BOMBS AND BIPOLAR: HALLUCINATING ISN'T JUST FOR HIPPIES
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Damn that was a long shift, in my eyes anything that involves just one cigarette break in 12 hours qualifies as an act of torture. But still, The job is worth it and it’s the only thing that keeps me sane some days. Ironically speaking. 

Still. 12 hours, 3 emergency responses, 2 admissions and a rather well dodged right hook later and I am sat on my Harley ready to ride at (cough) 30mph all the way home... 

I knew however that the pressure was building in my head, I have always been notoriously bad at moderating my stress levels. I could sit there full of front on top of 883cc’s of chrome and fury looking the personification of chill, but have you ever seen a pressure cooker go? It’s spectacular. 

Bipolarity, or bipolar for the regular non Stephen Fry class of illness, is something I have managed for 7 years. However it was painfully apparent to anyone from the age of 12 that it was a little more than pre-teen attitude. I’m not sure what gave it away first, The multiple suicide attempts, self harming or the Goth attire. The latter I still rock by the way. 

My mental health 'quirks' had been managed by a nice dose of lithium for the majority of this time, and quite to the contrary of what Kurt Cobain said, I wasn’t so happy that I’d found the friends that were in my head. But 1600mg lithium helped gag those bastards. 

I’d come to accept some inevitabilities about my diagnosis, and while I will never be one of those writers that likes define an illness by it’s negatives, it sure isn’t always a walk in the park. A stroll in a shit filled minefield, perhaps. 

I’ve found ways of making my illness work for me, in the most part. Hypomania? Or as I call it, get that damn housework done. Hypersexualised? My man is in for the best sex since he left the army.. 

But there are some symptoms I’ve experienced during mania that I’m less capable of making light of. And before I tell you my secret, I ask you to imagine something. 

Think of the person that scares you most in the world, now personify this by 1000, distort their face and insert them into the forefront of your mind. Your worst enemy is now inside your head, trying to strike nothing short of cold unadulterated fear into you. When are in your house alone and you catch glimpse of a twisted face in the darkened window. Or perhaps when you are sat on your Harley Davidson in Tesco petrol station watching the scene of a 1940’s air raid fall down around you. 

My secret? – I see things that I know are not real. 

So as you may of gathered, my perfectly 30mph ride home was cut unduly short when my petrol gauge started blinking. Thankfully work was a short but picturesque jaunt across what was called the old ‘toll road', a road where if you didn’t die by driving off the sheer cliff edge or collide with a tree from the woods on the other, your reward is the sunny sights of good old Weston. Aren’t you lucky. 

As I recall it now I don’t think I can even remember pulling up at the fuelling station, but I know that a familiar sensation hit me. The smell and texture of cotton candy being wrapped around my 6ft frame, head to foot. 

Then the heavens opened. Bombs were smashing through near by houses close to the train station, blowing apart bricks and sending furniture splintering into the air. The smell of ignited fuel and soot filing my lungs like a sonic wave of sensation. There were 5 women running towards me, through me. One with her expensive looking white leather clutch bag and cream pillbox hat tarnished with a mixture of ash and blood. Troops ran towards me making no effort to hide the terror they felt, running away from the hellish scene that was unfolding right there, on Tesco’s forecourt. 

I took a second to compose myself. While my brain obviously thought that my local fuelling station was the most appropriate place to relive the terror of a WW2 air raid, I was however feeling less than patriotic. 

I knew what I was seeing, smelling and living in front of me wasn’t settled in my ‘fixed reality’. My mind was trying to relieve some of that pressure by spilling it into an unwanted ‘unseen stimuli’, but at that point in time I wished it wasn’t in front of other evening commuters. 

I knew if I reacted to the battle field my mind had created then I would receive more than just concerned looks from bystanders. So I opted to pay at kiosk so I could go and get something strong tasting to jolt my mind back into gear. Strong sensations I have found often work when mind is in turmoil. 

During that ride home I realised something that I hadn’t processed fully previously. My reality was never going to be the same as most people’s, I will see sights that are implausible and impossible all at once, smell things that never existed and taste things that will never be tasted, and occasionally there will be the things at the window. 

But while these things maybe harrowing for some, for me they build up an insight into an illness that not only do I live with, but so do many of my patients. After all, what kind of justice would I be doing them if I don’t learn from my quirks and experiences?

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Rachel Edgecombe. 

My name is Rachel Edgecombe. I've worked in secure psychiatry as a violence management tutor for the last decade but I am more importantly a professional patient! I was diagnosed with bipolar about 8years ago. I now live in the UK with my partner (an ex soldier who himself has combatted ptsd) and our two little boys. Music had been a huge factor in my journey, and has kept me alive through the toughest of times. Hence why one of the boys is named after Corey Taylor!

DISCLAIMER:
This is a user-submitted piece of content and does not necessarily represent or reflect the views or opinions of We Are Not Dead Yet (WANDY). 
Rachel EdgecombeComment
WHY DO PEOPLE FIND DEPRESSION SO HARD TO TALK ABOUT?
Incredible photography from Christian Hopkins. 

Incredible photography from Christian Hopkins. 

I think we've been taught by older generations and society that mental illness is something to hide - because 30, 40 years ago it wasn't something that was ever discussed. I know I have my own reasons for not being able to talk about it.

Personally, it's a vulnerability. I can't function when someone sees through my tough exterior and finds the depression inside. I feel as though I am riddled with it, and I fear that people will judge me or ridicule me if they ever knew how terrifyingly sad I really am.

In my darkest days, I feel numb. Like a switch has been flipped and I don't feel anything. I find myself going through the motions of things, eating, working, socialising (barely) until I generally can't sleep at night because the nightmares take over and swallow me whole.

On the whole, I find it hard to open up to people, and it's even scarier when they want to really know you. I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to 'kill the vibe'. I often feel as though when people ask 'are you okay' they don't really care for the answer. And so more often than not, I lie and say 'I'm fine' even when the world is swallowing me up and spitting me back out.

I shut myself down sometimes, block people from my mind and put up walls as high as Mount Everest to stop people from seeing me. It's a terrifying thing to live with. I can't speak for everyone when I talk about why I struggle to talk about depression. I don't want to be seen as broken, even though that's exactly what I am.

There are so many silent sufferers and I can say how it affects me but I can't speak for everyone else who has it. I am learning not to build walls and I am learning to talk about it out loud. It's an important thing to be talked about, but people still seem afraid to speak out.

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Josie Megan.

"22, charity worker and all round decent person (at least I try to be). I like music, baking, writing and staying in bed for long periods of time. I cry when I see puppies. "

DISCLAIMER:
This is a user-submitted piece of content and does not necessarily represent or reflect the views or opinions of We Are Not Dead Yet (WANDY). 
Josie MeganComment
IS RACISM A MENTAL ILLNESS?
The fact that this picture was taken in 2017 is staggering. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. 

The fact that this picture was taken in 2017 is staggering.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. 

I have seen a number of people asking this question recently. Thought I'd weigh in.

It's very easy for even the most intellectually minded to place racists into the big old 'ignorant bigot' bin and take no notice of their disturbing murmurings. However, what actually goes into making someone a 'racist'?

To simplify the definition, racism is a fear of diversity. Much like homophobia or xenophobia, the attitude stems from discomfort with the existence of someone that is different from oneself - be it their country of origin, their sexual orientation, their race or even the clothes that they wear. 

It's important also to note that classifying racism as a 'mental illness' absolves the racist of personal responsibility. It suggests that an attitude of racial prejudice/supremacy is something one is 'afflicted with', as opposed to a point of view that one is choosing to take. 

Whilst racism isn't officially or medically considered a mental illness, Oxford psychiatrists included 'pathological bias' in the Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders - last revised in 2012. Pathological bias is defined as extreme racist/supremacist views that could lead one to commit acts of violence against a person or persons of another race. 

Neuroscientists suggest that our brain is wired to be cautious towards those that look our act differently to 'our own'. This makes sense - going back thousands of years, running into someone from an enemy tribe could have ended in a gory mess. This suggests, then, that racism is something of an age-old survival mechanism. Instinctive. Are open racists simply less evolved than the more open-minded amongst us?

A few years ago, I wrote an essay discussing whether or not the German population under Hitler genuinely supported his views, or whether they were brainwashed into supporting national socialism, or whether they simply obeyed out of fear. I concluded that it was a mix of all three amongst some other things (as was almost always the conclusion when doing essays for sixth form), basing my answer on a lack of education/poor upbringing amongst genuine supporters alongside the presence of mind amongst more intelligent 'supporters' to look out for 'me and mine' in a desperate and dangerous time. Racism is taught and is learnable, but self-preservation is instinctive. You can be self-preserving without harbouring hatred based on your own over-simplification of another human being. 

It's an interesting topic, especially in the current political climate. In my opinion, in the modern day, ignorance to the point of open racism has no excuse. I do not believe it is a mental illness. I believe that racists should be held accountable for their words and their actions, and should not be allowed to hide behind any kind of disorder when challenged upon them. 

Historian Sander Gilmann, co-author of Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity, said “Let’s make sure people who say evil things, who do evil things, who believe evil things have to take responsibility.”

Racism may not be a mental illness - but its effect on the mental and physical health of its victims is very valid.  #oneworld #onelove

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Mikey Lord.

Founder of #WANDY. Singer of As Sirens Fall. Late to everything.

HELPING SOMEONE EXPERIENCING A PANIC ATTACK.
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The best way to describe a panic attack is that you feel like you’re dying.

A lot of people say that and you might think they’re exaggerating but they’re really not. Before I get into this, I just want to make it very clear that everyone is different. People need different things when they’re in distress and I’m not trying to say this is the be all end all answer to a panic attack. Take what I say and use it - but remember the person in front of you is their own person. 

When someone has a panic attack it can be triggered by anything or nothing, so don’t question them as to why it has happened because unless it is very clear and you can remove them from that situation, it might just not be something they can put into words. If there is a clear cause (e.g. a certain person or object), then if possible remove them from it as it can be very triggering. Do not make a big deal of it to others around you as panic attacks have a lot of stigma around them; the last thing you need is some judgmental person making the victim more upset than they already are. 

Once you’re with the person try not to underestimate what they’re asking for or doing. If they’re holding onto you, that probably means they need that physical contact of a hug or for you to say it will be okay. If they are not touching you and flinch when you do, this is often a sign to not touch and instead sit with them. If they truthfully want to be alone and you don’t think they’re a danger to themselves then make sure they know you will be there for them when they want but give them that space. 

A mixture of breathing exercises and distraction is usually the best route. Use the 478 technique which means they must breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and breathe out for 8. Tell them stories and good positive things so they can replace whatever they’re feeling which - trust me - feels like drowning. Remember you are not a doctor or a psychologist, you are their friend! Do not try to treat them or analyse them. Just let them know that they have the support they want and need. 

When the panic attack is over - and remember this could take 5 minutes or it could take an hour, it really depends on the person - this is once again a moment where you respect the wishes of the person who’s been going through this. As long as you think they are safe, go with what they ask, whether this is to leave them be or stay with them or perhaps just go out for a coffee. They know themselves and you are there to help them make the best choice for them, not to force it. 

And to the person who is having the panic attack. I have been there and I know it hurts. I know you feel weak, you’re hurting and you honestly feel like you’re dying. But you will be okay. Breathe slowly, think of what makes you happy and know in the future there is a time when this will be over. Just breathe.

Amy Meadmore.

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Amy Meadmore. 

"I'm a Psychology student at the University of Reading. I've suffered from depression, anxiety and panic attacks since I was 15, and currently I work as a support worker to children with autism and cerebral palsy."

DISCLAIMER:
This is a user-submitted piece of content and does not necessarily represent or reflect the views or opinions of We Are Not Dead Yet (WANDY). 
MUSIC AGAINST MENTAL ILLNESS
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All the love.

You are not alone.

#WANDY
xoxo

We Are Not Dead Yet (#WANDY) is a message, a mantra, a crew. 
It is the first pillar of something bigger; an organisation dedicated to the destruction of stigma against mental health struggles, addiction, self injury and suicide.
 
All of the products from #WANDY are handmade, hand printed and limited edition. £2.00 of every purchase from We Are Not Dead Yet is donated at the end of every month to Mind: The Mental Health Charity.
You will receive email confirmation from us when the donation from your purchase has been made (usually after 28 days from customer receipt of item). 


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Mikey Lord