What Not to Say to Someone with Bipolar

Are you still taking your meds?

The weather is so bipolar rn.

OMG my friend is SO bipolar, we’re always arguing.

Wow, you’re so moody.

Well you were fine yesterday.

Cheer up.

We all get down.

Have a nice bath.

Try not to worry so much.

You just need to get out more.

Snap out of it.

Oh I’m a bit bipolar too!

It’s just all in your head.

You’re just doing it for attention.

Wow, you’re dark.

You don’t need medication, you need nature / yoga / aromatherapy – delete applicable.

It hasn’t done Stephen Fry any harm.

You never know, it might never happen.

Oh like Stacey from Eastenders?

Are you sure you’ve taken your meds?

Think positively.

Chin up.

Smile!

Stop being so negative.

Happy mums have happy kids!

Get a grip.

Well you sound OK.

Man up.

Stop being so selfish.

What have you got to be so unhappy about?

Oh I read an interesting article in the Daily Mail about bipolar, it said –

Go take some happy pills.

 

What to say to someone with bipolar:

It’s OK.

Same here.

I’m here if you want to talk.

I understand.

Write it down.

Do you need anything?

I know.

Do you need some help?

I’m not going anywhere.

I’m listening.

Accountability

 

New year, new me bollocks.

I know the whole mindset of YOU MUST LOSE WEIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS YOU QUALITY STREET EATING MONSTER is wrong and unhealthy, but I feel in my case, it’s long overdue.

After years of riding the bipolar train up and down and back again, trying every known medication and every cocktail of said medication in an attempt to remain stable – I’ve put on a lot of weight (shout out to the mood stabilisers that conveniently increase your appetite and utterly zonk you out, therefore you crave sugar to give yourself a some kind of boost (Goodbye dear full fat Coke, my friend) and the crippling anxiety stopping me from actually doing anything).

However *jazz hands emoji* I’ve been stable for a good 6 months and it’s time to do something about the extra 4 stone I’ve put on thanks to the meds and my poor choices and tackle my nonexistent fitness.

So that’s the plan, lose the extra 4 stone and see where I go from there. Ya never know, I might become one of these running addicts and live in active wear every day and keep going, innit. But for now, little steps, little goals.

This is where the accountability comes in. I don’t want to do this for a week and quit. I don’t want to buy a Fitbit to encourage me to move and then find an excuse not to wear it even though it is bloody ugly. I don’t want to be disheartened by losing little and often rather than 8lbs a week (the lady at Slimming World told me people starting their plan often lose REALLY big in their first week and proceeded to give me the death stare when I lost 2lbs – I didn’t return and cried for 3 days).

I want this to stick, I want to do this. It’s a marathon, not a race innit. So I’m putting it out in the world (or to ya know, 4 people, let’s be honest) to make myself accountable and responsible for this decision. Suffering with a mental illness, it’s easy to make life choices big or small, and then ditch the idea because it’s just too hard or I become unwell suddenly and my little world comes to an abrupt halt.

In the past year I’ve proven to myself I can stick to things even when a little voice is telling me it’d be easier to stop and hide in bed until I don’t feel guilty anymore. So this year I shall be mostly losing 4 stone and getting fitter. I will share my progress on my Instagram weekly and will check in here every so often.

Btw – I’m mummyneversleeps@gmail.com if you want to add me on Fitbit

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to prep my lunch and sweat my arse off on the treadmill in my fancy active wear.

What is Cyclothymia?

 

Cyclothymia (or Cyclothymic Disorder) is a rare, chronic personality disorder.

It’s bipolar’s slightly younger, highly annoying little sister. She tries to emulate bipolar in every way she can, but gets it a bit wrong along the way. On the surface they look the same, they even sound the same, it just comes to how they both behave that differs.

Hypomania:

I was misdiagnosed for years because of this. I was always asked by professionals if I ever felt moments of “happiness” and the answer was (is) always simple – no. I don’t. Hypomania is always misconstrued as elation, an invincible high, like a helium balloon caught in a breeze, and most commonly – happiness.

I don’t experience it like that, I’ve come to fear the highs just as I absolutely dread the periods of low mood, or minor depression as the official term is. With the highs, I find it easier to do things, I want to do things, I want to do everything all at once. My mind will pinball around hundreds of different ideas, it’ll settle on one thing, one idea, one plan for a nanosecond before zooming off to the next. I may look happy on the outside, I may sound more animated and alive, but invariably I’ll be getting frustrated with not being able to settle on anything, I’ll become irritable and inevitably, I’ll lose my temper as my mind feels like it’s vibrating with thoughts and I’ll want to curl up in a ball just to make it all stop.

It gives you the air of self confidence that you know what you’re doing when really you know anything but. It makes it impossible to trust your own judgement – is this actually a good idea or am I manic?

Hypomania also comes along with other, stranger symptoms; I get easily overwhelmed by too much noise, as it feels as if sounds are jumbling up with my zooming thoughts. I can’t listen and have a tendancy to interupt conversation with whatever pops into my head.

Minor depression: 

I don’t think I need to go too far into explaining this one.

I have a tough time with describing depression as minor, as far as I’m concerned, depression is depression. For me it’s the bone crushing inability to do anything. It’s world wide indifference. It’s staying in bed all day. It’s not bothering to look after myself or shower. It’s not bothering to speak because what’s the point? It’s simply not caring. It’s numbness and it’s pain.

Mood swings:

Now we know the moods I experience, one of the biggest things with cyclothymia is how rapidly these moods can swing and change. I can go from one end of the spectrum to the other in hours, if not minutes when I’m triggered by something stressful or exciting. When I’m in a bad spell and my medication isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, I frankly don’t know how I feel, I may have been fine in the morning but high by lunch and down again by the evening.

I was diagnosed with cyclothymia in February 2016, for the forseeable future I will need to take mood stabilisers (traditionally known as anti-psychotics) to balance the swinging scales of my moods and anti-depressants so my lows aren’t as bad as they could be.

The Quiet Ones Have the Loudest Minds

Generally when I meet people for the first time I’m all awkward and completely forget how to behave when I’m around actual human beings. I start to panic that when they look me in the eye they’ll be able to see all my secrets, steal my superpowers and notice that worst of all, I only managed to get mascara on one eye this morning before leaving the house in a whirlwind of book bags, permission slips and tangled hair. My voice shuts down completely, it’ll get stuck halfway up my throat and surface as a shaky whisper. I like to think it makes me sound profound or mysterious, but truly, I just sound like a have a bout of tonsillitis.

It seems that the majority of mums (and dads, obvs, we’re all equal here) take to the whole socialising with their children thing like a fish to the proverbial expanse of wet stuff. You sometimes catch a glimpse of us awkward ones, slinking around the parameter of the playground or baby & toddler group, pretending to be really into what our kids are up to (or the next imaginative way they’re trying to maim themselves or others). We’ll be looking anywhere but directly at other people. Anywhere. Oh, hang on, I must now look really intently at my phone for the next few minutes, brow furrowed, swiping that finger with purpose, I tell you. You are reading business emails, those deadlines keep whooshing in and dammit the FTSE has just dropped 100 points.

What? They don’t need to know that you’re simply trying to catch a Magikarp on Pokemon Go and that you have no idea how to work your 4G.

Don’t forget the dramatic sigh for added effect.

Thing is though, you might see us awkward folk, desperately trying to go unnoticed. Some of us performing the school drop offs and pick ups with the expertise of a ninja, speaking to no one, especially avoiding the Glam Mums, straight in and out, and in a puff of smoke – they disappear. Some being less fortunate and run in with the school PA (ya know the one, the mum who makes it her personal business to run everything yet isn’t actually on the payroll), with a homemade cake in her hand, “Excuse me, the rules do state that the children aren’t supposed to ride their scooters or bikes within the school grounds. Just so you know.”

We may be quiet. We may be awkward. We might say the wrong thing or laugh at an inopportune moment. Hell, we might even have leftover tear stains behind the bug-eyed sunglasses or hiding our quivering hands within our pockets. We could have an occasional tick and our hearts stop momentarily as a child screams, a baby cries or once we realise that we really can’t deal with crowds.

You might think we’re mental. You might even say it out loud or via a loaded glance to one another.

And do you know what?

We probably are.

Postnatal depression affects one in eight mothers. Not to mention causes a tidal wave of destruction for their partners, families and friends. Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK.

My name’s Cas and I’m a bit mental. Various acronyms have been thrown around in my presence – PND, OCD, PPD, PTSD, plus the good old depression, major depression and neurotic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in my head and most of the time I’m floating on a rollercoaster of antidepressants and mood stabilisers.

The quiet ones are all coping, somehow, hanging on by our fingernails. We’re battling stuff we could never say out loud, even if we were able to put it into words coherently.

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in a grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist / psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

Circles

Thursday Morning:

They search me, they trace their hands up my sleeves to ensure I’m not hiding anything. They ask what’s in my pockets before forcing me outside, into the back of their car. I feel eyes watching me from every window, the immovable sense that I’ll be some gossip for when their husbands and kids get home.

They take me to A&E. They follow me to the desk and again, everyone’s watching me, trying to work out what I’ve done to have police escorting me. They put me in the special room I’ve seen so many times before. For criminals, for people being abusive or violent, for drunks. We sit there for hours. On the hottest day of the year, no windows, the heat rising and I can’t remove my sweatshirt because they’ll see what I’ve done.

It’s a blur. They ignore me, they talk amongst themselves, listening to their radios and commenting on the accident that’s being reported and go on to talk about RTA’s they’ve been to where they’ve had to scrape people off of the road.

Thursday Afternoon:

It goes on for hours, and then they’re gone. More people come and eventually go again.

“What happened this morning before the police brought you in?”

“I don’t know, I don’t remember.”

Again, and again, the same forms, the same questions, the same cold, blank expression from the person asking me, the same tiny box of tissues being handed to me in an attempt to clean up the mass of tears, and the unshakeable feeling that this is never going to end.

The hours pass. They clear the A&E bed and room of all equipment so I don’t attempt to garrotte myself with a blood pressure pump, a nurse sits with me the entire time and closes the paper curtains so no one has to see me sobbing uncontrollably. I ask to go to the toilet, she follows me and tells me not to lock the door. I’m not allowed to use the phone. We return to the bed, she tells me I can sleep but I ignore her and sit bolt upright, watching the blue curtains for shadows approaching, waiting for someone to come along and tell me this was all a terrible, ugly dream.

Another doctor arrives. We go through the questions again and he asks what I want to do, I tell him I want to go home and he says that’s not possible, it’s not safe for me yet. He says I need to go to another hospital for the night, a secure mental health unit to be assessed properly before I can go home. I ask what the other option is, hoping there’s some way out and he answers simply –

“We’ll have to section you under the Mental Health Act.”

Thursday Evening:

I’m taken in the back of an ambulance to the other hospital. I can’t see where we’re going, I don’t know the hospital. I don’t know who I’m with and it all feels so, so wrong. We arrive at the hospital and start going through a series of locked doors, as many doors are locked behind me and the paramedics as are opened before us. All too soon, we’re there. Locked in.

They go through my bag, taking away my glasses and phone charger, they fill out more forms. The woman keeps telling me I’m really tearful when I’m sitting there still, completely numb and for the first time all day I don’t feel like crying.

The rest is a blur. I’m forced to sit with other patients in a lounge area because the dorms are locked. They offer pills I don’t know and I refuse them. I’m told I might be lucky enough to see a doctor for the assessment tomorrow. Eventually I’m allowed to sleep. In an empty room, with the lights on, and a opaque window that won’t open.

Friday Morning:

I’m allowed to see the doctor for my assessment. Except, it isn’t an assessment. They tell me I’m going to be OK, they nod enthusiastically as if I’m supposed to join in, they tell me my family’s supportive and that this was just a blip and that I can go home.

I leave the procession of locked doors to be the outside world, without any money, without my phone as it’s out of battery, without a single phone number or leaflet, or what I should do if it happens again and without the slightest clue as to what happened to me to cause the events of the previous morning.