TW: Let’s talk about suicidal thoughts

Suicide.

It’s still a bit of a taboo subject. I understand it’s scary to think about right? Suicidal thoughts can be scary to experience too. The crushing despair that swamps your brain whenever you’re not concentrating on keeping it at bay; the constant racing thoughts that scream about every little thing you could possibly have done wrong and all the ways in which you hurt and hold back your loved ones; the dread of having to keep pushing on putting one foot in front of the other; the physical pain for each and every action and the constant desire for nothingness. It’s exhausting agony that can seem timeless.

If you’re currently working through this I want you to know that you’re not alone. I experience suicidal thoughts; for me, it’s EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Sometimes fleeting, flippant thoughts that I can brush away, sometimes an insidious vine that I have to battle to get free of. I rarely act on them but they’re always there. It can feel dark and agonizingly lonely, as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel but I promise they do recede, they might just need a little extra nudge with the right skills and support.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Why I Blog About Mental Health

A lot of people ask me why I blog about my mental health. It is after all very personal and something that some suffers find very difficult. Letting so many people – the majority of whom are strangers – know about the most difficult parts of your life and giving them the ability to judge and ridicule you can seem extremely daunting. But to be honest I never really thought of it like that. After a lifetime of suffering, I just felt the urge to communicate. Strangers can’t say things that previous friends haven’t already said and even if they did choose to be mean and rude it doesn’t matter to me.

More an more people are beginning to speak up about their experiences. Charities are trying to end stigma and normalise mental health issues. Everyone has mental health whether it’s good or bad and it’s important to know how to look after it. By sharing my story and adding to the voices already discussing the topic I can do my bit to make like easier for those who experience mental health issues that come after me.

It’s more than that though. I used to feel ashamed. As though there was something fundamentally wrong with me and because of that people had a right to ignore me, treat me like an outcast and walk all over me. That hasn’t completely gone away – in my darker moments that still creeps back in but I got tired of feeling that way. I realised that I do have the right to be heard and get the help I need. That there wasn’t anything ‘bad’ about the way I was feeling and that the only way I could change that feeling was to talk about it to anyone that would listen. I’m sure some people are sick of hearing it or cynically believe that it’s used as an excuse – trust me it’s not. I’ve done a lot of pretty rubbish things whilst ill that I am genuinely ashamed of but I’m trying to get to a place where I can heal and blogging is a part of that.

Being able to reflect on things that have happened and then articulate them in a way that others can understand has really helped me manage my mental health. Luckily so far I haven’t had any nasty or rude comments (touch wood) and have met some incredibly inspiring and supportive people through Twitter chats and online mental health communities. It’s made me feel less alone, has helped me through some rough times and showed me that my story can sometimes help others and I’m not always just nattering away to myself. Part of my studying this year has actually been on occupational storytelling which is essentially what I’ve just described and has reinforced that I’m on the right track whether people read or not.

I’d love to know what motivates others to blog – feel free to share in the comments

IMG_20170316_115824

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Late last year I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder ~ a personality disorder also known as borderline personality disorder. To be honest I don’t like the name of the illness, even if the description fits. It makes me sound scary like I could snap at the click of a finger and become ‘unstable’. I don’t think that’s true (I certainly hope I don’t come across that way), but that’s my opinion. Though ever since my diagnosis I have been trying to find out exactly what is borderline personality disorder?

I spent some time on elefriends talking with other people with the same diagnosis and had a look around on the web for other people’s experiences. None felt quite like mine but I guess everyone is different, so I decided to see what different organisations had to say.

According to mind.org it is,

A mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life

However I prefer the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) explanation,

A serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of instability in moods, behaviour, self-image and functioning

Don’t get me wrong neither of these paint a pretty picture, then again living with the disorder isn’t always pretty either. People with BPD often have intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety (amongst other feelings) that last a few hours to a few days. Essentially it’s a constant emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off. You can find out more about symptoms here.

Diagnosis

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I have struggled with mental health issues from the age of 13. Looking back I think it should have always been a BPD diagnosis, but unfortunately, it’s a disorder that is regularly misdiagnosed. For me, I have spent 13 years growing up and trying to manage and understand this illness without professional help due to a misdiagnosis, but I have still managed to develop tools and techniques to help me cope. If you’re in the same boat or know someone who you think might be then don’t despair you can get the help you need if you’re willing to be persistent. 

Help & Therapy

Since my rediagnosis, I have been offered help. I am currently undergoing assessment for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and it is looking positive for the first time in a while. I will still have to wait for a few months (NHS cuts) but I think I will finally be able to regulate and manage my mental health. Yay for me! There are other options available as well such as psychotherapy and medication but for me, they just weren’t the right fit. I tried medication but only managed 3 days before the side effects got too much for me.

Stigma

I’m actually really nervous about posting this. I know that BPD has a strong stigma and I’m not 100% sure how people will react to this. I hope that the people I know won’t act differently around me but I know that to some extent it’s inevitable. I have yet to experience openly hostile stigma (and hope I never will) but I have certainly felt like an outsider and know just how demoralising it can be. I often push down and ignore my emotions in order to feel more accepted and stop the constant replaying of each and every interaction in my mind. I just hope by sharing my story people see that those with serious mental illnesses aren’t all scary murderers but people that are trying to find their place in society as well.

Physically Healthy ~ Mentally Healthy

As part of my self care for this year, and in reaction to the revulsion I feel when I look in the mirror I have decided to try and live more healthily. That includes eating the right foods, exercising regularly, making sure I get enough sleep and giving myself time to unwind. I have already mentioned in previous posts small changes I have made and how I relax so I thought I might as well give you the bigger picture.

Mental Health Dieter

wp-1484585617640.png

Last year while I was trying to lose weight I set up a second instagram account where I could post my food without bugging my lifestyle followers. I let this taper off when I lost focus on weight loss, but I have picked this back up again recently. Here I document what I’m eating, when I’m exercising and how I’m feeling. There is a huge link between my mental health, what I eat and how I feel physically, so even if it isn’t a miracle cure it’s something worth investing in for me.

Carrie the cross trainer

Early in the new year I bought myself a cross trainer and named her Carrie (yes I name inanimate objects). Carrie and I were great friends for the first week, we spent a lot of time together – at least 15-20 minutes a day. I realise that this isn’t viable in the long run – I am not disciplined enough and I have a rather busy schedule. But as part of my self care and in a bid to lose some weight and feel better about myself I am trying to do at least 30 minutes 3 times a week. There are times when I don’t achieve that but I feel guilty enough that I always start again – if anyone want to be my workout buddy and drop me tweets asking if I’ve done my workout I’ll love you forever.

It’s a lifestyle not a phase

The biggest thing I need to get into my mind is that this is a lifestyle change not a phase or a diet. This isn’t something that I want to keep up until a certain date, this is a routine that I want to get into. A fail safe for those times when my mental health is kicking my butt and I need something to perk me up. Exercise, a good diet and the right coping techniques are imperative to my mental health so understanding that this is a lifestyle not a phase is imperative too.

Have you noticed the link between physical health and mental health, how do you stay motivated?

I Don’t Know What To Do

Things have been a bit tough for me recently. Actually, that’s a lie. Things have been pretty damn awful for me recently. Not through any outward situation, just the things that are going on in my head. I’m still trying to adjust to the fact I have a personality disorder rather than anxiety and depression. Actually, that’s wrong too, I’m trying to adjust to the fact I have a personality disorder and that my anxiety and depression are a symptom of it rather than the diagnosed illness.

You see it was 13 years ago that I was given those labels. I have learned to love them, understand them and wear them with pride. I learned to cope with them, I learned tools and techniques to help me get through. With them, I knew where I stood. I fit into the box I was given and just ignored the things nagged at me and told me it was more than that. I know in the long run that it’s a good thing. I know that the tools and techniques I already have are still valid and useful. I know rationally that I can now get the help I need – in fact those cogs are already in motion. But in my irrational head, I’m screaming to run back to the safety of the labels I’ve had for so long even though I know they’re wrong. To be honest it’s making me feel more than a little bit crazy.

I can’t remember how I dealt with things when I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I’ve heard stories and I lost friends, but in my memory, that time is fuzzy if not completely black. Realistically I imagine that it was as difficult for me to get my head around then as it is for me to comprehend this diagnosis change now. Minute to minute I change my mind on how I feel about it – which is actually part of the illness I know. I feel like it’s pulling me apart. Turning me into two people – one rational, controlled and sensible and one emotional, crazy and uncontrollable. I sound unstable writing this I know I do, and there are probably people who will read it that will think I am, but this is my reality right now. This is what this illness is doing to me. So I push it down, bury it as deep as I can and try to push on. The thing is that when I do that, everything triggers a link to the raw emotions just below the surface and I rather than cry or curl up in a ball I get angry.

So at the moment, I don’t really know how to move forward with my life. I am struggling to make decisions or carry on as normal because it doesn’t feel normal, and I don’t know if the choice I make will be right or whether it will send me spiraling into despair. Things are pretty scary right now, but every day I find the strength to pull myself together, act normal and keep going to the best of my ability because this can’t be it, there has to be an end. This can only be the storm because right now I don’t really know what I’m feeling. I’m just hoping that when the storm passes I will.

Changes To My Morning Routine

2017 has seen some changes to my morning routine, and I have to say they have definitely been for the better. We all start the year trying to be a little healthier and I am no different. Don’t by any means think I’m jumping out of bed and completing an exercise circuit (I love my bed and I am slow to wake up) but it’s small, simple changes that have made a big difference.

I am the type of person that is rushing from the minute I wake up – usually because I woke up late – and fell into the habit last year of grabbing breakfast as I ran out of the door and not taking time to properly wake up before I got outside leaving me grumpy and frazzled. So in new year style I decided to change all that…

Breakfast at a table

p1000611

For the first time since I lived at home with my mum I am making a conscious effort to sit down and eat breakfast at the table. Not only does it mean that I don’t get indigestion, it slows me down enough to focus on what I’m eating and whether I feel full.

It has surprised me just how much affect the way you start your day can have on the rest of it. Taking time to focus on what I’m eating and eating well has meant that I have been less hungry throughout the day. Probably because each time I eat I stop and pay attention to it rather than grabbing something while running around like a headless chicken.

10 Minutes of mindfulness

p1000607

After reading A mindfulness guide for the frazzled I have been trying to set aside a little time each day to pay attention to the now. The best time I have found for this is directly after breakfast, it sets me up nicely for the day and gives me time to digest my food and finish my coffee.

I use 10 minute guided meditations from AWARE. As you can see I’m on day 11 of a 21 day course. It’s not always easy and some days I spend more time refocusing away from the to-do list running in my head, but trying to spend some time each morning paying attention to myself has also meant that I pay more attention to the things I’m doing throughout the day.

Daylight face time

It’s still winter (which I’m pretty annoyed about) which means there isn’t much daylight. Without daylight I tend to get rather down so I invested in a daylight lamp. The idea is to spend 10 – 20 minutes a day with the lamp in your peripheral vision to help improve your mood, especially useful for those who struggle with depression and seasonal affective disorder. I tuck mine at the end of my dining table while I eat my breakfast and complete my meditation. I do have more energy and a lift in my mood after using it, but more than anything else it helps me wake up, which is great on dark mornings.

None of these things have caused a big upheaval in my life but they have definitely improved it – I just hope I can keep it up. Is there a small change you can make to your morning routine that will make a difference?

P.s. – Oscar just wanted to get in on the action

p1000610

The Importance of Looking After Yourself

Sometimes in life priorities can get blurred. It happens to all of us, and in my experience especially to those with mental health problems. I have a tendency to put other people’s needs and happiness before my own, but recently I have realised that it’s OK to say no to other people and focus on what I need.

4_selfcare_v2-768x1175
http://amandaschutz.com/portfolio/self-care/

Your mental health is a priority

I have been offered a job that would help me gain more understanding and experience in my chosen field and help progress my career, but I’m scared to take it. I’ve minimised my feelings and told myself that I need to keep moving forward, that the fact the job will be challenging is a good thing – it will help me grow and learn. What I haven’t considered is whether the job will be challenging in a good way or whether it has the possibility to undo progress.

Knowing yourself and your limits are just as important for growth and well-being as it is for maintaining mental health. Being aware of yourself means that you won’t put yourself in situations that have the ability to overwhelm you. It’s OK to say no to something that doesn’t feel right for you right now.

Your happiness is a priority

I am one of those people who derives happiness from the happiness of others. A smile and a laugh are infectious, so being around happy people lightens my mood. Yet if someone that is usually happy becomes down or sad I make it my mission to fix the problem, putting on hold my happiness or good mood so as not to ‘rub it in their face’.

Happiness can be fleeting and life can be short so making the most of enjoying yourself when you can is a priority. Sure thing, try to cheer up your friend – it’s a natural response – but don’t put your emotions on hold while you do, you’re allowed to be happy even if other people aren’t.

Your self-care is a priority

I have several friends who turn to me for comfort and advice when things get hard. It’s a feeling I cherish, they are people I love and I want to help them out but sometimes I just have to say no. It’s the hardest thing for me to do. It goes against my nature to put my own needs before those of someone else that I care about, but recently I have learned that sometimes I have to.

The old adage ” you can’t take care of others if you’re not well yourself” is something we all need to consider. There are proven cases of carer burn-out when they don’t take time to focus on themselves. It’s not selfish to say ‘I can’t help right now I need to take care of myself’.

Remember you are a priority too.

Dealing with my recent rediagnosis

I have struggled with mental health problems since I was a teenager. I was always told that it was depression and anxiety, but over the past year as I have done more research into these illnesses I have come to realise that this can’t be the case. My symptoms and what I experience don’t fit into that box. So I have been going backwards and forwards between my doctor and CMHT – until recently.

Over the past week I have been to meet with a consultant psychiatrist to discuss my condition and symptoms, and to see whether she agreed with my conclusion that I don’t fit into the pigeon holes for anxiety and depression. We had a chat about several different things; my past, my present, my daily experiences, my thoughts etc – not all of it pleasant – and she agreed that given what I had told her I didn’t fit the diagnosis of anxiety and depression.

cats_by_cryingangel707-d9z3jop

Just like that the diagnosis that I had ignored, fought against, cried at and finally accepted was gone. While I am glad that my old diagnosis has been revisited and I am able to access the right therapies I am struggling to wrap my head around the new information. I am angry, which to me makes no sense. I pushed and fought to get to this point, now that I am here why am I so confused? My rational side is telling me that it’s because I have gotten used to the label of anxiety and depression, I have accepted it and made it my own and I am not sure about this shiny new label – I still need to try it on for size.

A small part of me feels like I have been catapulted right back to my teenage years. I am second guessing every thought and every action, wondering if it is just who I am or down to this shiny new label I am now pigeon holed with. I’m hoping the feelings will pass if I just ride them out. That I will start to feel like the confident, self assured woman I was a few weeks ago – sure I had to give myself a pep talk every so often but at least I felt like I knew who I was. I guess only time will tell.

Have you had a diagnosis change at any point? I’d love to hear from someone going through or who has been through the same as me.

Winter & Mental Health

Winter sucks. At least it does in my opinion. It’s always cold, there are usually grey, rainy days, people don’t want to meet up as much and outfits become less about being chic and more about staying warm. All in all, winter is not my favourite. The thing is, for me winter also means that I get grumpier. The heat and the sunshine of summer (and usually autumn) has been taken away, the days are shorter and for me that adds up to mean one big black bad mood. The thing is I don’t think that it’s solely because of the weather. It’s easier to feel down and alone when it’s dark and you don’t want to leave the house, which means it’s easier to slip into those sneaky mental health traps.

Winter is generally the time when people with mental health issues tend to feel a bit worse. It’s always the time that I lean more heavily on my coping mechanisms, and force myself to do the things I would really rather not do. So rather than letting winter ruin my health as well as my tan I tackle each winter day with three easy questions:

How do I look?

snow-white-disneyscreencaps-com-27

G accuses me of being a bit of a parrot – whenever there’s a mirror I will check how I look. The first thing I stop paying attention to when I am starting to get ill again is my appearance. By making a point of ensuring I look presentable I can keep track of how much I am struggling so I know when to ask for help.

Do I really want it?

shutterstock_162110003

I stress eat. And comfort eat. And hibernate. Winter is the time when we all over indulge but I have a tendency of going over board. By keeping track of my food intake and asking myself whether I’m actually hungry or just eating for the sake of it means I can avoid putting on an extra 10 stone and feeling down about my appearance.

Will I be upset if I don’t do it?

Mental Health Sick Day Possibly Vintage

Because it’s winter and it’s miserable I find it easier to avoid social outings. So I know whether I’d rather have a lazy night in on the sofa or whether I’m avoiding it because of my mental health I ask myself whether I will be upset that I didn’t attend when people are discussing it after the event. That way I know I’m making the right decision for the right reasons.

Do you find that it’s harder to stay mentally well during winter? How do you cope?