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.

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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10 Things I Love About Performing

 

I have been performing in some shape or another ever since I can remember and I have always loved being on stage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very different to me enjoying public speaking as that is far from the truth! If I am performing then I am not myself, I am actor or a stage persona, the second I have to be myself all of my self-confidence disappears. I have always been a very shy and quiet person when I meet new people and so performing has really helped me to work on this and be the loud and bubbly person that I know that I am inside! Here are my top 10 reasons as to why I love performing.

  1. It helps my confidence!
    As I say, I have always struggled with confidence. When I have to speak in front of people then I almost forget how to talk, to the extent I have worked at places for over six months and the whole office didn’t even know my name! I know I am quiet in front of people that I don’t know and I hate that about myself and so it is always something that I am looking to improve wherever I can. When I am onstage I forget my anxieties and they no longer seem to matter to me. I am not myself, I am my character and am blinded by stage presence. Performing means that I have to get better as I get to work with so many amazing people throughout every stage of the rehearsal process….and they all remember my name!
  2. I meet amazing new friends!
    Thanks to my “wonderful” anxiety, I unsurprisingly find it a very daunting task to go out and make friends. In fact, making friends at all as an adult – anxiety or no anxiety – is bloody horrible! When you are a kid as you’re at school you have to make friends so that you are not alone, everybody is in the same boat really and it will benefit each of you to buddy up. But as an adult everyone is at different stages! Whether you have just started a new job, moved to a new area or are just looking to meet new people in a bar etc. it can be really difficult to find some common ground. But performing has helped me to meet some of my best friends in the world, as being thrown in at the deep end of the intense world of rehearsals is the perfect place to get to love people!
  3. It helps me to understand my emotion!
    As someone that suffers with a mood disorder (bipolar), wading through the moggy pit that is my emotions can be an impossibly daunting task! But acting is wonderful for that, to be able to successfully portray a character you need to do more than just recite their words. You need to understand their words and the motivation behind them. You need to see the reasoning behind every decision and choice, and the incentive pushing every sentence. Being someone else, helps me to understand how to be me.
  4. It improves my public speaking!
    As I have said, speaking in front of people as myself is absolutely horrifying to me! Knowing what to say is tough enough, but then I have the loud voice of my anxiety telling me that everybody in the room is laughing at me and that I am their own personal and collective in joke. Performing regularly helps me to get used to being in front of people and allows me to start bleeding a little more of myself into the performance to help me remember how to talk at that next big meeting!
  5. Your empathy improves!
    Being placed in a situation whereby you have to portray the emotions of someone else in a situation that you yourself have never been in, then you have to develop a great sense of empathy. Performing helps me to understand how other people may see the world and also helps me to read how they may be feeling.
  6. It helps me to learn to trust people!
    Thanks to many factors I have real difficulties when it comes to trusting people however performing is helping me to get over that. When you are working on a production you have to rely on other people, you simply do not have a choice and so if you don’t learn to trust your production team and cast, things will just quickly fall apart.
  7. Helps you to learn how to efficiently work in a team!
    As I have kind of mentioned in previous points, a theatrical production demands excellent team work to allow everything to gel properly. Your show becomes kind of like your little child and you are determined to make it the best that it can be. Everybody will band together to combine ideas and skill sets to come up with ideas that you would never have even been able to dream of on your own.
  8. It takes over your life….in a good way!
    From learning your lines, to rehearsals God knows how many times a week, promotion work and finally performances (not to forget the after show party!) the performance that you are working towards really can take over your life – but I genuinely do love it! It takes over most of my waking hours, and I am exhausted and so occasionally am a complete ratty bum, but it is something that I actually want to be spending all this time on because it is all worth it!
  9. You gain experience in so many things!
    Since I have been performing, I have learnt to do so many things! I can now direct, put on a show and advertise it, work a set of stage lights, create a props and costume script – even fire plans and risk assessments! When you are putting on a show, everyone comes together and does whatever they can to make the show a success – all hands on deck!
  10. It makes me so proud of myself!
    When you take that final bow and hear just how much the audience have enjoyed themselves, it really is all worth it. The buzz I get from that is outstanding and there is nothing like it in the world! I love everything about my performing life and I don’t intend to ever stop!

My Relaxing Day at Volair Spa in Knowsley

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get invited to Volair Spa in Knowsley and it really was an awesome experience. I have never had a “spa day” as such and so I was a little apprehensive, especially as it involved meeting a lot of new people. The past week I have been in a mild hyper manic phase and so now I am suffering with the inevitable downer that always follows, and so I was more nervous than I would usually be. I have promised myself that this img_5184year I am not going to make my bipolar or anxiety hold me back. If I get opportunities, then I am going to allow myself to be excited about them. I am so glad I went!

 

When I arrived (late! Sorry again!), I was greeted by Hayley who was really friendly and welcomed me with a dressing gown and slippers so I could go and get changed. I jumped into my tankini, that didn’t match at all cause I’m a terrible at being a girl, I then went to sit with some other lovely bloggers. The lovely people had laid out some pastries, juice and herbal teas for us and I certainly made use of the pastries – nom nom!

We split into two groups after a quick chat introducing ourselves and my first experience was to sit (on some amazing reclining chairs might I add) and have a facial experience with Hayley. She was so funny and talked us through the importance of taking our make up at the end of the day. I must be completely honest with you, it is very rare that I remember to take off my make up, and if and when I finally do, it is with a face wipe and brute force for that pesky eye make up!

However, after this really informative talk where we used some gorgeous products from Aroma Works which smelled absolutely beautiful! We first used the purity eye cleanser which was an oil that we rubbed onto our hands and then applied to our eye areas to loosen any existing make up. We also used a facial oil that was specific to our individual skin types, mine was for oily skin.

img_5187 img_5188 img_5189 img_5190 img_5192As someone with a very oily face (sounds grim I know, sorry) I would personally never have thought about putting a facial oil onto my skin as I thought that it would have just made things worse. But I must say that after this experience my skin has never felt better! Even now, the day after, my skin feels really soft and looks glowy – to the point that I haven’t felt the need to put make up on! This never ever happens, I put a full face of make-up on to answer the door to the post man! So I’ll definitely be looking out for these products as soon as payday hits! I learnt so much in this talk and I think I may have even been convinced to stop being so damn lazy with my skin care…

We then went into one of the lovely treatment rooms to watch a Crystal Clear micro-dermabrasion facial treatment, something which previously had honestly scared the living hell out of me! I always thought that it was something akin to sandblasting your face with high powered suction and coarse crystals – but it couldn’t have been further from the truth! The therapist showed us the crystals and placed them on our hands so that we could see just how small and smooth they were on the skin. We then got to feel the machine on our skin so we could see that it really didn’t hurt – it just seemed like a tiny, tiny hoover! I really would love to try one and the fear has certainly gone.img_5197

Then we had lunch which was a buffet with different sandwiches, wraps, crisps and fruit and more importantly we were greeted with prosecco! After a few glasses of prosecco and a good chat with the girls we then went on to our second experiences. To do this, we went downstairs and we got to smell a selection of exfoliation sugar scrubs and choose one that we loved. My favourite was the lavender one as it reminded me of all of my relaxation things that I use at home. We were given a shot glass full of our chosen scrub and at first I was worried that this wouldn’t be enough. However, the consistency is more like a jam than anything else, and covered my whole body easily. We then washed it off in the shower and moved on.

Volair Spa has an Alpine Herbal Sauna and Salt Crystal Steam Room and so we took advantage of these. Admittedly, saunas usually fill me with a bit of a sense of dread as the high temperature and tiny rooms often mean that I struggle to catch my breath and end up having a panic attack. However, one of the things that I loved about this sauna room was that the door was glass and so I could see out and understand that I was not trapped.

img_5198 img_5199The steam room felt lovely as well and we were dripping with sweat in minutes (sorry! TMI?). The only thing is, as my vision is so terrible I really can’t walk more than two steps without my glasses so I had to wear them inside. This meant that they steamed up every ten seconds, which although funny, got annoying after a while, but that is just the fault of my shocking vision – thanks genetics! Volair have an offer where two people can visit the spa for just £15 and I think I’m going to treat me and my mum to pamper day before Christmas.

We then went back upstairs and were given goodie bags to take home with us. We said goodbye to everyone and recording a quick video testimonial before leaving. Considering I had to then drive over 60 miles home I didn’t have chance to look through my goodie bag however when I got back I had a look through all the great things I had. There are a lot of samples of the products that we have used throughout the day and a voucher to return (which I’ll definitely be using soon!).img_5201 img_5203 img_5204

 

Disclaimer: I was asked to attend the event but writing this post was not compulsory, I just really loved my day!