Having psychosis doesn't stop me from living an incredible life

This is one of a series of exclusive stories that we are highlighting as part of the Time To Change See The Bigger Picture campaign, led by the mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which aims to end stigma around talking about mental health. Please note that these articles contain discussion around topics that may be triggering to some readers.

When I was young, my mum used to say that there was something not quite right with me.

I would miss long periods of school and sleep a lot because I couldn’t face going in. At other times I was overactive with huge amounts of energy. I was very much an all-or-nothing type of person.

At the time, all I ever wanted was to be normal. Looking back , I can recognise that these were manic and depressive episodes but this realisation only came much later when I was diagnosed with bipolar.

When I was 14, I tried to take my own life.

But I don’t remember wanting to die – I wanted to live. I had always struggled with feeling everything very intensely, but this was different.

It was my first psychotic episode and I wouldn’t have another one until 2016, when I tried to take my own life again.

Psychosis is different for everyone.

As a young teenager I saw a child psychologist who always said I had a mood disorder. However, it wasn’t until I was 23, that I was given the diagnosis of bipolar effective disorder.

All I was ever offered was anti psychotics, but I always refused them as I’d had bad experiences with them prior to my diagnosis. It left me feeling like I had little support and as though I had to fend for myself.

For me, my episodes have been few and far between. It wasn’t something that built up over time, but a very sudden feeling, an impulse.

My most recent psychotic episode happened at Christmas. Everything changed within just 20 minutes.

I’d had an argument with someone in front of my son, which caused him to have a panic attack. To see my own child in such distress just broke me. On top of that someone had sent me an abusive message on social media, and the two things combined sent me into utter darkness.

When you lose that battle in your mind, it’s the most terrifying thing. It’s like your brain tips. You’re trapped in a box and you can’t get out, because you can’t run from your mind – it’s not going anywhere.

Until that moment, I’d felt like I was at my best. I’d been taking on new projects and was about to launch a book, yet within a week I was back in hospital.

I was in crisis. When I’m in this kind of state, I can’t feel my body, nor can I control it, and I don’t feel safe with myself. I’m not safe in my own home or in my own bed. It’s a horrific feeling. When an episode happens, I just want to make the pain go away. It’s so painful, like a migraine.

Others just don’t get it. The raw realisation that my mind takes over me is too much for them. I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope every day, and I just don’t know when it’s coming.

People have called me ‘weirdo’ and ‘psycho’, or said that I’m ‘too much’. An ex of mine would dismiss my feelings and emotions, saying things like ‘you’re having an episode’, when I wasn’t. He would blame everything on my illness.

When I was in hospital following my psychotic episode at Christmas, it felt like people thought it was attention seeking.

‘Don’t try and get a sympathy card from me, just because you’re in hospital,’ I remember one person telling me.

They were angry and upset. At the time, it was hard for me but when I am in a normal frame of mind I know that not everyone can understand why your mind does what it does to you.

I know it’s very difficult for anybody to understand when they’ve not been in that state, and many are also scared to talk about suicide.

I want others to remember that this is an illness like anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of work, but you can lead a full life with self-care. You can work, go to the gym, do your morning routine. You’ll still have relapses, even with therapy, but you can still grow and find tools to live your life.

Creativity and powerlifting saved me – it helps me to manage what’s going on in my mind. You just need to find what fuels you.

I recently published a book about my experiences, called Me, Myself and Bipolar Brenda and it got me out of hospital. Campaigning with Time To Change and Bipolar UK, has also kept me going.

You can achieve great things. You can live an incredible life. At the moment, I’m waking up early in the morning to do yoga, getting involved in new projects and writing more. In several weeks’ time, maybe I’ll have a low, but I don’t beat myself up about it.

These awful times you go through can absolutely be turned into magic.

Time To Change

The reality of living with less common mental health problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder remains largely misunderstood. Time to Change is calling on people to see the bigger picture – click here to find out more.

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