After sharing her relatable poems in the previous blog, Angela McCrimmon gives us an insight into her deeply personal story, which we are so grateful she is willing to share alongside her tools for wellness with Bipolar Type II.
Angela is a writer who published a book ‘Can You Hear Me Now?’ about her journey through the mental health system. Her experience, though bleak and hopeless at times, has encouraged her incredible empathy for others.
Read Angela’s previous blog ‘How to tell people you like being alone’ here.
I was the epitome of a paradox. A social butterfly or an agonising recluse. 100mph or in reverse. Further down the road I began to understand why, when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I have Bipolar Type II which means I don’t get so manic that psychosis can set in, I just get hypomanic where I feel unstoppable, life is amazing, I write to celebrities because I think I might be able to help them on their mission to change the world of mental health.
I would even go as far as writing to Buckingham Palace, deciding that they too need my help. Knowing that Prince William and Kate are involved in campaigning, I decided it would be a great idea if they could take me out with them and I could campaign alongside them. Needless to say they didn’t take me up on my offer but they were kind enough to reply to tell me so.
Yes these are the ridiculous ideas but I am 100% committed to then when hypomanic. The problem is that what goes up must come down and the lows for me are dangerous. So much so, I have no idea how I am still alive.
I have made serious attempts to end my life and been very close to ending it through misadventure. My misadventure is self-harm. There is not a part of my body that doesn’t wear a scar that tells its own story. I was always aware that at some point my body might give up and say it had had enough. My heart might stop beating and finally my body would be at peace knowing that I could no longer hurt it…
Bipolar is a life changing illness, in that I could spend my life just waiting on the highs and lows, not really enjoying life in-between. I refuse to do that. I want to help myself and other people understand that there’s a way to live with mental illness and not suffer from it. This means both recognising and using my wellness tools in taking responsibility for my part of the illness. The part that could maybe stop a full-blown episode. Sometimes it’s inevitable, but I’m a fighter and I’ll fight until my strength is totally gone.
My first wellness tool is writing. I always keep pen and paper on me so I can write at any time.
Something has to have moved me deep inside – be it something good or bad, but the words no longer go round and round in my head because I can create poems through them and the cathartic value of this is invaluable.
2. Self-help groups
I attend a lot of self-help groups that I’ve sought out for myself.
I got to a stage where I decided I wasn’t willing to wait on hospital waiting lists. I wanted to get well now not in 18 months when a psychology place became available. I sought these out through a Google search of my local area and now attend a lot of groups, even helping to facilitate some of them.
Exercise is a given but even though we all know the feel good endorphins it releases, we all still carry that little voice in our ear whispering “never mind, I’ll definitely go tomorrow!”
However, when I do go it elevates both mood and energy. When I do go I Iove it with so much passion that I feel it’s something that could develop into an addiction… another, yet subtler form of self-harm. However, having this awareness I would like to think I would recognise if it went from healthy exercise to over-exercise.
4. Eating healthily
Eating healthily is such a huge factor in mental health as there are so many foods that work together having a positive impact on the pathways that link to our moods.
I can’t wait to try recipes from The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food. My Mum thinks I can’t cook… well move over Mum, because this is the new me! I’m sure she’ll love it as much as I do, even if it’s just for the fact that it’s a meal made for her.
5. Time on my own
I spend a lot of time on my own but it’s something that helps me to stay well because I enjoy it.
There’s a difference between isolating myself through depression or stepping back from the pace of the world, just to have a day when I don’t feel the need to conform to society. A day without the pressure of having to keep up when sometimes the best thing I can do to maintain my wellness is to step out. The most important thing though is knowing when to step back in! I’m happy in my own world with just music as company. Though I’m aware I always need to make a significant effort to re-engage with friends and reality after a day or two.
6. Trouble the dog
My dog is my world and he’s even registered as an official “Therapet” and I take him into various psychiatric wards to help cheer up patients.
I hadn’t realised at the time but I used to sit with a lady for 20mins having nice conversations while she stroked Trouble and this went on every time I was there. He would always seek her out and we would and talk about her family, how she felt her treatment was going, other health issues she had, her own dog who she missed desperately and her beloved Grandson. We really bonded and she spoke to me with such respect you’d give any individual.
It was only months later I learned that this particular patient usually spent most of her day shouting profanity at anyone and everything, often unwilling to let anyone near her. Yet look at how well she responded to both the dog and me. I was shocked to learn that we were the only ones she treated so nicely. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I had time to spend with her and treated her like a human being, not a patient.
7. Helping others
Here is a glimpse of my wellness tools. I do lots of voluntary work too which I absolutely gain as much happiness from as the people I help. Helping others is such an instant way to become more grateful that my health is stable enough to be a positive and safe impact on vulnerable people.