When My Mental Illness Is Bad

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

Mental illness isn’t a solitary, isolated, and vacuum-sealed experience. Mentally ill people, like myself, have friends, family, and peers. We interact with strangers. We can make mistakes and have messy behaviour, just like everyone else. Sometimes, mental illness is bad—or at least it makes us feel that way. When I say mental illness is bad, I don’t mean mental illness is a problem that needs to be fixed, or that mental illness is something immoral that needs to be punished. What I mean is that mental illness and its symptoms can have a negative impact on people. When talking about mental illness, it’s important to be honest without reinforcing stigma. But it’s also just as important not to dismiss or romanticise parts of mental illness. Sometimes, my mental illness is bad, and I end up doing hurtful things to myself and the people around me.

I have bipolar type II, with hypomanic and depressive phases. I also have complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). They’re not “pretty” or “easy” mental illnesses. Along with being complex and individual, they’re messy and difficult to manage.

This is going to be about my personal experience and symptoms. They are bad to me. They make my life harder, and they can be harmful to me and the people around me. I sometimes fear for my life when the symptoms get intense. Please do not take this as reflective of everyone with mental illness. If you can identify with what I say, then that’s okay—but if you’re neurotypical and reading this, remember that I am just one person.

Symptoms that my mental illness is bad

It’s hard to feel human when my mental illness makes me feel like an immoral person. Like what I’m doing and how I’m behaving are wrong, rather than difficult and symptomatic of a deeper problem. Maybe I’m overthinking how much these can affect other people, but I know I’ve lashed out or been incredibly irresponsible with some of these symptoms present.

Anger/irritation

I lash out a lot. When I get frustrated, I can get very impassioned and heated. It’s not nice to be around me. My hypomania often goes from hyper to angry, not happy or over-the-moon as the stereotype can be. Anger is not a bad feeling to have, but it’s very easy for me to disrespect the people around me when I get irritated.

Self-harm

I want to hurt myself. This is not good. Urges or desires to hurt myself are a sure sign that I’m not in a good place.

Lack of sleep

When I’m hypomanic, I don’t feel tired and I don’t feel the need to go to sleep. Not sleeping means that I’m hurting my body. It affects my reaction time, so driving and walking become dangerous. It also changes my routine and schedule. My self-care and work can be severely affected if I’m not resting. It’s irresponsible, mostly.

Delusions of grandeur

I become convinced that I can undertake projects and make plans that are, without a doubt, beyond my capabilities. This ends up wasting my time and resources, while also potentially wasting other people’s time and resources. If I start getting invested in a project or goal that originates from a delusion, I don’t follow through. It doesn’t get completed. I put a strain on my money and friendships.

Hallucinations

These are the scariest. Most of my hallucinations are visual and they set off anxiety. When they’re auditory hallucinations, I’m even more afraid. I hear things that don’t have a source outside my head, even if they sound like they’re external. My behaviour changes significantly, and I can end up lashing out or slipping into paranoid thinking.


These are all signs that my mental health isn’t being managed and maintained well. That’s what I mean when my mental illness is bad: it’s not being treated properly. I’m blessed to be able to have counselling and medication to treat my mental illnesses. But when I get to this severity? I’m in trouble. They can’t be managed by a crisis intervention. I feel just a level below crisis, or like it’s less concentrated and intense than a crisis, when my mental illness is bad like this. But it’s a little too much for me to handle on my own.

How I can improve

Talking about these issues requires self-awareness. Without being aware of my own behaviour, whether it’s from my mental illnesses or not, I can’t make an attempt to manage and improve myself. The mental health community needs to give space for these discussions as well. We need permission to converse about our harmful behaviour without being villainised for experiencing it. Mentally ill people, especially those with mood disorders like mine, have a reason for why they act certain ways. It doesn’t mean they should be given a free pass to continue that behaviour. It means that we need to be aware of the context.

If I flip my lid, I need to reflect on that. Why did I react that way? Was it appropriate? How is the rest of my behaviour, in terms of symptoms?

This also means I need to learn how to follow-through with correcting my behaviour and apologising if I do end up hurting someone. I need to be able to have the grace and forgiveness to apologise to myself, too. I need to be able to say to someone, “Hey, it was wrong of me to behave that way, and I sincerely apologise for my behaviour. My mental health has been poor, so I’ll be taking some time to address it and my symptoms—including the rage I directed at you and the irresponsibility of my actions.”

I am one person, and as Kelly Kapoor said so intelligently about managing her one-person department, I am not easy to manage. It’s especially true when my mental health is bad.

3 Ways My BuJo Improves My Mental Health

3 Ways To Use A Bullet Journal For Mental Health and Improve Mental Illness

Bullet journals are half planner and half journal (at least the way I treat them). When I started using my bullet journal in 2016, I tracked my university assignments, events, and exams. I also used it to stay on top of bills for the house I moved into. It gradually transformed to include details about my therapy and mental health treatment when I started therapy. Now, I love using my bullet journal for mental health! I still use it as a planner, too.

I’ve written a post already about mental health tracking, as well as a post that discusses using a bullet journal for mental health and chronic illnesses.

In this post, I explain 3 ways that my bullet journal helps with my mental health, illness, and wellbeing. Keeping track helps me so much!

Trackers let me see patterns in my mental health symptoms

Tracking symptoms of my mental health and my daily life means I have a record that I can compare long-term. For instance, my bullet journal was instrumental in showing me patterns in my symptoms that were associated/correlated with my menstrual cycle. A mood tracker lets me see how my emotions fluctuate over time. I track side effects for medication. I keep a record of my symptoms. When I visit my doctor for check-ups, I have a solid reference with my bullet journal.

The bullet journal provides written accountability for my to do lists, self-care, and responsibilities

If I don’t write something down, it doesn’t exist to me. I don’t have a good memory. Writing out notes, lists, and plans is the best way for me to remember them. Self-care and other aspects of my life, such as hygiene and chores, are greatly affected by my mental illness. So having them written down? I’m more likely to take care of myself. A list that includes “take a shower” means I’m aware of my self-care. My monthly tracker includes a space for me to note my medication so I remain consistent with my treatment.

I have a type of diary and scrapbooking to maintain perspective on the good and bad times

There are numerous benefits to keeping a journal. But it’s not always feasible if you don’t have the energy to keep up with it. I’ve tried to journal daily or weekly in that “write out your feelings” and diary format. I always lose interest and stop using it! I use the bullet journal for multiple parts of my life. It’s a natural record of what I’ve been up to over the months and years.


When I use and keep up with my bullet journal for mental health, I feel so much better! It’s one of the tools I use in treating my mental illness and maintaining my wellbeing. It’s great for planning! But it’s slowly transformed into a vital aspect of my daily life outside of planning, too.

9 Months On Medication

It’s been a while since I checked in regarding my treatment for my mental health! The last post was in September after my dose increased.

It’s been 9 months now. Time for an update.

This last week, I requested a different formulation of the medication. Instead of the slow release, I wanted the instant release. Because the medication also works as a sedative, I take it before bed and it helps me sleep, among other things. I wanted to get a more “set” bedtime, since I can go between 2 and 4 hours after taking my medication before I pass out.

I’ve also gotten back on birth control. After a few months on the higher dose, my periods got very, very heavy and uncomfortable. My PMS also worsened. I have a blood test on April 3 to see how my levels are. There may be a chance I’m anemic or close to it, so my doctor and I are going to check that just in case I need to start taking supplements.

I’ll also be following up with counselling, since I haven’t started that and I’ve been on the waitlist for 8 months.

The antipsychotics are great. I really do like them. They don’t make my life perfect, and my moods aren’t always balanced at a nice in-between. But I feel more able to work through my highs and lows in a much more accessible and healthy way now.

The downside, and part of why I wanted to switch from slow release to instant release? My eating habits have been affected. I have EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) and after taking my medication each day, I found myself getting into a “munchie” state of mind—one very similar to when I indulge in some marijuana or liquor, neither of which I use regularly. (This weekend, I’m actually 3 months’ sober from alcohol and 17 months’ sober from marijuana!)

On account of the binge eating, and the holiday bulge because of Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve gained some weight. I’m trying not to let it get me down. I know bodies fluctuate and I know that my healthier lifestyle choices will make an impact on my body. I didn’t exercise much through the winter—my bedroom wasn’t set up to let me comfortably do home workouts, and I like to jog outside, but the weather was always too cold or icy for me to safely go running.

Now that spring is around the corner and the snow is melting, and now that I’ve finally, after almost a year, set up my bedroom to let me do all my different activities, I’ll be exercising more regularly. And hopefully the instant release medication will help me get better control and awareness on my eating during the day, as opposed to mindless and drowsy bingeing at night.

The last 9 months haven’t been the greatest in terms of life events or reaching my goals, but the medication has helped a lot.