Tag Archives: Stigma

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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Cancer Scare: Waiting For Diagnosis

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

The date today as I write this is 15th February 2020. Three weeks ago I found a lump in my breast. I regularly check mine but this one was actually brought to my attention by my cat kneading my chest as she loves to do and it not feeling right. So I checked it out and it felt sizeable. It had been 2 weeks at most since I’d last checked.

I kept checking it over the weekend just to make sure it wasn’t just some lumpiness that would go away. Then the following week I tried repeatedly to get a GP appointment, finally managing to get one on the Thursday. Luckily it was a GP I know well and trust as with my history of sexual abuse it was raising anxiety. When he checked he said he thought it was about 5cm. He referred me on the two week wait cancer initiative.

My appointment came through for 12th February 2020. I went along with more apprehension of facing the tests than the results. It started with an ultrasound of the breast. This seemed to confuse them and another person was brought in to look. Then it was decided I needed both a mammogram and biopsies. Normally someone my age would not be given a mammogram as it may not show anything. But mine showed the lump clearly.

The biopsy process was painless due to local anaesthetic. I was still just thinking it was a normal part of the process and they would be like it’s all fine but we just have to know what it is. That was not the case.

After the biopsy I was asked to wait in a room. My mum was with me. We got called back in and I was faced with a number of people which put me on edge. They explained that they were concerned about the lump. That I was going to have to return for another appointment to get the results of the biopsies and find out the next steps. That they were pretty sure surgery would be needed whatever.

One of the people in the room was a breast care nurse. She had been assigned to my case and would be my point of contact. She was lovely. She took me and mum off into another room. We discussed a few things and she sorted out the appointment. Her comment that there was a lot that they can do to treat cancer made me feel they know already but I can’t be sure. I’m in a state of not knowing.

So I’m sat here having a mixture of thoughts. I’ve been through so many emotions in the last few days. From the incredibly calm to the extremely anxious to suicidal. I’ve been showing others the calm side. I’ve been pushing my emotions down. A few people have heard some of the worry but not the full extent. Not the thoughts that have been going through my head that make me ashamed of myself.

There is a part of me that feels IF it is cancer then I don’t want to go through the treatment. The thought of dealing with being unwell and making it worse to get better scares me. The thought of trying to live when mentally I want to die all the time seems hypocritical. In fact it feels like it could be my way out which is a terrible thought isn’t it? But I know others will want me to go through it all. I know I will have to do it for them.

Obviously at this stage I have no definite answers. But this doesn’t stop the thoughts. Google is not my friend at the moment and the late night Google searches are not a good idea (other search engines still available?). I feel so much guilt over my thoughts. I’m just trying to push all the feelings down. I don’t want the pity. I don’t want to be treated as delicate. I don’t want people thinking I’m brave and strong. I’m not. I’m a mess. Not because I care about me but because of those around me. I don’t want to cause them anymore suffering.

So yeah that is where I’m at as I write this. I don’t know anything definite. If I publish this I may know more by then. I will keep people updated. Feel free to connect in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. For more information and support about cancer click here.

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Shutting Down

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

I’m starting to shut myself down. I’m pushing away my emotions. I’m pushing away people. I’m pushing away the question about how I am. It’s easier than you think. I’m putting on the mask of coping. I’m filling up my days. I’m doing everything I should and more. I’m not asking for help. This feels like a safety mechanism.

If you met me in my teens I would appear a misfit. I didn’t like what others did. I didn’t have that special friend. I had people I hung out with but I felt different. But the one major thing was I never told people how I was. Not truly. I might say I was good or fine. I might pretend to like a boy or be excited to find out a piece of gossip. I wasn’t. My brain was occupied by other things. By an emptiness. By a feeling of not being normal. But I shut it all down for years telling no one how I felt.

After my second suicide attempt I was referred to a psychiatrist in the CAMHs young person service that existed at the time for those aged 16-25. She noticed how shut down I was. How expressing myself was hard. That I couldn’t identify feelings or explain what I felt. I was diagnosed with “emotional developmental delay”. To this day that’s all I know about it. It wasn’t explained. I was rushed to start art therapy. Its aim was to get me talking and communicating. It was to get me to explore feelings. It was to make me feel. Issues with social skills were identified and worked on. It was the most useful therapy for me.

The problem though was that, that outlet was ripped away. I only had my friend’s to express all these new feelings to, that I still didn’t fully understand. I splurged on people not understanding the social cues. I got needy. I feared people leaving. Relationships went haywire. Crying became the norm. Every feeling was now released and overwhelming. Welcome to the world of BPD.

I was in the opposite of what I was comfortable with. I tried to put it all back in the box they’d made me open but it didn’t want to go back in, like when you take a duvet out of a bag and it never wants to go back in the same space. The emotions were released and wild. They were in control not me anymore. I hated it.

This has gone on a long time now. The extreme emotions. And now I’m finding the strength to get that duvet back in the bag. I’m shutting down my emotions, firstly to others, and then hopefully to myself. Yes self harm is part of the deal but it feels necessary as professional help is starting to be withdrawn. As I feel people have got saturated by having me in their lives. I don’t want to feel anymore so they don’t have to feel me too. It may be unhealthy but it’s what I feel I’m being forced to do to cope.

How do you deal with emotions? Feel free to share 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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Christmas Eve 2019

It’s Christmas eve evening. I’m sat after doing all the usual Christmas eve things. I’ve seen family and sorted out some things. I’ve walked the dog twice. I’m wearing a Christmas jumper. And I couldn’t feel less festive.

Everything feels like such an effort. If I could sleep through the day I think I would. My mood feels like it’s dropped as far as it could. I can feel in the depths of me something isn’t right. I can’t identify what the actual feeling is. And I’m not sure I want to. I know I could do opposite action but I actually don’t think I have the time to or the energy. I’m exhausted.

The thing is I don’t want to ruin the day for others so I’m fighting the feeling to appear happy and involved. I’m telling jokes and taking part in games. I don’t want to let them down. The pressure is overwhelming. I feel lonely as I don’t feel I can reach out and say I’m struggling. Especially as everyone is so busy.

The thing that we all need to understand is that mental illness doesn’t disappear for the holidays. My illness doesn’t see the advent calendar countdown and go “oo, I’ll stop being a pain now and let her enjoy things”. If only. The thing is we need family and friends to understand too. If we feel we can say we’re struggling and that we’re not ruining everything by saying it, then that is huge. We can start this off by showing others they can say it until we feel we can say it. Let’s lead by example.

Also let’s ask people if they are doing OK. Let’s tell them we don’t mind if the answer is no. We need to make the world a more accepting place. Especially at these times of the year.

So I hope if you can you talk to someone. You’re all amazing. Big hugs to all. Feel free to connect on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.