Mental wellness not mental illness

img_2226It’s 4:55 am and I’ve been up since about 4, I’ve recently been taking my sleeping tablets every night in order to ensure I stay well during a bit of a transitionary stage but my stock is running low which means I need to start attempting to sleep on my own like a regular human being. This is the first night of the pain in the ass that is med free sleep and my eyes are burning and I already hate this day but crazy early mornings are always a good time to blog so I’m making the most of this sleep deprived state.

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of guest speaking at a training day for first year Nursing students on what it’s like to have used mental health services. This is the second time I’ve done it and whilst I almost bailed on the first one this time I just felt like puking a little beforehand so there’s a significant improvement. First time around the lecture hall was filled with about 250 students but this time I only had 46 which in theory is less hardcore but small group mentality meant they felt more comfortable asking particularly personal questions which threw me in a good way. Prepped for ‘What’s mania like?’ and getting ‘Will your Bipolar affect your approach to having a family?’ was an unexpected curveball but meant quick thinking, gut reaction mini moments of self-reflection.

When someone asked ‘do you think you will always be affected by your Bipolar now you’re on medication’ it threw me, my stock answer would have been no but when I thought about it I realised yes, probably, and how that didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. There will always be things I will need to take into account, these are:

  1. What’s the situation with sleep? Have I had enough and am I reliant on sleep medication at the moment?
  2. Does my medication feel like enough at the moment? Am I managing my mood well on my own or do I need a little helping hand for a bit and maybe eventually can I look at coming off?
  3. What’s my support network looking like? Particularly with potentially moving out of the area it’s important to consider what I’ll do if I don’t feel so good and furthermore how I can create one in the first place?
  4. Working – Am I managing? What hours feel feasible? What risks can I take and what is simply not worth it and do I meet the criteria dictated by my benefits and maybe eventually can I come off my benefits?
  5. Am I exercising? For someone who cried before sports day and dislikes (and sucks at) most sports swimming and running make a big difference to how I’m feeling and are probably a factor to consider for sleep so it’s important to get off my butt and feel the burn (or mild discomfort in my case).
  6. Am I feeling challenged? I’m a big one for purpose and feeling pointless so it’s important to clock in and make sure I feel I’m doing something that’s meaningful, it’s a slippery slope when I don’t feel I’m contributing and am essentially just existing.
  7. Am I living off ready meals and when did I last eat a vegetable? I’ve been bouncing back and forth between my boyfriends house and my flat which has meant a considerable amount of ready meals as I haven’t been in one place long enough to do a proper food shop. Not only is this bad for my weight which is always going to be a sore spot for me since I piled on the pounds a few years back but the sugar highs and lows you get with junk food are ultimately no good for me.
  8. Have I got a sense of routine? Something I’ve been lacking recently and makes me feel slightly messy in my head, it might not be as crucial as before but it’s definitely still a factor.
  9. What’s the deal with my interaction with mental health services? Right now I don’t have any so it’s particularly important to look at all the above so I don’t spiral downwards (or upwards).
  10. General mood check ins – am I doing jobs at 3am? Am I not doing jobs? Do I care about jobs? Do I acknowledge their existence?

These things are all considerations but not necessarily restrictions, which is an idea I’m coming around to. Mental health is more than just the diagnosis and labels we throw around but just about general wellness, which is something we all have to consider. Most people have to, or ought to, be checking in with themselves, we should all be making sure we’re feeling good, not too overwhelmed or burned out. I’ve always viewed these things as unique to my Bipolar but in fact they are unique to me. It’s all part of a shift in mentality towards the Bipolar but I’ve realised whilst a lot of these things affect my Bipolar and mood they are also just me. At University I went to bed at 10pm at the latest (because I was cool) because I struggle to function on minimal amounts of sleep and become a monster, this is pre Bipolar. This isn’t to say the Bipolar isn’t affected, boy is it affected, but that these considerations are about more than just mental ‘illness’ they are about mental ‘wellness’, which is something everyone can relate to.

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