Saturday, 7 July 2018

Hitting A Low.

I haven't posted about my mental health in a while and the truth is, it's because I've been in a bad way.
My mental health has been awful.

As I type this I'm on the verge of perking up a little but throughout May and June I hit a low.
I mean, a real low. I have had many bad periods in my life but this one was something else.

(Brace yourself, this is gonna be a wordy one).

I'll also say now that I will be covering topics like self harm, panic attacks, anxiety and depression so if any of those are triggering for you then its best you don't read this post.

It all started with nocturnal panic attacks. Now I didn't even know these were a thing until they happened to me. Initially, after the first time I put it down to it being just a nightmare.
I woke up, heart thumping, blood rushing in my head, head pounding with an intense fear that something was wrong. I got up in a panic and was convinced that the house was on fire because all I could smell was smoke. Turns out that smoke smell was imaginary because there was no fire. There was nothing at all for that matter. My cat was as calm as you like, curled up on the end of the bed. Her little sleepy eyes glaring at me -outraged that I'd woken her up. It all felt a little surreal. It was incredibly strange because it didn't feel like a dream and I couldn't tell you anything that happened in my mind beforehand. I just woke up with this intense fear and honestly if my heart beat any harder it would have leapt out of my chest. I couldn't seem to settle after that. It took a really long time to regulate my heartbeat and relax and when I did finally fall back to sleep I was awoken again by a pounding heart, sweating and this time, tears running down my face. It was a rough night and unbeknown to me, that was just the start of the horrendous weeks that followed.

Night two and the same thing happened. I woke up about an hour after going to sleep profusely sweating, sometimes crying, heart pounding, incredibly disturbed and frantic, convinced something was wrong with either my health (because of the heart) or the house. This continued for about 5 days and within that time I'd developed a fear of sleeping because every time I fell asleep -even for a nap- I'd wake up in a state. The lack of sleep was also causing other mental side effects like depression and awful anxiety... It got to the point where I didn't even wanna be around my family. I just couldn't cope with it all. It was really affecting every part of my life. Physical symptoms came into play too like fatigue, little/no appetite, irritability, awful head and body aches as well as dry eyes and really bad skin. I was in a state of pure and utter panic and for once, Dr Google actually helped me and didn't convince me I was dying.

I learned about nocturnal panic attacks. I ticked every box for them too.
For me, I do bottle stuff up and while this was happening I was also experiencing minor panic attacks in the day that I would suppress and prevent from becoming a major thing. I think that led to them manifesting in the night when my brain finally let down its guard and let the panic take over.
I have only just learned about the uniqueness of daytime panic attacks so I was overwhelmed to learn they can happen while you're asleep and powerless against them. How do I prepare for them?! The reality is, you can't.
But after realising these were a legitimate thing and that I wasn't just going into meltdown I instantly felt calmer and that day was the first time I'd managed to take a nap without waking up in a panic. I slept for about 4 hours and felt so much better. That night I slept well and I woke up feeling rested and like my body finally got what it needed. A good old sleep. Thankfully, they haven't returned since then but if they do, I know how to talk myself down and remind myself that I'm okay and it will pass.

However, though the panic attacks were "under control", the lack of sleep had played real tricks on my brain. I hit a low. A very deep one.

The panic attacks caused me to spiral into a frenzy. Everything was elevated. My depression worsened, I'd lost all motivation, my general anxiety heightened, my moods were all over the place and my social anxiety was the worst its been in a very long time. I was struggling to leave my room and I went back to that fragile young girl who struggled to step outside her front door. She came back and just like that I was thrown back into the me before medication and counselling... the me that couldn't cope.

This was when my self harm increased massively. Since the age of about 16 I've used self harm as a means of relief from mental pain. I'm an emotional self harmer and with my bipolar, I am also incredibly impulsive. The two don't mix well together. I'd like to say I'm a rational person but not when it comes to this. I know that self harming is ridiculous and doesn't solve anything but in that moment, I just do it. Impulsively, I do it. And that hasn't ever changed. I think the longest I've gone without it is a year but I always seem to fall back into it. It's an addiction I'm sure of it.
I've never been a cutter. I've been a scratcher, pincher but never a cutter. That changed when I hit this low. I did whatever I could to try and numb the mental anguish and pain I was feeling.

It didn't help. It never does.

This was another trigger for the way I look at my body. I felt disgusting and fell back into hiding my body behind baggy t-shirts and leggings. I also avoided all mirrors and this was a conscious choice. When I'm feeling this way, I can spend hours looking in the mirror telling myself how ugly I am and I'll stand there picking apart every lump, bump and feature until I felt physically sick at the sight of myself.  I really am my own worst enemy at times like these.

I wish I knew - besides the sleep deprivation and elevated panic levels- why I experienced such an awful low. A low where suicide wasn't far from my mind. It was an option I almost put on the table for if the depression didn't shift. Right now to me that's a terrifying thought. That I was so close to thinking in depth about that and considering it. I have never been in that kind of place before. On my last visit to my psychiatrist I was given a crisis card with numbers to call if I felt like things were getting too much and I needed an intervention. When he gave it to me I couldn't have imagined being in a place or frame of mind where I would need such a number/card.
During these past couple of months, I've almost called that number 10+ times.
I see the importance of those numbers.

Since peeping my head out of the darkness I've been filled with fear of falling back into it.
An all consuming fear.

I have since seen my psychiatrist again and told him about all of this. I made sure to make a note of it all as I was going through it and when I'd come out of it (slightly) to share with him. We talked about all the things I've shared here today and he is adapting my care plan to assist with my recovery. I am also on the waiting list for some counselling which I'm hoping will give me another person to share the burden of living with mental illness with. It's good to have a small but reliable network of professionals around you. It really does help.

After speaking with my psychiatrist I saw a shift in my mindset and mood. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders after telling him all that had been happening and how I'd been feeling. To share that burden with someone else was such a relief.

Thankfully I sit here typing this in a much better and stable frame of mind. I feel more motivated, I'm sleeping well, I'm on a nicer, much smoother track and I am so relieved.

I know that life can change incredibly quickly and just like that I could be hitting that low again but the next time it happens I'm going to see my psychiatrist straight away and not let the weight hand solely on my shoulders.

There is help out there. Grasp it with both hands.

If you are in need of help now, there are people you can speak to.
Click the guys below and get in touch with them:


Mind - Linked is a list of helplines and advice websites but Mind also have an "I need urgent help" button.

And remember, if you are in crisis or are at serious risk and feeling actively suicidal then give your local mental health crisis team a call, see your psychiatrist or GP and talk to someone.

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