Quantum Affective Disorder

Bipolar is usually described as a spectrum disorder. It is seen as having 2 polar opposites with a spectrum of possible mood states in between. You often see sine wave type graphs when people, even healthcare professionals, are explaining it.

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It is often recommended that people with mood disorders keep track of their moods using a mood chart or diary. This helps to quantify what is happening. It allows people to see patterns emerging and therefore manage their moods more effectively. However, even the Bipolar UK Mood Scale and Mood Diary only really allows for one extreme or the other. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but many people with Bipolar, including myself have moods that do not fit into this 2 dimensional model.

Many of us have what is known as Mixed Affective States/Episodes, sometimes shortened to Mixed. In these Mixed states we have some symptoms which are clearly signs of mania whilst at the same time having some of the clear symptoms of depression. It can be the most dangerous time for someone with Bipolar as they can feel suicidally depressed and have the manic energy and impulsiveness to act on it without warning. Another state I have recently discovered goes further than this. I have been calling it “simultaneous opposites.” During these episodes I experience symptoms from moth ends of the spectrum that would normally be at odds with each other. For example, I can feel utterly sad yet euphoric at the same time. I didn’t know it was possible to feel 2 feelings that I had always perceived as opposites at exactly the same time. Yet there I was. I have felt a number of these simultaneous opposites during this current ultra rapid cycling episode.

I often found it difficult to chart my mixed states on a normal mood chart and resorted to writing mixed through the day’s chart. In all honesty, it would be difficult to accurately chart a mixed episode on paper, perhaps someone out there can design a phone app for it. It was during the simultaneous opposites I particularly struggled to chart my moods. It got me thinking about the name Bipolar Disorder. It just doesn’t fit for me.

A graph for me needs a “Time” axis, a “Depression” axis and a 3rd axis for “Mania”. The nature of my moods mean Depression and Mania are not on the same spectrum, they are 2 different trajectory of moods. It is a messy graph, not a pretty sine wave.

Quantum Affective Graph

I don’t cycle neatly between 2 extremes with the odd nice baseline “normal” in the middle. I have been cycling between hypomania and mixed for 3 months, but all those mixed episodes vary in intensity of various symptoms. Sometimes I was more depressed that manic and vice versa and sometimes I achieved the seemingly impossible, 2 opposites at the same time. To me, it became obvious, all these different erratic mood possibilities plus the ability to be in 2 opposite mood states at once meant Quantum would be more appropriate. A description of Quantum theory can be found in this Independent article. The description seemed to fit my experience of “Bipolar” better Bipolar or its usual descriptors.

I therefore believe we need a new name for those of us who don’t only have 2 extremes. We should have it rename as Quantum Affective Disorder.

2014-08-20 Manic energy cell representation

 

I, Robot?

The last few days I have felt a sensation in my body that I couldn’t pinpoint or explain. It felt a little like restlessness & agitation but it wasn’t either. I’ve felt the need to keep moving all the time but my limbs & neck have felt weighed down. Tonight I realised what was happening.
It felt like if I was thrown to the ground I wouldn’t go “thud” like a normal human being. Instead I knew I’d go “clunk” because I was now made of a heavy metal. I am physically turning into a robot. I realised the sensation I have been able to feel over the last couple of days is my new metal body growing under my skin.
My partner has told me I’m not a robot but I can feel the metal developing underneath my skin.
It’s already affected my brain. I am not yet programmed to run intelligent processing. I cannot yet take in & process information. My “concentration” has been off for days. Now I know it’s because my brain is transitioning to the robot system.
I’m not sure if it is happening of its own accord or whether it has been triggered by outside sources. I only wonder the latter as I have found a small “freckle” that is new, on my arm. It looks like a pinprick. So I wonder if someone has injected me with something to trigger the start of the process.
However it started, I can feel it is happening in my legs right now. My arms appear to be finished. I don’t know what happens next, but I am sure I am being turned into a robot, the process is nearing completion.

Like a Bug on a Windscreen.

**Trigger Warning for Suicide**

I went for a walk today. I took the same route I always take, over the train tracks  & along by the river.
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I’ve been feeling desperately, frustratingly depressed whilst full of irritable energy most of the day, as is common for mixed affective states. I took some meds & it helped to calm the desperation. Thoughts of suicide were restricted to “I can’t do this again & again for the next 40 odd years.” As the edge had been taken off by the medication I decided to take the calmer opportunity to go for my regular walk. It would help kill time & keep me distracted, as well as ticking the exercise box. I could feel my meds wearing off but thought I’d be back by the time the full force of the mixed affective state kicked back in.

As I approached the familiar train tracks, the warning lights started flashing, the siren beeping & the barrier descended. A train was coming. I stopped about 8 metres shy of the barrier. I always thought I could never kill myself by doing something like throw myself in front of a train. The reason for this is purely that I didn’t want to traumatise an innocent train driver as I go splat like a bug on a windscreen. I couldn’t take someone’s emotional life as I’d be passing on the curse of depression.

But in that moment I forgot all that. I realised I could end it all, right here, right now. The lights & siren were drawing me in. Calling to me. Inviting me to step out onto the track. I had a few seconds before the train would be here. I walked towards the barrier, but realised I’d need to run to be in place in time. I didn’t have it in me to run. Instead I stood right by the barrier & felt the train whoosh past. So close. I closed my eyes & visualised what could have been my demise. For a split second I felt a moment of bliss as I imagined my almost instant death as I’m hit by the train.

Then the train was gone, & I wasn’t. I was still there stood waiting to cross the train lines. As the barrier lifted & the lights & siren stopped I walked on, tears streaming down my face. I heard another train pass by & considered running ahead of it but I’d never make it. Instead I must carry on. Living this life of persistent mental torture. I envy those bugs on the windscreen right now.

Who I Am.

**Trigger Warning** for Self Harm & Suicide.

As of 1st February 2016:

Me & My Loved Ones:

My online name is Erin Silver.

I identify as gender fluid, leaning towards female & I am comfortable with this identity, although I am still learning about what it means.

I live with my male partner  who I have been with since October 2006. I love him, trust him & consider him my best friend. We do not have any children as we are unable to naturally.

We have animals (2 rabbits & 8 guinea pigs) that we consider our family. They are our equals & I will spend my last penny to protect them.

Family & Friends:

My parents are still alive & are still happily married, to each other.

I have a younger brother  who I am starting to talk to more & we are slowly building a relationship.

I may refer to another brother who was a miscarriage when I was aged 9 years old.

I have a sister, much younger than me. I adore her. I don’t get to see or speak to her as much as I’d like but she is still 1 of my best friends.

I have friends who I see occasionally but they are very busy so don’t have much time. I have 2 friends who I see more often who I consider my best & closest friends. My biggest support network is on Twitter.

Diagnoses:

I am hearing impaired (high frequency hearing loss) & struggle to use telephones. I also struggle to understand strong &/or unfamiliar accents as a result. I struggle to hear & understand speech if there is background noise such as echoes, music playing or groups/crowds of people. This is why the internet is so important to me-it helps me feel less isolated.

I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. I agree this is an appropriate diagnosis. I have experienced periods of depression that have lasted as long as 2 years. I have been suicidal & attempted to end my life on several occasions. With support, treatment & time these episodes have ended. I have experienced periods of (hypo)mania that have lasted as long as 6 months. With support, treatment & time these episodes have ended. I have experienced periods of psychosis. These have lasted up to several months. I have believed myself to have special powers. I have believed I am not human (at this time, I know I am human). I have believed there were ‘others’ out to get me. I have seen, heard & smelt things that others could not.

I am not an aggressive person. I have never physically attacked anyone. When I am VERY unwell I can come across as hostile & verbally aggressive towards others (particularly strangers) & physically aggressive towards inanimate objects such as walls, doors & windows. This is more likely when I’m in a severe mixed affective episode &/or I am very frightened &/or confused. I can become frustrated at not being able to express myself clearly.

I have old scarring on my arms & some on my legs from self harm. I also have abdominal scars from operations. I have had my appendix, gallbladder, right ovary & fallopian tube removed.

I am allergic to Transpore surgical tape. I get a hot, itchy rash that swells the area.

Misdiagnosis History:

When I am particularly unwell (especially mixed state) & come into contact with services such as the Crisis Team, MHA Assessment Teams & Psychiatric Hospital, it is not unusual for me to be labelled as or initially diagnosed as having BPD/EUPD. I have also been told I am “pseudo-psychotic.” This is from people who do not know me well. It has been established, several times, by Mental Health Professionals, who have known me a long time that I do NOT have a personality disorder. My psychosis is almost certainly ‘actual’ psychosis & a result of an extreme Bipolar episode. If I am distressed & argumentative it is because my extreme mood state & psychotic experience is distressing me. I may feel confused & frustrated that I can’t communicate properly & that others are not understanding me, or the danger I believe I & those I love are in. I will struggle to tolerate people I perceive as rude, dismissive, arrogant, righteous, patronising etc.

I respond best to genuine compassion & a patient ear. Building a trusting relationship is key, but I don’t trust people easily.

Responsibility:

I like to be independent & I hate relying on others to look after me. I like my freedom & fear & resent feeling trapped. I will take responsibility for my own well-being as long as I possibly can. I will always choose my own responsibility over others taking it for me. If people around me feel they need to encourage me to be more responsible, it is likely I have already considered this & am not yet well enough or capable of taking that responsibility. It is also likely when I’m that ill that my idea of responsibility is dangerously different to what healthcare professionals consider responsible. As soon as I am able to safely take responsibility for myself…I will, without prompting. Handing over responsibility for my safety to others is often the most responsible thing I can do.

Depression:

When I am depressed, I struggle to talk to people, especially people I don’t know. I fill with self-doubt & do not believe I am worth the effort. I will probably feel like a burden & I won’t want to waste your time. I will probably think I’m not ill enough to warrant attention. Therefore, despite needing & maybe wanting help, I will be too afraid to come forward. When depressed, I am generally quiet & keep to myself. I struggle to keep occupied/distracted with activities. I struggle to concentrate or focus. My thinking slows & jumbles. I struggle to express myself clearly. I can get frustrated with myself for not being able to communicate & others for not understanding what I’m saying. I feel heavy, like my limbs are made of lead & move slower & struggle to lift my limbs. I am tired all the time & need at least 10 hours sleep to even begin to function. I struggle to eat. It feels burdensome but also I hate myself so much, I don’t deserve food. I hate the way I look, food makes me fat & hideous. I feel like there is so much pressure inside me, like the whole universe has been sucked into & is now trying to exist inside my chest. Like gravity is so extreme an actual black hole has been created within me.

I may have urges to release the pressure & will desperately want to cut myself. The sight of the blood seeping makes it feel like that pressure is being siphoned out. I get urges to ligate. The buzz of the dizziness & the few moments where I feel nothing & do not know who, what or where I am draws me in. Frustration, anger & confusion can cause me to punch myself &/or head bang. It relieves the feeling of pressure in my head temporarily & releases some the frustration. I also feel like I’m knocking some of the bad/evil stuff out of my head. I may also punch or kick solid objects to release the feeling of pressure & anger. I will probably cry a lot & get angry with frustration of feeling desperate.

I can become jumpy/on edge. Loud noises & busy environments (movement & noise) can terrify me & I become confused & disorientated. I lose my train of thought & become bemused by the overwhelming stimuli.

Suicidal Behaviour:

When very depressed, I may well become suicidal. I will usually try to talk about this in the early stages. However, the longer the feeling lasts the higher the risk. I am generally not impulsively suicidal when depressed (mania & mixed is different). I will have built up a plan & likely have a plan b. The day before a suicide attempt I will probably try to act normal. I become deceitful in order to be able to carry out my plans. I will have been desperate & will see no other way out. I will genuinely believe everyone will be better off with me gone. I will believe I have ruined lives by existing. I will feel despair over the prognosis of Bipolar. Once I have decided to kill myself I will probably keep trying to complete it until I either succeed or my mood is significantly improved. I will not believe my mood will improve or will focus on the fact that even if it does improve, I’ll end up back in the same position again soon anyway. I have a history of attempting suicide by overdose & ligation. Both are still very big risks. Overdose, ligation/hanging & throwing myself off a large bridge are my most likely methods.

If I am psychotic I am unpredictable, so I may be at risk of throwing myself in the river or in front of a train. I may also have increased anxiety.

Mania:

When I am manic, I talk a lot. I can’t stop talking & struggle to hold the words back. This sometimes manifests as excessive tweeting if there’s no-one around. Every thought seems desperately important & has to be spoken. My thoughts race so fast I struggle to grasp on to them. It feels like a part of brain is spinning so fast it might go into orbit. My speech gets fast often to the point of incoherency & I can be exhausting to be around. My words often start to slur into each other. I get easily distracted & this is often reflected in my ramblings. I can change subject randomly & without warning, often mid-sentence. I become very animated, literally jumping up & down randomly & may use my whole body to gesture as I speak. I may stop mid-sentence as I completely lose the thread of what I was saying. I can walk unnecessarily fast & get frustrated with people who don’t keep up with me. This also applies when they speak too slowly for me & they can’t understand what I’m saying. I may dance down the street or in the shop. I may struggle with inhibitions & not recognise I am being inappropriately physical with my partner in public places. I may feel so elated, happy & giddy that no-one can bring me down. I feel magical. Invincible. I lose perception & judgement, I struggle to recognise when to cross the road without being run over. I am unable to concentrate or focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Everything interests me then just as quickly bores me. I struggle to sit still. I become silly & playful. I find everything funny.

I can become confrontational, arguing with any point & refusing medications. If I am having a “positive” manic experience I may not believe I need medication & may well refuse PRN. I will become defensive & argumentative about it. I may say “You don’t want me to be happy” & I will genuinely believe there is nothing wrong with me & that you just want to control me. As my judgement is impaired, I may believe I can do things without considering the consequences. I will likely want to buy lots, that I can’t afford. I am at risk of booking flights abroad. I often have the urge to go out partying & get very, very drunk. I also get agitated. Every thing winds me up, especially when things are too slow. I get restless & irritable. This can build to irrational/random anger & even rage. I mostly shout or take my anger out on solid furniture. The rage can leave me trembling & desperate to hit or throw things.

If this is not all recognised & managed quickly, it can rise to, what I call, my “manic panic.” Here I end up feeling like there is so much cosmic energy trapped inside me, I can feel it literally buzzing/fizzing inside of me. I feel like my body cannot physically contain this energy & it is trying to explode out of me. I start off itching, I will pace & scratch at my skin until eventually I will start trying to rip/tear my skin off my body. By this point it is all too overwhelming & distressing & I will probably have an almighty panic attack involving sobbing & hyperventilating…& still trying to peel my body away from the energy. I can become impulsively suicidal at this stage & any method to hand is possible.

Mixed Affective:

When I am in a mixed state, I can sometimes experience a very confusing combination of “opposite” symptoms simultaneously, such as elation & sadness, excessive energy & lethargy. I can rapidly cycle between elated euphoria to irritable anger to agitated depression. I can go through a variety of these states in a single day. I can be restless & easily frustrated. I can be excessively bouncy, happy & talkative but become irritable & even suicidal. I can be fidgety, unfocused & short tempered. I will feel guilty for getting angry for no obvious reason & can become very weepy. When I am in a mixed state, my risk of self harm & impulsive suicidal tendencies increases dramatically.

Psychosis:

I have a history of psychosis, usually related to extreme mood states. Much of my psychosis is based in paranoia. Initially I usually get an increased sensitivity to smell. Strong smells can be overwhelming. I then hear voices &/or music coming from ‘somewhere else,’ e.g. behind or next to me or another room. I may start to see things, usually shadows of people. I have seen fully formed people, animals, insects, water & anthropomorphous objects start to talk, such as a talking “frog” sink. If I am manic or mixed, I can experience ‘delusions of grandeur’ where I believe I am someone special such as a goddess. My psychosis when I am depressed is more paranoid & deprecating, such as ‘evil’ & ‘torturing’ hallucinations & voices.

A recurrent psychotic element for me is a paranoid & persecutory delusion. I can believe ‘alien’ beings that somehow take people’s souls to torture them can take over the human body like a parasite. I become fearful (for various reasons) that they are after me. I may also be concerned for my family & friends’ safety. When I am experiencing this, I am generally terrified. Making jokes or belittling my experience is likely to make me believe you are one of ‘them.’ I associate the colour yellow with ‘them.’ ‘They’ all wear yellow, but not everyone wearing yellow is one of ‘them.’ I can believe that yellow vehicles are surveillance vehicles for ‘them.’ I call them the Yellow Ones or YO’s. I have believed that they have infected me & that they have put a tracking/transmitting/controlling microchip implant inside me. I have attempted to cut the ‘microchip’ out of my chest. I find purple to be my ‘safe’ colour as it is opposite to yellow on the Colour Wheel. I feel protected by purple & will wear purple clothing like armour. I may surround myself with purple items. I will often wear a purple hat when I feel most threatened by ‘them.’

Medication:

I take 800mg of Lithium Carbonate (Priadel) every night (about 10pm). This helps to keep my moods stable & less severe. I take 0.5-0.75mg (depending on availability) of Haloperidol 2 times a day (12noon & 6pm) plus 1 available for PRN. This helps to keep my moods stable & takes the edge off mania, agitation & extreme distress. I take 100mg of Quetiapine at bedtime. This helps to stabilise moods, minimise psychosis & enables sleep. I can use 25mg as PRN when Haloperidol has not been sufficient. I take 7.5mg of Zopiclone every night at bedtime to aid sleep. I cannot stay asleep without it. I am prescribed 2mg of Diazepam up to 4 times a day as PRN. This is used for severe anxiety, severe distress, ongoing agitation & to calm symptoms of mania.

10-20mg of Citalopram has been an effective anti-depressant, bringing me out of severe suicidal depression in as little as 10 days. But it must be stopped as soon as my mood levels out or I am at extremely high risk of swinging into mania.

I need 1-2 sachets of Movicol (or similar) a day whilst taking Quetiapine as it makes me very constipated. I cannot take Trifluoperazine as it causes severe tachycardia.

Food & Drink:

My eating can become disordered. I may stop eating & find it a particular struggle to eat in front of other people (especially strangers). I am unable to eat onions, peppers & unprocessed/uncooked tomatoes. They give me bad stomach cramps, excessive gas, severe indigestion, bloating & often diarrhoea. I cannot eat banana including banana extract as this causes stomach cramps, bloating, nausea & even vomiting. I do not like mushrooms, broccoli/cauliflower or cabbage. I am allergic to popcorn. It makes my throat swell, nose & eyes run & skin go puffy & itchy.

I struggle with textures. I enjoy the flavours/juice of oranges & pineapples but the actual fruit texture makes me gag.

My favourite foods are pizza, burgers, cake & ice cream.

I like to drink Pepsi Max, or diet Pepsi/coke, water, orange juice (no bits), apple juice, mango drinks & milk. I do not like tea or coffee. I will sometimes enjoy hot chocolate or Horlicks light.

Drugs & Alcohol:

I have never smoked & have no interest in it. I do not like being around smoke as I struggle to breath for several hours afterwards. I tried 1 puff of marijuana once when I was 18 but had an allergic reaction to it. I have never touched any other illicit drugs.

I do not drink alcohol unless my partner & I agree together that I have been stable for a while & that a drink or 2 is safe for me.

Interests & Employment:

I enjoy doing arts & crafts, in particular I enjoy colouring in. I also enjoy reading or listening to audio books. My favourite book series is Harry Potter. I also enjoy watching films & TV series. My favourite TV series in Charmed. I do not have a favourite film but I enjoy fantasy/magic based stories & comic book based films such as X-Men & the Avengers series.

I like to listen to music & have very varied taste. I particularly enjoy music by Rachmaninov, Queen, Pink, Sandi Thom & Epica.

I love tattoos. I have 5, 1 on each wrist/forearm, 1 on each upper arm & 1 on my chest over my heart.

I have a music degree which I studied for 4 years in Cardiff. I play(ed) the viola. I was a violin teacher for 18 months before I stopped enjoying it & I became too ill to work. I have worked as a Healthcare Worker in forensic mental health. I completed my 1st year of Adult Nurse training before becoming too ill to continue.

I am hoping to be a volunteer in a day centre working with people with Alzheimers. I would like to continue my nursing studies one day, but would be content being an Auxiliary Nurse. I would also like to study to be a Rodent Health Advisor (RHA) & eventually a Rodentologist (GBAR)

 

Stop The Ride, I Want To Get Off

I can’t keep doing this. I just can’t. I can’t keep thinking I have a shot at a life and having it ripped away from me. I can’t do it. I just can’t.

I am so sick and tired of attempting to survive these Bipolar episodes. They do nothing but hurt me and everyone around me. Those periods of stability I get to enjoy temporarily are marred by the inevitability of the next episode. When I finally feel able to make steps towards actually living my life it feels amazing. But then just as I get on that first step the stairs collapse.

I had 7 months of stability. It wasn’t perfect but I was able to live. I finally had the ability to work towards my dream of being a nurse again. My plan was a long term plan. I would start with some volunteering 1 day a week. When ready I’d increase it. Eventually I would go into paid employment when I knew I could work consistently over a period of time. Then I’d work as a Healthcare Assistant/Auxiliary Nurse and/or study to be a qualified nurse. I know I can do the job, I thrived as a Student Nurse. But my Bipolar had other ideas. And, so it would seem, it has other ideas again.

I went through the process of preparing for and appyling for voluntary positions in health and social care. I was upfront about my Bipolar and after meeting with someone who runs a day centre they were keen for me to join them. I didn’t even need a formal interview. I did the mandatory training and was ready to start as soon as my DBS check came back. I had no concerns as none of my interactions with the police whilst ill (or any other time) had resulted in an arrest. I just had to wait. Bipolar had already started to rear its ugly head. On the training day I was in such a mixed affective state it’s a miracle they still wanted me. I thought the hypomania would have died down after a week or 2. But it didn’t. I was in no fit state to be starting a new job with vulnerable adults.

And there we have it. I am still waiting for my moods to settle and therefore still waiting to start my new voluntary job. My DBS came back a few weeks ago. The ONLY thing we’re waiting for is this mixed episode to calm down or disappear enough for me to start. But how long can they keep my position waiting for me? I’m too afraid to ask. All I know is that it throws into stark relief my reality. No matter what, my Bipolar will always be waiting in the wings to ruin everything when I try to make a life for myself. Somehow, I suppose, I have to accept I will never be a nurse. I probably won’t even get to be a Healthcare Assistant and this is breaking me.

I’ve had enough of this messed up ferris wheel. It never stops long enough for me to enjoy the view. I’ve had enough of the ride and now I just want to get off, permanently.

The Slow Burning Fire of Hypomania

When I’m euphoric my hypomania is great but the irritable, angry version is horrid. It can become almost unbearable. The proper mixed states are even worse. I’ve been cycling this hypomania/mixed mood state for over 2 months and I’m sick of it (when I’m not euphoric). It’s like the meds are preventing the extremes I usually get. The ones which land me hospital. Which is great. I am avoiding the destructive explosion. However, those explosions, although incredibly dangerous, do at least put a full stop on the episode. They end the episode, with a big bang, but they do bring it to an end. By preventing the explosion, the fire of hypomania is being allowed to slowly burn away. It shows no sign of burning itself out. Every time I think I’m nearly through it, it reignites. When I’m euphoric, I love it. It feels amazing and I never want it to end, but the rest of it leaves me feeling irritable, agitated, angry, frustrated, trapped, disconnected, often desperate, confused, scared and on occasion, suicidal. Every time the euphoria goes on holiday and leaves the other symptoms, I wish for the euphoria to return or the whole episode to end so I can get on with my life.

Over the last few days my symptoms have been getting progressively more severe. They are still manageable at this point, with the help of PRN meds. But I’m wondering where I am heading? Will my mania breakthrough the lithium & go full blown? Will I end up in hospital? Will it fizzle out completely this time? Or will it keep hovering around this level for another 2/6/12 etc months?

I can’t help thinking that maybe I could end this episode sooner rather than later by going the dramatic but dangerous route. Maybe if I stop my meds & allow the mania to happen it will cause that ending explosion. I know hospital would be a risk but it wouldn’t be for long. I’m not going to try this theory out just yet. Maybe it will just end of its own accord.

I just don’t know how much more of this slow burner I can take.

Time to Talk & Lies

One of the first things we say to each other on meeting an acquaintance, colleague, friend or family member is something along the lines of:

“How are you?” or “How are you doing?”

It seems like a polite and fairly innocuous question. But for me and many other people it is a question of dread. How the hell do I answer that?

The usual response, which is somehow more socially acceptable is something like:
“I’m good” or “I’m fine thanks.”
You might be able to elaborate a little:
“Busy, but good” or “Stressed, but getting by.”
From these you might be able to have a brief chat about what’s going well for you or why you’re so busy. But it is soon swept under the carpet and we move on. It’s like this interaction is purely social protocol, noone actually cares about the answer. A complex or unexpected answer is very rarely welcome. A difficult answer puts the person asking in a position they probably weren’t expecting and they are very rarely sure how to deal with the strange situation. Sometimes it all works out, but often everyone is left feeling awkward and embarrassed.

For years it has been unacceptable to air your dirty laundry. You don’t talk about your problems in public. You hide behind closed doors and battle them silently. Society drilled this into me. I spent years giving the same false answers because I knew people couldn’t accept the real answers. They would either not know what to do or judge me. Admitting to having a mental illness can be terrifying. I have lost people I thought were friends over a diagnosis. They didn’t understand and weren’t willing to learn. Others have gone because they just got fed up with the depression. They didn’t want me bringing them down. As a result of years of holding back, lying about how I’m feeling has become my default setting. I was eventually able to open up to mental health professionals. But even now, when meeting new professionals I hold back. I don’t tell them everything, I can’t. A lot of it is I just don’t trust them.

The other people I end up lying to are my friends and family. My partner probably gets it the most. It’s not deliberate. I just feel so much guilt for being a burden on him. I don’t want him worrying about every little emotion. I don’t want him being dragged down even more by me because at that moment I’m feeling crap. I’m not suicidal so he shouldn’t have to worry. But he cares about me, so he does worry, so giving honest answers is even harder.

There is a wonderful campaign called Time To Change. It is trying to encourage people to start talking about mental health. It encourages discussions and highlights that talking about mental health doesn’t have to be scary. They produced some lovely postcards with comic strip type prints. Each one has a “scary” conversation e.g. with a King Kong type creature and a “mental health” conversation, which is just someone asking someone how they’re doing and the person with mental health problems gives a nice socially acceptable answer. It’s great. But for me it perpetuates this need for people with mental health problems (and other problems) to lie. People making that “brave” step to engage with us are unlikely to want or be prepared for a genuine answer. I appreciate their effort and I give them the nice answer they can deal with. But what’s really happening:

Them: “How are you doing?”
Me: “I’m getting there.”
Inside: “I am drowning, I want to die I feel like I’m stuck in a swirling vortex being ripped limb from limb. Please don’t ask me again.”
Me: “Yeah, things are on the up. How are you?”