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DAY 24: Proceed

It’s not easy speaking out, especially when the weight is against you. It’s difficult to reach out when you feel horrible about yourself, it’s so much easier to be quiet but despite the uncertainty of talking, it’s always the better option.

I’ve been recovering from the weekend’s events; unfortunately having an illness that’s inflamed by stress means my life buckles under stress. It’s very probable I will be reinstated on the horrible medication I didn’t like that gives me parkinsonism, so I’m actively avoiding the doctor for as long as I can. However, I know I have to seek more treatment because my psychosis has been quite intense.

In terms of how I deal with things and how I co-ordinate myself when a drama presents itself, I feel really grateful that my family and friends are so supportive of me. My parents are proud of me for having to go through every day with an illness that’s incurable and just so complex, my dad gets emotive when I struggle through something as a result of my illness but he tells me to speak out. I practice in good faith each day to be as kind as I possibly can, to be supportive and to be patient when people go through stressful circumstance – because I know all too well how it feels to be in that position.

I feel as I evaluate the stress of the past few days, knowing when to reach out to make amends is as important as recognizing when something has run it’s course. I always say a happy life is in consequence of striking the perfect balance of holding on and letting go, but more importantly to myself it’s looking back at a situation and knowing that I dealt with it tolerantly and considerately.

I spoke yesterday about feeling like my illness’ stigma dismantles all the good things I do and wrecks my character. Today, I try harder not to let my illness take away the good aspects of me. I’m passionate, I’m honest and I know that I have enough courage to move forward and continue to talk about the things that are challenging to speak of and tough to hear. I feel alone, but I’m brave enough to move forward alone and dedicate my time to looking after myself – whilst looking out for you all who are struggling too.

I document my illness not my life but my readers here are one of my priorities in my life. Whether you’re passionate in the battle against mental illness or a little afraid, I’m with you. I’m rooting for you all, and finally, I’m rooting for myself.

DAYS 21, 22, 23: Consternation

The weekend has been horrible.

I went to travel to my boyfriends 21st birthday party on Saturday, a long story short - I got stranded and ended up not getting there until late at night. When I got stranded, I was on my own in a strange place and I had one of the worst panic attacks yet. My usual way of dealing is taking medication then going to sleep for a while, but instead I didn't have my medication or a bed - so I had to just keep going. With my nerves absolutely wrecked I took 3 trains and a bus to get to his party. I missed everything, I was devastated. Slideshows, singing songs, speeches, birthday cake... I missed everything special about the day we spoke about and planned for months. As I walked up to the house door I saw them all cheering and things for him, I cried in his garden for five minutes before I found the strength to try and walk through the door.

When I walked through the door, I ran up the stairs to take my jacket and things off, also putting his presents next to his chair. There it was, panic attack number 3 on it's way. I felt like I couldn't breathe and I kept getting ready to cry but I told myself that I would spoil the party if I let myself boil over, so I just held it in. Eventually he came up the stairs and asked if I was okay and tried to hug me but I couldn't hug him because I would break down, and all I wanted to do was not break down.
After ten minutes of shaking in the room, I got the courage to go downstairs where loads of people were and immediately I was inundated by several cousins asking how I was doing and trying to hug me after hearing from my boyfriend about my ordeal. I was so emotional and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack and I just needed out that place or some space but there was no space at all. Everywhere I went someone wandered over to me with the statement 'OH MY GOD ARE YOU OKAY?' when really I wanted to scream: 'No, actually everyone. I am not okay whatsoever so if you could all give me 10 minutes to breathe'... but this was a party, full of people who loved the man I love. I was stand offish, I thought if I'm silent then maybe I can just stop myself from bursting into tears, collapsing on the floor breathless and not make a massive selfish scene at my boyfriend's celebration. My anxieties felt so loud that I couldn't even understand what people were communicating to me, I can't explain how distressed I was - easily making this night the worst night of my life.

I remember his mum speaking to me in a room, asking if I was okay again which I responded 'Yeah I'll be okay, I just don't really want to talk about it' and immediately there it was, I saw her reaction and I knew from that second I looked rude and that she hated me and was going to tell everyone she hated me. In that second I probably died ten times, I did my - what had become statement at this party - turn around and hold my eyes back to stop tears, and I wandered into a different room to hide again just to get that moment of recovery. I went into a different room but one of the partygoers who was a bit drunk followed me in and sat next to me continuously asking on loop 'are you okay?'. What really hurts my feelings is that I had so much respect for everyone being kind to me, but they couldn't understand how to deal with me when I felt like I was going to collapse with the sheer torment of the nervous emotions I had and I must've looked so rude when really I just couldn't stop myself from trembling and I forgot how to even be myself so I hardly spoke.

I finally got a moment to myself, just me and two friends and I sat there trying to contain my vomit and stop my heart from falling out the bottom of my arse. I felt like being there was like being strangled, but in super slow motion. I was shivering, I couldn't moderate my temperature anymore - there I was having a full fledged breakdown at my boyfriend's birthday party. I was so desperately trying to look normal too that it all just came out as me looking massively anti social and rude towards people who I knew were kind and genuinely wanted to meet me. I wanted to meet everyone too but that night, I couldn't control my anxiety anymore it was ruining me entirely - I felt like I needed an ambulance, but I just couldn't make a scene and I just kept trying to get myself back together.

How do you speak to people when you feel like you're being choked and your legs are going numb? How do you look normal when your heart is racing out your chest and you're convinced you're going to vomit over the next person who comes up to you? How do I be normal on demand?
The last thing I remember happening was sitting with friends, trying not to be sick and outside the door listening to a group of guys making sexual remarks about me thinking we couldn't hear. Yeah, I was going to be sick. At that moment my friends told me it was best I left, so I went and discussed it with my boyfriend before leaving.

I was only there an hour, but the overwhelmingness just meant that I was going to have a mental breakdown in his house. I couldn't make a scene on his birthday. So all it would look like is that I'm a bit shy and rude or ignorant, and I knew because of the version of myself that I was that night - that I had to leave. I was leaving bad impressions, and more so - my boyfriend was getting stressed out that I was upset. I wanted him to enjoy his night, I couldn't spoil it so I made the mature decision to leave. Normal me loves people, normal me is fun, kind and outgoing. Normal me was gone when I got dropped off by taxi in a dark strange place, and no buses or people showed up. I spent the rest of the night looking for normal me, and I stayed up until morning just trying to calm my stomach down.

The next day (yesterday) I woke up with a lot of auditory psychotic symptoms. I could hear someone yelling my name but it was like it was inside my head. My diagnosis was 'Bipolar Disorder with Schizophrenic features' so I feared that it was coming back after two years because of all the stress of the night before. It was his actual birthday on this Sunday, so we both met up. I assumed he was going for his dinner with his parents afterwards, but he asked me if I wanted to join so I said I'd be fine with doing whatever he wanted me to. His parents later changed the plans a few times, and eventually said they were just going to bed around 7pm. So I spent the night doing what my boyfriend wanted to do, which was having a drink - and I went home to stay with him, because I felt he was a little stressed out and I wanted to make him feel better. I remember he had a conversation with his parents when he got back and when he came downstairs to me, he was really upset. His parents had this evening planned for him and he hadn't come home for it so they were really upset with him. I immediately knew - I am going to be held responsible for this because he spent time with me and so I felt awful. I sent some flowers, to apologise for how things may have looked at the party and show them that I appreciate them as people and for what they do for their son.

Today started off well. My boyfriend was quite hungover but we were both heading to uni in the morning so I gave him an antacid and took him for some aspirin to help him feel better. He seemed stressed out with family issues, so I was concerned and kept trying to cheer him up. When I got home he told me that his parents were upset about him not previously telling them I had bipolar disorder and that they noticed he has been seeming unhappy lately. My boyfriend tells me everything, I know what stresses him every hour. This past week tensions have been high because he's had an important uni report to do and the stress of his upcoming party, on Thursday we had an argument over something silly he said that upset both of us perhaps too much, but by Friday morning we were back to being great. His Friday, however, was still quite stressful because of his party and so his whole weekend has been emotional which makes me feel like I have to make so much more of an effort for him, and I do. For valentines I made him a little pack for when he feels stressed, with a candle, a mindfulness activity book, a big blanket and chocolates, because I know he gets stressed easily and I want to help him manage that. When I look at what's upsetting his parents, I realise that it's just me. They found me rude at the party, they think me and my boyfriend argue (probably a lot, even though we never ever argue) - but more importantly, I'm the bipolar enigma.

I don't really know what bipolar is to people that don't have it or know about it. Perhaps some people think bipolar means aggressive or unreasonable, or that I switch dramatically between the being nice and being a bitch. I think people think everyone with bipolar disorder causes drama, not realising that the illness effects mostly the person with it - I present myself quite normally, I just don't feel normal. I have to explain to everyone my illness works in periods, I've never been aggressive and I don't have an argumentative nature. My illness, nine times out of ten, does not affect my boyfriend. In fact I'm very introverted in terms of my illness, my current depressive episode really only affects me - unless it's also built with anxiety, that just ends up everywhere. I can ruin my life with anxiety, but I only have mild periods of anxiety maybe once a month, nothing as dramatic as I had on Saturday. Me and my boyfriend rarely, rarely, rarely argue - just out of respect for one another. I support myself majority of the time in terms of my illness, he sometimes helps motivate me when I can't find that motivation on my own but my illness never gets close enough to him to affect him. I don't discuss it with him either very often, just because I wouldn't even want to worry him. My relationship dynamic is perfect, I just happened to have the worst day of my life on Saturday and my boyfriend got worried because emotions were high and he was a little drunk. I think his parents believe that I'm this mentally ill woman who stresses out their son, when in fact I'm probably the kinder one in our relationship and I do everything I can to make him feel 100% because he makes me feel 100%. I get on with his friends amazingly, I thought I got on with his parents well but I think me seeming ignorant on his birthday has probably made them forget about the 'real' me per se. Now everything is labelled 'Bipolar' when I'm not sure they know about how my illness actually affects me and how little my own episodes affect others. His parents probably think I'm ignorant and rude, on and off, based on those terrible few hours when really my illness has never affected me that much before.

Now, as it stands, I don't know what to do with myself. This is the first time I've ever felt like my illness has genuinely made people hate me, and this is the first time my anxiety has ever been on such a massive scale so publicly. I wish there was a cure for my illness so I could stop suffering, but if my wishes have to be smaller, I wish people understood my illness or at least researched enough to support me a little better. Mood right now? 2/10. I'm feeling like if bipolar isn't the death of me, it'll assassinate my character and everything good about me.

DAY 20: Anticipation

Today I’ve felt okay. I feel like the progression needed in my life will happen, and that maybe I’m not being dragged along like I think I am. I didn’t achieve much in university today even though I have an upcoming crucial deadline, but I had some socialisation time and I feel good. Tomorrow is a really long day, it’s my boyfriends birthday party and so I’ve got to get ready for that, travel for an insane amount of time to get there, then socialise for several hours. I’ve found that telling myself there will be a chocolate fountain has served as the real motivation to attend.

So currently, I’m sitting on my bed writing this post – dripping in fake tan, which I can only hope is going to work so I can look a little less than dead-body-pale, which is my natural colouring. I feel so much more confident when I take time in my appearance, so I’ve actually pushed myself and made an effort for this occasion – I’ve even painted my nails!

I’m really nervous for tomorrow because I’m aware so many people will attend this party that I don’t even know and I’m generally not great at first impressions because I get really awkward and weird. I also do this thing when I’m nervous that I keep talking and I can’t shut up, it’s the most embarrassing thing and I just hope the ground will swallow me right up. The more I think about that, the more anxiety I have so I’m staying focused on that chocolate fountain.

To get things done in order tomorrow I have set several alarms on my phone, when I’m in a depressive episode of my bipolar disorder having some kind of schedule does keep me on the straight and narrow – so I’ve timed everything, from visiting the shops and having a shower. Doing these general organization bits and bots does really make me feel like I’m working to create a solid, happy foundation for myself to live. I find organizing things rigorously and setting alarms will keep me on track when I know I don’t have the motivation to naturally do things. Of course, there are times I just skip an alarm and leave it – normally when it’s to get out of bed – but I don’t feel any better when I do, so I’m really pushing myself.

I hope if anyone else feels the way I do, that they push themselves that tiny bit in order to motivate themselves enough to do activities – be it planning out things to the hour like I do, or getting a friend to make gentle reminders.

As always, I’m forever on Twitter for a chat: @aymieblack and I’d love to hear the little things you do to motivate yourself to get through the activities of your day.

DAY 19: Ineffectual

It’s been a long and tough day with some recreational breaks. I helped my friend pick out what to wear for a party we’re both supposed to be attending but I don’t feel massively up for it. My mood is probably in the negatives right now, and there’s not much I can do to change it.

I think the main emotion I feel at this moment is embarrassment. I feel very much like I get into things that make me feel so crazy happy that I shout it from the rooftops only to realise it probably isn’t what I think it is. To feel like I prioritise people who don’t prioritise me, and being caught up on little details to support the idea that I’ve got it right and things will be fine when quite frankly it isn’t. It always makes me consider: what is my next move? When do I become realistic with myself? How do I differentiate my pursuit and my reality?

I get the feeling that I deserve the horrible things that happen to me and I feel at fault for a good degree for putting myself in these situations that don’t benefit me enough.

It’s not been a good day, 3/10 is probably optimistic.

Sorry for the 3/10 blog post.

DAY 18: Endeavour

It’s been a long and exasperating 48 hours and I can’t count the small achievements on my hands! From brushing my hair after four days of it being in a reckless bun to socialising with loads of different people – I’ve managed to stick to the plan I’ve set for myself, to a degree. It takes me an hour to get out of bed after I wake up and I’m still leaving university earlier so I can go home and just absorb that experience, as it feels overwhelming. I wish that I could celebrate all the success and that I could write that I’m cured too, but I can’t cap that feeling of dissatisfactory. It’s not easy in any way to try and control my moods when they just fly out like spaghetti noodles out my brain. I’ve been seeking a lot of inspiration lately, looking for some kind of guidance for getting motivation for my life and finding that zest again but it’s so complex. I absolutely despise the word, but quite frankly I spend a lot of my day wishing I were normal.

To motivate myself I’ve come up with an odd list of three somewhat negative things that I can turn around to be positive - making me feel like I should get out of bed and accomplish my to-do list.

1.     Satisfying Others
I stated yesterday that I had my boyfriend send me alerts to remind me to attend meetings etc. at specific times and having that little bit of guided pressure really pushed me on to accomplish the goals I set for myself the night before. It’s really important that I make the goals myself because I am aware of my capabilities but I know when the time comes around I will flake out, so having someone to spur me on really does make me feel like I can get through the day.

2.     Serious Obligations
If I have an assessment at university, even when I’m ill, the stress pushes me so much that I do get it done. I think it is horrible having stress as a motivator – but if I feel something completely has to be done and there’s an immediacy I’m less inclined to just not do it. I think adjusting my attitude and priorities benefits me in getting things done, so setting up guidelines for when to finish coursework with my university tutor is helpful as I feel like I really have to keep going – opposed to being lost in timing and organisation when I have more options.

3.     Looking ‘Normal’
I hate looking like the unwell one with all the excuses or the one who needs loads of support, basically I dislike being an outsider as a result of my episode. Sometimes I feel so disheartened that I don’t bother and I just let people think what they do, but other times it motivates me more to keep up the appearance that I can handle what is thrown to me. It’s difficult but now I feel I understand I can ask for support and that’s okay, but having a great bash on my own will never discredit me. The idea of looking just like the others and being treated the same, accomplishing tasks and keeping my affairs in order spurs me on to try my best in what I attempt. This mostly applies at university, I loathe looking like I just drift in and do little work, even though there is a reason for such and it isn’t my fault I’m unwell – it inspires me in a bizarre way to keep going and just try my best to keep up.

Though peculiar, I used to feel these things where reasons for me not to bother with doing anything in my day, because I always thought I would fail – I felt like I disappointed people, that my inadequacies were apparent and that I shouldn’t try things because the stress overwhelmed me and I was set up to fail. Turning these three little things around have shown me ways that I can motivate myself with what I previously listed as an anxiety. Nothing that it is okay to have a day where I can’t keep up, and it is okay to ask for support in things like work and uni – but these reasons spur me on to try my best.

Mental Illness is shattering, but I’m focusing on celebrating my little accomplishments. Trying your best, when you have no motivation and feel hopeless, is possibly the most illuminating concept of them all.

DAY 17: Alliance

I write as I am on the train home, the floor is sticky with coffee and it’s that horrible damp weather where you can smell the rain from everyone’s jackets. Today was the first day I decided to go ahead and follow my plan of 'stop feeling sorry for myself'. I looped in my boyfriend (wait did I tell you all I had a boyfriend? Oh wow that gossip is to follow at some point), he sends me caring texts: ‘7am Mimi shower’, ‘10am You have a meeting’. In a way, it’s horrible that my boyfriend has to motivate me to get up and shower and attend meetings, he is supportive but I do get the impression he often feels helpless. In his choice of words in response to when I speak about my illness, he is often clumsy. He too falls victim to the: ‘It’ll be okay, be positive!’ Go to response that everyone gives you when you are feeling low.

Sometimes I feel like it’s so hard to get to grips with my illness, talk about it and work with it that I often forget how difficult it is for people to feel included in how I’m thinking and feeling. I know that my boyfriend seeks to be someone who essentially fixes me, and I will always feel great – not hysterically so, just happy. I don’t think he recognizes that there is no cure and that it’s an uphill battle to prevent episodes. It’s difficult to accept that you can’t fix something in someone that you love, and that you can’t end their suffering. However, with his enthusiasm and motivation to learn more and support me more – he makes my life much easier and is helping provide that stability that is getting me forward.

Today I managed to get up, washed, dressed and out of the house to get to university meetings. I'm heading to an event right now and I will keep you updated on the outcome, there is a lot going on today but I'm proud of myself for seeing through most of my commitments even if I needed that push from my partner. It's so beneficial to have support, even when it feels silly and pathetic - I'm glad I have an understanding confidante.