Blog posts relating to my personal experience of mental health and the world
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Realised I’m Bipolar
Regardless of whether you are happy or not, or expected the diagnosis/ realisation, discovering that you have bipolar is a big thing. So here are some things I wish someone had told me/ wish I’d known when I realised I was bipolar. Whether I would have listened to them is a different issue, and the journey to discover them is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. However if you have been recently diagnosed with bipolar I hope maybe this list will help you make sense of it all. Please take what resonates and leave what doesn’t:
What Grief Means To Me
I believe the thing about grief is you can’t force it or rush it. The only thing you can do is allow it, without allowing it to consume you. It’s hard but life does carry on. Maybe joy and excitement and purpose won’t look the same as before, but you are allowed to redefine these things.
Fear of Going Crazy
Two years ago a group of young changemakers, including myself, came together for a discussion. We decided that we would all come dressed as our worst fears. There was one person dressed as a bat, another as a spider; one came as the idea of losing love. I came dressed as the fear of losing my mind. As someone with chronic mental illness, it’s not a fear that feels far away – it’s not a distant possibility that one day I’ll get dementia. It feels very real, very possible, and very close. And I wanted to talk about that here today, because it’s a part of my mental health experience that I haven’t seen reflected in many places.
Songs for my Bipolar Experience
So today I thought I’d share a playlist of sorts with songs that I feel connect with parts of my experience with bipolar disorder. They may be helpful in understanding what it’s like for someone else, or yourself, but they’re also really great songs so I would recommend giving them a listen! But obviously music can be quite powerful in how it makes us feel, so please use your own discretion. Let me know what you think of them in the comments below, and if you relate with any yourselves.
Hurt by Psychiatry
I want to write a really strong and defiant letter. I want to write some crazy, proud, creative theatre piece. I want to write something truly hopeful. And while I do have hope, and I do have gratitude – because it is essential to my survival – I also have a lot of pain. And anger. I can talk openly about so many traumas and just general shitty things that have happened in my life. But the one I’ve never been able to write about, never even been able to get through a conversation about without screaming and crying, is the pain endured under the psychiatric complex. Because they were meant to help me. Time and time and time again I have gone looking for help and time and time and time again I have been turned away with only more hurt.
Mania @ 5:15am – A Poem
Half formed thoughts and unanswered questions, which is kind of the point of what I was writing about – allowing an ‘unfinished’ image of self to be seen. I’ve thought about it more and this quote in particular resonated with me: ‘Vulnerability is the least celebrated emotion in our society’ ~ Mohadesa Najumi. I’m a growing, changing person whose views will inevitably change, but I don’t think I want to live holding back because I may think differently in the future. All we’ve got is now right? So this post is a little less about mental health, and more about the process of learning to be a mental health advocate (if I can allow myself that title!). Please enjoy this copy of my wandering thoughts:
Letter To A Younger Me
I think I’m writing this to you at about age 13, maybe just turned 14. Right as all the mental health stuff really took off, and before you’d gone through enough of it to have any perspective on it. It was all new and you had no reason to think it wouldn’t last forever. But, hey, spoiler alert – it doesn’t last forever.
22:47 – a poem
Teenage Alcoholic’s Sober Story
I’m an alcoholic. To be more specific, I’m a teenage alcoholic. I got sober 15 days before my 17th birthday and so I have never had a legal drink. I find that entertaining to think about, but it’s also a block to my recovery sometimes. How can I say I’m an alcoholic (which is vital for me to accept in order to recover) if I’m so young?
While getting sober at any age and for any reason has huge challenges – that may vary and cannot be compared – getting sober young comes with a unique set of difficulties. One of the very first struggles is that it seems no one else in recovery is your age; it feels like there are no teenage addicts and alcoholics out there.
5 Books on My Mental Health Journey
I’ve always loved reading, so today I wanted to share with you 5 books that have been incredibly important to me in my mental health journey as a teenager dealing with mental illness. Let me know what books have been impactful in your journey in the comments below – I would love to hear about them!
Journey Through Panic Attacks
The first time I experienced a panic attack I was 11 years old. I had come home early from school that day with a headache and some other physical symptoms I now know were anxiety, and I had gone upstairs to have a nap before dinner. My mum came to wake me up when it was time to eat, but I must have been in the wrong phase of my sleep cycle because I awoke disoriented, thinking it was the morning. We’ve all been there when we wake up not quite sure what’s going on. So I thought it was the morning, and when my mum told me it was time to eat I responded asking about breakfast. There was some confused back and forth with my mum trying to convince me it was in fact dinner time, and still the day before, and I suddenly spiralled into my first panic attack. I don’t remember a whole lot of the details while it was happening, but I do remember how terrifying it was.
An Anxious Experience
Anxiety can be a very physical experience where you can’t understand what’s happening to your body. It’s hard to rationalise; it feels like your hormones have gone into overdrive. And really they have – being afraid or nervous is your body and brain’s way of telling you that there is danger nearby, so you may think at first that the feeling will pass, but anxiety means your brain sees danger everywhere. It doesn’t pass so easily.
Sometimes my autism isn’t pretty. I can still fit into the world as I am expected to, but that comes with effort which often goes unseen or under-appreciated. I can do this reasonably easily compared to some, and this is in part due to other aspects of my identity (such as my race) and the supportive people who surround me. You can view this as lucky or not; I think in a way it is unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that I have to manipulate the very essence of the way I think in order to fit into systems I often have no desire to engage with in the first place. I think it’s unfortunate that we can even frame this as ‘lucky’ because that just points to how painful life is for those who can’t, and how this pain is worse than the struggle of concealing one’s true self.
Autism is My Superpower
I’m autistic. Having autism in a neurotypical world is not easy because generally the world isn’t built for us and proves to be confusing, but for anyone struggling with their diagnosis/ symptoms (and any neurotypicals unclear on the individual nature of autism) I want to make it clear that having autism isn’t a defect. Nor is it a mental illness. In fact, it can be a bonus in many situations, and when accommodated to autistic people can provide new perspectives and skills to the benefit of others. I, for one, like to think that my autism is my superpower, and this is my personal experience:
Letter to Anyone With Disordered Eating
I’ll start by saying hello and that I care, in case no one has said that to you today. Where you are right now, I’ve been there. Maybe not physically, but in some way mentally, and certainly in empathy with you. Some days you’ve probably told yourself you’re not struggling, it’s not hard, it’s worth it – I know I did. And deep down I also know that you know it’s not. It never will be. So here’s my letter to you. Not to say stop or that the pain goes away overnight, just to speak to you as someone who cares, and let you be.
Goodbye 2020, Hello Tomorrow
‘Whether you’re excited or scared, relieved or neutral about the New Year, I hope you can be a little bit proud that you’ve made it through this one. And remember that there is no pressure for you to be anything or do anything to prepare for the next year – at the end of the day, it’s just a day. Take it one step at a time, and know that you are not alone. Goodbye 2020. Hello tomorrow.’
Lessons from Bipolar
‘Looking back, I know nothing is too big or difficult for me to overcome. Nothing. I used to live in such fear of the next episode or the next ‘thing’, but each time I survived, and came out stronger – if a bit exhausted. It may take a while, but I will find my path; just because there are bumps along the road doesn’t mean the road has ended, sometimes the bumps make the end result so much more worthwhile.’
Another Letter to my Mental Illnesses
‘Last night I dreamt of you. And it’s hazy, in the way that memories of dreams often are, but I remember the premise. You had disappeared. I had woken up one day and you had disappeared. And whenever anyone asked me what I wanted, at a restaurant or in life, all I could reply was that I wanted you.’
Letter to my Mental Illnesses
‘There’s no need to introduce myself, we know each other well, don’t we? As such I know that you have a habit of finding new ways to creep into my life – you’re always going to be here I suspect, so I suppose it’s time I had a proper conversation with you. Embraced you. Accepted that you are, and always will be, a part of me.’