Tag Archives: panic attacks

Shut Up

This is my response to some comments I’ve had and seen other people have. It is my personal opinion. Please be aware some content may be triggering.

“Shut up!” are the words I wanted to say. Someone tried to tell me what I could do even when I expressed how difficult it would be. They totally invalidated my feelings. They totally disregarded my illness. It was like they thought I had a choice over how I felt.

The thing is this is common for people with mental illnesses (and I’m aware it’s the same for those with chronic physical illnesses, especially if they’re invisible, but I don’t really have much experience of this so would not like to comment further on this). People seem to think you are just being difficult. They seem to think it’s a choice. They can’t see how much of a battle these so called “simple” things are to do.

Mental illness can create barriers to doing certain tasks. Getting through these barriers takes a lot of work. Just because you put it in simple terms does not make it any easier. It does not take away the mental, and sometimes physical, blocks. It does not change my feelings. It does not take away my anxiety (or depression, BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc). All it does is frustrate me as I feel misunderstood.

What can be worse is when it is someone who has experienced their own mental illness. You kind of expect some understanding (and most are) but instead you are met with their own standards of what you “should” be able to do with a mental illness. This is so wrong. Everyone with a mental illness is different. It effects people in different ways. What might be an easy task for me, might be the hardest thing for someone else and vice versa. Please don’t hold us all to the same standards.

In short before you voice that someone can do something (and not in a “you’ve got this” way but in a “you will do this as you are capable” forceful way) think. Why are they saying they can’t do it? What can you do that is a practical way to help? Are they ready to tackle this right now? Maybe ask them these questions. Please don’t invalidate what they are feeling.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Murder Not Mental Illness

I wouldn’t normally comment on things that happen in America as it is not my country. But this is an issue that comes up again and again with regards to mass shootings in America. The common rhetoric is to claim the perpetrator is mentally ill. Now it is possible that they do have a mental illness but for the number of mass shootings that happen each year in America, that is a lot of mentally ill people with access to guns.

The truth is that these mass shootings are murder. Even terrorism. Often racism is at the core. This isn’t mental illness. Racism isn’t a mental illness. It’s a societal issue. Also America is not the only place where people are mentally ill, yet the number of mass shootings that occur there is disproportionately high. Surely this points to a deeper issue (*coughs* gun laws).

Here is the reality. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I only have access to British statistics but this paragraph from Time to Change’s website shows the rate of murder caused by someone acting as part of their mental illness:

“According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.” Time to Change (Accessed August 2019).

It shows that while mental illness can cause someone to become violent, the chances are you’re more likely to be killed by someone drinking or on drugs. Yet this is never given as a possible explanation to those carrying out mass shootings. They also forget to mention that those with a mental illness are more of a risk to themselves than others.

It’s too easy to blame mental illness. To take something that people already fear and stigmatise against and use it to “explain” something so scary. People don’t want to think that someone who is a neurotypical person can be capable of causing so much death and destruction. But that is the case. Their brain may have been warped but it is not by mental illness, it is by racist ideologies (most of the time).

I know there will be many who won’t accept that mental illness is not to blame in the majority of cases. The thing is, even if a person is mentally ill, there are many other things that contribute to these situations. You need to look at your treatment of those with mental illnesses. You need to look at the ease of access to guns. It is not simply “this person was mentally ill and so there was nothing we could do”. Even when a person with a mental illness is violent, there are things that can be done to reduce this risk as there are often signs that this may happen.

So there we have it. Think before you say that a perpetrator is/was mentally ill. You are adding to the stigma. Maybe think what could be changed to prevent this ever happening again. What could of prevented it. What was the real motive. It is more than likely much deeper than “they were mentally ill”. Think. Yes, I’m looking at you Mr. President.

If you have any thoughts feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Etiquette For The Medical Profession

This is a blog post for anyone working in the medical profession. This includes Doctors, GPs, Nurses, Healthcare Assistants, Paramedics, Support Workers, Psychiatrists, Care Coordinators, Psychologists, Pharmacists, Admin staff and Receptionists. Basically anyone who comes into contact with a person who may have self harmed (therefore could also be useful for police officers too).

It has come to my attention that some of the people we want to help us deal with self harm can be some of the least useful with their comments and actions regarding dealing with self harm. Therefore I thought I’d put some tips together specifically for them and any professional that needs to help with self harm.

1. Don’t comment on it in front of other patients

This may sound really obvious. Patient confidentiality is key. Bringing it up in front of other patients without permission is wrong and can cause harm to the person who is self harming, the relationship between patient and professional and possibly even the other patient/s who could hear about it. You never know where this information will go. Unfortunately I know it happens. I’ve seen it happen.

2. Don’t guilt trip us

I’ve had this happen with a former GP. I was told I obviously didn’t love my parents over my self harm. It was awful. I didn’t return for treatment until two years later after a suicide attempt. This isn’t the only impact it can have. Self harm is not a selfish act. It’s a way of trying to keep going. It’s a way of coping. Most people who self harm probably already think about the perceived damage they do to others. To be guilt tripped by a professional is more likely to make the situation worse and even cause the patient to withdraw from seeking help, maybe until it is too late.

3. Don’t mimick self harm behaviour

Again this is something I have encountered and not just with one professional but many. It seems some can’t bear to say the words “self harm” and so use actions like using their hand to mimick cutting across an arm. Not only is this not clear communication, it can be triggering. It is a difficult topic but it is one that needs to be dealt with sensitively and professionally. Yes you do need to ask, but please use words rather than miming actions.

4. Be careful with what you say

Most professionals are careful with what they say. They think before they speak and take into account the individuals situation. That’s great if they know the patient. However without continuity of care, which is heavily missing in places, you may not know details or you may just be someone that only encounters someone briefly so has no background information to draw on. This means being careful with what you say. I’ve heard things that concern me. They may be useful for some but I can also see them as potentially inflammatory to the wrong person. I’ve heard “you’re scars look cool”, “just use your faith” and “what would your family think?” as common phrases among others. Let’s work backwards, the last comment can easily be seen as a possible guilt trip but it can also cause some negative emotions to surface, particularly if there is friction within the family. The middle comment is also dangerous as some people don’t have a faith and this may be because of trauma or abuse. It can also suggest unless you have a relationship with a god, you can’t be helped. The first statement may be the most troubling though. You’re reinforcing the behaviour. Yes self harm shouldn’t be something people feel ashamed of, but it shouldn’t be highly celebrated either.

5. Don’t judge or use stereotypes

Some professionals have a preexisting picture of what a person who self harms is. They may see them as frustrating and a drain on resources. They may see it as attention seeking. These stereotypes tend to grow over time within a staff member. I can see how hard it must be to treat someone who seems to be causing their own suffering. But it is a symptom of an illness. It is like an addiction. It is hard once you have started to stop. It can feel like all you have in the world at that time. It is a sign of distress. Being compassionate, non judgemental and just kind to the patient goes a long way. It can help the person to keep accessing help. Doing the opposite could push people away and leave them in dangerous situations.

6. Don’t compare us to other patients who have self harmed

Every person is going through their own unique experience with mental illness and self harm. Self harm is self harm. So it may not be as deep or as “bad” as someone else you have treated, but to that person the pain they feel inside is probably just as intense and unbearable. Hearing that we aren’t as serious as someone else because it doesn’t reach a certain level is heartbreaking and can have a negative impact. It can cause us to try and do more damage. It makes us think we aren’t good enough or that we don’t deserve help. Everyone, whatever level of self harm they present with, deserves support and compassion.

7. Don’t use the terms “superficial” or “attention seeking”

I hate the term superficial when it’s used to describe my self harm. It makes me feel like a rubbish self harmer and that I need to harm worse or more. It can encourage the behaviour and make things worse. The same can be said about the term attention seeking as it can drive the behaviour underground and prevent people getting help.

Those are just a few helpful hints for medical professionals. It might not be a regular thing you encounter but it is always useful to know how to help someone who self harms.

If you have any tips you wish professionals knew then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Summer Self Care

As I write this it is the hottest day of the year. The temperature is close to 37°C and I’m melting, the dog is melting, the cats are melting, everyone is melting. So I thought I’d put together some ideas for summer self care.

1. Sunscreen

With the sun boiling us, it is important we make sure to use sunscreen. Sounds obvious I know but it is something I often forget. This can be catastrophic for me as the medications I’m on mean I’m sensitive to sunlight and burn easier. It is quite common with medication for mental illness and we’re not always told about it. And if you’re hopping outside then maybe add a hat and some cool shades 😎. (Yes I’m aware I sound like an old person trying to be cool, look what turning 30 does to you).

2. Keep hydrated

Again sounds obvious but is another one I fail massively on. I’ve never been good at drinking plenty and I’ve paid for it with kidney problems. It’s something my mum nags me about regularly. Drinking will help our head too. It means we can concentrate better and feel better in ourselves. Obviously water is the best thing to drink but really as long as you’re putting fluid on your body it doesn’t matter. An ice lolly is also a great way to hydrate.

3. Staying inside

OK, bear with me on this. I know I advocate getting out as much as possible but when it’s super hot it can be safer to stay inside. So don’t feel you have to go out in the sunshine. If it’s safer stay inside with the fan on.

4. Get outside

Yep I know I just said stay inside but I want to cover the whole summer not just the hottest day of the year. When the weather allows try and get some time outside. Being among nature especially can be beneficial. Or going for a walk is great self care too. Obviously it’s all about being sensible. Also if it’s summer rain soak up the smell after, it’s one of my favourite smells.

5. Read

If you’ve got the concentration, reading can be great self care. In the summer it is nice if you can find somewhere to chill with a book, be it the garden, park or beach. And if going outside isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect activity to do indoors.

6. Get out the pool

Having a puppy has revolutionised summer. We now have a paddling pool “for the dog” but it’s also lovely to dip your toes in. So why wait for the excuse of having a dog or child to put a pool out and have a paddle. Also if you’re feeling particularly energetic (so not me) then why not go swimming (obviously in a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool).

7. Gardening

I’m not the greatest fan of plants. Having hayfever seems to of turned me against them. But this year at the group I attend we planted flowers and tomato plants and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. It’s also given me a sense of achievement. There are many studies exploring the impact of gardening on mental health, all positive. My favourite are sunflowers🌻.

8. Take a shower

In the heat there is nothing better than getting under the shower. It is a really good bit of self care too. Even a wash is good. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

9. Do the little things

Finally, while it’s hot it can be hard to get the motivation to do things but if we can keep doing the little things like taking our medication then that is what’s important. Break down tasks into smaller bits to make them more manageable. Little steps lead to bigger things.

Those are just a few ideas for summer self care. If you have your own feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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1000 Days Of Self Care

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter, I have been doing the #365daysofselfcare challenge created by The Blurt Foundation. This involves trying to do some form of self care each day. Recently I managed to reach 1000 days. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little and discuss self care again.

First of all let’s totally go over the point that self care isn’t selfish. It is the act of looking after and treating yourself with respect. People may interpret it as looking out for number one but really it’s bigger than that. By treating yourself with kindness you are helping those that you care about too. In order to be the most effective friend, parent, son, daughter, carer or partner you need to be in a fit state yourself. Self care is important.

Why did I take up the challenge?

The reason I started #365daysofselfcare was because I knew things needed to change. Mentally and physically I was a mess and I had no respect for myself. I felt worthless. Then I saw that The Blurt Foundation had started this challenge. I’d never really considered self care before; why would I when I felt so rubbish about myself? I decided to read about it and discovered it didn’t have to be big gestures but instead could be simple things that meant I was looking after myself. I thought I’d give it a go, after all what harm could it do?

What do I do for self care?

As I’ve already said self care isn’t all about spa days or trips to the cinema (although they obviously do count as self care and are great if you can do them). Sometimes self care is a nap, getting dressed, having a shower, clean pyjamas or just eating and drinking. It might sound boring but self care doesn’t have to be exciting. It’s just important that you are looking after you.

What’s been tough?

Doing some form of self care every day is not always easy. To begin with it was really strange deliberately doing something each day to look after myself. It was a totally alien concept and I felt like I didn’t deserve to look after myself (and quite often I still feel this way). There were many days where I didn’t feel I had done anything that constituted self care. I learnt though through talking to others that I was actually engaging in self care without realising it. Doing it as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge actually made it easier, especially at the beginning, as I felt I was doing it for other people rather than me which spurred me on when I felt worthless. Also having the support of The Blurt Foundation team, as well as other people taking part, made things easier too.

Overall I would highly recommend trying to incorporate some form of self care into each day. It helps me be a little more respectful of myself. It makes it easier for me to be there for others and feel less of a hypocrite when telling others to look after themselves. Even if you just start small it is just as important as the big things, maybe more so.

If you want more info on self care you can check out my blogs on the subject here or check out this information from The Blurt Foundation. A very big thank you to Jayne Hardy and the whole The Blurt Foundation team. If you want to follow me on the #365daysofselfcare challenge then head over to my Twitter. You can also keep connected on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks to Jayne Hardy and The Blurt team for the pin.

Come Outside

If you’re an adult of a certain age in the UK you will remember a programme called Come Outside, which had a lady going on adventures in an aeroplane with her dog Pippin (not an animation, a real woman, plane and dog!). It was prime viewing if you were off school sick. You may be wondering why I bring this up but I’ve realised something lately: being outside is good for my mental health and so I should of taken Auntie Mabel’s advice a long time ago and gone outside.

There are a number of reasons I found going outside difficult. Sometimes even my own back garden felt off limits. My anxiety around being in public places was the worst part. I found going out alone difficult and things got gradually worse until I couldn’t use public transport (my only means of transport at the time) or be alone outside the house apart from attending my medical appointments and even then I needed music to cope. The idea of going for a walk was horrifying. At one point agoraphobia was added to my diagnosis.

The thing is, with some changes that have enabled me to get outside more often, I have realised that being outside actually aids my mental health. I’m very lucky to live in a house with a back garden. Although at times it has been hard to get into it, I’m glad I managed to work through it to get out there. I now hate it when it rains as it doesn’t feel pleasant going into the garden and I can’t sit out there. I’m no gardener but I do find mowing the grass therapeutic. I put my music on and enjoy seeing the finished lawn with its lines (is it even a lawn if it doesn’t have lines?).

So what got me into the garden? The answer: Guinea Pigs. I got myself two Guinea Pigs. And due to my mum’s stance that she wasn’t having them in the house they lived in the garden (in the shed or garage in the winter). This meant I had to go outside every day to them. At first it was really tough. I’m not the greatest with dirt and it was an adjustment to dealing with it every day. But I loved my boys so much that the challenges were fighting through.

The problem was though that they didn’t get me away from home on my own. This was something that got harder and harder. Things went even further back when my Guinea Pigs passed away. Going outside got harder again. Then I started slowly in the summer trying to sit and read out in the garden. This slowly got easier, especially without the dirt aspect and having my cats sit with me helped. But again I wasn’t really leaving home alone apart from attending medical appointments and I had started to go to a group at my local Mind which had been recommended by my psychiatrist. Public transport was a definite no and walking alone was also something I didn’t feel I could do.

The biggest change for me came with another new addition to the family: a puppy. Suddenly I had a little thing that needed me to go out. To begin with it was a case of going out with someone else to walk him, but this was still progress, I was out walking. As he got older I felt more confident taking him out on my own. I didn’t feel alone as he was with me and he’d shown he was protective of me. He made my confidence grow. We also took him to puppy school. Again, to begin with, I couldn’t go on my own. It was hard coping with new people but he was my focus in the classes so that helped.

Now I walk him regularly on my own and enjoy it instead of constantly being anxious. Don’t get me wrong I still get anxious at times going out with him. Also in puppy school I now take him inside alone (my dad waits outside). I’ve also started doing some voluntary work which involves going into new situations on my own regularly. Without my puppy I couldn’t of done it. Without going outside I couldn’t of done it. Not everything is perfect. I still can’t use public transport or go to busy places alone but I’m making progress.

So what are the benefits of going outside? There are many benefits to mental health as well as physical health. These include:

  • Stress relief
  • Increased concenteation
  • Better short term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Sharper thinking and creativity

Getting outside makes me feel more able to deal with things and to even escape my thoughts for a while.

So even if it’s just sitting outside for 5 minutes or standing in your doorway, getting outside can help. Take slow steps to get there. Don’t over do it. And don’t punish yourself if you can’t do it straight away. For more information on going outside check out these links on the Mind website which detail different aspects on getting outside.

If you have any advice please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Turning 30

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

I turn 30 on 1st June 2019 and I don’t want to. I know a lot of people struggle with turning a certain age and I’m not alone in this feeling but I felt I needed to write out my concerns and see if I could address them in any way as actually I probably can’t stop myself turning 30.

The thought of turning 30 is actually creating a high level of anxiety in me. I feel sick most of the time at the moment with the worry. It feels like such a big leap from being in my twenties to being in my thirties. It feels like the weight of expectation really kicks up a notch. Everyone seems to expect marriage and children and high flying careers. The thing is I’m nowhere near this at all. Most of my twenties has been given over to my mental illness. I’ve not felt able to date or work so I’m left with very little to show for the last decade. This wasn’t my expectation when I turned twenty.

I also, in the last few years, never expected to reach thirty. Even over the last few weeks things have been sufficiently difficult that I still didn’t know if I would make it. Suicide attempts have played a major role in my life. I have not wanted to live. Honestly I still don’t. And part of me feels like maybe I still might not get there. It’s not far off but it still feels surreal that I might make that milestone.

Another reason turning thirty fills me with worry is that I don’t feel old enough. I still feel like a child. I do not feel grown up enough. I feel stuck in my teenage years at most. I don’t feel like an adult. Maybe this is because I don’t have any of the things I was talking about before. But also I think it’s because I got ill so young. I feel trapped at that age.

For my thirtieth birthday I’m having a small party and this is adding to the anxiety. It was my choice and I did feel I should, for once, mark the milestone as my eighteenth was a washout (noone turned up) and I didn’t bother with my twenty first. I think part of me is worried it will be a repeat of my eighteenth with noone bothering but I’m also worried about being the centre of attention. The thought of everyone singing happy birthday to me makes me feel ill. I hate that I feel this way. I should be so grateful that people care and want to celebrate me (and I am) but it terrifies me.

So those are my concerns about my birthday. I have written before some tips about dealing with birthdays that you can view here. I may have to take some of these on board myself. If you have any thoughts or suggestions please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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