Note: Anything stated below is purely from my own opinions and experience, and is not the voice of the Collective, although this will be checked by other admins before posting! This post is about my experiences with my mental health, so if this is a trigger for you, please stop reading.
I realise I’m a day late on World Mental Health Day, but my plans fell at the wayside, as usual!
Even though things are getting better with mental health and social stigma, I can’t help but feel I need to hide it somewhat, in my day-to-day life. I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was around 14 years old, after a pretty traumatic 18 months, where I lost the two main caregivers in my life (grandparents, in case you wondered). As far as my mum is aware, I have “grown out” of it, and haven’t had an episode since I was 18 or so. As far as other family members are aware, I’ve never had bipolar—just occasional low episodes.
I’ve become good at hiding things.
Early on, before the diagnosis, the onset of manic phases would be signified by periods that I would simply forget what had just happened, but I’d be surrounded by pure chaos, whether it be me in the middle of rearranging my room (my personal favourite was coming round to finding my bed upside down, and the mattress out the window). The manic phases have gone past this (mostly), thank god. Usually now, it manifests with periods of being hostile and paranoid. My brain goes at about a million miles an hour, and people do struggle to keep up. The depressive episodes are pretty standard, and far easier for me to handle; I just hide out and listen to music until they pass.
I miss being able to sleep, and when my already-terrible sleep patterns fall away completely, this is when I know things are about to get bad. Other people get hangry—I get insomnirage.
Despite all of this, I’ve managed to keep a fairly balanced life. I wish to god that I hadn’t started this pattern of not telling everyone, and highly advise that anyone else in the same position doesn’t do the same—You can’t do this alone. Some people find comfort in animals, but I need to have friends and people to talk to, or that sends me off into an episode also. I am so lucky that I have a group of offline and online friends who understand all this, and deal with it pretty well. I know I can be a gigantic pain in the backside, but they accept that and deal with it, the best they can.
All of this is a very roundabout way of saying that if you feel you are alone, there are people to reach out to. I find it easier to talk to people via text about this sort of thing. I am horrendous at voicing my feelings in person; I wasn’t brought up that way.
I think, in one way, all of this above has made me good at one thing: I am pretty much unflappable when it comes to people telling me things and I don’t tend to fall into panic at work, because I’ve inflicted far worse on myself mentally. Any positives that can be taken from something that seems overwhelmingly negative must be grasped and held onto, ever so tightly.
It’s not my place to judge people. We all suffer. It’s all relative. BUT... if you need someone to talk to, if you ever feel alone, if it’s getting too much, then just reach out to whoever you think will listen. I will always listen. Come find me, if you need to.
I’m talking about my life, and part of the troubles I’ve faced, because mental health needs to lose ALL the stigma associated with it. Nobody chooses to be sick. Let’s start with these little actions that, in the future, could make all the difference.
I don’t need you to tell me your story, but if you agree that we should break the stigma, just reach out to that friend you know is struggling a little. Ask them how they are, send them a funny picture, distract them. If it’s you who’s struggling, reach out, ask for funny pictures, listen to music, just do whatever you can to keep fighting against the dark. I have faith in all the people who have read this far, that they want to make a change.
I have faith, and a whole load of hope, in us all.
Love always, Kittykaze