Most people hear the term Bi Polar and think ‘crazy person’ but no person with a mental illness is crazy. They’re unwell, sick, ill. People break their leg, they get the flu or they are diagnosed with a disease and they get time off work. Why? because they are physically unable to do their jobs. Yet, when someone goes off work for a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, people look at you like you’re faking it, they look at you like it’s not a real reason to not be working like everyone else. When people are diagnosed with cancer, break a bone or come down with a serious illness, everyone rallies around them. They send cards and flowers, magazines, they wish them well. They write notes like ‘Get well soon’. When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness however, an overwhelming number of people don’t even bother to text or phone that person to see how they are, never mind visiting them or sending a cute card that tells them how much they are missed in the office. Why? Well, there could be a lot of reasons, like I said before, maybe some think they’re faking it, maybe some think its not that important, maybe some don’t believe that mental illnesses can’t possibly go undetected by the public because to have a mental illness you must look ‘ crazy’… right?
Wrong. Yes, there are a number of mental illness that show signs to the public everyday. For instance, Personality Disorders and some forms of Schizophrenia can be noticed by people that work with the person, people who see them regularly but most mental illnesses are hidden very well by the person who is suffering. Just because a person looks confident, doesn’t mean they don’t judge themselves or their actions in their heads. Just people a person smiles and laughs in front of you, doesn’t mean they don’t go home, close front door and cry for hours. Just because a person looks healthy, happy and content with life, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about suicide and ‘ending it’.
A lot of people these days are more aware of mental illnesses, they respect that they exist, they don’t stop being friends with someone because they have an illness, they don’t always understand it but they try to. But, even with family, friends and professionals looking after you in different ways, you still feel alone. Like you’re the only one on your side on the battle field. They’re all behind you, ready to defend you and help you but you’re front and centre and you feel overwhelmed, alone, scared. You think you can’t take this other side on, it’s too much and for some people, they lose the battle. Those people shouldn’t be called cowards or selfish. It isn’t fair that people say things like ‘they just gave up’. No, they didn’t ‘just give up’ they fought hard and painfully everyday. They got up every morning and breathed and they tried with everything they had to stay, to get better, to feel better. Suicide isn’t something someone with a mental illness does because they want attention or because they’re a coward. It is something that is done because mental illnesses are painful and frustrating and are cruel diseases.It pushes us away from the ones we love and it can even push us to end our own lives. Mental illnesses aren’t something to be swept under the rug, they do not deserve the stigma and they shouldn’t be something someone is ashamed of.
I’ve written countless times about anxiety and depression. I’ve wrote about their effects and how to deal with anxiety attacks and how to ease depression. I’ve written about the stigma that mental illnesses still hold and how having a mental illness affected my life and friends. Things have changed and my diagnoses has changed. You see, here in the UK, we have the NHS which is a wonderful thing, we don’t HAVE to have insurance to have access to see a doctor or to get medication. Operations are provided to us at a NHS hospital for free and Medication is only paid for if you have a job and earn over a certain amount a year. But, one thing the NHS falls short on is waiting times. It being a public service, much like the police, it has a lot of clients. ‘Walk in’ centres were created to put an ease on hospitals and doctors practices but yet their waiting lists are months long. If you go into a hospital and get admitted to A&E, you wait an average of 3 hours on a normal day. You go the walk in and you wait an average of 1.5 hours, although I have waited 3 hours in one once. You want an appointment with the doctor and sometimes have to wait a whole week before getting an appointment. They ask you if its an emergency when you call the doctor, they say you need to go the hospital if you have taken pills or cut yourself, but what they don’t tell you is that when you get the hospital, unless you’re dying, it’s not an emergency. You’re placed in a waiting room, you are put on a list, at the bottom. Just like when you go on the mental health crisis team waiting list. Six months can go by before you even hear anything back. Six months could be too late, six months isn’t acceptable. But, what else can someone with an average wage each month afford? They can’t go private. They have to rely on the NHS.
I was 14 when I first went the an NHS centre over something more serious than a water infection. It was when I was raped. They have documented proof of what I went through, my words, my ‘evidence’. They bounced me from counsellor to counsellor, each one as disappointing and unhelpful as the last. I didn’t give up though, I went through many different services, all claiming to have ‘helped me all they can’ or stating ‘we cannot help this person, they need a different company’. Because I had been raped and abused, they wanted to me to go a specialists for that, because I was attempting and contemplating suicide they suggested someone else for that as well, because I presented with mild anxiety and moderate depression, they suggested yet another company. I was 17 when I gave up going the hospital when I hurt myself. Years of bouncing from one company to another had me angry and frustrated. I kept thinking to myself, why don’t any of these people want to help me? You go the doctors and they don’t even listen, they want to get you out the door as fast as you walked through it. They don’t really listen, they ask a few questions, write something down and tell you they’re going to refer you to another company – yet again. You go the hospital and they bandage you up and send you home. How is that helpful?
I have spent many years confused. Why do I act this way? Why don’t I feel a certain way all the time? Why doesn’t my illness line up with that of someone with anxiety and depression. Did I have severe depression and anxiety or was it a completely different illness. Under 18’s are barely ever given meds, but as soon as I hit 18 they had me on an anti-depressant, at 19 I was on a beta blocker. They didn’t do much, maybe the anti-depressant dosage wasn’t high enough, but it was only helping make part of me feel better. Had they spent more time with me when I was 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 maybe they would have diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder, something that only this year I found out I suffer with.
Bi Polar disorder. Makes sense I thought before I was officially examined and diagnosed. At first I felt happy. I felt like everything finally made sense. The mood changes, the depressive episodes and the mad episodes. They are called super depressive and mania. I could be flying high for days, go without sleep for over 24 hours, I could laugh uncontrollably and talk really fast, I could do things I wouldn’t normally do, I could be wreck less. Then I could crash, I could be scared, alone and angry, I could be fearful of the world and resent everyone. I could stay in bed all day and sleep. Then sometimes, in-between the sadness and the madness I could be ‘normal’, I call this my ‘content period’. A time in which I do not feel really depressed and suicidal but I don’t feel wide awake and ‘over the top’. It all made sense, to me, my best friends and my mum. But, after I got the diagnosis I was all of a sudden ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was so open about my anxiety and depression because so many people suffered from it. People in the public eye like Zoe Sugg suffers with anxiety, suffering from something successful people suffered from made me feel like I wasn’t alone, it made me feel hopeful that I could some day do something that amazing with my life. I don’t know anyone in the public eye with Bi-Polar, either because there aren’t a lot of people with it or because they aren’t comfortable being open about it, either way this made me feel ashamed and alone all over again. I hide my pills so no one will see them and ask what they are and what I am taking them for. I don’t talk about it to people I know. I’ve become closed off again. I may have people surrounding me and supporting me but I feel all alone.
Most people who know me think this is who I am. Oh, it’s Shannon. She’s fun sometimes, other times not so much. They must just think its my personality or mood swings. They probably do think I am a little strange or different. But I don’t know who I am so how can I expect them to know who the real me is. I thought I had myself figured out. I thought I knew what I wanted and who I was. I thought I knew what I liked and didn’t like but I don’t anymore. I am questioning everything. Over the last few months I have questioned who I am, why did I choose the people that are in my life? Are they friends with me because they like the Shannon that isn’t really who I am or are they my friends because they see through that? I can’t see through it. I have been pushed, slapped, abused and spoke down too. I have been told I’m not good enough, I’ve walked down a hall with people looking at me as I pass and whispering about me when I have my back to them. I have had people call me every word imaginable. I was raped by my boyfriend, my first ever boyfriend. I was hit by my stepdad when I was 10 because he didn’t like the person I was/am. I live in a house with the mother I love with everything, but a stepdad who acts as if I am invisible. So, when people ask me if I have ‘built a wall’, you can surely bet on my answer being yes. After years of tear downs and mean words and abusive men I stopped caring. I stopped caring so much what men said to me or did. I still cry but every time someone hurts me, I get a thicker skin, a harder shell. I am all the clichés. I am the ‘tough nut to crack’. I’m seen as cold and vindictive and bitchy sometimes, because I don’t open up or because I close myself off. I don’t get excited with my friends about boys or going on holiday. I guess I always assume the boy is going to hurt them and that something bad is going to happen. I have become negative and tough on the outside but inside I don’t always feel like that. Sometimes it feels like an act. Sometimes a word or a name or an action can hurt like a punch to the stomach. I just act as if I am not the least bit bothered. So, who am I? If I get better on these meds, does that mean my personality changes? The person I have taught myself to be to the world, will that change? Will my laugh and smile go away? Most of the time, the only time I actually smile and laugh is when I am being manic. Will I not be the same person or will I stay the same? Mybe this is who I am, but it scares me. It’s hard to admit but it scares me to think about my future and the person I don’t know inside me.
I don’t like uncertainty. It’s one of the only things left that still scare me to death.
This a hard post for my to share, sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes. I have only done one re-read. The issues talked about in this post are upsetting to me and posting this post makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. However, I know other people suffer with similar illnesses and even know this post doesn’t offer any advice only my opinion and experience, it could still help other people, that and the fact I needed to get some things off my chest is why this post is public.