Guest Post by Claire – But you were Doing so Well…

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Claire who talks about having Bipolar Disorder and making sense of what other people may say to us when we’re unwell. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

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Learning to live with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder means learning to live your life quite differently. You have to get used to what triggers you, to make the most of the days where you feel well, to recognise the signs of slipping into depression, and equally raising into hypomania and for those who go there, mania.

The people around you also have a steep learning curve, and despite all their efforts, sometimes it’s really hard for them to understand that your recovery will not be straightforward.

Many of us with mental health issues have felt as though our families and friends don’t understand us, or that they don’t support us. In recent month’s I have started to realise that a lot of the time it is less that than it is near impossible for them to wrap their head around the reality that life really is a roller-coaster for us.

My reality is bipolar disorder, but I know many other illness’ have similar patterns and many people hear phrases similar to one’s I’ve heard from people. These are a fraction of phrases I’ve heard in the past few years from friends, family, and others. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard at least one of these at some point…

“But you were doing so well…”
“You’ve done this on purpose to ruin my careful diary planning”
“Just stick a smile on your face”
“When I was depressed I didn’t…”
“You look fine”
“But you’re laughing”
“Well if you can write a blog, you can work”
“I wish you would come out, just for a bit”
“but I miss you”

I could write these all day, but you get the idea!

Some people are very well-meaning with what they say, and it’s maybe just the wrong thing to say and shows it’s just hard for them to understand exactly what it’s like in your shoes. I find this a lot with family. I know they try very hard to support me, but unless you’ve lived a week in my shoes it’s impossible to know how this feels, to know how one minute everything can be fine the next I can either be in a foul mood or bouncing off of the walls and often for absolutely no reason. The psychosis must be terrifying for them, to see someone afraid of things that aren’t there.

With my sensible head on as I write this, I can understand that as a carer, someone who loves me this must be awfully scary. They must hold onto the moments where we are well so tight and then when we start to get sick again it must be devastating. As the person who is sick, we know it is going to happen, we prepare ourselves for it. But I think our loved one’s hold onto some hope that the last time was the last time.

Often some people just get plain sick of us, and that’s where the more snarky and nasty comments come in. I find these often come from people we had considered friends and it can be soul destroying to find that these people we had found a source of comfort and support are no longer there for us.

From their point of view though, it must be very difficult having friendships with people who consistently cancel plans, aren’t always happy, and I’m being honest here can be quite self-centred at times!

Before the comments get inundated with abuse I am just playing devil’s advocate here, I’m trying to see what they must see. I’ve fallen foul of friend loss because of my illness as much as the next person. I think it helps for us to step outside of ourselves sometimes and see the bigger picture, to see what other people may see.

You then also have the people who are dealing with their own problems, remember that one in four of us have a mental health issue. Not everyone can handle dealing with somebody else’s aswell as their own, or they don’t own up to having one, or won’t realise they have one.

We live with an illness that cripples us, but can be so consuming for us that sometimes we forget to see that it does affect those around us aswell. There could be a whole host of reasons why someone reacts negatively towards you and your illness. Of course, some people are just plain rude and uncaring, and in those cases we are best off without them in our lives.

But for the most part, when you through the rough patch, take a moment to think about why someone has said something hurtful to you. Did they actually mean it in the way you took it? Was it meant as a word of support, a show of love, an act of frustration because they do actually care, do they have an issue you could show them support over?

Creativity and Mental Health

For me, creativity is a massive part of expressing my feelings when it comes to my mental health. Creating abstract representations of my disorders or how I feel allows me to release the negative thoughts and create something interesting in the process.

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Hope (2015) 

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Mental Health Awareness Designs (2014)

I draw, paint, write – anything and everything! It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world; I can sit in complete silence and not have one thought pass through my head for hours when I have a paintbrush in my hand.

Does anybody else have any methods to relieve stress and negative feelings?

Quote of the day

…and then I fell apart, and it was the most beautiful moment ever, because right then, I realised I could put the pieces back together the way I wanted them to be.

Mental Health Art

Just under a year ago in June 2014, I created this series of art work. The six images were each designed to depict a different mental illness or the symptoms associated with it; and they also mock some of the negative stigma that go hand-in-hand with suffering from these disorders.

I designed the series in black and red because for me, they’re the two boldest colours that there are. The black represents the illness, isolation, secrets and negativity that we face from the rest of the world; whilst the areas of red represent the glimpse of hope, which no matter how small is brighter and more predominant than the illness.

We need to stop shaking our heads and silently being at war with the uneducated comments we hear; we need to stop making peace with the idea that mental health issues aren’t as high priority as physical illness, and instead – we need to actively stand strong and fight for better.

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I hope you like them, to view the rest of my art portfolio, click here.

Guest Post for Lifeofmiblog

Here is the guest post I wrote for Michael at Lifeofmiblog earlier this week. Michael suffers with Depression and talks about this as well as many other topics on his blog – It’s fantastic, so please check it out!


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I have Borderline Personality Disorder, Cyclothymia and severe anxiety. I have these things, but it’s important to remember that I am not these things.

You cannot allow the disorders that you have become you, because you undoubtedly lose enough of yourself due to them already. BPD makes me angry, touchy and sometimes aggressive with the people around me; Cyclothymia makes me manic, depressed and all things in between; and anxiety takes away my basic human rights, with crippling fear smothering me and therefore stopping me from doing anything with my life.

These could be (and sometimes are!) soul-destroying things to live with, and so if this is the only way we can identify ourselves, what’s left? What’s the point of being here? Instead, you have to think about the things that you are, instead of the things that you have.

I am motivated and ambitious, I’m sarcastic beyond belief, and I’m creative, artistic and I’m detail-orientated in everything I do. I fall in love easy, but I don’t make good friends often; those that are in my life will be forever. I’m stubborn – way too stubborn – and don’t let arguments go as quickly as I should. But everything I do I do whole-heartedly, putting all my effort into it; and yes – I’m one of those people that are crazy enough to think they can make a difference in the world.

So instead of becoming my disorders, I try to manage these things that I have so that they don’t become a part of my being. I try to control the obstacles and hurdles that my life is constantly throwing at me; it’s not a fair war if you don’t even try to defend and protect yourself. It’s not as easy as I’d like it to be (if it was, mental illness would cease to exist), and it feels like a never-ending battle, because just when I think I have something mastered, something else comes along.

Another fear, another episode, another month where everything becomes too much.

But I keep trying, and that’s the main thing. I keep striving and pushing, waiting for the world to reward me and give me a break. I study as much as I can about my disorders, I research, read and I study for a mindfulness diploma. I learn to meditate, source remedies and techniques to practise, and I write almost every day on my blog relaying my thoughts and letting them all out of my already-cluttered-brain. I paint, I draw, I exercise, I cut out caffeine, and I make an extra effort with those I love.

Researching my disorders has given me an understanding of what’s going on in my mind which is absolutely priceless to me and mindfulness teaches me to think in the moment, not allowing the past or future to influence where I am right now. Meditation slows my breathing down alongside the absence of caffeine, helping my anxiety beyond belief. Creativity and writing makes my mind joyous, exercise makes my body joyous, and people – well they’re a support system that I wouldn’t want to do without. The biggest mistake too many of us make is pushing those that love us out of our lives.

But most of all, regardless of all these things, I remember who I am and what I am. I remind myself of all the things that make me, me. And my somewhat poor mental health definitely isn’t even a small part of that. That’s all I can do. Some may say that it’s all a distraction, but I believe it’s just a part of the journey to recovery. Like with any other illness, we’re all just looking for a cure.

Reality

Tonight I watched the film, Still Alice. I don’t wish to spoil the plot for those of you that would like to see it, but the basic premise is about a woman who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and it’s a realistic and harrowing portrayal of what it’s like to live with the disease. As you all know, I don’t suffer from Alzheimer’s myself – and I’m under no illusions that I have any idea what it’s like to live with it – but somehow this film struck a chord with me.

It was the lack of control the character had over her brain. The way in which she so desperately wanted things to be better and normal but her mind wouldn’t allow those desires to become a reality.The constant and every day struggle and fight that was happening in her head. The helpless looks on everybody’s faces around her as they had no concept of what to do to help. The way it consumed her and stopped her from doing the things she loved the most.

And so now I lie here, in complete darkness, trying so hard to get to sleep and stop these thoughts racing through my mind. I can close my eyes for a matter of seconds before they’re wide open again, thinking about my own life and the similarities we all have to each other no matter our condition.

At one point in the film, the character bluntly states, ‘I wish I had cancer’ – a difficult sentence to comprehend to the average person. I actually watched the film with my mum, and at this point she almost laughed. I don’t know if it was shock or a nervous reflex, I didn’t ask, but I’m sure most people’s first reaction would be: how could somebody say that? How could somebody say that they want a disease that kills millions? How can somebody be that lost within themselves that that’s a thought that even passes through them?

But right now I’m not going to sit here and edit my thoughts before I write them down. I’m not going to lie or say what I’m supposed to say. Instead I’m going to say that I get it. I didn’t feel shocked or nervous when this line was read out. I felt understanding and almost comforted by the commonality between us. I know it’s a controversial thing to say; I’ve lost and am currently losing family members at the moment to the disease, and one of my best friends lost her mum to cancer just last year. It’s an awful, agonising, painful and traumatic thing to have, or to watch someone else have. I am in no way trying to belittle that and I do not at all wish that I had cancer. But I do get it. I get what she meant.

I understand what it’s like to have your illness belittled over and over again. I understand what it’s like to be made to feel ashamed of it because it’s an illness of the brain and not something ‘real’ like what cancer is. I understand what it’s like to want to die; to end it all because being here is just too damn hard, and surely cancer would just be quicker and less painful – because nothing can be as painful as this.

I can’t watch suicides/attempted suicides in films or TV programmes, and I don’t like talking about them fiction or otherwise. Everyone knows that I’m unbearably squeamish and so most of the time people assume this is why. But that’s not really it. Suicide scares me to watch or hear about or think about in any real capacity because it’s a reality for me. It’s something that I can sympathise with and although have never got to the point where I have ever carried out any suicidal thoughts, I do understand what it’s like to be in that head space. I feel it. It’s hard to explain in words but it makes me panic and my heart beats at a million miles per hour. It’s like watching someone else die a painful death due to a disease that you have yourself.

Still Alice may be about a person living with Alzheimer’s and the harsh reality that that brings, but I think that anybody suffering with any type of mental illness would find similarities between the character and themselves. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Hopefully now that these thoughts are laid out here, I can finally get some sleep! Have a great day/night – depending where you are in the world!

Fast forward

For those of you that don’t know, I have cyclothymia amongst other things.

And today, just before my final exam everything seems just that little bit faster and sped up and I can’t slow anything down. It’s really bad timing, I don’t need it today – I need to be able to concentrate!!

As if these exams weren’t hard enough already.

fast

Fast Forward, by Lauren Hayley (2014).

Empty Spaces

A piece of writing I found today, written in 2008 (aged 16) – whilst suffering with a depressive episode

Me, around the same time this piece was written

Me, around the same time this piece was written

Sitting in an empty space is the only time you can gather your thoughts and allow your imagination to run wild.

This is where the best ideas can come to you, everything starts making sense and things seem much clearer than they did when there were other voices and interruptions in the way. But those four plain, cold, white walls can either be a blank canvas of inspiration, or they can be a lack of distraction from the demon inside you; filling your brain with negativity and pain. The secrets, lies and heartbreak that you managed to block out in the noise and chaos of life suddenly dawns on you and you can feel yourself drowning deeper and deeper and deeper until you find yourself lost in a surreal in between of life and death. You can feel yourself breathing heavily and your heart’s still pumping blood through your veins, but they’re the only signs of being alive.

Sitting in an empty space is the only time you can gather your thoughts and allow your imagination to run wild – but for some people, it’s the most horrific place to be, and it can put you in the most dangerous state of mind you could possibly be in.

#MHAW2015 LET’S TALK MINDFULNESS: PART 3

Now that you all know what Mindfulness is and were it comes from, I guess the next thing you should know is who Mindfulness is for?

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Would it be useful four your mum, your daughter, your friend or your neighbour? Would it be useful for you?

There is a very simple and quick answer to this question – yes. I mean look at the pointing finger.

On the whole, Mindfulness is used to treat people that suffer from depression-based mental health conditions, and the breathing exercises that a person will adopt when learning the practice is also fantastic for people with anxiety issues.

So this covers depression, generalised anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder – and so much more.

Really though, it can be used to treat anybody – mentally healthy or otherwise. I think everybody could do with a little less stress in their lives, right? And the best thing is, Mindfulness can be used on anybody of any age, which could dramatically improve the services that young people receive. Doctors are quite rightly reluctant to give out medication to children, and you’re stuck in between adult and child services when you’re a teenager – which in my case meant that at fifteen years old my counsellor had me looking at drawings of dinosaurs to help me understand anxiety – it wasn’t fantastic, let me tell you.

caveman-chased-by-dinosaur

Whether or not Mindfulness would work for you is a completely different and more complex question though. Firstly, do you like the sound of it? Is it something you’re open to or does it just sound like nonsense? And secondly, can you do it? Mindfulness takes a lot of practise and dedication, do you have a strong enough desire to give it all the time and attention that it takes?

Whilst it could be useful to you, if the answer to these questions is ‘It sounds like rubbish and I have no time anyway’ – It isn’t for you. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of things out there that are.

If you’re still on board so far and want to find out more, come back tomorrow for more info on how Mindfulness actually helps.

Thursday: What Mindfulness does to help you
Friday: Does Mindfulness actually work? Pros and Cons
Saturday: Success stories
Sunday: My experiences with Mindfulness

love lauren x

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This is what depression really looks like

This article, written by Laura Silver for Buzzfeed, is the perfect example on how we shouldn’t judge people by appearances. Just because you can’t see someone suffering, doesn’t mean that they’re not.

Be kind – and be wary that sometimes the person with the biggest smile in the room, is the one feeling most broken inside.

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Anna Popsky – found on Buzzfeed article: ‘This is What Depression Really Looks Like’

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