Sharing your answers always takes great courage. The below are answers for the #MentalHealthBlogChallenge have been submitted anonymously
“I have always wanted to write my story for The Restless Empire,and one day I will properly. Last year I was thrust onto another journey in terms of my mental health and right now I don’t know what I’m doing or what the further looks like. Right now I feel like I’m sinking in the middle of this new journey. I know I will get there and I know the road is long, but I am tired and it’s just going to take a bit longer to get myself out at the other side.
One day I will be able to look back on all this and say “I got this, I can’t control it, but I got it“. I felt like this was a starting point for you, and for me. Writing this brought up a lot of emotional stuff for me that I didn’t even know was there.
Age – 31.
Occupation – Teacher.
Is or has your mental health ever been of concern to you or others? Why? Issues with my mental health first arose when I was about 11, although it wast until I was 14 that I began getting help. As a teenage I was constantly being misdiagnosed and therefore wrongly medicated. At 25 I was officially diagnosed with insomnia (hyper somnia and a delayed sleep phase). As a teenage my mother had fought with doctors over my sleep issues but they always said I was too young to have a sleep disorder and refused to treat me for one. Finally, at age 30 I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder.
My mental health has been a life long battle for me, and I know there is still a great journey ahead. In my teens I came close to being hospitalised for psychosis and suicdal thoughts.
My partner, my mother and step father, immediate family and a select number of friends are aware of my day to day struggles; these are the people who are affected by what i do, think, or say. they are the ones who nurture me through the tough times. These are the people who let me cry in my weak moments, ring me so they know how I am simply by the sound of my voice. These are the people who drop everything to rush me to appointments, pick up scripts on time, and drive halfway across the country with me so I can see the best sleep specialists in NZ.
My mental health will always be a concern to me and all these people, these are the people that keep me strong, these are the reasons I can’t and won’t give up.
Have you ever sought help for issues relating to your mental health, be it conventional or non-conventional? I’ve seen doctors… GP’s, psychiatrists (many) psychologists (far to many) counsellors, art therapists, chiropractors, reike masters, feng shui specialists, naturopaths, meditation classes, mindfulness courses, yoga, diet consultants and colour therapy… and hypnotism which failed because they weren’t even able to hypnotise me. I also tried illegal drugs (marijuana for sleeping) but that wasn’t the answer, I just got fat and paranoid.
Have you ever felt anxious or had a panic attack? I live with anxiety every day and have done so off and on for years, even as a teen not even knowing what it was and continiously for the past 18 months. I take medication regularly throughout the day to help control my anxiety and at it’s worst I won’t leave the house for days, I refuse to answer my phone and cut off all contact outside of the security of my home.
When it is managable to my symptoms can be shaking hands, anger, iritability, aversion of new places, people, things, I refuse to answer my phone and I never answer an unknown number.
I unconsciously build my entire life around the idea of creating a ‘safe‘ environment for myself where nothing can affect or hurt me.
What triggers you to feel anxious or low in terms of mood? Because I have rapid cycling bipolar my cycle is monthly, and is in line with my menstrual cycle. The week before/of my period i am very depressed. During ovulation I’m hyper manic and after my cycle it takes a week or more recuperate. which I generally have one week a month where I can feel okay and have a glimpse of happiness and return to a state I refer to as ‘normal’ then I level out for a week or two if I’m lucky before I do it all again.
I once got told that depression is from living in the past and anxiety is a fear of the future, because I have had so many negative experiences in my life I try to control people and situations around me in order to ease my anxiety . I am working really hard on learning how to be present and live in the moment.
At what moments is yourself confidence at its lowest? When I am in my depressive stage I’m at my lowest, the things that go through my head are too ugly to write down. I need to work on my own self confidence to improve this.
Does anxiety or a low mood have a physical effect on you? When I’m depressed I feel almost ingulfed by darkness, it’s hard to see, feel, hear or touch the light. It constantly feels like its 3am in the morning and I’ve been to awake for hours, I’m dirty, I binge eat, I wollow in my own self pity. I hide myself from friends and people I love so they don’t see that side of my life.
My anxiety makes my blood tests show up irregular because my body is constantly trying to fight something that is not there. At times I shake, my breathing is rapid, I’m paranoid, my chest hurts, my
stomach feels like I’m going to be sick. I stop eating. I constantly feel like I’m coming down from a four day drug induced bender.
Do you or anybody you know suffer from a mental illness? I know a lot of people who have depression, post natal depression, PTSD or grief. I don’t know anyone with bipolar and would love to meet someone who i could talk with about it
Do you feel there is a stigma around mental illness? You talk to some people and they don’t understand, they shut you out of conversations and their lives as if you were going to bring them down. People tell me things like “just to sit in the sun“, or “go to the gym“, I feel insulted, being made to feel as if this was a choice I made.
When I was younger someone in my family referred to me as being “a bit sick” and saying I will grow out of it! You can find people who have depression, and talk about; it’s on TV, famous people have it! Depression was okay. But now, with Bipolar I feel like know no one. I’m too scared to talk about it, and in some ways I’m embarrassed about myself and my behaviour.
It would be nice if I didn’t feel like I always have to explain myself to people… if people already had a realistic idea of what bipolar really is, I would feel the need to be constantly explaining myself, my feelings and my mood. I feel very alone and isolated since my diagnosis. why is that?
What do you think could be done to change attitudes towards mental illness? Mental health is not just about depression… it’s really not. I wish people would come out more and talk about living with other mental illnesses like anxiety, eating disorders, Bipolar, Alzheimers, schizophrenia… the list is endless.
What piece of advice would you give someone who thought they might be suffering from depression or other mental illness? Do your research, knowledge is power. then tap into all those sources you can find. online info, books, support groups, blogs, pod casts. Do not be afraid to say I don’t like my gp/therapist/psychiatrist etc and ask to change to another. It is your health and you hold the power, find someone who fits in with you.
Find out what therapy techniques you like/don’t like.
It takes time, healing is a process, so don’t be so hard on yourself.
Never come off your meds without talking to your doctor, just because you’re feeling good it doesn’t make it a good idea to come off your meds….”
Sharing any journey with mental illness is tough, but I understand how difficult it was for this particular person. The writer of this piece is an extraordinary person, who has an amazing presence which illuminates the world. The writer of this piece is clever, kind, determined and wonderfully kooky. I will forever support them, and when this is all behind them and under control I will still continue to stand proudly beside them. Mental health and mental illness are tricky subjects, if you’re experiencing any mental health issues please see a qualified professional, find someone in your life you trust and tell them, have this person hold your hand as you seek help.
Information on this site does not and should not replace advice from professional.