Evie Billon

@eviebillon | contributor
Community Voices

Losing friends because of your mental health

<p>Losing friends because of your <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/mental-health/?label=mental health" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce5800553f33fe98c3a3" data-name="mental health" title="mental health" target="_blank">mental health</a></p>
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Community Voices

What’s it like to have an addiction

<p>What’s it like to have an <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/addiction/?label=addiction" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce5800553f33fe98c3ca" data-name="addiction" title="addiction" target="_blank">addiction</a></p>
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Community Voices

What happened when I didn’t sleep for a week

Let’s just start with a disclaimer, do not try this at home as not sleeping is extremely dangerous and I would not recommend it to anyone - friend or foe.

I never intended not to sleep for a week, but as I later found out have Bipolar Disorder.

In simplistic terms, Bipolar is known for its extreme mood swings that can range from really dark low depressive episodes to manic highs. Both phases come with their own sets of debilitating symptoms, but for each individual who lives with Bipolar their experience will be completely different.

I know that for me, I never experienced any depression. For almost two years I lived through mania and even my mental health team could not believe at how poorly I had become. Not to mention my family and friends.

Throughout this time period I had a constant decreased need for sleep and was spending obscene amounts of money online. Every day numbers of parcels would arrive at my door and in the end I could not keep up with the constant stream of returns needed to keep my bank account afloat. That’s without mentioning the fact that my room would just be full of unopened parcels sometimes as I was losing track of what I was ordering as it was mostly crap that I didn’t want or need to put it bluntly.

So I’ve mentioned the decreased need for sleep that came with the mania I experienced in these two years leading up-to this week of complete insanity, and insomnia I can live with or I have learned to live with you might say, but not sleeping a wink is a total different kettle of fish.

About a week before the last time I got hospitalised (for the fourth time in eighteen months) I stopped sleeping altogether. I stopped eating too, not intentionally - I just wasn’t hungry.

I was already really poorly by this point, but this just was the tip of the iceberg and I simply deteriorated from there on out. I started hallucinating so vividly in the brightest of colours. My psychosis ran worsened day by day sometimes hour by hour. I was living in cuckoo land and despite my crazy, absurd hallucinations everything still seemed so real to me at the time. I can see now that I was living in the madness.

At first I felt in total control. I thought it was part of my mission and that my hallucinations were part of a new feature or something, a bit like a spy. But most importantly, I thought I could manage it. But no one can manage psychosis without backup. Without outside help, and that usually includes lots of sleep, good food, medication and an outside environment. That was what I needed at the time because my psychosis was within the four walls of my house and so I needed to escape that environment. It has gotten to the point on the night before I was sectioned where I was seeing messages in the sky and the bricks of my house were closing in on me. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time.

I can see why people who live with Bipolar don’t want to seek treatment as mania is totally euphoric but the thing is it impacts on every aspect of your life. I lost my job and my home because of this stuff and have lost many friends along the way due to lack of understanding. Now I am well I have got many things back but there are certain things I don’t want back because if people don’t want me at my worst then they don’t deserve me at mr best, and it’s as simple as that.

My parents could see I was unwell and they were already on it and were calling for reinforcements but it’s not always as simple as that with the NHS, because truth be told I had been crying out for help in a certain sort of way for a lot longer before it had come to this.

I could see holograms and orbs for days in the hospital even though I had been medicated, which just shows the power of sleep deprivation and what it can do to brain and thought.

I understand why my hallucinations were there as I don’t think they are totally random. I think mine come from deep within my brain, like TV shows I had watched and recent news pieces I had read and just general thoughts and fears
I had. That’s what I mean, imagine all of what’s inside your brain totally spluttered out into hallucinations and verbal diahharea and that’s what I went through for two years. And then the sleep deprivation just exacerbated that tenfold.

I’m hoping that by talking about what I went through that this could help just one person. To me now this is just a memory and one that I hope I will never have to go through again as I am still recovering from it now. But with the right medication and treatment then I should be well on my way. #Bipolar #BipolarDisorder #Sleep #SleepDeprivation #order #Anxiety #MentalHealth

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Evie Billon

How to Cope While Waiting for a Mental Health Diagnosis

Waiting for news, feedback or test results can be a naturally anxiety-provoking time, to some extent. However, waiting for someone to tell you whether or not you have a condition that affects your daily living can be a whole other story. It can feel as if your life is in somebody else’s hands. I have been diagnosed with various mental health conditions, so you’d think I know the drill by now, but somehow the process never gets easier. At the time of writing this, I am waiting back on an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. It was quite clear at the assessment that the likelihood of me receiving this diagnosis was pretty high, though there is still that inch of doubt in my mind. If I don’t get the diagnosis, then I can’t get the care I clearly need. Ever since the assessment, I have been in rumination mode. My mind has been going over everything non-stop. It’s not healthy. I know I can’t change anything right now. I just have to wait. Still, it’s a painful process. So, here are some things I have done or I am trying to do to make the wait a little easier. I hope they help you too or anyone you may know going through the same thing. 1. Ask questions. Always ask questions. No question is a “stupid” one. Ask questions before, during and after your assessment. Anything you are unsure of, ask. I made sure to ask how long it would be before I heard back after my assessment. Although it has been over double the amount of time they said; it’s still good to know how long to expect, so you know when to start chasing things up if needs be. 2. Follow up. Since my assessment, it feels as though I have been checking my post every day to no avail — a seemingly dispiriting task I would not advise you to carry out. Instead, I would suggest you take appropriate action. If they said they would call you and they haven’t, then don’t be afraid to follow up. It takes a certain amount of courage to seek help and make that initial step. Mental health services should recognize this. They at least should understand how anxiety provoking and detrimental it can be to leave service users in the dark after initial contact has been made. In fact, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that long waits for mental health treatment can lead to divorce, job loss and money problems, with some service users waiting up to 13 years for treatment. This would be deemed simply unacceptable for physical ailments and also highlights why it is critical to follow up after an initial assessment, even if you feel like you are pestering them. Don’t get lost in the system. The truth is it shouldn’t be down to the service user to chase things up, especially when we are the ones struggling in the first place, but sometimes we need to take things into our own hands if we want to see results. 3. Let go. I know, I’ve just told you to follow up and chase the mental health services down. Still, at the same time, there is only so much we can do. At some point, we must recognize it is out of our hands now. Sometimes, you have to let go and have faith that things will turn out for the best. Meditate on that painful stuff. Talk to friends and family about the way you are feeling. Keep busy while you are waiting to hear back. Try not to obsess about your assessment because you can’t change what has already been. 4. Be aware. Be self-aware. Keep track of symptoms that might be relevant for your diagnosis and watch out for anything new that may pop up. Again, don’t obsess about symptoms or diagnoses, like I am guilty of. Instead, become aware of yourself and your being. This can be useful so, if a professional asks how you’ve been at your next assessment, you can answer honestly. 5. Maintain hope. Understand that getting a mental health diagnosis is a process and you are just at the beginning. Remember whether you get the diagnosis or not, you will be the same person. For example, if I get my ADHD diagnosis then I will presumably get a care plan and be put on medication or offered therapies that are relevant for my diagnosis. In reality, it is a lottery, which is truly unfortunate and unfair for those who use the services. But I will still be Evie. Just Evie with a new diagnosis. Through my time in services, I have learned it is literally just another label. However, because I know I am at the beginning of my journey and understand my life could change dramatically with the right care, I feel a sense of anticipation. There is hope for the future. I just have to wait for it. I know that once I hear back, this lengthy waiting time will have erased itself from my memory; but it doesn’t make it right. Still, then I will be able to live my life out from limbo. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Community Voices

Diagnoses: Help or hinder?

First of all before I begin, I’d like to say I do believe in diagnoses where necessary. God knows I have enough for a lifetime. It’s just from my experience and research I have found that they can be just as detrimental as they can be freeing.

It seems, with mental illness, many symptoms overlap and it depends upon which psychiatrist you see to which diagnosis you receive. Your fate is in their hands if you let it be, and for many people it is as such. I have had many messages asking me about my diagnosis from worried and anxious ‘service users’ who are hanging on to wait back from their local #MentalHealth service. In fact I am in that same situation right now. I am waiting to hear back about a likely ADHD diagnosis – another one to add to the list. That’s how I see it now. But when I first got diagnosed I wasn’t so blasé. I was engrossed and believed that I was all those things they were telling me. All those symptoms. I acted up to how they thought I should be. Looking back I can’t tell if I was really unwell or if the process of being diagnosed and being told I was this and that encouraged me to act out. However I can the same pattern reoccurring, though I am more aware of it this time round.

The thing is, once you are in the mental health system it seems to be common for people to get multiple diagnoses. But the truth is people are ever growing and changing and we shouldn’t be stigmatised for that.

Some of you may be aware of the Rosenhan study (1973). An experiment conducted to determine the validity of psychiatric diagnoses. Rosenhan sent ‘fake’ patients into a psychiatric hospital, they went unnoticed and were diagnosed with #Schizophrenia and manic-depressive #Psychosis. Afterwards, he made the staff aware of the experiment and they were obviously embarrassed, so they asked to try it again – so they could spot the imposters. The second time round in fact Rosenhan sent no ‘fake’ patients to the hospital, yet the staff claimed 43% were imposters or considered suspect. This studies findings massively criticized the reliability of psychiatric diagnoses. Still, it seems to be a pick of the draw to which diagnosis you will receive.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to diagnoses or that we don’t need them. Of course we need labels but we don’t need to become our label, especially when they can be so wrong. We should take what we need and carry on with our beautiful, crazy lives.

Getting a diagnosis can give you a care-plan, therapy or put you on the right medication. However sometimes it can lead you to the wrong medication – which can take what feels like a lifetime to wean you off. I know, I’ve been through it all. It is literally trial and error with mental health as we cannot see it, but we must persevere.