Category Archives: Supporting Others

Unhelpful Things That Have Been Said To Me

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

I’m currently in a state of crisis. I’ve been struggling with self harm and suicidal thoughts. I’ve been quite open about this on social media and had lots of supportive messages but there have also been some extremely unhelpful comments too. Here are a few.

“Everyone feels like this some days, it will be better tomorrow” – A well meaning comment I know but for those who have a chronic mental illness it feels like you are downplaying what we are feeling and going through. Often tomorrow won’t be a better day. In fact it could be ten times worse. This makes us feel like we are doing something wrong to still be in this pit of despair. Also not everyone goes through what we are going through. A lot of people will experience similar things but what each person feels is unique to them. While there may be some comfort in knowing we are not alone, pretending everyone has experienced it just makes us feel like we are not coping as well as others do.

“I’ve heard camomile tea is calming” – This was said to me by someone with a mental illness and again I know they meant well. The problem is camomile tea is not going to solve suicidal thoughts. My mental illness is much more complicated than that. If it was as simple as that I wouldn’t repeatedly fall into crisis.

“Have faith in God” – I have nothing against anyone who believes in God or follows a religion. That is great for you and if it helps you to feel better than I am pleased for you. However please don’t try to make me believe in God or have a faith. There may be a number of reasons someone doesn’t have a faith and even if they do it can not always help them when dealing with a mental illness. It is not a crisis of faith that causes mental illness.

“There’s plenty to do that could take your mind off things” – I know that keeping busy can be useful to distract from the distressing thoughts but I had been doing hours of distraction and keeping busy when this was said to me. I felt like I couldn’t do anymore and even when I was busy the thoughts were still there. Also sometimes it is not possible to just keep going. Having a mental illness can be so exhausting in itself that doing something else is just impossible. Distraction also only works for so long. Eventually your thoughts will catch up with you if you don’t deal with them.

Those are just what have been said to me this time round in crisis. There have been many more that I have experienced over the course of having had a mental illness.

If you have had some unhelpful things said to you and feel you would like to share, feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Losing A Mental Health Professional

This piece contains my personal opinions and some of the content may be triggering.

Sometimes in life we can’t control what is happening around us. People come and go in our lives whether we want them to or not. This can be hard to deal with. One big change can be when we lose a mental health professional who has been involved in our care for a long time. We may have come to rely on their help and support. We may have built up a good relationship with them. And then it ends.

As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) endings can be particularly tough. Having a fear of abandonment means that when someone does actually leave our lives it is like a self fulfilling prophecy. Our worst fears are happening. This may lead to us getting involved in risky behaviours or rejecting the person before they are out of our lives in a way we believe will protect us.

Recently I was given the news that my care coordinator was moving on and I was going to have to say goodbye. It was difficult news to take as we had a good relationship and she was a great and supportive care coordinator. Getting the news made me feel like I was being abandoned as at the time there was no replacement on the horizon and no idea when one would be recruited. I was close to tears. Many thoughts went through my head including “was this my fault?”.

As I came to accept that this was going to happen I started to pull away from my care coordinator. This is what often happens with people who have a BPD diagnosis. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from a perceived abandonment even when it is not a true abandonment.

What helped though was the way my care coordinator rounded up our sessions together. She made sure my care plan was updated before everything ended so the next person would know what I needed help with and what I was working on already. Also in the end a new locum care coordinator was appointed so my old care coordinator could introduce me to the new one. This allowed her to inform the new person as to how often we met, what my major issues are and what needs to be brought up at my next psychiatrist appointment. It also helped to make a plan with the new care coordinator as to how our meetings would work.

What should a mental health professional remember to do when leaving a therapeutic relationship?

  1. Let the person know your leaving face to face
  2. Answer any questions about the change that the service user/patient has about the change
  3. If possible introduce your replacement to the service user/patient
  4. If unable to introduce your replacement, leave notes for your successor
  5. Tie up all loose ends

What can I do if I’m losing a mental health professional?

  1. Talk about any issues you feel need to be taken into account with a member of your mental health team
  2. Make sure you have numbers of people you can contact if you need help
  3. Create a support network (if possible) away from the mental health team
  4. Be open to a new mental health professional, remember just because they are new doesn’t mean they’ll be awful

Those are a few pieces of advice that I have but if you have more then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Time To Talk Day 2019

It’s that time of year again. Yes, today, 7th February 2019, is Time to Talk day. I must admit that I have struggled to think of what to write about for this year’s Time to Talk day so where this blog post is going I have no idea. And that is OK.

Sometimes we have difficult conversations and we don’t know how the other person is going to react to what we say. This makes us hesitant to talk about the difficult things. That’s why Time to Talk day is important. It’s an ice breaker. It helps us discuss what isn’t always an easy topic; mental health.

I still struggle to talk about my mental health. I’m hesitant to say I’m struggling to those important people in my life. In fact they are sometimes the last to know what I’ve been going through. Yet I can blog about it to lots of people I barely know.

So why is it so difficult to talk to the ones we love the most? I think it has to do with how they will react. This is something out of our control and we don’t know if they will be upset, angry or any other emotion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health still we are on edge as to whether we will face it from those we love the most. And we know that we could end up feeling worse if they don’t react how we hope they will.

So this year I think I might just share a few pointers for those who are listening to someone share about their mental illness. I don’t know if it will be helpful but I’ll give it a go.

1. Just listen: Sometimes it is simply having someone to listen without judging or making suggestions that means the most to us. If we ask for help then yes by all means try and help but we don’t always want that.

2. Be calm: It can be hard to do but staying calm will allow us to open up more as we see you are not reacting. Going straight into panic mode can make us feel guilty for talking and stop us opening up when we really need to.

3. Find an outlet: You are as important as the person with the mental illness who is talking to you. Therefore make sure you have support too. It will make you stronger for the person who is confiding in you.

4. Don’t guilt trip us: Telling us that we are making you feel bad or causing you stress will just make us stop talking. It will play into the negative thoughts we have and make us regret opening up and may even stop us from opening up to others.

5. Don’t shut the conversation down: If you say you don’t want to hear this then you can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk. If you’re finding it difficult suggest alternatives. Make sure that they know it’s OK to talk.

So those are a few tips to help you support someone who may start a conversation about mental health. Hopefully they might be useful. If you have any more ideas feel free to share in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

What Not To Say: Self Harm

Please be aware this post discusses self harm and therfore some of the content may be triggering.

Self harm is still a taboo subject and is often met with stigma,even from health professionals, who don’t understand what it’s like to deal with. Therefore I thought I’d put together a quick guide to things not to say to someone who self harms.

1. “You’re attention seeking”

Most people who self harm don’t want the attention. We often hide what we are doing much to the detriment of our mental and physical health. In fact there are easier ways to get attention than to self harm. Self harm is often a very secretive act and this can cause us trouble when we hurt ourselves to much. If this happens we’re often scared to get the health care that we need due to the stigma surrounding this subject. Also if someone is self harming for attention they still deserve your help and care. They obviously need that attention for some reason so it should not be dismissed.

2. “You know you’ll have scars for life”

Yes we know this. But at the moment our emotional pain is too much to deal with and we don’t care about the future at this moment in time. We also don’t need the judgements that you are placing on us. We often feel bad enough already without this comment.

3. “If you want to die why don’t you just do it?”

Self harm is often not a suicide attempt. Yes some people who self harm do want to die but often self harm is a way of coping with life and trying hard to stay alive. Also telling someone to just die is plain wrong. Why would you encourage someone to die?

4. “Don’t you feel pain?”

This is one that I’ve heard recently. And for me I don’t feel the pain at the time of harming myself. Everyone is different though. And even if a person doesn’t feel pain, pointing it out is not necessary and can be potentially triggering. This is why you shouldn’t say it to a person who self harms. It’s just unhelpful.

5. “Ugh, your scars are horrible”

My scars may look horrible to you but to me they are a symbol of what I’ve been through. Also its really unhelpful to say this as showing our scars is difficult enough. People should not be ashamed to show their scars. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

6. “Why don’t you just stop?”

If it was as easy as just stopping it wouldn’t be the problem it is. Self harm is like an addiction. You come to rely on it even though you know its not particularly helpful and in the long times makes things harder. Self harm becomes like your best friend as its always there for you but you know it’s actually toxic. It is a hard relationship to break down. So saying “why don’t you just stop?” is unhelpful. What we need is support to learn healthier coping strategies.

So that’s a few things not to say to someone who self harms. If you want more information on self harm you can check out the Mind website. If you want to share things not to say to someone then feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Family

Family is complicated at the best of times but when you have a mental illness it can feel like a complex puzzle you have to solve. It seems family can go one of two ways; supporting you unconditionally or being more of a hindrance.

My family is the same. Some have been amazing and supportive but others look down their nose at me and act like I’m less of a person because I have a mental illness that makes it hard for me to work, have a relationship and live on my own. I feel like a second class citizen, the black sheep of the family.

I have had snide remarks made to my parents by other family members because I am not capable of doing things most 29 year olds are doing. I’m not getting married, having babies or buying a house. I’m an only child and so my parents are the only ones out of their siblings that are not grandparents. This has resulted in comments to them that they “don’t understand what it’s like to have grandchildren”. These comments hit me hard. I feel I’m depriving my parents of this experience.

When I see family I always feel embarrassed that I’m not working. It makes me feel less of a person when I hear of my cousins working in jobs that I just can’t do. I hate myself for not being good enough and an embarrassment to my parents.

Family is complicated like I’ve already said. If you have a family member who has a mental illness there are some things you can do to help them feel supported and less of an embarrassment.

1. Don’t ask awkward questions

Asking someone when they think they are going to have a baby or when they are going to get married is really not helpful. It can make people with a mental illness feel more of a failure than they already do if they are struggling with these aspects of their life.

2. Ask how they are feeling

It’s quite simple. Just an interest in how they are feeling can make all the difference. They will probably feel less alone and less of an outsider.

3. Don’t force them into things

If they don’t want to engage in a conversation or an activity try not to force them. They may just need some quiet time or to just listen. It may be that they are anxious about the situation.

That’s just a few tips for how you can help a family member in a social situation. If you have any other ideas feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Lonely This Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year for most people but for some it is really lonely. If you have a mental illness it’s quite easy to find yourself feeling lonely and this time of the year can heighten those feelings. Also if you are feeling lonely it is likely to have a negative impact on your mental health. Loneliness is a silent killer with people who are lonely dying years earlier than the average life expectancy.

Feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that you are alone. You can feel lonely among a group of people. It is about how connected you feel to the people around you. You can feel isolated from people when you feel they don’t understand you. At this time of year with parties and get togethers, if you have a mental illness, it can feel difficult to connect with others and enjoy their company.

I often feel lonely at this time of the year as with my anxiety I struggle to deal with large groups of people. I also see a lot of family that can be stressful as I don’t always feel connected to the people and worry I’m being judged for having a mental illness.

So how can we tackle loneliness at Christmas?

If we’re going out with friends at Christmas it may help to trust a friend with our difficulties. They may be able to support us and help us feel connected to the group. It may also be useful to think of topics to help with making conversations. People like to know our interests and we won’t be boring anyone no matter what our brain is telling us.

If you are alone this Christmas there is a great push on social media to connect with others. Sarah Millican runs something called #joinin on Christmas day and other days of the Christmas break. This is a way to connect people on twitter who are alone at this time of the year. Even if you’re spending time with family you can still join in if you feel isolated.

If you need someone to talk to the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For othe crisis numbers check out the menu and click on crisis numbers. For other useful websites check out the menu and click on useful websites.

For more information on loneliness check out the Mind website. You can also find a link on their page to a blog post I wrote for them on loneliness.

If you have any tips or want to try and connect with others feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Fear Of Abandonment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), is diagnosed by seeing if a person matches at least give of nine different criteria. One of these nine criteria is fear of abandonment. This means you worry about people leaving you. This fear can be real or imagined. This is one of the criteria I identify with and have found very difficult of late to cope with. Therefore I thought I would write about how it effects me personally. Of course everyone is different and others will experience it differently.

When have I felt fear of abandonment?

I have felt fear of abandonment in a few different situations and for different reasons. The first event I am going to mention was a perceived abandonment. I was meeting a group of friends and became convinced they weren’t going to show up. I had no evidence for this at all but my mind became convinced this would be the case. It was totally unfounded and of course they showed up as planned.

The second event was when I found out my therapy was being halved from a year to six months. This led to me feeling fearful that I was being abandoned by the therapists involved in my care. This also happened when my care coordinator talked about reducing the support I received. I suddenly felt terrified I was being abandoned.

How do I feel about, and react, to fear of abandonment?

When I feel the fear of abandonment, the terror that takes over me can be all encompassing. It is like a blanket of fear and can make me feel sick with anxiety. I start to become very defensive and try my best to protect myself from the perceived threat of someone leaving, real or not. This can start in my brain where I begin to tell myself I’m not important and it doesn’t matter if they leave me. I then start to detach from the person as much as possible. I might withdraw or stop talking to them as regularly. I make myself much less reliant on them. I do all I can to make the abandonment feel less painful, even though in the long run it hurts me more.

How should I deal with the fear of abandonment?

With fear of abandonment it can be the little gestures that make us feel we are going to be left. To deal with this there is the skill of non-judgementalness. This where we try bit to judge a person’s actions but look at all the possibilities of why they may be acting that way. It is a hard skill to engage but an important one.

When the abandonment is more real, in that a person is actually leaving, it is more difficult to deal with. Here it can be a case of using skills to ensure our safety and not getting to crisis point.

How can you help with fear of abandonment?

There are a couple of ways to help us not fear abandonment and they include not breaking promises to us as well as reassuring us. These things can make all the difference. Sometimes we just need to hear that you’re still there and care about us.

If you have any tips on dealing with fear of abandonment feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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