So, you’ve stumbled onto my blog by accident. But you like the vibe, ’cause it’s the coolest thing ever, but you’re not in the mood to read? Well no problem my audio book friend, here are the podcasts of the previous posts.
These podcasts were used, and compiled in cooperation with me, by PUKfm 93.6 to make more people aware of mental health. Thank you PUKfm!
The Diary Of A Warrior: Four Sixteen
The Diary Of A Warrior: Warrior vs Stigma
The Diary Of A Warrior: What Depression Really Feels Like
After the post about how depression feels like, I got loads of requests to write something about mania. First of all, manic episodes can be pleasant as well as really unpleasant. Have you ever regretted what you did after you were so drunk you cleaned your hands with a fridge magnet? Well, that is how mania feels like. You act and feel like you are absolutely over your limit drunk or high on Coke, and not the good kind.
Not everybody experiences mania in the same way or extremity. Mania usually goes with being impulsive, promiscuity, talking way too much, you laugh and you kind of act like the Joker in Batman. Except your hair doesn’t suddenly turn green and you don’t get a kickass evil laugh or become a psychopath. Your mood is elevated and you have an amazing self-esteem, you feel like Beyoncé and act like one of the Kardashians. Also, you can still be enthusiastic with none or very little sleep and feel great and energetic. You’re also very goal-oriented and productive, so remember when you wanted to do that DIY-thing you saw on Pinterest? Well, go take some flats and glue two dinosaurs to the soles and make yourself some high heels.
And then there’s the bad part, you have the constant need to take part in pleasurable activities, activities that can lead to pretty bad consequences. Activities like swiping your credit card until you can smell burnt plastic, making stupid investments and doing things you don’t think through. Things like sexual indiscretions, where your manic episode leads to hypersexuality. Hypersexuality is pretty much what it sounds like, a sudden increase in sexual urges or sexual activity. Another symptom is extreme impulsivity, for example getting weird tattoos and piercings or coming out of a salon looking like My Little Pony.
But, like everything that has to do with mood disorders or mental health in general, it always differs. Even mania itself differs, you get hypomania and mania. Hypomania is the lesser of two evils and the symptoms of the manic episode aren’t that extreme. But, you still do stupid stuff, like getting a weird or hideous tattoo.
I remember the day well, I went with a friend who thought long and hard about her tattoo, and while holding her hand I decided I’m getting a tattoo as well. No, not my cool Project Semicolon tattoo that gets me through the day. No, moi got a Batman tattoo on her side-boob, and although I still love my BatTat, I can’t help wondering how weird it’s going to look like when I’m old – a raisin version of the Bat signal? Also, I was so anxious that Ben Affleck was going to mess this choice up for me.
So yes, you know the movie The Hangover? It’s pretty much like that, and you do wake up with a tattoo of Zach Galifianakis. When it comes to a manic episode you have unrealistic beliefs in your abilities and you feel indestructible. Some people even get agitated, furious and aggressive. Apparently, it’s a huge party in your head, like being on MDMA or VERY drunk.
But how does every out-of-control-party end? With regrets and a headache. And so does mania, after a manic or even hypomanic episode, you crash. You fall into that hole I’ve spoken so many times of before in my previous post, a depression episode. It can be days, months or even a year or more. Every person’s depression or manic state differs in length.
The relapses I have, like the one I’m experiencing at the moment, can be awful. I blacked out because my brain was trying to compensate for the state I was in. That’s how important those hormones are for a person to function. Side-effects can be awful, but at least you can sort of function normally.
So, I guess you can say I drink my meds to keep the party in my head low-key and stormless. Just the way I like my social festivities.
Please feel free to comment with your opinion or story. This post was originally written on 18 September 2016.
“What does depression feel like?” I’ve heard that single question a hundred times before. And every time I’m asked that question, I use a different way to describe it, because every time it feels different. It’s sort of like a paper cut because that never feels the same either. Sometimes it’s on your finger, other times on your hand and even sometimes you don’t even know how the hell you got a paper cut somewhere. It even varies in depth and size. So you see what I mean if I say depression has the same characteristics, but it can feel different every time. Surprising you, just like that innocent piece of paper that’s now making you bleed.
You always feel yourself sinking into that same darkness that whispers depression in your ear, but it always feels different. Sometimes it feels like heartache – I always say I would rather be stabbed by a gentleman than get my heart broken by one. You know what I’m talking about, that sting, that dreadful pain sucking the life out of you. Like that scene in Indiana Jones where that terrifying dude rips the heart from a boys’ chest. Quite literally, but you feel the same as if your heart was also ripped out of your chest, leaving you only with complete and utter sadness. But the thing is, nobody broke your heart, so why do you feel this way?
Other times it feels like you’re drowning – you feel your lungs rise with water and you try to fight the ocean current with everything you’ve got, you try to go up for a single breath – but you start to feel so tired, you just want to let go and give up, let the water drag your body without any refusal. And to think an hour ago you were fine, having fun on the beach, and now you’re drowning. It’s like hearing that it’s a beautiful day outside but you can’t see anything in this windowless room you’re trapped in. Sometimes depression feels like you’re walking in a scary alley and you’re too busy looking around you that you step into wet cement – you try to get out, but you’re stuck. And everyone is walking past the alley and you cry out for help: just like the boy in Indiana Jones, the person thrown into a windowless room, like the poor soul who’s drowning and now as someone who feels like she’s going to be stuck in that horrid place forever.
Later on, it feels like you’ve been living for ages, decades even. And you’ve felt and witnessed tragedy day after day. You’ve seen war, poverty and people dying. You’ve loved and lost, you’ve seen the things no one wants to see or feel. And you are so angry, and you treat the people you love with irritation and aggravation. Not because you feel irritated by them, but because you’re just so angry and tired of feeling this way. And you want to be left alone, but you don’t want to be alone – and you know that doesn’t even make sense – but that’s what you want. And the worst part is that you don’t even know why you feel this way. Then one day you realise you’ve never been more alone because you’re scaring away the only people left that care for you. So you try to pull yourself together, you sob in the shower but smile in public, because you think that if you act alright you’ll be alright. Then one day it breaks, it tumbles; you see your life shatter into a thousand pieces. And you know that you did it to yourself, you hid it away, pushed it back like Dr Jekyll – but Hyde always found a way to escape. And now you’re more alone than ever, and your life is in pieces. You heard that you’re cruel and heartless and too aggravated, but that was you fighting to be normal, and you wish you never fought, you wish that you just took that blade you stared at for such a long time once, and you stabbed yourself, broke your own heart. Cut yourself with the piece of paper. So you can finally find peace, like the boy in Indiana Jones.
And if not, you feel yourself sinking even deeper in the hissing darkness and it feels like it’s eating you from the inside, until there is nothing left, until you don’t care about anything anymore and the sparkle that used to be in your eyes are long gone. You’re a ghost of the person you used to be, just an empty shell.
After publishing my previous post, Four Sixteen, I received many messages telling me how brave I am for posting and talking about my conditions on the web. I know each message came from a place of love and support, but it made me think: why does it make me brave?
If I had a physical condition and posted about my illnesses on the web, no one would’ve told me how brave I am for talking about it and sharing my “secret”. So why, just because my conditions are classified as mental illnesses does it make me brave?
And I realised that there is an even bigger stigma behind mental illness than I thought. But why? Most mental illnesses are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or the “wiring’s” not working that well, which can be fixed with medication. Yes,we do have our bad days, but so do others with physical illnesses. A diabetic needs insulin as someone with depression needs more dopamine or serotonin to function.
People are the reason we don’t talk about it, I think this image explains pretty well how people with mental illnesses are treated.
Yep, that’s how people are talked to, I have been told a thousand times “just pull yourself together. It’s only in your mind”.
I have interictal psychosis – which is kind of like brain epilepsy. So sometimes, when I experience anxiety, I have impaired speech and most of the time it turns into hallucinations. My wiring is just a bit off, like a diabetic’s pancreas – which is also an awful illness you have to live with every day. But with the help of epilepsy medication and an antipsychotic, I’m fine most of the time.
Having bipolar disorder is a bit different, it has to do with the hormones in the brain. There is no medication for bipolar disorder (science, get on that, thanks), one little pill that I can drink to stay chilled and on route and not stop at the manic or depressed station. There are different types of bipolar, but I’m not gonna bore you with the details. So what do we drink to keep ourselves on route? Wine; I wish. We are on a combination of epilepsy meds/ mood stabilisers and antidepressants. Now, like I said in my previous post, finding the right combination is no joke. But when you do, you’re okay, most of the time. And like everybody else you sometimes stop at the wrong station or have an off day.
So why are people so afraid of mental illness and to talk about it? But people immediately think aggressive and crazy when they hear the word bipolar. And they think you need to be locked away in the Arkham Asylum if you see or hear things that are not there. I even got asked by friends if there isn’t a demon living inside of me, causing these delusions. Nope.
Warr;ors get bad mouthed every day, and it’s not helping. It’s making things worse; it leads to being afraid of going to a psychiatrist, admitting there might be something wrong, leaving medication and even suicide.
Most people are not educated about mental illness, even though one out of every four people suffer from some sort of mental illness. Don’t let ignorance and stigma stand in the way of your health Warr;ors. If we talk more about it, then it won’t be so weird anymore. So, sort of like Fifty Shades of Grey.
As I’m writing this I’m sitting in a multi-care unit for the mentally ill. Some people call it mental hospitals, some looney bins and others see it as the last roof they will stare at whilst laying in a tiny white sheeted bed. I see a bunch of warriors catching their breath.
In here we see each other as “normal”, in other words, people that just need some medication to function and sometimes have a bit of a relapse, because that’s how illnesses work. But once we step outside we’re seen as abnormal, because we need tablets to function day-to-day, because sometimes we act differently and because sometimes we have relapses and end up back in the so-called looney bin.
I’m not a jar, but a person – so there is no need for a label. I have bipolar disorder; sometimes I also see, hear and feel things that are not there and I have extreme anxiety. On my meds, I am fine, but to get the right combination of meds to work in sync is where the problem comes in. You start out on a few pills and you wait for your body to adjust. Usually, it’s a waiting period of three weeks for your body to get used to the side-effects. And about three months to see if the new combo of pills works for you; it differs from person to person. The side-effects are unbearable; nausea, vomiting, vertigo, dizziness, impaired speech, insomnia and the list goes on and on. If it doesn’t work, the process starts again from the beginning. But we can take it, and after a few years, you get used to it.
Being depressed is like being thrown into a very deep well. You try to get out, of course you do, but you have this pain feeding off you, and when you finally build up the strength, the walls are too slippery, and you realise there’s no way out. There is nobody around to hear you. The pain keeps feeding off’ you and you can see yourself disappearing until you just want to disappear once and for all. And the voices tell you to sink into the darkness and just let go.
Mania, when it comes around is like euphoria; you fly out of that deep dark well. It feels like everyone’s tiny ants and you love your life. You are impulsive, you wear your heart on your sleeve, you don’t think twice before buying that gorgeous expensive red pumps and you do whatever your brain thinks of first. You get a lot done, you’re creative and you act like you’re drunk all the time. And people don’t understand how that sad person they saw yesterday can talk so much today. And then you crash. And you’re thrown back in the hole again.
Tomorrow, 16 April – is International Semicolon Day, a day dedicated to people with mental illness. Project Semicolon is based on one single message:
“A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to. That author is you and the sentence is your life.”
So, you’ve probably seen people with semicolon tattoos, and wondered if these people just really love grammar? Maybe, but most of the people inked their skin because they struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm, schizophrenia or any other form of mental illness. So mark yourself tomorrow with a semicolon to show that you support the warriors or even yourself.
I will not be the one who decides when or how my story ends. I will keep on fighting, along with fellow warriors.