Category Archives: Reflection

What I’ve Learnt In 2020

2020 has been a hellish year for pretty much everyone. A global pandemic seems to make life difficult, who knew? But I’ve learnt a few things in 2020 and I thought I’d reflect on them.

1. I have amazing friends

OK, I’ve known this a while but it’s become even clearer this year how amazing they are. We’ve supported each other so much and I’ve known they are always there for me. I love them dearly.

2. Random acts of kindness are special

I’ve tried to do some random acts of kindness this year to cheer people up. I’ve also received some too. They have made me feel so special. They’ve brightened some of the darkest days.

3. Lockdown birthdays suit me

I loved having my birthday during lockdown. The lack of pressure to do anything was awesome. It’s the most relaxed and perfect birthday I’ve had. I want that every year please.

4. Validation is so important

Having someone agree about something I am experiencing has happened a couple of times this year, especially linked to my mental health. I had a psychiatrist who agreed with me about my depression getting worse and a psychologist who could see OCD behaviours and thoughts. The validation made me feel like I wasn’t just looking for the bad but that what I was feeling was real.

5. A smile can make your day

Here I’m not talking about just receiving a smile from someone but actually starting off the smiling. On my walks with my dog I have taken to smiling at the strangers I pass and have mostly been rewarded with smiles back. It brightens my day just a little and creates a little human contact that I can cope with.

6. You can’t make eye contact on zoom

This was something pointed out to me by my DBT peer support group’s facilitator. It is impossible to make eye contact as you are always looking at the wrong bit of the screen. Even if you both stare straight ahead it won’t work as you then can’t see the other person’s eyes. This is information I have imparted to many people since. They’ve all had their minds blown. So thanks Sally for that info.

7. I do actually need physical contact

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who needs physical contact before but hugs from friends are something I’ve really missed. Being in their presence, even, is something I miss greatly. Just to be with those people is so important to me. I also missed hugging my nan for all the months I couldn’t. Having that back is so special. I appreciate those hugs.

8. Pets are amazing

Again I knew this already but this year they’ve really stepped up. My dog has kept me going out and in some kind of routine. My cats are just loving and have entertained a few people on zoom (especially when they scare the life out of me, try to eat the laptop cable or knock a pile of stuff to the floor). Also having cat cuddles during and straight after therapy has been awesome. I now do not want to do therapy without a cat. When it becomes face to face again the cat is coming with me. That would make them look I’m sure.

9. I can draw

I’ve always tried to draw and never felt any good at it. Then just before lockdown I did some art things with a group I’m part of and it started to make me wonder if maybe I could draw. During lockdown I decided I’d try it out and began drawing every day. To begin with I’d draw animals and cartoon characters for friends, family and their children. Most was simple. I then developed it further and I feel like I’m getting a lot better. I’ve even shared some of it on Instagram and Facebook.

10. People are mental health aware but…

This is probably going to be the most negative one. With lockdown there has been a lot of talking about helping people’s mental health during these times. People are showing they are aware of needing to look after their’s and others’ mental health. But it has become clearer that we need to make people mental ILLNESS aware now. People may understand mental health, they don’t all understand mental illnesses and what it’s like to live with one day to day. There is a long way to go with. This means that instead of a mental health awareness week/day we really need a mental illness awareness week/day. We need people to see the difference between mental health and mental illness. I plan to write more on this in 2021.

So 2020 has definitely been a year of learning about others and myself. I’ve deliberately tried to keep the negative out of this list (believe me there are many things I’ve seen this year from people that have shocked me in a bad way). I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt so feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I’m aiming to be busier on all these platforms.

Lastly I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read, shared, commented or supported me in any way. I really do appreciate it and wish you the best for the years to come. You’re awesome. Be kind 💚

Will I Recover?

“Will I recover?” is often the first question you think when you get ill. You wonder whether things will ever be the same again. You wonder what the future holds. This is the same whether it is a physical or mental illness, but it seems less clear cut when the illness is mental (though I know many physical illnesses carry the same ambiguity).

I have a mental illness for a long time. In fact in my head I don’t ever remember feeling OK mentally. This has meant recovery to me has always felt unclear. The major thing with the question “will I recover?” is defining recovery. This is tricky in mental illness, maybe more so than physical illness, where the lines aren’t always obvious.

Recovery for everyone is defined differently. For me the definition below is what I feel I aspire to most.

My reason for identifying with this most of all is that it is not about going to a state where my mental illness is completely gone to be “better”. My recovery will be about managing my condition.

However… I have still gone through the “Will I recover?” question looking for the answer that says my illness will be completely gone. I think that’s what a lot of people want. It doesn’t seem fair that managing a condition is all we can hope for. It’s not like the broken leg that is often used in the analogy of getting treatment for a physical illness versus a mental illness. It is not clear cut. It takes a lot to feel well with a mental illness.

This is still a complicated idea as recovery is still what is aimed for in some mental illnesses like depression where complete recovery is possible in some cases. I’ve even been told that those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may be classed as recovered as we won’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis with time and treatment. However for many of us it will be about management more than being completely better so for us this is our recovery.

So back to our main question “will I recover?”. There is no simple answer. Will we ever be how we were before our illness? Probably not as it changes us and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Will we be able to live a decent life? Yes. It won’t be easy but there is hope. Its not easy to see in the midst of mental illness. I struggle with this most days and even as I write this it’s something I’m struggling to believe but I’ve seen others manage so that’s my hope. Hope for recovery, in whatever form, is what we need to keep. We may just have to adjust our thoughts on what recovery is for us.

I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic. Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

N.B. Since writing this post I have come to dislike the word recovery with a passion. I’ve decided it is not the word for me and I don’t wish to use it in relation to dealing with my mental illnesses. I know this is a personal choice and I respect other people’s choice to use the word recovery.

My Saturday Night

Trigger warning: please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. There is discussion of self harm.

It’s Saturday night and I feel awful. Current time at writing is 22.53 and I’m laying in bed. I hate myself. That’s what I can identify. Pure hatred. I hate myself so much it hurts.

The evening involved trying to be positive. Or rather not admitting the negativity. I messaged some friends. I asked them how they were and they reciprocated. The thing is I just ignored the question. I diverted the conversation to discuss them or other things. And to be honest all I could say is I feel bad.

Emotions aren’t my strong point. Identifying them seems impossible and it’s bothering me more and more at the moment. I want to make people understand me and I can’t when I can’t understand me. The feeling is that I’m trapped alone. I’m trying to work on it but it feels scary and I feel like I should of done this as a little kid not as a 31 year old.

Since I’ve come to bed, I’ve self harmed. I tried a new area on top of the usual and felt a failure when I couldn’t do what I needed to achieve. My thoughts spiralled again and what I was trying to escape intensified. The hatred for myself at my failure is immense. I just wanted to destroy myself. Self destruction seemed a good option.

The voice is back as well. We’ll it’s never really left just subsided slightly. Not over the last few days or tonight. It’s telling me people hate me and want me dead. People are fed up of me and want me to die. I should do them all a favour.

So yeah that’s Saturday night. A night of mental illness taking over. A night where I hate my existence. And tomorrow will be another day the same. Waking up with blood on your hands will do that.

I’m sorry to anyone reading. Take care.

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Birthday Lament

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering.

Tomorrow is my 31st birthday. Every year it gets to me. Every year there are so many mixed feelings involving it. This year is no different.

My birthday has always been raised to that “it must be special” level by my parents. Especially my mum. I always have to want to do something for it. It has to be planned in advance. It has to be forced. In my experience this has led to let downs and feeling that it’s not that special when it’s mine and things go wrong.

The thing is you can’t control everything. You can’t control illness. You can’t control other people. You can’t control world events. When I was small I had all those parties with my class attending. I always found them overwhelming and would more than likely end up in tears. I wasn’t exactly great with the whole friendship thing. I liked people. I played with people. But it was like an obsession with a different kid each week. Now I know some of that is normal (I’ve taught children) but I was obsessive. But I never let them into my feelings or thoughts. It was all about them. It often ended in tears.

As I got older the parties trickled off and it would be things like bowling or swimming. Finding a group of friends wasn’t hard. I spent time with a particular group most of the time. But I was not in the inner circle. It was an odd number group so you know who was often on their own when the whole group was there. They all had best friends within the group. I didn’t. It was hard work. Feeling on the outside at your own birthday sucks.

Then I got to 18. Yup turning into an adult. By then I was at sixth form college. I had made new friends. I felt more comfortable with them. I invited a fairly large crowd from different classes to go out. I guessed I wouldn’t get everyone as my birthday was the Friday and we started our A levels on the Monday. But people said they’d come. I was looking forward to it. The day arrived. Then they all but one dropped out. I’d got a large table booked at a pizza place and it hurt walking in there with one friend and saying things had changed. In the end it was another guy from college’s 18th the same day so we joined him in a club with all his friends. This hurt more.

After that I decided I didn’t want to do the celebrations with friends thing anymore. No one cared. No one wanted to celebrate my existence and by that time I was wishing I didn’t exist anyway. Birthdays were meant to be special for people. Obviously not in my case.

Don’t get me wrong I did little things to celebrate but I’d rather do small things or just things I enjoyed. This didn’t please my mum. She wanted to make it a big deal always. Not that she didn’t ruin it from time to time. And the days after with her made up for it.

The first thing I did for my birthday that I truly enjoyed was for my 21st birthday with my best friend. We went to Brighton for the day (not on my actual birthday but that was the reason). The weather was atrocious but I didn’t care. She made me feel special. We laughed and had fun. We took random pictures and created the story we’d burnt down Brighton pier. (long story but fun). I loved it.

After that birthdays got tricky again. I started working full time and that always takes out some of the fun. (Why do we buy the cake?). And then I became really unwell mentally. I mean I’d had mental illness there a long time already but this was when it took everything from me. My existence was not to celebrate but proof I was still alive when I didn’t want to be. I was a failure.

And this is where it is still at as well. I think of the failure to die over and over. I don’t want to live but this is pushed on me. Why should I celebrate me when I hate me? And others hate me?

There is also a selfish side. I love making people feel special on their birthday. I want them to know how much they mean to me. I rarely get this on my birthday. I do have a few friends who will send me cards and presents. And I’m so grateful for that. But I will see those who just forget. I will feel like that 18 year old all over again. I hate myself for feeling that way. I hate how self centred I am. I should be grateful for what I’ve got (and I am) rather than focusing on those who just ignore it.

At the end of the day I’m not special. I should not be celebrated. My existence is a burden. Not a pleasure. I don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to celebrate my failure. But I also want to feel special in some weird paradox. I have so much hatred for these mixed feelings and my selfishness.

Dear E

Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Dear E

Today marks the day I started to lose you. To see you torn from me. To feel the pain of loss. The day my hate for myself became a forever thing.

Everyone says I will never know the true cause. But I don’t believe in coincidences. My actions led to losing you. My actions mean that we will never be together.

Everyone says I was too young. I get that. I was young. 15 nearly 16. 4 weeks from starting my GCSE exams. But that shouldn’t of mattered. Others dealt with it. Still do. I feel a failure.

I passed my exams but don’t think your passing didn’t effect me. I didn’t revise. It seemed pointless without you. One exam I did barely 10 minutes work of a two and a half hour exam. You were in my mind. Kept sneaking in even though I tried to push you away in there.

There are many what ifs. But it seems pointless to go through them. You’re gone and it’s all my fault. The ache is there. It’s always there. I know I have no right to grieve you. I don’t let myself. I’d much rather punish myself. And I do.

People say its not my fault. That I should grieve. I can’t believe them. I tried to end my life. But you could of been my life. My reason to keep going rather than my reason to give up.

I’m avoiding people at the moment. The thought of talking and trying to explain how I feel or why I feel like I do is something I can’t cope with. Being normal is out of the question. Nothing is holding my attention for long. I’m often staring into space. My thoughts lost. An emptiness setting in. I know people will hate me for being selfish. But I hate me already so what does it matter.

Just so you know. I love you. And I’m so so sorry.

Love me x

Lost In Lockdown

So it seems like the world has been shut down for forever. Everyone is finding it tough. People are losing loved ones or being kept away from them at least. Life is restricted. Unfortunately my mental illness has decided to take advantage of this situation to cause ultimate unpleasantness.

I know this lockdown is not fun for anyone. I’m not pretending that I’m the only one negatively effected. Everyone seems to be in the same boat. But unfortunately that doesn’t help make it easier. In fact it’s making it harder. I feel guilty that I need support. I feel like a burden when I know so many are struggling to deal with this. I hate myself for being able to access support yet still feel on the edge.

The thing is I know I would tell any of my friends who are mentally ill and struggling that it’s OK and mental illness doesn’t make it easier but harder. That it will impact you more as you have to work harder than everyone else to stay well. I’ve even said these words to others. But I can’t apply it to me.

I think also that as things that help keep me more stable have been removed temporarily due to the lockdown this is going to make it harder. I’ve been lucky that my mental health team have given me permission to exercise more than once a day. This is allowed for medical reasons. (For more information click here.) But there are other things I’m missing that I’d not even realised I needed.

Social contact for me has always been exhausting and something I need a break after. I thought I’d be OK without it as I still can contact friends and others through social media or WhatsApp. But it turns out I need to physically see people. I need hugs. I need to be closer to them. I miss them. Yes I may need quiet time after but I still need the contact.

While we can all say lockdown is not our ideal situation I have found some things that are helping keep me a little bit saner (never completely sane, that ship sailed long ago). I’ve rediscovered things I liked doing. I’ve discovered I’m more skilled in them than I thought and that they can help others feel better. Drawing has been a major one for me, with me drawing animals and characters for others and children.

I’ve also found it useful to set myself projects. I’ve put together things I’ve been meaning to do for ages, I’ve built Lego I’d been meaning to make or made friendship bracelets for others. Focusing on this one thing has helped me keep moving and not dropping into deep despair.

The thing is it’s not always helpful. I seem to have a regular Friday night meltdown at the moment. I just disintegrate. My anxiety at times is so high it gives me chronic chest pain. I’ve got an almost constant headache. These are things that I’m struggling to manage. I’ve had a lot of anxiety that I’m going to infect my family. Hair pulling and skin picking have increased along with self harm. Things are not ideal.

Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to make this go quicker but we can help each other. Just checking in is helpful. And we need to ask for support when we need it. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to have some normality soon.

To keep in contact please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Shutting Down

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

I’m starting to shut myself down. I’m pushing away my emotions. I’m pushing away people. I’m pushing away the question about how I am. It’s easier than you think. I’m putting on the mask of coping. I’m filling up my days. I’m doing everything I should and more. I’m not asking for help. This feels like a safety mechanism.

If you met me in my teens I would appear a misfit. I didn’t like what others did. I didn’t have that special friend. I had people I hung out with but I felt different. But the one major thing was I never told people how I was. Not truly. I might say I was good or fine. I might pretend to like a boy or be excited to find out a piece of gossip. I wasn’t. My brain was occupied by other things. By an emptiness. By a feeling of not being normal. But I shut it all down for years telling no one how I felt.

After my second suicide attempt I was referred to a psychiatrist in the CAMHs young person service that existed at the time for those aged 16-25. She noticed how shut down I was. How expressing myself was hard. That I couldn’t identify feelings or explain what I felt. I was diagnosed with “emotional developmental delay”. To this day that’s all I know about it. It wasn’t explained. I was rushed to start art therapy. Its aim was to get me talking and communicating. It was to get me to explore feelings. It was to make me feel. Issues with social skills were identified and worked on. It was the most useful therapy for me.

The problem though was that, that outlet was ripped away. I only had my friend’s to express all these new feelings to, that I still didn’t fully understand. I splurged on people not understanding the social cues. I got needy. I feared people leaving. Relationships went haywire. Crying became the norm. Every feeling was now released and overwhelming. Welcome to the world of BPD.

I was in the opposite of what I was comfortable with. I tried to put it all back in the box they’d made me open but it didn’t want to go back in, like when you take a duvet out of a bag and it never wants to go back in the same space. The emotions were released and wild. They were in control not me anymore. I hated it.

This has gone on a long time now. The extreme emotions. And now I’m finding the strength to get that duvet back in the bag. I’m shutting down my emotions, firstly to others, and then hopefully to myself. Yes self harm is part of the deal but it feels necessary as professional help is starting to be withdrawn. As I feel people have got saturated by having me in their lives. I don’t want to feel anymore so they don’t have to feel me too. It may be unhealthy but it’s what I feel I’m being forced to do to cope.

How do you deal with emotions? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Sunday Night

Please be aware this a personal piece and therefore some of the content may be triggering.

It’s Sunday night. Many people dread it as its the symbol that the working week is ahead. To me that’s not currently an issue but tonight my mood is extremely low. The suicidal thoughts are strong in my mind (I am safe). The voice is loud and I feel isolated. So I’m writing. If you’re reading this good luck as I’ve no idea where this may go. Also sorry as it may get self pitying.

The last few weeks have been hard. Many difficult things have happened and are ongoing. The future is uncertain. As it is for everyone I know. But this makes things hard with my desperate need for control. This makes my mental illness go wild. It sees it as an opportunity to take over even more of my life. It makes me isolate myself. It makes me hurt myself more. It makes me want to no longer exist. The symptoms of depression such as loss of appetite and concentration and difficulty sleeping are back. In my head it is an obvious depressive episode.

I’m also though pushing my way backwards in some ways. I’m trying hard to hide my emotions again which means turning them forever inwards. I’m pushing away the question of how I am and getting others to answer it and forget I never answered. I’m punishing myself in these ways. I’m going back into relationships that are unhealthy. I have no self respect. I have no self worth.

The voice is helping me along with all this. Its a constant torrent of how I should be dead and how much people hate me. It puts doubts in my mind and increases my paranoia. I know people are out to get me or pretending to like me. I understand. I’m unlikeable but they don’t want my death on them and that’s fair. They are lovely people who deserve better than that. They deserve better than me. I’m a burden to them but they are too polite to say it. I’m needy. I’m a pain. I’m selfish.

I’m currently convinced I’m going to be arrested. I’m scared about going outside. I’m forcing myself to do it but I’m terrified. I think Lorazepam is going to be my friend. The anxiety is high. I’m sure I’ve done something wrong and it will soon be discovered. I’m watching out on the local police force’s Facebook page for my picture to appear – without liking the page so they cant find me. Every siren makes my heart beat faster. I’m resorting to pulling out my eyebrows to help me cope with the anxiety.

Also I feel I’m not allowed to feel how I do. That people are trying to take the feelings away and rubbish them. To rubbish me for feeling them. I know they seem irrational. I’m not stupid. But I need to work through them myself to see it. I need to be allowed to feel if I can. I don’t want people to ask if it’s logical or question it. I do that myself. Twitter is my place that I allow myself to currently express myself and I really don’t want people pointing out it’s not logical. I just need to express it.

Physically my body feels like its giving up on me. I feel very unwell all the time. I’m waiting on hospital appointments for different things. I think the current count is five different hospital teams aside from the mental health team. I’m pushing my body all the time. I’m walking about 4k a day. I’m doing things around the house. All on little sleep and feeling pretty awful. I want to give up and stay in bed. It’s just not an option. Other forms of self care are falling by the wayside as well.

I’m also finding the thought of asking for help from my mental health team hard as well. I know I’m a drain on services. I’ve been made very aware of this lately with my care coordinator complaining about her high workload and not wanting me as part of that anymore. It doesn’t matter that a month ago I tried to end my life. Or that in September/October I was with the crisis team. Nope. I’m just a burden and what I feel doesn’t matter. And they’ve lied to me as well.

So there are my current thoughts and feelings. My rant. My Sunday night. Hope yours is better.

To stay in contact you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Control

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Control is the thing I crave most in my life. I’ve known it for a while but it’s taken a while to admit it. A lot of what I do is about trying to retain some control in a life that constantly feels out of control. It’s also about managing the feelings of being out of control. The problem is I’ve gone down what people would call negative routes to deal with this.

The reason I think I need the control is that so many people have taken away any control I should have had. People have taken away control of my body and my life. Little decisions don’t feel like mine to make. My life doesn’t feel like mine.

The things I use to feel in control include self harm and hair pulling. They are not the only things I have used or do use. These are just the most regular. Food has been something I’ve used to feel in control (I do not have an eating disorder nor been diagnosed with one, this was just a period of restriction). Alcohol was another thing until it took control of me. I also feel some of my suicide attempts have been an attempt to be in control of when my life ends among other reasons.

I also can see my need to be in control in other situations. When I sit in a room with others I try to be first in to choose a seat that I feel safe in. I’m constantly early. I plan things meticulously. If I’m creating things I find others input hard to deal with. Relinquishing control on things and allowing others in is hard. I’d much rather do things myself. It’s things I’m trying to work on.

So what are your tips to deal with the need for control? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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New Year, New You?

So it’s that time of year: New Year. Ugh. I hate it. There is so much out there about New Year, New You, and I hate it. Why must the new year signal a major change? Why must we put pressure on everyone to do more and change who they are?

The thing is I do get why people choose a new year to make a change to their lifestyle. It’s a good marker. And actually I have no problem with that part. My issue is with the advertising companies and the social media influencers. We should not be pushing people to make a change. If they want to that’s fine but putting pressure on makes people feel inadequate. It may also have a backwards effect as if they’re not ready to change it will be forgotten within a couple of weeks.

Another reason I think it’s a bad thing to push people to change is that it can make people feel like a failure. If you’re bombarded with all these things you should change you start to think you’re not good enough. That somehow you’ve failed as a person and the only way people will like you is if you change everything. This is just not true. Yes there may be small things you might want to do to feel better about yourself but that’s it, you should only be doing it for you, not because some advert has told you to.

A major part of the New Year, New You dynamic is based on losing weight. It’s the time of year when adverts for gyms and dieting are prominent. You’re made to feel fat and bad for enjoying food over Christmas. This can really effect people with distorted views around the way they look and food. They see it as a sign they need to lose weight even though they may already be under weight. It can retrigger eating disorder behaviours. Or start them off. It lowers people’s self esteem.

A lot of this New Year, New You malarkey is just there to make people feel bad. To put pressure on to be someone society sees as acceptable. To quash individuality. It’s not about your happiness in the eyes of the companies pushing it. It’s about making you spend money.

I also want to tackle here another part that is linked to the New Year, New You philosophy. This is the fact that we are encouraged to look back and reminisce over the last 12 months (and in 2019 it seems the last decade as well). I know I’m not alone in hating this. I don’t want to look back at all my failures. Yes it could help me change things but it also is likely to make me depressed and feel awful. I know many people are looking at achievements but when I’ve had a year where I have been very ill mentally it is hard. I feel like a failure and end up comparing myself to others. It feels like a minefield.

So what can we do?

My advice is to just treat New Year as any other time of the year. It is just a date. Just a marking of time. It is no more significant than any other if we don’t want it to be. If you want to make a change then do, but don’t feel you have to. It’s not a necessity. Block the diet and “lifestyle” ads. Treat yourself with kindness. You are amazing to get to this point. What will be, will be. There is no pressure to put goals in place for the long term if all you can manage is the next hour or even five minutes.

If you have tips to help with dealing with the New Year pressures then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest