Content Forecast — this story will discuss similar heavy subjects to my last one, including suicide and mental illness, eating disorders and psychiatry. Please read with care, and thank you for all the positive and encouraging feedback to what I wrote while in hospital. — Scout
I wrote a lengthy story this week about my most recent admission to a psychiatric ward, and the events that lead to it. I got a lot of really amazing, positive feedback for that piece. I figured I owed everyone more of an update than a thread of tweets.
I decided as a teenager, really, that I didn’t want to keep my mental illnesses a secret. I never liked how society treats mental illnesses so different from physical illnesses. Sometimes, we do everything we can to stop ourselves from getting the flu, but we still get the flu. I don’t think getting depressed is very different, though it’s technically speaking not contagious.
The first psychiatrist I ever saw, I was 18. I’d been in counselling for about 4 years prior, I just hadn’t been able to access a psychiatrist yet. He was one of Australia’s best, who generously donated his time to the youth health clinic I was a patient at.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Anorexia Nervosa. It was certainly a handful, and I’ve always hated rattling off my list of diagnoses. I moved back to New Zealand and since then, I’ve been rediagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, then re-rediagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an “unknown mood or personality disorder”, and Gender Dysphoria, which is a fancy doctor term for someone who is transgender that allows us access to basic healthcare we should just be able to choose to have of our own accord.
I still strongly identify with the Bipolar II diagnosis, some doctors agree, some do not. I believe it still applies because my mood swings are not reactive, they just happen. This month’s depressive episode is the first I’ve had that has been reactive. Psychiatry is the only type of medicine where it’s okay for doctors to be biased and diagnose patients in ways that can be “treated” with the pharmaceutical products that they’re sponsored to use. (I’m not anti-psychiatric medication, I think it helps some people a lot, I just believe the industry is preventing doctors from being objective or reasonable in their diagnosing).
The Bipolar II had been beginning to rear its head for a few years to that point, my psychologist had been pretty suspicious it was playing a part in where I was at. I still experience it — I have depressive episodes, like I am right now, where I am sad and grumpy and irritable and anxious and don’t have any motivation, until I end up talking myself out of suicide every night and realize I need some extra support. And then I have hypomanic episodes, where everything is hilarious and I’m the life of the party and I want to sleep with everyone and I get really, really psychotic until I’m so paranoid the world is trying to kill me that I’ve hidden from my friends for a week straight. (It’s exhausting.)
I’m lucky, I suppose, that all my closest friends just know I do this sometimes and don’t take it personally. I’m incredibly grateful for them every day, actually.
After I have depressive episodes I’m more likely to have hypomanic episodes, which is what I’m trying to prevent right now. I know my patterns really well, and at 21 I self-manage my Bipolar Disorder better than many people much older than I am. I stopped taking medication in April 2015 and until December, I’d been experiencing only very small scale episodes since May 2016. I know and trust that when I have this cycle back under control I will be back in a place where this disorder is managed once more.
Since discharge, I’ve been focused on taking my journey back to management step-by-step. While I’ve been depressed (and with my only food prospects being sloppy, congealed and microwaved courtesy of Compass), my eating disorder has flared up much more and I’ve lost a not-so-reasonable amount of weight. Yesterday I saw my GP, and word-for-word it went a little like this:
“I don’t know what I can do. I mean, I could have you sectioned… but they wouldn’t be able to forcefeed you or anything, there’s been a lot of cases tried like that… but y’know I guess you’re gonna have to handle a lot of this stuff yourself, have you had bloods done — oh, yes, you did today, I’ll text you if anything concerning comes up, but.. I don’t know what I can do. Can I weigh you?”
I have to say, it’s bloody offputting to have the Mental Health Act dangled over you as a final resort treatment option to keep you well when accessing other support is becoming impossible. And it did serve as good motivation — I hadn’t eaten or had anything much to drink other than Diet Coke in a few days, and today I’ve managed a whole litre of fluid for the first time in weeks!
I’m picking my life up again in bite sized pieces, excuse the pun. I’m slowly trying to reintroduce things into my life such as food, water, getting out of bed, work (I’m days away from a deadline and should really get around to that), socializing…
I even left the house yesterday. I had procrastinated so long that on getting out of bed that I could only do three of the four things I needed to do, but I did it.
I’m proud of myself.
It’s more than I was able to do before.
I’m getting there.
I’m gonna be okay.
This still hasn’t changed anything.
If you relate to any of the topics I have discussed in this story, and feel like you need some support, please use one of these helplines:
Lifeline (open 24/7) — 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) — 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) — 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) — 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) — 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).
Youthline (open 24/7) — 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com
0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline — phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) — 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust — 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) — 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).