Tag Archives: kindness matters

A Letter To My Best Friend

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

Dear M,

You have stuck by me for a very long time. 13 years we have known each other and in my mind we just seemed to click straight away. You made joining a new university in my second year, when everyone has already made good friends, less daunting. You didn’t mind me sitting with you. You were awesome.

I feel our friendship cemented itself quickly and more so when we worked together on the project away from uni. You made me laugh a lot. We seem to have a very similar style of humour. Working together seemed easy. It was definitely the best paired work I’ve done and the most enjoyable.

When you left uni soon after, I missed you a lot. I was determined to keep this friendship. It meant, and still does, a lot to me. I loved that we messaged each other nearly everyday. It was/is so easy to talk to you and I always look forward to seeing you.

You were the main person to encourage me to get help for my mental health. You were so supportive and made yourself available at all times even when you weren’t doing the best yourself. I’m forever grateful for this. You even stuck by me after the suicide attempt. You’ve dealt with so many of my attempts to end my life.

You’ve also been my biggest cheerleader. Helping me push through to finish my degree, helping me do something special for my 21st, and celebrating me graduating. There’s been many milestones since as well and you are always the first person I want to, and normally do, tell. You push me to do what you know I’m good at. You can see my potential.

I’ve loved being a part of your milestones too. Going to your hen party was a high. Seeing you get married was special. And meeting your children has been one of my favourite things. Plus graduating on top of working and being a mum. It may not of been my right but I felt so proud of you, as I still do.

You are an amazing person. You are kind, caring and supportive. You make yourself available to me even with everything in your life. Your family has been amazing to me too and that must be to do with you. I feel comfortable with you, something that doesn’t come easy to me with people. You are special. You always know just what to say and that includes you saying you don’t know what to say. You’re honest with me. I trust you.

So the main point of this is to say thank you. Thank you for being part of my life and allowing me to be part of yours. Thank you for being there and supporting me. The last time I was in A&E you text me the whole time even though you must of been busy and that meant so much to me. I know I’m not the easiest person to be friends with and I’ve worried you repeatedly (I’m so sorry for this) but you’ve stuck by me again and again.

You were the person I wanted with all the news of mum’s cancer. Lockdown has made me miss you like crazy but you’ve shown me our friendship can last through time and distance. I hope you feel the same.

I know I may not be your best friend but you are certainly mine. I would not be here without you. Thank you for being you.

Love Jo x

Chaotic Cancer: A Family Member’s View: Intro

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

About six weeks ago (or longer, the days are all merging) my world was hit by the news that my mum has cancer. It’s something I’ve been dealing with on top of coping with my mental illness. Therefore I thought I’d use my blog as a way of recording how I cope (or not) with everything that comes from living with someone with cancer. And not just anyone living with someone with cancer but someone with a prior mental illness. I know bits will overlap with everyone who supports someone with cancer but there are bits that I think I’m finding harder due to my diagnosis. Maybe not… But this will be my way to explore it.

I’m planning to set this up on it’s own page of my blog so it will be together with other information or support as well. And it will all be in one place.

My plan is that I will be as honest as I can be. That I will look at the good, the bad and the ugly. This may mean there is triggering topics discussed so please be careful. As always I will put a trigger warning at the top.

So post one will hopefully be up shortly (once I’ve written it) but I don’t think I will keep these posts to a schedule as life is already chaotic. I also still want to write about other areas of mental health and illness too, this is just an add on.

As always if you want to share or ask questions feel free to use the comments or my Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts.

Being Invalidated

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

“To invalidate means to cancel something or make it void, as if it never happened. In invalidate you see the word valid which means true or correct. When you invalidate something you are making it less true, less official, or less correct.” (vocabulary.com, March 2021).

The meaning above can be applied to things you experience. It can be caused by other people and events. It can make you question your thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and reactions. It can make you feel awful. And people sometimes don’t even realise they are doing this to you.

When you tell someone that what they feel isn’t justified or to just stop feeling that way, then you are invalidating the way they feel. You are telling them what they are feeling is not true and not correct. Yes, you may not have felt that way in that situation but everyone is different and that doesn’t mean that what that person is feeling is invalid.

It’s important we think before we speak. It’s what might feel like silly things that can have an effect on other people and cause them to feel invalidated and it can start when we are children. What we are saying may to us sound reassuring but it ccam invalidate the child. Saying to a child who is nervous about an exam that they shouldn’t be is invalidating. Instead saying you understand why they feel that way but you feel like they are well prepared so it should go well is acknowledging their feelings as valid while reassuring at the same time.

Some mental health professionals could also do with understanding the power of invalidation. Telling someone that what they are experiencing is minimal or not that bad can have lasting effects on everyone and especially those with a mental illness. It can cause them to deteriorate further. On my write ups from the psychiatrist appointments it would often say my self harm was superficial and it would make me try to cause myself more harm as I felt they weren’t taking me seriously. I’ve also heard of people with eating disorders who are told they are not thin enough being made sicker.

I know that although having a diagnosis can be a burden I felt it a validation for what I was/am experiencing. It made me feel that someone could see that something was wrong and I needed help. However this means professionals need to be careful about removing diagnoses from patients as it can add to invalidation. You are taking away the validation you gave them. There needs to be a conversation and careful explanation.

It is possible also to invalidate yourself as well. This is harder to stop doing, I know I do it a lot. It’s important for us to try and allow ourselves to experience our feelings and acknowledge them. This is easier said than done though.

So when speaking to anyone try to consider their feelings and not cancelling them out. We all need to think of how our words and actions impact on others.

Lockdown 3.0

This is not a post I thought I’d write. Actually more hoped I wouldn’t write. The UK is back in lockdown. Our 3rd. I won’t go into the politics of it, that’s been covered a lot.

With each lockdown there has been new challenges to get through. I’ve found my tolerance for other people has deteriorated dramatically. I’ve felt more and more alone each time. And my support system feels more and more depleted each time.

With regards to other people, they make me angry. Anger is an emotion I struggle to cope with so it’s an awful place to be in my head. I want to scream and shout at the selfish people who keep putting us back in this place of lockdown because they can’t do as they’re told. I want to shout at those who get too close not only because they shouldn’t, but also because it scares me. People scare me enough as it is. The pandemic and lockdown just add to this.

Loneliness is another aspect of lockdown that gets to me. I can message people but it still doesn’t feel enough. I live with people but sometimes that makes me feel lonelier as they don’t understand what I’m dealing with inside. I don’t like a lot of physical contact but there are some people I just want to hug. I miss them so much. The thing is I’m also finding myself getting anxious about talking to people. Zoom groups are feeling harder than ever and I feel so detached.

The reduction in support is also feeling more of an issue. My contact with mental health services has been depleted and I’m struggling. I feel like I have nowhere to turn at the moment and more things I use to keep me well ish are disappearing.

So yep lockdown 3.0 is set to be a challenge. I’m trying so hard. I’m looking at skills I can use from DBT to help me get through. I just need to get through it. The thing is I’m a paradox and the thought of “normal” scares me too.

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

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 πŸ’š

Lockdown 2.0

Here in England we are heading into our second lockdown across the country. While the first was not great, I’m finding the thought of this second one much harder to cope with. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

For the first lockdown I had lots of projects I set myself. I had a routine that suited me well. I even enjoyed my lockdown birthday. This time I feel so empty about it. The idea of finding projects to do feels overwhelming. This time I’m not in charge of my routine. This time I can’t keep everyone safe as those that I live with who were shielding no longer need to this time.

The thing is I’d been hoping for a second lockdown as I didn’t feel safe in the world as it was becoming. People were hugely selfish and disregarding the rules. In shops it was like people thought their mask made them invincible. I’m convinced many had stopped washing their hands. And noone could count to six.

So now the second lockdown is here I’m anxious. I’m living with someone who is terrified of being trapped in the house again and who’s mental health has suffered a lot. This has impacted on my own mental health detrimentally. I feel trapped with them. I feel I’m not strong enough to support them through it all again. The first time took its toll as it was.

It also doesn’t help that my own mental health is probably in a poor state anyway. I’m going through therapy and it’s hard. I’m cut off still from those I just want to hug. And have been for months. I’ve seen so many people deteriorate over this time period that I’m worried what it will do to them further. But I don’t feel strong enough to support them and feel guilty about this.

Overall I’m full of anxiety and doing my best to stick my head in the sand. I don’t want to read the news or the endless speculations. I don’t want to see the selfish people who are hoarding already or hear the complaints about what is being done to save lives. It’s overwhelming me with feelings I can’t identify but make me feel sick.

This lockdown is necessary. But it’s scary. I wish I could say we’re all in this together but some have shown us otherwise. I’d like to say I’m here for you all but that would be stretching myself too far. All I can say is there are numbers in the crisis contacts part of the blog (look in the menu). If you feel bad, talk. You are not alone. Big hugs to you all. Be kind πŸ’š

Why I Hate The Term “Mental Resilliance”

“Mental resilliance” is a phrase that keeps cropping up. But it is a phrase I have come to hate with a passion, especially with the way it is being used. It’s connotations make me uncomfortable and I cannot accept it.

First of all I think we need a definition of the word resilience. I’ve found a definition of it in psychology:
“The ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, and even significant sources of stress.” Better Help, 2019

This doesn’t sound too bad. It suggests that we can learn how to get over issues more quickly. However this has led to people taking the phrase and believing that people with a mental illness should be more able to get over a mental illness quicker if they are resilient or even not suffer in the first place. This has been shown by comments made by prominent people in the media.

The problem with these comments is that they imply that if you get ill mentally you are not resilient enough. It gives a sense of failure and that you are not a strong person. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite often people with mental illnesses are strong and resilient for too long. They don’t seek help straight away as they feel they should be able to deal with it. This talk of resilience reinforces it.

So what should we be doing?

I’m not saying there is no place for teaching skills to help with mental resilience as it is useful to deal with stressful situations in the short term. However we need to make the narrative clear that mental resilience is not a concrete prevention against mental illness. It is still possible to become unwell even if you are resilient. It does not mean you are weak if you become unwell. Mental illnesses are often caused by things outside our control and for that we need treatment.

Instead, as well as teaching true mental resilience, we need to be saying that it’s OK to talk about our feelings in times of distress. It does not make us a “whiny snowflake”. It is a strong thing to do and will help with our resilience in the future. We need to be helping each other. Just because your younger and suffering does not mean you are less resilient than someone older. All it shows is that I’m the past people couldn’t speak about mental illness and now they can. That is resilience but in a different way.

I think what we need to do is reclaim the term mental resilience and educate people on what it means. We need to take on these people who seek a generational divide about living with a mental illness. We need to change the language we use.

So my question today is what do you think we should be teaching in terms of mental resilience? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Therapy 2020: Session 7

Date of session: 14/10/2020

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Today was tough. Even tougher than last week. I feel broken. There’s a lot of other feelings floating around that I’m unsure of and feel massive. I should try to work them out but at the moment I don’t want to know what they are.

We started as we usually do with a check in on how I feel. I had an immense headache so she thanked me for even turning up and gave me the option of not doing the session at all or if my head hurt too much I could stop at any point. I felt this was nice as an option though I knew I wouldn’t use it as I don’t let myself escape.

We discussed last week and how I’d used distress tolerance techniques and that my self harm had not increased or become worse after the session. I mean it’s pretty bad anyway. She also checked I hadn’t resorted to any other destructive behaviours which I hadn’t.

When talking about the distress tolerance techniques she talked about how she uses them and why she’d used them recently. I know why she did this and it sounds a good thing but since I’ve been thinking on what she said and how I reacted and how I didn’t comment more. This has made me feel guilty which is silly but it’s the way I am.

We carried on with looking at core beliefs and doing a formulation. Today we moved into rules I live by linked to my core beliefs. She said these made me a good person as opposed to the evil I (feel) am. This is hard to believe.

We looked at critical events that clashed with the rules I live by that have reinforced my core beliefs. One of these was extremely hard. It’s a major one that’s led to my belief I’m evil. She decided we needed to challenge it. We wrote statements. We used different analogies. I understand the challenges. But can I believe them? We shall see.

That is where we left it. I’m not sure how to deal with all this going forward. I want to talk to some people I know about it but I don’t know how or what to say. My head is a mess. I keep trying to push it out of my head but it pops back up.

Sorry

I’ve worried people. I’ve been selfish but for unselfish reasons (it will make sense). I hate myself. I’m sorry.

The last week I stopped talking to people. My personal social medias became empty. My others became sparse. Emails went unreplied to as did other forms of messages.

I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t deal with my head and everybody else. I couldn’t cope with the voice being there 24/7. I couldn’t reply to people it was telling me I was burdening due to the wave of depression that has hit me. And it is depression. I recognise it all too well. It’s not just a BPD mood swing. This is more substantial. It’s the utter flatness. The true feeling of detachment from everything. Nothing is enjoyable. Words are hard. Doubt has grown.

Also having had the first therapy session didn’t help. I desperately wanted to talk to someone about it. But I couldn’t. Depression robbed me of that. As did the voice. The utter shame I’ve felt since the session hasn’t helped either. I’m in a complete pit of self loathing andd I don’t want to burden people with these things.

The depression is very much still there. Self harm has increased. Suicidal thoughts have too. No plans though as that would take too much effort. Self care has taken a knock. A shower is now a big occasion. Every little thing feels like I’m wading through treacle to do. It’s less than ideal when I’m having to take on more responsibilities at home.

So I’m sorry to anyone I’ve hurt. I’m sorry to anyone I’ve worried. I’m sorry for anyone who has got caught in the fallout. And I’m sorry that I know this will probably not be the last time. I understand if you want to leave me. I understand if it’s too much to cope with. I’m sorry.

Losing Someone To Suicide

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. I will not mention methods of suicide or self harm.

I rarely talk about this but someone I knew who had a huge impact on my life ended their own life. I don’t talk about it much as he wasn’t a friend or family member but he was still a positive part of my life and very helpful to me. He was my sixth form psychology tutor.

I’d left sixth form by the time this happened but we’d kept in sporadic contact while I was in university as he was very supportive about my mental health. He was the first adult I chose to tell about my mental health problems. And I’m glad I did. He made me see I had nothing to be ashamed of. That I could tell people and ask for help and it would be OK. He helped me get to talk to someone more qualified and when it came to going to university he made all sorts of calls and emails to ask about support for me and my mental health. He also showed faith in my abilities. I got a U (Ungraded) on the first exam I did for psychology but he didn’t write me off. By the time it came to predicting my final grade he went with an A (the highest grade at the time). Although I didn’t achieve that it felt good he thought I could.

The first I knew something was wrong was when a friend from sixth form sent me a message saying he had gone missing. Everyone was looking for him and there was concern for his safety due to some news he’d received. The sickening feeling will remain with me forever. I was 20 by then. We’d had less contact as I’d gone into my second and third years of university. I’d had my own mental health issues deepen by then. I hoped he would be found at aa friend’s house or just away for a few days.

The news came soon after that his body had been found. That it had been suicide. I wasn’t in contact with many people from my psychology class by then but some of my friends had also been taught by him. One in particular stayed in contact and we were shocked together. As more information came through it became more shocking. I was in contact with another teacher from sixth form and had a short email conversation with her about what had happened. It appeared no-one had seen it coming, even his partner.

Later on there was a memorial service at the sixth form for him. I’d arranged to attend but in the end couldn’t face going. I didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to shut it out. And that’s what I did for years. Occasionally it would come into my consciousness what had happened. But I always pushed it away. I thought it couldn’t have an effect on me as I wasn’t that close to him. I wasn’t friend or family. What right did I have to be effected by it?

But that’s the thing. Suicide does effect more people than you realise. I’m not saying this to make people feel guilty. I’ve tried to end my life since then and my thought always is that people are better off without me. I still feel that way even though I know how it feels to be a person left behind. The reason I’m writing this is because it does impact you. It does hurt and it can be hard to realise that person wasn’t being selfish. I know now more than ever he would never want to hurt anyone else and having had the opportunity to read more about it since I can see that more than ever. It’s something I wish everyone could see in those they lose to suicide.

Another thing that I think I’ve learnt from losing him to suicide is that even the best people have their demons. Everyone can struggle but still put on a positive front. We should never take that mask for granted and we should always be kind as we don’t know if we could make a difference to how that person feels. Also if you lose someone, however distantly, it’s OK to struggle with it and talk about it. Your grief is still valid. Death by suicide is particularly hard to process and it’s important to look after yourself too.

If you’ve lost someone to suicide there are places you can talk about it. The Mind website has some useful information. If you’d like to share anything feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Please be careful if posting anything triggering and add a warning if necessary.

Image from Pinterest

This post is dedicated to CR. You were a positive in my life and many others. You reached more people than you know and made a major difference to our lives. Thank you. X