I'd Like To Start A Conversation About Mentall Illness

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Instead of thinking long and hard about how right or wrong, liberated or squeamish this makes me feel I've decided to document and decipher what's going on inside my head here for the world to stumble across in hope that if this doesn't help me in an attempt of cheap therapy it may help someone make sense of what they're feeling.

A friend and I spoke recently about the irony behind the world constantly preaching 'we need to start talking about mental illness!' but everyone seems to be too afraid to actually start the conversation.

Hello, my name's Charly Cox and I'd like to start a conversation.

Six months ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder.
My first thought?
"I'm crazy, it's official.
So off my head and out of body that pills are going to stabilise me for the rest of my life.
No waking hour can be trusted, no breath safe without science to dilute my blood."
In hindsight, I wince my eyes at my melodramatic reaction.
But it felt like it and sometimes it still does.
Time and time again I wondered what would happen if I just ignored it?
I quite liked the energy that occasionally pervaded me, the adrenaline that spun my head anti clockwise and threw me creative and indestructible.
Like a legal high I'd pulled straight from my own biochemistry.
I'd functioned some really cool things off of it, it allowed me to push extremities with my work.
The bad times were horrific, but everyone's had bad times.
I reasoned with myself for days but truth came when old diaries had reminded me of how awful the depressive episodes were, I may have produced a magazine on a high but I sure as hell brought it down on a low.
It was so easy to forget that drowning flailing feeling, head barely above water screaming for some sort of release, paralysed beyond any kind of physical function.
This was abuse, if anyone else had made me feel this way there would have been consequences, but because I had performed it all upon myself unknowingly, it was shunned.

Initially not even the NHS were interested, it took a £400 private consultation to receive a result.
''It's all in your head, really.''
Where else was it?
I felt myself relay every cliché in the book vehemently at GP's and psychiatrists that wouldn't listen.
Each the same they'd force a somewhat sympathetic smile at this 'precocious hormonal' teenager they'd convinced themselves was just 'a little stressed' and one closed door was met with several more.

I'd walk in with a double side of A4 paper scribbled with symptoms and terrified thoughts begging for answers hysterical, determined to fight the demons that battled with my sense, none of which were recognised, all read half heartedly and pushed to the side.
I felt stupid, I feel stupid.
Just because I was dressed at 8am in the morning, not dribbling, able to articulate what I thought was wrong- each doctor hazed their eyes over me as though I was attention seeking, querying the legitimacy of the feelings I'd proclaim in panic, blind to the late nights I'd sat on train bridges and how often I felt claustrophobic in my own skin, ignorant to the adrenaline that weaved its way in for months at a time and left me sleepless and irritable, yet somewhat unstoppable.
Even when I'd been diagnosed others suggested I'd put words into someone else's mouth.
I was devastated by my diagnosis, I wanted to be normal, I wouldn't have wished it upon anyone- how on earth could they make that sort of gesture?
It pushed and wrecked me constantly, unsure of my own better judgement.
What if I had made it all up?
What if I'd convinced myself I was ill as an excuse?
I hated school and never felt good enough for those around me after I'd left, was this a concrete solution, a hand written note saying:
"Sorry, Charlotte can't attend today because she's not all there. Sorry, Charlotte didn't get an A* in that or isn't a size 8 in that or can't run a mile in under that, because she's not all there."

I didn't know anymore and neither did those around me.
I'd previously become hassle to be friends with, unpredictable and dangerous.
I'd self medicate recklessly, drinking in excess to get to sleep and doing the same before school.
Anxiety so forceful I couldn't make it to college or even turn on my laptop, let alone keep arrangements to see people.
The outside world suddenly posed as a terror stricken universe where people had their shit together and laughed at people like me, they all mocked me, I was sure of it.
It didn't want it to reach that again, I didn't want to lay as a burden and a worry to the few people I'd manage to keep and gain in the time in-between.
I wanted to be a normal regular friend, I wanted to know I could go out for dinner with people and have fun not sit and cry all the time!

But it still fluttered inside of me, this caged moth posing as a butterfly, it was ugly and dark and full of rage, a crazed depression tricking me with moments of beauty and lighthearted spirit, it pushed its wings with polite progression and then rudely once or twice a week it would rear it's brash and belligerent head and remind me of who it really was.
An illness.
It wasn't a romantic metaphor or a piece of poetry in the pipeline, it was a medical condition I was seeking help for.
It was a paradox of complex delicacy that stripped me of my integrity and intelligence.
A psychological flaw that by no means was a reflection of my personality, but my genetical incompetence to keep steady.

Due to the abhorrent relationship between the media and mental illnesses, I had never been educated correctly with what I was dealing with.
Those with Bipolar were dramatised as permanently manic individuals who couldn't feed themselves, or not portrayed at all.
Not once had it been drawn to my attention that so many incredibly articulate, smart and creative human beings who we praise and accolade weekly also suffered with this same disorder.
That despite the ever forceful thrust backwards, this pelting affliction, they still lived their lives by ordinary and extraordinary means.

Amidst my violent fights with anxiety, paranoia, depression and mild mania, I fortunately found people who were willing to throw a punch at all four any time of the day or night I needed.
They guided me to the right people, they held my hand and answered every phone call.
They made me realise I wasn't weird. They made me eat dinner when I'd refuse to eat anything at all.
Without these emotionally intelligent, patient and loving individuals, I would still be suffering in silence. Probably unmedicated, unlikely still alive.
This is where I ask of you to become one of those people.
1 in 5 people suffer with mental illness, if you're not effected, someone you know is.
Hold a hand, make a phone call, invite them for dinner. Anything.
Knowing those that mattered the most didn't think any less of me catapulted me smooth and square onto a healthy road of self and medical help.
This is just the beginning of my journey, but I am armed with friends to help me battle on.
Start a conversation.


  1. Amazingly written, as always. The problem about helping others (I think) is that their suffering often stays unnoticed because they aren't comfortable sharing it. Who would explain how they feel odd? And this is all because mental illness is immediately associated with ''being crazy''. And it shouldn't.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. You're right - people talk about starting the conversation, but they're scared to actually do it for some reason. As someone training to be a professional in the mental health field, I know how frustrating it can be...just from a different perspective. You wee brave to post this, and I hope in helps in the effort to get more people talking. Mental health is just as important as anything else.

  3. I love your posts Charly. I suffer from anxiety and it's not the best thing in the world, especially when you see people around you totally relaxed. I've been suffering from anxiety due to school, but I've always found amazing friends ready to help me whenever I wanted. I think that the best way to fight mental illness is to do everything by yourself, I mean, force yourself to do something and do not let your "illness" overtake your life( but I also think that good friends can make the difference). I have anxiety attacks even when I travel but I tempt to do what I want to in any way. And this helped me quiet a lot. You shouldn't think you're crazy and if you sometimes are, just think that the world is boring and you make it a funnier place and you would feel better.

  4. Incredible piece. You always find just the right way to articulate every feeling. I know for sure that I have friends with mental illness, and when reading things like this & looking at other people's experiences with it as well I do wonder at times if I have one as well. I've always tried to ignore feelings, as I simply don't want to go on the journey to finding out. I feel none will take me seriously if I'm not about to jump off the roof or in need of a straight jacket. Or in need of "that nice lady with the really big needle.." Reading this was fantastic though, there's a poignant honesty in the way you write that's always so refreshing to read.

    x leah symonne x


    1. I couldn't agree more. If I were to write a response, this would be precisely what I'd say. Fantastically honest piece, Charly.

  5. Charly, this is so beautifully written and is such an important matter, and I agree, it definitely needs to be discussed more often. You are so incredibly brave to share this with the world, and I envy you for that. xx


  6. Thank you for writing this.

  7. You are a beautiful person. Thank you x

  8. Such gorgeous words here Charly, it enlightened me on the condition which I hope makes me a better friend to those in need. x

  9. Charly, where do I begin.
    I find it soo ironic that you wrote about this topic today, because just two days ago in my pysch class we were learning about bipolar disorder. I was wildly intrigued after watching videos of people talk about it, when I realized one of the girls in the video was my distant cousin (whom we don't keep too much in contact with). I was in utter shock. I rang my mom quickly after class asking if it was her who has bipolar and she replied with a simple yes. I couldn't believe it, why has no one ever told me? Maybe I would have bridged the gap between of terribly distant friendship (we haven't ever met). After reading (your beautifully written piece) about whats it's like to have bipolar disorder I am deeply sadden to know someone I knew had it and I couldn't do anything about in. I'm a christian and I believe love can cure many things. I believe in loving people as Christ loved us. I think it's absolutely beautiful that you had friends by your side to help you through your journey. I'll be praying for you (and no, I'm not shoving religion down your throat). I just think it's beautiful.
    I already adored your blog and everything you have/had to say. But now I respect you even more for stepping our of your comfort zone and "starting a conversation"
    So thanks Charly, you're pretty awesome.

    Your fan,
    Cheri Roohi

  10. beautifully written charly, more people need to understand the depths of mental and psych disorders. nobody chooses to have one, it's an actual disorder where your brain does not produce or over produces a certain type of chemical. I just learned about these things in psych class and without it i would still be one of those people who turned the other cheek. Thank you for sharing and even for just having the bravery to seek professional help

  11. for anyone looking to learn /understand more about Bipolar Stephen Fry's documentary the Secret life of a manic depressive is a good place to start. Charly have you read An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamieson? I think you'll like it if you haven't - She's a leading psychiatrist who was diagnosed while in med school. She's a facinating & inspirational individual.

  12. Thank you for posting this. This is a huge step to destroying the stigma attached to mental illness. All the best to you, Charly!

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  14. In my life I have had many close friends and relatives suffer with mental illnesses. I have watched them hopelessly try to battle not only the stigma but the internal despair they endure on their own. It can tear a person apart. I have always been very passionate about people seeking help both professionally and from the close people around them. We as a society need more people like you who are willing to talk about it and spread the word that it's not "just in your head". Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. It struck a cord with me and I hope that others will take this message and use it to make a difference in someone's life. It's often the problems that are under the surface that are the hardest to manage. Thank you once again for articulating so beautifully what others struggle to understand.

  15. Words cannot describe how brave and selfless you are, dear.

  16. It's weird how someone can actually harbour similar feelings that I thought I might be the only one who has thought them. I was diagnosed with a Mental Illness about two years ago, and everyone around me takes it as a joke so i've stopped talking about it completely and have just swiped it under the rug. This post really just makes me feel more secure about myself and that i am not the only person in the world that thinks they are "crazy". Thank you so much for finally addressing this issue. I hope more people follow in your footsteps. I know I will be.

    Claudia xx

  17. Thank you for addressing this issue because so many people are afraid to be upfront and honest about mental illness. This is beautifully written. What you described is exactly how I feel most of the time. It's an endless cycle of high and low points in ones life. Everyone has these, right? So there's nothing unusual about them, right? ... But what if instead of the depressing lows eventually fading they kind of just stayed there in the back of your mind? For two years I was in an unhealthy relationship which sparked my need for professional help. I think the biggest issue I've witnessed is that because you can't visibly see the harmful affects of a mental illness like you can with say, a broken arm, it's easier for people to pretend the symptoms of an illness aren't there, which also makes them more challenging to treat. People around me like to say that I use my anxiety and depression as an excuse which only furthers my battle with the illnesses. The world needs more fearless people like you to start this conversation.

    Christina xx


  18. Beautiful piece of writing. I very much appreciate how genuine and real your writing is. Unlike many other blogposts/articles I appreciate your honesty and selflessness. In my opinion, that's what's going to make a difference in the world of mental health. Although my journey is very similar yet also very different from yours, I find much strength in your writing knowing that I am not alone. I appreciate how you and your friends use your publicity to do good in the world. This is another example of how social media is used in a positive way. Please keep it up!

  19. This is the most inspiring, exhilarating, emotionally charged post I have ever read. You are so right. Suffering in silence is not okay. The fact our society is degrading and uncaring of those who suffer from mental illness is not okay. You are so incredibly brave opening up like this and I feel so in awe of your confidence and truthfulness. Feeling alone is something no person should have to feel, especially those who because of a minority, get 'cast out'. I don't personally suffer from a mental illness, but I hope to do everything in my power to join you, and start a conversation.


  20. I've taken a few deep breaths and decided to comment rather than just share because I keep thinking about how you said we do actually need to talk about mental illness, not just talk about talking about it. The specifics rather than the broad sweeping conversation that doesn't really help anyone. I've had an eating disorder for 8 years now and encountered many of the same problems you did when I went seeking help - that strange and sad dismissal from professionals that leaves you feeling crazy and overdramatic and then that really vulnerable conversation that has to be had with psychiatrists and doctors alike where you talk about everything everything everything that has ever happened, all of the embarrassing behaviour, is this part of it? is this normal for people with this illness? And all behind closed doors. Those people who are there for all of us in this are superheroes, and yet not even that, just heroes, just more human than most. I'm lucky to have a few friends like that who also helped me get help.

    Anyway, I know I already said this on twitter but thanks for the fantastic post. It's a testament to how important it is that we're all still thinking about it a few weeks later. x rhr

  21. So well written.
    Feeling very pleased I've found your blog today - at long last, someone like myself opening up about mental illness.
    I've suffered (and am still painfully suffering) from clinical depression and health anxiety, so much so that after 100's (yes 100's) of sessions with doctors, therapists, you name it, I'm finally being accepted for what I am. My doctor simply put it to me as 'having an invisible illness' you can't see it but it's most certainly there.
    Let's hope more blogposts like this will be written.
    Will be returning religiously to your blog from now on.


  22. Charly,
    This is beautifully written. I am ecstatic that you touched upon the romanticization of mental illness, because so many people treat it as something that makes a person special and gorgeous. Though the people who struggle with mental illness are gorgeous, special, unique, and amazing- it isn't something that should be treated as such. It is an utter struggle to go through day to day life living with a mental illness, and I am so proud of you for standing up for that. I have also struggled with mental illness, and so many people have acted like it was a way for me to seek the attention I craved, it wasn't, and the people treating me like I wasn't telling the truth about my internal struggle made me second guess everything else about myself. This is one of my favorite posts of yours, and I am completely in love with your blog. xoxo, e.m.

  23. This might be one of the most honest, profound and huntingly beautiful pieces I've ever read.
    Well, I don't even know how to start but I'm just gonna take a deep breath and just go for it. I think I have Bipolar Disorder as well and to be honest I'm scared. Not scared of the others judgements but mine. I always wanted to be anticonformist, different, but as soon as I realised that I may be different, for real, at that moment, all I wanted was to be normal. Seeing people stepping out of their confort zone like you did with such confidence can be anything but impressive and inspirational. After reading your post and some of the comments, I'm feeling better about myself and less scared of what my test will reveal tomorrow. I am kind of lost, I don't really know how I am supposed to feel. Am I supposed to feel scared, indifferent, sceptic, or just accept it. I have no idea I just know that my mind is some sort of a blizzard right now and that fear is some sort of taking control of my mind and thoughts.

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