Tag Archives: relationships

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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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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Self Harm Scar Etiquette

As it’s summer the weather is warmer and people are starting to reveal more of their body. This brings an anxiety to people who have self harmed, past or present, as they are faced with the choice of covering up (and boiling) or revealing their scars and self harm to the world. Therefore I thought I’d come up with some things that will make it easier for the person with the scars or self harm if you encounter them. Obviously this is just my opinion and others may feel differently.

1. Don’t point it out

This seems obvious to some but not to others. Pointing out scars adds to the self consciousness. We’re already worried what people are thinking without it being obvious that they’re looking at the scars. Also if we are starting to forget about them and enjoy what we’re doing then pointing them out takes away from our enjoyment.

2. Don’t ask us why we did it

Again, this adds to self consciousness. We become aware that you’re really looking and thinking about our self harm or scars. It can make us feel awkward and like we’re being judged. Quite often we don’t know why we self harm or don’t want to discuss it as its obviously something that has caused us great pain. We can easily be taken back to that dark place.

3. Don’t tell us to cover up

First of all why should we cover up? This makes me a little annoyed. I’ve been made to feel ashamed of my scars a long time and this shouldn’t be the case. It’s part of an illness. I have every right to not boil in summer. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable but I also shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. People who self harm feel enough shame and it takes guts to show your scars, we shouldn’t have that shame added to.

4. Please don’t stare

This can feel awful. I already feel self conscious enough without people staring at me. I had this once on the train and it really fed in to my paranoia. I know it can be hard to look away sometimes but please think of the person you’re staring at.

It takes real bravery to overcome the barriers to have your scars on show. It is revealing yourself to many people, including strangers. It can take a long time to accept your scars are part of you. Shame is a really strong emotion that people who self harm feel and can be added to by other people making ill thought out comments. Please think before you speak.

If you have any other things you feel people should do or not do help you feel comfortable showing scars feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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6 Months From The End Of DBT

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

It’s been roughly six months since I finished my DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) skills group, therefore I thought I’d reflect on how things are going.

In all honesty I found the DBT skills group difficult. It revealed a lot more areas that I need to work on than I thought I did. I learnt a lot about myself and how BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) effects my life. It is a lot more than I thought. I think I thought some of the things I thought were normal, when actually it’s far from normal.

DBT gave me some ideas on how to cope with the self harm urges and things to do instead of self harming, as part of the distress tolerance module. While I’ve tried to practice these, I’ve not found them that effective. The urges don’t go away like I hoped. Instead I’ve found myself fixating on the idea of self harm and how much damage I could do. The only thing that seems to relieve this is to self harm. This isn’t a failure on DBT’s part, it’s mine. Although I do feel I would of benefitted from a revisit to the skills, I also feel I needed some individual help to go through the problems that lead me to self harm and someone who could help me find what’s effective for me.

I knew I always had problems identifying emotions. The most I could do was say whether it was a good or bad emotion. I used to use cues from others to put a name to the emotion. It was something I started working on in art therapy as a teenager as before that I could barely express how I was feeling. I think with DBT skills I learnt some more ways to identify my emotions and the 10 page handout on ways to decide which emotion it is you’re feeling was comprehensive. I just wish I had it in the form of an app on my phone as you can’t really carry a thick A4 handout around easily.

I also learnt through the emotional regulation module that emotions aren’t wrong to have. It’s something I’ve always said to others but never applied to myself. Anger has always been a tricky one for me to deal with. But I’m working on accepting it. I punish myself less for feeling angry though I do still struggle to express it outwardly. I think at the moment I’m not in a safe enough space to allow this expression so hopefully with time that will come.

The biggest learning curve for me came with the interpersonal relationships module. I thought this module would be a waste of my time. I thought I was doing OK. How wrong was I? I came to realise that I was allowing people to treat me like dirt and accepting it too easily. I learnt that there were ways to try and change this and that I didn’t have to accept it or just go into a rage over it. I must admit that most of my time doing this unit I was trying to figure out my relationships and which needed working on rather than the skills to tackle this. Over the last six months this has continued but I’ve lost my grasp on what skills to use. I feel I would maybe benefit from repeating this unit at a later date. I’m not ready at the moment still.

In the core mindfulness module of DBT skills I learnt a little about how to make myself be in the present moment. Before DBT skills group I had a tainted view of mindfulness as something I was no good at and would never master due to previous experiences in therapy. What I learnt was that for me I need to approach mindfulness in a different way and that there are many more ways to practice mindfulness than I had been taught before. For me, mindfulness wasn’t about sitting in silence breathing. I needed to do activities mindfully. This was a revelation but it was, and is, useful.

Overall I’m in two minds about whether DBT skills have been useful. I think there is potential for them to be useful in my life but I don’t feel the course was long enough for me personally. I also feel full DBT, which includes individual as well as group therapy, would have been more useful. I feel that one of my psychiatrists agreed with this also (he’s left now but it would of been good to have him on my side). I am also hoping to attend a DBT skills peer support group that is starting as part of my local Mind. Hopefully this may help a little with the gaps in my knowledge.

For more about my therapy you can click here or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Shutting Out The World

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

Things at the moment aren’t great. I’m not in the best place. My head is a mess and I’m not tolerating the world very well. Therefore I’ve been shutting it out.

I know this is not the best course of action but at the moment it’s what I can cope with. The world feels overwhelming. People feel overwhelming. Life feels overwhelming.

I don’t know what has caused this decline. I have theories. It could just be a depressive episode. It could be the disjointed care. It could be turning 30. It could be a number of individual things or all of them combined. I don’t know. And I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Shutting out the world means avoiding Facebook interaction. It means not messaging friends. It means not asking for help. Instead I have replaced it with self harm and thinking of suicide. I have spent my time dwelling on the fact that everyone would be better if I was no longer here and have been on a mission to prove it to everyone.

I’ve also been experiencing physical symptoms. My body aches. My head is thumping. And I feel sick. I either sleep too little or too much. I either have no appetite or binge on food. It adds to the mental difficulties.

I hate myself for the way I’m coping. I hate myself for doing what I logically know is the wrong thing. I see it as protecting myself but realistically I need people and I need help. What help they can offer I don’t know. I guess I won’t if I don’t ask. The thing is I’m put off asking at the moment by the fact I have no stable care. I feel a burden to everyone, including those paid to care for me. I know I’m just another caseload that they could do without.

So what would my advice be for anyone else feeling this way? I guess it would be to do what feels like the hardest thing, ask for help. You deserve it. You are worth it. Now I just have to try and believe it for myself.

If you are struggling the Samaritans are available 24/7 in the UK. If you are outside the UK then please check out the crisis help page which can be accessed via the menu. To follow my experiences you can do so on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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BPD Awareness Month Round Up

May is BPD Awareness Month so throughout the month of May I shared facts and information about the illness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But I thought I would share them all on the blog as a round up.

1st May

This was my introductory post to announce that I would be sharing information about Borderline Personality Disorder.

2nd May

I thought it was important to share what BPD is and this seemed like a good explanation.

3rd May

Many people mix up BPD and Bipolar disorder. They are have similarities (mood switching, intensity of moods) but are two separate illnesses. For more info check out Mind’s website.

4th May

BPD can be diagnosed when at least 5 of 9 criteria are met (see image for the 9). There are many different combinations and each criteria is on a spectrum.

5th May

This was just to give people an overview of some yes’s and no’s.

6th May

A lot of people say BPD isn’t a real mental illness but it is. There are a lot of theories about what causes BPD, but this doesn’t make it less real.

7th May

A lot of people think that people with BPD are manipulative. We are not and this image explains why. All the people I know with BPD are awesome.

8th May

BPD is exhausting. Unstable moods are a major part of this illness and don’t just change daily but even from 1 minute to the next.

9th May

This further explains the extreme moods that we go through.

10th May

Just a letter many people with BPD would like to write.

11th May

A lot of people think that people with BPD are sensitive. In some ways we are but there are reasons for it. We notice every little thing and if something is wrong we blame ourselves and wait to be abandoned. This makes any kind of relationship hard.

12th May

Many people with BPD have their feelings invalidated because people can’t understand the extreme nature of our emotions. We know to you it may not be a big deal but saying we shouldn’t feel that way makes us feel worse.

13th May

We shouldn’t lie to people in general but lying to someone with BPD can be catastrophic. It can fuel all sorts of thoughts, generally against ourselves. We start doubting everything. Everyone feels unsafe.

14th May

Little things can cause a big reaction for people with BPD but we also know that people will not understand why we have reacted as we have so we tend to hide our feelings. This can result in using negative coping strategies such as self harm or eventually exploding at someone.

15th May

Self harm is one of the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. There are misconceptions about why people with BPD self harm but it is not to be manipulative or for attention generally.

16th May

Some people doubt the seriousness of BPD but it has a suicide rate of 10%. 70% of people with BPD attempt suicide.

17th May

This is my medication that I take in a month. Most of it is for my mental illness. There is no medication that is made for treatment of BPD but it can help us deal with some of the symptoms. Each day I take two antidepressants, one mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic. I also have a medication I can take when my anxiety is overwhelming.

18th May

This statement may sound a little reactive but it has some truth. People with BPD don’t only feel negative emotions strongly, we feel positive ones just as intensely. This means we may come across as quite intense in relationships. But we genuinely love you lots.

19th May

Anger can be a problem for those of us with #BPD. With the intensity of emotions, our anger can be an explosion of rage. It can burn for a long time even after the other person/situation is over it. It will play on our mind. We may do or say things we regret. Sometimes we will turn it inwards.

20th May

I hate this about myself. People with BPD do get jealous of friends hanging out with other friends but we do not do this because we feel you should only hang out with us. We actually feel we are not good enough for you and are scared you will leave us.

21st May

People with BPD are very aware that they are responsible for their actions. Maybe too aware as they are constantly judging their words and actions. But sometimes, and we are not using it as excuse more an explanation, our illness causes us to act in certain ways that are difficult to deal with for others and ourselves.

22nd May

Quite often people with BPD have trouble naming their emotions, which when you feel them so intensely and act out on them can be a problem in getting others to understand you. It is also frustrating as we wish we had the words for what we’re experiencing so we can get support.

23rd May

This is something that is currently hitting me quite hard as I turn 30 in just over a week. This isn’t exclusive to BPD as many people who have a mental illness but I just wanted to share what kind of impact BPD can have. It is a serious illness.

24th May

People with BPD struggle with their sense of self. Part of that is taking on things from other people and our sense of worth often comes from other people too. This means we do our best to be liked so we feel worth. We also put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and is part of why when we make a mistake we take it so hard.

25th May

People with BPD may struggle with a se se of self. In response to this they take on bits of other people depending on who they’re with. Therefore when they are without someone it can be a struggle to know who they are so they cling to people and may appear needy.

26th May

Living with BPD for me makes me feel like I don’t belong. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. The world feels like something I can’t navigate while others seem to just get through. Little things are big. Relationships feel like a huge effort. Even simple socialising is a huge minefield waiting to explode in our faces so everything gets analysed.

27th May

It is a myth that people with BPD are all abusive. In fact we are quite likely to be the victims of abuse and get stuck in abusive situations as even when someone is toxic we are scared of being left by them.

28th May

I’ve talked about the struggles of BPD a lot because they are a huge part of the illness but these same traits can have some positivity. We are passionate and empathetic among other things.

29th May

Apparently BPD gets easier to deal with, with age. And in some ways I’ve seen this myself. My mood swings when I was younger were much stronger and I was more reactive. I think things have got easier in some ways because I’ve learnt about myself and ways to cope. I’m not saying it’s easy, and there are times when it really catches me by surprise but it can be manageable.

30th May

The main treatment for BPD is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). The full course involves group and individual therapy. It focuses on dealing with the symptoms of BPD to make life easier. It is hard work.

31st May

I’ve shared a lot about BPD and the difficulties and differences it can make, but people with BPD are more than a mental illness although it can be hard to distinguish the lines. Please remember that the person who tells you about their diagnosis is the same person they were before they told you.

I hope this has been useful. For more information on BPD check out Mind website. You can keep up with me via 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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