I’ve decided to compile a series of blog posts on different mental health conditions. As you all know, positive mental health is something that I support 110% and I play an active role in trying to destigmatise these illnesses and help people to understand them more. However, I can’t help but notice that although we’re all working hard to “destigmatise” mental health issues, that some of them are being left out. It seems that only the more popular and talked about illnesses such as depression and anxiety are being discussed, and I don’t like that. Sure, it’s great for me because I suffer from anxiety, but what about the people who suffer from schizophrenia, manic disorder, and all those other illnesses? I feel like people are still afraid of these illnesses, and that’s why I’m going to try my best to have them explained from the point of view of somebody who has experienced the illness themselves. This way it’s humanized, and will be easier for people to understand and in some ways relate to. I want to destigmatise mental health issues, and I want to do it the right way. There is no mental illness that deserves to be left out.
When Michaela suggested for people to write about their mental health conditions I jumped at the opportunity. I’m remaining anonymous on this post because I haven’t told my family or been open about this to my friends, and I’d hate for them to discover my mental health condition from social networks. I feel that mental health conditions are a bit of a taboo subject or that there’s an element of fear put into the idea of a mental health issue, which can make people who have it often block it out and deny it. I only discovered my mental health issue when I was turning nineteen years old because firstly I was too scared to admit I had a problem and secondly I was in a state of denial. I’ve now finally come to terms with my issue and hopefully I’ll have to courage to admit to my friends and family that I have this condition.
I have manic depression which is more popularly known as bipolar disorder. What I don’t like about bipolar disorder is the reputation it has. I feel people often have this mentality with bipolar disorder, thinking that the people who have it will go off one day and kill people but that’s really not the case at all! I want to be completely open about what it’s like to have manic depression/ bipolar disorder so that people can see that we’re not crazy. It’s just a bump in the road that you have to learn to overcome and this can take years to do.
I’ll tell you my story of what it’s like, but there may be other stories different to mine so don’t take this as a general one, everyone is different. With my manic depression I will go to sleep and not have a clue how I’ll feel in the morning, and depending on which stage I’m in I can either be incredibly nervous about it or indifferent. I have two stages – like it says on the label – I have my manic stage and my depressive stage. The best way I can describe how manic depression affects me is I feel different emotions to an extremity. This can be either unbelievable or incredibly scary.
I’ll talk about my manic stage first since that’s more positive and I am generally a very positive thinking person, or at least try to be. In my manic stage I am very hyperactive, I get excited easily and the feeling is prolonged so when everyone has calmed down I will still be beaming on the inside and nearly shaking. When I’m in my manic stage I am incredibly confident with an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude towards everything. I’ll wear more bright and daring clothes, and everything will be amazing. It’s like being on an insane high. The problem with my confidence is I tend to take on a lot of tasks, but because I’m on such a high it is incredibly difficult for me to sit down and complete them or do college work. This is because my mind in these stages works as if I’m flicking over a magazine, each page is different but the idea is only visible for a second before you think about something else. My mind is incredibly hyperactive that studying for the leaving certificate was a nightmare and impossible to concentrate for even though I understood the necessity to study for it. The problem with being on such a high is the crash from manic stage to depressive stage. It hits you like a tonne of bricks.
This is when my depressive stage comes in and I hate this stage. There’s a lot to talk about and if you find some of this incredibly scary please just try your best to understand. This is mainly because when I have it, it’s there for weeks and each passing day gets so much worse than the previous one. When I grew up with manic depression (which I didn’t know at the time) I always thought when you were upset that you’d have to justify why you were sad. It’s incredible now that I’m only discovering at nineteen years of age that you never need to justify why you feel a certain way. Sometimes we wake up feeling like shit and there’s nothing you can do about it except sit it out and try and get through the day. When I was growing up I would tell my parents that I was being bullied at school and that’s why I was upset, the problem was, this feeling was becoming so frequent and for long periods that my parents went to the school to give out to the children about behaving that way. That’s when I kind of thought to myself, “this isn’t what most kids feel like, this is different.”
This stage is called my depressive stage because when I feel crap, there is virtually no way out of it. The only thing I can do is try my best to participate in my classes (Which often lead me to a panic attack and I have to leave the room) even when it is impossible to concentrate. Basically on either end of my condition it is damn near impossible to concentrate. I always get really scared in my depressive stages because I can have them for as long as six weeks at a time and each day it gets worse. In fact after about two weeks I feel completely numb and I am desperate to feel something again. Back in my ‘dark stage’ when I was depressed for a solid two years before I went manic again I would cut myself to feel something, even if it was pain. The hell you go through when you’re physically numb with depression is excruciating. In fact I thought and still think about suicide at times. I am aware though that this is never the answer, because I think people have this mentality that those with mental health issues are completely out of control. I feel that although I don’t get to decide how I feel, I am completely in control about how to go through with them and I know what’s right and what’s wrong. When I’m in my depressive stage I go through a complete denial phase, over the years I’ve been seriously tested by life with shit happening to me which I have no control over and when I’m in my depressive stage I actually cannot think about them. If I do, my entire being goes into shut down, I completely panic and over think (perks of having anxiety with manic depression), I have to crawl into a ball, I want to get out of my own skin (which I’ll have to describe once I’ve finished the list), I can’t breathe and hyperventilate, if I’m not outside I feel like I’m suffocating, I try to tear my hair out and I usually can’t sleep. Yeah, it sounds like an absolute nightmare doesn’t it? It’s because it’s genuinely the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy, that’s how bad it is. When I say wanting to get out of my own skin it means I scratch. This is usually the first sign my friends can see when I’m starting to have a panic attack. I start scratching my wrists, hands and neck desperate to ‘get out’. I don’t really understand why I do it but it’s kind of like I just want to be someone else for a minute and not have the life I live or be in the moment I am currently in and maybe I’m just trying to scratch myself out. I don’t know, I know even when I’m describing it, it sounds absolutely psychotic. Sorry!
The problem with thinking about something upsetting is even when I’m in my manic stage it’s very easy for me to be pulled down to depressive stage and this can happen halfway through the day. This is when it gets kind of scary because I haven’t mentally prepared myself for my mood change. This is when I usually push people away and need to be alone but I can’t always do that since I’m a college student and sometimes have to be around people and try and do work.
This whole condition for me is a learning progress but I feel confident now that despite whichever phase I’m in that I know how to control it. I’m glad I got to open up about this stuff because I don’t think people understand bipolar disorder and it’s only something people just mock about like “what’s wrong with you today? You’re so fucking bipolar” because I think especially in the depressive stage that bipolar disorder really does affect people’s lives and if everyone could be more respective and understanding towards it I think people like me would feel much more assured.
Thanks for reading.