I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot at the moment, but it’s because so many people we are close to can’t seem to understand how hard a time we have.
To those people, I present this blog post.
Read it, and try imagine that this is you, this is your life.
This post is based purely on me – my experiences and my symptoms, although it will probably resonate for others.
I know it is hard for people who have no experience to understand how difficult it is living with a severe mental illness; I know it’s probably impossible for you to get even close to imagining how my day-to-day life is…but if you can’t understand it, keep your mouth shut.
Being told ‘things will get better’ or ‘maybe you should get a job’ or ‘yeah, I know how you feel, I was depressed for a few days too but I just pulled myself together!’ – NONE of these things help, because you do not seem to realise that I am ill every day, and I *can’t* just snap out of it.
Try to imagine…
~ Your mood changes: for weeks or months you feel one extreme; then suddenly it’s all gone.
Here’s your life.
You have manic episodes, which involve a huge tangle of symptoms all bubbling away inside of you.
You struggle to get your thoughts in order, they are racing in your head; you are thinking so fast you can’t speak; you are *full* of rage; you don’t sleep, you get 2-4 hours a night for weeks on end, and you’re left staring at the ceiling as your partner snores next to you; you need to be on the go all the time, every second of every day; & you *have* to spend hundreds of pounds.
Money it took you months and months to build up after the last manic episode.
When people don’t agree with your awesome ideas (you need to move house to an area you’ve never been before; you need to start a new business and invest all your money in it) you are flooded with anger.
In extreme mania you might have blackouts where you lose hours at a time, and you don’t know what you did. Or maybe you think people you love dearly are out to hurt you, and you need to hurt them first.
The other side of the coin is depression – your depressive episodes last longer; months at a time.
You fall fast, and much of your time is spent contemplating suicide; sometimes you attempt it, sometimes you end up having to take a trip to A&E. Suicide attempts were a regular part of your past before you had a partner to care for you 24/7, and a large part of you resents him for this.
Days pass where you have no energy; often you can manage a dog walk or two, but leaving for any other reason is unthinkable, impossible. You sit and are flooded with feelings of hopelessness. You’re totally numb, unable to move, unable to answer questions. You cry, constantly and over nothing, and worry endlessly about your loved ones, your future together, your health.
Those are your extremes, your poles. You don’t get anything else.
I’m never stable. I haven’t had a stable period for years. You know how you feel, every single fucking day, the way you manage things and have ‘normal’ emotions that you take for granted?
I don’t get that!
I am *always* either hypomanic, manic, depressed or wanting to die. ALWAYS.
~ You experience psychosis EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Not just once a day but many, many times.
Right now my psychosis isn’t so bad; so maybe you’ll only hear some whispered voices in the distance, which to you are totally real and immediately freak you out – what are they saying? Who are they? What are they plotting?
Maybe you’ll only have a few visual hallucinations today; a rodent running across the living room floor that makes you jump, heart pounding. A spider crawls right next to you on the arm of the sofa, causing you to drop the laptop in shock. Maybe a man in the distance walking towards you, who when you next look has vanished.
Maybe you only have mild paranoid thoughts; that van *is* watching me, slowing down, following me. My house *is* bugged. Everyone you see out and about is staring at you, acting suspicious.
That is you on a good day.
Lets say you have a week of good days – do you honestly think you could cope with seven days of that; seven days of whispers, visual ‘glitches’, paranoia?! It’s endless, exhausting.
Now imagine the bad days. The bad days are much, much worse.
Days of voices whispering to you that you are being poisoned, that if that person crosses the road in the next few seconds it’s proof they are trying to kill you. Voices in the distance talking to each other about how pathetic you are, or how they’re planning to hurt you.
Visual hallucinations of children kneeling in the road as cars speed towards them.
A meteor hitting the earth as you walk your dog in the dark; causing you to cry hysterically because you know you’re about to die and all you want is more time to tell your partner you love him.
Coming back off a dog walk and seeing someone standing in your living room, staring out at you – you knew they were in your house, but what to do now?!
To you, it is real – you know it is real and so you don’t question it.
~ Then we have the anxiety, the panic
I don’t know which is harder to live with.
The anxiety fills your mind, day after day, 24/7. Worrying about things that could happen now – your dog attacked on a walk; your partner falling and cracking his head open; a car veering off the road and plowing into the love of your life; a stranger going on a murderous rampage; and on and on and on…
but also worrying about things that are years away – what will happen when I die of old age, and my partner is alone? Or what if my partner dies and I’m alone? What will happen when we’re 80 years old; where will we live? Will we still be together? Will I have cancer by the time I’m 35? Will my partner have a heart attack when he’s 50? In two years time will one of my parents have cancer?
…and on, and on, and on.
You try all sorts to calm the anxiety, until you have rituals you must follow otherwise someone will get hurt…you have to tap things, touch things, step on things a certain number of times…in the house it’s maybe not so bad, but out the house the rituals make it hard to concentrate on anything else.
Sometimes the anxiety is replaced by panic.
You don’t know what you’re panicking about, but terror fills you. You can’t move, you can’t breathe, you can’t do anything. When your partner asks you what’s wrong, how you feel – you can’t reply. When you try talk you only gasp for air and cry.
The panic is urgent, end-of-the-world urgent, and you know you need to kill yourself. Otherwise it will never end, this cycle of misery, this terror.
Just imagine living with that day after day after day
You can’t, can you? Unless you have been through it, you can’t possibly imagine it. Maybe you think you can, maybe you think it’s not so bad – YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE.
Don’t tell me things will get better, because they might not. In seven years things are worse than I could have ever imagined.
Don’t tell me suicide isn’t the answer – could YOU live like this?
Don’t tell me I ‘just’ need to do something – just try a medication whose side effects terrify me; just get a job because it’ll add “strings to my bow”; just go to the appointments I’m terrified of when I already can’t leave the house – how about you just don’t say those things!
And finally, don’t tell me to buck up, or pull myself together – that is a flat-out insult and you have no idea the hell I am living.
Sometimes (most times) I don’t need you to give me advice; your advice is harsh, or it doesn’t make sense, it takes things for granted, because you don’t understand what I’m going through. Sometimes I just need you to listen.
My life at the moment should not count as a life.
The fact I am still here is a miracle; I haven’t yet given up.