The Blog

Medication Side Effects

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I keep mine in this lovely box my friend gave me as part of a birthday present!
For this weeks re-share I thought I’d share this post on medication side effects. I recently met someone who was super anti medication (he didn’t have anything which required him to take anything which I personally feel makes it significantly easier to be anti meds). I found it so bizzare people still felt so anti something which could be doing so much good for someone; as long as there has been shared decision making (essentially a Doctor being like ‘Hey, what are your thoughts on this?’ rather than ‘Hey, you’ll be doing this’) and the person is well informed, I think medication can be hugely helpful. I’m on a great regime now which means I’m far more likely to take it which also sort of works out for the Psych team so it’s a win win for everyone to have a treatment plan in which the patient is totally on board.
That said medication is still medication and I do have the odd ‘what if I’d be totally different and I’m oblivious’ but I’m far too happy and stable to take the risk. At some point I’ll want kids and that’ll be a good reflection point for medication. This post is a great illustration of why shared decision making is important and the extent to which I’ve worked hard to not just settle with the first thing given to me. I fully acknowledge the privileged position I have been in as someone with a good education and support system which has allowed me to articulate myself and my needs well and this is why advocates in mental health are so important. However, these huge numbers of side effects are why I feel confident in the ability of medication to do good, it would have been very easy to give up but I am glad i stuck with it and have found something that works for me.

‘Committed’ Suicide

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Some people aren’t aware of this, another option is ‘died by’, this replaces the judgement with the acknowledgement that suicide is complex and the person suffered from something. It’s hard for someone people to understand the distinction but the best example I can give is that we would not say a smoker committed suicide when their smoking related lung cancer ended their life, we would say they died of lung cancer. In a way this separation is similar with suicide, the death was a result of a symptom and it’s important to acknowledge the symptom in order to remove some of the judgement, disdain and anger people have around suicide.

It may be a slightly difficult read and I am much more well than when I first wrote this post so a lot of my impulsivity and back up plans no longer apply but I think the below post from 2016 explores some of these issues well. Although I am now very well I have experienced and will likely at some point experience again the most horrific emotional pain. As a result when I hear someone has died by suicide my only feeling is empathy because I understand how much pain they must have been in. I know for those who have lost a loved one to suicide there will of course be many other emotions at play because the repercussions are so wide for those left behind but from the perspective of someone who has considered suicide at multiple times since being diagnosed I can understand how people reach this point.The language is important to encourage those who have not had an experience to consider the awful state of mind someone must be in to make this decision.
Blog post (disclaimer, this may be triggering for some): https://psbipolar.com/2016/07/30/suicidal-feelings-attempts/

The inside scoop on getting a diagnosis

20200328_103131A few people have asked me recently if I can reshare some of my earlier posts for those who have joined me late in the game so for the next month or so I’m going to be resharing some of my earlier posts around Bipolar more generally that contain less (but only slightly) waffle about my day to day existence. These are hopefully more educational and shareable! Enjoy!

Here are my top 10 tips for getting the right diagnosis and accessing the support you need:

1.    Try to see the same doctor every time and any time you feel your mood shift dramatically  go and see them so they can get a sense of who you are and what you look like in different moods

2.    Ask to be referred to your local mental health team for a psychiatric assessment. Unless you present to your GP in the middle of a crisis most Doctors tend to diagnose depression. This makes sense when you think about it, do you tend to go to the GP because you feel good? Not usually, but you will go when you start to feel low; without seeing your hypomania or mania it’s easy to see how a misdiagnosis can happen. GPs actually know very little about mental health compared to a specialist and are only allowed to prescribe certain medications. For example a GP couldn’t prescribe me lithium without it being approved by a psychiatrist so it really is helpful to get referred if you can.

3.    Keep a moody diary, you can get templates online specifically for Bipolar and they’re a great way for you to see how your moods are fluctuating. If you’re already taking medications then ensure you make a note of this on your diary. A lot of GPs will initially prescribe anti-depressants which for someone with Bipolar are a no go as they can send you high; if this is reflected in your mood diary it will help a Psychiatrist to diagnose. Most Psychiatrists will initially ask you to keep a mood diary for a month to get a sense of how you’re feeling so you’ll cut time if you’re already on it.

4.    If you’re comfortable doing so then speak to your friends and family and ask them to keep note of your moods too. To save arguments you might want to ask them to keep their notes private from you until you need them, I always argue I’m just happy when I’m starting to go high and then sheepishly apologise later when I realise they were right all along.

5.    Discuss with your family about what you want to happen at different stages. For example if you can see that at points you can be so unwell that admission would be good for you then make that arrangement when you’re well. You will never want to be admitted so it makes it much easier for your family to make that decision if you’ve asked them to when you’re well. It sounds terrible but your chances of a diagnosis improve in a ward setting where they can see you in crisis and can monitor your moods more closely

6.    Use community support that is offered to you, a CPN for example is really helpful in getting a diagnosis as they can see you more frequently and get a real sense of who you are and how your moods change. CPN’s will report back to your Psychiatrist and are particularly good for feeding back an elevated mood which you might otherwise not have picked up on yourself or raised with your Psychiatrist.

7.    Engage with services, it sounds gross but the more willing you show the more support is offered to you. The NHS are very pro responsibility, this means you need to take ownership and help yourself, if you don’t and are deemed to have capacity then a lot of support is withdrawn. It sounds unfair and in some circumstances it is but if you show that you are willing to try then services are much more likely to be sympathetic. An example would be my constant changing of medication, I have been a royal pain the bum in my refusal to settle with a medication which doesn’t feel right but by making all of my appointments, taking mood diaries and following a WRAP plan I have proved that I am not being deliberately uncooperative and as a result they have pandered to my stubbornness surrounding medication.

8.    Try different forms of support out and then dismiss the ones that weren’t useful to you but crucially don’t rule anything out initially. Medications will generally feature in a diagnosis of Bipolar but these can include a range of anti-depressants (rarely), anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and anti-anxiety medications. At the beginning I was loathe to take anything extra on top of my mood stabiliser, these days I recognise that I can sometimes curb an episode by taking an anti-anxiety medication or sleeping tablet for a few weeks. I was also offered therapy but found that I was able to articulate my feelings to my CPN effectively without the need for a therapist but some people have found this outlet very productive; without experimenting I wouldn’t have found the right plan for me or felt satisfied that it was my best option.

9.    Similar to point 9 give treatments time to settle in and take effect. You might find that something that makes you super drowsy at the beginning eases off after a week or two. When I first started taking Promethazine for anxiety I found it relaxed me a little too much and I had to take it at night, now it’s settled a little I can take it in the morning and my body is tolerant enough for it to just calm me if I’m feeling overly anxious.

10.  Listen to your gut! My mum instilled this in me from a young age and it is exceptionally useful in this instance. If your gut tells you you don’t have the right diagnosis then listen to it and discuss this with your support team when you’re calm. If you’re being told to stick out another week on a medication that is making you feel terrible then explain this rationally to your team. My gut has come in handy (aside from the IBS) many a time, from when I knew something wasn’t right with the way I was feeling at the beginning to refusing to accept weight gaining medications. As long as you have capacity and explain your thought process calmly and logically it must be taken seriously. As with anything in life a carefully thought through and explained argument will go a lot further than an over emotional and chaotic one!download

P.S Bipolar

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Here are my top 10 tips for getting the right diagnosis and accessing the support you need:

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Feeling Frazzled

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about self-care, that’s right, the millennial, snowflake obsession with self indulgence. Or not. It still baffles me that millennials seem to have taken a hit for what is essentially 1. wanting all people to feel included, represented and safe to live their lives and 2. prioritising good mental health practises and looking after their wellbeing. Self care is hugely important for this generation where we pay extortionate amounts of rent (i calculated I’ve spent £56,000 in 7 years which makes me feel a tad nauseous) and will probably still be working as we crawl onto our deathbed. If we are going to spend most of our lives working (and lets face it if you’re in healthcare or the charity sector you probably will) then at the bare minimum we should be investing in our mental health if we can’t invest in a home.

Self care is often viewed as a luxury but really it’s just common sense, that’s not to say everyone has regular time to do so but it should still be a priority. From a selfish perspective it allows us to recharge and feel calm and grounded but even altruistically self care allows us to be present and engaged with those around us. Self care is also about insight and the ability to reflect and vocalise your needs. Last week was ridiculously busy, i did long hours at work to make up some time i was having off and then a heavy bout of socialising; all nice things but pretty full on, particularly for someone who lives alone. These days i really notice that i feel pretty stressed out when i don’t have the option of having down time on my own, it leaves me feeling a bit claustrophobic and anxious. I also find bitty days and being busy in lots of areas difficult, last Wednesday i had an important meeting all day and then a 30 minute gap to rush to a hospital appointment where i manged to lose myself in a maze of corridors leading me to promptly burst into tears on arrival. Luckily for me it was therapy which is the best type of appointment to arrive to if you’re going to start crying when you get through the door. Over the weekend i spent 6 hours travelling and when i arrived home on sunday was straight out the door to a choir rehearsal which took place at work and required me to get in my polite, being in public headspace.

On Monday i attempted to cram in an early doctors appointment before work where they refused to give me my medication based on an inaccuracy in a letter sent over by my psychiatrist and again i burst into tears. This is a lot of crying for a 7 day period so i figured i probably needed time out, i had lunch on my own at work which because i was anti social and frazzled when i first began working there has just become a norm and people leave me to it. In the evening i had planned to run but instead closed the curtains, got in comfy clothes and watched back to back love island (love it or hate it it’s good escapism). This might not be the luxurious bubble bath with a glass of wine that’s used to depict self care but sometimes self care is just about recognising when you need a breather. Having spent two nights having anti social evenings where the most i achieved was making a chilli before i crashed on the sofa i now feel significantly better.

This downtime not only means i’m not on the brink of tears at any given moment but it means i feel clearer headed at work and more present. It’s not just about recognising for myself when i need time out but it’s also about acknowledging that those around me need time out too and it’s ok for them to vocalise that. One of my best friends and i send regular voice notes on whatsapp which have become part of my morning ritual on the bus to work, this recently amped up after a break up where i struggled to not sob through my journey and she therefore felt obliged to distract me for the duration of my commute. Now i’m out of the ‘i literally feel so awful i cannot possibly be left in my own company’ and am more ‘i feel sad but have accepted this situation’ the voice notes have lessened which is probably more healthy. With my ridiculously over socialised week i paused all communication and sent her a voice note yesterday explaining what i’d been up to and that i felt totally fried. She in return texted me (literally unheard of) to explain she also felt fried and wanted to pause our daily voice notes and swap to a weekly chat that didn’t feel so overwhelming. Good self care people!

All of this has encouraged me to reflect on firstly how self aware i am these days that i am able to mentally check into my needs so easily and secondly that this is a universal issue, not a Bipolar one. Bring on the millennial self indulgence!

Some things i consider to be good self care:

  1. Time away from people when needed
  2. Listening to ASMR (google it people, you’ll either find it weird and creepy as hell or amazing)
  3. Speaking to my Manager about working out of the office when i feel overwhelmed
  4. Reading and turning off all electronics
  5. Doing my gratitude journal in the evening
  6. Not staring at my phone until the brink of sleep but reading and meditating
  7. Meditating, even if i’m rubbish at it
  8. Going for a walk and being in nature, i hate town
  9. Catching up with friends – yup sometimes i do actually want to engage rather than retreat
  10. exercising – reasonable amounts though people, lets not go overboard

Paintings

So I’ve been working on some paintings as part of a series on my Bipolar, I wanted to convey that firstly the moods could be separated to a minimum of 5 categories and secondly that there is a lot of nuance within these moods. For example whilst ‘Mania’ is bright and colourful and exciting it is also very chaotic with an inability to focus, hence lots of bright colours and punchy patterns. For ‘Anxiety’ I wanted a sense of sharp objects and darker colours but also some elements of beauty because although I fricken hate anxiety I also acknowledge that it allows me to be more compassionate and understanding of others with similar experiences. I’ve also continued a gold theme throughout to indicate that although some of these feelings are uncomfortable and I have mixed emotions around them they are also a part of me and what makes me wonderfully unique!

National Volunteers Week

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Me and all my amazing volunteers and some of our staff with their long service awards in 2019!

From the 1st-7th June is National Volunteers Week and as a Voluntary Services Manager this is a big deal on a professional level but for me it’s also a personal one too. It’s a moment for me to acknowledge how far I’ve come; it’s easy when work is hectic and my love life is a mess to lose sight of what I have achieved in the past year and a half but as I was giving a speech to a hundred volunteers it made me realise that I have totally smashed it.

In my speech I shared that I had started out in Voluntary Services at the recommendation of my CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) who essentially was like ‘you kind of need to be doing something with all this free time…’. He was totally right, my hair was hacked off from a manic moment of stupidity, I’d gained tons of weight which I was very self conscious of and my confidence was so low I hated going to the shop for milk. I could barely look people in the eye (unless I was manic in which case I was looking people in the eye waaay too much) and that just wasn’t me. As you may have noticed I’m pretty open and chatty and all of a sudden I was this meek, terrified shell of a person. I applied to volunteer and when the Manager eventually got back to me I noted she clearly had a high workload and might need a hand. Because I’m drawn to highlighters, stationary and a spreadsheet, supporting with admin seemed like a good start. The Manager talked me down from my first instinct which was to fill every single day of the week with volunteering and we settled on a few hours a week of admin for Voluntary Services.

Since graduating I’d been completely frustrated by my inability to do anything, finishing my final year of University whilst in a psychiatric Day Hospital had been a push and I remember sobbing over the fact I could barely retain a sentence let alone write a paragraph. I’d always been pretty academic and I had already pushed through a difficult period when my boyfriend at the time had become unwell in my second year of University, I was determined not to fail at the final hurdle but it was a huge struggle. When I eventually graduated I’d given myself 6 months to get on top of my mental health and then I’d start work, my friends will tell you I love a good (and often unreasonable) deadline. My CPN did a kind of mumbled ‘that seems unlikely, you may need to readjust your expectations…’ which I ignored. When the 6 months was up I applied for jobs and got interviews but was so terrified at the prospect of being expected to literally turn up every day or be fired that I didn’t make most of them. I was still hugely struggling with my insomnia, self harm and suicidal ideations that it seemed absurd that I should manage that as well as a job, it was a job in itself.

Like my CPN said my expectation was way off and 6 months ended up being about 6 years, disappointing but he was also right about something else, volunteering was life saving for me. Volunteering allowed me to build my confidence and get comfortable with my skills again without the pressure of being paid. I was expected to come in but I wasn’t obligated to and that felt far safer and relaxed than paid work. If I slept terribly we just changed the day I was due in and if my seizures were bad or my stomach issues weren’t great I just came in later in the day to accommodate that. The flexibility allowed me to become more consistent because I didn’t feel any pressure from anyone I volunteered with. Both Managers I had during this time supported me fully and kept me in check, if I was a little high (which by the way meant I was pretty efficient and an absolute filing machine) then they simply kept tabs to make sure things were ok.

Eventually I built this up into part time hours and then after a few years became paid as an Administrator. Since then I’ve been a Voluntary Services Recruitment and Training Coordinator (worlds longest title), a Voluntary Services Coordinator and now a Manager. I feel so passionate about volunteering because I’ve seen the reciprocal benefits first hand. Of course volunteering is about giving back and creating meaning for those you support but it’s a two way street. Volunteering also allows us as an organisation to engage with our community, form connections between volunteers, reduce loneliness and isolation and support people with building their confidence and skills. Volunteers are integral to the running of organisations, particularly charities and smaller companies which are so reliant on the generosity of local supporters.

As I looked around during my speech on Sunday I saw so many smiling and reassuring faces, volunteers that I get to spend time with daily, weekly, monthly and even once a year, but all amazing people that I truly consider part of my team. It made me realise how hard it is to share our stories and life experiences in setting which aren’t mental health orientated, even if they are mental health supportive. In the past I’ve been happy to share my story but in my new job I’ve worried about how people will perceive me and my competency. Sharing my story to a room full of people who weren’t involved in mental health was daunting but the response I had afterwards reconfirmed my belief that we all share a common humanity. The number of people that shared their own stories with me afterwards was amazing and reminded me that we all have life experiences which shape our personalities and intentions in the world. It’s easy as a member of staff to feel you need to put on a front in order to seem capable but the reality is that by sharing your truest self you open yourself to connecting with people on a meaningful level.

For National Volunteers Week I take a moment to acknowledge the hard work I have put in to building my career but also the amazing volunteers I get to support every day and that support so many fantastic charities and organisations in my local area. For anyone that is considering volunteering I’d highly recommend using the Do-it site (No it’s not a Nike website, that would be an odd thing to recommend), It’s a great resource for finding volunteering opportunities in your area, click HERE for more information.

Please do feel free to share as I’d love the world to be volunteering but I’ll settle for encouraging the smaller number of people within my network!

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Me in my very first role as a volunteer!

Dear you…

As many of you will know this week is mental health awareness week. I’ve been pondering on what to say and came across the below whilst stumbling through my hard drive last night looking for my CV. The below letter was written to be submitted to the ‘Recovery letters’, part of a collection of letters written by those who have had mental health issues to those currently suffering. All start with ‘Dear you’. It seems well timed not only for this week generally but for me personally at the moment to remind myself that whatever is going on for me i showed up when it was hardest to and i continue to show up every day and i should be very proud of the work I’ve done to do that.

For more information on the Recovery Letters you can check out the website on: http://therecoveryletters.com/how-it-all-started

‘Dear you,

You will most likely have already been told on numerous occasions that ‘it will pass’, it will ‘get better’ or that ‘you will survive this’. If you’re anything like me you’ll find these kind of platitudes annoying, you’ll think ‘don’t tell me i’ll get through it, how can you possibly know that?’. You may, like me, find these phrases condescending, like your grief is something to wade through until you reach a definitive end point, the holy grail of sanity and insight that could only be obtained through mental torture. You may already know that the likelihood is that you will get better, you’ve probably seen the posters of celebrities sharing their stories and notifications bursting onto your newsfeed of people who have been and conquered depression. You may know it, but you may not feel it. We talk about ‘fighting’ depression but in doing so we lose sight of how well armed our opponent is, how well equipped our nemesis stands with our inner thoughts of self loathing and anger. Depression is fluent in your Achilles heel and will twist your own words until they boomerang back to you, battered and bitter and bruised.

So give up the fight, not forever, but for a moment. Depression is exhausting and twisted and it’s ok to say ‘today i don’t want to fight, today i want to stay in bed, or pace the floors, i want to cry and get mad, i want to feel frustrated and defeated, to feel seething and consumed, today i am going to sit with and accept that i feel this way’. It’s not defeat but a very brief truce. Fighting is hard work; it’s keeping calm, trying to do dishes, trying to distract yourself, taking a walk, taking a nap, taking a pill, eating something healthy, eating something. It’s trying to go to bed on time but not too early you can’t sleep, it’s having a bath but not for so long you’re lost in a puddle of your thoughts, it’s mindfulness without too much mind on the fullness in your head. It’s exhausting. So today you can pause the internal monologue and just accept where you are. It feels awful and it’s ok to acknowledge that, you can set aside the pep talks and motivational speeches for today and simply be. You can know that one day it will feel better but right now it doesn’t and that’s frustrating and unfair.

At the same time however, take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you showed up for the day, it could be in the pyjamas that you haven’t washed for weeks with your hair in a mess and fire under your skin but you showed up nonetheless. People may tell you to wash your clothes, clean your hair or meditate but they may not realise you opened your eyes this morning and are still here this afternoon and that’s amazing. You know it will get better but today you are still on your journey and you are learning and growing and whilst it may not feel like it that is succeeding. Don’t berate yourself for things you aren’t doing, the wellness app you didn’t download or the walk you didn’t take. Acknowledge and marvel at the most courageous thing you did today, you stayed.

Good luck

 

Rip Tides & Changes Of Perspective…

53063681_2230622717001419_3165823563567464448_nI bonded with the beautiful Zoe at work and our shared passion for mental health awareness has been a gem. Following a recent break up she’s been doing a little ‘you alright today?’ head nod when I come into the building which has been much appreciated as have the lunches during which I’ve word vommed for 20 minutes before asking how she is. When we first met she showed me some videos with me which I wanted to share.

Zoe:

‘Hey! I am a friend of Hannahs. We met at work and bonded over our common interest in mental health, Mari Kondo and living in Cambridge! I love Hannahs blog, particularly her honesty and realness about life! I love that everyone is different, with our perspectives shaped by things that have happened in life along the way! Last year I was living in Florida, I recorded this video about perspectives after looking at a sign about rip tides. I hope it encourages you in some way!’

Video Link: HERE

Meltdown On The Beach

20190223_170734There’s nothing like screaming at a friend to fuck off on a beach at 6pm on a Saturday night to really bring home that you’re probably not feeling very well. In general I am not a screamer in arguments, I’m a go and have space and then I will talk to you like a rational human being kind of person, so screaming is a big fat red flag. Orange flags that I chose to ignore in the run up to the weekend away were: an increasingly worrying lack of sleep, irritability, feeling agitated, thoughts about self harm and generally feeling overwhelmed. All these I largely chose to ignore, however I did have a small moment of self reflection the night before that I was feeling nervous about the trip. As many of you know travelling used to be a bit anxiety inducing for me; all the pressure, inability to manage my own time and possibility of becoming unwell or forgetting my meds. These days however I’m generally fine travelling and so whilst I vocalised some of my concerns to my friend I probably did so in a semi casual, ‘o yeah, by the way…’ kind of way as opposed to a ‘dude I’m actually worried about this’ way. The problem with doing this is that when it becomes a shit show they are a bit caught off guard and because I also didn’t take the time to fully acknowledge I was feeling down, I was also caught off guard.

The upside of the saga is that it acted as a sharp and speedy dig in the ribs to get me to ask for some support from my GP. I’ve been putting this off because whenever I’m low I have a tendency to compare it to my first low, which is sort of how I imagine childbirth in that it was so awful I can’t even quite connect to the memory. If this is the basis for monitoring mood then most of the time it doesn’t compare and I shrug off a possible need to seek help and be somewhat preventative. I am also conscious of the time and effort it requires to get a GP appointment these day, particularly now I’m working. I then balance up the additional stress of involving work and having to slot in an appointment during my working day and I’m like ‘hmmm I guess i’ll just wait it out and see where this goes’.

Luckily for me I cried throughout my appointment which demonstrated both to myself and the GP I needed a hand. She offered to write me off work which I declined but I took her up on flexible working. She wrote me up a prescription for more sleeping tablets and encouraged me to take them every night seeing as sleep is my main trigger. She referred me to Psych for a medication review and possibility of a new CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) and generally heard me out on the pressure I felt from full time work and relationships. The fact she took me seriously and noted that it was important I took time out to prevent an episode was so refreshing because the mental health system generally requests you be verging on suicidal before providing support or intervention. When someone takes the time to support you it forces you to do a reality check for yourself and I noted that i felt overwhelmed with commitments and like I wasn’t have much time to myself.

Last week I had the psych appointment which is essentially a triage system for mental health, they work out what it is you need, where psychiatric services need to step in and what community services you can access. By this point I’d had my flexible working which although it wasn’t quite flexible enough was a huge help so I was feeling calmer and maybe like I no longer needed the appointment. I went along and promptly burst into tears so perhaps it was a good thing I went, we spoke about triggers and where the stress was, my appetite and my sleep. She noted that although it had been 1 year of full time work now, some recent changes at work were making me feel uneasy and pressured to hold it together. The last thing you need when feeling down is pressure to do anything so I was struggling with this. I am also used to being surrounded by people who work in mental health, have their own experience or have been part of my experience. So I found it difficult that the two things in my life that were very meaningful and at the forefront right now, my relationships and my work, did not have this same level of understanding. She recommended some counselling, guidance around speaking to work and a referral for a one-off psych appointment to discuss and increase in meds. This feels like a step backwards but as she put it ‘maybe you’re current dose works for when life is going well but when life is challenging it just needs a boost to keep you stable’ fair enough.

A week on and i’m feeling much better, largely because I’ve been open which means people are more understanding and my social hermit status is acceptable. People are able to make small adjustments which probably seem stupid but help; things like not being part of big whatsapp groups that endlessly ping notifications up on my phone, understanding I’m more flakey than usual or that visits may even be just be at someones house rather than doing anything exciting or stimulating. My friends and family know me and these nuances so well that they just slip into this mode fairly easily and that’s so unbelievably helpful.

One good thing to have come out of it is that it’s got me back up and painting which I haven’t done in ages, visiting my friend nudged me into focusing on finishing a piece and I felt so pleased that i’d accomplished that for her when I saw it up her on her wall (literally like 200 years after she actually commissioned it). That painting is like remembering a little part of my identity that has been feeling a bit lost recently, looking at it now makes me think of my amazing friend who always supports me in these things and the fact that I am a painter as much as someone with Bipolar.

I’m feeling a tad weird

 

So the past week or so I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with myself for just feeling ‘a bit off’. It’s not a full blown episode but I jut feel a bit out of sorts and it’s reminded me that in between episodes there’s always a little wiggle room to feel a bit strange without committing to something hard-core like a bit of mania. This has involved some low key things like racing thoughts, a sense of feeling uncomfortable in my skin and struggling to focus and then some slightly more unusual sensations like hearing a few voices and in a couple of fleeting thoughts of self harm. The self harm thing is odd seeing as it’s been a very long time since I did that and it tends to be during an episode, often a manic one (curve ball) where I find the sensation grounding when I’m feeling out of control. I’m certainly not recommending you cut your skin to feel calm because things like lavender sprays, ASMR videos, baths and walks are all much more in the vibe of ‘self-care’ that us millenials are snowflaking it up for and are a much healthier approach. I’ve therefore had to reflect on what these thoughts are attempting to address and I think It’s simply my body reverting to old habits; I’m like ‘Hey I don’t feel great body’  and my body is manically shouting back at me ‘just self harm, that worked in the past right?!’. As a reminder that did not work in the past, it simply left me with some odd scars and self loathing. What self harm does do however is calm racing thoughts so I’ve had to pull out some more healthy tools to deal with this.

One of these tools is distraction and this currently takes the form of ‘The Great British Interior Design Challenge’ if I am at home (If you haven’t watched it already it’s on Netflix and you must) and ASMR if I am out the house. ASMR is really a whole other blog post but is essentially like a more complex form of the white noise machines you get where you listen to rainforest sounds and all of a sudden there’s a frog and you’re like ‘where did that frog come from?’. It’s basically calming sounds someone makes with odd things like paper and crinkly raincoats and because someone is making them rather than them being on a loop there is enough variation that I’m focused on the sounds but also able to pass out asleep to them at bedtime. It’s a handy tool for when I’m out the house and particularly if I want to just look like i’m listening to music such as in the Cafe at my workplace.

The second is being super mindful about overstimulation, I tend to find when I feel like this that I feel easily overwhelmed by things around me. Right now it’s not enough that I need to check out of all social situations but it’s enough that each day I’m judging where I’m at and what I’m doing the following day. For example today I have a longer day at work and am attending a social event in the evening so I did literally nothing last night except make some chilli. It means that I feel fairly fresh to socialise today. When people say overstimulation lots of people things of loud noises or lots of lights but it can be as simple as lots of phones ringing or being around people constantly, even if it’s not noisy. Taking time out allows me to stagger interactions so they feel more manageable and this is really important in a people-facing job.

An inability to focus is tricky seeing as at work I’m managing multiple things every day so I am up to my eyeballs in lists. I have a notepad broken down into subsections (mmmm nerdy goodness) and then a ‘today’ pad, so i can remind myself that I.must.get.this.done! Normally I am better at prioritising workloads but right now I am making sure that I complete a task as I go to ensure it gets done and not lost into the ether of my brain and my drawer. This lack of focus is tied in with racing thoughts which are sometime productive because they force me into being a little supersonic hedgehog and other times I just go into mental overload and have a meltdown.

Hearing voices has been enough that it’s thrown me when I’m around others, particularly as they have largely been derogatory, but not enough that I’ve been worried. I spent a rather interesting day in London a week or so back where there was constant chatter in my head and also in the actual world and I sort of just followed my friend from shop to shop like a mute puppy in an attempt to maintain calm. This week they’re off though which is good because that’s one less thing to worry about.

In ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’ the main character talks about becoming unwell with her BPD because she didn’t keep ‘doing the work’ around her mental health and I can see that I have recently fallen into that trap. I haven’t been making sleep a priority, I’ve sort of just accepted not sleeping and I haven’t been having huge amounts of down time. Both best friends have recently been unavailable (for good reasons like being in awesome holiday destinations) but it means I haven’t had an outlet or check in point with people who know me well enough to have a good grasp on supporting me feeling this. I’m also in a semi new relationship where I’m hyper aware going a bit off grid would not be ideal and whilst I know rationally if he can’t stand the heat he should get out the kitchen (said with all kinds of sass and finger wagging) I also know that’s not how it works if you like someone. The result is that I’m scrambling to get my shit together so that I don’t fall apart, which I guess is a motivation but also feels like a bit of pressure too. Finally job stuff is going well and I’ve possibly got some cool shuffle rounds happening in my department so I’d quite like to be on my game to encourage that change rather than be like ‘awesome thanks for the opportunity but I also need to work from home every day this week now’. So basically there’s a fair bit of pressure to stay on top of things when normally I’m like ‘cool I’ll just hang in my PJs and take sleeping tablets every night and ride it out.’

It’s been a stark reminder that although things have been going really well it’s easy to slip up if you stubbornly refuse to notice the smaller things and it’s also ok to do the work and be a bit weird if you need to. I am therefore choosing to be a bit weird for a minute to stay well and not go hard-core weird for the long term. This is healthy decision making.

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