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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.

When you say “they hate me”, do you really mean you hate yourself?: Avoidance and (lack of) Mind Reading Abilities

I think I believe I am a mind reader and I absolutely without any doubt know what people think about me. And usually that is that they hate me.

I use the word ‘hate’ loosely. I do not mean they seriously hate me or despise me. When I say I think someone hates me I usually mean:

  • They think I am a bad person
  • They are sick/tired/fed up of my “issues” and sick of me/sick of hearing about me/sick of having to deal with me
  • They think I am annoying, a drain of their time etc.
  • They do not exactly like me
  • They are judging me on my “issues”

There have been a huge number of examples of how I have felt this way over a number of years, and I can recall my previous psychiatrist telling me that I am not a mind reader and that maybe I should give people a chance, and let people form their own opinions of me rather than doing that for them. In that sense it sounds quite unfair that I assume what people are thinking, because in some ways I am almost judging how I think they think or feel. And on top of that it can lead to me avoiding said people to either a) not make them any more fed up of me, or b) the whole thing where I would rather reject someone first than hang around to be rejected by them.

Just lately there have been a number of examples of this, and I am becoming acutely aware of it because I have both been able to vocalise feeling this way in some examples, and also been given information that suggests the opposite of what I think. (And the fact there has been a number of examples in a short space of time). What I mean is, either I have asked the person if they hate me in a jokingly but not joking manner, or someone has told me something that has been quite the opposite of “they hate you.”

I have to admit that often despite a severe amount of evidence to suggest people do not hate me, these lessons often serve no real purpose. For example, in December I saw my mental health team and I was quite upset and feeling very much like they were very angry and fed up of me, which I translated to “they hate me”. I was given evidence on the contrary, and in said appointment I felt reassured. But come the next day I was straight back into “they hate me” mode. However more interestingly, I saw them again in March and received said reassurance again, and this time I am able to hold onto it much more than before. That is not to say that I have not felt annoying when I have had to speak to them over the phone, but the ‘hate’ bit has been a bit weaker.

My learning whatever mentor (I do not really know what her title is) from my university came to the appointment in March. On the way there I asked her to look out for “any signs that they hate me.” I wanted her to sit in the appointment as an outsider and see what she thought, of which I thought the outcome would be very supporting of my views, although I did add that perhaps they would act differently with her there. Looking back it was ridiculous. The two therapists that were in my appointment are absolutely bloody lovely and I feel awful looking back now at just how suspicious I was of them. Act differently? What was I thinking? That they would “act” because my mentor was there? I think I just thought that maybe my mentor would come to the conclusion they do not hate me, and I would then be able to argue back against that by telling myself that they were just pretending for her sake.

Thinking I know what other people think, and being so suspicious of peoples motives, really is not the best quality I have. It is actually unfair on others and I was yet again surprised today to find out when speaking to someone else, that a person I thought really, really hated me/judged me, really does not.

I think the obvious answer as to why I fall into this way of thinking is what most people will conclude; that I transfer my feelings about myself onto other people. I feel reluctant to agree with this, but then the obvious answer is quite often the answer. I feel insane guilt for my behaviour sometimes, albeit related to not managing to do things i.e. university work, meeting friends etc. or my self-destructive tendencies. I feel bad, guilty, ashamed and disappointed in myself, and I assume everyone else feels said things too, and therefore that they think I am a bad person aka they hate me.

It is a vicious cycle because feeling bad about myself leads to me doing more things that I feel bad about. I avoid university because I feel bad at not being a good enough student, and then avoid university even more because I am scared to face people and feel bad about being bad. I think my mental health team hate me because of my behaviours, avoid contacting them for support because I think they hate me, and then end up engaging in said behaviours even more, leading to more hate and more avoidance. And the same goes for a lot of situations including with friends and family.

Feeling bad about something quite often has no positive outcome. Even with other situations; I feel bad about not going to the gym/not doing a task, and then feeling bad about it makes me even less likely to do it, leading to feeling even worse. How fun!

My best advice in these kind of situations is:

  • Get yourself some actual evidence rather than evidence gathered from your so-called telepathic powers. When your reason for someone hating you is “because they do”, that does not cut it. Ask them. Discuss it with someone else. Give people a chance!
  • DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. Feeling bad about something is just going to lead you to feeling worse in most cases. Very, very rarely I will find motivation through being disappointed in myself, but it is rare, and it does not usually last.
  • Remind yourself of what a truly “bad” person is. For a start I reckon most “bad” people do not worry about being “bad”. I mean, what even is the definition of bad? I don’t know, that is open to interpretation, but struggling with university work and struggling with self-destructive behaviours does not make you a bad person. It makes you a person who tries very hard but is having a rough time.
  • We also have to look at why we are so bothered about other peoples opinions. I spend more time worrying about the opinions of people I know in a more “professional” relationship, than I do about the opinions of people I know more personally. This is a whole other issue/blog post. But remember that you need to try and focus being much more concerned about how you feel about yourself, because that is what is ultimately important (and if you work on how you feel about yourself, it is quite likely you will begin to stop thinking that everyone else hates you – I had not thought about this until typing it, but it makes sense!)

 

Between rock bottom and recovery.

Everyone talks about rock bottom, and talks about being better but it feels like nobody talks about the in-between. Everyone talks about rock bottom as being this one particular solid place you hit. This one particular solid place you hit right before you get better.

I have spent some time searching online to find something I could read that did not just talk about this, but nothing seems to really come up. I want to understand. I want to be understood. How do I manage this stage? How do I put it into words? How do other people do this? I want to read someone else’s words, and feel less alone.

I cannot find them.

I do not know if it is specific to certain mental illnesses, like borderline personality disorder, which are more long-term and up and down, up and down… but rock bottom for me is not one time or one place, nor does it always look how you would imagine.

I have the kind of rock bottom times you read about a lot when people talk about their mental illness. The hospital admissions following serious attempts at harming or killing myself, like New Year. On December 30th I took all of my prescription medication I had been collecting, and I woke up in hospital on January 2nd. I think about that a lot. I woke up with no recollection of the paramedics taking me to the hospital, and no recollection of being in hospital. I woke up in a different year. To this day I have no idea where I was in the hospital or what treatment I had. That sounds like a rock bottom place, right? The sort of rock bottom you read about and think “Oh my, that is bad.” The sort of rock bottom that would make a good real life story. Or what about when I sat with my legs over the edge of a multi-storey car park? That was definitely a rock bottom kind of moment. Sadly what made it rock bottom for me was the fact that fear was forcing me to stay alive. It was a moment where I realised I had little choice in living, and walking down from the car park was far from a moment where it all clicked and I suddenly wanted to be alive. I took three more overdoses instead, and ended up in hospital on a drip each time. One time I ended up in the psych ward. It must have been awful, right?

And it was.

But this world between rock bottom and recovery is worse, I think. It is longer. It requires so much more. It is painfully slow. The bad times are horrific. I wish I could point out a particular time and say this was rock bottom and that it does not get any worse; but rock bottom is not some fixed tangible place. Rock bottom is where you make it. For me, the car park does represent a rock bottom, but rock bottom could have gone further. It could have changed. It could easily have ended up being somewhere else.

I hate that rock bottom moments in people’s stories within the media need to have the shock element to make them newsworthy. I mean sitting on the edge of a multi-storey car park and being found by security was pretty rock bottom. And people would be interested in that, maybe shocked, and sad. People are not so bothered about the in-between world.

The world where I do not wash for days upon days. The world where the sofa and my bed are the only two places I feel ‘safe’ (and I do not really feel safe at all). Nobody is so bothered about the nights when I cry myself to sleep, miss deadlines, withdraw myself from everything and everyone, or have to seek emergency support to stop me from self-harming, or overdosing, or finding myself back on top of the car park. It is not so interesting when the person does not actually do anything. I think people think it means it is not so bad, or perhaps I wrongly assume that. But it does feel that way. That by not hurting myself, things must be better or easier or somehow less painful.

I will tell you now, not hurting myself is much more painful than hurting myself.

It is like with eating disorders. Everyone is fascinated and interested in shocking images of underweight bodies. Stories that tell readers that this girl was on deaths door. They would be interested in the parts of my story where I would not even drink water or brush my teeth for fear of gaining weight. The bits where I ended up in hospital. People are less fascinated by the battle of eating, but eating any way. The battle of not wanting to gain weight, but gaining any way. They think that means that the problem is better, or easier, or perhaps even over.

Everyone with an eating disorder knows that is not true. I have not had any serious issues with my weight or eating, apart from small lapses, in years. It does not mean it has gone away, but nobody is really bothered that I had two months where things got a bit worse again and I lost a bit of weight. Nobody is really bothered that I struggle to eat out, or eat the exact same things every single day. It is not life or death stuff.

My previous psychiatrist was the first professional who made me feel like there was someone in my life that knew that gaining weight, eating more, and not hurting myself, was the harder option. I recall some of the things she said. She told me that I did not need her support to destroy myself, that I had proven I was perfectly capable of doing that by myself. She told me to eat, was to choose the harder path. She told me that to not take an overdose, to not cut my skin, was harder than giving in. She saw my weight going up, and she did not think everything was fine. She knew it was not. She knew inside I was falling apart.

By her understanding this, she probably saved my life a million times. Her understanding of the struggles I was facing when I was doing all of the “right” things, is what kept me doing the right things even when they felt incredibly wrong. If she had thought that my weight gain meant I was happy and absolutely fine, I would not have been able to explore just how difficult it all was. I would have kept it all inside, and I would have, in the end, gone back to restricting and losing weight. Her understanding that I needed her support most when I was looking after myself, and keeping myself safe, helped me to keep going. If she had assumed things were great purely on the basis that I had not self-harmed since she had last seen me, I would have slipped backwards.

The biggest thing I have ever needed to get better, is for someone to recognise that “getting better” is more painful and more hard work than not. That the time I needed the most support was when I was fighting against the thoughts inside of my brain. A brain that is very often trying to kill me. All I have ever needed is someone to see that I am managing to look after myself, but still sit in front of me and tell me they know I am not ok.

Right now I am in a good place with my eating. A genuinely good place, but that is not to say my eating disorder is not present every single day, it is. There are some real shit times still; probably at some point every day. But I have gained so much knowledge and understanding, and so much help, that even now my previous psychiatrist is no longer present in my life, in the moments where I could easily slip backwards, I hear her words in my head. They are no longer just her words, they are mine too. Her retirement did not hit me that hard. I wondered why for a while, but then I remembered something she said; that one day I would have got what I needed from her and be ready to move on. I got what I needed, and it is inside of me for life. I am ready to move on and work on the rest of my issues elsewhere.

The self-harm and suicidal thoughts side of things is a work in progress. Bloody slow progress. Painfully slow. Sometimes so slow I feel like I am sinking. My focus right now is on stability and I swear to god I am sick of hearing that word. I head the word ‘stable’ and my eyes automatically roll back. I have, in the last week or so, come to acknowledge that right now I am not really aiming to “get better” as such. Not really better. Right now I am aiming to survive. I know, it sounds defeatist and depressing, but it is not. Not for me. I mean, just surviving is crap. But it is also essential. Sometimes, temporarily, it has to be enough. Sometimes just surviving is brilliant. My plan is to survive for now; to be stable and reduce/minimise/stop my destructive behaviours. The “getting better” bit will come after that. Aiming for my end goal right now just leaves me feeling deflated and defeated. Aiming to cope and survive is best for me right now. It means that I do not feel disappointed in myself for still feeling so god damn sad every single day.

My biggest realisation is that the help I could return to mirrors (I think and hope) the attitude and understanding of my psychiatrist; that not engaging in a behaviour is much harder than engaging (or a different kind of hard at least). And that support is still VERY much needed after someone stops hurting themselves regularly. And my belief that the people who I might return to for help in the future know this, gives me an insane amount of hope, and an insane amount of trust, in them and in eventually getting myself where I want to be. I just hope that everyone can find someone who gets this, and if you can’t, I hope you can be brave enough to tell someone, and give them that chance to be the person who supports you when you are roaming in the no mans land between “ill” and “recovered”.

rock bottom

Self-Injury Awareness Day

It is self-injury awareness day today, and I want to say something. I also want to say nothing.

I feel like out of all of the issues that have happened in my life, this is the hardest to be open and honest about. It feels easier talking about my eating disorder, perhaps because it is more historic, or perhaps because eating disorders (to me) feel more socially accepted now – and yet personally I feel like my eating disorder was a form of self-harm.

Except I think people “get” eating disorders to an extent. I think even as someone without an eating disorder people can understand/think they understand. I mean probably because they think it’s the same as dieting (which it isn’t) or because body dissatisfaction is just so common, or because many people find their eating is affected by their emotions.

But the idea that someone could physically injure themselves just probably is not so relatable. It is like any addiction. People abuse or use all sorts of things to cope that are not necessarily healthy; alcohol, drugs, exercise. Again, a lot of people can relate to those things to an extent. You do not need to be an alcoholic to be able to relate to the idea of having a drink to cope – but most people do not inflict direct harm on themselves.

Self-harm is messy. People respond in so many ways. Some literally grimace. I have had all sorts of responses. All these responses are from professionals, because that is the thing about self-harm; it is hidden. I’ve had people nearly fainting at the sight of me, people being overly sympathetic. People treating me like a child. Often it is well intended, but people often take it too far. Yes, I have self-harmed, but it doesn’t mean I am someone who should be felt sorry for. I do not really want people to feel sorry for me. You cannot look at my self-harm and think you know me. It’s not my whole story.

I was in hospital yesterday and a nurse said to another nurse “I know, bless her” like I was not there. I would rather that than be judged. But my self-harm is also one part of my life. They do not see that I am often happy. I work hard. I am at university.

Certain things led to me self-harming at a very young age – violence, alcoholism in the family, family mental illness and being a ‘young carer’ (not a fan of saying that). This is the thing about self-harming…it does not go away easily. It is an aspect of my childhood that turned worse as I was a late teenager/young adult and it is not going to go away over night. Often I feel I get judged a lot more as an adult, that I did as a child, and I just wish people would remember that the adult sat in front of them was once a young child who experienced certain things that led them here – it is not about attention, wanting sympathy or having a ‘bad’ life now.

And it really is just one small part of my life. It is not who I am. And I am getting better step by step. The steps are small, but I keep on taking the next right one.

 

 

 

If they had really wanted to die, they would not have called for help

Is a suicide attempt only really a suicide attempt if the person intended to kill themselves? Is a suicide attempt only serious if the person intended on ending their life?

Often it appears that suicide attempts are not taken seriously. You will hear a whole range of statements; ‘Well, if they had really wanted to die they would not have called for help.” “It probably would not have killed them anyway.” “If they really wanted to kill themselves they would just do it.”

I do not know why people say or believe these things. I think people do not think about it enough to hear what they are really saying, or they are just too far from being able to put themselves into a suicidal persons shoes to be able to understand what it is really like to be that person who attempts to end their own life. In some cases I think people do not want to believe that someone really actually meant to cause themselves life changing, or life ending, harm.

People do not understand that even if a suicide attempt is not successful, it could have been. People do not realise the state of mind a person has to be in to even attempt to end their own life. They do not understand just how traumatic going through that kind of act is.

No, not everyone that attempts to end their own lives wants to actually kill themselves. Does this mean they are not suicidal? No. People do not want to be suicidal. People do not want to feel like death is the only way out. People wish there was an alternative option.

People are desperate, and they can only see that one solution. People make suicide attempts because they feel like there is no choice remaining, so yes, sometimes people do something and call for help. They call for help because they are scared, they call for help because dying is terrifying, and dying alone is even more so. People call for help because they did it because in that moment they could not see a way out, but they also know now that this is not the way through it – but does that mean they did not have an intention of dying? Does that mean it is not serious? No.

Being suicidal, and not wanting to be, is one of the worst types of suicidal experiences there are. You are trapped, and there is no correct way forward. If you do not act on your thoughts you are going to be left with them and nothing will change, if you do act on them you will be left with a million more (but different) problems.

#TimetoTalk 2017

It is #TimetoTalk day tomorrow.

‘Time to Talk’ day is held by the mental health movement ‘Time to Change‘, which aims to change how people think and act about mental health to reduce isolation, and feelings of shame or worthlessness.

‘Time to Talk’ day tackles the difficulty of being able to be open about mental health problems by supporting people to be able to take the time to talk and listen.

For someone with a mental health problem talking can be a complicated issue. There is wanting to be open and honest Vs the fears of being judged and treated differently. There is wanting to share your struggles and experiences Vs wanting to maintain privacy. There is wanting to raise awareness and reduce stigma Vs not knowing what, nor how much, to say.

Talking is important. Being able to talk if you want to is particularly important; but I have to highlight that it is OK for you to choose how you approach this. Some people are private, some people are open, and many are somewhere in-between. There is no right or wrong way to talk about mental illness. We all share different things with different people; some people find strangers easier to talk to, some people prefer to talk to a select few. Some people talk online to raise awareness, but do not talk about it in their day-to-day lives.

Talking to raise awareness is incredibly important, but this does not mean you have to talk about anything you do not want to. The point of this campaign is to help people, not pressure them. You might just want to raise general awareness, rather than divulge personal information. Finding how you want to use your experiences and voice is a journey that takes time.

The reality is though, that despite amazing improvements in public understanding of mental illness, there remains stigma attached to having a mental disorder. There can still be feelings of shame attached to struggling with something that is both extremely common, and also not the your fault.

The biggest thing we need everyone to understand is that nobody is immune from mental health problems. The chances of you knowing a friend, family member, or colleague with a mental health problem is high. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Not having a mental health problem right now does not make you immune. Having a great career, great family, good income, or anything else does not make you immune neither. Just become someone “looks fine” does not mean they do not have a mental health problem.

Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect everyone. 

Sadly it often takes personal experiences to fully understand the impact and reality of life with a mental illness. It often takes having, or knowing someone with a mental illness, to make people take an interest – but mental illness should be something on everyone’s agenda.

“The way you act towards someone with a mental illness can change their life: by opening up to mental health you can make a real difference. ”

Time to Change

Mental illness is a disability, but with the right treatment, understanding, empathy and adjustments, it does not have to be disabling.

For ideas on how to get  involved with #TimetoTalk visit the website here.

If you have not yet signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge and joined the 96675 other peopple who have, do so now!