H is for Hypomania

This post is originally from The Pandora Box Gift Company, the gift giving service with a focus on mental wellbeing.

  Cyclothymia, like bipolar, has both the “ups” and the “downs”. The only difference being that the “ups” are less severe than those of someone with bipolar. So, instead of mania you suffer from hypomania. When a hypomanic state takes hold they can leave the person in a reckless and sometimes dangerous state of mind. Every action is without consequence and a strong belief that everything you’re doing is right for you, and everyone else, takes hold. Since being on quetiapine, I have reduced the rate of hypomanic episodes to pretty much zero.

  Even though I know that it’s good to reduce the number of hypomanic episodes, I’m sat here missing them. Every now and again I wish that I could just reach the edge of hypomania. The stage where I’m just starting to enter it but not too far gone for it to be self destructive. The stage where I feel like I’m 100% there. Everything I do and say is great. Work is done in a split second. The energy only ever runs out when I take nightly medication. I miss the feeling of being the best that I can be.

  It’s particularly tempting when I find my mood moving towards the low side of things. At the times when I’m anxious or socialising is difficult I think back to the times that I felt like I really shined. I miss the creativity when writing blogposts or deciding where to go with my business. If I focus on it for too long, I feel like I’m only a shadow of the person I could be.

  It hurts and it can be confusing as it makes me wonder which of these is my true personality? Am I meant to be the social butterfly that gets everything done or am I meant to be this timid anxious person that just gets on with things quietly. That’s the crux of the illness really. You’ve been given something that knocks you down but can lift you up higher than you thought possible. You get a taste of feeling so good and yet to succumb to it is only detrimental in the end.

See our range of gift boxes here: The Pandora Box Gift Company. 

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F is for Forgiveness

This post is originally from the A-Z mental health series by The Pandora Box Gift Company 

Everyone makes mistakes, does something they regret or simply gets in a mood from time to time. If we have a healthy approach to life and ourselves, we can accept that these things happen, forgive ourselves and move on. When our mental health is poor, we stop forgiving. We turn into our own worst critics and thoughts and feelings can make us turn against ourselves. We don’t give ourselves the level of care or compassion that we need, lose patience and don’t give the time we need to allow ourselves to heal. When this happens, all of our energy is used up trying to process unwanted and unhelpful thoughts, leaving us tired and unmotivated. We turn into our own worst enemy all because we can’t forgive!

Learning to forgive yourself is a slow and hard process and only really works when it becomes habit. A good way to get into the habit is by writing down something that you will forgive yourself for everyday. This way you will get used to addressing what you need to forgive and why you need to forgive yourself for it.

  1. Start by writing down one thing every day that you need to forgive yourself for.

    This can be anything from “I didn’t do the washing up today” to “I cancelled plans to see my friend today”.

  2. Write down the reason behind the action. Work out the route cause of the action you want to forgive yourself for. Sometimes this can help you find patterns to certain actions or find the base reasons to why you can’t forgive yourself. Be truthful with this step.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside.

  1. Write down why this action happened. This shouldn’t be anything negative or emotive. This should look at the rationale behind the action and help you realise that some things are going to happen because of your mental health and that they are unavoidable. What’s the point of punishing yourself for something that’s going to happen every now and again.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety.

  1. Write I forgive myself.

    Each day you write this it will further instil itself and eventually you’ll believe it!

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me. I forgive myself.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety. I forgive myself.

The list helps you realise the different ways poor mental health effects your life and how it isn’t your fault. After a while you will see that the small things you’ve been punishing yourself for a a direct result of an illness that clouds your judgement. In the end you will get into a habit of forgiving yourself and will find yourself stronger and more able to take on whatever your mental health throws at you. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Further steps:

If you feel strong enough, a great thing to do is to add a step that addresses what you will do next time this situation comes up to help you achieve your intentions. I find that if I have a an idea written down, I am more likely to do it than if I just think about it.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me. I forgive myself. Next time I will look out for indications that I am getting tired and try and do as much of the washing up as possible.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety. I forgive myself.

    Next time I will realise that I am meeting a friend and everything will be fine. The only reason I won’t go out is due to physical health problems or a really bad day mentally.

The day I started a company.

Earlier this year, I was sitting in my room, staring at my laptop fixating on things that might help me get out of this horrible depressive episode I had once again found myself in. I was constantly refreshing websites every few seconds, trying to find anything new that might distract myself as much as possible. When that got boring I’d move on to emails, the odd funny cat picture and then back to refreshing. It was one of those endless loops I’d usually find myself in. Trying to break this cycle, I tried searching for something I could buy myself that might make me feel better. A gift that was focused on me and my mental health. One that said “I know Lisa, it sucks right now, but here, have this. And see if it makes you feel any better.” The only problem was, when I typed in “mental health” and “gift boxes” in the same search, there weren’t very many results.

It was at that point that I decided to start my own company. I don’t know whether it was a brief stint of hypomania after the depression, or whether I was just annoyed that I didn’t have chocolate in the house, but I came up with the idea of packaging and selling gift boxes for people with poor mental health. Gift boxes that would try and provide some comfort when you’re not feeling great.

I spent the next six months putting together items that I thought people would like to receive and trying to build what would hopefully be a business that would help people. Then on the 25th of September I launched The Pandora Box Gift Company, the gift giving service with a focus on mental wellbeing.

www.thepandoraboxgiftcompany.com

The website has a range of items that have been put together with the simple idea that they will hopefully lift the mood of whoever receives them. Each of the gift boxes has been designed with a range of different products to help someone’s mood, all based on how I try and help myself when I’m feeling low.

The first is the Bath Set Gift Box. This box focuses on taking some time for yourself, relaxing and helping yourself to calm down, leading to a calmer, more settled mind. I can definitely vouch for the amazing effect a simple scented bath can have on your mood.

bath set full

The second is the Treat Set Gift Box. Packed full of chocolate, biscuits, bars and tea bags, these are all items that I find comforting when I need a little pick me up. Not only does it act as a treat, but it ensures that whoever receives it has access to some food. I usually find my willingness to get food for myself or cook goes right out the window when my mood drops.

food full set

The third is the Puzzle Set Gift Box. I find that when I do a simple task such as reading, drawing or completing a puzzle, I can distract my mind for a little bit and help calm myself down or distract myself from the thoughts that are effecting my mood. I’ve added a colouring book, a crosswords puzzle, a 3D wooden puzzle and a pack of playing cards to cover a multitude of activities that someone may want to do.

puzzle set full

The last gift box is the Combo Set Gift Box. This has all the contents of both the Bath Set and Treat set in one, giving someone the option to rest and relax and then treat themselves afterwards.

combo full set

All gift boxes come with a small information card that has important numbers and contacts for mental health services and information of what to do in a non-urgent and urgent mental health situation.

If anyone is actually out there, and still reads this blog, I hope you like the website and the idea. I really want this to be something that will help people around the country and give them a little mood boost when they need it.

To follow what we’re doing, please Like the official facebook page www.facebook.com/thepandoraboxgiftcompany

The up’s and the down’s

 Here I am. Sitting in my room on a Friday night trying to write another post for my blog but seem to have writers block after only writing two pieces. The energetic creative streak has gone. That confident voice inside my head that assured me people will actually want to read about what I have to say has disappeared. The anxiety that I’m writing about things that are way too personal and shouldn’t be aired in public has hit me hard. The hypomanic stage is over and it seems I’m on a downer.

  The changes in my mood still surprise me. Even with the medication and the awareness of what’s happening, there are no obvious warning signs or triggers, at least not to my knowledge. It’s all a guessing game. I never realise I’m hypomanic until it has worn off and I’ve calmed down. The depression can either creep up on me slowly or just suddenly be there, whether I like it or not. (trust me, the answer is always not.) There’s no organisation! Might be why I’m so unorganised in real life. The fact that the changes happen so quickly is the worst part. I go from thinking I’m pretty much the best thing to walk the earth one day to wondering why nobody likes me the next. Sounds crazy? Well, that’s because it is.

  I have to admit, I do enjoy the hypomanic stages. It’s better than any drug I’ve ever been on. The feeling of self-worth is amazing. My confidence is through the roof. I can’t do wrong. I automatically look and feel better. Unfortunately, it does come with its down sides. Turns out you can have too much of a good thing. The money that I’ve been trying to save is spent on the next exciting social activity or the new clothes that I have to have because I look amazing in them. Any man around me is instantly a potential person I can sleep with. Alcohol and drug intakes go through the roof. My impulse control seems to disappear. I’m out for instant gratification and I don’t care where or who I get it from. It sounds exciting and fun, and at the time it is, but when that feeling wears off I feel cheap and feel like I’ve somehow betrayed myself. All those times I’ve tried to save up for something and have to start all over again. The amount of friendships with guys that I’ve ruined. It’s a horrible feeling when you feel like you’ve lost yourself.

  Then you’ve got the downers. At best I just feel a bit rubbish. I’m not the most entertaining person to talk to and I probably come off as quite boring or just really tired (the most popular excuse of all time.) My anxiety increases and all the irrational thoughts flood into my head. I become quite needy and fixate on a person to get attention from. At its worst, I’m in bed all day and don’t move. I’m happier when I’m asleep so why bother waking up and facing the real world?  Day to day tasks seem to take a ridiculous amount of effort. Trying to have a shower whilst depressed takes the same effort as walking 100km (trust me, I’ve done both.) Eastenders is actually comforting to watch.

  I guess the only thing to do now is look out for the patterns or triggers that I might be missing. Have a plan of action for when each mood strikes and try  to make the most of it and just go with the flow. Oh, and blog about something interesting. Maybe.  

An introduction

   It’s always the deeply personal subjects that most of us are too afraid to talk about, which is a shame because once you put it out there I guarantee you’ll find people who are going through the exact same thing. If not, you’ll just end up teaching someone about your situation meaning they’re no longer ignorant to it. Result! So when it came to my newly diagnosed mental health issue, I wanted everyone to know. Not in a weird way where I’m grabbing people off the street, forcing them to listen and then making them answer a quiz about it at the end, I just  wouldn’t be afraid to drop it into conversation. But when it came down to it, I found myself missing out some of the harsh, upsetting, or just plain outrageous, details. At the end of the day, they still got some understanding but without those little chunks of info that I kept missing out, they’d never fully get it. That is when I decided to write a blog. A blog where I can just write about all the different aspects of my life which have been effected by my mental health. I’ve actually “decided” to write this about 4 times now…. Here goes nothing!

  For the past six years, I had always found myself switching from extremely low moods to extremely high, sometimes in the space of just an hour. When I was at school I had the excuse of being a teenager and having to deal with the stress of school work. At university, I had the excuse of being in a new environment, having lots of things happen around me and of course, uni work. But when I finished university and had a brief spell of unemployment, I ran out of excuses. In a week where I would do nothing at all, my mood would fluctuate rapidly. It scared me. I would be so low that I couldn’t get out of bed and then suddenly so high, all I wanted to do was go out, drink loads and find as many guys as I could to sleep with. Finally, in October, I couldn’t take it anymore. I sat in my room feeling the worst I have ever felt in my life and surrounded myself with paracetamol pills in the vain hope that, if I took them, I would get a break. I wouldn’t say I necessarily wanted to kill myself but I did want to be hospitalised. Taken away from real life and given the freedom to be considered too ill to function normally. Thankfully, I was stopped. My secret was now out there. I couldn’t hide these mood swings from anyone anymore. That is when I finally got some help.  

  7 months later and I’m writing this. I’m on 75mg of Quetiapine a day, with a diagnosis of Cyclothymia. The drugs haven’t completely stopped the mood swings (In fact I’ve just come down after a week of hypomania) but they do help take the edge off of them. They give me a slightly clearer head so I can identify when my mood is changing and think of ways to help improve the situation. I will be starting CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) soon with the aim to be weaned off the drugs when the time is right. This could take up to a year to happen which is annoying but nothing is an instant fix when it comes to mental health. I’m also using the internet to try and help keep a visual graph of my mood that I can refer to, www.moodscope.com, and a safe space where I can talk to others in a similar situation, www.elefriends.org.uk. (check it out if you feel like you need somewhere to talk!)

  Well, there you go! A little introduction for you. I have no idea how often I’ll be blogging so I guess all I can say is watch this space and thanks for reading. For anyone that wants more information on Cyclothymia or other mental health issues, here’s the Mind website: http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z