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The final day of Mimi: Day 187


My first blog photo on the left from 2015, to now in 2020.

I woke up this morning and felt right about making this decision, as it's been one I've been considering for months now. This blog's title '100 Days Of Mimi' never stayed true, as today is my 187th post. It's a difficult decision, but with my reasoning that you can read below, I finally feel like this is right for me and I am going to retire my blog.


I started this blog 5 years ago when I was 19 and newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I started the blog as a 'mood diary' that would also allow people to see the journey, in the hope that it would dispel negative stigma of mental illness and give people a look through the keyhole of what life was like living with this horrible disorder. After a few weeks of posting, I remember being filmed for STV and having all these newspapers take photos of me and promote my story and it was so weird to me. I never expected my blog to have any attention, but there you all were and I'm only being honest when I say I felt so validated by the attention. I became not only a blogger, but one of the faces of 'bipolar disorder' in a media landscape - and at the time it was a role I relished because I felt helpful and needed.


I wrote my blog every single day for 100 days, and I brought you on the journey of my illness... but also the journey of a woman trying to find her place in the world as she reached her twenties. University... work... relationships... you read the intimate details of my life and I became an over-sharer living to gossip at night to her 'internet friends'.


After the 100 days, I continued another 100 days after a small break. I didn't get very far, I don't even think I got halfway because I had a horrible break-up. I was 21 and in short, a boy broke up with me because his family resented that their son dated not only a girl with bipolar disorder, but a girl with a mental health blog. This was the first time I had felt like I should be ashamed of myself for doing what I did.


I entered yet another depressive episode after that break-up as at the same time I lost my brother-in-law and had to support my sister and nieces emotionally through a horrible time. Spending time away from university meant I was missing valuable time working on my degree project, and I walked away with a result much lower than my projected grade. I spent a few months ploughing on with my media work, which gratefully this blog gave me the opportunity to have, but I was having my quarter-life-crisis moment.


I went back to my blog at the end of that year when I was 22. I wrote a piece I'm still immensely proud of called 'The Cupboard'. It was the moment where I committed myself to telling my story in a creative way without spilling out all the details. This post opened my eyes to how much control I could have over my own story - and that everything I gave out to the public (regardless of pressure from followers) was up to me. Having a blog means having control of your message, and for a while that renewed my enthusiasm for writing about mental health.


For the next 3 years, I wrote every so often when I felt inspired. Though the time between each blog grew, so I started feeling more dread at writing because I thought to myself 'well if people are only going to get a new blog every 5 months, then I better make it a good one'. Pressure and I are not a pleasurable cocktail, and throwing bipolar disorder into the mix makes for a pretty rancid tipple. My censored nature eventually grew onto my personal social media platforms too. Gone were the days of telling everyone my personal life and crying out to Twitter like it was a therapist. For someone who found talking about her feelings on a blog helpful for her illness, five years afterwards, I found not airing all my dirty laundry the ultimate act of self-love.


100 Days of Mimi, at its time, did something new on the internet: it discussed complex mental illness with great personal detail. 5 years later, I'm sure you'll see that millions of people are sharing their stories of their battles. All our stories are different of course, but with my uneasiness at sharing details recently - I feel better knowing that I'm not taking away a service that helps others, because there are plenty more people out there to make you feel less alone. Thankfully, five years after I first opened my blog and typed my heart out, now so many people are comfortable discussing mental health. My blog was only a small piece of that puzzle, but I feel content that its played its part and it's time to let it live a happy retirement.


What now? Well, the blog will live on the internet forever but there won't be any new posts. I feel quite sad that so many people still read my blog everyday, but there are 187 posts for you to pour over. Read them, enjoy them, laugh, cry and read again. Or you can ignore them, if you like, but they've found their home here.


Last year, I became a director at Bipolar Scotland and I have a lot of plans moving forward to champion causes I feel strongly about including: mental health and young people, mental health and media and the stigma of complex mental illnesses. 100 Days of Mimi was just one project, there are so many more to come and you are very welcome to come along with me as I take on my next big project (or two!). I will write again about mental health sometime, but I will also write about other things I like - and my storytelling skills will be flexed, but with other people who have incredible stories worth sharing.


This might be the last day of 100 Days of Mimi, but it's not yet closing time for me and I'll continue my work but in another way. In the meantime, it's time to reclaim my identity as just... Mimi Black, who likes walking her dog, drinking chocolate milk and doing all the other things that make me quite ordinary. I don't want to be the poster girl for mental ill health, I don't want to be your inspiration - I want to just be a girl, who sometimes has something important to say.


For the last time on here, take care of yourselves.


A wiser by five years, 25 year old, Mimi.

-

Twitter: @ItsMimiBlack

Instagram: @ItsMimiBlack

Words that stigmatise mental illness that we need to stop using


Mental health advocacy has come a long way but unfortunately many people still use words that further the stigma around mental ill health.

We're all a work-in-progress, this isn't about cancelling people - this is about educating others. I know I have unknowingly used words in the past which reinforce negative stigma, so I know that nobody is perfect. We're all capable of making these positive changes, so below I've listed a non-exhaustive list of words and phrases to avoid, with a brief explanation why they are offensive and I offer some alternatives you can use.

This article is based from my guide on Instagram which you can view here.


Insane/Lunatic/Unhinged/Disturbed:

These terms were used to reinforce negative stereotypes of those with mental health issues, furthering the stigma that 'people with mental health conditions are to be feared'.

Here are some alternative words you could use that are not offensive: silly, absurd, ridiculous, bizarre, erratic, irrational, strange, weird, scary, unpredictable.


Using 'not well' as an insult:

What do you mean the person on Love Island you dislike is 'not well'? Think about what this implies about mental illness.


Using mental illnesses as an insult: e.g. schizo/bipolar/psychotic/anorexic

Ill mental health isn't a laughing matter, and these insults reinforce a negative perception of mental health conditions (and... it's also pretty offensive). 


Using illnesses as a means of description: e.g. 'I'm so OCD', 'The weather's bipolar'

This trivializes the complexities of mental health issues and spreads stigma and misinformation.


Hospital stigma: 'There's a place for people who talk to themselves'/'They should go to the hospital'/'The Looney Bin'

People go to hospitals to receive treatment so that they can get better. People with conditions that require hospital treatment are just human beings who needs some support, they're not villains. Also, speaking of hospitals in this way can create a barrier for those accessing treatment as a result of that stigma.


'Suffers from'/'Mentally ill person':

Using 'suffer when referring to someone with a mental health condition applies negative connotations to mental illness which can cause people to struggle to accept help for their condition, or accept diagnosis.

Instead of saying 'suffers from', or referring to someone as 'mentally ill', say someone 'has a mental illness' or 'lives with a mental illness'. Likewise, you should say 'she has bipolar', not 'she is bipolar'.


Talking about suicide with consideration:

Suicide is a tragedy, which requires great care when discussing it. Avoid using terminology like 'commit suicide', and instead say 'died of suicide'. Also, instead of saying 'unsuccessful suicide', use 'suicide attempt'.

A lot of the language around suicide has crime connotations, so let's be more supportive to those affected by suicide by avoiding those words and phrases.


The only way we can eradicate stigmatising language is by doing our best and educating others. Nobody is perfect, and many of these words we have a habit of using, but there's always time to change.

Want to read more? Check out:

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/responsible-reporting/mind-your-language

Where am I?

I just wanted to check in to give a brief update to people who were looking for one. I've received a few emails of concern so I just want to ease worries.

I cut off all my social media a few weeks back because I felt it made my problems worse. I have had a big life change and just felt I need to process what I'm going through with the people I love without being online.

I don't feel ready to talk about my feelings or what life is like or divulge any kind of detail, but I felt I'd update here why I've went offline. I always feel like it sounds so dramatic explaining why you're not on social media, and truly I'm not trying to be a drama queen because it's not a huge deal, but I didn't want to read another email asking the same question.

I'll return to my lovely social media followers at some point when I'm feeling more courageous and a bit happier. Right now, it makes sense to just enjoy downtime without the noise.

If someone truly wants to reach out, you can do so by calling me or texting (if you're a friend), otherwise I do still check my emails.

Be good to each other.

Living with depression guilt


I’m flapping on and off rock bottom like an octopus in the depths of the sea. To spare the imagery, I’m just not doing well at all. In not doing well at all I have successfully managed to make my relationship with my boyfriend, my family and my friends weird - go figure! I have a ton of personal issues, physical health concerns, problems with hallucinations and just the overwhelming feeling that I’m being crushed by one of those big-ass crushers you get in the Crash Bandicoot games. In short, I’m trapped in a depressive episode still - it’s been about a year now.


I manage to surprise myself a lot about what my low moments are - I don’t actually think ‘rock bottom’ is a place. There’s no security of ‘well this is it, only up from here!’. I think it’s like falling for eternity, except you stop on the way down a few times so you can stop and think ‘wow this is awful’ but then you fall some more and some more.


Despite the eternal pit that is my bipolar disorder at the moment, and the fact that I can’t deal with just about anything, the thing I’m struggling most with is depression guilt. I am holding back from talking to people (and this blog) because I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Sometimes when I’m desperate I’ll post something super pitiful then people message with ‘oh my god babe, I’m here for you’ and all I feel is shame and guilt that I dragged someone into my mess. The people who have somehow survived my attempts to push them away beg me to open up, and then I do because I feel bad that I’m torturing them by not opening up, and then… they get even more concerned about me. So all that happens from opening up is I’m left feeling guilty that I’ve used someone as an emotional crutch and they’re feeling hungover from it and they’re unable to work or sleep or (insert important human activities here) because of me.


Let’s call a spade a spade here - when someone is mentally ill and comes to you for support it is a burden. Wait! Don’t close the blog yet, hear me out. Any human being who has a regular dose of empathy in their soul will be stirred when they hear the extent of people’s problems or when they can’t figure out how to untangle someone’s matted emotional wellbeing. It’s honestly normal to feel a bit shit when someone tells you they are a bit shit. Not all of us have the tools to compartmentalise someone’s trauma and lock it away to avoid it perversing our own mental state. With years of battling off the black dog on one foot and the psychadelic kitten on the other (there’s not an iconic symbol for mania so I vote this), I reckon I’m up there in the Billboard Hot 100 of ‘people with a high degree of emotional intelligence’ - but even I crumble when I pick up the emotional baggage of another.


Knowing all that I know, this is exactly why I feel guilty. My blood type is empath and even when I’m in the dark unable to see clarity in anything - I still hold compassion for others, and it makes me feel awful. I truly want to close everyone out of my life, because I don’t like what I’m doing to other people. Mental illness is interesting because you can’t physically catch it, but let’s be honest to someone who is already vulnerable (be it a person who has history with mental health problems or someone who is highly sensitive) poor mental health is straight up infectious. I can live with the fact that I’m stuck and hopeless (I think), but I am struggling because I’m in a life where people want to love me and change me and I have to watch them become emotionally wrecked in the process.


So this is why I can’t talk about things, well until now. My logic in blogging is that it makes me feel like the explosions are diluted because it’s not a conversation directed to someone. Maybe a stray bit of shrapnel will find its way to a few people, but nobody takes the brunt of my mess here.


Does what I’ve said make sense?

Swimming with sharks



‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’, is a sagacious quote I come across often (particularly when I’m doing my late night ransack of Etsy). Sure, it sounds like something you’d find pinned onto a 13 year old’s Pinterest board, or something that would be scrawled across a B&M Canvas in pink glitter writing, but that phrase has grown on me. Under its tacky ‘print me on a mug and give me to mum’ exterior; there's something to stir the soul.

I struggle with anxiety because of my bipolar disorder, I take medication to help control the level of stress I put myself under over small things – but I would not say that my anxiety is debilitating. Putting aside my medical diagnosis, I’ve always been an anxious individual in terms of my character anyway. Mentally, I have a hard time processing hurt or processing the idea of becoming hurt – so I build up situations phenomenally. As much as I am confident in my ability to be assertive, my inner demon is my nervousness and ability to overthink the most trivial things.

My dull everyday feelings of uneasiness have never went away, but I’ve managed to possess some aspects of control over my nervous thinking. Alas, I still remain the Scooby Doo of individuals – shit scared of almost everything. My most true-to-form examples of my shit-baggery are me staying out of long grass incase a snake catches me and has me for brunch, and refusing to try water sports in a loch in case there’s great white sharks. For the record, I live in Scotland where neither great whites or anacondas are present (or that’s at least what they want us to believe, I’m taking no chances).

Rather than dismiss my fears as irrational – I play devil’s advocate with my psyche by saying my fears manifest from the rational, but become Hollywood Blockbuster very quickly. I’m weirdly into the idea of the laws of attraction, so the fact that catastrophe is constantly in my mind tells me that I need to avoid things, or else I will end up thinking them into existence.

When it comes to fight or flight, I go with the latter because I’m scared of being hurt physically and emotionally. I am Sensitive Sally. I not only avoid situations where I believe I’m going to e.g. be involved in a plane crash in the ocean then have my carcass eaten by Mr Jaws himself, I avoid certain interactions with people because I’m scared of what they’ll think of me, or how they may react. Until recently, that is.

I was talking to a friend about reaching out to old acquaintances but I told myself I couldn’t do that because there ‘must be a reason why people haven’t reached out to me’. Then my pal said the most simple phrase – that almost everyone has heard from their granny at one point - ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’. It’s a cliche, but god - what a mantra! Tattoo that shit on my face! Never have I truly considered the weight of that question – until I stopped applying it rhetorically and for once in my bloody life asked myself – what actually is the worst that could happen?

Applying this to my socially-nervous situation at that time, what was the worst that could happen when reaching out to old friends? Well, I could be ignored or someone could be rude to me. Hey, that’s not actually that bad! If you would like to hear the conclusions of that story: I reached out to two people that I used to know. Both of them were kind, the conversation with one eventually fizzled out and I invited the other for a catch-up and was ignored. I guess, the worst case scenario happened – and oddly enough, I found myself cool with it. In fact, I felt stronger because I felt the fear and did it anyway. (I know you eye-rolled at that sentence, but you know I’m speaking sense - but let me continue to the mandatory corny conclusion of this).

Both my obstacle in my personal development, and my motivation for personal development, is fear. I’ve learned that fear is a necessary component to getting to where you wanna be and becoming the person that you want to be. So just go for it. I’m going to! I’m gonna try things I’ve been desperate to try, create stuff I want to create and just swim with the sharks… metaphorically that is, I mean have you seen Jaws?

I've been hearing voices


As someone who has divulged the dirty details of their mental illness for almost 5 years, it’s easy to assume that I’m an open book and am no longer bound by stigma. I hate to say it, but I still am. It's not only difficult to write about what I am going through, there are things I still struggle to share with my loved ones because of fear. There are so many conversations around mental health lately, but there’s still something that people don’t want to talk about so I’m going to take one for the team in this. 

I’ve been hearing voices. 

As someone with bipolar disorder, I’ve been cursed with episodes of psychosis on top of my depressive and manic episodes. Now, when I’m feeling low, I am plagued with loud voices that tell me perverse and disturbing things. The voices try to convince me to harm myselfthey put me down at every opportunity and I can’t switch them off. This isn’t my inner voice - I can hear voices outside of my ears both gossiping about me and speaking directly to me. Thanks to my emetophobia (that’s a story for another day), I am unmedicated and can’t even take a drug to stop what I’m going through, as much as I want to. 

I only told my boyfriend a couple of months ago about what I was dealing with, otherwise it has just been a secret between my doctors and I. I'm not gonna shit you – it's been really scary. It’s like being stuck in a horror movie, as clich├ęd as that is. The experience can easily shift my attention from things that I’m doing, make me feel depressed, lonely, terrified and even gives me a headache. Can you imagine a day of your life where people are just yelling abuse at you when you’re just trying to walk around Tesco? That’s my realityhave to deal with the voices and live with the idea that it’s not actually real at all... yet I can’t just stop it. My options are really limited. 

I've been fearful too about telling people what I’m going through. Will people think I’m weird? Yeah, they probably will. Let’s not beat around the bush - unless you’ve experienced psychosis, quite frankly it would be odd if you didn’t think it was a little bit weird. As a result of this, in a time where people are singing about mental illness and how sad it is, psychosis is not invited to the party. People are still using words and phrases like ‘schizo’, ‘not well’ and I still occasionally hear the old: ‘there’s a place for people who talk to themselves’. As someone with bipolar disorder, I already felt like my experiences were adverse and difficult for others to understand, so of course I don’t want to chat about how a voice in my head is screaming that it’s time for me to jump in front of the train. 

Psychosis – as abstract as it is to people who have never experienced it – is not as uncommon as you think. Do you know that many people under 25 experience psychosis? Not necessarily as a result of a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, it’s just something that can happen for short periods of time. Yet, I never hear about those people who are ‘just like me’. There are not that many people I know with bipolar who can relate either – so it is quite isolating. 

That’s why I felt it was instrumental for me now to just say it publicly – that I’ve been hearing voices. I can complain so much about there not being conversations about serious and complex mental illness, but I’ve played a part in that by being quiet. So right now, I’m releasing my inner B&M canvas quote and ‘being the change I want to see’. 

If anyone wants to reach out for a chat, you know where I am on Twitter – just send me a message. Don’t stay alone. Let’s make the party for mental health awareness a truly inclusive one. 

The Other Side

I’m slowly and agonizingly being consumed by my depressive episode. Everyday feels longer than the last, and yet bizarrely when I glance back at the last few months it feels like they’ve flown past. I’m so aware that I’m losing my younger years to my illness. My youth is just disappearing, floating out to sea whilst I’m stranded, unaccompanied on an island with only my thoughts to wrap around me. My thoughts entangle me like deleterious knotweed – rooting me into the ground so I can’t move anymore. After this amount of time being trapped, I no longer have the motivation to even try and wriggle. I’ve tired from feeling desperate and become despondent.

I’ve made baby steps that the people around me consider progress like getting a new psychiatrist, trying new drugs – but my journey to wellness still feels flat and stagnant. Finding help for what I am going through is sickening - quite literally – I’ve found that SSRIs are not my friend and will immediately induce violent vomiting and intolerable amounts of pain. I’ve had to make the decision not to take SSRIs, because my options were to either be depressed or be depressed and vomit at the same time.

I did manage to successfully go on my first ‘night out’ of 2019, which was nerve-wracking but I did it. I actually reaped the positive effects of the socialisation for about 2 days, and then I sluggishly returned back to my slump where I just want to vegetate and isolate myself. My island is the place of nightmares, but I still choose to return time and time again – because it’s familiar.

See, that’s the complicated thing about mental health – you struggle to live with yourself because you are telling yourself that your pain is a produce of your own free will, that you’ve chosen to torture yourself. Still now when I discuss aspects of my mood I’m met with questions of ‘why don’t you just stop doing that’ or ‘why don’t you just do this’, and it’s because my common sense and my mental health are going through a bitter divorce. I can’t do anything I set my mind to, mostly because I can’t actually set my mind to things. Some days I tell myself what I’m dealing with is a choice and I can choose to heal at any stage - but most days I feel incapacitated, out of control, and locked out of my own mind and body.

I’m desperately trying to find purpose everyday to try and ‘find myself’ again, and I sometimes get excited from cool ideas that I’ve come up with – only to eventually drop them by the wayside because the negative voice tells me I can’t do it.
‘You? Throw a Halloween party? You have no friends’
‘You shouldn’t write tweets anymore – because nobody likes them’
‘You should just be quiet and exist silently’
My insecurities have graduated from being little things that occasionally crossed my mind; to becoming a bible with rules and restrictions for the way I live my life.

I am grateful for my job, and I use all of my good energy on that day-to-day. I don’t have much leftover to keep up the smiling and socialisation. I’ve really disassociated from who I really am, and I’ve written off who I was as an imposter whose skin I’ve cruelly been encapsulated in. It feels like I’m trapped in the coffin of my own life. The happy version, the put together version of me, was the person who got my job and the person who had my friends - now I just feel like I’m pretending to be her.

Sorry for the brain dump, I’m tired and I keep thinking about this ‘other side’ people promise me that I’ll come out on. If anyone comes across me on my island, and knows the way to the other side, do let me know because I’m losing faith.