Christopher Muggridge

@christopherq-muggridge | contributor
Christopher Muggridge is a creative and technical writer based in London, Canada. Drawing from his own personal experiences with Bipolar, anxiety, and depression, as well as friend and family connections with related issues, he often writes about mental health and perspectives on human interaction. In addition to writing for his own personal satisfaction, he is also the Creative Strategist and writer for Lumin8 Strategy & Design.
Community Voices
Community Voices

How have your tattoos helped you when you're struggling with your health? #ChronicIllness #MentalHealth

I like to think of my tattoos as parts of my soul on my skin. 

My first tattoo is a quote from my grandma's eulogy that my dad wrote. It says, "Some of her journey was not very nice of course but sometimes, it was beautiful just the same."

Every time I get a tattoo, it makes me feel more "me." Each one helps me take back my power from the mental illness and chronic illness that often leaves me feeling helpless against my body and mind. They are my reminders to keep going and that I have my guardian angels looking out for me.

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What Having a 'Manic Break' Looks Like

Editor’s note: If you experience intrusive suicidal or self-harm-related thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. It’s January 31, 2018 — Bell Let’s Talk Day. So let’s talk. Or to be more accurate, as this is an article and not a live interaction, I’ll type and you read. You can talk amongst yourselves once it’s over. I had originally planned to publish this article last Saturday (even took the accompanying photo that morning), but in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to follow through. I thought having previously conquered my reservations about sharing my experiences with bipolar depression, I was prepared to share again, but when it came time to talk about my anxiety and mania, I found myself overwhelmed by the prospect and keenly sensitive to the risks involved. The risk of alienating friends and family who might decide I require too much attention, am too complicated or am too weak. The risk of losing opportunities and income from employers who can’t understand my experiences or feel I’m incapable of performing my duties. The risk of not being trusted or viewed as dependable, of having my every decision questioned, my opinions discounted or my contributions ignored. My own insecurities and the possible fallout of such exposure loomed tall and quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. So I didn’t publish. I filed the photo away and convinced myself I was better off keeping quiet, keeping my “craziness” inside and everyone else at arm’s length until I was “right” again. Today however, is a new day, and if Let’s Talk Day is going to fulfill its purpose, it seems to me it’s going to take people like myself, sharing our stories, to make it happen. The thing is, my brain can sometimes be a bully, and like all bullies, it employs tactics like threatening me to remain silent in order to protect itself. It needs me to keep quiet about the abuse it inflicts upon me and depends on my hiding the truth for it to survive. It counts on my shame at not being strong enough to speak out, while whispering in my ear that no one will ever understand. I will be ostracized and ridiculed. I will be alone. The irony of course is that by simply believing it, I make it happen. I strand myself on my own deserted island and bury myself in solitude. Last week, when anyone asked how I was doing, I responded along the lines of, “Things are a bit rough but I’m still here, so I have that going for me.” It was an accurate enough (if understated) response to a loaded question, geared to deflect attention away from a potentially serious conversation I wasn’t prepared to deal with. The truth is, my anxiety and mania were out of control — or perhaps I should more accurately say, they were “in control” — and all of the medication, meditation and positive thinking were useless under their oppressive regime. I spent six days not showering or changing my clothes, brushing my hair or brushing my teeth. I was afraid to go to sleep or leave the house. I made one short trip to give someone a ride when no one else could, but although I desperately needed gas, I refused to stop and fill the tank. I opted instead to risk being stranded on the side of the road rather than step out of the car — and not because I was wearing pajama pants with winter boots and a dirty sweatshirt. I chose to deal with things in relative silence, all the while feeling I was going to implode and explode simultaneously. I downplayed it and I paid for it. I still am. Throughout the week, I found myself overwhelmed by a sense of dread, as if my world was about to end and take everyone and everything I had ever loved with it. I didn’t know where it would come from, how it would happen or what form it would take. All I knew was it would be my fault and the knowledge I couldn’t stop it, haunted me. Ironically, I also knew it was complete and utter bullshit. Buried in logic, deep beneath my irrational, rampaging self, I knew none of it was real. Yet I couldn’t rid myself of its hold over me, so I hid as best I could — or as much as the world would allow me — while I continued to clumsily maintain minimal social interaction and struggled to meet business deadlines in order to pay my looming bills. It wasn’t long before the panic attacks began and I found myself pacing around my apartment, clenching and unclenching my fists or pulling at my hair in an effort to calm the voices in my head. I reminded myself they weren’t real, that it was only my own subconscious betraying me, but the more I attempted to quiet them, the louder they became until finally they were shouting so loud I felt deafened from the inside. I couldn’t stop them and I couldn’t get away from them. Unfair as it is, there is nowhere to hide from yourself. The worst things I find, the things that disturb me most when anxiety and mania take over, are the intrusive thoughts that come along with them. Suddenly I was being urged to perform reckless acts which, although I knew enough not to perform, still left me shaken and exhausted by the effort it took to constantly push them aside. Out of nowhere, I’d find myself faced with visions of stabbing myself in the thigh, or smashing my hand with a hammer. “Why?” I thought. “Why would any rational person even entertain such thoughts, much less have the capacity to conceive them?” The fact I could do so proved to me how abnormal and alone I was, and still they weren’t the worst things I faced. At times, I questioned my ability to stand my ground against the endless tide of intrusive thoughts and wondered whether it wouldn’t be easier to simply not be around anymore to try. On Wednesday night, I had a manic break. Mania itself can take many forms — from great elation and creativity, to irritability, anger, risky behavior, careless spending or even the entire mixed bag. I’ve dealt with all of these at some point or another, but I generally tend to remember them afterwards. In the case of a manic break though, I become disconnected from what I find familiar and essentially experience a black out. Luckily, Wednesday’s episode was relatively short and ended with me waking at two a.m., curled up in the bottom of my spare room closet, wrapped in pillows and blankets. I can vaguely recall pieces of a conversation with a friend, but had to learn about a Facebook post I made and a Messenger conversation I participated in by going online the next morning. A quick check of my phone logs showed no incoming or outgoing calls and there was no sign of me leaving the house or disturbing anything, so other than an apology over some uncharacteristic sentiments shared in a Messenger thread (and a quick closet clean up), it was luckily a quiet affair. Unfortunately though, that isn’t always the case. I once disappeared for several days and after not going online or answering my phone, I forced my family to file a missing persons report with the police. It seems I had walked out of my home with nothing more than my wallet, my keys and my laptop and drove across the city where I checked into a motel. At some point, I then switched motels and stayed there until I eventually came to my senses and checked my messages. Although confused and alarmed at waking up somewhere unfamiliar with a gap in my memory, I soon realized I’d have to piece things together at a later time because somehow in the course of an hour, I needed to check out of the motel, check in at the police station and buy a new shirt to wear to a job interview I had arranged only the week before. In the end, I managed to get the shirt, but not the job. To this day, I remember only fragments from that period and I still can’t explain why I would choose to relocate from motel to motel and avoid contact with anyone I knew. Most of what I do know was told to me by the receipts I discovered in my pants pocket — two motels, a large pepperoni pizza, four chocolate bars and a 36 case of beer (completely empty). Whatever the circumstances of a manic break, the toll is always the same. I’m left embarrassed, confused, disappointed in myself and plagued with guilt and shame — especially if I discover I’ve been the cause of pain, grief or embarrassment for anyone else due to my actions, deliberate or not. Being bipolar means there are many facets to who I am, but I prefer to believe it’s the positive and productive ones who make up the real me. The rest are simply unfortunate houseguests who take up space when the real me is busy elsewhere and I’m forced to keep them in line while he’s gone. That’s why each time I discover he’s left, I’m reminded what hope means to me. It’s not that tomorrow will be better or that life will get easier; the hope I cling to is that the real me will always remember to find his way home. That he won’t disappear one day and leave me locked away in a room filled with all the worst parts of myself and a reason to finally listen to the voices shouting in my head. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty Images photo via

Why I Hide My Happiness as Someone With Depression

Life has been shitty for me for a long time. Depression , instead of giving me a break for any length of time, chose instead to be an obnoxious guest, crashing on my couch and putting the empty box of Froot Loops back in the cupboard without telling me before I went grocery shopping. Right now, things are better. Nowhere near perfect mind you, but better. I was fortunate to be offered an opportunity to work for a friend when I needed the extra cash, my company finally landed a large development contract I had been chasing for two years and I have a great family who are supporting me while I get back on my feet. I still have plenty of things to work on, but right now, there are fewer obstacles than there were. This isn’t meant to be an allegory to prove I should always, “Hang in there because things will get better” or “See? Good things will happen if you work hard enough.” For someone with chronic depression, these moments offer up only temporary moments of light to be followed by darkness, too soon for me to rely on as a solid foundation for misplaced promises of eternal optimism. Too often, depression strikes whenever it damn well pleases. I can be at the height of my game when I’m suddenly brought low, only to have to start all over again. This is an acknowledgement of a moment in my life I tend to hide. I hide it because I fear if people see I’m doing “alright” — even for a moment — they will be quick to dismiss the seriousness and authenticity of my situation when I invariably stumble and fall once more. Some people become frustrated by my circular circumstances, and I don’t blame them. “But you have been doing so good,” they say. “Just repeat what you did the first time and things will return to normal for you.” Others want me to “get over it,” as if it’s a cold that has passed and I’m looking for attention. I will be depressed again. It’s not a thing I’m planning. It’s a thing that happens, whether I want it to or not, and believe me, it’s a big “not.” Unfortunately though, this tendency to hide when I’m doing better, and sharing only when I’m not, threatens my ability to find purpose in my life. By not openly acknowledging the positives as they happen, I inadvertently dismiss them. I refuse to celebrate my accomplishments for fear of drawing attention to them, an act which can later be used against me. I disregard a valuable part of me that makes me whole — the good enmeshed with the bad. I believe that for me, being brave is not openly sharing my struggle with others, no matter what they might think. It’s openly declaring my successes when they happen. I will never be “great,” but I want to get stronger, and to do that I need to be whole. Life has been shitty for a long time but right now, I’m doing OK. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Victor_Tongdee

Reflections on Robin Williams From a Man With Depression

As someone struggling with depression, there are many lies I tell myself to get through each day. I tell myself I believe things will get better. I tell myself I believe life is worth living. I tell myself I believe someday I will be happy. All these lies I tell myself in the hope they will eventually ring true and I will come to believe them. But there are some lies I tell myself without even being aware, and it wasn’t until the suicide of Robin Williams that I discovered I had been telling myself the greatest lie of all. When I learned Robin Williams had died by suicide, I was devastated. Not because I knew him personally or because of some mistaken sense of starstruck familiarity. I knew I would never have to carry the burden of grief his close friends and family would bear. His sudden absence would not alter the course of my daily routine and I would not mourn the missed intimate conversations we would have otherwise engaged in. The truth is, I was devastated because he was 63. Robin Williams was 63 when he killed himself. After all that he had accomplished, all that he had challenged, survived, learned and conquered, it appeared to me that he couldn’t move beyond the ghosts that tortured him. Success, no matter how you measure it — whether by money, fame, accomplishments or family — none of it seemed enough to chase away the nightmares that doggedly pursued him throughout his life. It seems he never discovered the secret to conquering his inner demons so they would remain in the dark and let him live unencumbered. I was devastated because if Robin Williams, with all his age and experience, could not beat the odds, what possible chance did I have? Somewhere in the back of my mind, in the fragile, sheltered box of light I keep tucked beneath the oppressive darkness that is my depression, I realized I had been falsely clinging to the desperate notion that some day, perhaps with the help of medication, meditation, self-awareness and therapy, I would eventually get a handle on my own demons and, once in control, I would sweep them aside to live the rest of my life in a fiercely negotiated peace. I wasn’t so naive as to believe I could erase my depression completely, but I would build a cell strong enough to keep it bound, cornered, out of sight and literally out of mind. Once I had paid my dues and learned my lessons, my life would be mine to live as I pleased. This was the greatest lie I told myself about depression. I had believed that some day I would find a permanent solution to my plight, but I realize now that no fortification can bar its return and hold it at bay while I live the idyllic life I deeply desire. There will always be a need to maintain vigilance, like a keeper at the gate. I can build a cell but from time to time, but when it is least expected or I am least prepared, the despair inside me will leach through the cracks and force me to drive it back or lose myself forever. Just as I imagine it had done with Robin Williams. It is not my intention to suppose what had been going through his mind in his final days or to make assumptions regarding the inner workings of his life. I have no privilege to information beyond what was presented in the media and I will never claim to personally know who he was or understand his unique struggles. But I know depression and I find myself thinking about him almost every day. I can’t help but imagine his loneliness and the heavy heartbreak which likely traced his every step. Whether in fact or only in my mind, I can’t help but feel connected as only someone who has experienced the hopelessness of despair can, and at the same time, I thank him. He will never know the impact he has had on my life but I like to think if he did, it would bring him some peace to know he had helped someone — he helped me. He opened my eyes to the lie I was harboring and gave me a chance to find a new truth for myself. I try to lie less and less these days. I still tell myself what I need to in order to survive, but I also look for reasons to prove myself wrong when I can. I try harder to recognize the things that make my life worth living and I pursue the things that will make me happy. I don’t always catch them but sometimes, just the chase is enough. Most of all, I look forward to the day I turn 64 and I can raise a glass to Mr. Williams, sharing with him my gratitude, as I blow out the candles on my cake. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via wikimedia commons.

5 Tips for Living With 'High-Functioning' Bipolar Disorder

There are a multitude of things I can never claim as a sure thing, but one thing I can declare with a good deal of certainty is my life will never be a Disney movie. For eight years I ran my own business while dealing with the challenges and stressors that came with it. Panic attacks had become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence and I lived my life like I was only half a step ahead of a charging boulder. For a time, I even convinced myself this irrational, all-encompassing fear was what spurred my drive to succeed, but instead of propelling me closer to the finish line, I found myself dropping further and further behind with each new challenge — each setback taking me longer to recover. I was failing both mentally and physically and I realized that the life I had been enduring, not living, was no longer working for me. Determining what was wrong and what needed to be done to set things right seemed, at first, an insurmountable task. With depression holding me prisoner in my bed, and an overwhelming sense of failure constantly pressuring me to give up, it was evident I had become my own worst enemy. I would later learn the antidepressants I was prescribed were doing more harm than good due to a conflict with my at the time, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but all I felt was that I was going “crazy.” Having encountered the term “high-functioning alcoholic” at some earlier point in my life, I appropriated it to explain how I had survived for so long on what was obviously so very little. As a self-described, “high-functioning bipolar,” I fooled the world into thinking I had everything under control while on the inside I was crumbling into myself like brittle, flame scorched, paper walls into an ever-expanding black hole. I have since come to learn this is a common tactic adopted by many dealing with mental health issues, and while it may prolong our charade of fulfilling some mistaken sense of self-preservation, it does little more than guarantee our eventual downfall. The truth of the matter being no one will make a move to catch you if they never see you falling. Then, starting in 2009 and spanning the course of the next two years, I would sell my business, take a position with the new company, and move my family to another city for a fresh start. I began seeing a therapist and worked with my doctor to try and get myself the help I needed. None of it ever became easier. I cried almost every day on my way to and from work and thought often of giving up. Eventually, I ended up in the hospital where I received an official bipolar diagnosis and a regimen of medication and therapy, most of which continues to dictate my routine to this day. If my life was a Disney movie and the demands upon me had become too great, I would have thrown my arms in the air and shouted, “Enough!” and the whole world would have listened. I would have quit my job, told my boss to go to hell, picked up and moved my family to some often-dreamed-of-but-never-thought-possible destination and somehow, in some fairy tale, twist of fate sort of fashion, landed on my feet with enough money and security to make the whole dream sustainable, as I lived out the rest of my “happily ever after” life. But my life will never be a Disney movie. But Disney or not, you can still learn a thing or two from movies and it was from Grandpa Gustafson in 1995’s “Grumpier Old Men” that I gained some valuable perspective. While explaining the reality of wishes, he said, “Well, you can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which one gets filled first.” While it is certainly no, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” I believe it is a lot more relevant and infinitely more practical. If you spend your life wishing things were different, all you will be left with is a pile of crap. The unpopular truth is that life is hard. Its journey is often uphill and it doesn’t care how heavy your baggage is, but if you are going to get where you are going, you are going to have to start walking. Making significant changes in one’s life is never an easy task, but for someone dealing with a crisis born of their own mind, I believe it can literally mean the difference between life and death. As daunting and impossible as it may seem though, it can be done and I like to believe I am living proof. The following lessons are ones I have learned since I began my journey towards a better life. I don’t pretend any of them are easy and I know none of them will bring instant gratification, but they are things that have helped me so far and with any luck, they may help someone else as well. 1. Surrender. First, ask for help. Second, take it. Do the opposite of what your brain tells you — it’s not your friend right now and it wants to keep you isolated. Reach out and let people know you’re not OK. If you can gain professional guidance and support, surrender to it. Following your own plan hasn’t saved you so far, so why not let someone else have a go? 2. Fight like hell. Now that you have the support you need, fight. You can’t enter this half-assed. You’re either in or you’re out. This is your life you’re battling for and some days it will bring you to your knees with exhaustion. Focus on your goals and don’t give up. You can beat this. 3. Be patient and forgive. Everyone slips up now and again. The most important thing is to not let it stop you. Don’t lay blame and don’t lay down and let it swallow you. What is past is past and what is in the future, is still to come. Live in the now and know you can only do what you can. No more, no less. You are worth forgiveness and another chance. 4. Simplify. Declutter your life. Remove the extraneous elements you accumulated in your effort to obtain “normalcy.” Life will never be “normal.” At least not in the neatly pre-packaged, romanticized version you may have been chasing. True “normal” is what you build, not what you buy. Let go of the things you assume make you a “real person” when they only serve to create strain and stress. Disconnect from those who are toxic in your life, present only to introduce drama and conflict you neither need nor deserve. Remove the triggers that sabotage your efforts to achieve peace. 5. Choose, not allow. Start making choices. Do something with your life and don’t wait for it to do things to you. Each time you engage in something you wouldn’t choose for yourself, you can accumulate resentment. You can learn to feel helpless and to hate the world. You can learn to hate yourself. You’re not weak and you’re not helpless. Figure out what matters to you, what makes your life matter and pursue it. Live for yourself and find happiness in the space you want to be. You can’t control the world but you can control how you place yourself in it. My life will never be a Disney movie, but I’m not convinced it would be any better if it was. There is no one more uniquely qualified than myself to write the script to my life. Even when I struggle with writer’s block or find my plot meandering down roads I don’t recognize, I know it’s the surprise twists in my tale that make it worth the admission and I, mental health issues and all, am a better person for experiencing them. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead Thinkstock photo via isaxar.