To Overcome?

No, no, fucking no.

This is bullshit. Fucking bullshit.

I was doing okay, had a few minor panics but overall, I was doing better. Then R turned the light off for us to go to bed and I just lost my shit, I have no fucking clue why, never happened before. The darkness just scared the absolute shit out of me.

Ended up having to sleep with the light on and TV playing in the background, but I didn’t even calm down enough to get some sleep til like 5 in the morning.

Mind over matter.

Why the fuck can’t I shake this? This isn’t like me.

Woke up to panic again. My head telling me that I need hospital, that something is wrong. I know that’s not true, not at all. I’m physically fine.

It’s breaking me down, being on edge 24/7.

Panic.

Yesterday I had six more, less severe panic attacks.

They started off as a fuzziness at the back of my brain, which migrated to the rest, and an overwhelming sense of panic. My vision became blurry, only increasing the panic. Very nauseous, it’s been a struggle to keep any solids or liquids down. I could hear and see my heart pounding but when I checked my heart rate, it was average.

It would take me anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours to calm down.

One of the things that has stood out for me is the crying. I was clinging onto R and sobbing. He would ask me to explain what was going on in my head but I had nothing to say, my head itself was completely blank. It’s all stemming on a subconscious level.

Distraction has been my best friend but unfortunately, hasn’t always been able to work.

Last night I was terrified about sleeping. I stayed up til 1 in the morning and R left the TV on, so I could focus on the voices instead of trying to sleep in silence. This worked and I was able to get some sleep, although I did wake 2 times. Each time I woke, I would repeat to myself, “You don’t have to go back to sleep right away, take your time. Everything is okay, you’re safe. You’re not in any danger”. I would do this until I fell back asleep.

Woke today around 7, immediately panicked. R held me in his arms and I begged him to help me get medication attention. We rang my GP for an emergency appointment but they were full. I ended up calling the community mental health team who were wonderful, they didn’t have any free appointments but they listened to everything.

They have booked me an appointment for another diagnostic assessment, they think I am displaying signs of PTSD and want to have me re diagnosed with a more accurate, up to date diagnosis.

This calmed me. This afternoon has still been shaky, I have been overcome with panic a lot but managed to keep myself as calm. It’s hard.

I tried to settle for a nap a few hours ago, got an hour in, but woke up in such fear.

Interview 18: Vanity.

Okay, so that’s a shitty joke, but I thought I’d ask myself the same questions I’ve been asking every person who has been so kind to let me interview them.

So, I’m Lucy, 21, and I live in South Yorkshire. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalised anxiety at the age of 12, at age 14 social anxiety was added to that, then at age 21, EUPD.

My biological father left myself and my mother when I was 3 years old, over the years he would see me on and off, regularly for a year at a time then out of nowhere there would be no contact. In my opinion, this was the starting cause of my mental health issues. From a young age, I would turn to food for comfort, becoming quite overweight. His abandonment sparked attachment issues and of course, abandonment issues. I was very reliant on my mother, very attached, I slept in the same bed as her until I was 11 years old. Throughout my childhood, I always felt empty, a physical hole in my heart. I had very little self confidence, blaming myself for my father’s abandonment, and being bullied for my overbite and weight problem at school. I never felt like I fit in, no matter who I was hanging around with. I was a very imaginative child, I would spend all of my time playing pretend. Even at primary school, I would rather play alone, in my imaginary worlds. My anxiety would make it impossible for me to speak in class, alienating me more. I would constantly fake being sick to be able to stay at home with my mother and when I was 9, my mother started working as a dinner lady at my school, which only made my attachment issues worse. Instead of hanging around with my friends, I would spend my lunches with her. I was a good student, a smart student, but I struggled socially. The bullying I went through in primary and high school made me very guarded, hyper aware of criticism or perceived criticism.

There have been a lot of triggers, I think. My father’s treatment of me, how easily he could discard me then pick me back up, like it was nothing. My subsequent extreme attachment to my mother, making me more introverted and less likely to socialise, never really learning how to be independent. The peak of my depression and anxieties hit when I was just about to go into high school, 11 years old, and my ‘step father’ moved in. I felt like my mother had been ripped away from me. I had spent years sleeping in the same bed as her, having that close bond, all of the sudden I was alone. I didn’t cope well. I would scream every night, I couldn’t understand why I had to sleep alone. I once screamed so loud that the neighbours called the police, they thought he was beating my mother, and my screams were her screams on pain. At first he was pleasant to live with but that didn’t last long. He was a drinker, a previous drug addict that had simply substituted drugs for alcohol. He would drink every day. His temper was explosive and unpredictable. Anything could set him off and you wouldn’t know what it was, you wouldn’t see it coming. He would cause arguments between himself and my mother all of the time. He would be very emotionally cruel to me, throwing it in my face that I wasn’t his daughter, dismissing my mental health, judging me for every little thing. He was a good manipulator, would convince other people and even myself that the reason he got angry was because I wasn’t a well behaved child. Whilst trying to deal with home life, school was no relief. For the first three years of high school I was bullied a lot, again for my weight and general appearance. I also lost a lot of friendships. The combination of all of this made my anxiety and depression worse. My school attendance was very low, I had to be taken out of classes due to my anxiety, I couldn’t complete my exams in the same room as everyone else because it was too crowded. I began to self harm, cut myself, but never deep. The teachers were awful, not a shred of understanding. I was a good student, never had been in trouble and always got good grades, but when I opened up to them about my mental health and it started affecting my school performance they turned on me. Treated me like a bad child. Screamed and shouted at me. Harassed me for not being able to sit in classes with other students. The days I did attend school, I would sit in an isolation room, but nobody ever bothered to bring me any work despite how much I asked, this had a result on my final exam grades. My grades aren’t bad but they were average, not to my true potential. Nobody wanted to help or listen, they wanted to hide away from it.

I first asked for help at 12 years old, my mother took me to my GP. My GP was an idiot, to be frank. I confided in her and she told me that I couldn’t possibly have suicidal thoughts because I would’ve taken my life by now. Her first idea was to throw antidepressants at me, not offer therapy. I think this is why I don’t like taking medication to this day and choose not to. After more appointments begging for help, I was referred to Camhs. I had 3 sessions there before I stopped attending. The therapist was clueless, she didn’t listen, she would blame everything on my biological father’s absence. After that, I was referred to a different therapist, in a building called The Cherry Orchard House. My anxiety was really severe at this point and at my initial assessment, I really struggled to put into words how I was feeling, instead of helping me overcome that, they sent me back to my GP saying my problems were not severe enough for them to treat. I tried to manage on my own for awhile, at age 16, I found a self referral voluntary counselling service in my town. They were wonderful but I fell into the common trap of ceasing therapy once I had started to feel my mood was lifting, this of course lead me to relapse. Again, I tried to handle things on my own. Things at home were still terrible. I attempted college twice but dropped out both times, my anxiety getting the better of me. My ‘step father’ sexually assaulted me at age 17. Life got worse after that. I drank a lot and when I got a job, I threw myself into working long hours to escape being at home. I also dabbled in drug taking and forced myself into sexual relationships that further destroyed my confidence. At 18, I referred myself to the same helpful counselling service, which was the first time I addressed the assault. I was in denial and very ashamed, it took a counselor to open my eyes and make me realise that what had happened was sexual assault. I wasn’t able to afford the service after awhile and didn’t receive any more mental health treatment until I was 20.

I have always been uncomfortable with taking medication. To me, it has always seemed like taking medication was just for everyone around me, not for my own sake. The times I did take medication left me with less of a personality than mental health had ever taken from me. I was just numb and almost robotic, I hated that. I wasn’t able to write or access my creative passions whilst taking them either.

Mental health has impacted my life massively, I feel there are more things I could be easily diagnosed with, but having more labels won’t change anything. It affected my ability to connect with people, form friendships, feel comfortable in people’s company. I have struggled to commit to things such as education and work, always having low attendance. My memory and concentration are poor. I have engaged in excessive and addictive behaviours. Drug taking, drinking, one night stands. Feeling the constant need to spend money just to feel something. Having to constantly dye my hair, add tattoos, and piercings to myself. I have very little confidence, I find it hard to leave the house by myself and spend a lot of my time isolated. I criticise myself constantly, I binge eat and I starve myself. I am irritable and have a lot of inner anger, I am not an aggressive person, so I direct this anger towards myself. I am very impulsive and without structure, I crumble. Romantic relationships have been almost impossible at times. I am very clingy or very distant, no in between, no predicting which I will be. I think obsessively, cut, slap and punch myself. I pick at my skin and I pull my hair. I can go weeks at a time without contacting friends or family and feel nothing. I struggle to be around people and isolate myself a lot but sometimes that isolation can send me crazy, making me very suicidal. I am unable to work and I am currently unable to look after my son, who is in my mother-in-law’s care temporarily while my mental health is so poor.

It’s hard to describe a typical day, it varies. Some days I can leave the house, others I can’t. I find it very difficult to keep up with house work and stay on top of bills without my partner’s help. I lose myself in video games, books, writing. I try to distract myself as much as possible. I can be the lowest of the low or I can experience periods of mania. For me, the mania is worse. I become very hyperactive which can leave me very tired and trigger anxiety attacks. I shake, I flap my arms, I talk non stop. Everything around me feels euphoric and I have the biggest ego, I believe I am the best thing and nothing can sway me from that. When I am depressive, I cry so hard it hurts to move my eyes. I don’t speak, don’t leave the bed. Don’t wash, don’t eat. I think and think. That’s all I do.

I think I’ve experienced quite a bit of discrimination. Friends and other people have pretended to care but when they became bored of me, they would tell me I’m just an attention seeker. I have had this from family and most teachers too. I have tried to always be honest about my mental health in a work place, but the moment I mention it, they have treated me like I am intentionally unreliable and incapable of anything. I have even had my intelligence doubted because of my mental health problems.

Recovery for me is just reaching an even level living with mental health, not curing it. I do believe it will always be part of me and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think I am always in recovery, even if I relapse, those moments are just learning curves. I am not in a good place with my mental health but I am engaging in a lot of help and support for that. I am not in denial and I always aim to speak openly and honestly about my struggles.

I don’t consider myself easily triggered but there are things that really set my mental health off. Loud noises and voices, only with aggressive males, not females. Criticism can make me suicidal, I cannot understand that receiving criticism is okay and it isn’t someone calling me worthless. Last minute plans can trigger anxiety, everything has to be structured if I am going somewhere. I need to know the route, the timing, everything. If I have made a plan to meet a friend, and I cannot constantly get in touch with the friend on the way to meeting (even if they are just busy getting ready, etc) I will immediately break and head back home. I don’t like being questioned about things, even simple questions like whether I have had a good day or what I’ve been doing. In my head, questions are not a sign of someone being interested, but a way of them trying to find a way to mock me. I cannot stay in people’s company for a long time, it makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I become very irritable and emotional if a person is watching me eat or even watching me cook, I turn very defensive, because I feel ashamed about eating.

There are a lot of things I wish people understood about mental health and I will spend my life trying to help spread awareness. Children should not just be dismissed as attention seeking or just suffering from a bad case of teenage angst. They should be protected and not forced to live in a critical household, it will have lasting affects. If you are in a poor and unstable relationship around your children, please reconsider continuing the relationship, you aren’t aware of how it affects the child until it is too late. Teachers should be more informed, without a doubt. They should be taught to nurture, not punish, and listen. To not assume a child’s lack of attendance is a sign of insolence and laziness. Professionals to understand that it is not easy for a person to describe how they are feeling but that does not mean what they are going through is not serious. To place more of a focus around mental health in schools, awareness classes, and take more of a serious approach to bullying. That chronic fatigue isn’t laziness. That impulsiveness is not a choice. That often times when a person has suffered from some form of sexual violence, they will engage in very promiscuous behaviour and that does not mean they are lying. That our mental health disorders and the behaviours that come with those are not a choice, we often cannot separate ourselves from our disorders, we should be supported not abandoned. That sometimes the biggest help you can offer a person is just an ear to listen. So many people feel they cannot help because they don’t have an extensive knowledge of mental health, you don’t always need that. I pray that people continue to education themselves on mental health, there are so many resourced out there, that I simply will not accept the excuse of ”Well, in my generation we wasn’t taught about mental health so I’m not going to bother learning now”

Interview 17: Manic Depression, Hallucinations, Anorexia Nervosa, Bipolar Type 2, Atypical Anorexia, Schizoid Tendencies, BPD, Depression, MDD, Complex PTSD, DD, Selective Mutism, AD, PD.

Sarah has received many diagnoses over the years: manic depression, catatonic behaviour, auditory and hallucinogenic hallucinations, anorexia nervosa and atypical anorexia, bipolar and bipolar type 2, BPD, MDD, PTSD (And complex PTSD), AD, PD, schizoid tendencies, depression, mutism and selective mutism, disassociation disorder and multiple personality disorder. She also suffers with self harm, flashbacks, intense and chronic stress and abandonment issues. She received a few of her diagnoses at an early age but mostly when she had turned 23 years old. The trigger was her parents behaviour towards her, especially her father.

She did not seek help for a long time because her father had conditioned her to keep secrets and not discuss her problems with anyone. Sarah was recommended a psychiatrist who convinced her that inpatient care was the best treatment for her. She was an inpatient for 15 years following a nervous breakdown after completing her MA degree. She was admitted to an asylum build in 1886 and remained there for ten years, when she asylum closed, she was moved to two different psychiatrist hospitals and a home for severely mentally ill women. She takes mood stabilisers, antidepressants and sleeping medication. During this time, her entire family had abandoned and disowned her, she had no contact with them in over 15 years.

She takes every day at it comes, mental health has impacted her life greatly until she was 34 years old. She decided enough was enough and walked away from psychiatric care. She feels she still suffers with PTSD and bipolar type 2. Despite having 2 first class honours degrees, she still has been left unable to work. She feels discrimination against those who suffer with long term mental health problems still exists. She finds crowded places very triggering due to her constant state of hyper vigilance. She picks up on the smallest sight or sound, a result of her complex PTSD.

Sarah feels she is always in recovery. The level of abuse she suffered as a child will never be curable. Recovery to her means learning to live in the present and although she cannot forget her past, she can let it go in order to move on with her life. She lives her life constantly trying to raise awareness for mental health and trying to help others.

“There are still those ignorant people that know nothing about mental illness and think it just means ‘crazy’ or ‘lunatic’. I don’t have much time for these people in a technological age where there is a mass of readily available information about mental illnesses. Sometimes I believe we haven’t go much further than burning witches on stakes. The fact that there is such a stigma and taboo surrounding the subject saddens me greatly. This is the 21st Century, not the 14th!”

 

Interview 16: Depression, Anxiety, Anorexia Nervosa

Georgia is 15 and lives in London. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at age 7. She has also been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa which she does not receive help for. Trauma was the direct cause of Georgia’s mental health problems. At age 4, she shares with me that she witnessed her father kill her brother, she does not disclose any further details but tells me that this lead to her being taken from her family until she was 6. When she was returned to their house, she would hide in her room, refuse to eat and speak.

She first asked for help from her best friend, who struggled with similar issues. It has impacted her life a lot, she is very suicidal which is only worsened by the blame she puts upon herself for adding to her family’s stress. She takes the anti depressant Fluoxitine, 75mg, daily. She feels medication is only ever a temporary solution and being treated with it makes you reliant upon it.

There was a point she felt she had reached recovery but during this, she stopped all her therapy, believing she no longer needed it which caused her to relapse without the support. She doesn’t believe in full recovery, feeling like mental health is part of our personality, and something that will always be there. People mocking self harm can be very triggering for her. She still battles with self harm and disordered eating.

“I wish people understood that none of this is for attention. We really are hurting and sometimes our way of expressing that is through the blood. I wish people wouldn’t call people ’emo’ for cutting, it is not a fashion statement.”

Interview 15: Impulse Disorders, MDD, Psychological Development Disorders

This person wishes to remain anonymous but shares that she is age 18 and from Germany. In 2016 she was diagnosed with impulse disorders and MDD in 2017. She was diagnosed with psychological development disorders instead of borderline personality disorder, as she was under 18 at the time. She has still not been diagnosed with BPD, during her last therapy session, her therapist disclosed that she is very unsure about her diagnoses, as her depressive symptoms outweigh the others.

At the age of 11, she started noticing signs of mental health problems. She can remember showing signs of self destructive behaviour in elementary school but it wasn’t something she understood until now, 11/12 were the ages she began to first self harm.

She says it is important to add that in school, she was very talented as maths, she was always given work a grade higher than everyone else. Instead of being proud of this, it made her feel insecure, getting angry with herself when she couldn’t understand all of the work on the first try.

Her emotional instability started to show when she got into her first relationship at age 14. At first, the relationship was good, happy. However, her feelings started to become very intense, and she would switch between trying to push him away and trying to keep him as near to her as possible. She didn’t know what was happening, why she was feeling or behaving this way. After 2 years, he ended the relationship.

She says that the instability around her is most likely what triggered her disorders. Her friendship groups became rocky, causing her stress and the feeling of extreme rejection. At the same time, school was getting harder, before she always passed everything easily with good grades,  but her concentration had began to slip. Her home life wasn’t as it used to be. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her mother, her mother became overwhelmed as a parent, which lead to social services becoming involved and her twin brother having to move out of the home and live with their father. She was constantly having to move houses, sometimes as frequent as twice a year. As she lost each home, she left she was losing a piece of herself. Her eating became disordered, which she kept to herself.

She first started to seek help at age 15, she opened up to a teacher at school. Her teacher helped her tell her father that she was self harming. She was forced to start therapy but every therapist she met claimed that she wasn’t suited to be under their care, which lead to the suggestion that she receive outpatient care at the local hospital. However, when she was there, she felt forced into becoming an inpatient. 8 months after having telling her father about her self harm, she found herself sat in a psychiatric unit at the hospital, feeling totally alone. She was assigned a therapist in the 8 weeks she was an inpatient, one she felt never understood her. When she was discharged, she had 5 outpatient therapy sessions, but chose not to continue, again having a therapist that didn’t take the time to understand her.

A year later, she was back in the hospital, but voluntarily. She was finally given a therapist that understood her, she is still seeing this therapist now, and has her sessions once a week.

She currently takes 50mg of Quetiapine, which is a prolonged-release medication. It has helped her be able to sleep, she is now able to sleep up to 10-12 hours at a time, but she cannot sleep without having taken the medication which makes her think that it is the wrong type of medication for her and something she shouldn’t be taking. She believes medication should be used alongside therapy. She feels medication itself won’t fix the problem.

Her life has changed in many ways. She lost a lot of friendships, she lost her way in school, unable to achieve the same high grades. She stopped dancing and other hobbies she enjoyed. She is terrified of the future and is extremely self conscious about her self harm marks. She always aspired to be a nurse but now is unsure if that will be possible for her. She struggles to get up in the morning, struggles to shower. She struggles to be in public, especially traveling and attending school, she suffers from bouts of derealisation which can make her panic. She tries to maintain friendships but often finds it too exhausting. She binge eats or doesn’t eat at all. Becomes lost in a constant cycle of thinking. She spends most of her time at school crying in the bathroom, often leaving early. Her thoughts seem to chase her, she feels that there’s no escape.

She feels too hopeless to recover at this time. She does think a person can fully recover, but to fully recover does not mean to be the person you were before the illness. Her opinion is that even after recovery, what you went through with your illnesses will always remain part of you, but you will be able to lead a normal life. Recovery to her means learning to exchange unhealthy behaviour with healthy ones, learning more about yourself, and accept why it is you feel the way you do.

She still engages in self harm as a coping mechanism, she does attempt other methods of distraction though. She likes to write, listen to music helps her reduce stress, and she enjoys reading which helps her forget about her problems for awhile. She isn’t up to it right now but one day, she hopes to get into sports to help reduce her stress levels.

“I wish people would understand that depression is different from being sad or bored. That our inability to do things is not a choice. Being Borderline is not about being manipulative, this is still a stigma people strongly believe in, unfortunately. Being told that you are just trying to push boundaries, trying to manipulate, when all you are trying to do is reach out for help because you can’t cope with the thoughts anymore”

Interview 14: Depression & Anxiety

Malaika is 13 years old and lives in Surrey.

While she has not yet received a diagnosis, she feels she symptoms of depression and anxiety. She used to love to play music and draw but started to lose her motivation and interest. She couldn’t focus at school anymore. She felt chronically tired and numb, which lead to feelings of worthlessness. A family member verbally abusing Malaika, her mother, and brother triggered low moods and anxious behaviours.

She does not take medication, but she speaks to a school counsellor, and gets support from Camhs.

She doesn’t feel like herself anymore, she doesn’t socialise and her attendance at school has dropped greatly. She spends a lot of time crying, feeling empty. Her feelings of worthlessness have been more prevalent due to many of the other children at her school calling her an attention seeker. People speaking about Malaika’s past and childhood can cause her mind to take a downward spiral. She is trying to recover and she does believe it is possible, recovery to her means building confidence and a good mindset in order to improve your mental health.

“I wish people would understand it’s not a choice and I don’t wanna feel this way. People think with poor mental health that your doing it for attention but not everyone has good mental health. Being suicidal is not for attention, more people need to educate themselves on it”

Awake.

I woke up at 3:10 AM, to what I can only describe as the biggest panic attack I have ever had.

No warning signs, I opened my eyes and it hit me, I felt like I was having a heart attack.

I’m not stupid, I knew it was coming after past events. I have never been so stressed but at the same time, I feel nothing, I’m not emotional or anything. Only on a subconscious level.

It’s funny that I just typed that because now I’m in tears.

My heart was pounding so hard I felt like I could hear it, I felt like I could see it, but when I checked my pulse it was barely over average.

I couldn’t stop shaking, I managed to get myself to the bathroom and tried to vomit. I was terrified.

I woke R up, he talked me down as much as he could, and I was able to sip some cold water.

It is now 4:08 and my symptoms are only just starting to calm down, it sounds silly but crying really helped with that. I’m still shaking.

I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to end up in hospital because of stress. I don’t know how to deal with it, I’m clueless.

Interview 13: MDD, Bipolar, GAD, Binge Eating.

Celine is 24 and lives in Canada. At 12 years old, I was diagnosed with MDD. Her mental health took a downward spiral and she was assessed again, at age 21, and diagnosed with bipolar type otherwise unspecified and GAD. Her mood cycles are very erratic, her bouts of depressions long lasting, followed by short bursts of mania. Her bipolar type is unspecified as instead of psychotic mania, she suffers from psychotic depression. Celine believes she has a binge eating disorder for at least a year, and potentially her whole life, but has yet to be taken seriously by a medical professional.

She started noticing signs of mental health problems at age 12, where she would avoid school, spending her days in bed crying, with endless suicidal ideation; she couldn’t switch it off. At night, she couldn’t sleep. She was raised in an abusive and controlling household, and also has a genetic predisposition, her father having similar disorders. Before the onset of her disorders, she loved school, was a straight A student. This was until she started being bullied and ignored by friends, from grade 6 to 8, in person and online by specific peers. Until she was 18, she tried to ignore her problems, going to a new high school in a completely different town. She spent her early adulthood in many unhealthy relationships, being sexually assaulted by a boyfriend, and pressured into doing sexual things as a teen and adult that she wasn’t comfortable with. Her symptoms started to increase. Extremely depressed, insomnia, constant social paranoia and suicidal ideation. She would have delusions where she would see shadows moving in her peripheral vision, she felt like she had maggots crawling under her skin.

“Through therapy, I learned I cannot blame anyone or anything for my state of mental health, because those issues are mine alone”

At age 12, her suicidal ideation became more apparent, and Celine’s mother contacted a counsellor. She was offered medication immediately but didn’t receive sufficient support, her counselling sessions were short and sporadic. If she displayed any behaviours that were not neurotypical, her mother would threaten to send her to a psych ward. Despite this, at age 19, she reached out for her mother’s help again. She dropped out of university after a bad breakup and moved back in with her mother. Celine needed help, she started self harming, and in order to prove to her mother how much help she needed, she showed her the marks.

Her doctor was very helpful, referring her to a psychiatrist but the waiting time was 6 months. Booking appointments with free mental health care in a small town in Canada means waiting 3 months between every appointment, due to how busy your psychiatrist is. None of her psychiatrists have known her name without looking at their notes. Her last psychiatrist was not even aware of her diagnosis. After a suicide attempt, she had to wait 2 months for a follow up appointment. Getting help and support has been immensely frustrating for her but thankfully now, she is receiving more help than ever before. She has had a great experience with CBT, which she had for a few months and the beginning of her recovery but at $120/hour, she could no longer afford it.

Celine is currently unmedicated and has been for a year. When she did take medication, she was taking 20mg of Cipralex daily which is used as an anti anxiety medication. 300mg of Wellbutrin daily, an antidepressant and mood lifter. 150mg of the mood stabiliser, Seroquel, daily. She has been on several different antidepressants over the years. She cannot remember much about the year she was taking Seroquel, it made her memory very foggy. It would knock her out after taking it. It would make her depression heavier and found it harder to fight her mental delusions. She would bounce between having a brain full of racing thoughts to a complete ghost town. She was unable to think and function whilst on it. Wellbutrin made her shake and quiver, it was the medication responsible for waking her up every morning. She believes medication has a plave in treatment to ease symptoms but not to cure them.

Celine’s mother has always taken her daughter’s mental issues personally, she would insist on asking her what she did to cause her issues and repeatedly call herself a bad mother. She has lost many friends in speaking openly about her mental health and lost many romantic relationships because they would not accept her need for medication and her struggles. She has found that opening up about her mental health on Facebook has helped her gain a lot more support.

Mental health has structured her whole life, even as a teenager, but it has taken her til now to realise that. She has left 6 jobs over the past 6 years, all from concern of her mental health. At first, she would always have jobs lined up but with support from her boyfriend, she has acknowledged she needs to take time off to focus on her health. She has been out of work for a month now and working to build a daily care/maintenance routine. She hasn’t been able to think about food or care for awhile as it sparks chaos inside of her head. She dropped out of post high school, lost friends, romantic relationships, all sense of direction for a future career. Lost healthy hair and skin and at times herself.

When she attempted suicide and confided in her boss, he acted supportive, then avoided her when she returned. He wouldn’t even make eye contact with her. Romantic relationships have ended the moment they found out about her mental health.

Some days can be good, others she wakes up immediately suicidal, overwhelmed by inner criticisms. She is often feeling so low she cannot leave the bed. Her mood can change quickly, happy for hours, then suicidal the next. Winter brings out the worst in her depression. When she tries to think about food, her brain shuts down or starts to body shame her, which leads to panic and an emotional meltdown. Celine has to constantly repeat positive affirmations, mantras and meditate to try to block out her constant negative thoughts. Going out into public sets her in a heightened state of panic and paranoia. She cannot attend an event without a close friend or family member. She is unable to sleep for more than 4-5 hours a night, although practising breathing exercises and meditation does help.

She considers herself to have been in recovery for the past 6 years but only reaching true recovery within the last year. She isn’t sure she is ready for recovery, even though she is living it.

“I don’t know if a person can fully recover from a mental health problem because it is part of what structures a person when they are living and growing with their problems every single day of their life. It is a part of you that you learn to cope with daily. The definition of recovery is regaining or the possibility of regaining something lost or taken away. In the sense of that definition, to me recovery is finding yourself again in the mire of your chaotic mental health and life. For a long time I have felt like I have lost everything that I once attributed to me or my interests, very slowly I’m regaining those in baby steps”

Lately she has been struggling to get out of bed, falling into almost trance like states, staying in the same position for hours at a time causing body aches. She tries to distract herself by using her phone but is sucked into more negative coping mechanisms. She will not eat, drink, barely even able to go to the bathroom. She sits in silence for 8 hours at a time, her suicidal thoughts get out of control. When she snaps back into reality, it feels like no time has passed, but her body will be in pain. Extreme irritability and over sensitivity consume her. She will become quiet and withdrawn, beating herself up over the smallest of mistakes. Her paranoia becomes intense, forcing her to overanalyse any recent social interaction. Trying to eat will result in a complete meltdown.

External factors can trigger Celine’s low moods. Any aggressive voices, loud voices, or loud voices will cause her to panic and withdraw. Mistakes or perceived mistakes will cause low moods and crying, as she sees them as direct failures. She has acknowledged she is learning to accept mistakes as they can be an important learning curve in life.

Celine has used many coping mechanisms. She has a very addictive personality and has been addicted to reading online manga and playing video games. Her level of concentration can be so high, she can lose herself in a distraction for 9-15 hours without realising. She is currently working on positive coping mechanisms such as playing an instrument, resding a book, cuddling her pets, bathing, horse therapy, yoga, drawing on her body as a substitute for self harm and using small amounrs of weed. Previous negative coping mechanisms have included self harm via cutting (showering after to intensify the pain), skin picking, scalp picking, heavy marijuana use, self deprecation, restricting meals, smashing her head against hard surfaces, slapping herself, binge eating and ignoring self care.

“I really wish people wouldn’t use bipolar as a casual insult. My brain distorts the usage of the word, making me paranoid about how strange I must seem, as I am diagnosed with that disorder. There are still a lot of misconceptions about mental health despite society shifting attitude. I recommend to everyone to always have an open mind”

Interview 12: Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Depression, ADHD, Self Harm, Auditory Hallucinations, Difficulty Regulating Moods.

Cassie is 16 and lives in Dorset. She has been diagnosed with panic disorder, ADHD, agoraphobia and depression. She suffers from auditory hallucinations and struggles to regulate her emotions, often using self harm as a coping mechanism.

Cassie started showing symptoms of anxiety from as young as 5 years old, having panic attacks and refusing to eat due to the feeling of needing control. Cassie’s mother suffers from multiple chronic conditions, Cassie becoming her carer as a young age. Instead of playing like most children her age, she spent her days at her mother’s bedside in hospital, watching her mother on life support, not knowing whether she would wake up. Her panic attacks would occur when witnessing her mother be taken by paramedics, and whenever she would have to go to a hospital.

From a young age, Cassie was taken to many child specialists, all who claimed she would grow out of her behaviours. At age 10, she was referred to Camhs and waited a month before receiving an initial appointment, which she has now been attending for 7 years. She has been to many different types of therapy, group therapy, and has been admitted to hospital as an inpatient.

She was admitted to Chelmsford Priory at age 16, 5 hours away from home, due to a lack of room at closer inpatient facilities. Her experience here was horrific. There was multiple incidents of patients self harming and attempting suicide whilst on 1-1 care, the staff oblivious. She tells me that the staff didn’t care if you are or not. Observations were supposed to be made every 15 minutes but were often every 40-45 minutes.

Cassie’s experience with getting help and support for her mental health has been a mixed bag. Some of her family members believe mental health problems aren’t real, which has caused huge arguments. However, most of her friends, certain family members and school have provided great support.

She currently takes 100mg of Sertraline and 1mg of Lorazepam. She has tried many different medications, most causing side effects such as hallucinating and vomiting. Sertraline and Quetiapine have been the most helpful. Cassie believes medication shouldn’t be relyed upon, and should not be offered as a first choice. She feels medication best works alongside therapy.

Mental health has taken a huge toll on her life. It has torn her family apart. She lives a very isolated life, her emetophobia and agoraphobia makes it difficult to leave the house. She is unable to live a normal life like most people her age. On a bad morning, Cassie’s paranoia, delusions and anxiety become uncontrollable. She will usually end up being taken to hospital and the rest of the day will consist of self harm and attempts to run away. One of her main triggers are photos of people’s self harm, her brain becomes competitive, and she feels like she has to be worse than them. Nights are the worst for Cassie, her anxiety often keeping her wake to 4-6 in the morning, the urges to self harm and feelings of paranoia consuming her.

Cassie is hopeful for recovery but hasn’t reached it yet. She stockpiles medication and takes comfort in knowing she has something close by she can harm herself with. Self harm is addictive but Cassie is over one week clean right now. She tries to distract herself, enjoys art therapy, films and TV, and forming online friendships.

“I wish people would understand age has no meaning when it comes to mental health. A lot of adults put mental health down to teenage angst. It is extremely invalidating and stops people seeking help. A lot of people say hallucinating is just attention seeking or ADHD is just bad behaviour. I wish people wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss personality disorders in teenagers, I understand it is because we aren’t fully developed, but all cases should not be treated the same as making a person wait for that diagnosis can lead to increased symptoms”