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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 clichéd 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.


I’ve tried to write this a thousand times these past few months. I am struggling to find a way to say what I want to say, so I’m going to write this in the most uncomplicated way to get across what I’m thinking.

I feel like I owe everyone an apology. I’ve been struggling with depression for a couple of months, and I’ve become reclusive. I’m sure close ones have noticed how I’m much more removed now, and the people who follow me will have noticed from my ‘more quiet than usual’ position.

I’ve been an advocate for mental health for quite a while now, and it inspired me so much when I saw people who were encouraged by me to take positive action in their lives for their mental wellbeing. I am glad that I have been able to help people out there. However, I recognise that for a long time – especially through interviews and the media – I’ve been held up in a ‘survivor/recovery story’ kind of way. I am happy that the people who know me or know my work have been able to find inspiration in that, but it’s been a real weight on me. I feel like my own mental health is something of public interest, and because I didn’t want to let people down – I always did a fantastic job of acting like the poster girl for great mental health when realistically I was hurting.

Truth is, I am a real person with real problems. I still struggle, and I do not have all the answers. At the very least, I have a little bit of faith that things will get better.

At the moment, without discussing personal issues too much, there are real positives and negatives to my life. Unfortunately, I only feel the negatives. Every day is tiring and like a performance. I just don’t have the time to find myself more help at the moment, however I am still ploughing along and somehow coping. I am still able to keep going, it’s just taking all my energy - so don't worry about me too much.

The people who thought they knew me would never think this would be something difficult for me to do, but it really has been. All I can do is apologise to anyone who thinks I’ve been dishonest, or to the people I’ve let down. I also don’t know if I’ll want to speak about this any further after this.

I’m working on myself at the moment, so consider this a ‘BRB’ to the blog.
Again, I’m super sorry. I think I’ll always be a work in progress.