#TriggerWarning – This post contains reference to self harm, psychosis, anorexia nervosa which may trigger and overdose. Please seek professional help if you are affected by this post.
The third post in the My Mental Health Experience series is by Shannon Crozier.
Although my mental health problems can be traced back as far as nursery, they only really became apparent to me when I was 14 and began counselling for the first time. I thought I was just going through a rough patch.
Little did I know it would be the beginning of a journey that would lead me to a life changing diagnosis – but we’ll get to that in a little while.
Like I said, it began at 14. I was self-harming and restricting my daily calorie intake.
When I was referred for counselling with CAMHS (Chid and Adolescence Mental Health Service) I was diagnosed with depression and anorexia nervosa. Now, it’s nice to be able to put a label on things sometimes for peace of mind. Just so you k ow what it is but I was more focused on the treatment I would receive as opposed to what it was called.
In the beginning I was a little reluctant to engage with therapy but once I found a counsellor I connected with, I found it really helpful. Having time each week to get things off my mind and receive helpful advice about how to help myself helped. I actually started to get better, I reduced my self-harm and started eating more.
Then came my 16th birthday.
You can only work with CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) until the age of 16 and then you get transferred to CYPS (Child and Young Person Services).
I didn’t like my psychotherapist here at all. She was very triggering for me. We just didn’t click- and that’s okay. I was moved to a different psychotherapist (two of them actually) and also given a psychiatrist.
Slowly but surely I was slipping back into my old ways. I started to lose faith in myself and the mental health system.
I’d seen 1 counsellor, 1 mental health nurse, 3 psychotherapists and a psychiatrist. I felt as though I was being passed around like an inanimate object.
Still to this day I think therapy would have been a lot more useful for me if I hadn’t been passed around to so many different people.
Anyway, that aside, the psychiatrist I was seeing the time diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I was displaying all of the symptoms. Going from weeks of severe depression to weeks of mania; flying around, not sleeping and spending ridiculous amounts of money.
It was very confusing for myself and the people round me. So it was definitely reassuring to get that diagnosis. But that didn’t stop the symptoms.
I had my first ever psychotic break during my 1st year at college.
This was when my diagnosis changed from bipolar type 2 to bipolar type 1.
It all got too much.
Personally, I believe the treatment and support I received during this time could have been a lot better.
I was taken to hospital, left in a room alone for 5 hours, and then told I was going to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Then due to a lack of beds I was sent home and told to go and see my counsellor the next day. Luckily for me I was back in touch with reality fairly quickly and could keep myself safe, but it could have been a lot worse.
In the following 2 years I stopped counselling and began my own journey of self-recovery.
I found coping strategies that worked for me and I was able to stop self-harming and eat an almost normal diet.
My bipolar symptoms were being kept under control with medication and I was doing really well.
Then came my second psychotic break. I was in an office with a lot of police officers, ‘the plain clothes brigade’ as I kept calling them; not to their amusement I’d like to add.
Something triggered this psychotic episode.
This time, I was admitted to Cherry Knowl on a 72 hour section.
You hear all sorts of stories about how patients in mental hospitals are treated badly. This was not the case on East Willows Ward.
All of the staff were lovely and would sit and listen to you babble on for hours.
The food was a bit gross but isn’t all hospital food?
The ward itself was nothing like a hospital, it was done up like a hotel to make us feel comfortable. The rooms were very basic but that was for safeguarding reasons of course and we were checked on regularly through the night. Some patients once per hour, but the more high-risk patients, myself included, were checked on every 15 minutes. But that’s understandable.
I don’t think this my psychotic episode and hospital admission was a set back to my recovery, I think it drove me to try even harder and really push myself.
I was doing really well on my own and didn’t need to engage with counselling, of course I had my good days and bad days but I was managing.
My medication, although it was changed a lot, and is still being changed, made things a lot more manageable. I believe I got better because of my diagnosis.
I knew bipolar was something I would have for life and that I really needed to take care of it.
The last thing to come for me was weight restoration.
Earlier this year I got a personal trainer and we began my weight gain journey where she helped me to gain 17lbs.
Although my experience with mental health hasn’t been easy, it’s made me who I am and given me confidence. I know I am stronger that I think. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of mental health professionals, friends, family, and most of all my personal trainer- she’s had the biggest impact on my life both mentally and physically.
My life is never going to be straight forward and I will more than likely have more psychotic episodes and hospitalisations.
But people with bipolar disorder can lead a normal life and that I what I plan to do. I am not my diagnosis. It does not define me. I will fight it and take care of it and I will succeed!