement. You see it got worse from the initial just feeling “happier” – my thoughts began to race, weird ideas began to pop into my head, although at the time they seemed to make complete and total sense.
They involved me feeling like I was “special” in some kind of way, I began to believe these strange and exciting thoughts.
I behaved differently to how I usually would, I felt invincible and so I began to take risks without even knowing that I was putting myself in danger.
I vaguely remember walking along a road one night whilst in the grips of mania, everything looked so sparkly and bright and the road had a field on one side with horses in it.
It made perfect sense to me right then that I should climb the fence they were behind to go and stroke them, and so I did.
The fence had barbed wire on it and I hurt myself getting to the horses, but they were lovely, beautiful creatures and the mania had driven me to feel extremely impulsive.
It was like whatever strange thought popped into my head I had an overwhelming urge to act upon it.
There were other instances of me acting in a similar risk taking fashion over the course of the next week but I’ll save those for another time (ha, or not!).
I was having so much fun alongside feeling invincible and euphoric, I even concluded that I must be famous at one point.
Why else would people be looking at me like that?
Eventually someone I knew let the police know that they were worried about me and that I had been missing for a few days.
Those few days to a week of mania are pretty hard for me to understand myself, even now, but they culminated in me being taken to a hospital by the police and being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
I stayed in hospital for a month recovering and whilst there I was told that I had bipolar disorder.
I was given a cocktail of meds that brought me back down to earth with a bit of a bump.
I guess that the diagnosis explained a lot.
My parents had dealt with mental illness and bipolar too and I’m aware there is a strong prevalence of the condition running in families.
Over the last ten years I have learned to manage having bipolar disorder. I’ve become an expert in my own mental health. I know that stress is one of my triggers and I try to look after myself the best that I can.
Of course I’ve had struggles and times where I’ve been too high, too low and all that’s in between, and it’s been tough I’ll admit.
What I will also admit is that if I had the chance to change it, to rid myself of bipolar disorder, I would choose not to.
It’s an awful condition at times and I would not wish the struggles that go with it on anyone, but dealing with this condition has helped me to grow into the person that I am today.
Without the struggles, the mood swings, the mania, depression and the anxiety, I may not have come to know myself so well.
I may not have felt so deeply and cared so much and grown so strong.
Having bipolar disorder can be a definite pain in the arse but it makes me, me.
For years I have struggled with a lack of confidence, I have gone through feeling ashamed and not good enough ever since I was a child.
Lately, I’ve reached a turning point and I am realising, albeit slowly and over the last 10 years, that I should accept who I am, and that I should love that person too.
That “me” looking in the mirror has done her best with what life has thrown at her, so why not give her a break after all these years.
Living with bipolar disorder is a battle in itself, and I have enough to fight against without battling myself too.
I’m in the process of making peace with who I am, (bipolar disorder and all).
It’s a journey that I suppose began even before I was diagnosed 10 years ago and that I know will continue for my whole life, which, yes, does kind of suck.
These days I believe that my struggle is my strength, as it has helped me to become a more understanding, more compassionate and more empathetic person in life.
It has both taken and given me strength to deal with having bipolar disorder and I will continue to do so with a newfound acceptance for who I am and what I’ve come through.
Please feel free to comment below if anything here has jumped off the page and resonated with you.
I’d love to hear from you!
It’s hard to get started on something, on anything when you have depression, but here I will try.
Depression sucks up all of your energy like a Dyson and leaves you feeling empty, leaves you feeling tired, exhausted in fact, it leaves you numb, and then there are those days when it feels like real pain in my body – like a screaming ache all over.
I am suffering with depression.
I am depressed. I know I’m depressed as I have been there before.
I have known depression well, even before I had it myself.
When my dad was depressed he would hide away, staying in bed for days. We lived together, just him and I, so of course I noticed.
I noticed how the life would seem to shrink from him, how the smiles faded and the frowns stayed.
I noticed on the morning of my fourteenth birthday, there was no fanfare, no singing me “happy birthday” like usual, no presents, no card. I knew it wasn’t him that had forgotten, it was that the depression had brought him to such a low point, too low to celebrate his daughter’s birthday, a day when he always made a great fuss of me, always made me feel so special.
It was not his fault, and it is not mine.
Depression doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t discriminate when it tells you that you’re worthless, that no one cares, that it’d be easier if you weren’t here.
Depression sometimes feels familiar, and comforting, like a friend you’ve known for a long time, who you don’t see for long periods, but has always been a bad influence.
“Just a few more hours in bed” – So I curl up and enjoy the warmth of my duvet for the rest of the day, missing work, letting colleagues down.
“You don’t want to see your friends, you’ve got me” – So I cancel plans, make excuses and choose to isolate myself from people close to me, not reaching out to anyone and pushing away support when it’s offered.
“Nothing will get better” – So I give up, I stop showering as much, I don’t care what clothes I wear, I stay in for days on end and I give up on all of the things in life I love.
“There’s no point, it’s not worth it” – So I begin to shut down, close myself off, certain that any efforts I make are for nothing.
“You’re not good enough” – So I believe it and stop trying at all.
What depression is telling me must be true.
Why would my own brain lie to me?
How could it feel so true, if it isn’t?
But it does, you know. Depression lies.
Depression has a way of worming its way in, right inside your head.
It’ll be there waiting in the wings, from the sidelines, sabotaging all your efforts, feeling as familiar as a friend and yet in truth such an insidious, dark and dangerous presence.
It’ll make you feel like you’re nothing, invisible, unloved and useless.
But none of it, none of it at all, is true.
I am doing what I can to fight it, to stay afloat in its murky depths.
I have been to the doctor, I have reached out to friends, I am trying.
It tells me not to, it says “why bother?” but I will.
If I am trying then there is at least some hope left. Hope that I will smile again, hope that I’ll enjoy life once more, hope that there is a future out there for me. Hope that I will one day feel and believe that I’m enough and more.
If you’re struggling with depression too, I want you to know that although you might not feel like it right now, you are worth it, you are enough and you add something unique and wonderful to this world exactly as you are.
Try to reach out when you least feel like it, because from my experience, those people that depression tells you don’t care, most likely care a lot more than you think they do.
(I have to remind myself of this too.)
On the other hand, if you have any friends who have gone much quieter lately, cancelling plans, isolating themselves more and more, maybe just let them know you’re still there if they need you, if they ever want to talk.
I know that having friends check in with me has meant the world to me when I’m down, even if I don’t respond or take up the offer right away, I’m thankful for them showing that they care.
When I think about all of the things that add up to make me the person I am today, I think of my parents, of my childhood. A normal thing to do for anyone, although I suppose my childhood, looking back, wasn’t all that ‘normal’.
My parents had been dealing with each of their mental health problems long before I was born, in fact the moment they met was within a mental health ward inside a hospital.
I recall my mum telling me the story of how they met with a giggle, of how they used to climb over the wall of the psychiatric hospital’s grounds and go to the pub on ‘dates’ in the evenings, and then subsequently get told off by nurses as soon as they arrived back, a bit more merry than when they had left.
Both of their battles with mental health problems began years before that moment of meeting, my mum suffering with Schizo-Affective Disorder, she dealt (and deals) with paranoid thoughts, mood swings and panic attacks.
I know that my dad suffered with Bipolar Disorder which meant that he dealt with deep depressions, as well as manic highs and various mood fluctuations in between those two extremes. I also know that when he was a young man he tried to take his own life while deeply depressed, he survived the attempt, but sadly he lost one of his legs in the incident.
Skip forward some years later and I came along. From what I know, when I was a baby my mum found it very difficult to bond with me, to feed me, to generally cope with motherhood.
I know that my dad stepped in and did a lot for me as a baby, and I believe our strong bond began somewhere around that time, when I was tiny.
I also realise that this was where my painful and tumultuous relationship with my mum must have begun.
Looking back and knowing my mum now I realise that she couldn’t help it, she just didn’t have it in her to be a mum, let alone a “good” mum.
My relationship with my mother has caused me a huge deal of pain, anger and upset over the years, even since I was very little. I didn’t get what I needed from her, I didn’t receive the warmth and love that any child needs from their mum.
You could say that my mum was emotionally neglectful towards me, the thing is she just did not know how to be a mother in any sort of way and that affected me deeply as a child, even as an adult.
When I was around 8 my parents divorced, and after a short stay in hospital for depression, my dad moved into a new flat. I moved in with him, which is a very happy memory for me. In fact, that day moving in with my dad, to our own little flat, is where most of my childhood memories begin.
Living with my mum when she had been severely unwell over the years, had affected me in a big way, one example of this is when I was around 7, I lost a great deal of my hair and had great big bald patches all over my head. The doctor had said it was probably alopecia and gave me some cream to help it grow, however the reality was that aged 7, I was pulling out my hair due to severe stress and anxiety.
This stopped when I went to live with my dad, my hair grew back but life still wasn’t as easy as it could be. As I mentioned, my dad suffered from bipolar disorder, this affected his moods, he could be very happy, and fun – we shared lots of good times and jokes when he was on a bit of a upswing, however his depressions were deep and all-consuming, I would find myself looking out for the signs of his moods, was it going to be a good day or a bad day when I walked in from school?
Would he be full of jokes and life? Or would I be worried about him taking too many pills all at once?
I loved my dad an incredible amount, and I received a lot of love from him too, this unconditional, unwavering love from him really helped me to get through my childhood.
Even on his bad days I knew that he loved me and that he’d always do the best that he could for me.
The depth of love that I received from my dad as a child meant that I developed an inner sense of worth and a certain resilience, which has helped me through many tough times in my life.
Sadly, I was only 16 when my dad passed away from heart problems, but I will always carry with me the genuine love and adoration that he had for me for all of those 16 special years.
Over the years, and particularly very recently, I have come to a point with my mum where I have learned to accept her exactly as she is, and this has helped our relationship in a way that I never truly believed it could be helped.
I’ve let go of the rage and pain of that little girl who was me, choosing to look at my mum in a new light, choosing to see that she had it rough herself, and although it wasn’t great to be around her growing up, she was only doing the best she could, and this helps me, helps me to let go of all of that anger towards her and to just to see her as a another human being with problems and pain all of her own.
Growing up with parents who had severe mental illness was more than tough at times, but it genuinely has shaped me into who I am.
From very early on, I developed a sense of empathy and compassion for others around me, even as a small child I wanted others around me to be okay.
I also developed a deep insight into mental ill health, which has eventually become my biggest passion in life, to help others who may be suffering to be able to feel that there is hope, that there is something to live for, to feel that they can live a full life despite their mental health condition.
My childhood wasn’t smooth sailing and there were stormy seas throughout, but it also made me, me, something I’m forever thankful for.
I’ll end with this quote since we’re on a nautical theme and because I wholeheartedly believe in the sentiment:
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Well, the nights are really beginning to draw in, the brief glimpses of sunshine are becoming fewer, and I can no longer go out without a pretty decent coat on.
If you can sense a reluctance and slight melancholy in my words, you’d be right – the end beginning of Winter and all that comes with this time of year is not something I usually look forward to.
“But, why?” I hear you ask, “you get to wear all of your cosy clothes, and enjoy cosy nights at home in front of the tv, and there’s the prospect of snow – that’s always fun!”
I get it, there are lots of good things about winter, even more things than the measly list I just came up with, but there’s a reason I’m not a fan.
I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, along with 3% of the rest of the U.K population. Sad, as it is known, is a depressive illness, most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight experienced during winter months, which is said to affect the level of certain hormones (melatonin and serotonin, to be precise) in the part of the brain which affects moods, sleep cycle and appetite.
I think of it as a yearning I feel to go into ‘hibernation’ mode; during the winter period I want to sleep more, sometimes whole days are slept away – it can be so hard to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I want to eat more, usually things that aren’t good for me, that are packed full of carbohydrate, almost as if I’m trying to insulate myself against vast drop in temperature. My mood drops, I feel lethargic – I have no motivation to do everyday things, going anywhere becomes a chore, seeing friends doesn’t even seem inviting.
Each year I find that my Sad varies in its extremity, at the worst it has ever been, in 2009, I got seriously depressed, it involved all of the above, except it felt there was no point to anything, no point going out, no point waking up, no point in life.
What was worse, was the nagging, demeaning, criticising inner voice that was swirling around in my head drumming these thoughts home “You’re useless, you’re worthless. Why do you even try, when I told you, there is no point!” It was a hateful voice, a voice that I would never put up with if it was a real person saying it.
After around a month of steadily feeling worse, I made an appointment with a doctor (my psychiatrist at the time), and told him what was going on, it took a bit of courage to do so, but I ended up feeling glad I did.
He listened and understood, explained to me a bit about Sad, suggested I try a low dose of anti-depressant just until the end of winter, and he also suggested I try a light box, in order to get my dose of light, now that the sun had most certainly hung up his hat. He even lent me one that he had in his office, which I thought was pretty nice of him.
I went home feeling hopeful, like there was a chance I could win this battle.
Around a month later of taking the medication and using the light box (which was super bright!) for half an hour an evening, I began to feel better, that nasty little voice had quietened down a lot, it was a little easier to get out of bed in the mornings, and I didn’t feel so completely awful, in fact, I found myself smiling from day to day!
I felt more hopeful, more alive, engaged with life again, I started to meet up again with friends and get on with my day to day life. By the end of winter, I ditched the antidepressants and gave back the light box – the sun had begun to come out once again, the days got slightly longer, and I felt much more myself once again.
Winter was over for another year, and I felt relieved to have got through it.
That year was the worst my Sad has been, and I never want it to get to that stage again, so around this time of year (say late October time) I start my efforts at warding off my reluctant Winter companion.
The last few weeks I’ve been going to the gym as often as I can, I’ve been trying my best not to give into those stodgy cravings, I’ve been making sure I see friends when I can, and talking to those close to me about how I’m doing, and I’ve been trying hard not to sleep too much, even though I do at times feel like a bear that just wants to retreat into my cave with my duvet, (what do you mean bears don’t have duvets?!)
Even though I feel like I’ve sort of got the hang of this whole Sad thing by now, I still groan when Winter rolls round, I still worry just a little that this’ll be the time it comes back with a vengeance, but what I try to remember is that nothing lasts forever, even though I dread it sometimes, Winter is never here to stay for good.
This year I am going to not only try and brace myself against Winter, I am going to try and embrace it as much as I can – whilst wrapped up in as many layers as I can be, mind you!
I don’t know if I’ll ever be your friend, Winter, but I’m sure that I can learn to live with you, even if to me, you are a pain in the bum!
So firstly, hello.
That always seems like a good place to start!
My name’s Marie, I’m almost 30 (ahh!) and I like to think I’m a pretty alright human being.
Well, to be completely honest some of the time I think that I’m an alright human being, but even from day to day and week to week, the way I feel about myself can vary enormously.
There are the times when a) I’ve felt like a fantastic, wonderful human being (rare, but it’s happened, I swear) and b) the times when I am feeling like a bit of a crap human being – now in the past, feeling like I’m a crap human seemed to happen way more often than me feeling alright about myself.
But slowly through the years my feelings of self-worth and the belief that I DO have something to add to the world, has grown.
I bet you’re wondering HOW it has grown though? Okay, well I’ll tell you, but only if you make the next cup of tea..
After a few years of having depression every year in winter, it was the middle of another cold, dark, I guess lonely winter period for me.
I was doing a bit of googling (as you do) and I came across a volunteering opportunity.
It was with a mental health service and the ad wanted someone to help out with running the drama group each week. So after some internal vascilating between wrangling with self-doubt and feeling excited that this sounded like a cool thing to do, I applied.
Now I will have you know that I know diddly-squat about drama (although I would like to!), but I guess my enthusiasm came across and the manager of the centre where it ran decided to let me have a go.
To cut a long story short, I absolutely loved every minute of helping out, I began to gain experience in a mental health setting and I ended up finding what I am truly one million per cent passionate about in life.
As a child I helped to care for my mum and my dad – who both suffered a lot with mental health problems (I’ve also had problems myself) and I really feel that these experiences gave me a ton of compassion and empathy for others going through hard times emotionally.
Volunteering there (at a local Mind) truly boosted my confidence in a huge way – I had somewhere to be each week on the same day, but not only that – I could help.
I realised that helping others was something I was truly passionate about.
Helping someone else to feel alright, when they’ve been having a crap time, can be the best, most rewarding feeling in the whole world.
By volunteering there I gained skills and confidence, but most importantly, I found what I truly love to do.
I also gained a job, for a charity I’m so proud to work for (big up, Mind!) – and I am still enjoying working there, still gaining skills, and still helping others to (hopefully) feel a bit less crap.
I am lucky enough to have found something that I love doing, and I strongly feel that a sense of purpose, having something to be passionate about in life, can make a MASSIVE difference when it comes to feeling good about ourselves.
Well …all I am saying is that it’s worked for me!