I read a great post today, shared by a dear friend on Facebook, illustrating a number of mental illnesses with monsters (see them here), it’s so refreshing and comforting to see someone else looking from the same viewpoint and visualising mental health illness in the same way that I see it. I often describe my illness to others as having something on either shoulder speaking either evil lies or happy exaggerations, so this is a very welcome piece of new dialogue highlighting the troubles of many.
Often when you have an illness, no one tells you about the harsh realities and the painful truths that exist when you’re seeking treatment. You know, all of the shit that people with mental health illnesses in particular, deal with daily that are so often brushed off with an ‘I’m doing fine’, ‘I’m so much better than was’… and for the most part you should believe them. But where have all of the monsters gone?
In reality the monsters have gone nowhere, as with a number of mental health illnesses they can be caged and treated but they are, unfortunately, chronic. With Bipolar these monsters merely lie dormant as treatment is sought after and the battle is fought, never fully winning but not losing either. I am mid battle at the moment, 2 months into treatment of medication, therapy, care support and various other stress relief options but I am particularly struggling at the moment with the medication.
As for calming my anxiety, Quetiapine is quite frankly amazing, don’t get me wrong in my head there’s still anxiety bombs going off constantly but more in the way of fireworks than grand scale nuclear wipe outs. However as with all medication there are side effects and some might say that not having a monster telling you you’re better off dead, filling your head with varying images of death, is worth living with side effects for. And I’d agree with them, most definitely. But no amount of reading the prescription information or even reading other people’s experiences warns you of the effect medication can have on your self esteem and body.
In the ten years I’ve sought treatment and the 6 years where I’ve actually been ‘supported’ by the NHS, I’ve been plied with numerous medications at a disastrous consequence to my body. At 5’8 I weighed around 7 stone and wore a 6-8, ok so not healthy at all but then neither was the bulimia I was battling at the time, so doctors did what they were able to and for a short while the monsters were quiet and I gained a little weight, becoming a healthy size 10 two years later. However now at 29, I am 13 stone and a size 14-16, occasionally fitting into size 12 tops (so much joy when that happens!) As you can imagine to someone who once held body image at such importance this has hit me hard.
So go to the gym and eat better right? Sure I can do that, and I try to do so as much as my mind will allow, but gradual weight gain is hard to shift and according to others like me who are suffering (discovered in forums, professional websites and support groups) I’ve learned that as well as the weight gain, the drug can slow your metabolism as well as drain your motivation. Plus effect your hormones and give you cravings. BRILLIANT. I thought it was all in my head, but it turns this new wave of bad skin, weight gain, lack of motivation and complete exhaustion are all some of the many side effects.
I can’t stop the medication as it’s the only one to have quietened the anxiety monsters for a prolonged period for the last decade. So I have to deal with all of the physical stuff. And I am, I am being positive it’s not the end of the world, people have worse and are going through worse yada yada yada. I get it, and I know but I just want to step of the positive train for a second and say that it really fucking sucks to have a chronic condition and to have to make choices about the best avenue of care, whilst sacrificing so many superficial and non superficial things. All the while trying to keep the monsters caged. Which for now, thankfully, they are (see there’s a silver lining to this post, honest).