Tag: personality

The Incredible Horrific Mood Cycle

“Dear Tutors: You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t make it into college all the time, and I wanted to explain a few things to you…”

This is how an email to my tutors began a week ago. I didn’t really know what to say, other than that I really am, honestly, trying my best. It occurred to me that it is hard for people to understand what it is like to go through the many, many, cycles of mental illness. Someone can seem like they are falling apart or they can be jumping around with joy, but in both situations they can be just as ill. Looking through my mood calendar (cheers occupational therapy) I have pieced together the last four weeks. I have no real agenda for this post but I wanted to show what it is like to live day to day with this kind of illness and how it can morph and change.

Week One- A&E and for God’s sake leave me be…

I was doing okay as sometimes I do, bumbling through. When I found myself in A&E again. Circumstances quite similar to the time before and the time before that took me there- spending a whopping £60 in taxis for the merry outing. I was in an uncontrollable panic for no apparent reason and like before one of the less helpful voice’s ‘solution’ was to get me to whack my head as hard and as often as I could against the wall. Not a good idea. It turns out that disassociation and panic attacks cause very similar symptoms to head trauma. Throw in the fact that I couldn’t explain what I felt because I wasn’t in my body and… 111 booked me in to A&E. The doctor took one look at me- trying to do breathing exercises and stop my muscles cramping- and told me it was hyperventilation and to… breathe more. I was glad to get home.

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The next day I had a delight instore- a continuing healthcare assessment. For the lucky who aren’t acquainted with this process, it is an elaborate game of ping pong between social care and health care trying to prove that your needs are in the other one’s domain. If your needs are health based, as my social worker believes mine are, social care argue for the NHS to take on the role of funding and organising your support. More pieces of paper and more number scoring systems for things that really shouldn’t be described on a scale of 1 – 10. As the process makes no difference to me either way and I was very tired from the night before I asked not to go ahead with the assessment. Having only just finished my ‘Education, Health and Care Plan‘ (another delight) I didn’t fancy yet another team rifling through my notes and my needs. So for once I saw an opportunity to protect my notes from the beady eyes of funding panels and took it. The continuing healthcare nurse left a little later once my dry answers turned to drought.

Later was my psychology assessment. Part two of four in what is likely the most boring and confusing saga the world has ever seen. Snot dribbling down my face and occassionally mentally disappearing in front of two (yes two) psychologists I babbled. My world was ending. I had people in my head telling me what to do and how I should not trust the people not in my head. I was dreaming things and then not knowing if they had actually happened or not. Anyone asking me ‘what’s wrong’ would get the most sarcastic of replies because it is everything and nothing all at once. The psychologists asked for my support workers to keep a closer eye on me and, yes honestly, some support will come right after this assessment. Honestly.

Week Two – Jacqueline Wilson With More Drugs

Week Two involved me going to see a potential future care placement. It was an adult fostering arrangement which is what I wanted to happen about 18 months ago when I first found myself in need of somewhere to live. I got the phone call from my social worker to say that the family were interested in me and that my care plans were to be sent over.

“Ha” I thought. I’ve seen my care plans and they are not too distant from one of the weaker Jacqueline Wilson novels but with more antipsychotics… (she hasn’t covered them yet, right?). There was no way they would want me in their house after reading my care plans. wouldn’t want to live with me if I read those things.

But for some reason they read my care plans and gave the green light. After sitting in their living room for an hour I felt like it would be a viable option for me. But going upstairs to see my potential new room there was a problem. The room was as wide as my arm span and it would be a struggle to fit myself and Noodle, let alone furniture other than a single bed inside. After trying to think outside of the literal box for several days I had to turn down the placement on the logistical fact that I just could not fit myself and my furry assistant inside.

Feeling pretty crappy and unable to go to college because I wasn’t utterly sure who I was, one of my support workers took me to some fields in the dark. I like dog walking in big open spaces as there isn’t much to fall over and as I was beginning to run out of oxygen in my bedroom, the fresh air and beating heart was much appreciated. We started singing along to music in the dark and for an hour or so I thought the depression spell was lifting.

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It wasn’t though, and I found myself tearing my room apart to find and disinfect away the ‘bugs’ that were in there and on me the next day. No, I would not take my medication. Why would I? It would make me tired and then nothing would ever be clean. I’d spent the day mostly silent (something that happens often in down periods) and once the cleaning commenced I didn’t want anyone to speak to me or touch me. Eventually, as I scrubbed at the soles of my shoes with disinfectant to get ‘the smell’ off them the team leader on shift cornered me with my weighted blanket and despite my protesting that I’d infect it, draped it over me. In the ideal world I would have taken my tablets, realised this was OCD I was dealing with and manned up and got into bed. In reality I took a shower with a member of staff perched on the toilet seat facing the other way to make sure I was okay. When I did take my meds after the shower I fell asleep quickly, exhausted from the events.

Week Three – Beginning to Float… Maybe.

Coming into week three my life is slowly petering back in to normality. I’m standing up for myself and am able to leave my bed for longer periods of time without panicking. It felt like this down period had been around forever. I still had dangerous urges and my body was a mess. But I was getting there.

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One of the places I was going out to was a hearing voices support group. Held in the back room of a church in a town that nobody really wants to go to, we sat in an awkward circle. Cue all the clichés of group therapy. We said our names and said how the week had been. A gentleman turned to me after my emotional muttering about lack of support and he said: “It has taken fifteen years for me to get the right help”. This made me feel sick. I wouldn’t be able to wait that long and no one should have to.

The next psychology assessment I attended in my pyjamas after a sleepless night of thinking about surviving fifteen years on this mood-coaster. Or even the next week. The confusion from the psychology session before was still thick and the probing questions swished away my thin vail of ‘all is fine’. I wasn’t fine, I was lost.

I managed to stay through the whole of my exercise class that week- something that in previous weeks I had been forced to bail out on due to my heart not slowing down enough to stay vertical. I was pretty proud of myself for this and imagined each song as a ‘level up’.  At the end of the class I played the Mario level complete tune in my head.

Week Four – When It Gets A Bit Fast

Week four was when things started to turn around. Not only am I feeling less depressed but I find myself laughing and dancing and singing. Not sleeping because I have the creative drive”. The family my social worker and I went to see would like me to know they want to swap rooms around so that I would potentially have more space. I think this is the best thing ever. Something in my feet asks if in my now majestical mind would see even a wheelie bin in Skegness as a luxury home. But there is no way of knowing until this mood dampens a bit. I seem really happy and I am, but my thoughts are coming at 100 miles an hour. I go to the shops and buy lots of things I don’t need with money I shouldn’t spend. I waste a lot of time too and no I don’t need to eat because I am superhuman. I get angry at little things or when my words don’t explain the enormity of my feelings. I get annoyed when people don’t understand the encryption code my mouth seems to put on my thoughts. I spend five hours bleaching and dying my hair so that it is bright blue. Everything is fun and I can’t stop talking but when I panic I really panic.

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And it is in that flurry that I write this blog post… This is my way of both filling in the blanks from when I last posted and also I wanted to share how some illnesses send you round and round in a cycle.

All GIFS: Giphy

Who Am I? Personality vs Persona.

This is a question that I have come across quite a bit recently on literary forums, psychology forums and (possibly less intellectually) twitter. Walking through Ferens Art Gallery in Hull I came across a piece of art which reminded me of this idea. The piece was by FiND3, a local day centre for autistic young people and young people with learning disabilities. Every young person, no matter what ability level, took part by painting with their fingerprints a picture which represents their lives outside of their disability. The message in this piece and the pieces around it was “yes I am different, but I am more than my disability”. The pictures were vast and varied- from trains to polka dots and it was truly a brilliant way to represent the individuality of each person who had taken part. Sometimes it is way too easy to characterise people and put them in boxes. With disabled people this is often found to be a problem and to show you have a personality aside from your disability is something you have to be assertive about. These young people broke out of their neatly labelled boxes and said “There’s more to me” and the fact that such wide varieties of likes and dislikes can be seen through their work proves that they are far more than just labels of disability.

Picture of Me pointing to a large picture which reads "Find Identity Respect". Noodle the guide dog sits below the giant canvas.

So what is personality, and what is a persona? Where does identity come into it? During my train journey home these questions began to bubble. Then this brain shattering question came up: ‘what am I?’. After some brief definitions courtesy of wikipedia:

  • persona (plural personae or personas), in the word’s everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor.
  • Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

I began to build some ideas.

Personality is something we can’t help. It is the fact that we aren’t civil when woken in the morning, the way we may be more inclined to get angry/sad/happy than others and it is the way that (most importantly) we treat others. Our personality is deeply ingrained into us and, though it can be moulded through time and training, it cannot be changed. A persona is the entire person that you wish to portray. It is the face and the attitude that you put on and show the world everyday. Though this persona may be truthful of your personality (which may have occasional flaws) most often it is different or varies from your personality’s traits. Unlike personality which is constant, your persona varies from situation to situation and can be determined by surroundings. An example of this might be that someone who has a ‘shy’ trait in their personality, may give themselves a loud and outgoing persona to use amongst friends however they may refer back to a more discreet persona when with their family.

We often create, adapt and discard personas without even thinking about it. Personas also don’t tend to vary too vastly, which is handy because it allows us to function when two social situations combine, like dinner out with your friends and family. Though personas are a creation of the mind and not the DNA like personality is, I don’t believe it should be classed as an act that is ‘put on’ or fakery. It is these personas that allow humans to be so versatile and to function with others so well. If this was left up to personality alone we would probably find it very difficult to function with anyone who didn’t share exactly the same traits as ourselves. Personas have their flaws though, and it is proven that the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in people. This is caused when they gain a more powerful persona online without thinking, which raises real life issues like bullying and fraud.

But what am I? And how do I know if I am seeing personalities or personas in people around me? Well, I am a sixteen year old human being who has a personality of various traits with degrees of good and bad, and I probably have a handful of personas to subconsciously use in various situations. Do I need to know more? No. My personality and personas combine to form me. I am represented by the things I do and the people I make an impact on in the world. Whether it is a smile as I cross the street or a life long friendship I am making an impact, and so is everyone else. I am an output of my environment, personality, personas, circumstances, finances and a million other improbable factors that have near impossibly come together to form one me. This is identity. My disability doesn’t dictate who I am, nor do the personas or niggling tendencies in my brain’s anatomical structures. This is why you shouldn’t care about whether you see a persona or a personality in others also, because you will find out so much more about them through a healthy and growing friendship rather than a psychological analysis. Oh and if you want to make new friends, there is nothing that kills future conversations more than asking to do a psychological analysis of someone…

What personas do you have? Do you think you are a personality, a persona or a mix of the two?