“I’m Still Here. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve tried to write this. Feel like a complete fraud, sharing my story when I’m struggling but this darkness has been lingering for a long time now. It’s been here before, presenting itself in slightly different ways just so it can remind me I don’t understand it fully. This time it has a very tight grip and I am struggling to find my way out.
I’ve read others stories about how they have embraced their diagnosis and are in remission or recovery but I can’t do that. I have stopped myself writing my truth for so long out of fear my negativity won’t benefit anyone else so there’s no point in writing it… but then maybe it will, maybe someone else feels like I do.
My name is Sian, I’m 28 years old and live near London. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed as Type 2 Bipolar. I didn’t even know there were different types until a friend was diagnosed as type 2 so that’s when I started to do my own research and talk to counsellors about the possibility that I was too. It didn’t go much further than a conversation and I just carried on with life and the great many things it throws at you. I’d been in counselling on and off but it had always been for particular things like my grandfathers death; I’d never considered the fact that what I was feeling was more than just circumstantial.
Fast forward a few years and suddenly I wasn’t coping with anything anymore. I was crying my eyes out at work and having panic attacks daily. I’m not entirely sure how I got to that point, my memory isn’t what it used to be so there’s a lot I don’t remember around that time, all I know is that my counsellor and my partner at that time were so worried that they encouraged me to see my doctor. Then followed the familiar story of a lot of experimenting with different drugs, lowering the doses as much as possible to minimise the side effects; who knew I’d be so damn sensitive! I’d be impressed that I managed to tick off every side effect listed (that wasn’t physically impossible) on every drug I tried if I didn’t actually have to suffer through the symptoms, some of which led me to be referred to a psychiatrist where I finally got my diagnosis. There is a great deal of anger associated with this period of my life that I haven’t been able to let go of so do excuse me if I gloss over a lot of things here; let’s just say that I didn’t have a pleasant experience.
The overwhelming advice was for me to quit my job and keep experimenting with the meds or if that failed then my only alternative was to try ECT. After getting that helpful advice I became so anxious that I was reluctantly signed off work for three months. I could barely leave my bed let alone my flat and I no longer recognised myself nor knew what I was doing. Now I was under the care of the crisis team which pushed me to boiling point; I told the psychiatrists I no longer wanted to be under their care and I was coming off the meds. Of course they thought I had really lost the plot, but after a long chat with my mother and my Dr, they reluctantly agreed. It’s quite possibly the only good decision I’ve ever made. I managed to return to work, full time at first but have since reduced that to 3 days a week due to my commute and long hours which means I still get to do my job the way I like to do it but I have time to recover and look after myself too.
I’m torn as to whether getting my diagnosis was a good thing or not. On the one hand, I had been managing it without realising that’s what I was doing, but on the other hand, now I have an explanation for my behaviour and thought processes. I can understand now why I do and have done certain things, recognising the connections with my moods and I can work on accepting them rather than beating myself up like I used to. However, the whole process has changed me so much that I’m almost grieving the person I used to be and the hopes and dreams of my former life. It’s hard not to compare myself now and back then, knowing what I used to be capable of. All I can do is just put one foot in front of the other.
Without medication to help, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more aware of what I’m doing and really listening to my body’s needs. I understand that sometimes I’ll need to stay in bed all day or not talk to anyone and other days I won’t be able to stop until I’ve completed a task and I won’t sleep but won’t feel tired at all. Before, that would have stressed me out but now I accept it, trusting that it will balance out at some point.
Music has always been really important to me, whether I’m playing an instrument, listening to a record or going to gigs, it’s a great way to escape what’s going on in my mind. I’ve realised recently how important it is for me to have a creative outlet; I enjoy painting, sketching, writing, cross stitch, photography, modelling and sewing. I’m also slightly obsessed with Lego which I find really therapeutic, I really enjoy following the instructions – I appreciate the methodical nature of it but then I also love building my own creations like my Christmas tree which I redesign each year. I also write letters to myself, usually when I’m depressed, which helps me work through my emotions but it can be quite painful putting my thoughts down on paper. I’ve become very aware that I struggle to remember let alone write about many good things so I decided to start a ‘Happy Memories Box’ where I make a note of any positive experience. Then when I need a pick-me-up I can go through them and remind myself that I have had some good times.
The thing I find the hardest is opening up to people (yes I do realise the irony of writing this). I do have people that tell me they’re there and I know my mum always is but in truth I don’t feel that I can be completely honest with any of them. Sadly, negative experiences have made it hard for me to trust anyone anymore. That’s one of the reasons why I think social media is fantastic – as a single woman who lives alone, without many close friends, nor any siblings or close family, my support network really is online. Twitter in particular has connected me with a whole community of people like me, through hashtags like #joinin I’ve found a safe space where I can open up and be supported and support others.
Right now, I’m at a point in my life where I’m more lost than I have ever been. I’ve changed so many things trying to find peace and I still seem to be stuck in the same place. I’m finding that really hard to come to turns with but I’m still here.”
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