Mental illness vs medication

I know I am exceptionally lucky that I can afford medication and have access to a doctor who can prescribe medication for me. I am lucky that my struggles are taken seriously, though for a time they weren’t.

I often don’t want to take my meds. I think I can not just cope but flourish without them. That I could feel on top of the world without the psychosis or racing thoughts. That I will never become depressed again. My illness sometimes feels strange and unreal. Like it was a nightmare. Maybe thats my brain separating those foggy memories so I can live a normal life. How I acted in my episodes was so different to who I am, it’s like it never even happened. I idealise the person I am without the slight fatigue I feel, without my mood stabiliser or antipsychotic.

Recently I have found myself blaming my medication for everything. Tired, must be the meds. I am shaking, must be the meds. Hungry, must be the meds. Not hungry, must be the meds. It doesn’t matter that i’ve had barely any side effects off the medication I am on, when something crops up I automatically blame the medication I take. A lot of the time these problems are caused by my mental illness, like the shaking is caused by my anxiety etc. But to blame my mental illness would be to accept there is something wrong with me. That I am not perfect. You might think because I write about my mental health that I fully accepted it. Not yet. I guess I don’t like taking medication because it makes me feel abnormal and its effort to take it every morning and night. It’s a reminder of the insanity I’ve been through and that I haven’t got my life together… not yet anyway.

I don’t want to romanticise bipolar. I miss the creativity, the energy, the intense feelings of love. But with creativity comes chaos. The thoughts are too fast, the feelings too intense. If you are like me you spiral into psychosis and nothing productive is done. I don’t remember all of it but I do remember the pacing so bad my foot got infected. I remember burning my arm as I was so agitated. I remember ringing up universities to tell them of my amazing plans to cure illness with the chemicals in my brain. It was a blur but not a fun one. I was dangerous, reckless and rude. With my bipolar I also get the lows. The deep dark hole where I prayed for help for something to slightly ease my pain. I don’t want any of this back so I keep taking the pills. Each and every day.

There is a reason you have been prescribed medication. Whether you agree with it or not, work with your doctor (if you have one) to find a treatment plan which works for you. Consider the pros and cons of opting out of treatment. I love that medication and other things have helped me. I am now able to volunteer and have better relationships with friends and family. I can’t predict the future but I plan to keep taking the medication as long as I need to. It’s frustrating but also helpful.

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My experience with bulimia – a poem

When I’m stressed

When I’m depressed

When I’m overwhelmed

When I’m tired

When I’m wired

Used to hide

Now back by my side

Evil surrounds it

The devil from within

Begging me to sin

Now I’ve had a bite must finish the rest

I think this whole thing was a test

I have definitely failed

Why can’t I rewind time

If I made a different decision now i’d be fine

What’s the harm in throwing up a chocolate bar

Forget about the teeth decay and knuckle scars

Now my chest is in constant pain

Filled with shame

I’m playing a dangerous game

I just want a quick fix

Lose weight fast, like you see on instagram pics

Something for a smaller waistline

Tried every diet under the sun

These fat loss plans aren’t any fun

It’s not just about appearances though

I’ve had low self esteem from the word go

Just want to feel some self control

Manage my nervousness

But I do it with foolishness

Don’t judge me for the way I deal with life

This constant stress cuts me with it’s knife

I can’t undo the actions I have done

I hate all the stigma that comes along

Kick that back to where it belongs

But I have got to take a different path

I’m done with the cleaning up and the aftermath

It’s never worth the harm

That short relief doesn’t last

Got to put this behaviour in the past

Anxiety… a poem

Its frazzled me

Anxiety

Why can’t I breathe

Air should relieve

The tightness in my chest

When will I rest

Its dizzying

My heart pounding

Chaos within my brain

Intrusive thoughts driving me insane

Can I not be left alone

My worry has grown

It’s taken over my anatomy

When will I be free

Nothing is working

Trapped between being frozen or deserting

The place in which I stand

Get me out of this dangerous land

I’m covered in aches and pains

Trying to escape the panic chains

I think I am going to die

Might as well try

Relaxation techniques loosley

Why am I sweating profusely

Nothing fixes this but to get away

But I have so much to do today

This reaction is often unnecessary

Does not match the circumstances and is very

Extreme and intense

Nothing I think of makes any sense

Phobias come big and small

I might scream near spiders, crowds, people or nothing at all

The thing they have all in common is dread

If you need me I am hiding in the shed

A letter to someone thinking of suicide

I wasn’t sure what to write for mental health awareness day. I decided to write a letter to someone, struggling with suicidal urges, thoughts or even plans. I hope this reaches you if you need it. I know it won’t cure anyone but I want you to know that you matter and you are never alone even if you feel like it.

Dear Friend,

I know you are struggling. I can see you are not yourself. You are acting strangely. Your smile seems artificial, you seem lost, withdrawn. I know because you have told me and I believe you. I trust that you are not lying or being dramatic when you say you want to die. That you have used all the resources you own. That telling you to ‘just take a bath’ won’t wash away the suffering that you hold within.

I have been there, not exactly the same place, but a similar one. I know how horrible it is and that you shouldn’t have to feel like this, but you do. I know right now you need a friend. Not someone to tell you what to do, unless you ask specifically, but instead someone to sit with you, to lean on when you can’t take the weight of your body anymore. I know that empty pain, that feeling like things won’t improve, that right now everything is unbearable. Even one more moment is too long. You need help now. Some kind of progress. You might have visited A&E or called the crisis team. You may have had a positive experience or have been turned away feeling more helpless than ever.

Maybe you might start hating yourself, believing you aren’t good enough, that you are a burden or you are toxic to the people you care about. None of those thoughts are true, you will probably disagree with me, but they are lies your brain is telling you. You are amazing and worthy, so worthy of great times and fun experiences. Whatever you have gone through is in the past and it has also shaped you. You have got through everyday of your life and can get through this. I believe in you.

Please don’t give up on yourself. Death is so final and your life is precious, not only will you be missed but you will miss out on so much. You are needed in this world. One day, with help, you’ll see how beautiful this earth is, how kind most people can be and how exciting opportunities are. Hopefully you will find happiness… even if it is just small glimpses in a tough day.

Sending you a hug,

Alice

Anxiety, paranoia and leaving the house

This post is less a factual post about anxiety and more about my experience with it.

It’s strange the place I am in at the moment. I often feel anxiety when my mood is low but at the present my mood is stable. I am okay; but at the same time I am not. I worry constantly. My thoughts are not rapid and I am not jumping from one idea to another. This is not mania. My thoughts are not slow and weighed down with self hatred. This is not depression. This is different. My thoughts are constant at a regular pace but are unwavering. Even when I try to distract myself they are still there. Once I deal with one worrisome thought another one replaces it. No matter how hard I try I rarely get breaks from this anxiety. Recently I have been trying mindfulness, and not in a half hearted way, in a fully-throwing-myself-into-it way where I apply it throughout the day to many circumstances. It is helping. I find ‘one-mindfully’ doing a engrossing task helpful as it helps me only think about what I have to do. However, soon after that task is done the worry is back. I struggle to just sit with it and do nothing. My mind refuses to go blank.

Sometimes I feel so exhausted and overwhelmed with my mind. I find a way to scare myself at any time of day. I fear that the shelves will fall on me, that I have left the hob on or someone has climbed through one of the windows (that I am sure I have closed). It’s a weird world inside our heads isn’t it. I often find myself dazed and stuck inside my head, losing minutes to hours at a time.

Another way anxiety affects my life is by isolating me. This time last year I was unable to leave the house alone without paralysing anxiety. I was scared of being attacked or being hit by a car or anything horrible that could happen (but isn’t likely).  None of those things have happened to me but even typing them makes me nervous as if I am tempting fate. It is important to face our fears so that is what I have been doing. It’s called graded exposure. I can go out on my own now, even catch a bus and walk around town. I still worry but I don’t have panic attacks like I used to and I sometimes even feel confident (I am working on that). It is a step in the right direction but I still get set backs. I try to leave the house everyday but sometimes this isn’t possible, for example if I am really depressed and can’t get out of bed. I often get the feeling like I am being watched and this gets really bad and I become very paranoid when I am depressed and start believing some of the lies my brain tells me. It is that paranoia that makes me never want to step foot in the outside world again. But I do, I keep ignoring those thoughts and getting on with my life and soon (hopefully) I will be able to get a train on my own without panicking and live a bigger more adventurous life. For now I am happy getting to places with people and gradually exploring the edges of my comfort zone until I am not terrified anymore.

Mood vs Emotion

The words mood and emotion are sometimes used interchangeably but mean different things.

Emotions are short term feelings which last around 6 seconds, but can seem to last longer if they keep being triggered. Emotions are often reactions to circumstances or thoughts. So you might be walking alone and get lost, this may prompt the emotion fear. While moods tend to be more generalised (for example positive, negative or mixed), there are many specific emotions. Some say we have 5 main emotions, others say 10 or more. This depends on the person you ask. In Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) 10 emotions are listed: Anger, Disgust, Envy, Fear, Happiness, Jealousy, Love, Sadness, Shame and Guilt. Different people will experience each emotion differently. One person may cry when they get angry others may clench their fists and go red in the face. We are all individuals and this may make working out someone else’s emotions difficult. We are not mind readers so it is best to just ask what is causing them to feel this way and how we can help.

Moods, like I said before, are more general feelings and are caused by a mix of factors including our environment, our brain chemistry, our physical health and our mental state. Unlike emotions, moods stay longer, lasting anything from minutes, to days, to even months. We may feel emotions on top of moods. For example we may have a low mood but feel the emotion happiness at times, likewise we can have a high mood but still have fleeting feelings of sadness. Often, however, our emotions match or are similar to the mood we are in. So we are more likely to feel fear instead of excitement in a low mood. This may be because we interpret our circumstances partly based on the mood we are in. E.g a good mood is sometimes called having ‘rose tinted glasses’ as we see everything in a positive light.

The intensity of the moods or emotions we feel differ from person to person. We may be more susceptible to intense emotions or moods due to not looking after our physical or mental health fully. Having a mental illness may also cause us to have more extreme emotions or moods. With bipolar disorder, people have more intense (elevated, low or mixed) moods which last longer than most people, often weeks to months. Different to this is borderline personality disorder which is also called emotionally unstable personality disorder. One key symptom of borderline personality disorder is having intense emotions which affect their lives greatly and change often. Anxiety Disorders are linked closely to the emotion fear and people often experience constant or extreme feelings of worry or dread.

Sources:

What stability looks like on me

When we are unwell we can forget who we are when we are well and stable in our mental health. I have wrote this post to remind myself who I am as a person without mental illness. We are not defined by our struggles, even though they often make us more resilient people. My illness changes me every episode. I am not me even though I have to take full responsibility for my actions and behaviour during them. When I am depressed I become so withdrawn and irritable, often with the people I love. I become self destructive and desperate. When I am manic I am impulsive, reckless, quick-tempered and delusional. Either extreme is nothing like I am when I am well. I like a laugh but I am quite a serious person and I am very resourceful.  I wrote a sorta list poem about who I am and what me and others have said are my qualities.

When I am stable I am:

A total klutz

Awkward and sometimes random

Enthusiastic

Compassionate, but sometimes cares too much

Sensitive and sensible but still fun loving

Strong even when my voice shakes

Trustworthy and loyal

Reliable

Creative with my crappy poems

Thoughtful

Hardworking, curious and motivated

Impatient

Logical

Loving and supportive

Kind and truthful

Empathic

Perfectionist

Determined when I have a goal

A practical idealist

Messy yet organised

Maybe write a list or a poem or even some artwork, symbolising you when you are well. It is difficult but we must learn who we are away from this illness so we can recover and hopefully go back to that or even improve. I am lucky that I have periods of stability between episodes to remind myself who I am, but I still lose touch of who I am from time to time. Just because I was a certain way for months on end during an episode does not mean that is what I am like always. Remember whatever your qualities are, you are an awesome person deserving of peace and happiness. What you are struggling with doesn’t make you a bad person.