A friendship that made me forget my worth

A friendship that made me forget my worth

I haven’t really blogged that much recently because I didn’t want it to be like my old blog, where I felt forced to write all of the time because it was what I was doing for a living.

With this blog, I just want to be able to write when I feel able to so that it doesn’t become tedious. But recently something happened that I feel I need to write not just for myself but for anyone going through a similar situation.

Last night, I had to step back and re-evaluate my worth. It may sound silly, but there was a sudden moment when I realised that I wasn’t happy with the way I was being treated by someone very close to me.

I realised that the person I was close to, I wasn’t close to for the right reasons. Our friendship was very one-sided, and to tell you the truth I was getting nothing out of it. I don’t want to go too into detail because I’d like to respect this person, but I feel this is something important I’d like to write about for myself.

I was in a friendship with someone for two years. We had a great time together, we were always very close and we could go months without talking and then pick things up again like we’d never been apart. There was only one problem. I was contributing most things to the friendship.

They gave me their time, their positivity and their entertainment – and in return, I funded it.

Now, a friendship should work equally. You should both be able to enjoy your time together without one person falling shorter than the other. But that wasn’t the case. I was often left with a hefty dent in my bank account from consistently footing the bill for this person. And at first I accepted it, after all my money was going towards memories with this person, and I was having fun – but it wasn’t so fun afterwards when I had to be a lot stricter over necessities, simply because I was never just paying for me, it was always for the both of us.

I excused it for so long, telling myself ‘it’s just what friends do’, but recently I realised that’s just not the case. Because it wasn’t just the aspect of paying for things. I read back through my messages and realised that every time we’d met up, we’d make plans only to be told just before they had no money. Most people, surely, would let a person know before making plans – but this person did it because they simply expected me to accept it, and continue with the plans despite them being unable to contribute to them themselves. As a one-off, this is fine. But as a regular occurrence? It’s not okay.

If I wasn’t able to pay for it, we wouldn’t hang out. And for most people that would be fine, but because I’d become so used to funding our time together I started feeling obligated to do so and would actually feel guilty about not being able to do something because I didn’t want to foot the bill.

It was like the friendship wasn’t free – I either bought it or I was left with nothing.

I’ll admit it, much of it was my own fault. I could’ve said no on so many occasions but as I mentioned above, it felt obligatory – as though we’d have no friendship if I didn’t just suck it up.

And for me, that was a big deal. As someone who’s chronically ill, I don’t get to go out much. I only see a few close friends because going out more publicly and meeting new people makes me nervous because I am constantly worrying about my stomach. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that immediately, before any plans commence, I will ensure we are close to home so that I can come back if needs be. That they’ll remind me to take my medication. That they’ll be there if I begin to feel poorly so I’m not left alone.

And that makes you feel like a burden.

So, to have someone around me who I could enjoy my time with, and felt 100% comfortable with, was a pretty big deal – even if it was taking a chunk out of my bank account.

But a recent occurrence showed that I couldn’t go on like that. I won’t go into detail but the gist of it is that I put a lot of effort into this person to get them through a bad couple of days, putting them first and leaving me having to take a chunk out of my savings.

Two weeks after I’d done so, and I hadn’t heard from this person. Not a peep. Not even a message of thanks.

And last night, I decided enough’s enough. Why should I constantly put effort into a friendship with someone who refuses to put effort in with me? Why should I feel it’s okay for someone to take and take and take from me when I’m getting nothing in return? It’s not an equal friendship. It’s relationship of power – one where I never had the upper-hand. And friendship shouldn’t be about that. You should never feel obligated to do things just to keep a friendship going. It should’t be one-sided. It should be a mutual agreement of respect and understanding – and you should never, ever feel taken advantage of by someone who is meant to be promising that.

As I mentioned above, I was naive, and I only wish I’d taken a step back to evaluate the situation sooner so I didn’t have to learn such an expensive lesson, but alas, here we are.

Of course, these feelings within a friendship won’t always occur for financial reasons – but they send the same message. If someone is repeatedly taking you for granted to the point you expect nothing less and come to expect it, put an end to it. Don’t be that person, like me, feeling guilty because you don’t want to give something to the friendship that your ‘friend’ isn’t giving you in return.

Take some time to evaluate your own feelings and ask yourself whether it’s worth it. Whether the friendship is worth it or whether that friendship will only last depending when you finally decide enough is enough.

Know when enough is enough.

Know your worth.

I only wish I’d known sooner.

Why people are so afraid to speak out about their mental health

Why people are so afraid to speak out about their mental health

Lots of people care about mental illness, I know that.

But it’s a sad truth that many of these people either suffer with mental illness themselves or care about someone who does.

Because really, if something doesn’t affect you or the people around you, you don’t understand it – and therefore you find it hard to empathise with.

But it’s not empathy people with mental health issues are looking for – it’s respect and understanding, which is completely lacking because of people who refuse to want to take time out of their day to believe that people can struggle mentally.

The issue is that so many people with mental illness are afraid to speak out because they’re worried they’ll face judgement. They worry that they won’t be believed or that they’ll have to attempt to justify their feelings just so that they’re acknowledged.

While it’s so easy to tell someone to ‘speak out’, seeing someone actually speaking out can be a whole other story.

Take Sinead O’Connor, for example. In a recent viral video, she sat in an empty motel room crying for help, screaming out for her family to look at how lost she was, struggling so badly that she’d even contemplated taking her own life.

Immediately, people commented on the video telling Sinead how wonderful she was and how they wanted to help – but alongside the copious amount of postitive messages lay the few comments from people who make those people struggling with mental illness afraid to speak out.

‘What have you got to cry about, you’re rich?’ seemed to be a common theme amongst the negative comments.

Apparently, people don’t quite understand that mental illness doesn’t only apply to those who may not be as financially stable.

People don’t choose mental illness, mental illness chooses you – rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.

But because of the common misunderstanding, people are actually afraid to talk about their illness because if they’re not homeless, living a bad home life or look okay from the outside, they should have ‘nothing to cry about’.

The funniest thing of all is that the world is full of a bunch of hypocrites.

If you go through your social media, most people are too busy posting selfies of themselves or tagging their friends in memes to step back and talk about mental health.

The odd post you do see about mental illness is often ignored, with people assuming that person must be ‘seeking attention’ to have posted it online for all to see. Yep, we assume they’re ‘seeking attention’ instead of ‘crying for help’.

But it’s a whole different story when someone actually takes their own life.

Take Chester Bennington for instance. He devastatingly took his own life and instantly people took to social media to share suicide hotline after suicide hotline.

While this was great and hopefully helped some people, I couldn’t help but ask why it took someone actually ending their own life to want to help.

Why had it taken something so extreme for people to want to do something about it?

Why don’t we realise how serious mental health is until it’s too late?

Most importantly: Why is it that it takes something visual to make people realise how dangerous mental health can be?

And this, this is exactly why people are too scared to speak out. Because they’re afraid of what people will say. Because they’re afraid that because people can’t see it, people won’t believe you’re sick.

Because they’re afraid that instead of receiving help, they’ll be mocked or judged.

Because people don’t realise. People don’t realise how badly mental illness can affect you.

How lonely it can make you feel. How empty you can become inside and ultimately how easy it is to lose yourself to feelings of nothing but negativity.

People don’t realise, because they don’t want to take the time to understand – even though understanding could make those living with mental illness so much more at ease in terms of seeking help from those around them.

Because, the bottom line is, the people who don’t want to understand would rather assume.

Because, sadly, it’s easier that way.

How I ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

How I ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

I’m much more open when it comes to writing about inflammatory bowel disease and living with a stoma than I am about my mental health.

I think this is namely because my stoma was something you could see, and my mental health is something you cannot – and therefore I felt more comfortable speaking out about it. As it was there, it was on my body. Nobody could say I was lying about what had happened (though I hope nobody would think like that anyway).

But with my mental health, it’s different. You have to take my word for it. And with the amount of stigma already attached to the likes of mental health, it feels very difficult to open up about it.

However, in this post, I’m going to do so. I started this blog to highlight both the effects of IBD and mental health and living with both – and so I wouldn’t really be sticking to my aim if I didn’t write about both.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 a-year-and-a-half ago. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that consists of both manic episodes and depressive episodes – and type 1 means that I have more of the former than the latter.

It wasn’t an easy diagnosis and it was one that took a while to be given to me.

My moods had always been erratic. I’d always been easily annoyed and confrontational. But as I reached my late teens, my temper worsened. I’d become angry by the slightest thing which would lead me to having complete meltdowns, crying and screaming.

But then after that meltdown, it was like a switch – I’d often have no memory of getting so distraught, imagining it in my head as if I’d only got a little upset.

After my stoma surgery in 2015, things worsened. I’m not sure if it was the traumatic experience of the surgery and hospital stay that led my moods to worsen, but I’ve never been as bad as I was then.

Me and my partner were in a bad place. A really bad place, in fact. He couldn’t do anything without me becoming angry and aggressive. We would fight and fight and fight until I was left screaming the place down.

But one night things got really bad. I had started an argument out of nowhere – I can’t even remember what the argument was about now – and I was a mess. I was crying, screaming and shouting. I was incredibly aggressive and my partner just couldn’t calm me down no matter what he tried.

I ended up putting myself in the bath tub, screaming until I went lightheaded and slashing my wrists. It sounds extreme, and it was. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.

After hurting myself, the pain took all of my focus and eventually I calmed down and I was put to bed.

But the next morning my mum came round unexpectedly. My partner had called her at 1am the night before, feeling helpless.

She told me she was taking me to the doctors, no ifs or buts.

I went to see a GP, and he referred me to a psychiatrist. As my mother also has bipolar disorder, it was easier for me to be referred as the disorder is hereditary. Therefore there was no second-guessing what was going on with me.

Four days later, after an urgent referral, I saw the psychiatrist. He asked me a series of questions about my moods, my life and my relationships. He asked me how I dealt with certain situations and about my emotional capacity.

However, he said it’d take a few sessions to actually diagnose me. He wanted to get to know my moods better first.

At first, he guessed I could be living with borderline personality disorder – a personality disorder in which sees you changing moods dramatically.

But a few sessions later and he’d changed his mind.

You see, my meltdown to you will probably sound like a depressive episode. But it wasn’t. Symptoms of mania don’t necessarily mean you feel elated and high as a kite.

It can also make you erratic, angry and irritated – which can lead to meltdowns such as mine.

Of course, I have experienced other symptoms of mania – which is what led me to my actual diagnosis.

There have been times where I have spent thousands of pounds in a few weeks, on things I didn’t even need.

I’ve gone to get one tattoo after another without even thinking about what I’m putting on my skin in the space of a few weeks (luckily I love all my tattoos, though).

I make snap decisions without thinking of the consequences and I often regret my choices after I become ‘stable’.

All of these things are symptoms of mania that I have lived with on and off for the past 18 months.

While I do have depressive episodes, I don’t have them as much as the manic ones. My depressive episodes can be just as severe, though.

I isolate myself, I stop looking after myself and there have been times where I have questioned taking my own life. But I know that’s the disorder talking and not me, luckily.

Being officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder was scary, but it was also a relief. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t crazy – that I was just ill. I was poorly and I needed help. I needed support and someone to understand, and my psychiatrist did just that.

Since my diagnosis, I have been trialled on various medications. Some good, some bad. One of the worst having made me gain a stone and a half in weight and giving me a chin full of acne. But it was worth it to make me feel better.

Currently, I take five different medications every night including mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and sleeping pills, as I often suffer with nightmares and lack of sleep during a manic episode.

While some people don’t agree with medication, I can hand on heart say it’s been my life saver. I am currently the most stable I’ve been in a long time and I owe it all to that medication.

After months and months of despair and horrifically intense emotions, I’m able to think clearly and acknowledge situations before putting myself in them. And that to me is everything.

I’m now a very calm person and I don’t actually remember the last time I had a melt down – which is something I’d previously never thought I’d ever be able to say.

I am also very lucky to have such supportive family, friends and a loving partner who has stuck by me through everything, which I’m sure has helped in leading me to my stability now.

Of course, there has been a lot more to my diagnosis than rock bottom and stability – there is the matter of severe manic episodes, medication reviews and a depressive episode that led me to A&E and being seen by a Crisis team.

But I’m going to save all of that for future articles, when I find the courage to write them.

Why I’ve decided to start blogging again

Why I’ve decided to start blogging again

At the end of 2015, I bid farewell to my old blog, morethanyourbag.com. 

If you’re not familiar with it, I spent the best part of a year documenting my time living with an ileostomy bag after undergoing emergency surgery for a stoma after unknowingly suffering with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

In October 2015, I opted to have the stoma reversed, which meant my small intestine would be stitched back to my rectum to allow me to go to the toilet ‘normally’ again.

Of course, I was excited. I thought it’d be a clean slate for me and that I’d be able to get on with my life and forget the surgeries had even happened. I even finished up my blog in the process, deciding that I’d no longer have anything to write about.

But I was so, so wrong.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to set up a new blog. I’m not sure if it was out of fear or just because I didn’t know how to put everything into words, but I’m hoping that writing about things once again will prove to be both helpful and therapeutic.

It’s been nearly two years since I had my reversal surgery, though it only feels like months ago.

Sadly, things didn’t go to plan from the get-go.

Prior to the operation, I had been told it’d last an hour and I’d be out of the hospital within three days. The operation ended up being three hours long as they had to re-cut down my original scar and through the stomach muscles, and I was in hospital for two weeks, incredibly ill.

I went back to work within 6 weeks of being out of hospital, and while at first things seemed fine, my health quickly deteriorated. I couldn’t get through a day without having excruciating stomach cramps until I’d reach a point of collapsing.

This was not helped by my need to use the toilet up to ten times a day – despite previously being told I could expect to use it around three times a day.

Alongside the cramps and the toiletry needs – which still go on two years later – I still experience other nasty symptoms that leave me feeling generally rubbish.

So basically, long story short (which I will be going on to talk about in future posts), my reversal hasn’t been very promising. And it’s been a real struggle to deal with, in all honesty.

Currently, I work from home, as I am waiting to see specialists at a new hospital for a full investigation into what is going on with my reversal – and why things still aren’t as they should be.

I am very lucky to have amazing employers who have been incredibly supportive of me and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. However, I can’t pretend that it’s not hard.

I’m happy to work from home but I find it so very isolating and lonely. I watch as my colleagues and friends venture out into the world, working in luxurious places and travelling, and I’m constantly stuck in my bedroom.

I know I can’t moan too much, but I feel my life would be so different if I’d never suffered with IBD.

But, as mentioned on my ‘about me’ page, I will be writing about more than IBD on this blog – focusing on other invisible illnesses I live with – including bipolar disorder.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1, a type of mood disorder, around a-year-and-a-half ago. Type 1 means I have more ‘manic’ episodes than depressive – though each are as severe when I’m in either or.

Living with both IBD and bipolar disorder has been very hard because I find they can often counteract each other. You can feel good physically but awful mentally, and vice versa.

And in all honesty, there have been times where the bipolar episodes have made me feel worse than I ever have physically.

But with the right medication, I cope – and I’d really like to use this blog to venture further into each diagnosis, how I live with them and the repercussions that come alongside, in hopes that it helps other people going through similar things.

The name for this blog, ‘But you look great’, is inspired by comments frequently heard by people with invisible illness – usually coming from others who don’t quite understand that you don’t need to look bad on the outside to feel it on the inside.

Comments such are these show that so much more awareness for invisible illnesses – be that physical or mental – is needed.

For future posts, I will be talking about life with mental illness, mental breakdowns, self-harm, mental health medication and seeing mental health professionals – including the Crisis team – to highlight what it can be like to live with bipolar disorder.

I’ll also be talking more on my progress with my reversal, problems using public toilets, body confidence, all things poo-and-taboo, hospital trips and how the medical team intend to put me on the mend.