I’m Writing A Book!

 

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Yep, the secret is out! I’ve been offered a publishing contract with Jessica Kingsley Publishers to write a book about bipolar disorder.

The book is going to be a practical guide to bipolar disorder. I’ll offer tips and advice on how to navigate daily life and how to manage symptoms. All of this will be alongside my own experiences of living with the condition!

Now I need to just write the bloody thing! You can send me coffee to fuel me whilst I’m busy working on the manuscript over Xmas and into 2020!

And it all started here, on this blog. I’m truly grateful for each and every one of you that takes the time to read my posts. I’ve thought about giving up writing about mental health, and bipolar in particular numerous times, but the support I have online is incredible and has kept me going, so thank you!

It’s made me reflective and as we head into a new decade, I couldn’t think of a better end to this one. In 2010 I was a mess. I was constantly manic or depressed, there was never any respite from the chaos in my mind. It left me exhausted and physically ill. In mid 2012 I had a breakdown and came close to losing everything. I lost my job, and somehow my partner Jimi stuck with me, supported and cared for me, even though I was terrified he would leave.

Then I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1, but believe me, that wasn’t the end of what became the most gruelling, challenging decade. I was out of work for years, and I had to redefine who I was as a person. My career had been my life, it was me. I went on benefits, and was in a constant state of worry over my finances. I had to find a new way of living my life, a healthier way. It took years before I found medication that worked for me. A combination that didn’t have awful side effects.

2019 has been a better year. I took a huge leap and started working as a freelance writer. I write about mental health, and I’m passionate and committed to my job. I’ve finally felt in control of bipolar, rather than it controlling every decision I make. Now, at the end the year, I have a book deal. I’ve come so far and I’m so proud of myself; something I find difficult to do and admit.

The me of 2010 would never have believed what I’m doing now. She was too focused on getting through the next day, the next hour. But I made it through, I fought my way through this decade.

I can’t wait to share the book with you all. For now, I’ll be typing away on the manuscript, but I’ll still be writing here on the blog when I can!

 

 

 

 

Bipolar and Credit Cards, Loans and Debt

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Mania for me always leads to overspending. I’ll spend an exorbitant amount of money on useless, meaningless stuff.

Shoes, bags, clothes, collectible toys, lego figurines (yes, really), games consoles, hotel rooms – I could go on and on. I’m not a materialistic person by nature, but with mania I just can’t help myself. It’s an overwhelming compulsion.

Overspending is a common symptom of hypomania and mania. It can have a huge impact on your day to day life, especially when an episode has ended. You realise how much you’ve spent and it can lead to debt, anxiety over money and even not having enough money to cover all the bills.

At one time, during a serious and extended bout of mania, I amassed; four store cards, and three credit cards. I maxed them all out. I found myself in a mountain of debt, thousands of pounds worth. I couldn’t afford the repayments and was threatened with bailiffs. Even though I was earning a reasonable wage, I had to give up my flat. Luckily, I could move in with my parents, but was still paying rent to them and had to try and somehow reach the repayments every month.

What upsets me is how I was preyed on by companies when I was extremely vulnerable and ill. One time, I was in the town centre, when I was approached by a salesperson on the street. I was absolutely wired, full of manic energy and couldn’t stop talking. It was obvious something was wrong, that I was very unwell. They used my impulsiveness against me, and with very little convincing, got me to sign up for a credit card. I starting using it as soon as it arrived. I didn’t check the APR before signing up, which was extortionate. Impulsiveness reigns supreme when I’m manic and I’d sign up for pretty much anything if it was offered to me. Every time I was asked to sign up for a store card, I obliged.

There must be some way of prohibiting people when they’re manic from signing up for credit cards, or taking out a loan. I don’t know how this would work, but it would have saved me a huge amount of stress and worry about money. The stress alone has made me ill, and I’ve become severely depressed because of it. I still overspend when I’m manic. Although now I don’t have access to my credit cards unless I really need to use them. I’ve handed them over to my partner, because I can’t trust myself with them when I’m ill. But what if you have no partner or anyone you can trust and understand the problem? I don’t know what the solution is, but companies and banks should be ashamed at how easy it is to qualify for loans and credit cards.

Why I’m anxious about seeing a Doctor

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I’ve been putting off seeing my doctor for ages.

Why?

I’m afraid. Afraid that they won’t be able to help me. That they’ll fob me off with a ‘just keep doing what you’re doing’ response. Anxious that they’ll want to change my medication. Again.

I’ve had a difficult year with medical professionals. Long story short, I was discharged whilst feeling suicidal. I made an official complaint to the hospital, and they investigated. The outcome; the psychiatrist denied his behaviour and that I agreed and was willing to be discharged. So he lied, to save himself. I was left without support from mental health services and had to fend for myself. I carried myself through that bout of depression and I’m still here. But that’s not the point. I felt let down, isolated, alone, and incredibly fearful for the future.

This year has been tough on my mental health. I decided to go full time as a freelance writer, giving up the security of a regular wage. Mental illness has kicked my arse. A few months ago I was depressed, and suffering from tactile hallucinations for the first time. I was scared, terrified of these crawling sensations on my skin. It meant I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia is painful. It seeps through your very being and leaves you hollow. I was sleeping maybe 2 -3 hours a night. For months. I tried everything I could think of before heading to the doctors. With the help of medication, I could sleep again. The hallucinations dissipated and the relief washed over me. I felt like I could breathe again.

Despite all this, I can’t bring myself to talk about mental illness with a doctor.

I didn’t mention the hallucinations to my GP (general practitioner). I knew they would refer me to mental health services. The idea of this fills me with anxiety. The number one thought that goes through my head is,

“What if I end up with my last psychiatrist?” The same one I made an official complaint against. Surely there would be some form of animosity from them. I’d be on edge and be distrustful of their competency. So then I’d have to explain this whole story to my GP, before they referred me. I might have to wait even longer than usual to see a different psychiatrist. What if they are the only one available? What would I do? I can’t afford to go private. There are so many questions going through my head, and the process just makes my head ache, and fills me with anxiety.

I know I need to see a doctor. I’m experiencing some weird symptoms that I think might be connected to one of my medications. I don’t want to have to change meds. On the whole, they’re doing a good job. As long as I keep stress in check, they work and keep me stable. It took years to find the right combination and I’m so afraid of losing this balance I’ve achieved.

Again, I need to see a doctor. There’s no way I want insomnia to come back. I’m scared of psychosis and how it could manifest. I need to work through these feelings and book an appointment when I feel brave enough.

The ‘Mental Health Conversation’ Is Not Boring – And Still Relevant

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I’ve seen a shift recently in how people view advocacy and raising awareness around mental health and mental illness. To some it’s now ‘boring’ or no longer necessary or needed. I think they’re wrong.

It should be obvious to anyone in the UK that mental health services are underfunded. Waiting times are atrociously long and there is still is no parity of esteem (when mental health is given equal priority to physical health) in the NHS. Understaffed services mean staff are stressed and over worked. Patients can’t be admitted when they’re seriously ill because of a lack of beds. Young people are being sent hundreds of miles away from their families for care. Suicide rates have gone up and are at the highest since 2002. The problems go on and on. It’s vital we talk about this and make change happen by campaigning, writing to our MP’s and making our voices heard when there is a general election.

Some people are making the case for this being the only issue, or at least the main topic, in the mental health conversation. To say we are at saturation point of awareness coverage, or we need to move on, I think underestimates the stigma many individuals still face. It’s almost naive and I think sometimes comes from a position of privilege. Some mental illnesses are talked about more than others. They’re more accessible, easier to digest and people to relate to. Certain groups are more willing to listen, accept and support someone with a mental illness. When you mix in other prejudices that people cope with (racism, homophobia, transphobia, for instance) which exacerbate mental ill health, these issues need to be addressed.

It worries me that with this attitude, there will be instead a shift in focus in the media, to another cause or issue that feels more relevant, or needs addressing. Our valid concerns will be less in the public eye. Changing public perceptions of mental illness shows the public how serious these conditions are and why it’s so important that we can all access quality, timely care to mental health services when we need it. Awareness educates and informs, and sways public opinion to standing up for our cause.

We often talk about reducing stigma/raising awareness or the need for more funding for mental health services, but why are they seen as mutually exclusive? Surely we can talk about both issues and still help to create change. This conversation as so many have labelled it, is far reaching and means different things to different people. So what do we actually mean when we say ‘mental health’ ?

People still don’t know how to talk to someone who is experiencing psychosis. They’re still scared and uncomfortable around people with schizophrenia. They think bipolar is just being happy or sad. They still believe people with BPD are manipulative. That PTSD only happens to soldiers. People still describe OCD as being overly tidy. They still think people talking about depression and anxiety are attention seeking. So can anyone please tell me the conversation is no longer needed?

 

To My Online World, And How You’ve Helped Me Grow

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TW: Suicidal ideation

The period between 2003 – 2013 was a whirlwind of changes for me. The catalyst for these changes came from my online world. A place that held me safely in it’s hands. It was a place without judgement and a community full of compassionate individuals. I could feel the warmth and strength of genuine friendship reverberate around me. I felt like I’d finally found my family.

Where did this vulnerability, this raw honesty come from? The internet was full of the outsiders. Individuals trying to find their people.

In real life I was struggling. I felt like an outcast. I was trying to discover who I was and I felt deeply uncomfortable in myself. I’d never found my ‘tribe’ at school, or even when I started University in 2004. I was constantly called ‘weirdo’, ‘freak’, ‘alien’ during my time at school. I thought University would be a positive change, but I was so very wrong. I found myself surrounded by people I had little in common with. It caused me to modify my behaviour; the way I talked, the music I listened to, the shows I watched, so I could fit in. There was an intense, feverish need to belong. I wrongly thought I was the one that needed to change. That my differences were holding me back. I didn’t have anyone in my life urging me to celebrate them.

University life ended abruptly for me. I didn’t know at the time, but I was struggling with bipolar disorder. For the first term I’d been manic, euphoric and full of an insatiable energy. I fitted in with others in my halls of residence because I was the life of the party. By the next term I was in a downward spiral into depression. I realised the friendships I’d made were based on going out to bars and clubs and my unceasing hyperactivity. I had nothing else in common with them. Feeling alone and desperate, I dropped out.

Going to Uni meant owning my first laptop. At home we’d had a family desktop computer. It was so ancient that my teachers would ask why I was writing essays on a typewriter.  I’d missed out on msn messenger. Having one computer between six people as a teenager meant battling with my brothers’ to use it. Homework would have to come first and then there was my Dad who was also studying for a degree. My best friend lived five minutes away so if I wanted to chat, I’d just go over to hers. Now she’d left for University and I was back at my family home. My deepest connection to someone outside my immediate family had disappeared.  I felt lost without her.

Having my own laptop coincided with me finding my independence. I didn’t discover the online world until I’d dropped out of Uni. I was a huge anime fan and in my search for original Japanese versions I stumbled upon the then humble world of internet forums. These were the days of  hours of constant buffering. An online video could take half an hour or more to buffer enough to make it watchable. Infuriating as it was, it meant my attention was drawn to the forums in the sidebar of these sites. I felt awkward introducing myself to strangers on the internet, but I was bored and wanted to waste some time whilst the wheel of death spun round in front of the video. Greetings started pinging back. I felt a rush of excitement that people were acknowledging me.

I started paying more interest in the content. It wasn’t just people discussing anime. They were talking about their lives, their hopes for the future, their worries and doubts. These were people that were showing a genuine interest in me. Collectively, we were lonely. I had always been made fun of for my passions. I listened to under the radar indie, electronica, house, techno and hip hop music. An eclectic mix that people in my real life just didn’t get. Then I was also a nerd who watched Star Trek and read graphic novels and manga. I played video games and was obsessed with Nintendo and the Zelda games. Now I’d found a group of people that had had the same experiences and liked what I liked. A group that were smart, funny and lovable.

Names didn’t matter in the forums. Your age, gender, ethnicity wasn’t important. What was important was creating meaningful connections and supporting each other. If I’d had a bad day, I’d go straight on the forum to vent my frustration. It didn’t feel like I was shouting into the void. 

The first people I came out as bisexual to were my online friends. The connections we’d forged meant I was comfortable enough to tell them. It was the most vulnerable I’d ever made myself, but I wasn’t afraid. I was met with a pure acceptance. These were no longer just strangers, no longer just people, but my close friends. Coming out online to this small, tightly bounded group made me feel safe and secure. One person in particular was almost deafening in their support. She called herself Mel9000, and we’d grown close. About a week later she made an unusually tentative message. She’d found the courage to tell us all she was gay.

This brings me back to why we felt we could be so open online. These were people that didn’t feel accepted, because of their lifestyle, because of their idiosyncrasies. The internet opened up the world to us; we could find people that we clicked with instantly. Many of us felt socially isolated in real life. Everyone else seemed to connect and create friendships so seamlessly. I could hide who I was and put on an act to fit in, but many of the people I met online either wouldn’t do this, or had no idea how to. I wouldn’t say I was lucky to be able to put up a facade and make real life friends. In fact, it made me feel more alone and isolated. 

My family didn’t understand how I could spend hours alone in my room. When in fact, I was surrounded by friendly, supportive people; my online family. Mel and mines relationship had grown. We were speaking to each other privately away from the forums. We realised we both lived in the UK, living a few hundred miles apart. Excitedly we realised we could meet, out in the real world. We met and started a relationship. It felt we already knew each other, we had overshared so much of ourselves online.

The most valuable gifts the internet gave me were of self belief. That being weird was an asset. I could use it to propel my creativity forward into new and exciting places. That there were people that would accept me out there in the real world, I just had to work harder to find them, and I did.

The internet began to change. The forums I’d grown so attached to started petering out. But then, I hadn’t been paying them as much attention. I also changed. I met my now husband through online dating. He sent me a ‘wink.’ I brazenly sent back an essay about myself, with a touch of oversharing thrown in. It obviously worked and we’ve now been together for coming up to ten years. The forums had shown me that the internet could bring individuals together, that otherwise would never have met. As we got to know each other, we realised we’d been living in the same town, and going to the same gigs. I’d been up at the front dancing away, he’d been standing shyly at the back. It felt so strange to realise someone I had such a powerful connection with had over the years been standing just meters away from me at music festivals and at bars. To be in so close a proximity to someone but never speak, only to meet online and fall in love shows the power of the internet.

After over a decade of struggling to understand my constantly extreme mood swings and bizarre behaviour, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and Psychosis. It whipped up an array of emotions for me; of a deep guttural anger, a sense of purest relief and of almost overwhelming fear. This was in 2012. I doubt without the forums I was so attached to I would have survived to receive a diagnosis. I never felt judged for sharing my feelings.

I’m still deeply connected to my online world and the connections I continue to create. There’s been this refocus in my online life in the past three years, to twitter and the mental health community that resides there. Twitter can be an endlessly supportive place, it’s just the way you use it that’s important. I’ve managed to find yet again a group of people who I can rely on, that I can lean on when life gets tough. People will share the most intimate thoughts about their mental health which takes serious guts. Most of the time we’re met with love and support, but every now again a troll finds it’s way through. This for me is the major difference in how the internet used to be. It has harsher edges now and it’s easier to find yourself getting cut. It feels more open and although I embrace the fact that more and more people have access to the internet, it can easily lead to confrontation.

I look at it this way; it’s an opportunity to educate and inform someone who has lived life from an entirely different perspective. Whether they are willing to learn and grow from my experiences that I share online, is entirely up to them. I believe by utilising this perspective the internet could become a better place to be in. We need to relearn that we can’t change people. We certainly can’t force that change by shouting and screaming our opinions at one another. We can use the passion for connection and understanding from that more innocent time on the internet. We are capable of putting our thoughts forward with both passion and kindness. There is growth for more genuine acts of listening and accepting difference. In the mental health community on twitter is where I’m seeing a burgeoning sense of togetherness. I feel like part of a group of like minded people again.

I felt pretty lost after my diagnosis. In fact, I became suicidal. I remember I had been sitting at the table crying for what seemed like hours. The thoughts circling my mind were becoming too painful. With conviction, I walked to the kitchen and opened the drawer where my pill boxes were laid out. Collecting them up I spread the medication over the table. I grabbed a bottle of whiskey and began drinking from it, grimacing as I did so. The tears continued unabated and between sips I cried hysterically whilst staring at the tiny pills.

I was inconsolable. I felt there was no hope for me, that I had to keep fighting when I had no fight left. I was crying so much I could hardly breathe through my sobs. I felt devoid of life. It felt like I was in a haze between life and death, of wanting to die and making it a reality. It didn’t feel like my mind was connected to my body any longer. The world around me felt ethereal, and I in a trance. A trance that could only be broken by ending my life. I wasn’t alone for the rest of the day, with my boyfriend coming home early from work to look after me. I don’t remember much else from that day. The hours morphed into a muddied state of tears and an inescapable dread. The only escape I could find was going to bed, and as I lay there I wondered if dying was like falling asleep, and how I wished that it could be this easy; that I didn’t have to ever wake up from this sleep.

I would never have written this, or admitted it, if it hadn’t been for the support I now have from the community on twitter. It’s different to the support I had on the forums back in the noughties, but it isn’t inferior. The way I spoke about my mental illness back then was full of oversharing, but often with a pinch of sarcasm and self deprecation. I hadn’t grown to accept what I was going through and how much of an impact it was having on my daily life.

As a writer I self promote; as a freelancer its essential. I’m older now and the way I use the internet has evolved as I’ve matured. I have more of a foothold, a stronger online presence. I’m fiercely open, loud and proud about my experiences of mental illness and being bisexual. There’s no more anonymity from me. I’ve found that’s a positive step. The forums I found such a connection with may have disappeared, but they gave me the confidence to stand up for the vulnerable, embrace the weird and fight against discrimination. I truly believe these online communities forged the way towards creating a generation more open to difference than ever before.

Tactile Hallucinations

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For the past few months I haven’t been sleeping properly. It has taken over all aspects of my life. Most notably, here on my blog. I haven’t blogged for months, because I simply haven’t had the concentration span to finish a post.

I’ve been irritable and moody. My short temper is now just a very blunt fuse. Every little annoyance is blown way out of proportion. I’m exhausted all the time. I walk around in a haze not really able to focus.

I have tried everything I can think of to try and sleep. I’ve listened to everyone’s opinions and well meaning advice. I’ve stopped drinking. Cut down on caffeine. I’m exercising more. I’ve even tried meditating, which for me is unheard of. Nothing has worked.

You’re probably thinking,

“Just go to the doctor already!”

You see, I’ve been putting it off. I knew if I went I’d have to talk about the main cause of why I can’t sleep. Everyday for months, I’ve felt like something is crawling over my skin. Mostly I can ignore it during the day, I’m moving around, busy with work, or socialising. At night though the feeling is hellish. Laying in the dark everything feels more intense, more real. There’s a crawling, ticklish feeling over a toe. I slap it with the palm of my hand. A few seconds later I feel something on my leg, my arm, even my face and neck. It goes on and on for hours.

I’ve found with much of the psychotic symptoms I’ve displayed, like hearing voices, my first reaction is to deny, deny, deny. I think, there must be a mosquito in my room. Countless times I’ve got out of bed, turned the light on and scanned the room for the little bugger. I never find it. There isn’t anything to find. This week I’ve managed to face it head on and go and see my GP. I wasn’t going to mention it but the doctor very astutely recognised I was holding back the real reason I was having so much trouble sleeping. Please can we have more doctors like her, who are attentive, empathetic and make time for their patients! I need to go back and sort out a referral to see a psychiatrist, because at the moment I don’t have one. This was after I was discharged in the same appointment where I admitted having suicidal thoughts only hours earlier.

As I’m writing this I can feel a crawling sensation on my thigh. I’m wearing shorts so I can see the skin where there feels like there should be a bug. I’m looking at it and still the sensation lingers on. It’s freaky as fuck. I’m desperately wishing for it to stop now.

I worry intensely about going to bed, because I know I’ll be kept awake by these phantom insects. Every night I think to myself,

“This is the night where it stops. This is the night where I can finally sleep.”

But every night it’s the same old frustrating routine.

This is very new to me, and I’m still coming to terms with it. Even though I’ve experienced psychosis before, and I’m open about my experiences, I’ve still found myself nervously talking to my partner and family about this new symptom. I still worry how people will look at me when I explain the experience. I want to know more people that have tactile hallucinations, have discussions and learn from one another, so get in touch in the comments or message me!

What Not To Say To Someone With Psychosis

Psychosis happens amongst people with the mental illnesses schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, post partum psychosis, and sometimes those with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and severe depression. Psychosis is experienced in two different ways; hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations are when a person hears, sees, smells, tastes or feels something that isn’t really there. It’s a sensory experience that happens without any outside stimuli. The world around them is perceived differently to everyone else, with others not being able to see, hear, or feel what they can. The whole experience feels very real to the person experiencing it. One of the most common hallucinations is hearing sounds and voices.

Those with psychosis often lose touch with reality and suffer delusions. Delusions are when you believe wild theories and beliefs that often have no evidence based in fact. People may have what’s called ‘delusions of grandeur’ where they may feel like the most important person in the world. They may believe they have powers or intelligence above and beyond anyone else.

Since being open about my experiences of psychosis, I’ve had many ‘helpful’ comments and sometimes some that are just downright insulting. So I’ve put together a list of the top comments that really shouldn’t be said to anyone with psychosis.

“Does that mean you’re violent?

This one comes up again and again. A very small minority of people with psychosis are dangerous. The vast majority are actually far more at risk of being a victim of violence and crime than committing one. Psychosis in fact makes you feel extremely vulnerable and scared of the world around you.

“Have you taken your meds?”

I find being asked this condescending and just rude. When I’m going through an episode of psychosis, being asked this question is not helpful. It actually makes me feel more paranoid than I already am.

“I’ve had hallucinations when I took…”

Ok, you may have taken an hallucinogen at some point, but it’s an entirely different experience when you suffer with psychosis. You have no idea when the next episode may happen, you can’t pick and choose how and when.

“You must be really mental, shouldn’t you be in hospital?”

I have lived with psychosis since I was a teenager and I’ve learnt how to cope with the voices I hear. When I have delusions I rely on my partner and family to keep an eye on me and my behaviour. It is possible to have an episode of psychosis and manage it without hospitalisation. Believing I should be locked away is deeply stigmatising and creates barriers to people discussing it. I might be having an experience that person finds uncomfortable and doesn’t fully understand, but that is on them to educate themselves, not for me to hide away.

“It’s just like having an imaginary friend isn’t it?”

I hear voices and no, it’s not like having an imaginary friend. That’s because children use their imaginations to create stories and scenarios. Psychosis feels like it’s coming from an outside source, from outside your own inner monologue or imagination. Imaginary friends are often a source of comfort to the person. Although voices can sometimes be a positive experience, they can also be deeply frightening and disturbing.

“That’s such a stupid thing to believe!”

Confronting and arguing with someone about a delusion they are experiencing is not helpful. It may sound ridiculous to you, but to them, in a midst of a psychotic episode it is very real. You can’t convince someone to start looking at something in a different way. They’re unwell and need understanding and support. Empathise with their situation and what they’re going through. Try and focus on what might be troubling them and what you might be able to do to alleviate the stress they’re feeling.

“Just stop thinking about it!”

This doesn’t work. It might be frustrating trying to understand, but you can’t just snap out of a psychotic episode. I literally can’t stop thinking about the delusion or the voices I’m hearing. Often the person just needs to ride out the experience if they’re having hallucinations. Instead focus on asking what you can do to help them. Be gentle in your questioning and stay calm.


Yes, I Do Miss Being Manic

I find myself pining for the person I become when I’m manic.

I’ve written before about how mania isn’t always fun. I do miss it at times, no matter how many times I tell myself the negative aspects of it.

Mania can be a mind blowing, euphoria filled trip. It’s honestly better than any drug I’ve ever taken. When it’s good, it’s fucking awesome. I’ve had epic nights out fuelled by coke and MDMA, but I’ve had days and weeks of endless bliss and a sustained feeling of euphoria just from being manic. Drugs just can’t compete with the feeling and the durability of mania.

When it leaves me I’m left with a mania hangover. After a while, when the memories of the destruction it caused in my life start to fade, I begin to miss it.

The creativity is the major one I miss. When I’m in a manic state, creativity becomes my everything. I have this incredible surge of confidence and self belief that comes from nowhere. I truly believe I can do anything.

I have always been creative. I started playing the drums when I was eight, I studied art up to A level and I continue to draw, sketch and sculpt. I almost studied sculpture at University, but decided instead on creative writing. I am always writing, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, or on my blog.

As anyone does, I have times when I’m motivated and focused, or I’ll be inspired by something. The difference with mania is the creativity is astoundingly concentrated. My whole life will be consumed with the need to create. I’ll forget to eat or sleep, the house will become grimy and messy. I won’t shower because that takes too much time. So I sit in my trash ridden house with grimy hair feverishly writing or painting away. I’ll put off paying bills and running important errands because creating will be all that matters.

My mind at these times is sodden with creative ideas. I’m an artistic person by nature, but bipolar and in particular mania, doesn’t make me a creative genius. What it does do is make me more energised and more productive. I can’t ignore it and it turns into a flood of activity; from researching, buying resources and creating. It’s like I’m possessed, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Except, I don’t want it to stop. I long for these moments, whether they last for a week or a month, when I can find inspiration from anywhere. I can pluck new ideas out of thin air. It is an enticing state, and one I miss when it has dissipated. I can be up and wide awake at three in the morning still sketching or writing.

What mania makes me is incredibly confident. Sometimes this confidence turns into delusion. I believe that everything I am creating is like gold dust, and must be seen and shared. I have written reams and reams of notes of ideas for a book, at the time believing them to be the best ideas I’ve ever had. When I look back on them at a later time all I see is scribbled nonsense, a stream of consciousness, misspelled and a jumble of words. It’s like the pages of these notebooks are a reflection of my manic mind. My mind is constantly darting from one idea to another, and never finishing my original point. My mind is distracted by the smallest spark of an idea, and every thought that comes to mind grips my attention. I show everyone what I’ve been working on, with a pride that verges on narcissism. I feel I have to do something with my work so I start a business, start writing a book, or both.

This post is not meant to glorify mania. It’s my honest opinion on how mania makes me feel. There is a duality to my feelings on mania, they often cross paths and I feel negatively and positively about the experience all at once. It’s confusing and I know feeling like I do is not a healthy way of coping with bipolar. However, I do feel this way and it would be wrong of me not to be open about this thought process.

Mental Illness Is Complicated and Some People Just Don’t Get It

I’ve been really struggling this year…

I’ve been out to gigs with friends.

I’ve had nights out dancing and joking.

I’ve caught up with friends over coffee.

I can still have a social life and *shock* have a good time even when I’m having a bad time with mental illness. I’ve written about having a social life with mental illness before. The thing about mental illness is it’s complicated. It’s not black and white. It’s not all or nothing.

It isn’t just staring into space, or laying in bed/on the sofa all day. There are ups and downs within a bad patch. I can smile and laugh in the same week as when I can’t stop bursting into tears. It’s complicated living with Bipolar and the mania/depression cycle.

People expect when you’re depressed that you must spend all day sitting crouched in a corner, clutching your head. I don’t think I’ve ever done this, once. They expect that you spend all day in bed in your pyjamas. Life goes on when you’re depressed and sometimes you have to go with it. It’s not all about putting a brave face on things. Sometimes, I just feel like me again. It might only be for a day, half a day even. In this short space of time of feeling better, you’re damn right I’m going to make the most of it. I go out and see friends and generally try to enjoy myself. I know it’s not going to last so I take advantage of the moment.

I can also be going through a manic phase, but deep down I’m miserable. I can hate my life and be despairingly unhappy, yet I can’t stop all the thoughts racing through my head.

It’s not just that people expect certain behaviour from you, they’re almost insulted when you don’t act that way. I’ve said I’m depressed and people have been surprised when I’ve managed to go to a party on Friday night. When I’ve been signed off work ill I’ve hidden from colleagues. I’ve gone into town during the day, or had a meal out in the evening and been paranoid someone would see me and assume I was faking being ill. So I’d isolate myself and sit at home. Then there’s the inevitable question people ask,

“But I thought you were ill? you must be better now, right?!” If my answer is no, I’m still ill and struggling, I can see the look of disapproval on their face. How dare I take control and embrace a few hours when I feel better? It doesn’t make sense to them, because they don’t live with a long term mental illness. I can understand it’s hard to empathise with something you haven’t experienced. All I expect from people is to try. To listen and put themselves in my shoes. If you knew life, every day, every moment was going to be monumentally tough for the foreseeable future wouldn’t you want to capture those fleeting moments of happiness? I think we can all agree you would with a resounding YES!

101 Things No-one Tells You About Mania

  1. It is more than just being happy
  2. Mania makes me feel euphoric
  3. Mania makes me feel constantly ‘on’ and ready
  4. Mania makes me feel a constant sense of anticipation
  5. Sufferers all have slightly different periods of hypomania and mania.
  6. An episode could last days
  7. An episode could last weeks
  8. A hypomanic or manic episode could last months
  9. Mania is not always fun
  10. Mania can be frightening and make me feel completely out of control
  11. Mania can make me delusional
  12. Mania can make me feel furious at everyone and everything
  13. Mania makes me feel irritable and restless to a point where I can no longer sleep
  14. Mania will make me pace incessantly
  15. I will feel that I constantly need to be doing something
  16. Sometimes mania makes me scratch and pick at my skin
  17. Sleep deprivation is agony
  18. Mania has put me in danger
  19. I will have no fear
  20. Fights will start with random people because I have no filter to what I say
  21. I will get run over because I believe cars should stop for me
  22. My driving will be reckless
  23. I will crash my car and laugh hysterically whilst it’s happening
  24. I will believe I can drive like a racing driver
  25. When manic, I’ll drink and take other drugs excessively
  26. I will drink a bottle of whisky in my flat alone just because I want to
  27. When I’m manic I’ll want sex all the time.
  28. I will wake my partner up at four in the morning because I want sex
  29. I will begin wild and whimsical projects that will take over my life
  30. These projects will be left unfinished when mania turns to depression
  31. I will be able to concentrate on projects for days on end
  32. Projects will be so important I’ll stay up all night – and then the next night
  33. I will forget to eat for days at a time
  34. I will not eat because I have more important things to do
  35. I will go to the gym obsessively
  36. I will not eat and exercise excessively
  37. I will faint in the shower because I haven’t eaten and have over exercised
  38. I will lose the ability to understand the concept of money when I’m manic
  39. I will constantly be in debt
  40. I will spend hundreds of pounds on a pair of shoes anyway because I’m manic
  41. I will stop paying bills because my memory is impaired
  42. I will stop paying bills because I believe I don’t need to
  43. I will believe everything will sort itself out because I’m too important for anything bad to happen to me
  44. Mania comes with it’s own special variety of intense anger that can’t be satiated
  45. I will punch holes in the wall so I don’t punch someone I love
  46. I will trash my possessions because the anger is too much
  47. Relationships will end because of mania
  48. The anger will cause me to lash out verbally and hurt the people closest to me
  49. Anger will cost me many opportunities; in education and my career
  50. I will neglect my job
  51. I will regularly avoid attending appointments because I’d rather be doing what I want to do
  52. I will walk out of a college course because I clash with a lecturer
  53. I will believe I’m better than everyone else.
  54. I will believe I’m the smartest person in the room, all the time.
  55. My speech will be pressured
  56. I will get annoyed when I speak too fast for people to understand
  57. I won’t realise I’m doing this and believe I’m acting perfectly normal
  58. My thoughts will race constantly
  59. I will get frustrated when people can’t keep up with my train of thought
  60. I will belittle people and call them stupid for not keeping up
  61. I won’t listen to anyone when I’m manic
  62. I will believe my opinions are more important than anyone else’s
  63. No one can reason with me during mania
  64. People will tell me I’ve upset them and I’ll laugh in their face
  65. I will make people cry
  66. Psychosis when I’m manic can spur me on to do even more dangerous things
  67. Sometimes I will secretly wish to be manic again
  68. The come down from mania to depression will make me suicidal
  69. After a manic episode ends, I will be completely and utterly exhausted
  70. This exhaustion will lead to physical illnesses
  71. You will take more time off school/work than any of your classmates/colleagues
  72. My memory and concentration will be impaired
  73. Medication is not a magic wand
  74. Therapy is not a magic wand
  75. There will be times when I will stop taking medication because I want to be manic again.
  76. Withdrawal symptoms are worse than the flu
  77. It will make me feel isolated and alone
  78. Hearing people say ‘I’m so Bipolar!’ will set my teeth on edge
  79. People will compare me to characters from tv and film depicted with bipolar
  80. People will tell me their jealous of the mania I experience
  81. People will think I’m a creative genius
  82. People won’t believe I have bipolar because they haven’t seen me in full blown mania
  83. I will worry about people finding out and thinking I’m mad
  84. I will worry about telling friends and family for fear they won’t understand
  85. Some people, who might be family or friends, will never understand
  86. The acknowledgement I will never be able to change their opinions of the disorder is heartbreaking
  87. I will worry about disclosing at interview or when I start a job, because they may find an excuse not to employ me
  88. It will take years for me to be diagnosed
  89. I will be tested for every physical ailment linked to depression and tiredness, because I won’t see a doctor when I’m manic.
  90. Mental health professionals will have differing opinions about my care
  91. I will have to adjust to the idea of living with the disorder for the rest of my life
  92. After diagnosis, I will start identifying what triggers a manic episode
  93. I will start to identify the warning signs of a manic episode
  94. I will have to rely on friends and family to identify these warning signs
  95. I will have to tell family and friends to tell me when I’ve upset them when I’ve been manic
  96. I will spend time when I’m stable again apologising for my behaviour
  97. I will learn that mania isn’t an excuse for my behaviour, but an explanation for it
  98. I will learn I have to make lifestyle changes to be stable
  99. I will learn that mania is self destructive
  100. I will learn not to miss mania when I’m stable
  101. I will learn to enjoy stability