After a binge, I felt I needed a little help from the angels- so here is the meditation they gave me to share with you. Thank you angels!
I’m totally writing this for the cathartic experience, but I offer no apologies if it’s all a bit morbid and depressing. Guess what? Depression is depressing.
I spend a lot of my time when I’m depressed trying not to feel sorry for myself and trying to be grateful for the good things I have in my life.
All the personal development courses I’ve been on, and the books I’ve read, talk about positive thinking in improving our lives and wellbeing. Challenging times and events in our lives are viewed as times of growth, which I do agree with, even though I’m kicking and screaming through each one!!
But sometimes it doesn’t work.
I think there are times in life when you can’t look at things through rose-tinted spectacles. Sometimes you need to see things for what they really are and to accept the downright shittiness of them.
Like now- I’m back to a depressive episode. I can only walk exceptionally slowly and probably not further than about 100m due to psychomotor retardation. And, do you know what? I’m not gonna suck up my pissed-off feelings behind a forced smile anymore.
Without really feeling those shitty feelings, without really experiencing them deeply, there is no authenticity in the experience. There is no real grounding in the depression.
I do feel sorry for myself. I was taught not to. I was taught to always be grateful. But I really want to feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to compare my experience to anyone else’s anymore. I know there are Syrian refugees going through enormous hardship out there, but trying to suppress my authentic feelings about my depression isn’t going to help them, or me, one little bit.
I think half my issues are wrapped up in the fact that I don’t let myself really feel my feelings. I was taught from a ridiculously young age not to feel, unless it was gratitude or empathy or some kind of joy that others could benefit from.
But right now I feel angry. I feel angry that I have to go through this experience yet again. Why? I’m getting nowhere fast in life. I don’t think I particularly deserve to wake up in the night with violent visions and impulses to self-harm. I don’t think I particularly deserve to feel so damn scared all the time. All the time. Of life in general. I’m so exhausted from going through this whole process.
The last couple of months have been really good. My walking speed has been back to normal. In fact I’ve felt fitter and walked with so much more energy!! To feel well was such a blessing! Now I’m back to the psychiatric-shuffle.
The Psychiatric-Shuffle (my term, not psychiatry’s)
This basically involves walking, but 20 times more slowly than everyone else. Commonly seen in psychiatric inpatients. A symptom of depression referred to as psychomotor retardation– thanks psychiatry for another fabulously empowering term.
It might sound very simple, but actually it feels like your brain and your body are working exceptionally hard to put your left foot forward then your right foot forward. Your legs are protesting every step.
It’s also highly embarrassing. Yes, people do notice. Today a child kept staring at me as she walked past holding her mum’s hand. She kept looking back at me. Bloody hell, do I really look that awful? It’s so embarrassing. And exhausting.
Back to the post……
So many great things have happened in the last couple of months- I’ve enjoyed them so much. Then a couple of weeks ago my good energy switched to bad energy and the surging prickliness and agitation coursed through me in an all too familiar way. When out in the street or on the bus I’d feel intensely annoyed with people I wasn’t even interacting with, my voice in my head became louder. I wanted to shout at people. Then it switched to anxiety about a week later, my heart was pounding, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then last Thursday the exhaustion kicked in.
Before the ‘bad energy’ I hadn’t really considered that I was a bit hypomanic, but looking back, I had been getting more obsessed with ‘collecting’ things (this has happened a few times in the past) and had spent quite a bit of money I couldn’t really afford. I was feeling much more in touch with my spiritual life. I probably only had about a week where I was sleeping much less and still feeling really great.
Bipolar is exhausting.
Not just the symptoms of exhaustion.
I mean the endless cycle of it all.
I still feel like it’s my fault.
I’m so tired of it.
I’m so bored of it.
What is the point?!!!!
But all the years have given me the experience to get through it, to really know that it gets better. In my early depressions I felt that I was literally going to die, that I would never ever feel joy, love, peace, or anything positive ever again. But even though I’m depressed now, I know from experience that I will get better.
Stephen Fry has made another deeply insightful documentary about manic-depression/bipolar disorder- The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer here. (Warning- it can be triggering).
In it he talks about his own experiences of the disorder and re-visits the lives of those he interviewed in his previous documentary- The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive- which aired 10 years ago.
I must admit I found this new documentary difficult to watch, particularly when hearing about Mr Fry’s suicide attempt in 2012. The whole incident felt very close to experiences I’ve had and I felt suppressed memories bubbling to the surface- things I didn’t really want to look at.
The first documentary has 2 parts and is available to watch here (warning- can be triggering):
The second part can be watched here:
All the documentaries are so refreshing in their courageous look at what it is really like to have Bipolar Disorder- the interviews really get to the nitty-gritty of mental illness. Stephen Fry adds so much heart and depth with his own experiences, he is so endearing and so strong in his open-ness. I kind of love him for it!
So much has changed in the last 18 months it all seems a little surreal!
It was a scary move. I’d been in the relationship for 11 years and had become so comfortable having our own house, living in a lovely area, and with our beautiful dog- who I was heartbroken to leave. Despite the unhappiness between the two of us, we did try to make it work, and we still care about each other, but as friends. I regularly dog-sit, so I still get to see my gorgeous girl.
It was a really tough decision and I still can’t believe I was brave enough to do it. I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do.
My happiness now has really made me realise how important it is to be true to ourselves, even if it means sacrificing other things.
Binge Eating & Counselling
My binge eating has definitely worsened since the move. I think this is because I feel like I don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have someone else’s needs to consider, and a dog to look after. I’ve spent too much time in my life trying to look after other people’s emotions, and not enough time looking after my own. So, as I posted back in May, I took the step of getting counselling for my disordered eating and body image.
I feel I’ve struck the jackpot with my counselllor- she is fantastic, and it feels right.
She’s really helping me to work on identifying how I developed such low confidence and self-esteem, and how I can nurture and parent myself. This is most definitely going to be an ongoing process.
The most uncomfortable I have felt so far is dealing with other people’s reactions to increasing my assertiveness. Having grown up a people-pleaser, upsetting others is extremely scary! But she’s helping me to see I’m not responsible for their reactions when I’m creating a boundary- so I don’t allow myself to be walked all-over.
I’m beginning to realise that there is a healthy level of selfish-ness!
Binge triggers have been relatively easy to identify so far:
I think the main reason I binge eat is to stuff down the emotions of the past. I’m grieving for my inner child and the things I went through at that time. I’m a little scared of my inner child though, as she is very very angry and likes to have temper tantrums!
I’m learning to manage that anger in a healthy way.
It’s not about losing weight.
It’s not about losing weight- I can’t stress this enough.
I am not on a diet.
I am focusing on managing my emotions and my own needs. The healing comes through this, not through calorie-counting.
I am learning to love my body the way it is. I can still walk and be active and function pretty well! That is something to be profoundly grateful for.
I am really grateful also for the counselling that I am receiving at low cost. It is providing much-needed support. The universe is looking after me- and I am thankful!
“Woah! Did that really happen?!”
Sometimes the pain of what I’ve been through emotionally seems completely unreal- like, did I make it all up? Was that a nightmare?
I can remember how I felt and what was going through my mind, but it feels detached somehow. Almost like it was a different ‘me’ experiencing it.
When I’m feeling better, I tend not to look back too much at what I’ve been through. But I saw a TV programme with someone talking about their mental health experiences and it came flooding back.
In the darkest depressions I just couldn’t see any point in living. Life felt so empty and despairing and only full of pain. My belief in a loving God was challenged to the max. I felt dark spirits around me. I felt evil around me. I felt like I was at the point of letting the evil overpower me. I felt like I was dying. I absolutely hated myself. I rejected and abandoned myself.
Images of hurting myself, and strong impulses to do so, filled my mind. I’d wake up scratching myself and pulling at my hair in the middle of the night.
At the time I remember feeling 100% positive that I was completely to blame for what was happening to me, and that this was all I was worthy of. I didn’t see it as depression, I saw it as a weakness in me, and something I was going to be punished for.
It is only now I’m feeling better that I see how much darkness I had survived, and that I was ill. Sometimes I really do have to remind myself that this is an illness, and there is a biological basis to it. I don’t necessarily believe it to be 100% biological. I think environmental events/traumas all play their role, and some of us are just more sensitive to these things than others.
Sometimes I can’t even believe I survived it all!!
Right now, I’m so grateful that I’m feeling more myself at the moment!! I’m not going to dwell on these past times, but I will remember to rejoice in my strength- right from the Lord!!
A few days ago an article was published in the media sharing the results of a Danish study. This study found that those who received 6-10 sessions of talking therapy after self-harming or suicide attempts were significantly less likely to self-harm or attempt suicide again. Participants were studied over a 20-year period.
New Ideas within Psychiatry
A week ago I attended the launch of Katie Mottram’s book Mend the Gap, an account of her unique experiences and perspective into psychiatric diagnoses and spiritual awakening. (You can read more about her book in my previous post: Mend the Gap: A New Hope for Mental Health.
Katie has first-hand experience having grown up with a mother who had repeated psychotic episodes and suicide attempts; Katie herself works in the mental health services; and also has experienced her own mental health issues. She explores the possibility that perhaps these ‘psychotic’ experiences and mental health issues are actually side effects of spiritual awakening.
The launch was extremely well attended and very well supported by Katie’s colleagues within the mental health services.
He gave a fascinating talk about how he went into psychiatry having learnt all the tools of the trade at university, and over the years has found there to be something missing or lacking in mental health services and psychiatry. Having spoken to some of his colleagues, he found he was by no means the only one who felt this.
It wasn’t until he went on a retreat and began practicing mindfulness and meditation that he began to realise that some of his own experiences during meditation were not unlike those reported as mental health issues and psychosis.
His experiences have lead to him running a new pilot scheme being trialled in various locations throughout the UK, and currently used successfully in Scandinavia, Germany and some of the US states.
Peer-supported Open Dialogue is a programme of talking therapy where meetings are attended by the patient, their family/social network and a psychiatrist or trained mental health worker.
What struck me in Dr Razzaque’s talk about the therapy was how the intention was for the psychiatrist to ‘leave his/her training at the door’ and to approach the meeting from a ‘human’ perspective, on the same level as the patient and attendees, rather than as an expert with greater power.
I think this is fantastic and will break down barriers between mental health staff and patients, which can sometimes feel like an ‘us against them’ process.
In Finland, of those who took part in the open-dialogue process, 75% who experienced psychosis returned to work or study within 2 years, and only 20% were still taking anti-psychotic medication after a 2 year follow-up.
It gives me so much hope to think there are mental health workers who are really making a difference with their new ideas. Psychosis and other mental health issues can only become more normalised as a result, which in turn reduces fear and stigma, and supports and empowers patients.
How a Mental Breakdown Can Lead to a Spiritual Awakening: By Dr. Russell Razzaque.