Staying Well with Bipolar Disorder

According to research by Rethink Mental Illness, there are seven key things to ensure that you stay well when you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have been diagnosed as bipolar for around six or seven years now and so have obviously developed a range of coping mechanisms that work for me personally, so I hope the following can be even a little bit helpful! The key things to remember are:

 

  1. Spotting early warning signs
  2. Looking after your well being
  3. Being in control
  4. Doing what works for you
  5. Making decisions about medication
  6. Talking to people who will really listen to you
  7. Getting support from your friends and family

 

So where to begin? Well finding the warning signs of bipolar disorder early is extremely important and can be a key part in assisting with your recovery and finding the right coping mechanisms. Personally, I was originally wrongly diagnosed as having depression and put on Citalopram – which is an antidepressant and therefore a terrible idea for someone suffering with bipolar as it just sends you spiraling horrendously the other way! However, eventually I received the correct diagnosis and have now come to manage my condition pretty well meaning I can balance my friends, family, relationship and a full time job with no (well okay, with few!) breakdowns!

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Warning signs are totally different for each individual and so learning to recognise your own can avoid severe and/or dangerous episodes or even hospital administration. To find these warning signs, start to reflect on the times that you have been unwell and struggling in the past. My mum and other close family members have been an essential part of helping to find my own warning signs as they will notice things that I may not. As outsiders who spend a lot of time around you, it can be easier for them to notice small changes from the outside looking in. Ask your GP or other mental health professional if they can also help you to find out more about warning signs as well as timing is crucial in preventing dangerous build ups and breakdowns.

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Actually looking after ourselves and doing things that we want to do can be extremely difficult. It shouldn’t be, but too often do we punish ourselves for allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy the things that make us happy because we are “wasting time” when we could be doing something more productive and worthwhile. When will we realise that we are worthwhile!? Looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health and although it may not seem like it, sometimes taking a long, hot and relaxing bath is just what we need!

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Self care isn’t all Lush baths and whale music though! It can be something just as simple and boring as remembering to take your meds for the day, catching up on that tv show that you had fallen way behind with (I’m talking about you The Walking Dead!) or even just doing grocery shopping and allowing yourself to buy some tasty snacks as opposed to the trolley of vegetable that you tell yourself that you should be buying. Do what you actually want to do sometimes and it can really go a long way in terms of looking after yourself and preventing any breakdowns. Balancing your mood and mental health is extremely important for any one of us, but especially so if you are suffering from bipolar disorder as our moods can sometimes be so unpredictable and hard to control. However, if you have been struggling through the condition for a while it is likely that you are now able to anticipate any of the warning signs I mentioned earlier and work on getting yourself well again. So what are you waiting for? Go eat that Dairy Milk that’s been sat gathering dust in the fridge!

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When I was first told that I was suffering with bipolar disorder my first major concern was control. What if I can’t do the things I enjoy anymore without raging into a fit of mania? What if I can’t leave the house anymore through depression? What if, what if, what if!! It took me far longer than I am proud to admit to realise that “what if” really can go and screw itself in the ass! All of these issues have always been a part of me, things don’t just appear, nor do problems just create themselves as soon as you have a label slapped on you.

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No, mental health issues sure don’t make life any easier, and no they sure as hell don’t make remaining in control a barrel of laughs either however you can do this. Hell, you have been doing this – you’re still here aren’t you? That means a lot! You’ve already beaten so many odds just by making it this far, don’t get too het up on “staying in control” and certainly don’t worry about the things that you can do nothing about – try instead to live in the moment. Focus on you – love the things you love and make sure you always find enough time and space for yourself.

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There really is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to dealing with bipolar disorder. This is why it’s so important to listen to your own body and mind so that you can learn what works for you personally. Want to know what brings me back from the edge of a breakdown? Sleep. Family. Friends. Oh and tea, never forget about tea!

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Medication can be a minefield of important decisions, and no, it isn’t for everyone. However, it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to deciding whether choosing to utilise medication is the best course of action for you. So many people are scared of mental health medication, mainly due to the huge (unwarranted might I add!) stigma surrounding it. The general consensus by the public seems to be that if you rely on medication for your mental health then you are just weak, useless and not actually willing to even try to get better – quite frankly, these people are morons.

Would you tell someone suffering with colitis, HIV or (hey we don’t discriminate sexually here) chlamydia, to not take their medication? Of course you wouldn’t because that would be a totally ignorant and moronic thing for you to do. Medication is an important part of recovery for most health conditions and yet again I find myself screaming “mental health is no bloody different to physical health you tit bags!!” Everyone has to find their own personal formula for recovery and personally, I have chosen to use medication to deal with my anxiety and bipolar disorder. My anxiety stems from childhood abuse and so until I have fully dealt with this, it sure as hell isn’t going anywhere unfortunately (more on that in another blog, long story short – you get 6 sessions of therapy on the NHS which sufficed to say is not enough to deal with lifelong trauma and its impact on your life). And so, I use medication to allow me to live a relatively normal life. Yes, I will still have occasional panic attacks however thankfully they are extremely rare nowadays which means I can continue with my job in service. My day job? I’m a barista which I absolutely adore, a job that involves dealing with (A LOT) of people on a daily basis in an extremely small and enclosed environment – something that a few years ago I couldn’t have even considered as a possibility. But I love people, I love learning about their lives and getting to know my customers and I really do enjoy my job – so why shouldn’t I take medication to allow me to continue doing what I love?

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My bipolar is a bit more complex and irritating to be quite honest with you as it manifests itself in many different ways. I’ve tried everything I can think of when it comes to controlling my mood without medication – restricting certain things in my diet (I read some bullshit post online, don’t ask), therapy, exercise, mood tracking apps – you name it, I’ve done it but without medication this just seems to be useless for me!

My main symptoms that restrict me from living a normal life with my bipolar disorder are insomnia, lack of motivation during depressive periods and hyposexuality. In short – I can’t sleep, if I’m sad I physically can’t bring myself to do anything, and during periods of hypomania I get intense and overwhelming cravings for sex and sexual consent (again, more in a future blog post about this symptom – but trust me, no it is not a good thing!) My medication has helped me to not erase, but certainly deal with these symptoms much better meaning that my condition is managed correctly. I’m not saying that medication will be the magical miracle cure that you have been looking for because it might not be, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try it and explore your options. Speak with your GP, they can help you find what is right for your own personal recovery.

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The people around you are the most valuable resource you will ever have in your arsenal in fighting your mental health condition! However, it is important that you are surrounding yourself with the right people. People who are dismissive of your condition and your feelings are toxic as hell for your well being and should be avoided like the bubonic plague! Try and surround yourself with people who are keen to learn more about your condition so that they can help you as best as they can. I have a small group of these people including friends and family and I truly do consider myself so lucky. Don’t allow people who make you feel worse about yourself the luxury of sticking around in your company – you’re worth so much more than that!

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As I say, there will never be a one fits all formula for you to feel totally okay and put together 100% of the time, bipolar is never exactly one to allow that kind of thing – it’s a bit of a bitch like that. However, once you have experimented with what works and what doesn’t you can finally start to get a bit of a better handle on your life and live it with those that truly matter. Stay safe my lovelies, and thanks for baring with me during my mega break from blogging/YouTube – it means a lot. Hopefully, the blogs are back now, YouTube will need a little bit of a longer break until I find my camera again that I lost while moving house – not ideal! Have a wonderful day guys, much love.

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Chester Bennington: This really doesn’t get any easier does it?

As someone who has suffered with the anxiety and depression that comes alongside bipolar disorder throughout my life, suicidal thoughts have never exactly been a stranger to me. Don’t get me wrong, they come in varying degrees of severity and although sometimes they can be mild, they are always there in the back of my mind. Suicide to me, usually feels like a house that I will one day eventually have to buy and move into as that is just how my life has to pan out. But even then, I don’t actively have plans to go out and act on these thoughts, any time soon at least.

I always try to tell myself that you have to go through hell to appreciate the good stuff in life, and when I am struggling my hardest then I always convince myself that I must be in line for something pretty damn amazing as soon as this shit storm passes! I laugh at myself, I use humour to hide what this hell actually feels like. Because if people are laughing along with me then they can’t see me drown. It’s silly, I know this, but it is how I have always been and I never want to “burden” people with my crappy thoughts. My mind, my problem.

As a kid I loved Linkin Park and there music helped me feel a bit better in the prison that was my teenage mind, so of course when I heard the news about Chester Bennington a few days ago I was deeply saddened and shaken. When I hear about people older than me, especially people that I have always looked up to, struggling with their own mental health, even loosing their own battle to suicide, it leaves me at a loss. All I can think is that this really doesn’t get any better does it? It doesn’t get any easier, I am always going to have these thoughts, and daily fights with myself just to keep breathing.

That is not to say that I never thought that anyone over the age of 30 could suffer with mental illness, its more that I hoped with experience, things would get easier. It seems I am wrong. Looking at the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017 we can see that this year there have already been 6,639 suicides in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The highest suicide rate in the UK being that of men aged between 40 – 44, even though female suicides are at their highest levels in decades also.

So no, it doesn’t get easier. This is always going to be a battle, waking up every day and allowing myself to get up and live my life, getting through each and every minute fighting against my own mind is going to continue to be the hellish experience that it has always been. But although it is going to be a difficult battle, it is damn well going to be a battle that I am going to win.

If you feel like you are struggling and need some support then the Samaritans are always there 24/7, every day of the year. Give them a call on 116 123, the number is free and there is always someone there to listen to you and support you. Never feel alone, and remember you don’t have to be suicidal to call or ask for help.

Unhelpful Festive Social Comparisons

It is officially Christmas in less than a week and so we are officially in the full swing of things now as we count down the days. Christmas comes with many things, sending Christmas cards and gifts (often to people you never say two words to at any other time of the year!), carolling, and more importantly to this blog – comparing ourselves to everyone who matters!

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During Christmas time being with lots of people is inevitable and so it is human nature that we are going to start to compare ourselves and our achievements to those of those people around us. There are of course those lovely people (usually older family members, or the less sympathetic parents) that feel it is their duty to highlight just how well our second cousin Ginny is doing in her new six figure jet setting career on the other side of the world… But I think that we can all agree, that this kind of social comparison is just simply not helpful nor healthy!

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As much as I would love to have the perfect life that I have spent my life dreaming up and concocting inside my head, simply put I don’t. I definitely do not have that perfect life. If six year old Emmie were to look at my life now then she would sit and sob for hours after locking herself in the bathroom….(I did that a lot, sorry Mum!). But that doesn’t mean that my life isn’t a happy one!

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Sure, there are down sides (lots) and there are always going to be negative periods and people in my life that only want to bring me down or make me miserable (plenty this year thank you very much 2016!) but I am proud of the life I am living. This time last year, thanks to my anxiety I could not be left alone in a room for more than a few minutes without panicking and either reaching for the phone or going to find someone to sit with me. I was stuck in relationships and friendships that were doing nothing but drain me and was generally miserable.

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But now? I am living alone and renting my own place where I pay my own bills. I have my own car and have a gorgeous bunny called Gimli and adorable little tortoise called Flash to take care of. Point is, life is what you make it and despite the shit storm of naff-ness that has descended my life in 2016 I have certainly made the best of it which I something that I am keeping in mind when others start to make these pesky comparisons.

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No matter what people tell you about other people in your life remember this, you have a long and unpredictable life ahead of you and this is certainly not “it” for you! There is plenty of time left for you to do whatever you want to do. As cringey and cliché as it may appear there is an awful lot of truth in it! As long as you have a goal of what you want to achieve, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed if you aren’t already there. So hey, when good old Granny is boasting about your lovely older cousin Jeff, why not be happy for him and raise a glass? After all, it could be your successes that she’s doing everybody’s tits in with next year…

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*New Video* How to Cope With Christmas Shopping Panic Attacks

Yes I know, I suck. Blogmas kind of didn’t happen. Annoyingly, I have a lot of posts written and ready to go I just haven’t had time to actually post them because I have been working late due to xmas shopping in town. So I guess I’ll post what I can, sorry guys!

 

Those Nights I Don’t Want to be Alone

Usually, I am someone who really enjoys the peace and quiet of living alone. Of course there are times when I get lonely and miss the hustle and bustle of my family home consisting of my grandparents, mum and me as well as our many pets. But ever since moving out and living alone, I absolutely love having my own space. It means that I can wander round in my scruffs with my hair scraped back without make up or fear for destroying the sanity of any poor house mates. I can sing along to the soundtrack of my emo teenage years without fearing judgement from family members. But, and perhaps most enjoyably, I can stroll around my house naked. I love that clothes are optional – and although I can’t afford to put my heating on, and so clothes are well advised in my house, there is definitely a certain freedom in knowing that I don’t have to be wearing them. But I digress…

Unsurprisingly, this post is not going to be about my new and exciting voyage into the world of naturism, it’s a tad darker unfortunately. Depression is a bitch and although I seem to have the “smile and wave like everything is fine” in public thing down, when I am behind closed doors it is a little different. Unfortunately for me, tonight is one of those nights. If you yourself suffer with depression then I am sure you understand what “those nights” means, and am truly sorry you are able to empathise with me here. But if do, you know the nights that I am talking about.

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These are the nights where you come home and lock your door with the days fake smile still on your face as you lock up behind you. Staring at your key in the lock for a few minutes in silence, without moving, you finally break. Nights where you end up on the kitchen floor, sobbing, and I really do mean properly sobbing. Incomprehensible noises and attempts at words in regards to what has gone wrong. About everything that is currently going wrong, or could do in the future. You gasp for breath and try and clutch at what remains of your sanity as you weep for what is wrong with you, the world and everything around you.

You cry for everything that you just can’t deal with and panic at the sheer volume of that list. You feel like a failure. Like you make life worse for other people and start to question your own worth and reasons for existence. What if I wasn’t here? Who would actually miss me? I’d probably make a lot of people happier if I were just not around to complicate their lives any further right? These thoughts become louder and more dominant the more you try to drown them out until you are forced to cope with them the only way you know how.

This situation ends in one of two ways: you finally give into the almost instinctive urge to cause pain to remove pain. You feel disappointed in yourself for falling back into old habits, old coping mechanisms that you know deep down you can no longer allow yourself to rely on. As the blood and tears run your breathing slows and your hysteria begins to lessen – you have simply exhausted yourself with such emotion. Or, you take deep, exhausted, shuddering breaths as you silently cry yourself to sleep, where the nightmares and flashbacks can take a hold once more.

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The next day you awaken to a pillow stained with blood and tears. You wake in a cold sweat with a sore neck and a throbbing headache and are just searching for a way to make it stop. But you have to go to work/school/whatever, you know that you can’t. You’re tired, but not sleepy, you’re just tired of pretending and exhausted from promising that you’re “okay, honestly” when inside you’re slowly dying. So you get up, you get washed and dressed before standing in front of the mirror. You practice your fake smile one last time to attempt to convice yourself that you’re happy. It doesn’t work, but you walk out that door wearing it anyway where the world is none the wiser.

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I hope none of you understood the little detour my mind just took as that would mean you feel or have felt how this feels and I don’t want that. I’m struggling tonight, again, and so thought I’d try and write something to give myself a chance of understanding myself. I’m not sure I do, but here goes. Hope you’re well. All my love. x

Why We Need to Talk About High Functioning Depression

One in four people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives, and most of the time it is a silent battle, so chances are – you will know at least one of us! Whether it is your colleague, your teacher or even that nice girl that serves you your morning coffee with a constant smile on her face, what you don’t see is that behind that smile is screaming.depression-fake-smile-life-life-sucks-favim-com-1376197

We all have a stereotypical view of depression and anxiety, a sufferer having to force themselves out of bed every morning to struggle through the day, only to have themselves fail at every hurdle and end up back home again. Returning back to their duvet of self pity to cry and fret about the next day – am I getting warm? Sure, a lot of people think like that, and hell, I’m sure there are plenty of people with depression who do decide to deal with their depression in such a way – and that is fine! There is no right or wrong way to deal with this bitch of a condition, either way it’s going to hurt like hell and there is no point in pretending otherwise, so however a person copes is perfectly valid and acceptable.

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In most circles, high functioning depression is seen as more “acceptable” and certainly seen as easier and a “less serious” form of the condition but I must say that I fail to see how this opinion is formed. As someone with “high functioning depression” I can tell you that it is in no way bloody easy! If I were not so vocal about my mental health, then most people tell me that they would have no idea that I suffer with bipolar and anxiety – something which I am unsure how to take if I am honest.

I talk about my mental illnesses openly as I am in no way ashamed of them. Sure, I am aware that some people in my life certainly think less of me because of them, and there are many who treat me with a new sense of disregard as soon as they become aware of my conditions. However, I believe that people need to speak more openly about mental health in general so that we can help to remove this stigma and in doing so, remove the need for people like me to feel they have to hide away and struggle through everything on their own without being seen as weak.

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High functioning depression comes with all of the same struggles that come with lower functioning depression, as well as a whole host of new and “exciting” ones. To maintain a (relatively!) normal appearance, efforts must be doubled. Going out to see friends regularly becomes a chore sometimes more than a pleasure and I feel I cannot use my anxiety as an excuse as they will only take it personally, and “I should be able to do these things anyway damn it!”

Going to work every day and maintaining a happy and smiling appearance when sometimes all I want to do is to literally curl up in my bath (personal choice, I’ve spent many an hour crying in an empty bath) and scream into the silence until I stop feeling so intensely. Dealing with urges, as well as the reality of, self harm and thinking to yourself “well I can’t cut there or people will see through my uniform and know that I’m struggling” – I mean God forbid anyone have the chance to offer you help am I right?

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High functioning depression often comes with a demand for perfectionism and so is often followed by a lack of ability to give yourself any slack! I refuse to allow myself any leigh weigh when it comes to my mental illness affecting my life, it’s just not happening. If I promised someone that I would do something, or if I have a commitment then I am following through even if it means I make myself ill.

I, like many others, only get through a long shift by having a 2 minute cry in the toilet before slapping myself to get it back together again. Wiping my eyes, pinching my cheeks to draw colour and practising that old faithful smile. It’s funny really that the one feature that people often comment on to me is my smile. That I “brighten their day” as I am always happy and smiling when they see me. The really sad thing is that I actually take great pride in that. Although I know that a large portion of the time I have been smiling I have been pretty much dead behind the eyes, it proves to me that my façade is at least a convincing one and that I am not hurting anyone. That is my greatest fear, that I could possibly make someone else feel the way my mental illness can make me feel sometimes – and that is why I refuse to lay off myself.

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As the pace of every day living gets faster and faster, it becomes very clear that more and more people are suffering with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, but that a huge portion of these are keeping quiet and making themselves so much worse. Why is it that we think it is better to slowly kill ourselves by not taking proper care, than to actually ask for help!?

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So no, although all kinds of depression and mental health disorders are hell on earth to endure and fight your way through, “high functioning depression” is sure as hell not easier. Just because I may appear to have my shit together most of the time, I assure you that behind this trademark Emmie smile I’m crying 90% of the time…I just like to pretend otherwise!

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