Friday, November 19, 2021

To Quote Christine and The Queens, People, I've Been Sad (Mental Health Chat)

Hello my loves,

... long time no see. I thought today I'd finally get round to writing a little mental health chat/life update and take some time to explain where I've been. To summarise, these last three months have been absolute shite. [content warning: I will discuss themes of self-harm and intrusive thoughts]

As you know, or maybe don't, I have bipolar disorder, and since the start of September have been struggling with a pretty rough depressive episode. I feel more or less on the other side of it now, but starting my second year of university in such a bad place mentally has really impacted my studies, social life, and left me feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed. 

I often use writing as therapy (which was one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place) so I figured I'd have a little ramble to help clear my mind and try to make the most of the last few weeks of semester 1. This post will be more personal stuff than anything else, but I have a little list of mental health related content as a result of these last few months that I'm feeling inspired to write, which I hopefully will upload soon :)

Starting with the positives

Despite how difficult the last three months have been, I managed to avoid relapse into my old self-harm habits, which I'm super super proud of. I won't lie and say it was easy, in fact I spent most nights toying with the idea of relapse, and at certain points came very close, but so far I've managed to continue my clean streak of almost 250 days! 

I 100% have Crumble to thank for this, with her by my side I was able to distract myself with all the kisses and cuddles I needed. I genuinely think I would have spent this episode in a much darker place without her <3

Another positive is that I finally got to see my NHS psychiatrist after the incredibly long wait list. My new psychiatrist is honestly so wonderful and it was really reassuring to finally get to voice how my mental health had been impacting my life with somebody else. We agreed that I'd start a new anti-psychotic as I had been struggling with my quetiapine prescription, and this has left me feeling really hopeful for the next few months! It will take a while for me to come off my current meds as I have to lower the dose every couple of weeks, but I'm looking forward to starting my new medication regardless.

I'm also really grateful that my tutor and the student disability support service have been so helpful and understanding. They've suggested I apply for special circumstances at the end of the year, which hopefully helps save my semester 1 grades and participation marks.

Another positive was despite taking a few weeks away from my volunteering position for my mental health, I was able to receive my accreditation as a court worker, and am no longer in the shadowing stage!

And of course it wasn't all bad all the time, I had some really nice experiences with my friends and flatmate in the last few months. Though the comedowns certainly felt more severe after being social, and I wasn't as out-and-about as I usually am, I'm still grateful that I had these nice moments to break up the bleak feelings :)

And the not so positive ...

I don't really know how to go about describing these last few months other than exhausting, demotivating, and well, shit. I think the most frustrating thing about the last few months is that I couldn't bring myself to do anything, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was genuinely surprised at how utterly exhausted I felt, even the smallest of tasks made me feel like I needed to fall to the floor and sleep for 10 years. My self-hygiene struggled, I couldn't keep the flat tidy or my clothes washed, the only thing I consistently did was feed and take care of Crumble. This resulted in me missing so much uni work and the majority of my contact hours, so much so that I had to have a meeting with my personal tutor about my poor attendance and what had been going on. As a usually embarrassingly keen-bean and overachiever, this made me feel so disappointed in myself. I know I can't predict when a depressive or (hypo)manic episode will happen, but I think as I'd been relatively stable for most of first year, the contrast between this year and last year made me feel so frustrated that I couldn't keep up with my first-year self.

Even though I could see how my lack of work was impacting my studies, grades and overall confidence in my modules, I couldn't bring myself to do my work. I was completely unmotivated and saw no reason in trying to do anything. Nothing felt enjoyable and I felt like I had no purpose. Surprisingly, most days I didn't feel overwhelmingly "sad" like I had done in my last two (recognised) episodes, I still felt sad and upset, but this time more than anything else I just felt incredibly numb. 

Alongside these bleak feelings I had to deal with the frustrating return of intrusive thoughts, which is a usual hallmark that my mood is getting worse. I've always struggled with intrusive thoughts of self-harm and suicide since I was around 15, even when my mood is relatively stable, to the point where they don't really bother me. I definitely consider these thoughts "passive" in that I've rarely acted upon them, and during good periods of my mood they hardly even appear. But I notice that during periods of lower mood they become much more noticeable. I wouldn't say their presence was particularly upsetting this time, nor did I feel I was more likely to act on them, they just became more annoyingly pervasive, acting as another reminder that I wasn't doing well and falling behind in everything.

I could go on but at the risk of boring you all and sounding incredibly self-deprecating I'll finish on an optimistic note!

Brighter days ahead

Despite how far behind I am in my uni work and that my mid-term grades aren't looking too hopeful, I'm feeling more optimistic about getting things back together in time for my finals. My mood and motivation is increasing, intrusive thoughts are fading, and I feel more prepared to work for my finals. I'm hoping the last few weeks of 2021 are positive ones, and that I can finish the semester on a somewhat high note. I'm looking forward to (hopefully) spending lots of the festive period with my family and friends, and taking the full winter holidays to rest, and hopefully start semester 2 in a much more positive way.

If you've made it this far, you're awesome for reading my little ramble :) I look forward to updating my blog with lots of new content soon! Brighter days ahead folks xx

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