Stigma Fighters: Cat H.

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Stigma Fighters: Cat H.

I hope that by sharing my story of mental illness I can raise awareness and encourage others to share their stories. I have post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and mild social anxiety. 

I have always suffered from social anxiety. As a young child my social anxiety was so bad that I was afraid to ask the other children to play with me and I was unable to do this. During my late childhood and early adolescence I was very anxious about meeting people for the first time, talking in a group of people, making presentations and interviews were my worst nightmare. However, it got much better. I am now able to talk  without any anxiety when I am in groups of people that I do not know for example at support groups. I also have lots of friends in different circles and I have sang and read out my poetry on my own in front of audiences. Furthermore, after a lot of preparation for a university interview for the first in my life I did not get incredibly nervous during an interview.

I would say that I definitely experienced depression for about 7 years from around the age of 9. I remember crying every single day at school. For years I hardly smiled, became very withdrawn and was generally morose and glum all the time. I changed schools due bullying I experienced but this didn’t solve the problem. Although I made a lot more friends and had these two girls I hung out with I was still very withdrawn and generally sad all the time. It was a friend I made at this school whom years later said, ” you were depressed as a child.” At the age of 10 years old I started to have feelings of self-hatred. 

I remember things being better when I was 12 at the start of secondary school. I think I was closer to being in a normal mood. However, it was at the age of 13 that I had one of my worst episodes of depression. I was most certainly depressed then. I isolated myself from everyone at school and stopped talking to them. I felt numb and like a zombie all of the time while at the same time I was constantly crying, often every day. I felt worthless, hated myself, lost interest in everything and stopped making an effort at school. 

At this age my suicidal thoughts started. From the age of thirteen for years after I would often have this thought that I would like to sleep forever because I wanted to get away from all the pain. I also figured out my preferred method of suicide.
I was still depressed and withdrawn when I moved schools again at the age of 14. 

It was when I was 16 and went on a trip abroad with a load of girls at my school for a month that I realised that my mood swings that my mother just thought of as “teenage mood swings” were not normal. One day I would be very talkative and enjoy myself and the next I would be annoyed with everyone for no reason and just want to be alone. I also had frequent outbursts of crying all the time. After coming back from this trip I suddenly realised that the reason I had thought everyone else was perfect in comparison to myself was because they were all balanced whereas I was unbalanced mentally and emotionally. This was when I looked up all of the mental illnesses online and started to think I might have bipolar disorder even though I didn’t think I’d had a manic episode. I think I was just very aware of the early warning signs and I predicted what was going to happen later. 

During my last two years of school my depression was shown in my tiredness. I would nap about twice and sometimes three times a day every day as I was so tired. I also isolated myself from everyone again and generally did not feel happy at all in myself. 

It is hard to tell whether I had a manic episode during university but I have had friends tell me that looking back I was definitely up and down during my first year of university and one university friend told me regarding my probable bipolar disorder diagnosis that she was glad I got the right diagnosis, thus implying that I had it. I definitely had a few episodes of depression during my first year of university as well as periods of normal mood. When I was depressed I became withdrawn again, wasn’t myself and I slept a lot like during my a-levels.

It wasn’t until a week after I had finished my first year of university that I finally went to the doctor and told them I was depressed. I think I had been so used to having depression that it was not until I not only lost interest in everything but was simply unable to do anything that I finally got help. 

Whilst I was depressed I slept about 12 hours a day, had difficulty concentrating, had very low energy levels and had suicidal urges. 

The doctor prescribed me anti-depressants which I’m sure would have helped me if I hadn’t been on the bipolar spectrum. Firstly I became extremely suicidal; I would have urges to kill myself all the time in every way possible wherever I was. These extreme suicidal urged continued for months even after I stopped taking the antidepressants. 

Possibly the worst thing that happened as a result of antidepressants was the fact that I became manic or hypomanic. I suddenly went from having no energy to having tons of energy. Next, I started having bursts of creativity all of the time and I wrote lots of poetry and even started writing a novel. Everything was fast, I talked fast, typed fast, did everything fast! I genuinely felt like I was on drugs, colours were intensified and I could see individual streaks of light on the walls were more intense than others. I also was very irritable at times and caused lots of arguments with my parents. Furthermore, I was very impatient; at one point I couldn’t bare to wait at all at any restaurant and had to go on walks during dinner. I also only slept for 5 and a half hours a night which was a lot less than my usual 9 hours. 

The worst things about my manic episodes were my hallucinations and the fact I couldn’t concentrate for more than half an hour. The fact that I couldn’t concentrate for more than half an hour meant I was unable to go back to university and study.

My hallucinations really scared me. They started with auditory hallucinations; I first heard church bells ringing at 4 am in the morning. Then, I heard cabaret music at 4 am in the morning and later I heard a plane going off in the toilet. After this I had visual hallucinations every day where I would see dots and blobs of coloured light moving that I knew were not there. These hallucinations really frightened me.

After taking Quetiapine and then Olanzapine my hallucinations and my hypo/manic episode eventually went away after a few months.

I am now taking Lamotrigine as well as a very low dosage of Olanzapine for my depression that occurred after my four month mania ended. 

I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of multiple sexual assaults that I have experienced. As a result of EMDR treatment I have managed to drastically reduce my symptoms such as exaggerated startle response and daily triggers and get closure. I am hardly ever triggered and no longer jump at every single unexpected noise.

I am a lot better now as a result of medication, therapy, exercise and support from friends and family. However I still have some way to go in my recovery. I am staying strong and having hope that as I am 80% in terms of my mental wellbeing that I will be able to go back to university next year.

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Cat H is a modern languages student, a poet and a blogger. She loves traveling, reading and watching foreign films. 

By | 2015-02-17T11:45:33+00:00 November 30th, 2014|Categories: Brave People, Uncategorized|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Me November 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us – I am sure you will be able to go back to University next year. I hope you can!

  2. Gabe Howard November 30, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Talking openly about mental illness is so powerful! Thank you!

  3. Aubrey Ortega November 30, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Your story rang so true to me. It sounded like my early years… and I think I still have some of the symptoms you refer to. But the bipolar meds made me suicidal, so I work with my dr for a combination of ADD meds and antidepressant instead. Thanks for sharing your story with us. <3

  4. Jenna Goodwin November 30, 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    You are a fighter and a survivor. I understand alot of what you dealt with growing up. Keep fighting and know you will return to school soon <3

  5. Kitt O'Malley November 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story, for helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness. I, too, was treated for depression for years and flew into mania. The proper diagnosis and medication — along with therapy, supportive friends and family, and self-care — makes all of the difference. Glad that EMDR has helped you with your PTSD, and so very sorry that you experienced multiple incidents of sexual trauma. Send you my best. No doubt you will be able to return to the university to continue your studies.

  6. Helen White November 30, 2014 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    The part about childhood mood swings resonated so deeply with me, I went through the same type of feelings but didn’t even get a depression diagnosis. And thank you for sharing about the different effects medication can have, especially for those people on the bipolar spectrum as there is no “one size fits all”. I’m so glad you’re benefitting form EMDR too. Thank you so much for sharing.

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