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Health. Fitness. Positivity. Lifestyle. Mental health. Self love.

The ups and downs of bipolar

Bipolar to me is quite literally my ups and my downs, there's no other way to describe it. It's an incredibly complex condition and is individual to each person and their type of their condition but this post explains my take on it.

Bipolar for me is feeling on top of the world one day and then not even wanting to be on it next. It's feeling severely depressed for absolutely no reason and it's not knowing what mood you're going to wake up to. It's feeling the happiest you've ever felt to then suddenly feeling the lowest. It's anxiety for no reason other than having anxiety. It's going from having the energy to take on the whole world, to not even having the energy to get out of bed. It's feeling so happy you could explode but then feeling so depressed you don't think you can survive another day. It's also feeling absolutely nothing at all, just numb.
Bipolar is defined by experiencing extreme swings of depression and mania. A person can swing between these different moods for periods of a month, two months or multiple times in a day. The different types of this condition are distinguished by the length of which the moods occur for, these conditions are as follows:
Bipolar 1:  This disorder includes manic episodes lasting a minimum of seven days, or severe manic symptoms requiring immediate hospitalization, with depressive episodes occurring for around two weeks under this type.
Bipolar 2: Like patients with bipolar I disorder, those who have bipolar II disorder must have at least one major depressive episode. However, the significant difference between the two is individuals with bipolar II disorder experience hypomanic episodes rather than manic.
Cyclothymia: This form has many mood swings with hypomanic and depressive symptoms occurring regularly, which can be a few times a week or a few times in one day.
The type I suffer from is cyclothymia, which means my moods often swing back and forth multiple times a day, although for many years now I thankfully have been stable due to being on mood stabilizing medication. However, sadly this doesn't in any way mean I'm fixed, it just means I'm mostly stable. My bipolar gets triggered very easy which causes an episode, where my moods will dramatically chop and change. My triggers, like most others, tend to be stress, traumatic experiences, change in circumstances and overwhelming problems. In all honesty, an episode completely turns my life upside down and makes getting through each day feel impossible and if I were currently going through one, this would be a very different blog.
With my condition, I have always found I suffer more so with depression than mania, with these moods lasting longer and feel far deeper. Meaning that I can often be severely depressed and suicidal for absolutely no reason, which is completely unbearable and I often say that I feel trapped in a body that just wants me to be unhappy. I imagine people think this means I am just a bit sad, but in reality, it entirely takes over your body, consumes every part of you and you have no control over when it comes and goes. These are the times when I've had to learn to just keep reminding myself that these feelings pass.
The biggest difficulty with bipolar is functioning daily. The problem is that a person often does not know how they will feel when they wake up in the morning, meaning they can have work planned or a social event booked but until waking up they’ll never know if they’re going to be up to it. I can't count how many times I've had to force myself to do things because you can't cancel but everything inside you just wants to hide under the covers all day. 
What is also one of the biggest challenges is having the thoughts and feelings you do for no reason, which makes getting other people to understand pretty much impossible. How can you explain to someone that you feel suicidal but have absolutely no reason for it? It's extremely complex and still baffles me but it just simply is what it is and if you've got good people around you, they will learn to understand it.
My condition means that I feel everything 10x more than the average person does, even when I'm not going through an episode. Something small that may not upset one person, can send me on a downward spiral for days. At the same time, something so little that would just usually make a person smile for a minute can make me feel on top of the world for the whole day. It's fair to say that the condition makes life more challenging, but I know there are so many positives that I receive from it too. Without my condition, I wouldn't have the appreciation that I do for life, which is something I’d never trade.


Endometriosis diagnosis

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in the UK and around 176 million women worldwide, however it's an illness that is a mystery to many, but to those suffering it's a completely debilitating condition they must battle every single day, knowing there's still no cure.
What endometriosis is for me:
Endometriosis is chronic pain.
Endometriosis is infertility.
Endometriosis is severe fatigue.
Endometriosis is bladder and bowel problems.
Endometriosis is severe bloating.
Endometriosis is pain during intercourse. 
Endometriosis is more hospital trips than you can count and a million internal examinations. 
In technical terms endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity; the lining of the uterus is called endometrium and so endometriosis occurs when the endometrium grows on the ovaries, bowl, bladder and tissues lining the pelvis. Every month a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes, hormones are naturally released which cause the lining of the womb to increase in preparation for a fertilized egg and if pregnancy does not occur this lining breaks down and bleeds which is then released from the body as a period. With endometriosis, each month the cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up, then breaking down and bleeding but unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape which leads to inflammation, pain and formation of scar tissue.
My personal journey with endometriosis technically started before I was even aware of it and when I look back now the diagnosis explains so much. For as long as I can remember I have experienced extremely painful periods and ovulation often putting me in hospital with such severe abdominal pain, only to be sent away with the answer of a grumbling appendix, a polycystic ovary or just to be told their period pains and I should get on with it.
In the last two years, these problems had a dramatic increase and made them a challenge to say the least. This last year I ended up in an ambulance or hospital near enough every month when the pain became so crippling, I was unable to manage it any longer. So, every month that my period would arrive it became quite traumatising, tied in with desperately wanting to conceive, they would leave me feeling like I'd been hit by a ton of bricks. Once that had subsided, the next challenge was to build myself up again.

On average most cases of endometriosis take around 10 years to diagnose, something which for me, is hard to get my head around. A condition which carries the same statistics as women with diabetes which to the contrary, can be diagnosed pretty quickly. I have been very blessed that from the point of it taking over my life, to the point of getting diagnosed was only around a year and in December I had my first laparoscopy in which they discovered the endometriosis. Sadly they were only able to remove some of the spots and I am still left with it on my bladder and bowel. This means I may continue to suffer in the same way I did, I am just waiting to see. However with endometriosis, even after it is removed it can and most likely will grow back, meaning that most of us either face a life filled with many surgeries or constant chronic pain.
I still count myself lucky as I know there are people suffering greater than I do with endometriosis and all sorts of conditions, but I want to raise awareness for a condition which is otherwise still very mysterious. The biggest problem anyone suffering with the condition will tell you is that it cannot be seen, meaning most of the symptoms aren't visible and can only be explained. Symptoms which a lot of people do not understand the severity of or believe all together.
For me the hardest part has been infertility, as much as the pain is unbearable and makes me entirely bed bound for days it's something I find easier to deal with and I've essentially just become use to it. Fatigue is also a symptom I battle every single day and is challenging but again I've learnt to live with it. Alternatively, my fertility journey definitely affects me a great deal and is something I have to really battle with. Anyone going through a fertility journey will tell you it's like riding a rollercoaster, except it's your whole life. I have days where I am positive and hopeful, but more commonly have days where I'm fed up and feel like the whole world's against me. There are also days where I feel completely numb. Once more, I know there are thousands of people far worse off that me and I have a lot to be thankful for which I am every day, but I just wanted to share an insight into the fact infertility is nevertheless, extremely difficult to go through. 
I hope if this post can provide anything, I desperately want it to bring awareness to a condition which not a great deal of people know about or understand. To help a person understand better what someone they know, may be going through or for anyone experiencing these symptoms to know, they're not normal. The first thing that prompted the first thought of endometriosis in my mind was an article I'd read online, before that the condition had never crossed my mind, nor did I know barely anything about it. This thought helped me to push for the correct treatment so I pray for anyone suffering that this can be your trigger, to help you finally get the answers you desperately need. It's important in this battle to make one another feel supported and to know we're not alone.



Thankful for my struggles

Being grateful for experiences that took us to the lowest points possible in life can be a difficult concept to comprehend but something that's very important to understand if essentially you want to live a happy life. So many people go through life feeling hard done by and that the world is against them, but the point they fail to realise is that constantly living with a negative mindset means life will always feel difficult. However, if a person is able to take positives from their hardships and look at them as lessons to be learnt then they will be far more likely to go on living a happier life than those who harvest in their misery.
I truly believe that every struggle we go through has a reason for it, whether that's to help find your strength, learn a particular lesson or to show you a different path. There genuinely can always be a positive to be found from those tough experiences. The important part of understanding this, is purely down to the mindset that you have.
With mental health conditions it's unfortunate that they carry the stigma of being a downfall for a person to have, because if people were to look at the condition as a whole, the positives actually far outweigh the negatives (in my opinion).
At the time I was unwell, I spent a lot of it feeling very angry at the world and that everyone else had it so much easier than me. These feelings were completely valid and totally understandable to have when experiencing such destress, but when I started to come through those dark times, I was suddenly able to see the world in a new light, with a completely new perspective. Those struggles I have had and still do have, made me the person I am today, which, I am extremely grateful for.
Of course, it's easy for me to say this now when I'm not going through an episode and I will never ignore the fact it's very hard to deal with, nearly impossible to deal with. However, I desperately want to show that there is a way out and you can learn to be thankful for those times. For anyone who cannot even begin to understand anything that I could be thankful for, I have explained just few of the many below.
I'm thankful for my struggles because they helped me find my strength.
This point is the biggest thing I learnt from my illness, before I became unwell, I would never have considered myself as 'strong'. If anything I would say I had quite low confidence in myself, my illness however helped to show me the incredible strength I do have and I feel very lucky to have discovered that because it taught me that nothing in the world will beat me.
I'm thankful for my struggles because they helped me learn to appreciate life.
The appreciation I've discovered for life is probably the thing I'm most thankful for. When you've been to the darkest point possible where you no longer want to be alive, in a strange way it teaches you to appreciate life so much more. When suffering from unexplainable depression all you ever dream about is finding happiness again so when you finally do, the feeling is better than you could have ever imagine. This is something I will never, ever take granted for.
I'm thankful for my struggles because they helped me discover my passion.
All my dark times helped to lead me to find my passion in life; passion for raising awareness, getting more people talking about mental health and fighting the stigma it carries. My struggles helped me to find my purpose and gave me a whole new sense of meaning which is something for a long time, I searched for. I finally know that my purpose in life is to help others with the experiences I've overcome and if I help just one person it's worth it.
I'm thankful for my struggles because they helped me find my courage.
To overcome my mental health struggles and come out the other side stronger takes a great deal of courage. Something which I'm not ashamed to say about myself. I feel proud to have been through what I have and be using it to assist others going through the same thing. Opening up and being public with my struggles takes courage too because whilst a lot of others feel ashamed to speak, I use that to empower myself to help those to not feel so alone.
I'm thankful for my struggles because they gave me understanding to help others.
In all honesty, those who have never had their own battle with mental health will never fully be able to understand and relate to someone in the same way as someone who has. I'm not doubting that those people cannot provide help and support but where they only have the ability to sympathise with a person, I can empathise. I can say myself that makes a huge difference when you're struggling, so I’m glad I have that advantage. 
For anyone who is going through a period of depression or suffering with any mental health condition at all, please do not fret if you feel far from grateful. I first started suffering with depression around 8 years ago and although struggles with my bipolar occasionally pop up, I am in a good place mentally, meaning that time has allowed me to feel this way. It's been an extremely long process to get to the point where I am thankful not resentful. What changed it for me was when I realised that being angry at the world gets you nowhere, it doesn't make the pain go away and certainly doesn't make you feel any better.
All of this isn't to say I haven't struggled since those times and that I always feel 100% grateful. I have since had new struggles that have risen such as infertility, as I have written about in previous posts. Struggles which I certainly don't feel overly positive about all the time, but what I've learnt from my past experiences is to always look for the positives in amongst the negatives and to know that things do improve.
If you're going through a difficult time, hold on, remember that no matter how long it may take, you will feel better and the pain will end. Try to find something positive to take from each day, from the smallest things like a text message from a friend, to the big things like waking up in the morning for another day because that one small thought can change your whole day.
My email is always open for any heart that may need it, don't beat yourself up if you’re feeling as if the whole worlds against you, that's ok, we all do at times but focus on all on the good things you've got going on, instead of the bad.
Chloevowels1995@gmail.com.

The difficulty of managing work with mental health

Imagine feeling so low or so anxious you can't picture how you'll ever leave the house again; then imagine feeling that way and having to get up and force yourself into work each day. For a large majority of people, this is their reality and it's a complete catch 22 situation because the stress of having to get into work makes a person more anxious and more depressed but they know there's no choice unless they're willing to lose their job.

Managing work with a mental health condition is challenging due to the fact these conditions cannot be seen, employers struggle to comprehend how a person can have depression for example and seem as though they're completely fine. Due to a lack of understanding, those suffering are often considered to be lazy or thought of as slacking off, all because the conditions cannot be seen. It takes a great deal of confidence for a person to express to their company what they're experiencing and sadly because of the stigma mental health carries most people are too afraid to, meaning they suffer in silence.

I'm extremely passionate about this subject because I know first hand the difficulty of it and the vast lack of support that there is. As employers, business owners and a nation as a whole, we need to find ways of becoming more flexible and helpful to those diagnosed with mental health conditions.
The reason mental health makes work a challenge is because a person suffering will not know how they will feel from one day to the next, meaning that one day they could go into work without a struggle and the next day not even be able to drag themselves out of bed. The problem is how do you explain how that's possible to an employer when you don't even understand it yourself? With the traditional work system we have, there is no flexibility and the idea of having to get up and do an 8 hour day, every single day can be very overwhelming. It's essential that employers and business owners find ways to become more adjustable, in order to help more people stay in work and don't lose a job they don't deserve to because of a condition they cannot help that they have. 
My suggestion is that instead of just having an employee signed off, speak with them and see if they feel comfortable doing reduced hours, for example, one shift a week. The thought process behind this idea is that when you're unwell, sitting around doing nothing often makes a person feel worse and just because a person is suffering from a mental health condition doesn't automatically mean they can't work altogether, but for a period of time, they might not cope with doing as many hours as they once did.
Studies show that three-quarters of people living with long-term mental health conditions are unemployed. All three-quarters of those people are not necessarily unable to work altogether but instead just cannot fulfil the requirements of a full time or part time job, leaving them with no other option than to be unemployed. These people are not choosing this way of life but there just isn't enough support to help them. We have to find ways to help those struggling get back into work, or managing their condition with their job so they don't become unemployed in the first place.
I have lived through both scenarios of being too unwell to work and wanting to work but not being able to do full a time. When I was very unwell, I was told my condition 'wasn't bad enough' to receive any financial support even though I couldn't even get out of bed.Then as I started to recover, I was told that I either had a choice of, not working at all and getting help or working reduced hours with no help at all. Two exact points that show exactly what is wrong with our system; everyone should have access to help no matter how 'bad' they are and people should be encouraged to work if they are wanting to.
As previously explained being self-employed as I am now wasn't always the case for me and for many years I battled with having to force myself into work when I felt as though was falling apart inside. I feel very blessed to be in a position now where I am completely self-employed and able to tailor my work hours to what suits me as this is what works perfectly for me which I couldn't be more grateful. for Sadly though this isn't possible for everyone, however the greatest thing I ever learnt was no job is worth spending your life being unhappy for. 

Just remember lifes too short to spend it being anything other than happy, find what works for you and forget anything else.

The invisibility of mental health

The toughest challenge I believe those battling mental health conditions have to deal with is the invisibility of it. The pure fact is that many people we all know will be suffering so terribly inside but no one else can see it. When it comes to mental health the only way to make others understand is by trying to explain how you feel, however when you don't even understand it yourself, it makes it impossible to try and put into words to explain to someone else.

The reality of mental health is that because it's invisible, it isn't always believed or fully understood. The sad part is that if a person had broken a bone no one would ever dream of questioning them whether or not it's really broken but yet people have no worry about questioning someone who has depression. Just because something cannot be seen doesn't mean it isn't there and it's never, ever okay to question a person about it. The upsetting truth is that so many people are afraid to talk due to the fact they don't think people will believe them, or they will just think their overreacting. It often takes a great deal of courage for a person open up and express concern over their mental health, so to be told 'stop being dramatic' or 'oh just snap out of it' would be enough to make a person never want to talk again.

This is genuinely the part I hate most about having a mental health condition because it really does make life challenging, trying to translate to the people in your life what it's like to live with a mental health is the most difficult thing I ever have to do. In the early days when I first become unwell, I couldn't even understand myself what was going on in my head, yet I was expected to explain that to doctors. For nearly 3 years I battled with not knowing what the hell was going on, after originally being diagnosed with depression but with the medication not helping, I knew there was something more happening. It felt like an eternity that it took to get the correct diagnosis and not being able to get just a simple blood test or x-ray to determine was unbearable. I know if it were possible to test for it would have saved me a great deal of heartache. I remember crying to my partner over and over and over because not even the doctors could understand what was wrong with me, when I was finally able to get a diagnosis it was the biggest relief as I finally had an answer.

Something I still struggle with is others not having the same level of understanding as you would do about your 'sensitivity' as they'd call it or as I would just call it, feelings. I can guarantee I am not the only person with a mental health condition that has been called numerous times 'sensitive'. In all honesty, it makes me so mad whenever people dismiss others feelings as if they aren't important. Just because something doesn't affect one person doesn't mean it can't affect another and just because someone has a mental health condition doesn't mean their overly sensitive, nor does it mean they can't have 'normal' everyday feelings.

The problem we have is that so many people don’t believe mental health conditions can be as debilitating as they are. It’s as if people think it’s all just made up and exaggerated. Those with mental health conditions will have to battle on a daily basis with problems that can't be seen to anyone else. For those struggling just even getting out of bed can feel like climbing a mountain but yet because the pain's inside, an outsider wouldn't have any idea.

The only way mental health can be understood is through people's experiences but everyone experiences it differently, meaning that it's a challenge to build up an overall understanding and I believe this is what leads to the confusion. There's no one answer and mental health isn't black and white, people can all suffer from the same conditions but in completely opposing forms. This does not mean one person should be judged because what they go through is different to what another goes through and there will always be more severe cases than others, but they're still all valid.

In summary, the message I so desperately want to get across with this post is that we all need to learn to have a better understanding of mental health conditions and become more aware of how damaging they can be. This is something I'm so passionate about because I know how apparent it is to every single person suffering. So remember, never brush off a mental health condition as if it's not important, they are 100% just as important as any physical condition and although they cannot be seen, this does not mean they aren't there.



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