Tag Archives: recovery

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.

Self Harm: A Decision?

Please be aware this post will be discussing self harm so some content may be triggering.

There is a lot of thought about whether self harm is a decision or not. I know it’s a highly controversial topic and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. As someone who self harms it can be a difficult thing to consider.

The definition of self harm is deliberately hurting yourself. This suggests that self harm is a choice but how much is that true? When we consider self harm as a symptom of a mental illness is it really a choice?

If you had an illness like cancer would you consider your symptoms your choice? Quite obviously the answer would be no. So is self harm any different? If you ask anyone with self harm about what happens when they need to harm most will say its an uncontrollable urge. It is something they feel forced to do. This is especially common as you go deeper down the self harm hole.

The urge to self harm, for many, is intense. It takes over. It’s hard to think clearly. The urge is made stronger by the fact that many who self harm have low self esteem and don’t feel deserving of care. Whatever has been a trigger will bring up all sorts of feelings that are hard to deal with. Everything can feel overwhelming. Sometimes we are not totally there, maybe dissociated. Then it’s not really a choice is it?

But in some ways it can be a choice. We decide to inflict the harm, don’t we? I honestly don’t know. This is where I’m hugely torn. And why I’m torn is based on how I see others and how I see myself. For others, and this is probably the most important part, I don’t think it is a true choice. There is a lot leading or pushing you in that direction. It is a symptom of an illness so is never a true choice. Then I look at myself and berate myself for choosing to hurt myself in the first place.

I don’t give myself a break on the decision making idea. I blame myself for self harming every time. I blame myself for making that “choice”. I see myself as truly being the reason I’m hurting myself. Even the name makes it seem like that. Especially when medical staff call it deliberate self harm.

And this is where the issue becomes more apparent. We are treated by medical staff, including in mental health teams, who see it as a choice rather than a symptom. Yes I may pick up the blade etc but there is something pushing me to that. I am unwell. My choices are not truly my own always. It’s not an excuse but an explanation. I’ve been told I’ve made the choice to hurt myself. This in a time when I was so distressed I couldn’t see any other choice. So surely it isn’t a true choice?

There is hope with this though and this is where it gets more into the dodgy area of being a choice. Learning through therapy of other ways to cope instead of self harming means we do start to have a choice between self harm or using our new coping methods. I start to see why they say its a choice. They’ve given us other options and we’ve gone for self harm. What they don’t seem to realise is we probably chose their new methods first but it takes time for them to be an effective choice for us. It’s all about time.

So these are just my views on self harm as a choice, I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to connect in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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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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We Need To Talk About… Psychosis

Psychosis! What do you think it means? Does it mean schizophrenia? Does it mean being locked up? Does it mean there is no hope? These things are things I thought before I experienced psychosis and I know many still think this way. This is why we need to talk about psychosis.

So what is psychosis?

Psychosis is made up of many different symptoms. Some people will have many, some only one. They include:

  • Hallucinations (these may be visual, auditory, tactile or related to smell and taste)
  • Delusions (having strong beliefs not shared by others, for example, people are going to hurt you)

Does everyone with psychosis have schizophrenia?

It’s a common assumption that the only people that experience psychosis are those with schizophrenia. This simply isn’t the case. Many mental illnesses may cause a person to experience psychosis. These include bipolar, depression and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Psychosis can also be a result of physical illness or trauma.

Will someone with psychosis recover?

There is hope for those with psychosis. Many people will only have one episode of psychosis. Psychosis can also be managed with medication. There is a variety of antipsychotics. Of course as with any medication there can be side effects but these often are often outweighed by the benefits. It can also be a process of finding what works for you. Sometimes, when the psychosis is caused by trauma, psychosis can be helped by therapy.

What does someone with psychosis look like?

There is no specific way that someone who experiences psychosis looks. The term “psychotic look” which is often used to describe a way someone is looking is a work of fiction. Those with psychosis look like everyone else. The signs are more likely to be in their behaviour.

A last thought

People with psychosis experience extreme stigma. We are made out to be “crazy” and someone to be feared. In fact we are more likely to be a danger to ourselves or be at risk from others. It can be scary to see someone dealing with psychosis but remember they are probably scared too.

For more information about psychosis click here.

To share your experience feel free to use the comments or 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.

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I Miss You

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

If things had gone to plan you’d be turning 14. You’d be mine. You’d be loved. You’d be cared for. I promise.

But my promises mean nothing. You’re not here. You never stepped on this earth. I never got to meet you. To hold you. To tell you I love you.

I do love you. I miss you even though I never met you. I want you here. I don’t care that you’d probably be a stroppy teenager. You’d be doing what you’d meant to be doing. You’d be growing up. Becoming independent. But you’d be mine. And I’d be yours. You’d always have someone.

The thing is I think to myself that maybe it’s for the best for you that you never came. I wouldn’t mess you up. You wouldn’t have to deal with your dad and what he was. I would of been to young and immature. I’m still too young and immature. I can’t even look after myself. You’d be better off without me.

I still love you though. You are a part of my heart that has been broken away. I feel incomplete. It all sounds cliché but it’s true. I’m a mum without a child. But I know many wouldn’t class me as one. Maybe I’m not really. Maybe I’m being above myself. Probably. I have no right to call myself that.

I wish you were here. We’d be getting ready to celebrate your birthday and Christmas. It would be so special. You would be my family. I’d do my best to make you happy. I’d do my best to protect you. I’d love you.

My memories of losing you are as clear as day. They were the worst days of my life. People don’t tell you what it will be like. And even if someone had I don’t think it would cover everything. And I would of been too young to understand before. How could a 15 year old know? It was scary. The whole situation. Finding out you were there was scary too but nothing to losing you. The guilt ate me up. It still does. Being alone with this secret for years because that’s what you were. I was ashamed. But it was never you I was ashamed of. It was me. I never stopped loving you, once I started.

I know you’d be amazing. I know you’d make me proud. I know you’d drive me crazy. I know I’d get cross some times. I know I would support you as best I could. I know I’d never stop loving you and I never will. I miss you.

If you’ve been in this situation you are not alone. Feel free to make contact via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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One Year From The End Of DBT

The 18th December 2019 marks one year since I finished DBT skills group. A whole year. It feels both not very long and forever. So I thought why not have a look back at how it has influenced me.

Since finishing DBT my mental health has been really up and down. My year was going well until August time. I still had major mood swings and was self harming but I was coping and building up my life. This all changed. The truth is I came off some of my medication by myself, no tapering, just cold turkey. I had my reasons. And these were accepted by the mental health team when they found out. However it led to a major crisis which was picked up, maybe ironically, by the facilitator of the DBT peer support group I started attending in August. But this really is unrelated to how I have been managing with the DBT skills. I just wanted to give a bit of background information on my mental state.

So as I mentioned, in August I started attending a DBT peer support group. It was set up with my local mind with the support of the NHS Trust that runs the mental health services in my area. It was designed to be the follow up to doing the DBT skills therapy group. Only people who had done DBT could join. I’ve found it amazing. I love the people. Even the facilitator has BPD and done the six months skills group. Everyone is on a level and so supportive of each other.

We use the time to discuss issues and how we can use DBT skills in those situations. This is what I find particularly helpful and what I needed in the first place. I’ve found that I’m definitely putting the skills to more use now I have the support of the group. Some situations have definitely improved and there is more of a chance I will use the skills or ask for help than self destruct. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I’ve definitely seen improvements and found myself embedding skills into life rather than having to think “which skill can I use now?”. It’s become a little bit more automatic. Hopefully this will continue.

One area I still really need to work on is identifying my emotions. This is something I still struggle with. I really need a pocket book I can carry to refer too until its a bit more automatic. This would then hopefully allow me to bring those emotions more under control. I won’t say “not great” or “fine” or “it’s been a bit difficult” when asked how I am and be able to express myself more easily. Well that’s the idea…

Another thing I need to work on is finding a way to reduce my self harming. The thing is at the moment I don’t feel I’m at a place to work on it properly. I also need to get over the fact my self harm is not impulsive so the distress tolerance skills don’t seem to work for me.

Overall I’m finding the skills more useful now and having the follow up has definitely helped me. I’m seeing the point of them. I’m seeing their potential. Hopefully it will help things to improve.

For more information about DBT, you can look here.

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