An honest blog sharing the ups and downs of my personal mental health journey

Friday, 28 December 2018

New Year, Same Me (Well, Maybe A Little Bit Different)

As we approach 2019, I look back at 2018 with a mixture of emotions.

I'll be honest, 2018 was officially the hardest year of my life, so it's safe to say I'm not particularly sad to leave it behind.

However, I do have a lot of things to be grateful for this year. I am grateful for having such supportive family and friends. I am grateful to have a roof over my head, a job that I enjoy that have also been extremely understanding and supportive. I am grateful to be alive.

This might all be sounding a bit like a self help Instagram feed full of inspirational quotes posted over photos of cherry blossom or a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, however, we should all take a step back and recognise what we should be grateful for, this year and every year.

I'm not always great at expressing how I feel (quite ironic in a way, being Bipolar and all). I seem to struggle with expressing anything that could make me look like a failure or maybe rejected in some way. I seem to struggle with anything that makes me feel weak or a bit helpless. I tend to get angry and defensive if someone questions something I don't know the answer to, or questions how I may be feeling. This has naturally been worse in the last 6 months due to the complex array of emotions I've been experiencing, the medication I've had to pump myself with and a diagnosis that I still haven't quite got my head around.

With all of this mashed together, I've often taken it out on the people closest to me. The people that have helped me the most. 

So in 2019, that needs to change. I won't punish the people closest to me for something they have purely only tried to help me with. 

I'm going to be a bit blunt now. 

In September 2018 I tried to take my own life. I'm not ready to go into it yet, maybe I will in the future, but the details aren't important right now. The fact is, it happened. The fact is, I felt so low that I attempted it, but was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people that helped me through. So here I am, sat here today, typing this right now. That is why I am grateful to be alive. 

So in 2019, I will look after myself. I will have patience with how I'm feeling and I will trust that those feelings will eventually go, and that I'm strong enough to fight them off. I will be kind to myself, I will be kind to my mind and I will be kind to other people. You never know what is going on behind closed doors or who may need your help. I will offer support, advice, a pint or even just my big old ears to listen to anyone that needs it, because it's happening to more people than we realise. 

In November 2018 I had to sit down with my psychiatrist and discuss whether or not I should go into a psychiatric hospital following one of my (what seems like) many breakdowns. The nearest psychiatric hospital with availability was in Birmingham. I was petrified - I didn't want to be there on my own and so far away from my family when I was feeling like this. It would also cost a lot of money to do this privately - money that my family would have somehow tried to find because they're so supportive, but with struggle. Money that is hard to find and that in reality many, many people just wouldn't be able to. 

NHS psychiatric hospitals require a referral for extreme cases only, because the mental health system is so stretched. The fact you should have to be an 'extreme case' before you are provided with the help you need doesn't sit well with me, but unfortunately that's the reality right now.

The decision to not go to a psychiatric hospital was actually mainly made by a brief 'manic' episode I experienced, almost directly after my depressive episode. I woke up one morning and felt almost cured, like I wasn't depressed anymore and suddenly felt fine. That's why Bipolar can be hard to get your head around (excuse the pun). It somehow masks how you're feeling by making you feel great and then awful and then great again, when in reality that great feeling is part of the illness too. I'm still getting my head around it all, it's hard to keep up with it when it flits so easily from one mood to the other. It's also hard because I'm slowly recognising the signs to look out for, when all my life before this I had no idea it was even happening. It's worth mentioning that 'manic' episodes vary from person to person. My 'manic' episodes are actually known as 'hypomania' and from what I can tell my symptoms are being hyperactive, talkative, confident, overly productive, rapid thoughts and speech and (annoyingly) spending loads of money I don't actually have. Some of these reasons - being talkative, productive and confident for example, aren't always bad. Which is why you don't often realise it's happening. 

So, in 2019 I'm going to get a better understanding of my diagnosis. I know by doing this I'll not only help myself but help people around me who may also be struggling to come to terms with it too. I will not be ashamed of the different moods I find myself in but I will learn to control them and use it to my benefit (if being 'manic' means cleaning the whole house in an hour then so be it, better than living in a sh*t hole).

My advice? Recognise and appreciate the people that help and support you and give them some lovin' in 2019. Most importantly, give yourself some lovin' too, don't be ashamed to admit you might need it now and again.

Ultimately, 2018 has been a right little b*tch. But a b*tch I will accept, learn from and move on from in 2019. These aren't as much New Year's resolutions but general life resolutions to go by from now on.

I will be the same me, but maybe just a little bit different. 


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Have You Heard Of Derealisation?

No, it's not a new rapper about to drop the hottest mixtape of 2018. It is in fact a disorder that makes you have an almost out of body experience, or the feeling of being detached from reality.

People can experience it very suddenly and briefly or suffer with it nearly all of the time (to those people, you are solid because it's a naaaasty beast to deal with).

I'm going to sum up my derealisation experience fairly swiftly by saying it's weird as SH*T. 

I'll tell you about it, at the risk of me sounding a little bit...'mad'.

I've experienced derealisation a few times now and it normally lasts anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours.

The only way I can sum up (but quite accurately) describe the sensation of derealisation is like being in a dream. 

I've had to sit and quite literally pinch myself multiple times because I'm not sure if I'm dreaming or if I'm awake. It feels like you're looking down on yourself and your brain is preeeetty certain it's real...but something is telling you very strongly that it can't be. So, you kind of have to just wait and find out which one it is. Pretty inconvenient to say the least. 

Funny story - I had it in the bath the other day and I automatically assumed I was dreaming but that I'd wet myself or something stupid (hence why I was surrounded by water). In actual fact...I was just in the bloody bath, like I'd planned. No urine in sight, you'll be pleased to know. 

...Now you see why it's so weird. No imaginary unicorns and fairies floating about but thinking maybe you've p*ssed yourself. Not very glamorous. 

So, I didn't know derealisation (which is also very closely linked to dissociation and depersonalisation disorder) was even a thing until I mentioned it to my psychiatrist a few months ago. I was quite nervous trying to describe what I'd been experiencing because when you explain it, it sounds ridiculous. Especially when your opening line is about potentially wetting yourself. 

But, to my amazement when I told him about it he quite matter of factly told me exactly what it was and how common it is to experience it. (Really common, apparently - some studies suggest that everyone can have it in passing at some point in their life. Get your nappies ready,'s coming for you too). 

The reality is, as it's so common it's not usually anything to be concerned about unless it's really persistent. I've done a bit of research about derealisation and it looks like what I've experienced is an extremely mild version of something which is actually really quite horrible to live with. Some people can suffer with derealisation and depersonalisation so badly that it makes them completely lose touch of who they are and what they're doing. Some symptoms of derealisation can include identity shifting, feeling completely separated from your emotions and limbs, dissociative amnesia and even feeling like you're a robot (I imagine that one sounds much better on paper than it actually is). 

Some studies also suggest derealisation can be linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (which makes sense for me), borderline personality disorder or PTSD. If you have experienced a traumatic event, have PTSD or experience high levels of stress your mind can use derealisation as a coping mechanism, which in itself is pretty confusing. It can also be a very common side effect of some medication or coming off some medication too quickly. 

So basically, if like me you have experienced derealisation and have wondered what the hell it is or why it's happening, that could be why. 

Derealisation, like mental health in general, seems to be pretty misunderstood and not spoken about enough. 

The good news is if you suffer from derealisation there are treatments out there that can help, including certain medications and talking therapies. I've also found mindfulness and visualisation works well if it comes on suddenly and you're trying to work out what the bloody hell is going on - just focusing on your breathing can make a real difference and help you focus on being present.

Don't be worried about speaking t0 someone if you are experiencing, or have experienced, derealisation. It's very common, it's treatable, and if anything it makes a good ice breaker story if you're experiencing an awkward silence with distant family members over your turkey this Christmas. Just try not to wet yourself and you'll be fine. Or do, if they're really that boring.

Here's a couple of links to websites that explain a bit more about derealisation: 

Blogger Template Created by pipdig