1. The opportunity to enjoy my time at uni
When I left for university at eighteen, I was already pretty messed up mentally…I was struggling with severe depression and an eating disorder. Nevertheless I battled my way through first year and passed my exams.
Second year came rolling around and everything went to shit…my eating disorder returned when a family was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I experienced my first manic episodes, not that we realised it at the time.
My depression got worse, I started experiencing psychosis mixed in with my mania, and I had to drop out.
My parents were fuming, they told me I couldn’t stay at their house for the holidays, and because my partner was caring for me he had to drop out of uni too…I ruined it for both of us.
2. The ability to work
When I wasn’t mentally well enough to get a paid job, I did volunteer work. I volunteered in charity shops sorting stock, and I volunteered at several animal rescues…I walked the dogs, trained the dogs, socialised the cats and cleaned the cat kennels.
There were periods of time before my illness got really bad where we had our own small business, and I walked and trained other people’s dogs too – it was never enough to live off, we never earned more than £20 a week, but I LOVED it, and it helped me feel productive and keep me busy.
When I got too ill to help dogs, we had to drop out, even from volunteering.
3. My figure
I’ve struggled with my weight from the age of about 10. Throughout my life I’ve always been on the lower end of a healthy weight, and I’ve still hated myself for it and thought myself ‘fat’.
When I was 22 my psychiatrist started me on Seroquel, and I gained over 2.5 stone in less than 4 months. No matter how much I exercised or what I ate, I gained. I couldn’t lose this weight, and when I did manage to shift a little the next med brought it back up.
Even my last social worker said I might have to accept the fact that I’ll never get my weight down to anywhere near what it used to be. At 25 years old, this was incredibly depressing…
4. My friends
I have no close friends.
They all either left when I was struggling my way through the start of the illness, and couldn’t interact or socialise with them, or they get fed up that I can never plan things in advance because I don’t know how my mood will be.
I am SO LUCKY to have Gog, my partner, as otherwise I would be totally alone.
5. A sleep pattern
When manic I sleep 2-5 hours a night; when depressed I sleep 12-16 hours a night. Sometimes my body will insist that I am nocturnal, for no reason, and we have to adjust to sleeping all day and being awake all night.
6. My health
Not just my mental health, being mentally unwell affects me physically too.
Head aches, migraines, neck ache, back ache, eyes that can’t focus, blurred vision that constantly changes, tremors etc etc.
7. My hair!!!
When I was manic I cut all my hair off into a mohican. Then when my psychosis was really bad I cut all my hair off, because I thought cameras were being hidden in there. I have no hair now, none at all, and I have to hide it under caps or buffs whenever I leave the house.
In the past I have spent a year growing my hair and then, when I finally get it to the length I want, I hacked it all off when manic.
8. My confidence
I guess this one should go without saying…
9. My ability to be alone
Because I am always in a mood episode, and I’m always experiencing psychosis, it’s not safe for me to go out or be on my own.
It’s okay, because I love Gog and I love spending time with him, but sometimes I do just want to go for a walk on my own, or be able to chill at home whilst Gog goes to the shops instead of having to go with him.
10. My happiness