World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health day, time to talk and time to run.
The running group I’m a member of, Michelle’s Running Group invited me to say a few words. It was painful, but my motto was if it helps one person it’s worth it.

Here is mostly what I said tonight:

 

As it’s Mental Health awareness day Michelle asked if I’d say some words, which I’m more than happy to do so.
I’ll try not to talk to long and you might have to forgive me as I might not find all of this easy.
I’ve never done anything like this, and it will open some wounds, but if it helps just one person it’s worth it. The other thing is, I feel like I can be open with you guys, this group have been so supportive to me and feel safe with you all.

What links:

Sia
Stephen Fry
Carrie Fisher
Gazza
Marilyn Monroe
Demi Lovato
Robin Williams
Amy Winehouse
Kurt Cobain
Britney
van Gogh
Florence Nightingale
and Mark Brown

The answer is bipolar disorder; previously known as manic depression.

My diagnosis is Rapid Cycling Bipolar I with psychotic tendencies, broken down it means I have four or more episodes of mania which is the highs and depression a year, psychotic tendencies is detachment from reality. Yes I do also sometimes hear voices and hallucinate as well, it’s been a while thankfully. We also have another trick up our sleeve, something they call mixed state “defined as a state wherein features unique to both depression and mania—as despair, fatigue, morbid or suicidal ideation; racing thoughts, pressure of activity, and heightened irritability—occur either simultaneously or in very short succession.”

Even though this talk is about my experience, I’m the only person I can talk for. Today isn’t about me, it’s not a poor me or a ploy for sympathy. I’m one of the lucky ones; I have a stable long term job, I have friends and family that are amazingly supportive and have a wife that tolerates me. I’ve been through the mill and, well can’t say I’m out the other-side really, you’re never better, but I cope. This is about all those feeling alone, all the people who aren’t getting the help they deserve, all the people who feel different, get bullied, get let down and abandoned by society.

I’m going to present a bio of some bipolary incidents.
Growing up I was always a different child. I had mood swings, banged my head against walls, dented a few lockers. Had EEGs because they thought I was epileptic, which turned out to be fugue states.

Was estimated A* or A’s for all my GCSEs, ended up getting the range from A to ungraded.
Kicked out of college
Racked up loads of debt pretty much as soon as I turned 18 and was able to.
Lost my driving licence before I even passed my test, it was because of being diagnosed not anything I did. Still that felt bad, then had only short term licences.
Related to that, paying a lot extra for insurance, both car and travel.
Being told if I have children social services would be involved, which is the right thing and was presented as to give me extra help.
Being told I might not be able to visit the USA because I could present a risk to myself or others, based on a history of self harm.
Substance abuse is quite common with bipolars, known as self medicating.
The highs, can be amazing, too amazing.
You end up naked on a roundabout in Chelmsford at 4am, you end up having the police called by a manager of a club because they think you’re on drugs when all you’ve had is water, you end up jumping out of cars because you’re invincible. You end up thinking you’re a god or the next coming of Jesus. In a different time or a different place I’d probably have been stoned to death or hailed as a prophet.

Even though we’ve got a long way to go; things are much better now. I take tablets that stablise me, previously people would have such things as Electro Convulsive Therapy (it’s still used, but normally a last resort now a days).

There is self harm, which is far from attention seeking, most my scars are in places nobody will see. I’d managed to go quite a few months but ended up cutting last week. I almost needed skin grafts from a burn I did on my arm, bit by bit with matches, it was almost 9 inches long and full thickness by the time I was finished. Well with what they were saying the risk of infection is that I could have died or lost my arm even.
I’ve had memory loss, I have photos of myself on trips that I have absolutely no recollection of at all. Not even when looking at the photos.
Most mornings I’m upset when I wake up, even if it’s a good day; I know they’ll be a bad day soon, I know I’ll hurt people that love me. If only I didn’t exist no one needs to get hurt…

Anyway… there are more but we’d be here all night…
I do find exercise and particularly running helps. If you’re slightly low but can drag your carcass out it can give you a boost, if you’re a little up it can use up some energy.
Risk taking behavior; do a Nuclear Race! Having races booked also gives something to aim towards, something to look forward to, to fight on for. Running something like a marathon helps, you learn to fight, when part of you is screaming at you to stop and you push through isn’t dissimilar to when part of you is telling you how awful you are and that you should purge yourself from the world. Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken to marathon running, I’ve been fighting for as long as I remember, which isn’t that long, bad memory, another bipolar trait.

Talking of purging…

People with bipolar have an estimated 1 in 5 chance of committing suicide, 1 in 5… to put it in perspective the odds of getting something on the National Lottery is 1 in 10. 1 in 5 is also the same odds as a millennial in the USA having tried a Big Mac. And relevant to this week, the same odds as getting into the London Marathon. Our life expectancy is 9.2 years less than the average.

My friend Sheryl took her own life last year, think about the wording there. I know it’s technically correct, but if someone dies from cancer, they’re brave, they fought until the end, they’re inspiring. Someone dies from bipolar, they’re called such things as selfish and coward. Personally I’ve been told, it’s just in your head, you can choose to be happy, don’t be so dramatic, you don’t need to be taking all those tablets, you don’t look ill, you’re usually so happy, just do yoga, and don’t get me started on that victim blaming toilet tissue of a book they call the Secret. People said after Robin Williams died that he should have got better help. Getting help was how he lived long enough to reach 63. Many of us know the voice that tells us to stop running, why not walk, it’ll be okay; how many of us have ended up giving in to that voice and walking. How about that voice saying you’re worthless, you’re a burden, you should end it. It’s hard to fight when the enemy is yourself. This is the primary reason I’ve opted to not have children, how could I bring life into the world when I know I could hurt them so much?

But now for the positive.

I’m here.
I have amazing friends and family.
I have a wonderful life.
I have a good job.
I enjoy my life.

I’m living proof that with the right care and support system, which includes all of you, we can live an almost normal life.

If anyone has any questions feel free to ask during the run, even if you think it might be too personal or rude or whatever, if I don’t want to answer I won’t, but don’t let it stop you asking.