Living with Mental Illness

I forget that I am mentally ill more often than I like to admit. But I am, aren’t I?

The diagnosis, the drugs and my own words confirm it, yet how do I forget?

I haven’t been sick for a while now so when it hit me last week it was like a hurricane. It nearly took my head off and tore my heart apart.

I have known for a while now that I have to manage my ‘triggers’, but what are they? To the best of my knowledge I have narrowed them down to (1) extreme stress and (2) extreme excitement (this one’s a toughie, as I get excited about absolutely everything, no matter how big or small).

The problem that has arisen is that while I had identified my triggers I hadn’t put anything in place to manage them, and identifying them alone is evidently not sufficient. One might say, it has been a total fucking howler.

Trying to explain what a bipolar low, or high, is like may not be possible but I’ll give it a shot.

It’s in my head, everything is in my head. It literally feels like the weight of the world is trapped in my head. I honestly think it may explode with the pressure. I can’t focus but I fight against it. Now my head is rushing, as if on drugs. Hours pass like minutes and I achieve nothing. Paranoia sets in and I think everyone can see that I am falling apart. Suddenly I am not me anymore.

This time I am trying so hard to manage it. I should have walked away when it hit, I know this now. Had I removed myself from the initial situation and triggers maybe, just maybe, I could have prevented the spiraling episode that ensued.

I now haven’t slept properly for two weeks. I got so drunk I can’t remember getting home. I can’t think straight. I cry everyday. I am still not myself. My resilience is now almost non existent. I am so fragile I may break. I begin to hate myself. This is not me.

But it is me, and this is my life.

I write about surviving mental illness and being in recovery but sometimes you just have to exist and get through the days. Right now this is how I am living, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. It is really hard.

I debated writing this but I would be a hypocrite if I only wrote about being in recovery when all is fine and dandy, or just reflecting on tough times. I started this site to break down stigma and with some small hope of helping others. Well, this guys is really what it is like living with mental illness. It is painful. It is scary. It fucking sucks.

While my work, friends and family, and of course any reader knows, I am very open about my condition. However, speaking up when you are ill is another matter. I feel pathetic. I feel a failure. I fear that everyone will see me in a different light. I will lose my job. I will lose friends. I’ll become unloveable, unlikable even. This is what I fear. I feel ashamed.

These past two weeks I have cried in front of colleagues, in front of people I don’t even know that well. I have refused to follow old patterns and I have done everything I can to keep going. I have been honest. I have shown up everyday and I have said “I am not in a good place”. Do you know what, not one single person has made me feel anything less than supported and cared for.

So, if you’re reading this and can relate I want to give you hope that confiding in people could be the best thing you may do today. Without it I may not have shown up for work or even for life this week. I could so easily have just curled up in a ball and hidden from the world once more. But I didn’t.

Through speaking up and not giving up I am getting there, albeit very slowly. I am learning to live with mental illness. It is not easy and it may never be but this it. This is me and this is my life.

I am scared. I am scared one day an episode may be too much for me, so I just focus on today. I am scared that no one will ever love me, so I focus on those who do and surround myself by them. I am scared I will fail and lose my job, so I focus on my successes. I am scared of so many things.

Underpinning my survival is the fact I speak up and as a result I realise that people care. People will support you. People won’t judge you. People will like you and love you, just as you are.

I am scared to post this, so I remind myself that I am not alone and that the only way to educate and bring about change is to speak up.