Fall down, get back up.

I haven’t wrote in a while. It’s the usual, what do I actually want to share scenario.

I have good news any way. I have been taken off my section 3 and discharged from the unit. I am back tomorrow for an appointment with their inreach team but after that I will never be back on the ward, just the outpatient clinic.

The time I was on a section 2 was horrendous. I was doing things to myself, and it appeared like I was getting worse, both for me and the staff. I started getting more leave in an attempt to improve things, however things became even worse. I went back one Monday about a month ago expecting discharge, and instead was placed onto a section 3. This marked change. I think I knew that because I had just been placed onto a section 3, and because the consultant was going away, there was no chance of me leaving for at least two weeks, so I sort of admitted defeat.

The day after being moved onto the section 3, I had my first proper chat with a nurse. I hated said nurse with a passion. She turned out to be the person who helped me most, the person I opened up to, and a big part of me being where I am now. I never expected that. The biggest thing I have gained from this admission is the ability to use my words to express myself.

There were a lot of awful times where I was unable to keep myself safe, or look after myself. I do not remember the first week. I did not eat, drink, or leave my bed. I do not remember any staff from this time except for one, despite the fact I was on constant 1:1 meaning I had to be with a staff member at all times who could see me, including if I wanted to shower or use the toilet.

After that week I made a slight improvement in terms of eating and being out of bed, but there continued to be a lot of risky behaviours. It is strange to look back and remember certain things. I remember looking in the mirror having lost weight, with marks all over my body, bloodshot eyes, a bruised head like you have never seen before, burst blood vessels all over my eyelids, cheeks and neck. I hadn’t been washing. I hadn’t had any change of clothes because I had none.

And now? Now I have gained weight. I am dressing, showering, wearing make-up, doing my hair. I look happy. Nurses have told me I have a sparkle in my eye. I smile a lot. I laugh. When I have been back to the ward lately I talk to the other patients, check on them, get them into the garden and have a kick around with them. I’ve spent a lot of time in that garden kicking a ball against a wall. I talk to staff, joke, laugh, smile. Cry with happiness, not anything else.

That is not to say the last few weeks have been problem free. I had my leave taken off me over bank holiday after going on a 30 minute walk and not returning, and needing a lot of support to keep myself safe and return. I lied to staff, to their faces, to get out that day because they were concerned, and I am shocked at the fact I did that. Losing my leave led to the second time I have become extremely distressed in there. I dived out the door when a member of staff was coming through, and had several nurses drag me back onto the ward. But the thing is, in there, each day is a chance to start again.

I got my 8 hours leave back last Tuesday, for each day. Then had overnight leave Saturday and Sunday, and was discharged today. I was given the option of a weeks leave, then discharge, but it felt best to have a clear cut discharge.

The night I was placed onto the section 2, I was distraught at going into hospital. It started with a phone call with my community team, led to an A&E visit escorted by the police from which I managed to escape from, and led to an incident that saw me being arrested on a 136. I’m not going to go into the incident, but when I was arrested the police officer was shaking, he was holding me down on the ground and he kept saying that everything was going to be ok; the worst was over.

I did not believe him. I was thinking that the worst had just begun. He saved my life, quite literally, and I was angry. Yet deep down a part of me wanted to feel his relief, and I think I was able to recognise that was something to hold onto. I can honestly say that very slowly, I am beginning to feel relieved. If the police officer had reacted a few seconds slower it is highly unlikely, if not definitely unlikely, that I would be alive right now. A few seconds where I stopped feeling fear and found myself at a total loss, could have ended my life and destroyed the people who care about me. He stopped me from doing that.

I was angry at being in hospital for probably 70% of my admission, and not happy about the situation for about 95%. But now I look back and I wouldn’t take it back. I am grateful that I was forced to stay in hospital when I wasn’t able to see that it was needed, and I am grateful to have been allowed out now that I am strong enough to support myself.

A lot has, and is, changing in my community support. I was discharged from the service I was under when admitted. I can return in February, but I doubt I will. I am now about to start private therapy with a low fee service and my NHS support is completely different, and has not really begun yet.

I will be seeing a new psychiatrist, who I have met once. She was amazing, I have to admit. I cried like no tomorrow, but it also felt good. I have been referred for the 3rd time to CMHT, and that will take some time. But what is the biggest thing right now is this new service. It is small; it has less than 10 staff members, and has only been open for 2 years. In those 2 years it has seen 120 patients which is nothing in comparison to most teams. It is funded by the police, and is a partnership between them, the NHS and a charity. They provide short-term intensive support, so for now I will be seeing them twice weekly at home. That will decrease pretty quickly, and after 6 to 8 weeks approximately, it will stop, and I will then be under the care of CMHT and the psychiatrist.

I am a bit anxious about it, and about the fact that right now it means all new people again. They attended my discharge ward round today and basically I will be seeing the nurses and the police officers. The police involvement panicked me a bit, but they are specialised in mental health, and will be much more like seeing a nurse, than a police officer. They don’t wear uniform and if you didn’t know they were police, you’d think they were nurses.

I am also moving this month, into a new houseshare. Said houseshare is with the loveliest live-in landlady ever, a beautiful home and a goregous chihuahua called Tilly. I was honestly terrified of post-discharge due to living and money and work, but I honestly feel like things are falling together so perfectly that it is almost unbelievable.

I know that difficult times are likely to come, although right now I can’t imagine it. I know that things won’t always be easy, but I also feel like a brand new person.

I never thought I’d go onto an adult acute ward. I never thought I would be sectioned. I never thought I would have both those things happen, and end up concluding that while I would never want to go through it again, I would not take it back. But I wouldn’t. I feel fresh. I feel new. I feel happy.

I don’t feel afraid of being here tomorrow.

I honestly could not speak higher of the professionals who have worked with me.

I honestly could not be prouder of myself if I tried.

I have a heap of regrets with university, work, and many of the things that have happened over the last 2-3 months. I have a heap of things I would do differently. I could sit here and list them all…if I wanted to. But I don’t. I don’t care. It was all worth it. Things fell apart, and then they came back together, stronger than ever.

That’s all that really counts.

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Positive vibes only please.

I screwed up. But maybe I need to stop saying it like that…I crumbled and everything became too much.

Last Monday I was sectioned. I was arrested under section 136 of the mental health act by the police (for anyone who does not know much, it is not a crime but for safety and a mental health assessment) and taken to a “place of safety”. At said place I was assessed by two psychiatrists and a social worker, put on a section 2 and admitted to an acute ward.

I am not sure I want to disclose what happened. I have not really spoken about it at all to anyone, nor how I feel about it now. I keep telling myself I should be glad that a police officer saved my life, but then I think that sounds ridiculously dramatic and it does; but then it is also true. If the police officer had reacted even just 5 seconds slower than he did, I would be dead right now and I want to be glad. I do. But right now I am just confused. I think wanting to be glad is a good place to start. When the incident happened the police knocked me to the ground; broke my nails, bruised my side and bum, ripped my coat and scratched my face. He was holding me, almost hugging me. He was shaking and he kept saying that we were safe and that it was all going to be ok, that the worst was over. I wanted him to get the hell off me and I tried to get away. But I also remember this little part of me that could see how relieved he was that he had made me safe, and I was jealous. Bad choice of words there, but I wanted to feel his relief. I was crying because I could not feel it. All the officers were relieved and happy, talking about it being a good outcome, and I was laid there on the floor wishing I felt the same – I take that as a sign that something in me wanted to be alive. Well, wanted to want to be alive, and when I remembered feeling this way on Friday, I realised I have to fight.

I only spent a week on the ward. It was a rubbish week. I have only been on an adult acute ward once and I acted fine, and “displayed no signs of mental illness” mostly because I was trying to get myself out, and I did within 3-4 days. This time I was not quite the same. I had to be medicated which I hated, because it feels like every time you get distressed and they cannot handle you, they just want to knock you out…I was restrained which has never happened before, I was attempting to escape, I was on 1:1 a lot, I had all of my stuff taken off me…given back, taken off me again.

But I am home. I came back home yesterday and I am home for a week, and if I keep how I am/improve, then I will be taken off the section next Monday and freeeeeee. And I am pretty proud of myself for picking myself up so quickly rather than ending up having a long admission. I cannot stand hospital and while I know most people can’t, I particularly can’t. I cannot handle feeling trapped or not getting space, or fresh air. I cannot manage to eat in hospital so I went 7 days without food. I get worked up and even my Mum knew that hospital was not the right place for me.

That is not to say it was the wrong place neither. What I did, what I nearly did…there was no other option. I could not go home. And yesterday afternoon I had an absolute meltdown. On my way home from the ward I went to see my mental health worker at uni, and I just lost it. She rang the ward and the consultant suggested going back, but I pushed through and I am still at home. I have cleaned, dealt with some physical health issues, I am eating again THANK THE LORD and I am engaging with home visits even though I tried to refuse them. I know if I refuse them I will be recalled aka back in hospital, but that is not why I am engaging. I am engaging because I want to, and because this is an opportunity for me to learn how to communicate how I feel and get things out, rather than bottling things up and exploding.

Two weeks ago I was struggling, but I would never have predicted this to happen. It has been horrible, and at time, traumatic. I could still be on the ward right now, on 1:1 with none of my belongings, hurting myself, arguing, kicking off, not eating and destroying any chance of returning to outpatient therapy. But I have another two and a half months to show I can regain control and be “stable” (bloody hate that word), so I can do the therapy, and so that is my goal.

There are lots of issues at the moment, and things that contributed to this, and consequences of this last week that I have to deal with. But ultimately I know all things can be dealt with. While I am finding it difficult to say I am glad the police saved my life, I am glad I am still here to have the chance to engage in therapy and perhaps one day be glad.

I am focusing on looking after myself physically, reading some positive books and focusing on positive things. Having positive conversations with friends, generally talking to friends to be distracted, working on putting my feelings into words and just, helping myself. It started with eating; I knew I was not going to be able to pick myself up and do the things that would help me, if I was not eating. So yesterday after my meltdown I had my trusty rice krispies, and since then I have been eating “properly”, and it is just a case of one foot in front of another. I do truly hope I can go to my ward round on Monday, surprise them at how different I am (better!), get discharged and resume life, but for now we shall focus on today.

 

Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me.

My head feels like it is going to explode.

I stopped having contact with my Dad in March 2016. I really believed I would never try to reconcile things, but I did. Wednesday night and yesterday. And it failed. And technically I’m the one walking away again, but the reality is I’ve been left no choice.

My Dad did things which honestly, I think I would want most people to walk away from their parent after. BUT in my head I was justifying his actions; he isn’t really a ‘bad’ person, he loves me, I need him, I don’t want to hurt him, he only did what he did because of the situation at the time…he needed help. And I was aware that I sounded like a deluded victim, like a victim who doesn’t realise they are a victim…but I was adamant that I wasn’t. That this situation is different to all other situations. That my Dad is different.

Turns out I was being a bit deluded. I was making up excuses for him, as much as I protested to myself that I wasn’t. I even sat in front of the police a couple of months ago and said that to be honest if they wanted to use me in court, I’d be better off on the defense team. I said I would stand there and I would defend my Dad. When they used the words they use to describe my Dad’s actions and potential charges I shut down. I wanted to be sick. I was thinking “NO!!!! That isn’t what it was. My Dad is not these things.”

I was wrong.

It’s hard when a lot of people in life have the mentality that you should always love, honour, respect and never reject your parents. The whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ mentality. But actually I do honour, respect and love him. But that doesn’t mean I can’t walk away from him. And you know, I would forgive him. I tried this week. I gave him the chance. I didn’t even expect him to apologise or be brave enough to have a conversation with me about the mistakes he has made in my life. I said we can pretend it all never happened and just move on. I was being ridiculously generous, really putting myself out there, and he was getting away with murder…and did he take the opportunity? Did he seize it? Nope. He attacked me. He attacked me with the “maybe I hurt you, but think about all of the things I did for you.” and then he listed things, such as picking me up from school when I was suffering from severe migraines, and taking me to my prom.

YOU SHOULD HAVE WANTED TO DO THAT.

All of my childhood I never dared ask my Dad for anything for fear of what he would react like. The last big thing was moving to uni. Because no, my Dad was not happy and honoured to see his daughter move to uni, he was angry, cold, and passive aggressive because of the effort it required to pack my stuff in his van and drive for 90 minutes. He made me feel guilty so that I constantly apologised for weeks. He treated me horrendously.

The day my child moves to university I will be begging them to let me take them. I will be so over the moon to see them leaving home and starting their new life.

If you don’t want kids, if you are going to treat them like an inconvenience their whole lives, DON’T HAVE THEM.

Then he switched. This morning it was all “I’m sorry, I’m a bad Dad” and all of that jazz.

I’m not taking it. He has always had these random but regular pity parties where he feels guilty, but rather than apologising or doing something about it…he makes it all about him, and I end up feeling guilty and apologising to him. For years I have been apologising to him, and it’s sickening. It is sickening to me, that I took on the blame for his actions. That he twisted it in my head so that I felt like the one at fault.

One of the hardest parts of the things that happened with my Dad was that it was so up and down, hot and cold. He hurt us, then he loved us….you thought, “it won’t happen again”…and then it did. A billion times over a good decade.

I was a kid then and I couldn’t exactly pack my bags and leave. A 7 year old does not have that kind of choice. But a 24 year old does. You can think I am a bad person for walking away from a parent, but it’s one thing to forgive and forget the actions of your parent from years ago, but it’s another to forgive someone who is still hurting you albeit in different ways.

I am so, so tempted to let him back into my life. To let him continue hurting me because maybe that would be easier than having no Dad at all. But I also know that it will lead to me self-destructing, and when in 3 months time I am an absolute mess, I will only have myself to blame. Letting him back into my life would screw me up again, and that would ultimately be my choice and my fault – so yes I am walking away, but it feels like I have been pushed. Selfish? Yes. Yes it is. If you call self-preservation and survival selfish, I am selfish. If you call having to spend the rest of your life without the man who was your world as a child that you dreamt of walking you down the aisle and looking after your kids one day, the kids you are going to have to explain this loss to, and losing not just him but the whole of his family too, as selfish, then I am very selfish.

But constantly putting yourself last at the cost of your own happiness and life is not something to be proud of. It is self-destruction.

 

Just keep swimming!

Pretty good quote from Disney there.

When I last posted on here I thought I was coming out of a blip, and then said blip continued. I 100% thought I could positive think myself out of the hole. I don’t really recall what happened but it worked very temporarily, perhaps a day, and then things became worse again. I ended up in hospital a couple of more times, but only overnight…and then slept a lot in the day time. I mean positive thinking is vital and I 100% believe that what we think, we become. That being said mental illness and being low is not exactly the same as being negative, and positive thinking can only do so much. I think when you are at rock bottom, it takes more than positivity to help you, but once you are beginning to feel a little better, positivity can really help.

Things are better now though! I went through a couple of days at the weekend where I was looking after myself better, but I felt incredibly low, which is the usual process after a blip. It’s like you are letting go of the ways you have been coping, so it’s relatively “normal” to feel a bit rubbish and it’s a lot like when you have been physically ill and it takes a few days to get your energy back, but here we are!

I can’t say I am entirely sure how things have turned around. On Friday I was in A&E from about 3am-7am…but I was determined to still go to work, but then I fell asleep. I was so angry with myself when I woke up. I woke up 15 minutes before I was due at the hospital for an appointment that I was planning to go to on my lunch break. I had to practically run to the hospital and I was not exactly wide awake. The clinic was running an hour late, and I basically slept in the waiting room for another hour and then saw them. They asked a lot of questions and were worried about me, so they wanted me assessed by the crisis team but I managed to avoid it. I walked home in a daze and really disappointed in myself. I think sometimes you get to the point where you are drained, tired, and sick of letting yourself down. I spoke to the mental health team I am under for a planned phone call and I attempted to act “fine”…but the plastic surgeons, police and the university mental health team had all contacted them within a day so the “I’m fine” routine didn’t work. When I got home I rested all afternoon/evening, and my pain levels were so high that even with prescription painkillers, I was struggling. It helped me to keep safe because the idea of more pain was, to be honest, intolerable.

I am still on extra meds, plus the pain killers and antibiotics. Apparently it’s harder to get antibiotics these days but I swear I’m given them so often! It can’t be healthy!

I’ve been to work, and the gym for the last 3 days. On Monday I saw my MA supervisor, and I’ve also been super challenging myself with food. At home especially. I had been eating the same things every day for all meals including my evening meal, and then having set rules about lunch at work that I won’t go into, but I’ve had different meals every evening, eaten foods I haven’t eaten in a long time (cheese, avocado, salmon, cous cous, houmous, crisps and more), and also eaten different things at work. Every time I start panicking about it and my head wants to go back to eating the same old things I actually get really angry with the thoughts and I feel like, and excuse the swearing, “f**k you, you don’t get to dictate my life any more” and I love it when I am able to have this attitude.

I actually feel like my recovery from my eating disorder has had two stages; stage one was forced treatment as a child, stage two was actively choosing to “recover” as an adult, and I feel like I am entering a third stage where I am no longer accepting what I previously have. I’ve not been “ill” in terms of my anorexia for a few years, but I have been making a deliberate effort to keep my weight at or just below the target weight range eating disorder services set for me, doing as much cardio as possible, eating at certain times, eating the same foods, avoiding a lot of foods and other similar things…and I feel like I am beginning to challenge that.

If I gain more weight, who cares?! I’d rather be happy. Just because my current weight is what I need to be to be regarded as “healthy”, doesn’t mean it is my bodies healthy weight. I mean BMI isn’t the most reliable of measures, everyone’s weight/BMI varies, and a minimally healthy weight doesn’t have to be the end goal. A BMI of 20 is healthy, but so is a BMI of 21-24. I choose a little extra weight, happiness and being able to eat dessert any day! More than that, I choose being mentally healthy over spending my life restricting what I eat, not eating things I enjoy and having to put so much energy into not gaining weight. There are far better things to be putting so much effort into, and some food is good for your body, some food is good for your soul!! A healthy body is important, but so is a healthy mind.

I am a big believer in lifestyle changes for anyone who has weight related issues, rather than dieting. I am a big believer in body acceptance – body positivity is great, but actually you don’t have to love your body all of the time, but you can accept it and not criticise every aspect of your appearance. I despise the money making diet industry. I despise the guilt that so many women (and men), feel over their bodies and what they eat. I despise body shaming of any description albeit fat shaming, or thin shaming, and I absolutely hate that some people feel they have to adhere to certain standards. I hate that we are bombarded with messages such as ‘fat is bad’, ‘low calorie = healthy’, and ‘no pain, no gain’ – and I want to practice what I preach!

AMEN.

Bad times happen. Good times happen too. We choose which we focus on.

I have had a difficult week. I mean bad days happen regularly, but they are normally just one-off days or hours, not days upon days, and probably not this bad. I don’t even really know where it came from, it just kind of hit me from nowhere and it worries me how this happens. I’m picking myself back up and eventually managed to get some help, but I know things could have become much worse and it scares me. It scares me that I will end up back in hospital long-term, or lose the good things in my life. It was like everything just hit me, like suddenly I hit a wall. I am a very active person, and as soon as I wake up I’m out of bed in 30 seconds. I exercise regularly. I never, ever, spend a whole day indoors. I can’t say when I last did, but it was years and years (except when I was in hospital because I wasn’t allowed out). But there have been a lot of periods of time this week where I haven’t even been able to leave my bedroom, nevermind the house. A couple of times where I couldn’t leave my bed. I just laid there, in the middle of the day, and felt paralysed.

At first I was angry with myself; I thought I was just being lazy and needed to “pull myself together”, but looking back it was nothing of the sort. The thing that made me realise that sounds a bit silly, and embarrassing, but basically I needed the toilet and I was in agony and yet the idea of moving, of walking…I just couldn’t. I was in so much pain and after 2 hours I was still just laid there. I was also crying non-stop and I NEVER cry. I’m always called the unemotional one in the family, which is awfully ironic given that by diagnosis is emotionally unstable personality disorder. I am emotional, but just not in a way that people can see. It’s often not visible. But when I get in a really bad place, that does change. The worst thing I’ve done is set myself up for failure…thinking “I’ll be fine tomorrow and I’ll do X, Y and Z” and then been the furthest thing from fine, and feeling guilty and telling myself I’ll be better tomorrow.

I have also been having horrendous headaches which they think is related to how I’ve been mentally feeling. It’s weird because the headaches started last week, before things got bad. I’ve had two types; one where it’s a dull ache that just will not go away, the other is very sudden and intense. For about 10 minutes max I will be in agony. It starts at the back of my neck and then runs around to my ears and it feels like the worst pain I’ve had in my life. And then as quick as it comes, it goes. I don’t know which is worse. The ones that won’t go away make the whole day even harder, but the short ones are agonising. Knowing it won’t last long helps. It’s really weird, and I feel like I am making them up because who gets a headache for ten minutes?!

I feel really guilty for how I have been this week, and really disappointed in myself. The only thing that is helping that is the fact that my mental health team think that I have been, and am, doing really well overall to manage it as safely as I can. Their number one priority is always safety, and between October and somewhere between January and March that was not something I was successfully doing. It got me taken out of treatment and that is why I am currently not really having any formal therapy, and it landed me on the psych ward. The team I am under were extremely vocal about their concerns and tried to get me into hospital sooner than I was admitted (I convinced the team that assess you for sections that I was ok to be at home more than once), and so I know that they genuinely think I am working hard at things; they would not say it if they did not mean it, and so it eases the guilt a bit. The last thing I want to do is ruin my hopes of returning to treatment.

I have had to spend some time in hospital this week, and the reality is that it might become necessary to have at least some time there over the weekend, but I am trying not to see that as failure neither. I have made some bad moves this week, and I’ll be honest and say that rather than admit to myself that I was disappointed or angry at myself, I took it out on professionals. I mean when I say that I don’t mean I was horrible or anything like that, and it was very brief, but in my head at points, they were the problem not me. I did not want to go into the hospital no matter how brief it would be. I find it embarrassing and I feel ashamed when it happens, and lets face it, nobody wants to be in a hospital.

I’ve had my meds temporarily increased. They’ve given me 9 days worth so I’m assuming it’s just for that long. I hate being overly medicated. Like I accept needing some medication and I take daily long-term medication…but I hate using PRN medication, and I hate that it just wipes me out. I am starting the PRN tonight and I know I am going to struggle to get up in mornings, and I’m going to feel zonked out. It feels like why on earth would I do that to myself? But I know the reasons. If it can prevent ending up in hospital and keep me stable so be it. But of course then I will also worry about coming off them so you can see why I want to avoid them; they wipe me out so being on them is hard, and then coming off them is also hard. But needs must, and this happens VERY infrequently for me so I can kind of accept it as a rare occasion kind of thing. Don’t think I am being critical of using PRN medication because I’m not, but it just isn’t really for me.

In terms of support I can go to the hospital any time. I can also ring my team between 9 and 5 Mon-Thurs, and 9-4 Friday. We have a scheduled 30min call next Fri, but I can ring before then. It’s reassuring just knowing it’s there as an option, and we spoke Monday, yesterday and today, plus I’ve had contact with my GP. Next week my mental health specialist mentor at university is increasing my contact with her to twice weekly (Monday and Thursday), and there’s room to consider having a 2hr session plus a 1hr, rather than two 1hrs. She is a life saver. She makes such a big difference to my life, and not only that but we genuinely get along. She said once I leave university she will keep in contact with me, and it just feels like we click. I feel like we are quite similar in some things and we don’t sit and talk about mental health related stuff all of the time, like we have genuine similar interests and good random conversations. I’m very lucky. (Also she is Irish and I love Irish accents).

My plan is to rest this weekend and take it easy while on these extra tablets. I have moments where I feel A LOT better and while they are brief, they seem to be lasting longer in the last day or so. The not so great moments, I need to start accepting. I make it so much harder for myself by getting frustrated and angry at how I feel…it just makes me even worse. Acceptance seems awfully important. I am also beginning to wonder if covering up what is going on from people is beneficial. I know I blog very openly, but in the rest of my life I’m not open at all so trying to be so is difficult. None of my friends know what is going on right now. But I think maybe not totally masking things helps, and I have shut myself from everyone this week which can’t be a helpful thing, and I think it is tough on the people who care.

I’m just going to take things as they come. The good and the bad. But I am going to push myself. I have to, because if I don’t I would trap myself in my room forever. Sure sometimes it is ok to have a rough week or day and need that, but it feels important to not let it turn into a ‘normal’ thing because otherwise I’d get really bad….so it means forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do. While I accept this week has happened and perhaps I needed it, I’m not going to be easy on myself because I don’t want to spiral downwards so next week I am going to do the things I need to, and usually, do and I am going to use the extra support available, take these meds, and push myself. I know that doing things, doing “normal” things, helps me, and it’s ok to have a down week, and to let myself, but it cannot continue for long. It’s that difficult thing between being compassionate to yourself and understanding bad weeks happen and it’s ok to withdraw from things a bit because as much as it doesn’t feel like it to me, this is an illness…while also taking responsibility and not letting yourself off from things, not giving up. A mental health problem is not a choice, but recovery is, and choices are involved.

My biggest mistake this week was not facing up to things from the start. I took a long time to tell someone how things were, and therefore to seek help, and even longer to actually use the help. But that being said a week is nothing! I used to go months in that state of denial of what was going on and hiding away, avoiding help. I feel like in less than a week I’ve managed to go through a process that used to take often up to a year! And I mean that is what I am focusing on; not just how far I have to go, but how far I have come. It is so easy to forget where you were before, and to focus on the bad, when there is so much to be proud of.

(I don’t mean to make it sound like this totally came out of nowhere, which I probably have made it seem. I think there had been signs this was coming and at least one person around me knew that, and I was just pulling the wool over my eyes with the “I’m fine, it’s fine, everything is fine” thing, but I had been managing to just have bad moments rather than longer periods.)

I have my fingers and toes crossed for a hospital free weekend though! Lots of rest and calmness please! And I look forward to being hyper and silly again, hitting the gym, working and getting on with some uni work! There’s nothing better than feeling like your usual self. I know normal every day life can seem boring for some, and feeling ‘ok’ might not feel like enough, but I think when you are someone who does have very bad times with your mental health and where things such as being in hospital become necessary, there is nothing more you enjoy than the apparently boring, normal every day stuff. Even finally cleaning and doing an essay suddenly feels good when I’ve had a bad week! And don’t get me started on my own bed, a shower or a nice walk. These things sometimes feel like the most amazing thing in the whole world. The relief of coming home and falling asleep in my own bed with fresh sheets sometimes feels like winning the lottery. It’s the little things that often feel like the big things.

This has been an awfully long rant, but I feel like getting things out is an important part of trying to draw a line under a bad week and start fresh, and to acknowledge that you can both be fighting hard and doing better, while also having tough times. One of the most reassuring things for me has been reading the blogs of people who are overall successful and doing well, but seeing that they have bad times too. Seeing people who seem to always have everything together doesn’t actually inspire me or help me any where near as much as the people who are open about their difficult times. It helps me to see the bigger picture in life, and that having a bad time doesn’t mean it is how things always are, or how things always will be, so if you are having a bad evening, day, or week, it’s ok. I know it is hard to believe right now, but this is not permanent. The only thing in life that is guaranteed is change, and our feelings tend to be one of the things that can change the most in a shockingly small amount of time. I hold onto that thought a lot – and the fact that a bad week doesn’t delete all of the good days; they are still just as real.

BPD and Emotional Dysregulation: Part Two.

A month ago I wrote this post, and I called it “part one”, and then I forgot about it. Standard Natalie. But here we are!

I wanted to talk about ways of managing emotional dysregulation (ED).

There are so many different approaches, methods and techniques to manage ED, and while some work amazingly well for some people, they do not work at all for others. It is also VERY easy to disregard ideas because of assumptions we make; I hear about things like meditation, yoga and taking a long hot bath and my automatic reaction is to roll my eyes. Why would I want to sit quietly while struggling? I would rather go for a run, hit the gym or clean the house. Anything but sit still. But I am learning to open my mind to things; try guided meditations, for example. While not everything will work for you, you might be surprised that some things you do not even want to try, might work wonders.

The way I see it is, we have found ourselves in a rubbish situation, and we desperately want to learn how to manage better, and it seems like a pretty sensible thing to try every option no matter how silly it might seem. We have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

So first of all we have all of the things I think are airy fairy and I do not want to try, but which I do and will try; mindfulness, grounding techniques, yoga, arts and crafts. I am not going to go into detail on anything in this post as I have a lot to cover, but check out the links. (I wrote a post on this airy fairy stuff once!)

While in a day programme I absolutely hated art therapy, which they called “creative”, but towards the end I started writing rather than doing “typical” art, because the title of creative gave a lot more flexibility. Since then I have had a few periods of time where I have bought scrapbooks. I’ve had a “positive” scrapbook, and then a not so positive one, which I have yet to find a name for (I do not think “negative” is a good word for it). In the positive one it is simply lots of positive quotes or things I have read, with illustrations and things. I am not artistic. I am the least artistic person I know, but it is not about being an artist, it is about expressing yourself and creating something positive to look back at. In the other one I did the same but with quotes or poems that I could relate to in a different way; in a sad kind of way, but it was helpful because it allowed me to express some of my difficult feelings and find things I could relate to. Towards the end I also often just grabbed a sharpie and scribbled whatever was in my head onto the paper; messy and freely.

Here are some art journal prompts and writing prompts. If you really feel unsure about creating your own art, colouring in for adults is a huge thing now, as well as adult dot-to-dots!

Then there is exercise. Exercise is a complicated one. Sometimes I genuinely believe exercise is the last thing we need, especially if we are really low. There is a massive emphasis on exercise in mental health treatment, and while it is obviously backed by a lot of research, and often it is really helpful, what is not helpful is to feel like you SHOULD be exercising, but be unable to manage it, and then feel bad about it. But exercise can mean anything. Just because you do not like one thing, does not mean you will not like something else. Also, if you are really struggling you might not feel up to being in a busy gym, or intense exercise like running; but a 15 minute walk down a quiet footpath surrounded by nature, a swim, or a bike ride might be perfect for you; with this one you need to find what works for you, and this could be different things at different times. (If you struggle with, or have struggled with exercise addiction, an eating disorder, or any other addiction, be extremely careful about using exercise to manage your mood).

Medication can also be helpful in managing severe emotional dysregulation. While it is definitely not a “fix”, it can help when things are very unmanageable. This is something you will need to discuss with a medical professional, and is not something that will necessarily be an option for you. Different medications work for different people and therefore my experiences are limited in their usefulness for you as an individual, but I have found two medications particularly helpful; quetiapine and clomipramine, and while I did not think they were helping me, when I have been off them I have realised that they do. Like I said, they are not going to solve the problem to a seriously noticeable extent, but they can help ease things.

This next,and final one is a biggie! Acceptance. Acceptance of your emotions is key. Do not feel guilty or bad for feeling sad, or angry, or whatever it is you are feeling. It is ok to feel; a feeling cannot hurt you. Read more about radical acceptance, which is a key component of a famous treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (DBT). Radical acceptance involves taking a non-judgemental stance about yourself, and the situations and people around you, and accepting them as they are. It is not about agreeing with something or someone, but simply accepting things you cannot change.

There are other things that can be helpful when experiencing emotional dysregulation:

  • Identifying your emotion(s) – if you struggle with this you can use an emotion wheel. An emotion is something that I believe is trying to tell you something. Ignoring your feelings will not help, but recognising how you are feeling and saying to yourself “right now I feel really sad” can often be helpful if you can be accepting of that, and aware that it will not last forever.
  • Distraction techniques – note that distracting yourself is not the same as ignoring your emotions; after distracting, your mood or emotions will at some point return to a more tolerable level, at which point you can address what you were feeling.
  • Longer-term you can keep a diary of triggers. It can be helpful to do an ‘ABC’, that is A (antecedent), B (behaviour) and C (consequence). For more information go here and use their blank template to record yours. This can allow you to identify frequent triggers and work on managing them. This was something I learnt from a mental health professional I used to see, and while I did not find it helpful at the time as she used it as the basis of my treatment (aka we spent all of our time doing it), it can be helpful as an aid.
  • Wise mind. This concept is also from DBT. Your ‘wise mind’ is the middle ground. The two extremes are reasonable mind and emotional mind, where wise mind is in the middle.