Here is a summary of the symptoms I experience on a daily basis due to my illnesses…
Stress and anxiety attacks:
When I am stressed or going through a difficult time- during bad days- I suffer with panic attacks. When I have an attack I am completely disabled and think I am going to die. I cannot function when I have anxiety attacks. I cry and often lock myself in the bathroom. It is very hard and takes a long time for me to calm down from panic attacks, I need someone to help me or I cannot calm down. When I am having a difficult and stressful time I live in fear of having panic attacks, they really frighten me. When I have them I have to take medication which makes me very sleepy.. I am very anxious in the mornings and my hands shake which makes it difficult to do certain tasks. When I am anxious I have trouble breathing- especially when I have a panic attack- I feel like I can’t catch my breath.
Stress and anorexic episodes:
I have an ongoing eating disorder (anorexia) which gets very bad during times of difficulty and stress. On bad days I do not eat at all. During a bad episode, I do not eat for weeks. I need to be cared for during these times or else I will starve myself for a very long time and end up in hospital. I have had several trips to the emergency department during these times and in 2015 I was hospitalized with anorexia. They did an ECG while I was in hospital which had negative results. This was then followed by admission to an eating disorders unit. When I am having an anorexic episode I cannot function at all and do not leave the house for long periods of time- days or weeks. I am incapable of looking after myself when I am anorexic and I cannot be left alone because I am a danger to myself and my health. I cannot function when I do not eat. I feel faint, dizzy, sick and cold all the time and I have no energy. I have passed out in the past and I feel like I am going to all the time.
Stress and IBS:
I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome which a gastroenterologist and my psychiatrist have told me is brought on by stress. When I have an episode of IBS it goes on for many months. The last time it lasted for one year and this time it has been going on since April. When I have symptoms of IBS I am disabled by it. On bad days I do not leave the house because I cannot be away from the toilet and I feel exhausted, dizzy and sick and generally feel very unwell. I want to sleep all the time and miss most of the day because I am too tired to stay awake or do anything.
Stress and obsessive/ compulsive behaviours:
I also experience obsessive-compulsive behaviours on a daily basis. I have to carry out certain tasks multiple times a day or else I feel out of control and like something bad is going to happen. Every day I am constantly checking that the oven is turned off (even if it has not been used by anyone), that all the taps in the house are properly turned off, that there are no faults with any wires, that the fridge and freezer doors are shut properly, that all of the lights in the house are switched off and little things like shoes are properly lined up and generally tidying around and making sure things are all lined up equally. I cannot leave the house without doing all of these things, and when I do leave the house I panic the whole time that I am out that the house will catch on fire or flood or someone will break in. These behaviours take over my life and make me panic.
During difficult times I have no independence at all. If I am in an unfamiliar place I find it very difficult to go out alone and I rely on other people to take me out of the house. Going out alone in unfamiliar places causes me a great deal of anxiety and so most of the time I stay inside the house. This means I cannot shop for myself so someone else has to go for me. A lot of the time I take taxis because I am too afraid of getting lost. If I do go out and get lost I become very panicky and want to cry. I am very forgetful as a result of my medication so I get lost a lot. On bad days or during bad times, I have anxiety about being out in public or being around people and this also stops me wanting to go out on my own.
My medication makes me very sleepy and drowsy. I find it difficult to get up in the mornings and I have to go back to sleep again during the day. As a result of my medication, I sometimes stay in bed until 2pm in the afternoon. This becomes much worse when I am depressed. Even if I set multiple alarms, it is very difficult to get out of bed.
My medication also makes me very forgetful. I can often be having a conversation with someone and I have to ask them to repeat what they have said, or I forget what we are talking about. Sometimes I do not take my medication correctly because I forget the dosage and then I become unwell because I have taken too little. Sometimes I take too much by accident which is dangerous.
It is difficult for me to live a normal, active life on my medication because I am so tired all the time. I cannot do things like clean the house because I am too tired and drowsy. But if I do not take it I become mentally and physically very unwell.
I am very self-destructive when I am unwell. I starve myself, cut myself, make myself sick and abuse laxatives- anything to make myself suffer. I have suicidal thoughts a lot and have tried to commit suicide multiple times. When I am stressed I think about hurting myself a lot and I have scars on my arms from self-harming and a suicide attempt. On bad days I will often make myself sick after a meal, even if I am in a public place. On other days I will overdose on laxatives and make myself very ill with diarrhoea and vomiting. I am a danger to myself during times of stress and difficulty. I need constant support from people around me.
When I am stressed and going through a difficult time I find it very hard to sleep because I cannot stop thinking about negative things. On top of my sedating medication, this makes it even more difficult to get out of bed. I am a very anxious person and I find it impossible to switch off and/ or think about anything that isn’t negative.
I sometimes become hypomanic or manic. These symptoms are brought on by periods of stress and anxiety. When I am hypomanic or manic I am hyperactive (which can be embarrassing for me and annoying for people around me), I can be arrogant, rude, angry and have terrible mood-swings. During these episodes, I can go from manic to depressed very quickly. I can be happy and hyper one moment and then shouting and screaming and wanting to smash things the next. If I become fully manic I skip my medication for days or stop it completely because I want to feel ‘high.’ When I am manic, I stay up all night because I have too much energy to sleep and I feel like I am missing something important if I go to bed. During mania, I often do dangerous and destructive things. In 2014 I was on crutches for six weeks because I climbed a 30ft cliff and fell down. During another episode, I walked the streets with bare feet in the winter and in the rain, singing and at one point climbed up onto a bridge. I have a distorted sense of reality when I am manic and during one episode I thought I could see music. When I am hypomanic or manic I cannot concentrate on anything and everything looks and feels surreal.
I also suffer from very severe depressions. When I am depressed I do not want to go out, I do not want to socialise with anyone, I don’t wash properly or brush my teeth, I struggle to or cannot sleep, I suffer with anorexia, I feel angry and argumentative, I cry all the time, I self-harm and think a lot about suicide. During depressive episodes I have tried to take my own life multiple times and I have been hospitalized twice due to overdoses. My depressive episodes are often after hypomania/ mania but are just as often brought on by stress and anxiety. I have called and seen the Crisis team several times due to depressive and manic episodes, the last time I called them was because I wanted to jump in front of the train. I find it impossible to function normally when I am depressed. I am a danger to myself when I am depressed. I find it very difficult to concentrate on anything when I am depressed and I am easily confused and forgetful.