I just ate a sandwich and I am drinking a cup of tea. I am in a public place and although I’m not talking to anyone around me, I just ate a sandwich. I don’t have an eating disorder anymore. I don’t have a digestive disorder. There is nothing physically stopping me from eating, but that sandwich I just ate? That feels like a small win in the realm of my mental health battles lately.
I’m not so sure on calling my difficulties mental health battles, but I’m also unsure about how I feel comfortable labelling these difficulties for myself, about myself or to myself. Mental well being wars? I’m not sure on that either. Either way, the point is my mental health difficulties lately have been on somewhat of a flare up. I don’t like to say I’m in a war with myself, however, when fighting against your mind every day you essentially are at war with a part of you every moment of every day of every waking moment. I repeat every in that sentence on purpose, just to hit home at how “every” my illnesses are in my daily life.
For a short while at the end of December to early January everything was great. My days were not very short of what I would call perfect. I was cooking most meals from scratch. I was running again regularly. I was chasing social engagement. I was acing life how I think life ought to be aced and it was pretty fantastic – not so fucking fantastic that I was skipping on sunshine, but pretty fantastic all the same. Then a freight train came choo chooing through my life at 100mph, knocked me sideways, spun my world upside down and paralysed me for a short while.
To escape, I engaged in maladaptive coping behaviour which resulted in not being very aware of anything for a few days and a night in general hospital. Physically, I have recovered. Mentally, it’s an ongoing journey on what currently feels like an uphill trail run.
For me, I am lucky and I realise that now in that I have people to support me professionally and personally. I am lucky to be loved and cared about – and maybe I need to write this in big bold capitals somewhere I see it every day to keep this reality conscious in the forefront of my mind.
As for right now? I am dressed, I am out of my home borough comfort zone, and I just ate a sandwich on my own, without being told to, without being encouraged and without recoiling into the comfort of not eating and letting the anxiety nausea get the better of me. Today, I am winning a slight win. I had help and that is ok because I am winning at today.
A depressive episode has a way of making anyone go from actively living their life to merely existing in a matter of days or weeks. The ability to do what you love? Zapped! The ability to get up in the morning? Zapped! An interest in doing anything other than staying in bed living life through TV characters on Netflix? Zapped! Everything goes out the window, and it seems that no matter how “recovered” I feel in a good patch, each and every time I go down down down, I become the same shell of myself.
In this though, there is a silver lining. When I come out of these episodes every. single. time. I am so bloody grateful for everything, anything and the tiny things. With my illness I know these episodes aren’t behind me, and it is likely another rain cloud will come over me in a few months time, but until then I swear to myself, for myself, to grab life in the tightest grip that I can and do everything and anything that I want to be doing with my life. This means that if I can get up early in the morning and DO stuff, I do because I can. If I’m feeling well enough to go out and exercise, I bloody well go and enjoy everything my body can do for me in these moments. Even if an interest overcomes me that is out of character, I give it a go – for example when I started playing saxophone. The important thing in these times for me is to make sure I enjoy myself and learn to love myself and my life again.
There is more to this than just enjoying the well times – but by building good memories and emotions in a bank within myself during these times, I buffer the severity of impact the suicidal thoughts manage to take on me during an episode.
I view my appreciation for everything, anything and the tiny things in life as the gift of depressive episodes. I spend a lot of time hating on, sulking about and wishing I didn’t have my bipolar and BPD. In these moments of accentuated gratitude however, I count my blessings and enjoy the menial things of daily living: getting up in the morning with motivation, cooking a nice meal for myself and being bothered to do so, going out with my partner and friends and enjoying their company, studying and achieving my potential instead of submitting a sub-par version of my abilities, going for a run and feeling so alive and in the moment, reading and being able to take it in on the first read, laughing out loud and having fun. For all of the things that depression steals from me, I gain back a big part of myself and more. It is in these moments that I say thanks for my life, that I thank myself for staying alive and I stop for a moment, hating on my perspective and experience of life as it is.
I’ve been depressed as of late. However, after about a week of sitting around moping about it I have decided to implement my coping strategies in order to try and get through this bout of depression, with the help of my team. I am due to see the psych for a med review, but there are also plenty of other things I can and have been doing in order to try and help my mind set in it’s presets to be depressed at the moment.
I’ve been running. Nothing overwhelming although I have a 10k race in a week, which is slightly overwhelming but I’ve been taking it easy with myself because at the moment getting out the door it a feat in itself. I’ve planned in a lot of exercise over the next few weeks to a) keep busy and b) try and improve my mood naturally as best I can.
I’ve made a plan and promise to myself to keep functioning no matter what state I am in. This means continuing to go to my classes and groups despite how awful I may be feeling because if I don’t go I’ll only think myself a failure. Even if I’m sitting there, stinking with greasy hair and falling asleep – I’m there. I tried. I did my bit. If it helps my mood great, if not, then I tried.
To keep eating 3 meals a day. I was starting to fall into not eating habits which were soon followed by mega binges on junk food because I’d realise eventually that I was essentially starving myself.
Avoiding alcohol. Nuff said.
I’m going to start, as of today, practicing mindfulness each day in order to try and get some peace in my mind. I am not just low in mood, but I’m hearing voices as well – so hopefully mindfulness will help calm things down a little bit.
and finally, I wrote a list. Well, 4 lists really.
1. Things that are currently pissing me off.
This list includes Voldemort (voice), voices in general, mood and negative thoughts.
2. Stuff to look forward to THIS year. It’s quite long and exciting really.
3. Things I Have now to keep going for, is also longer than the ‘things that are pissing me off’ list.
and finally, 4. What I can do to cope, which includes some other methods I’ve not detailed here. But you get the picture. And I’m going to keep it in my Filofax so I can refer it to it every time I check my Filofax – which is about 20 times a day.
When we enter the mental health system it is very difficult to maintain the ability to remember who we are aside from our diagnoses and out symptoms, especially as this is mainly what the doctors talk about – I mean, it’s their job right? However, in our personal lives, we are so much more than our illness. You are not bipolar, or schizophrenia or borderline – you are yourself who happens to have an affliction, an illness, a challenge which although it may spend years taking up every moment of your life is a part of your journey and yes a part of who you are, but it IS NOT WHO YOU ARE.
You are more than a label, and this is what this poem is about, being more than that. You are more than tick sheets and DSM-V diagnoses would like you to believe.
No one wants anyone to become institutionalised. However, the problem is that sometimes a lengthy hospital admission is necessary. The risk run with this is that you can inadvertently become instituionalised and when it comes to the time of coming home, it can be difficult to settle in again at home.
I had this with my last admission. I was in hospital for a month, and when I came home I’ll be frank, I struggled with suddenly having no immediate support. I struggled with having no immediate access to PRN medications when I needed them, and I struggled with settling into the real world where all environments aren’t controlled. It has been over two weeks since I come home, and still I am struggling to settle with the outside world. I become overwhelmed very easily with uncontrolled environments, and outside of my comfort zone. With time though, it is becoming easier and I am starting to settle into working on my recovery again but a few tactics and support networks were required in order for this to happen.
Firstly, I had to really really engage with the home treatment team. Normally I am reluctant to ask for help but in these circumstances I knew that if I didn’t ask for the help I needed it would be worse and I ran the risk of ending up back in hospital. So I phoned them regularly until I felt able to work on being at home on my own.
I saw the Dr, and was honest with them with how I am. She gave me home PRN to use which has helped immensely. I think being honest, which is difficult for me in regards to my health, was an important part of resettling home. I am often inclined to say I am fine when I’m not, but one thing I have learnt is that this tactic is useless and does not work n the long run.
I eased up on my timetable and am working slowly on attending all the activities that I have structured my time with in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. For me, I have realised becoming overwhelmed is a trigger for me so it is important to be easy on myself. It is important to not expect miracles and too much from myself.
I have been open with my friends who are in the know about my difficulties so they are aware if I am struggling, or if perhaps my behaviour is a bit strange or uncomfortable. My friends know with is going one.
I have been writing more and gotten in tune with that part of myself. This for me is a coping mechanism, method of processing what is going on for me in addition to expressing myself. I have been writing a lot of spoken word poetry and practicing so I can perform which is a very good distraction in addition to giving me a focus that is healthy, safe and controlled in a confined space that is comfortable for me.
Overall, over two weeks later I am starting to settle back into being at home. I am starting to understand just exactly how much effort and awareness it takes to look after myself. I feel it is a slow process in getting back into your normal life and routine after an admission. It is important to bear this in mind rather than diving back into your usual busy lifestyle because although frustrating, it is better to take time in returning to a better level of functioning and to stay out of hospital than to jump in, dive in, overwhelm yourself and become unwell again.
It became established prior to march that I’d possibly had manic episodes. Last year in the summer prior to my depression I’d had a brilliant period where I’d had a well being epiphany. Everything was wonderful, and how could I not see how brilliant the world was before? And how amazing was I? So I made a website, and I danced, and I sang and I built a platform for me to showcase how amazing I was. – it has since been deleted.
Then there was a brief spell in November. I was joking, I was laughing and every speckle of life, down to each crumb of my sandwich and the way the sun shone, and how that bird hopped along the floor was just DAMN. FUCKING. AMAZING.
And then I believed I was invincible. I made wreckless decisions, sent everyone videos of me singing and dancing before trying to jump off a car park to prove I would bounce.
That’s the moment it stopped being fun. I was cuffed, sectioned and carted around London in caged vans under Section 136, then a Section 2. To begin with, my admission didn’t bother me. I was too busy having fun, singing, dancing, chatting crap, making expressive art and playing football.
I’m telling you now, I was fucking ace at singing and I could have won X factor hands down that month. The poor poor souls around me, enclosed within the walls of the psychiatric unit had to listen to rendition after rendition of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. Fuck me, I could even do the dance to the video: seriously, where’s the skill in that? I’m acing it after an hour! (Sssshhhhh…. I wasn’t acing anything. I was manic)
And so my diagnosis changed, and these songs are the soundtrack to my manic episodes.
Les Jours Tristes by Yann TIersen was once again written FOR ME, and no-ne else.