Tuesday, 24 February 2009


I've been really impressed by the Rethink campaign highlighting the stigma of mental illness and calling for change.
It's made me think a lot about stigma, and I definitely listen to peoples views on madness and mental illness more closely. My basic conclusion is that the campaign is well overdue, but I think it's a huge undertaking.
Recently I've heard friends, sometimes very close friends using the words 'mad' and 'mental' to describe people, I sit there tense and wonder what they think of me. Did they gather when I was sectioned and use those words to describe me? because I am not mad and I am not mental, I suffer from a mental illness and that's a very different way of describing things.
I do feel the stigma surrounding my illness, when I've been in hospital only those closest to me know, everyone else thinks I've just 'gone away' for a couple of weeks/months. I'm terrified of putting my diagnosis down on paper, such as application forms for jobs or other paperwork and I tend to avoid stories and anecdotes about people with mental illness. I worry about the time when I start a family, I know that because of my history all the professionals will know about my diagnosis and a pre birth conference will take place to assess my needs as a parent with mental illness. I'm considering going back to work at the moment after 7 months off but am terrified about disclosing to potential employers.
I should confront people more with their opinions on mental illness, perhaps fly the flag a bit more but it's difficult. I already have the routine of trying to hide my self harm scars and explaining why I can't socialise in the ways I perhaps did in the past.
It's not just wider society that stigmatises, it's rampant in the medical world too. Once I was admitted to A & E with severe abdominal pains and vomiting, I was given an enti-emetic which gave me terrible allergic reaction. The first reaction of the nurses was to call the shrink as they thought it was some sort of 'mental episode', it took 90 minutes for someone to realise and give me the antidote. I've also read posts by medical bloggers describing psych patients, one found a persons manic episode 'amusing'.
So, in conclusion, I salute the Rethink campaign but we've a mountain to climb.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Swings and Roundabouts

The last week has been a real challenge, this illness really is difficult to control.
I began waking after only a couple of hours sleep feeling completely refreshed and without the need for a proper nights sleep. Things began to speed up, my thoughts were racing and my head was full of plans and ideas. I realised all was not well and arranged to see my cpn, my doctor agreed to see me the same day and we agreed that extra medication to sleep might be a good idea so he prescribed me some sleeping tablets.
The first couple of nights I managed a bit more sleep but not much more and one night I went out, and stayed out all night which wasn't a good idea really. A few days ago though things started to slow down and my head slowed right down.
I realise that there is a part of me that likes the high but I know I have to control it, because all too soon I could end up sectioned.
I asked my cpn whether my mental health history would be a problem when I decided to have children and she advised me that there would be a pre birth conference with professionals to discuss what extra support I would need. I am terrified that social services might deem be unfit to be a parent, but my cpn assures me that would not happen.
I have many, many fears about my long term prospects since I got ill, but the biggest one is not being well enough to take care of my children. This is why I'm working extra hard to stay well, no more not taking meds etc.
I hope I'll have a long period of stability now but I'm worried that these swings are now a permanent part of my life.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Insanity of Hospital

The Insanity of Hospital

I said in my first post that I would write about my experience of hospital and for some reason I’ve been thinking about it a lot today so here goes.

The first time I went into hospital last year was due to a manic episode, my CPN and doctor visited me at home after friends had reported their concerns about me. I went into the unit voluntarily bur once I was there I was put under section because I asked to leave and they rightly thought I was at risk.

I found the whole experience confusing and traumatic, I'll list below some of the reasons why.

I was manic so had a lot of energy and tended to pace around the ward a lot, I wasn’t aggressive or violent just pacing. The staff constantly threatened me with sedation which seemed crazy to me because here I was in the safe place everybody had recommended, just trying to use up my energy.

The first 10 days even with LOTS of medication found me waking every couple of hours and leaving my room, these actions were met again with threats of injections and not one iota of compassion.

A friend I made offered me crack and heroin; I couldn’t fathom how she had a pipe and various paraphernalia in her room without anyone knowing. I declined her offer by the way, crack and mania are not a great combination, I've tried crack once whilst on a high, never, ever again.

A woman, who came to my room at all hours of the day and night for money and tobacco, bullied me. She had to pass the nurses station to get to my room but they obviously had their eyes closed, I was too scared to report her as I witnessed her violence. Was this ward really my ‘place of safety’?

The food was absolutely shameful and many times I couldn’t eat it, staff translated this as a misdemeanour on my part and in ward round it went against me. The consultant said she wanted me to get my appetite back as part of her considerations in discharging me. I was starving most of the time, but the food made me sick.

I wasn’t searched on admission and friends visited me with goodies, clothes and once a bottle of wine. There didn’t seem to be any security on the wards.

Once I began to come down from my high I retreated more and more to my room because I found being with 17 other ill women pretty stressful. This was perceived as ‘isolating’ myself.

Even though there was an OT department I wasn’t referred until 2 days before discharge, I had complained constantly of boredom.

There were some lovely nurses but they seemed snowed under with paperwork at the nurse’s station, the staff on the ward were from agencies and didn’t seem to give a damn about patients; they mostly talked amongst themselves, in various languages.

So hospital is now somewhere I would avoid at all costs and if I become ill again it’s going to take a section and a lot of force to get me there, I think I’ll leave London if it’s even discussed, such is my fear. I think this is a shame because I know that it was necessary, but I came out feeling much worse and with even less faith in the ‘system’.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Waking Up

There isn't much I like about having this illness but at the moment I'm coming out of a long depressive period and it's amazing to be waking up again, to feel like there might just be a future, a reason to make it to my next birthday.

It's the simple things that I am taking pleasure in at the moment like washing regularly, cooking a fresh, healthy meal rather than eating super noodles. I now wake up and open the windows and let the air, and the world in. I have clean bedding, clothes and pots and pans. I haven't cleaned the oven yet, but I will. I have the energy to leave the house and the other day I went to the cinema and watched a film, I felt like a normal person walking along the street and filing into the screen with the rest of humanity, I sat on the bus with my ipod on the way home and took in the city. I felt that buzz that life can sometimes give you, of living in a great city full of lights and madness, I wasn't part of any chaos or crisis though, I was just taking the bus home.

I like not thinking about death all the time, I want to keep taking all my medications and am grateful for Mirtazapine which I think has helped me finally shake off the black dog, it was the 3rd anti depressant my doctor tried. I feel sure that suicidal thoughts are like a diabetic going hypo and my coping strategies are my insulin, those thoughts are not me, they are my illness. I like my CPN and doctor more, they have helped me through.

It's nice not to be googling the following for hours on end: suicide + painless methods, how many seroquel do i need to die?, poisons + online + uk delivery, bipolar disorder + suicide rates, can 1 litre of vodka + depakote + seroquel kill? Ad nauseam
When I had a clean up of my flat I found 3 suicide notes, a noose and a stash of paracetamol, all of which have been disposed of. I find 2 letters from close friends reminding me of good times, urging me to hold on and promising that things would seem better soon, they were right.
It's nice to read again, newspapers, poetry, books.
I haven't got a full life yet, my doctor wants me to stay away from employment for now, I still have dips and bad days but I'm mostly not depressed, and I'm alive and glad of the fact. It's progress.

Below is a poem by Raymond Carver, I really like it:


This morning I woke up to rain on the glass. And understood 
that for a long time now
I've chosen the corrupt when
I had a choice. Or else, 
simply, the merely easy.
Over the virtuous. Or the difficult.
This way of thinking happens
when I've been alone for days.
Like now. Hours spent
in my own dumb company.
Hours and hours
much like a little room.
With just a strip of carpet to walk on.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Beginning

After reading many blogs for months I've decided to start my own. It may well end up being an online mood diary but I wanted to write it after reading many other blogs by people living with mental illness. Some I've found inspiring, some sad, some made me angry. I've also found it really useful to read blogs my medical professionals.

I'm in my twenties and live in London, I have a diagnosis of manic depression and in 2008 I was sectioned 3 times so it was a pretty terrible year. I still have nightmares about my time in a very well known mental hospital in South London, hospital is a subject I'll return to. This year I'm trying to stay well and avoid hospital, I'm on a pretty strong dose of medications and see a CPN weekly at the moment as I am just coming out of a depressive episode.

Last week I think I was a bit hypomanic and had a couple of nights without any sleep, my thoughts were speeding and I felt elated and life was generally speeding up. I'm getting better at catching the early warning signs and taking action rather than enjoying the pace and letting things get out of control before I can catch it. I do enjoy the shift in mood, I'd been in a depressive episode for months, my longest ever and I think I just overdid things once I was not feeling so down before, I need to learn to walk before I run.
I've managed to catch up on sleep now and am able to concentrate a little better. 

My view on mental illness is that there is a huge amount of personal responsibility that goes into staying well, I've only accepted this even though I was diagnosed a few years ago. I have, in the past lied to both doctors and cpns about taking medication, about how I was feeling (telling them I was well, when I wasn't) use of alcohol and generally how I was taking care of myself. I was also reluctant to accept the diagnosis, but I realised I couldn't move on if I didn't.
When I was last sectioned I saw women twice my age in the hospital, who frequented the wards and it scared me. I talked with them and a common theme of non compliance with meds, non engagement with services meant they lived from crisis to crisis. I don't want to end up like those women, they filled me with sadness. One woman i met goes into hospital every year for about 3 or 4 months and has done for 20 years.

I also terrified myself last year by taking a massive overdose which lead me to intensive care, a result of suddenly stopping meds and not sleeping for days. I took the pills to slow things down but it didn't work out and I nearly died. 
I suppose I want to try and attract people to read this blog because what I want to share is someone genuinely trying to battle living with this illness. I don't like having this illness but I'm at a turning point and have to try and fight it rather than letting it beat me and destroy my life even more. There is nothing more frightening than waking up in intensive care wired up to the nines and being told you nearly died in resus 3 days earlier.
I am a graduate and in the past I've had good jobs but at the moment I'm signed off sick, I'm very grateful to be being looked after by the taxpayer at the moment but when I'm well I'll be back contributing to society.

I wanted to comment on the article in the guardian by Clare Allen on Fri 23rd Jan, I think Mixed Sex wards are an absolute scandal in mental health, just before christmas I nearly went into hospital and probably should have gone but I refused because there was only a bed on a mixed sex ward. Even the doctor agreed to me that it might be more detrimental to my mental health and I saw the crisis team at home instead. I've heard horror stories about sexual assaults on mixed wards and I just think that single sex wards should be compulsory. 

That's it for my first post, I'll be posting on life as it happens, past events and my opinions on issues in the mental health system.

Thanks for reading