In Which I Rant About Everything.

Apologies in advance for the abnormally open and long post.

I am a bubble of stress and anxiety. Mostly anxiety. I have in this learnt that anxiety is one of my biggest triggers for negative coping mechanisms and now I am looking at the past, I can’t see why I didn’t realise this sooner. I think I was in denial of it, because two people had brought up the idea that my negative behaviours are often a reaction to anxiety, and I totally dismissed it and to be honest, quite frankly felt annoyed at the suggestion.

It all just got too much on Friday and I ended up in A&E at 4am which was incredibly stressful, not helped by the A&E department moving to a new building with new procedures. I was a mess, but maybe I needed to be a mess. Maybe it helped as horrible as it was. A&E is usually the place where my meltdowns occur, like I’ve been holding myself together and then I just fall apart. Any way, I got physically sorted and had this lovely doctor who knew me already. He spent absolutely ages with me before I managed to talk but it was helpful, although kindness and people saying nice things about me always makes me upset and he seemed extremely worried. He said normally I seem a bit better after what had happened to end up there, but that this time I seemed a lot worse. I saw the mental health team after treatment for a few minutes, but that was unhelpful or rather, pointless. I was tired and calm, and not bothered about talking. I felt like I did the talking with the doctor and to be honest, considering he wasn’t a mental health professional, he was a lot better at helping me than the mental health team ever have been. I guess I got lucky there. When I first saw him I was thinking ‘oh god not him’ because I knew him, but he was amazing with me. He also said some interesting things about my diagnosis and treatment, and that he has never met someone with my diagnosis who is managing as well as I am, and studying for an MA which made me feel both good but a bit annoyed that being outwardly functional sometimes makes people over estimate how ‘well’ you are doing.

The doctor was discussing admission to the psych ward or crisis team input but as soon as I saw mental health it was clear that was out of the window, which was mostly a relief.  The following days were full of feeling anti-treatment and spending pretty much all night every night walking in the dark which on the first couple of nights was very dangerous, but on the last night, was very peaceful and reflective and last night I was sat up till 4am arguing with myself over a decision. I made the healthiest decision, the safest one,  and I feel calmer now. I’ve overcome most of the guilt and regret of ending up in A&E because I am a work in progress and that is ok. I pick myself up quicker and better than ever, and that is an improvement. I have time to improve further. This is not a race.

So yeah, I have *picked* myself back up again, which is good, but not exactly fun or pleasant. I’d rather not. I’d rather crumble. Correction, in the short-term I’d rather crumble because it is easier. In the long-term I will be glad I am not crumbling. I know where crumbling ends and I will not like it.

I think a big part of my stress is to do with treatment. Like, I was kicked out of the TC in November and things have felt so unstable since. It is like I am supposed to make myself stable while everything around me is the exact opposite. It doesn’t feel like the easiest of things to do.  I’m meant to be starting counselling privately but I’m re-considering doing a group at the PD service (same service as the TC) instead. I don’t know which will be best for me. I think I would prefer to do the counselling, but that perhaps the group would actually be best for me. But I have no idea what day the group is on, or if it is still an option, so I need to find out which means ringing them tomorrow. I don’t want to wait till next Friday because I’m starting my new job on Wednesday and if I am going to have to ask to swap my days around I want to do so in a way that is the least annoying for work so my plan is to find out what day the group is tomorrow, so when I go to work on Wednesday I can ask to change my days to fit the group, just in case I do the group. It feels like the best option rather than messing work around in a months time or whenever.

Now I want to do the group I regret stretching the truth with my responses to the initial questionnaire thing for it. And regret ruling it straight out without thinking. I am scared now that I won’t be able to do it aka more anxiety.

I am also stressed about life post-September aka post-university. I will be unemployed and that makes finding a grad scheme very attractive and I only have a few options that way because of timing. But then there is the idea of going back to the TC, which I had to be honest, ruled out, but I think that is largely a fear of what if it doesn’t work? Which makes me feel like not even trying for fear of ‘failing’, a fear of coping financially and really not wanting to return to a house share because it is SO bad for my mental health and my eating and my anxiety. And then a fear of not being allowed back even if I am “stable”. I don’t know how real that fear is. I’m just scared of rejection and uncertainty.

Also, I don’t know what timescales will be and that is probably quite unpredictable for anyone to say. I mean say I got referred back at the end of November, assessed or whatever by Jan..approved for prep, joined prep in say Feb or March? Like, what do I do between October and March. Financially speaking, and in every other way, it’s a worry.

I mean the best I can hope for is to get myself to this new job without using negative coping mechanisms/sabotaging it completely, ring tomorrow to find out about the day of the group, ask to do the group in my next appointment on the 12th, them agree to let me join, join ASAP, work on “stabilising” further, then when I finish uni look for more part time work in anything though I’d prefer something career related that might be difficult if I want part-time which realistically I do, apply for help financially and find a cheap as possible one bed place (house sharing would be financially better but it feels like such a bad move), finish the group and be re-assessed for the TC, then wait to join the prep group.

I don’t know how realistic the plan is. I’m worried that I won’t be allowed in this group now, but that can be replaced with the counselling and I will just have to work on not letting the issue I am worried with re: counselling, become an issue. I’m also worried that if I do still want to join the TC which at the moment I mostly do, that they will decide I am too well or something. You know, 2016: you are too unstable. 2017/18: you are too stable. That would be a turn of events and not ideal for me. Like stable does not equate well, or happy, or where I want to be at the end of all of this.

Then yeah, going back to work is making me a bit/a lot anxious. And other little things like this walk I am supposed to be doing to fundraise for a charity, some volunteering etc. And then university is a huge stress right now because I’m behind and not sure if I can make up the work, never mind get a decent grade. And then there’s other stuff, like sorting out my routine and sleep, which is a massive issue right now, and exercise and injury and eating.

I just really want some stability around me. I guess the primary things I think I need is a stable once weekly appointment of some kind, either the counselling or the group. To settle back into working. And to be managing a better routine – sleep, exercise, uni work and work being the priorities. Then adding in little things like the volunteering and actually seeing friends at least occasionally without getting so anxious that I cope using negative behaviours.

My psych appointment got cancelled, and while I am bothered, I am less bothered than I was because although I still want medication, that feels suddenly less important to me. Like sure the meds I want to go back on help my mood/anxiety/obsessions and it would definitely help stable me out a bit and ease those things, but there are other methods too. Of course ideally I would have meds plus the other methods but I guess there is no rush and hopefully I will get another psych appointment soon. Pinning my hopes on being allowed back on meds isn’t helpful and is potentially dangerous as I could be disappointed, so I am taking a few steps back from that idea.

I have an interview for a grad scheme and I’ve seen two other things I’d be interested in applying for, but it doesn’t fit in well with my current job which I need to be working in September for. I mean I know a longer-term job should be a priority over the temporary job but I really REALLY want to work there in September because it’s a key part of the campaign and I mean, yeah, I want to badly. And also, starting a grad scheme/job somewhere else in September really does not fit what I want treatment wise and so I am weighing up my options. While I really want to get a proper full time, permanent career job, I’m not sure I am “there” yet. I want to be there and I am trying to work out if I can just y’know, do it and find my way through it as I go…force myself to manage it. Or whether I just need to try and be ok with taking another year or so before getting into that kind of scheme or job and being 27 years old and just starting my career. I do feel a lot of pressure about being 24 and in this position, pressure to be doing what other people my age are doing and to be on the whole career route thing and I hate it. And I know, people say 27 is still young but I wanted to be in a career by 22 and it just really gets to me.

So if I am going to take the treatment route and take time out, I am going to really prioritise therapy and give it everything I have got so that once I am done, I truly am done. Which is very good motivation, it makes me feel very determined. I feel like if I go to the appointment on the 12th and have a clearer plan in my mind, I will probably improve a lot in terms of my mood and negative coping mechanisms and so that feels really important right now. I want to give up and run a few hundred miles from treatment for fear of failure and rejection, but I know what I need more than anything is to feel…I don’t know, contained and safe, and stable.

The sooner the 12th is here the better right now. Going a couple of months between appointments and having no set clear plan is just really unhelpful for me. It’s unsettling and it makes me feel unstable. I struggle to hang onto the plan at the previous appointment for such a long period of time.

I sent them a letter asking to be discharged on the 12th and while I am proud of myself for clearly asserting what I wanted at the time, I think it could have been a wrong decision. I literally woke up that morning with the idea and wrote the letter and sent it all in the space of two hours. It wasn’t exactly the best thing to do so quickly. I’m going to find out about the options with the group and not make a decision right now. I’ll go to my appointment on the 12th and discuss all options openly and without putting a heavy preference on any option, and decide there and then based on the positives and negatives, the options, and just in an appointment where I will be thinking rationally and won’t be making decisions based on feelings or misinterpretations of what other people are thinking.

Plan. My focus between now and then is manning up and going to work on Wednesday, working on my routine and university work. Keeping up the exercise while managing injury, and doing this sponsored walk. I also think I need to stop being so negative about trying mindfulness because a lot of my impulsive behaviour is connected to thinking far too ahead and panicking and the whole being in the moment thing sounds like a very good thing despite my dislike of the idea of mindfulness. Plan. Plan. Plan.

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It has been one of ‘those’ weekends

I guess I should know by now when things are deteriorating. It had been happening for a few weeks. I should also know by now that a holiday plus a bank holiday plus being alone would make things escalate. I guess sometimes I hide from the facts and hope that if I cover my ears enough and ignore the signs, it will all be ok.

And it is all ok. I am sat here writing this because things feel safe now. I can see now, that in many ways, the last four days could help me forward. But it does not mean it had to be that way. That I had to go through what I have just been through in order to make progress or feel ‘better’. I could have chosen to intervene sooner, but I succumbed to the darkness and it could have turned out differently. It is turning out ok. I have “survived”. I am taking positive steps now, but there was the risk this would not be the case.

I know. It sounds like I am talking in code. And I am. I do not really want to publish the in’s and out’s of what I am talking about, for a multitude of reasons. Let’s say, I was not in a great place between Friday and today. It was horrible, but one of the worst parts is coming out of it, and thinking “Girl, why did you put yourself through that? Why have you just thrown away four days of your time?”

Because everything stopped mattering. I stopped doing my university work, so I am behind my schedule I created for myself. I have messed up my sleep routine, which was not exactly great to begin with. I have damaged myself, physically and emotionally. I have withdrawn from people and just, life. It happened slowly, over a few weeks. It was not that bad at the start, it became gradually worse and then suddenly bad. It is hard because I should have taken myself and my thoughts more seriously before it got worse, but I just hoped it was going to get better by itself, somehow.

I entered a really dark place, and I do not know where it would have gone if I had not picked myself up. I mean, I guess I do know where it would have gone, but I don’t want to say it.

The ‘thing’ that broke the self-destruction was a dream. It was not an interesting dream. It was a very boring dream, if we are defining exciting dreams as being beyond the realms of ‘normal’ life. I never used to remember dreams or nightmares often. But since I have been on nicotine patches I have started to. To be honest, it is mostly a bad thing, to remember my dreams. But not last night.

I dreamt I was starting back at work. I am returning to where I did my internship for 5-6 months part-time. I dreamt about that. It was my first day back I think, or definitely first week or two. I was sat at my desk doing some work, and then a staff member came to talk to me, followed by one other, I think. We were just chatting about work and stuff going on, and I was laughing and happy.

I woke up this morning thinking about it.

It felt like a reason to fight.

So here I am. Fighting.

Taking time out.

I have *stuff* going on, and *stuff* in my head, but I seem to be having a few seconds where it comes into my mind, and then I push it under.

Some things happened in my family in April, and then it got took further in December. We heard from the people dealing with the *stuff* today. It has been really quiet since December, and over the next couple of weeks it seems like it is going to suddenly get quite busy with it all. It is like the calm before the storm right now, and I know it is only going to get harder. I did not initiate the *stuff*, but now I am involved in it. It could take a year to be dealt with, and the “ideal” outcome really is not my ideal outcome. I am kind of questioning why I am doing this. The guilt is awful, and I know the guilt should not be mine, but when it is family, it is hard. Family. Family should be all loving and stick together, and when you are basically potentially destroying your families lives, it is hard not to feel guilty. But I suppose the reality is these people are not my family. They were. Technically they are. By blood they are. But that is where it ends now. It is terrifying how much things can change in less than a year.

I also hate that I cannot talk about the *stuff*. I cannot talk about it because it is private and personal, and scary, and also probably for legal reasons. It makes it hard. I do not have “support” at the moment, but that is likely to change on Friday. I am terrified about Friday. I am being assessed for a different mental health service, after being chucked out of the other. And a non-mental health service is attending the assessment, at my home, because they want mental health services to know what is going on with my physical health so that everyone is talking to each other. I’m not keen on this; I like to tell people what I want them to know, I like to be in control of who knows what. Nor am I keen on them all coming to my house. I will be glad when Friday morning is over. It has been hanging over me all week. I am barely sleeping, and we all know lack of sleep is never a good thing. It would be nice to fall asleep without hours of waiting for it to happen, and it would be even nicer to stay asleep. My medication does not seem to be helping, which is odd.

I have been looking, and applying, for graduate schemes. In the back of my head I know that my plan should be to take a year out, or at the maximum, carrying on studying. The service that chucked me out, do want to take me back on once it has been a year from discharge, if I am “ready”. It is just such a huge commitment, both emotionally and in terms of time – it is a day programme for 12 months, plus a few months before and after at reduced days per week. I do not know if I can face going back there, but I know that is not a good reason not to. I also do not want to invest into going back there, and it not work out. I cannot handle failing twice. I was supposed to go and do it during my masters, and that plan fell apart when I was chucked out. They probably would not describe it as being chucked out, but that is the reality of the situation.

It is also the whole taking a year out for “treatment” thing. It feels bad. It feels like failure. I kind of want to stop applying for jobs and graduate schemes, purely because I do not want to end up in a position where I have to turn interviews or an offer down. Like, what if I get a fantastic opportunity that could help me with my career? That has the potential to be the stepping stone into my ideal future, and I have to say no, sorry, because I am going to be a “patient”. I do not want the patient identity to be everything I am for a year. I also know if I had a physical illness I would feel differently. But it is not really something you can whack on your CV. And it is hard to feel OK with explaining a gap in my CV when it is for what it is. If I had a physical illness I would just say “I had a year out because I had (insert illness)”…but this will never be that easy.

But then, what is one year if it changes my life? I am not going to sit here and feel sorry for myself. I have to turn whatever choice I make into a positive. Nothing is bad or good, it is what you do with it that makes it bad or good. I firmly believe that. A positive mental attitude is required.

I know the sensible thing to do. I just do not like it.

This was not the situation I was supposed to be back in, again, but it is the situation and I can own it, or I can let it control me. I do not have to let the “patient” identity be my identity, even if I go down that route of taking time out. I can volunteer, I can write, I can do other things.

And at the end of the day, other peoples opinions are not really that important. If people do not like what I am doing, or think less of me for it, that really is not my problem. And will people even do that? Or am I stigmatising myself?

I am really interested in the concept of the “stigmatised” assuming the stigma is there, and paradoxically causing themselves to be stigmatised. I am probably guilty of it. Is being open really as bad as it feels? If I take a year out, and then go to an interview and respond to the questioning of what I did in that year truthfully, and tell them the other things I did in that year, will people think what I think they will?

We cannot assume what people are thinking. People are entitled to be given the chance to think for themselves.

 

 

 

Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, So Why Do We?

I was at an appointment the other day. The staff were aware of my mental health problems, and they asked me what I do in my free time. I said at the moment I am working and at university. She looked shocked. She then said “unpaid work, though?” because obviously us crazy folk cannot hold down a paid job. I mean, what kind of fool would pay me to work?

It annoys me. Number one unpaid work is a brilliant thing to do for experience, and for giving something. Number two, why would you assume my job is unpaid?

I was then further annoyed when she said I needed to come back on Monday to see their consultant. I told her I had work, and couldn’t make it. She looked at me and said “well, you have to have see the consultant” and then booked me an appointment any way. I was stood there thinking ‘yup, please ignore me, my words mean nothing’.

I honestly do not think that if I was ten years older, and not in for something mental health related, she wouldn’t have ignored me. But hey, I am crazy so my job cannot be that important, right?!

We think that we have progressed with our attitudes towards mental illness, and my gut reaction is to say some progress has definitely been made. I mean, we do not lock everyone away in asylums anymore, people are not oblivious to mental illness, and people know what depression is. Mental health is talked about more. Being homosexual is no longer a sign of insanity, and we do not drill into peoples brains hoping it will ‘fix’ them like we did in 1935.

My research in my undergraduate degree proved that making a definitive conclusion is not that easy. Some things have improved, some things have not. Do you know what schizoaffective disorder is? What about obsessive compulsive personality disorder? Unless you have an interest in mental illness, or personal experience, probably not. Even spellcheck does not think ‘schizoaffective’ is a word.

While general attitudes have become better, I would argue it is something we are fine about as long as we do not have to come face-to-face with it, and for a lot of people mental illness is something that affects others, not themselves. Did you know that only 46.9% of disabled people are in employment? Which is a gap 33.1% higher compared to people without a disability. The disability employment gap is one of the most significant inequalities today.

In 2015 the Conservative Party stated that to half the gap they would need to change policies, practices and public attitudes.

Not all disabled people can work, fact. That is why there is no goal to get rid of the gap completely. But some can, and some want to. It is easy for people to respond to this huge gap by saying that disabled people do not want to work, that they want to live off benefits, and all of that other rubbish that realistically applies to a very small percentage of those with disabilities, and actually also to a larger number of people without

I do not personally have much of an issue with the term disability. I would agree that I do have a disability, and that it can be extremely disabling. But it can also be worked with if I am surrounded by people who are willing to be understanding, and to provide me the right environment to minimise the impact my disability has on my ability to work, and to succeed.

Starting my recent internship has made me aware of the difficulty I would definitely have to work full-time, while juggling my medical appointments. I can see why this could be unattractive for an employer, and even for me; even if I managed to find an employer who was happy for me to take time off work for appointments, it would mean that my disability would still be impacting my ability to work full-time, and receive full pay. But this is the thing. I would not think about that; that is something I have to live with, but being discriminated against, is not.

I would be overwhelmed by the amazing support of my workplace to enable me to work. I would arrange my appointments as best I could to avoid interruption. I would stay late at work if I could, or arrive early. I would give everything I could and more, and being able to have my necessary appointments would actually boost my productivity at work, compared to if I was having to delay them, hide them, or become stressed at managing them.

The thing is, people can discriminate against people with mental illness, but mental illness is never going to discriminate against you. You might have a negative attitude towards those with a mental health problem, but they are still going to come into your life. It is going to affect your colleagues, employees, friends or family, whether you like it or not. Whether you think it is something that happens in your life or not.

More scarily perhaps, is that one day it might be you. You could be the top dog in a major company who does not take particularly take an interest in disability in the workplace. You might be a bit irritated that your PA, Janice, has to take two hours off on a Wednesday afternoon because she has a one hour appointment with her community psychiatric nurse, plus has to travel to and from the clinic. You will forget Janice stayed at work for an extra hour on three days last week. You will forget Janice doesn’t take lunch breaks, and always emails back at weekends. You will forget that since Janice started her role, she has made your day-to-day life easier, and taken on many extra roles that you never expected her to take.

You will be reluctant to hire the best applicant for your new events manager because she disclosed that she has physical health problems that will mean she has to take some time off work once per month to travel to a hospital out of the local area. You will think that you need someone who does not have these needs, and that they are not suitable for your company, just like the principal that once said to my support worker that students with severe mental health problems are not going to achieve A-Levels, so why support them in trying to do so?

And then fast forward, it is 2027. You have been getting very stressed at work. Janice left, and her replacement is struggling. Your wife has been working away a lot, your kids have left home, and it is like you never see neither them or your wife any more; she admitted a few months back that she is not happy in your marriage. Your mother has Alzheimer’s (which is a mental illness too, but for some reason that doesn’t count) and she is deteriorating. Last time you saw her she did not know who you were. You have begun thinking a lot about your childhood growing up, and how she used to be. You keep remembering things you had forgotten; maybe your childhood was not as rosy as you had convinced yourself. You remember your father being very violent to your mother, and having to witness that. Bit by bit it is coming back to you, like a tap that no matter how hard you tighten it, it just will not stop dripping.

You feel low. You know you do. You say low, because you do not want to say depressed. Men do not get depressed, not strong men like you. Not top of the company men. Not men who earn £100, 00o per annum. Not men who are well educated, and whose parents were too. You tell yourself you will ‘snap out of it’ soon. Maybe you just need to work harder. Only weak people take a step back, take a break. But it is getting worse, and you end up going to see your GP. I mean, he will just say you are fine.

Well, apparently not. Apparently you have signs of depression, but mental illness is not something you will ever experience, right? He must be wrong.

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