Tag Archives: Schizoaffective Disorder

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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An Open Letter To Instagram

Dear Instagram

I have recently been made aware that you are hiding the recent posts with mental health hashtags. I feel this is totally unacceptable on many levels.

I understand that you have done this in the name of safety, but in actual fact you are making things a lot less safe for those with these conditions. Social media by its nature is made to connect people and by eliminating these hashtags you are removing people’s ability to connect with others who have the same condition or who are going through the same thing. This creates a feeling that people are alone in their struggles and can’t see how other people deal with the condition. This could lead to more feelings of suicide and self harm as they try to cope alone.

Another issue I have with you removing these hashtags is that you are eliminating the chance of people sharing positivity among the mental health community. Many people who use these hashtags share uplifting quotes, ways they cope and general support and awareness. By stopping this you are leaving people with the negativity of the illnesses they endure.

Furthermore on researching this I found that it was still possible to use hashtags for physical illnesses. This shows blatant stigma towards those of us with a mental illness. Yes, mental illness sees people who have a symptom of suicidal ideation, but this can also be caused by people experiencing a physical illness. Mental health is important and equal to physical health.

If you want a truly safe community then your aim should be to moderate posts better rather than a blanket bam on mental health hashtags. Yes there may be individual posts that are damaging to those in a vulnerable state but your aim should be to target these posts and leave the useful and positive posts attached to the hashtag. This could help those who are unwell.

I hope you take this on board. You can contact me via the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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36.5 Days Of Self Care

As I’ve mentioned before I try and do some form of self care each day. This idea comes from The Blurt Foundation who brought us the awesome #365daysofselfcare project (You can read about my experience here). So I thought it was about time I shared some ideas of things to do that count as self care as it’s not always obvious what constitutes self care. It doesn’t have to be big gestures. It can be small as long as you’re putting you first. Self care isn’t selfish though. It helps us help others. It fuels us. So below find my 36.5 ideas (365 different ideas was beyond me, sorry).

1. Have a shower: This, supposedly, simple act can make all the difference. It makes you feel more normal.

2. Have a nap: Naps are amazing. Sometimes a nap can be just what we need.

3. Go for a walk: Getting outside is useful. It seems hard but the exercise can release endorphins.

4. Brush your teeth: This is one I struggle with but it does make me feel better.

5. Take your medication: Always a good thing. It may seem small but it’s still self care.

6. Read: If you have the concentration, taking the time out to read can be therapeutic.

7. Eat something: This is quite important. You need to be nourished to help you feel better. It doesn’t have to be massive or complicated.

8. Put clean bed sheets on the bed: This one takes a little more effort but is there anything better than clean sheets?

9. Put on clean pyjamas: This just helps you feel a bit nicer.

10. Brush your hair: Sometimes this feels the hardest thing to do but it can help us feel more human.

11. Attend medical appointments: Not always easy but it helps if we look after ourselves physically and mentally.

12. Talk to someone about how you feel: Talking is useful if we’re struggling. Or even if your not. Sharing your feelings is a good thing.

13. Wash your hair: This always makes me feel more human, especially when I really don’t feel like doing it.

14. Write: Having an outlet for what you’re feeling is always good or can be useful as a distraction.

15. Watch a movie: This can be a useful distraction. And it can make us feel better if we act opposite, for example watching a comedy when we feel sad.

16. Meet a friend: It can be useful to get out the house and meeting a friend can be a useful reason to get out. If you don’t feel like going out then maybe invite a friend over. You don’t need to talk just be together.

17. Build a pillow fort: Sometimes we need to get in contact with our inner child and what’s better than to make a pillow fort.

18. Catch up on TV: This can be a useful distraction.

19. Play with pets: Animals are an awesome way to make yourself feel better. They are really comforting I find.

20. Paint: Being creative can be a useful way to express yourself.

21. Bake: This can be soothing and you end up with something yummy to eat afterwards. Win, win.

22. Do some colouring: This can help us focus on something and get out of our heads for a while. It can be really relaxing too.

23. Play a board game: It can be nice to cut off from social media and technology for a while. A board game can allow us to do just that.

24. Listen to a podcast or music: These, again, are a good distraction and can quieten the thoughts in our heads.

25. Visit a bookshop: I love being around books. A bookshop can be a really calming place to be as its generally quiet.

26. Drink water: Keeping hydrated is important.

27. Have an early night: Sleep is also important. Having the occasional early night can help us feel better

28. Create a self soothe box: This can be useful to get ready for when you’re distressed or feel awful. It can incorporate things for each of the senses. So that could include a blanket, some nice smelling candles, your favourite treat, etc.

29. Play with Lego: I love Lego. I find it soothing to organise my Lego. But building is just as good.

30. Have a bubble bath: If you want to just lay back and enjoy the warm water then go for it.

31. Go out in the garden: If you have a garden then it’s an easy way of getting fresh air with no social contact.

32. Watch the clouds: While you’re outside, or even through the window, watch the clouds and just focus on the shapes you see.

33. Curl up with a soft toy: Soft toys can be a great way of feeling safe. It’s not childish.

34. Take photos: Focusing on the image you want to capture can be absorbing and allow you out of your mind for a while.

35. Take a break from social media: Sometimes we just need to shut off and it can be helpful to our wellbeing to take a break every once in a while.

36. Sing: You don’t need to be good but just singing can lift your mood.

36.5. Say No: This may be the hardest of the lot. It’s OK to say no to things when they are not in our best interests. It’s not selfish.

So there are a few of my ideas for self care. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Time To Talk Day 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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