My Mental Health Project: Raising Awareness and Funds

Update posted by Trisha Williams On Jun 29, 2014

The supplies have been delivered! It was amazing to be there when the patients and staff opened the boxes full of goodies. The best part was that the patients wasted no time and within minutes, one woman was making a card for a loved one using the card making kit! I then looked over and saw another patient getting her hair straightened by her mom who was there visiting (healthy, gentle touch is an important part of recovery). Seeing the smiles on their faces was priceless. This mental health project was hard work but I would do it again in a heartbeat! So much good has come from it. I still have a couple hundred pounds (few hundred dollars) left so will purchase more supplies as they are needed. To my donors: if you'd like to see copies of the receipts, just send me a message!

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Update posted by Trisha Williams On Jun 04, 2014

The next three months after being released from hospital had its ups and downs, but mostly downs. It was a scary time as I wrestled with the possibility of having bipolar disorder (I found out later that my diagnosis was borderline since I’ve only ever had one episode). This wasn’t helped by the fact that I had no support from any mental health professionals during this time.

 

I felt tired all the time, had difficulty finding joy in things that I loved before and being positive, and felt easily overwhelmed by my environment. I was confused about why I went through this and what it meant for my life, especially since what happened to me felt so spiritual.

 

I am a person of faith and one thing that I know to be true is that God was my absolute stronghold throughout this experience. Even when my mind was betraying me, I felt that God was holding my hand as everything else was caving in around me. After the intensity of the mania, going back into ‘normal’ life was tough. The hard thing was still learning how to trust in God after the dust settled and when life was going back to ‘normal.’

 

After such an epic adventure, normal life felt so boring in comparison. I struggled to figure out where I fit into the real world. Through prayer, time, medication, support from my church community and friends, and a healthy lifestyle, things eventually continued to improve.

 

Also having the support from my husband, Corey, was huge. I consider it a miracle that he still loves me despite all that’s happened and I that I can say now that our marriage is as strong as ever. I'm so glad he took his vows seriously and was able to give me grace and eventually trust me again. (Hopefully after he submits his thesis, he will write about and share what this was all like from his experience).

 

When I finally met with a psychiatrist three months after being discharged, he was very positive and told me that feeling low was a normal part of my mood stabilising. Just hearing that gave me hope that I could be myself again. I dramatically improved after that and then was able to come completely off my medication in October, seven months after my episode.

 

There is a chance that I will have another episode again in my lifetime. At first I was really afraid of this. Was my life now going to be a roller coaster of mania and/or depression? I eventually accepted that this was a possibility and if so, I would treat it like any other illness. The good thing is that we know the signs and symptoms to look out for so can hopefully manage it better now if it does come back.

 

Half Marathon and Mental Health Project Update:

I’m very excited to announce that my fundraising goal has been reached and over £1000.00 has been raised for the Royal Edinburgh Hospital! During the month of June, I will be in communications with staff at the hospital and purchasing supplies for the patients (art supplies, exercise mats, and welcome packs with essentials). As soon as the supplies have been gathered, I will deliver them to the hospital.

 

Also, I managed to survive the Edinburgh half marathon on 25th May! I never considered myself a runner (my memories of running were always linked to discomfort and punishment in P.E. class) but through continued training, I was able to pull it off and actually enjoy it! I completed in 2 hours 13 minutes wearing a green wig and a mental health awareness shirt.

 

Even though I am excited by these achievements, even more thrilling to me has been the outpouring of openness and authenticity I have seen from people who either struggle with mental illness or who have loved ones with mental illness. It brings to light how many people out there are dealing with mental illness and the stigma attached. Together we can move past the stigma, taking important steps toward recovery or learning how to manage mental illness in a healthy way.

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Update posted by Trisha Williams On May 24, 2014

 

I was so irate by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital that the medical staff had to tranquilise me to get me to calm down. I have very blurry memories during those first few days in the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit (IPCU). I remember being absolutely terrified, all my senses heightened and everything feeling much worse than the reality of my situation. The use of force made me feel brutalised, tortured.

 

I tried to focus on what I knew to be good and true such as: God is good and God is love; Jesus saves; my name and address. I felt that if I didn't say these statements and words aloud or in my head in a certain sequence and frequency, I would be spinning completely out of control and fear and death would consume me. It felt like a constant near-death experience. Again, it was like I was living in a completely different dimension.  

 

I was losing my mind and I had no clue. It still amazes me that the mind is capable of betraying me so much. It all felt so real!

 

On one of my first days in the hospital when I was still very psychotic and drugged, I thought one of the nurses was ‘Lucifer’ (aka Satan). Apparently I bit the nurse quite hard as they were trying to hold me down to tranquilise me. Several days later, I learned of what I did to him and went up to apologise. He quickly responded, “It’s okay, you were unwell.” How quick he was to forgive! I was still unaware of how unwell I was but even then, I was humbled by this nurse’s acceptance of my condition and the grace he extended to me. He treated me like a real person, choosing not define me by my illness.

 

My mom and sister arrived at the hospital the day after I was admitted and my dad followed a couple days later. Even with all the drugs in my system, I was able to show ‘glimpses’ that I was still ‘me’ despite being and feeling so lost in my own mind. This gave my family hope.

 

I felt guilty that my family had sacrificed so much to look after me, especially my husband, Corey. I really put him through the wringer and did such scary, embarrassing, and degrading things that should have pushed him far, far away.

 

I could see fear and exhaustion in his eyes. Yet there he was, sitting in front of me in the IPCU with his notepad, taking down a list of things that I would like from home: my favourite clothes (fortunately we didn’t have to wear hospital gowns like I pictured in the movies), our Cowboys blanket, my favourite perfume, etc. The next day he would return, even more exhausted, but with my requested items that would bring me some comfort and familiarity.

 

Corey was on Skype calls every evening with family back in the States and talking with Doctors and Pharmacists about the best course of action and which medications are the best/safest. I felt so guilty and ashamed at first for how I behaved and the negative effect I was having on him. I apologised profusely at first but eventually accepted the fact that he wasn’t going anywhere. His faithfulness and persistence with me (even when I was being super annoying) helped to carry me through each day and lift me slowly out of my nightmare.

 

Even though the hospital wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy place to call home, I do have some fond memories. As I became more aware of my environment and less self-focused, I got to know the medical staff better, and made friends with the other patients. I felt that in order to combat the heaviness of that place, we could all benefit from more smiles and laughter. We (the patients) would brush each other's hair, have dance parties, sing, tell jokes, and play games. Never a dull moment (in my mind at least)! My mom remembers me saying, “"It's great...I can be as crazy as I want and no one cares!"

 

The illness still had a grip on me but I was beginning to feel more myself and then realise how unwell I actually was. I became well enough to be transferred out of the IPCU and into the Meadows Ward, which was a stepping stone to being released (I was sectioned under the 28 day Mental Health Act so could be held there against my will for at least that long). I was determined to get home sooner if possible.

 

It became my mission to get healthy again which involved: listening to the Doctors and nurses, trusting that they had my best interests in mind; taking my medication (Olanzapine, an anti-psychotic, and Lithium, a mood stabilizer); eating healthily; getting exercise and fresh air; continued laughter; keeping a routine and being organised; getting plenty of sleep; relaxation (i.e. bubble baths, stretching, deep breathing); visits from family, friends, and my pastor; and lots and lots of prayer.

 

I was grateful to be in an environment where I could have the time to recover. On the twentieth day of being in the hospital, I was released! It was weird just walking out the front door with my family and not having to sign anything, and pay a massive copay or medical bill. Thank you, National Health Service (NHS)! It’s not a perfect system but I was grateful to receive help I needed for that time.

 

 

Update on My Mental Health Project

 

I still can’t believe the half marathon is tomorrow! I have never ran 13 miles before and even though I have trained, I still feel nervous. Won’t let that hold me back though! Stay tuned for more updates and for race day pics… there’s a surprise that may or may not include the colour green, which happens to be the colour representing mental health awareness! J

 

I went back to visit the hospital again this week to update the nurses I talked to last month about my mental health project. They are encouraged and excited! In addition to art supplies and exercise mats, they are in need of ‘welcome packs’ for the patients when they first arrive at the hospital, containing some essentials (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, etc.).

 

These ‘welcome packs’ will now be added to the list of supplies I will be buying from the hospital and I will use any money raised from this day onward to purchase the packs, unless specified by the donor. Please join me in my effort and make a donation to help provide these things for patients dealing with difficulties of mental illness at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

  

Next post: The Aftermath

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Update posted by Trisha Williams On May 11, 2014

 This mental health project has truly been an incredible journey. I’ve been encouraged by hearing other people’s stories about dealing with a mental illness and the growing sense that we are not in this alone.

 

(This post is a long one but seeing as how I probably could have written a book on all this, consider it a very abridged version).

 

As I have said before, I am sharing this story in an effort to encourage more honesty and openness. However, I do believe in the importance of using wisdom and discernment when opening up about a traumatic event, starting with someone you trust first, then more only if/when you feel comfortable.

 

Here we go…

 

So what was it like to be manic? I remember mostly everything that happened to me, still in vivid detail.

 

Parts of it were awesome. Parts of it were terrifying.

 

Mania is on the complete opposite end of the mood spectrum from depression. I describe the feeling as if all of the incredible, beautiful, magical movies and books I have ever seen or read were coming to life right before me. All kinds of those 'feel-good' neurotransmitters were released in my brain and I felt very euphoric. My imagination started running wild and I felt like I was in heaven and that very shortly, everyone else would be joining me. I saw things in such vivid colors and felt very 'in tune' with God. Throughout this whole event, my relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, felt very intimate. It was a very spiritual experience that felt more real than anything I’d ever known.

 

During this time I wasn't eating and only getting a few hours of sleep. For someone who loves to eat and sleep, this was highly uncharacteristic. I had just come back from a trip to the States and was pretty let lagged, so we blamed the lack of sleep on that initially. And because my experience was so spiritual, the lack of eating was a sort of fast. But the weird thing was that I never felt hungry or tired… It was as if I had limitless amounts of energy. It turns out that not eating or sleeping can be a warning sign of mental illness.

 

Progressively, things were getting more and more weird (although it never felt weird to me) and I was making connections with numbers, movies, music, etc. It was also a very physical experience. At times, it felt like I didn't have a breastbone. I felt electricity in my fingers and felt like my electronics were acting funny. My brain was on overdrive. Although to me, it felt like everything was working in perfect synchronicity, as if my brain was working at 100% capacity. Of course this really scared my husband Corey and close friends I encountered that week. They began to worry about what was wrong with me and what they should do.  

 

Things quickly moved from being beautiful and peaceful to utterly terrifying. It was now as if all my nightmares and all the disturbing movies I had ever seen were now coming to life right before me. I felt that if I didn’t perform certain tasks and say certain phrases in a specific order, then something horrible would happen to Corey, my friends and family, and ultimately everyone on Earth. It became my mission to save the world from catastrophe. I was constantly anxious and paranoid.

 

Everything culminated about 10 days after my symptoms began, when I felt an intense evil presence. This ‘thing’ was yelling at me and telling me to do really horrible things to hurt my loved ones and myself. I felt like I was literally being attacked so I began screaming at the top of my lungs, shouting profanities, and making threats. I was fighting this thing with everything I had in me.

 

The situation had clearly gotten out of control and Corey stepped out of the room to call the emergency services. When he came back in the room, he found me on the verge of seriously hurting myself.

 

The voice in my head was so loud and the oppression so intense but then suddenly I heard Corey’s voice saying, “Trisha, everything is going to be alright.”

 

I looked up at him and he later recalls that it was the first time that I had made eye contact and connected with him in nearly three days. Hearing his voice was an intense comfort and momentarily brought me back to reality enough to stop me from hurting myself. (I am still in awe of his bravery and faithfulness to me during this traumatic event. I will talk more about this in my post next week).

 

We soon ended up with five policemen in our flat, trying “talk sense into me.” Ha! You can imagine that didn’t go over too well. They managed to tie my arms behind my back, put a blanket around me, and walk me out barefoot in the snow to the ambulance where they tied me down to a gurney. I kept 'fighting' this evil presence in my mind all the way to the hospital and had terrifying hallucinations. My mind blacks out for parts of what happened from that point on. 

 

Throughout the mania I remember having reasons for doing and saying the things I did, however crazy they may have seemed, with the exception of that day. As strange as it might sound, I really do feel that there was something else ‘messing’ with me that day, perhaps taking advantage of a vulnerability or ‘weakness’ of my mind. I very distinctly remember feeling and saying that I would never ever do anything to hurt myself or my loved ones and yet I came so close to doing just that.

 

I am so grateful to have Corey and another friend there to help, and that I was taken straight to the hospital where I received treatment that eventually helped lead me to my recovery. I have no doubt that God was there too, intervening and protecting.

 

Next week: Life in the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit

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Update posted by Trisha Williams On Apr 24, 2014

Vulnerability was not my first instinct after my manic episode.

 

At first, the plan was to bury it down deep. Why did anyone need to know? If I had been in a car accident or been hospitalized for appendicitis, that was one thing. It most likely would have been plastered all over Facebook anyway. But being hospitalized in the intensive psychiatric care unit for a severe manic episode with psychosis? How do I explain that one? I felt ashamed and embarrassed. And frankly, I was very confused as to how my mind could betray me like this. It all felt so real!

 

So I tried to hide it, making up another reason why I was away from my business for 6 weeks. I was afraid of what people might think of me or of putting them in an awkward situation of not knowing how to respond.

But this just left me with a horrible feeling that I wasn’t being truly authentic to myself and others. By hiding my experience, I was guilty of giving into the mental health stigma.

 

Deciding to be open to others and talk about my mental illness was one of the most important parts of my recovery.

 

I started by talking to close friends and family and each time I talked about it, it got a bit easier. As I continued to open up, I found that most people generally did one or both of these things when they heard about what happened to me: (1) they showed amazing kindness, empathy, and support, (2) they opened up to me about issues that they or their loved ones have had with mental illness. These two reactions instantly comforted me because it took the shame out of my experience and I no longer felt alone with what I was going through.

 

But there was a third reaction to my story: (3) people distanced themselves. This was tough. It felt to me like there was an elephant in the room that they weren’t going to acknowledge. I went through an incredibly traumatic event, like getting hit by a car and having a near death experience. Hearing crickets chirp afterward was isolating and hurtful.

 

It is for these moments that I, and many others with mental illness have experienced, that I am choosing to run this race to raise awareness for mental health issues.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be posting more details of my manic episode with you to encourage authenticity and openness when it comes to mental health issues.

 

I also share my story get the conversation going on ways to respond that are both helpful and unhelpful to someone with a mental illness. I don’t have all the answers but surely together we can come up with a way to understand people with mental illness and ultimately love and support each other better.

 

This burden is too big for one person.

 

-Trisha

 

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Selassi

Backed On Jun 06, 2014 Amount Hidden

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Jilly

Backed with £10.00 On May 26, 2014

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Well done Trish! A fantastic achievement x x x

Mark and Vix

Backed with £20.00 On May 25, 2014

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So proud of you for taking a stand for others!

Guest

Backed with £50.00 On May 25, 2014

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Well done, you are doing a fantastic thing by sharing your experiences. I'm proud to know you xxx

Debbie White

Backed with £20.00 On May 24, 2014

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Will and I love you and Corey so much. I'm so grateful for your friendship and willingness to share your story. Thank you :)

The Kelly's

Backed On May 24, 2014 Amount Hidden

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Fantastic effort Trisha I will be cheering you on and looking out for you! Best wishes Jenny xx

Jennifer Campbell

Backed with £25.00 On May 23, 2014

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I hope you have a super time on Sunday! You've done an amazing job raising awareness and the money! xxx

Rachel Sloan

Backed with £10.00 On May 22, 2014

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So proud of your courage to share your experience and raise awareness of mental illness Trisha. Good luck for Sunday, you'll be in my thoughts. If you design your own T-Shirt as we discussed tonight I look forward to seeing a photo of the masterpiece! See you soon x

Wendy Robertson

Backed with £10.00 On May 21, 2014

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Way to go Sis! I'm glad you're sharing your stories with others and raising awareness. You are an inspiration for people struggling with the same experiences. Your whole family is so proud of you!

Sherene Smith

Backed with £30.00 On May 21, 2014

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Trisha Williams

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