A life running in circles with mental illness.

A life running in circles with mental illness.

The one thing that defines my illness is the constant feeling that I am running in circles. I find myself repeating the same patterns of self-destructive behaviour, I find that no matter how hard I try I end up back at the same point. As Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll back down, I often feel the same.

No matter how hard I try to bring order from chaos within my life, it creeps back in, so frustrating. I really can not complain about my standard of living, I cope, I have family and friends who support me, but I want to stand on my own two feet. Maybe I want the impossible, the one thing that is for sure is that I do not want what lies beneath.

There is a me that must not be allowed to live, a me that I am scared of. Not that I am violent, but then violence can come in verbal and mental forms not just the physical, so maybe I am. It is the me that sit drunk in the corner of a pub for eternity. I have seen it with my own eyes, the son must not follow in the footsteps of the father.

Over the past couple of years I have learned a lot about mental illness in general, and a lot about my own mental health. I have learned to spot triggers and warning signs, though not always, and sometimes a little bit late. The more I learn, the smaller my circle gets, however there are circles within circles. A change in one circle, let us say for example, leading a healthier life, can have effects on others, such as money, change of daily routine, I could go on.

Cycling from mania to depression is another circle in my life, with medication these episodes can be mild and easily recognised, if not actually dealt with. Other times the can be intense, both can be quick (a matter of minutes) or slow (spread over a few weeks). No matter what, once you start looking deep into yourself, you soon see the cyclic nature of prolonged mental illness.

I know that I will never break these cycles, the best that I can hope for is to increase the up cycle and decrease the down side. I believe self-knowledge is the key to better ‘recovery’ from the worst of mental illness. I strongly believe that my quality of living is getting better, the gap between father and son grows. Maybe the more I keep trying, the more subtle changes will stick. What ever happens, it will happen in circles.

This post is inspired by The Daily Prompt 

 

 

Is there a witty side to mental illness

Is there a witty side to mental illness

I have found a rather interesting site which provides a daily prompt for blog posts. If you are a blogger like myself, a ‘fits and starts’ type, it might be useful. The site is called The Daily Post , check it out and see what you think.

Anyway, I have decided to take up their challenge of both writing a post every day, and also writting a post ‘inspired’ by the daily prompt. The word today is witty. Now as I write mainly about my personal experience with mental illness, and occasionally my views on mental illness, trying to formulate a blog post around the word witty is interesting.

Here.  I have to be careful, putting witty and mental health could get me in trouble. Some people could take it that I am saying mental illness is funny, I am not, though I do laugh at myself. This I think is my first point, the ability to laugh at yourself. I do stupid things, I spend money when I know full well that I don’t really have it to spend. Until recently I drank (see my post ‘The trouble with alcohol and mental health’), and other things that made my life just that bit more difficult.

Now I used to get angry at myself for doing these things, fuelled the self loathing, gave myself more to mentally beat myself up, now I try to laugh them off. Logically I know what I have done and what the results of my actions will be, I now accept that it cannot be undone, so it is ‘counter productive?’ For me beat myself up. I try to say to myself “oh well, thats another fuck up” and move on. I do talk to myself a lot, often out loud when alone, I try to keep a positive mindset by joking with myself.

This leads nicely into my second point, what some call ‘military humour’, though I believe it is shared by many front line services. When you see a lot of bad things often the way to accept it, is to joke about it. Now I feel I am coming close to the line, but fuck it I will say it anyway, “why the hell can we not joke about mental health”. I know someone who had a heart attack last week, I seen him today laughing and joking about it. My own mum passed away as a result of cancer just a few months ago (another time) and right up until the end she kept her sense of humour.

Try to make light of mental health and run the risk of scorn and damnation. Is mental illness funny, no it is not, but neither are heart disease and cancer. Is the use of wit when explaining your condition wrong? This depends in my view, I am very open about my illness, I do take it very serious. However trying to explain my illness involves going into some rather heavy stuff, to those of casual acquaintance who enquire I simply say “oh I had a crap electrician wire my brain”, or “I am fit and healthy from the neck down”.

I think you get the picture, sometimes people enquire out of courtesy, they neither want, or, probably fully understand the clinical “I have <insert label here>”. My daughter read my last blog post and nearly cried, she hugged me tightly and said “daddy, it’s so sad”. Now compared to some of my past posts it was very matter of fact, at least that is what I thought. It got me thinking, do I write depressing posts?, and more so, is that the reason people read them, I really hope not.

I know that there is still a massive amount of stigma attached to mental illness, I actively support the education of the masses to the serious plight people face with mental health issues, but are we making a problem with a solution. As most mental illness involves some form of anxiety and/or depression, by stamping our feet so hard to get the masses to take us seriously do we not run a risk of further reinforcing  negative beliefs? Just a thought. Now I may have crossed the line with this post, and I do actively encourage debate (though just calling me a dumb asshole is neither constructive but possibly true….anyway) but I have said what I feel.

No person should take a characteristic of another and use it to cause them discomfort. That being said, within the confines of a social circle, you will often find banter, sarcastic wit and repartee the binding ingredient. I wonder if it is possible to use the power of social media to create such a place. I have just set up a Twitter group called The MHB Club which is open to anyone. There is a Facebook group called The MHB Club which you can ask to join.

So, before I get stoned (with metaphorical rocks not weed) please think, join the groups, spread the work, and let us use our wit to help each other, who knows it might actually work.

Love and peace to you all,

David

NB The picture for those that do not recognise it is the stoning scene from Monty Python, The life of Brian. If you have never seen it shame on you. Yes this is my.  Type of humour.

Finally someone listened

Finally someone listened

Today I had my three monthly review with my consultant psychiatrist, it was the first time I had seen this one, in fact I always seem to have a different one. This Doctor however took the time to review my notes, which were a mess according to him. My medication also baffled him, but when I explained that some was to control the epilepsy others my mental health he kind of got his head around it. Most importantly though he asked the magic question:

“Have you had a diagnosis?”

I explained, yet again, my history, symptoms and feelings, but no, I have no formal diagnosis. He seemed somewhat shocked that after over two years I was still undiagnosed. I told him that I had my own feeling, that I was either bipolar or borderline personality. Finally someone in the medical profession agreed that, in his words “it fits, and there is a lot of overlap between the two (he drew two overlapping circles and shaded the overlap), you may well be here” pointing the shaded area.

For those that follow my blog, you will know that I do not hold ‘labels’ in high regard, however, as a diagnosis of a condition they provide the first and best comfort,

I AM NOT MAKING ALL THIS UP

It may sound stupid to you but I sit here and I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders, even though I know that aside from seeing my psychiatrist, there is no chance of therapy. It is a good job that I am training to be a therapist, although it is much easier to help others than it is ones self. I can now concentrate on building a care plan for myself, using the reference material to help keep me on track. This is where the DSM5 and/or ICD10 are useful.

I have often written, learn to help yourself first, then you can help others. So I shall start, here, now, I am still not a ‘label’ or a statistic. I mentioned in a previous post about using my birthday as the start of a 365 day plan. A plan is forming in my head, as the A Team would say “I love it when a plan comes together”.

For now, peace and love to you all,

David

The trouble with alcohol and mental health

The trouble with alcohol and mental health

I finished off my last blog post quite abruptly as I went out and had a few pints. The whole post was looking at how easy it is for me to get distracted, alcohol seems to be one of the most devastating distractions. I have in the past drank to excess, a whole period of my 20’s is lost in the mist of poor decision making and covering my health problems with a veneer of alcoholic, and to be honest narcotic remedies.

I live in quite an isolated area, even though I live close to family, the epicentre of life revolves around the local golf club. I am even a member, though I seem to spend a lot more time there drinking than playing golf. This hurts me, if I am to be honest. I am so scared of drinking that I often avoid the place purely for that fact. This is a difficult post to write, mainly because it is forcing me to face how I deal with alcohol, and more so, why I drink.

When I drink I am intoxicated by the second pint, by intoxicated I mean that I feel the effects of drinking. Pint three is the tipping point (not the pint), once pint three has gone the thirst is upon me and I want more. To drag myself away at this point is very hard, I want more. Around 5 or 6 I am drunk, slurring, stumbling and the likes. The inhibitions are gone and I am free to talk and joke and basically not give a fcuk. Obviously some might say, well thats not exactly a lot to drink, which is true. However I do take a lot of powerful medication and I am not one for eating regular meals.

I try to follow a strict medication routine, my meds enable me to wobble the narrow line of being a competent person. They have been honed over time to keep me balanced, but when I drink not only does it feed of the medication. I also stop taking it once I have had a drink because I’m worried about the effects. I struggle the next day because of feeling the effects of the day before, and so my meds routine goes out of balance and so do I.

I know within myself that I should not drink, at all. Just say no, as the saying goes. I also know that I should eat healthy, and regularly. Knowing these things though, does not necessarily mean that it is easy to do. I do not wish to label myself as an alcoholic, at the risk of offending those that face a bigger problem with alcohol in their lives. I do however feel like one. Sitting here, using hindsight as my evidence, I honestly feel that alcohol needs to be cut from my life. No just taking it in moderation, having just a couple, it needs to be a complete stop.

If ever anyone needed to know the power of writing just for the sake of writing here it is.

Thank you all and may you know peace,

David

Isolation the curse of current humanity

Isolation the curse of current humanity

In my mind at the moment is the desire to say bollocks to all social media, and yet, hypocritically I am using social media to express my distaste. I am not saying social media is bad, this is a personal feeling and not one I intend to impose on others. At one time I was very active via social media promoting the injustice of the mental health problem faced not only in the UK but also across the world.

Did I give up? It is hard to say. Did I lose faith, what is faith? I think I just lost control, I became so self-absorbed in my own battle with mental illness that I lost touch with my focus on helping others. I am sure I have written before about how I desire to help others cope with the dark shadow that is mental illness. I am not doctor, I am just an ordinary man who has spent a lifetime destroying my life.

I am at that stage in my cycle where I need to be alone, and yet I can’t shake the feeling that what I am doing is wrong. These words I fire into the dark are futile I know. Who the hell would want to listen to advice from someone probably more fucked up than they are. I just wish I could find something to champion, some way of creating a unified group of people who would become the core of a progressive system to help others.

I find personal contact difficult, when ever I meet people, even those close to me, I feel like an outcast, yet social media gives me the opportunity to have a voice. Here you can spot my dilemma, I am lost in the social media world, maybe its my age. I therefore ask anyone who reads this to help me re-engage with the cyber community . I look for not only those who need help, but also those that have positive input.

If you do read this, I thank you, please share my ramblings in the hope that somewhere out there are like-minded individuals who desire to share their voice, their story, their ways of using social media in a productive manner… This whisper in the dark is, I hope the start of something greater.

Drawing strength from the past

Drawing strength from the past

 

I wrote the following blog post 12 months ago today, I am moved by what I wrote then and wish to add a little bit more……….

I find myself wondering if those that end up being committed to hospital because of their actions are actually in a better position that the rest of us? Imagine being able to turn yourself inside out and all the rage and frustration that we keep contained within was to just be allowed to be free. What it would be like to just sit in a corner and just stare for hours in silence, to scream at the top of your voice to vent. I wonder if on the inside they have calm because they can release?

We are expected to sit on a powder keg of emotion and yet present the world a normal exterior, to behave like drones. Right now I do not know what emotion is going with which problem I have, I have so many worries right now maybe they are all interrelated. All I know is that showing calm is now a separate entity to the one inside, I exist as two people and where one is cold and numb the other is crying softly in the corner of my mind. I am still very much broken and coming to realise that it is probably easier for me to crumble completely and rebuild than keep trying to patch myself up.

Am I a failure to want to press pause on life and step outside it for a while? So many people I know are battling their problems each and every day, what right do I have to cheat? Why should I just give up in the hope that by starting from scratch I can rebuild it right this time. It wouldn’t be the first time I have done so, build, destroy, rebuild, destroy, why will it be different this time? Maybe the fact that at least I have at last faced the fact that I am not well and rebuild with that in mind might help, maybe accepting that who I am is vastly different to who I was. Maybe I should sit at the table with my demons and have a meeting, see if we can come to some kind of arrangement that best suits us all.

I have moved in a direction to clear the way but I am sat surrounded by guilt and doubt wondering which way to proceed. I do not regret but I do suffer, I just know that the job is not finished yet and that I am not going to give up on life but I do need to clear away everything for a fresh start. I need to let the last bit of my old self crumble and restart. I long to find that moment of inner peace like that moment when meditating that for a second it all disappears and you are at one with yourself before you realise and smile but it goes because you have seen it. I want to be able to smile because I am smiling inside, be able to frown because I am frowning inside. I want to be able to know that what I feel is real and not the result of some other issue, to never have to lie and pretend I am someone else.

So where does it leave me? A coward for wanting to just let go and say to hell with it all and just rebuild. Or do I keep patching up each damaged bit as I put it right and hope that one fix does not create another problem? It seems such a soft option to just turn around and say look, I am not okay, I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand. Can I handle the looks of pity and being treated like a child? I can’t seem to find anymore words………………

It would be nice to sit here and continue this with many positive statements, to say that reading this has shown me how far I have come. The sad thing is that even after a year, reading this still brings a lot of pain. The most painful thing about reading this is that I seem to have lost the ability to express myself like I did back then. True, I have progressed, I have started my degree and other courses focusing on mental health. This knowledge has and continues to help me help myself. I understand myself better now, but I am still not far from the man who wrote the words above.

The scary part of learning about mental health and the ways in which it can be managed is that you have to reflect upon yourself. For several months now I have been to scared to blog, I feared that what I write would contain to much of my new insights, become a source of debate. I have learned so much about myself, so much so that I realise there is much I do not know. A year ago I was tormented by demons that I did not understand, I know now that the demons were me, and me alone.

I do, however, draw inspiration from what I wrote, the line “I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand.” is especially poignant. Through this very blog and Twitter I found a whole world of people who understood, people who even thanked me for writing what they themselves felt. The people close to me, my family and friends took time to understand, I have been moved on many occasions by the positive feedback that I have received. I still doubt myself, I worry too much that I will fail once again.

The time I feel has come though to stop hiding in the shadows. I once vowed that I would learn how to help myself and help others. That conviction stands! The road is still long and bumpy but I draw strength from the knowledge that once I had the power to share myself openly, to say the things I felt. I must find that power once more, this blog, my journal, my story.

Global community a review 12 months on

Global community a review 12 months on

I wrote the following post on the the 14th June 2015 and I do not think I can add much to it. In the past 12 months my Twitter family has grown massively and I feel so much pride and privilege in being a part of such a wonderful community. Mental health is a massive concern, it is interesting to see that in the past year it has become very prominent in the media. The sad fact still remains that those that suffer from mental health problems, from the mild to the severe are still not receiving the care and treatment that they should.

I have always been passionate about doing more than just talking about mental health, and to some extent I feel guilty that I have not spoken out more. I still pursue the dream of finding a way to offer help to those in need, even if it is just simple skills training and a support network. Despite my own problems, I will continue to work hard towards this end, in fact I have a renewed drive to do so.

All that is left to say is a massive thank you to all those who have supported me this past year, all my followers on Twitter (and the few who follow me on Facebook lol). The wonderful people who read this blog and take the time to comment and pass it on. You are all amazing and I often wonder where I would be without you.

Thank you

David

Finding support to help you is critical in facing your mental health problems. While the poor NHS is stretched to breaking point,it is up to us sufferers and those who care to help and encourage each other. It is amazing how much support I have got from messages from family, friends and colleges. But the truly amazing thing is the support I have from people I have never met from all corners of the globe. Social media has helped build me a brilliant support community and has given me the opportunity to support and encourage others in return. I feel truly honoured to be a part of this community and hope that it continues to grow, bringing others into the fold to offer them our support and for them to feel the great sense of value that comes from supporting others.

I am also grateful to all the wonderful charities and forums out there that provide help, support and information to sufferers. Without these, many of us would be much more alone and ill-informed. They campaign for us, increasing awareness of mental illness and most of all be there when we need them. Finally I would like to thank all those professional therapists, doctors and other medical professionals who are active on social media offering support and help in their own time. The biggest cause of stigma in mental health is the fear within sufferers to admit they have a problem, I have experienced no stigma since I have opened up about my problems. Some people have admitted they have no idea what it means or even that they can’t imagine how it feels but they have all shown support.

So I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to every one of you, and ask that you spread the word far and wide because on each of your friends lists you would be surprised have many people are suffering in silence. So tell them to find me @davesoapbox on Twitter, Davesoapbox on Facebook, tumblr and Pinterest and I will add them and let them see that there is a world full of understanding, empathy and compassion just waiting for them.