*This blog post may be triggering to people dealing with or recovering from Trichotillomania and Psychosis.
This is the cold, hard truth. I’m not going to sugar coat and romanticise my mental illness because that would make me a twat.*
People who know me well enough or have read some of my earlier blog posts will know that I struggled with my mental health a lot. They will also know that I use this blog as a sort of ‘free therapy’ session for myself… On the Internet… Which is available to anyone, anywhere…
I thought I’d write the following to bring awareness to how it can/will affect me almost every single day.
Most of us know that there is a huge stigma around mental health. People seem to brush it off as if it’s nothing but it is so much more important than we think. In recent years, a conversation about how we deal with and discuss mental health has been very prominent but still, not enough is being said or done.
I tweeted in the very early hours of yesterday morning that I’m making a change about how I use my social media. I decided that I’m fed up of pretending that my mental illness(es) doesn’t exist and doesn’t control me. I decided that I’m fed up of feeling like I can’t tweet about it. I decided that I’m fed up of living, as what I see in my opinion, a lie. From now on, I will do more to talk about/promote the importance of talking about not only the types of mental illnesses but the treatments and my own experience(s) with them.
I’ve been in and out of hospital for almost four years because of various reasons and during that time I’ve had multiple diagnoses. I’m not going to talk about how and how long it took me to actually get a diagnosis because I could write about it for years. All four of my diagnoses contradict each other, shift and cause me to feel like I’ve lost control.
I worry a lot – to the point where it makes me physically sick. I worry every single time I leave the house that something bad will happen or I’ll have to talk to a stranger. I get so worked up about the tiniest of things which means I cancel plans so often because I’m terrified of what could happen to me or someone else if something even goes slightly wrong. I used to have my anxiety attacks under control and know my triggers but they are now more often and more unpredictable than ever and I don’t know how to stop them any other way apart from taking medication.
People who see me outside of the internet will have seen my odd little bit of (significantly shorter) hair right on the top of my head. This is because I sit in lessons and exams, or at home either pulling clumps of my own hair out or wanting to. I have bald patches all over my head and sometimes my eyebrows if it gets really bad. This is a side effect of my diagnosis. I get so stressed/anxious but I don’t know how to put it into words to tell people. My bald patches and inability to explain myself cause me to become even more self-conscious and stressed that usual. People think my patches are a joke – I am the punchline. It is unbelievable common yet it isn’t taken seriously enough. Unfortunately, my Trichotillmania (hair pulling) has shifted into full blown OCD. I do weird things when I go to ‘strange’ places because I need to have as much control of situations as I can which, nine times out of ten, isn’t humanly possible. My OCD drains me. I get home from school or a stressful situation without the energy to even eat sometimes. But, if I don’t use every single bit of energy in my body, I get giddy or have to put all my remaining energy into something, anything – tidying, fidgeting, dancing, hair pulling…
I cry when things don’t turn out or aren’t in a place I’m familiar with. I hate change when I don’t have control of it but at the same time I hate routine. My OCD just makes me sound like a bratty, needy arsehole but I can’t help it.
A month or so ago, when me and my friends camped out for the night, I felt one of my psychosis episodes – I call it PE for short – coming on. It was sudden and unexpected as it normally is, for me. All I could do was just stand still, stare at complete nothingness and pray it didn’t take over and cause me to embarrass myself. Psychosis is not a solitary illness, it’s sort of like a side effect almost. I used to have at least two to three weeks off every half term because of it. I’d start hearing drums, feeling bugs crawl all over me or see/hear things that aren’t really there. They used to occur while I was showering which wasn’t helpful as I used to always lock the door. My so-called friends thought this was funny when in reality, it is terrifying. I feel a complete loss of control before, during and after a psychosis episode.
During the last Half Term Holiday, I snapped. I trashed my brother’s kitchen. I literally sat and ripped my own hair out. I told the people I care about most that I ‘just wanted to throw myself off a cliff and die’. I just stopped thinking how I normally do – as sanely and rationally as possible. This was my first serious mental health related breakdown since about Year 10 and it was the scariest thing I have ever experienced.
I don’t have a specific diagnosis. I have a list of ‘maybes’ which means I can’t be properly treated. All my possible diagnoses can be side effects of eachother which makes finding the root cause incredibly difficult.
Thankfully, my most close friends understand this and have the patience to repeat what they’ve said, try to make me see things more rationally or help me with my words. I get very paranoid after telling people about my mental health – I get scared they’ll think I’m absolutely crazy – so writing this is a huge achievement for me.
My mental illnesses are very very real. Being fully aware of this means I have two options:
I can shut up, lie in bed and feel sorry for myself or I can ignore every single anxious thought in my body and do something about it.
I used to deny that I was “fucked in the head” – credit to an old ‘friend’ of mine for that quote – but now I’m beginning to agree. The thing is, being ‘fucked in the head’ isn’t a bad thing – most of the time. It’s taught me so much more than I thought it could.
Obviously, I’ve chosen to ignore my anxious thoughts as a few weeks ago, I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT for short) because of what happened during half term. This almost feels like its my last resort to deal with my Trichotillmania/OCD. It doesn’t work for everyone but so far, CBT seems to be working for me. It will be an long up hill climb but I am determined to get to the top of this very high, very dark and very scary mountain.
*Edit on 10/8/16: CBT didn’t work for me. It seemed to for a while then all of a sudden I was back at square one. I’ve been referred to another type of therapy so I’m praying this one actually works for me this time.
Edit on 19/9/16: I was taken off medication officially on Friday as it has shown to have no effect. The different therapy type also doesn’t seem work but I have six weeks left of it. My physical signs of suffering are not as noticeable anymore as my hair is getting significantly longer and blends in more. *
I’m not going to lie. I am nowhere near fine.
Neither you or I can control my random fits of anger or anxiety any longer but that doesn’t mean I want your sympathy.
I don’t want to look at my Facebook tomorrow to find an abundance of messages filled with ‘I’m so proud of you!’, ‘I’m always here!’ etc from people I hardly know or talk to. And anyway, eight times out of ten they don’t mean it anyway so cut the bullshit.
I just need people to know. I just need people to understand. I don’t need people feeling sorry for me.
That is all.