So this is a brief explanation of my life and main mental health struggles to finally getting the help I needed, in a nutshell so to speak. I will cover some things in more detail in future blog posts.
I had a rough time around the age of 16/17 with a relationship that was not at all healthy. I didn’t realise until recently that I was subjected to something called coercive control, which still haunts me in different ways. I’ll definitely be talking about this some more in the future. Thank goodness this relationship ended at a critical time. I then met someone new who treated me the complete opposite way.
I first realised that I needed help with my mental health when I was in my late teens. I was prescribed antidepressants at the age of 19 and sent on my way. I don’t think anyone could understand why I felt the way I did, after all, I’d just bought a house with my newly wedded husband.
Through the next few years of knowing something was not quite right but not being able to describe what or why I continued to see my GP. Again and again, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and packed off with Fluoxetine. Add marriage difficulties, a miscarriage and being left home alone most of the time and I started to self medicate with litre bottles of cheap wine amongst other things. I wasn’t interested in eating, but forced myself to at least have a bacon sandwich with my wine in the evening after work to ‘line my stomach’. I worked 7 days a week getting as much overtime as I could while my husband ‘worked’ away but didn’t come home when he could to spend time with me. He spent his time in a pub spending the wages he was supposedly getting. We got continually into more debt and it was a repetitive circle of stress and self-medication. The marriage eventually broke down leaving us with lots of debt. I was left with the house but also all of the overdue bills and credit! Throughout this time I had noticed times of feeling really strange, being really depressed or incredibly happy for no reason. I was usually shy and felt awkward talking to people, other times I could walk into the local pub on my own and talk to anyone and everyone. Luckily at 23, I met the love of my life who moved into the house for a short time but I was too far behind with bills and had no option but to sell it.
Over the next few years despite feeling like I had found my soulmate, at last feeling very lucky and well loved, I had increasingly more frequent and destructive times that are now described as ‘episodes’. It started with them being subtle, feeling ‘high’, going outside to catch the bus to work and all the houses and the trees were amazingly vivid and colourful. The birds were singing just for me. I loved everything and everyone. These feelings continued to get more intense but then I would suddenly crash down into a pit so low and dark. Like a big black bear had made itself comfortable sitting on my chest, crushing me and refusing to move. It’s like a rollercoaster. I can’t see or realise when I’m in a manic episode as nothing can touch me. I could do whatever I wanted when I wanted. I spent money like it was nothing. I have no idea on what but it didn’t bother me anyway. I was all that mattered and to hell with everything else.
One of the most major and long-lasting manic episodes (not that anyone knew that’s what it was) led me to the point where I threw my whole life out of the window in the snap of fingers. I was later told that ‘I became a completely different person’. I dumped everything I loved and that was good in my life away. I completely smashed my relationship and hurt my soul mate. I wanted to join the army one minute and go and buy something ridiculous and extravagant the next. I hurt and confused everyone around me whilst being angry at them for not understanding my new sudden outlook on the world. That was until I suddenly fell off my amazing, wonderful new life cloud with a huge crash. I ended up in a really bad place. I couldn’t understand what I had done and why. Nothing made any sense. It was like waking up from a nightmare but even that would have been better than what I was left with. Nothing. I remember not being able to get out of bed, phoning my Dad and just crying my eyes out trying to understand everything that had gone on. I just wanted to die. This is when I seriously started thinking about the best way to end it all. I couldn’t see any way forward or the point in carrying on.
I eventually fought my way into getting my life back into some kind of order with the amazing and brave help of my family and some very special people. I fought my hardest to win back my soul mate who eventually forgave me (and years later married me thank goodness, although I will never, ever forgive myself). I thank them all so much for sticking by me when most would have run an absolute mile and for picking me up off the floor and holding me up. I got into huge amounts of debt with nothing to show for it and had to get help to get myself out of a big hole yet again. Meanwhile, I am still being prescribed antidepressants and having absolutely no idea what I’d just been through and why. It turns out that the longer a person with Bipolar goes untreated the worse it gets. It can also get worse with age! (insert eye-roll here).
I continued to have ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ but nothing anywhere near like the last major episode, so it still didn’t cross my mind that there was anything majorly wrong. It’s not until after the diagnosis that I could look back on so many times that things that had happened and think ‘Oh, so that’s why that happened’. Hindsight and all that.
I continued to try and keep my life together whilst still dealing with enormous guilt, hating myself for the past and having 3 unsuccessful rounds of fertility treatment. I also lost my job, then made redundant, then tried to get to grips with a new job that meant a demotion. In the summer of 2006, a major manic episode slowly took hold of me like a ninja. This ninja set me on a crazy road of destruction for around 3 or 4 months. I thought I was just happy, extremely happy. I loved my job, laughing and singing (badly) everywhere. I was going to important meetings, but instead of being shy, quiet and terrified, I was loud, proud and very (over) confident. I loved buying gifts and trying to make people as happy as I was. I was later told that some thought I was taking drugs because of the way I was acting (which I wasn’t)! Whilst being incredibly happy I could also get very angry. People didn’t understand me because I was talking too fast. No one did anything fast enough for me. If anyone disturbed what I was doing or my train of thought then their head was getting ripped off etc.
I got in a huge amount of (secret) debt again but I didn’t break up my relationship and family this time, oh no, I broke the law. I was eventually confronted and had to face everything that I’d been doing head-on. I had hidden everything from my husband, friends and family and had no care for the consequences, or rather I was above anything anyone could say or do to me. After I was confronted I went into shock. It then sunk in what a mess I was in again. I hit rock bottom. I was told to leave pending further investigation and walked home somehow in an absolute state. I went to a very busy road and was very close to committing suicide. Thank goodness I didn’t and managed to get myself home where luckily my Husband had a day off work. I tried to explain what had happened by trying to piece together the series of events that lead up to then. He was understandably very shocked as was my family when he had the awful job of telling them. It was at this point with me cycling between being hysterical, crying, sitting silently in absolute shock and a deep shame that my man took me to the GP. It was a blur but I do remember not getting very far with the doctor even though I’d had to ashamedly tell him everything that had happened. I remember leaving the office with no help and in the corridor, collapsing and screaming in desperation that I needed someone to help me. “Please will someone help me?” The doctor called us back in. I was finally going to be referred to a psychiatrist (there starts another long and unbelievable story that I will go into next time).
It was not long before my 28th birthday at this point. After nearly 10 years of suffering on my never-ending and increasingly scary rollercoaster, I was hoping to finally get some answers. A few months later I was diagnosed and started my proper fight with primarily Bipolar Affective Disorder. That was 12 years ago and I have lost a lot of people from my life but fast forward to now and I’m still alive and fighting. Now that is something for me to feel proud of and be happy about.
Thank you so much if you have managed to get to the end of this long post. I’d love to hear any feedback that you have. Also want to take this opportunity to thank my Husband, Mom, Dad and everyone that has stuck by me through the years. Thanks if you have taken the time to share, like and comment on my blog. Ever grateful x