A Guest Post – ‘See Me’, about B and Bipolar

Following on from my blog post about Borderline Personality Disorder / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder; I was thrilled to bits when a good friend, B, offered to write a companion piece.  If anyone would like to contribute a guest post on mental health, I would be absolutely delighted to publish them here.

Over to B…..

 

images

 

 

Hello there. I’m B, and this was written as a companion piece for J for World Mental Health Day. J threw out a suggestion that others might want to write down their experiences. Here are mine, and I hope it will help others to perhaps share their own/ relate to someone they know dealing with a mental health issue.

My diagnosis is bipolar. Actually it is bipolar and anxiety, with a few random characteristics of OCD, BPD and Asperger’s thrown in for good measure, which just goes to show that people cannot be neatly packaged, but for today I’m just going to talk bipolar.

Bipolar is one of those diagnoses that people think is hideously over-diagnosed. Have a few mood swings, bingo, you’re bipolar. It’s trendy, a cool status to have. It’s a side effect of being a bit creative, and when it becomes a bother pop a few pills and you’ll be fine dear.

It isn’t like that. Really it isn’t. Admittedly, bipolar is vastly more common in creative types. Mild manias and even mild depressions can be fantastic muses. Highs come with increased energy, channelled this can make for fantastic productivity. Sounds great, doesn’t it, and in all honesty I do enjoy this aspect of it. But the death rate for bipolar is 15-20%, a statistic which is no less scary when you remember it is death by suicide. Several people I have met since diagnosis are no longer around today. Suddenly it starts to sound a bit more serious.

It can be elusive, hard to diagnose. Despite two spells in day hospital and multiple crushing depressions throughout my teens and twenties, I was only diagnosed accurately because one of my three-monthly psychiatric appointments happened to coincide with an elevated mood. I sat in the poor man’s office laughing and talking non-stop at three times my normal speed. I couldn’t stand, or sit, still. I then walked home, singing, stopping to have a long and rambly discussion with a complete stranger about trees. I was on about three hours sleep a night. Deep depressions often follow highs, the body is totally worn out. It has to be observed though, and be rather more than just a wobble. It was only chance I got my diagnosis, over 15 years after I first received psychiatric attention. This is common.

The most intrusive part for me personally, hardest to deal with, are the elements of psychosis that so often accompany depression. That’s a scary word isn’t it, psychosis? It’s little talked about, and it isn’t the same psychosis, in some ways, as in, say, schizophrenia. When I am deeply depressed, even at its worst, I know logically that my bed isn’t filled with spiders and if I move they will bite, I know there aren’t zombies in the hall waiting to jump at me when I go to the toilet, but nevertheless they are real in my mind at that point. I can’t see them, I can’t hear them, there’s no hallucination but… still. I do, however, truly believe I am bad and hated and people would be better off without me, in pretty much the way Jac describes in her piece. All of that, including the self injury, something I haven’t done for several years now.

When not actively ill, the psychosis settles to a quiet annoyance. ‘Oh, do shut up’ I say, to the voice in my head telling me to drive very fast at the barrier in the multi storey car park and plunge five floors to certain death because I’m so wicked I don’t deserve to live and wouldn’t it be better for everyone if I was dead?, and it subsides, but it’s there, it’s always there popping its ugly head up at the most inopportune of moments, even when, actually, I’m feeling OK. It sucks the joy out of everything, or it tries to, happy events, treats, compliments are swiftly repackaged in my mind to mean something quite different. These days, after many years of therapy and practicing CBT and so on, I’m quite adept at sitting on such nonsense and reasoning it out but bloody hell it’s hard, constant, weary work. Solitary work too, given I’ve been a freelance loon for several years now, after cuts to the local budget decreed even my three-monthly appointment would be no more.

Psychosis can happen with mania too, but I am fortunate in that I have bipolar type 2, characterised by the same crushing depressions as type 1, but only mild, or ‘hypo’ mania. Mild is of course relative, but I am spared, at least, the disruption and chaos a bad manic phase can leave behind, although I have got into debt before. And slept with the next door neighbour. Despite depression being the usual phase in which people take their own life, mania remains the most feared, for me. Even when deeply depressed, I am in some kind of control, when manic I’m not, and that scares me.

I take pills, of course. Mind-corralling medications mean I can function from day to day but with a certain level of exhaustion. They are, after all, highly sedative, and in calming the mind they also calm the body- one medication I was on I slept for 16 hours a day and was only half awake the rest, amazingly I managed to work part time from home during this period! I have no idea how, I have very few memories from that 18 months, they are lost.

On medication, motivation- for anything- is hard. Pills cause weight gain and make it very hard to lose it again, I have just lost a stone and I have had to fight it every inch of the way. They have other side effects, often bizarre ones.  I now have regular unpleasant bouts of IBS and stomach issues; at higher doses my hair started coming out. I take them, It’s still better than being unmedicated, but it’s not the cure-all solution people think it is.

So yes. Bipolar. As an old teacher of mine used to say, it’s not big and it’s not clever. But it’s me.

See Me.

Advertisements

This should have been posted yesterday….about me, and BPD.

index

 

 

Today is World Mental Health Day (and this, unsurprisingly, is Scottish Mental Health Week).

So, as they say, See Me.

I am J and I have Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and I have been asked to write this as a task by my Community Psychiatric Nurse, and to share it – if I wish – with people that I love and care about and to take along to therapy sessions.

It seems quite apt that today is World Mental Health Day, really, so I wanted to bite the bullet and post this here. To show that I am not ashamed to talk about it, however hard it can be. Because, together, we need to break down the social stigma surrounding mental health.

And maybe, just maybe, me speaking out will give someone else the courage to seek help, or just have a chat with someone. Maybe you want to think about writing your own experiences, or think twice about that friend you want to ignore because they are acting a bit weird right now.

See me? See the smiley, happy girl that you may have met at the school gates or the pub; the mouthy, snarky, occassionally amusing muppet that fills your Facebook feed with crap? I’m not always like that.

I am, thanks to help from some wonderfully supportive agencies, pretty well balanced – far more balanced than I would have been if I hadn’t sought help. And when you read this, this is what you need to bear in mind. I certainly wouldn’t want to upset someone newly diagnosed with BPD/EUPD by making them think this is how it is all the time. But, equally, I want people to understand how frightening it can be when you are in a crisis.

Like all things, people will have the same diagnosis but very different symptoms. This is my story, and mine alone. Many will empathise and see themselves, many will not.

I am very fortunate in that I can mostly manage to keep it under control using techniques that I learned in therapy; and I will usually notice hints that mean that I may be heading for a wobble. Such indications can include paranoia, neurotic thoughts such as something terrible but extremely unlikely happening to loved ones, and becoming obsessed with something – a hobby, a particular cause etc (usually something political or some great injustice) which encompasses me completely for a relatively short time until I have ranted and raved and driven everyone daft with it. When I notice these things in good time, I have the opportunity to use the coping mechanisms I learnt to pull myself back on track. 95% of the time it works.

Sometimes, however, I have a crisis that I honestly wasn’t expecting. Looking back, I can now see that these usually come on in times of stress. (Though that is not to say that I will always have a crisis in times of stress). Perhaps the hints mentioned above are actually there, but I am so preoccupied by whatever is stressing me out that I just don’t notice them; and by the time I do, it’s too late.

How can I describe a crisis? I can’t, very easily, because it doesn’t feel like me. Although I can carry on doing routine tasks, and I can look and sound just like the normal J, inside me is some kind of maelstrom that is so disconcerting that I can’t really put it into words very well.

It’s like being taken away suddenly by a shock tidal wave. You can’t put your feet down onto the ground, and you’re powerless to do anything but try and ride it out until you reach the land, or drown.

A BPD crisis has been described as ‘the emotional equivalent of someone with third degree burns being touched’, and I can relate very much to that. I recoil, and lash out, at those closest to me, to the people I love and who love me. It’s as though I am possessed by some demon inside my head who takes every single facet of someone I love and twists it, makes it bad, makes it something to be suspicious and untrusting of; all the while also telling me that I am bad, I am worthless, I am not deserving of love or happiness, and that those closest to me have sinister ulterior motives for their behaviour towards me.

And these thoughts, these voices in my head are constant, during a crisis. They don’t come and go a few times a day. They gnaw at me, they whisper in my ears twenty four hours a day. Even when I dream. They twist everything I read, everything I write, everything I say, everything I hear so that the mildest criticism will feel, to me, like the end of the world, like my whole life is falling apart and I physically ache inside with it, this sense of terrified dread and horror combined with this kind of howling in my head.
It makes me want to hurt myself, to get the pain out. I bite the skin around my fingers until they bleed, or I jab myself with pins over and over to get some relief. Sometimes I just sit and stare into space, because that is safer than moving. Sometimes I drink myself to sleep so I at least won’t remember the dreams. These are negative strategies, I know that, but when I need to function and plaster on a false happy face, they are the best I have to hand.

That Is what happens. That is why I explode, why I lash out and push everyone away. Because, for a short time, I am a possessed person and as much as I want to, this power is stronger than me and I just cannot stop it, however hard I try.

I – as in the one you know, the everyday J- I am not being spiteful. I am not being angry. I am not being callous, however well I may still speak or write. My ‘good’ brain is being shut down and I am petrified and confused and screaming for help.

This black dog that descends on me turns my whole life, and everything in it, into something frightening and sinister. It smashes relationships to pieces. It hurts the people I love most in all the world. And all the while, the little voice in my head keeps repeating ‘You’re mad, you’re mad, you’re mad and it’s all your own fault’.

And knowing that it is my own mind doing this, and not some demon, is the most frightening thing of all.