Talk and Cheese, my battle with Mental Health

Battling Mental Health can be one of the scariest things for any individual to go through, I had the chance to talk to a blogger called Talk and Cheese who agreed to share her journey with us and show how things can change.

Mental Health is still a big issue and we are seeming to see it everywhere at the moment that sadly people are turning to the wrong things without opening up and letting people know that they are suffering so they can get the help they need and deserve as human beings.

I asked Talk and Cheese a few questions about her life and her battle with Mental Health and how it affected her professional and personal lifestyle.

So please take some time to read the story from this brave individual.

 Please can you tell us a little about yourself

I’m 43 years old and live with bipolar 2.

I was a TV presenter for over twenty years, presenting mainly news and football. I retired last May so that I can look after the two boys in my life, namely my precious 5-year-old son, MK, and my wonderful, supportive and understanding boyfriend, who I refer to in my blogs as Handsome Doc. He’s ok with that title as you can probably imagine!

I also spend a lot of time writing. I blog about my journey with bipolar, and am also in the process of writing a book which is potentially very exciting.
 When did you first realise you may have Mental Health issues?

I always knew I had some form of mental illness. Right from when I was a little girl. My brain was in turmoil for much of the time. 

I swung from being horribly flat and lost, to being deliriously happy and uncontrollably high.

I was far more anxious than a little girl should be, and convinced myself that my parents regretted having me, and even that I was adopted. I’m not, and they didn’t. 

When I was high, everyone just put it down to the fact that I had a big personality (although the true me was actually really shy and insecure), but on reflection, we all now recognise that there was more to it than that.

At my lowest point, I came very close to ending it all, as I explain in this blog.
Stepping out of the sea
Stepping out of the sea

 How did you go about getting help and did they diagnose you with ease?

At the age of 19 I had a complete breakdown, so went to see my GP. She was very nice, and I believe tried her best given the information that was available about mental health back then, but in fact, the big box of Prozac and suggestion that I take up a sport really didn’t cut it. 

I battled on with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety for years, but at the age of 29, was referred to a private mental hospital where I remained for six weeks. Not only did it drain my parents of all their savings (I carry enormous guilt over that), but it actually had limited impact on mental well-being. 

Again, I was being treated for depression and anxiety. I knew this wasn’t right, but believed that there was nothing more I, or they, could do. 

In 2007 I moved to London having been invited to present a fairly high-profile sports programme, and things deteriorated fast at that point. 

I had still been on antidepressants on and off over the years, and had received hours and hours of therapy, but the depressive episodes were lasting for longer, and I was out of control with what I now know to have been hypomania. I made bad decisions with men and I drunk to excess, to the point where my therapist at the time advised me to go to AA. I did go a few times but was in such denial that I stopped turning up for meetings, and carried on drinking.

I’m afraid to say, I was also doing coke. 

It was around this time that I was once again referred to the private mental hospital, this time in London. I was referred due to my mood, not for my alcohol or drug abuse.

It was only at that point, aged 35, that I received an accurate diagnosis of bipolar 2. 

Incredibly, stats show that on average it takes ten and a half years to receive a correct diagnosis of bipolar in the UK, and that before that point, sufferers will receive an average of three and a half misdiagnosis. A pretty sad state of affairs, considering how devastating an illness it is to live with, particularly when it goes untreated. 

I’m now on a fairly hefty combination of drugs (40mg Citalopram, 250mg Lamotrogine and 5mg Aripriprazole), some of which have some horrible side effects.

All that said,  I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. Now that we’ve found the combination of drugs that work for me, and after having been through years of therapy,  interventions, I am more able to manage my illness than ever before.
Today is a good day
Today is a good day
 How does Mental Health affect your day-to-day living?
There’s never a day goes by when I’m not battling with my emotions in some way, but due to my treatment, the battle is far less than it once was. I still get depressive lows which affect the way I am with little MK, and of course Handsome Doc. I have to raise my game for the sake of my son, but it’s utterly exhausting. He’s my priority though, so somehow, and I don’t know where it comes from, I manage to function with him. In periods of hypomania I show signs of mild OCD. I am invincible during these episodes. I find jobs that don’t really exist, I make endless lists and race through the entire thing before starting all over again, I talk (really fast and excitedly) to everyone who comes within ten metres of me, I call everyone I know and barely sleep at all, and I find myself pacing the house until I’ve thought up another job to do. At times I’ve missed a couple of night’s sleep altogether, and still been frighteningly full of energy throughout these hundred hour marathons. Following a high there is always a low, when I grieve the end of the high and sink into that black hole. I try to fight what I refer to as the gremlin in my head, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength. I sleep all day until the school pickup run, cry a lot and feel an agonising sadness.

 

The gremlin within

Gremlin within
Gremlin within
 What made you go into blogging?
I only decided to start blogging a couple of months ago, and the reason I started is that I felt I’d reached a point in my journey, and experienced such a lot along the way, that in sharing, I may be able to offer some level of comfort and support for others battling souls. I’ve actually found it to be cathartic too, but that is just a happy bi-product of the principal aim.
 When the day is hard how do you unwind and let go?

I don’t to be honest. I barely sit down, I have the concentration of a nat, and my mind is always thinking. Actually, I now use blogging as a means of winding down and letting go, but I guess that’s still a form of work, so I’m not sure if that counts!

 If your friends and family could describe what do you think they would say?
This is a  hard one. I know what they would say as they’ve said various things often, but it’s difficult to say positive things about yourself! OK, bear in mind these are not my adjectives, they are those of my friends and family!
Kind, a huge heart, loyal, brave, funny, beautiful, sensitive, a great mummy and strong. When they say strong, they refer to the way in which I battle with bipolar in order to try to lead a meaningful life, and to be the best mummy I can be.

 

 How do you feel your Mental Health is going at the moment?
It’s ok, but it’s all relative I guess. I barely drink at all and never take drugs (other than my bipolar meds. Obvs.)
I tend to suffer more from depression than hypomania, but for some reason or another, the latter has taken the lead over the past few months. I still feel it’s manageable and have no plans to seek professional help at the moment. My meds and past experiences see me through for now. There’s no denying it’s a tough fight to win though, and that the gremlin does his best to manipulate me. I’ve got a 100% success rate of beating him in the end though, and I intend to keep that up.

 

 Are you part of any Mental Health groups?

No I’m not.

 If you could give anyone in your situation or similar some advice what would it be?
To take baby steps in working towards something resembling recovery. Unfortunately bipolar it isn’t curable, but I truly believe that with the right meds and support, it is possible to have a meaningful life, albeit that it may need to be shaped around your state of mind at the time. To be selective over the company you keep. With an illness such as this, you need true and loyal friends around you, and must weed out any negative influences. Mental illness makes us vulnerable, and you must seek to be around the right people who will be there for you in times of need. And, who are willing to try to understand a bit about what you are going through. And finally, although I’m not a medical professional, not am I the oracle in mental health, I want so dearly to offer whatever love and support I can to others, be it that they have just been diagnosed and are completely overwhelmed, or that they just need to offload to someone who gets it!

Finally please can you tell me something you like about yourself

 I like my arms as I used to have two very feisty thoroughbred horses so built up strong, toned arms! Plus I like my heart, strange as that may seem. I like the way it makes me treat other people.
Thank you very much to Talk and cheese for opening up and sharing with me about her Mental health journey, I hope your words and story help someone reading this.
I wish you all the best in the future with everything you do.
If you would like to read more of Talk and Cheese’s post then head over to her blog page and show some support.
Daddy Giraffe x

 

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