Tag Archives: we all have a story

True Peer Support

I’ve recently started going to a DBT skills peer support group. I’ve only done about three sessions but already I’m seeing the effect of true peer support. And yes it is positive.

I’ve come across peer support before; both online and in real life, as they say. I’ve had mixed experiences. Some have been extremely positive where as others seemed to drag me further down into my suffering.

My first experience of peer support was on an online forum for people who self harm. At the time I had no diagnosis and no one in my everyday life knew what was happening. Reaching out on this forum felt positive. It felt like a place where people understood me. It also gave me advice on what to do next. It was great. I made some really good friends who I’ve since met and they are still in my life over ten years later. There is a group of us who quite often meet up. We’ve seen marriages and children born. Most of us have graduated through university. We are all a similar age so I think that is why we’ve clicked. We also talk about other things than our mental health but the option to talk about it is always there. This is all positive but there was a darker side to the forum. Things seemed to become competitive for some users. I felt myself being dragged downwards. People were comparing who had it worse or seemed to one up people. It started to become a toxic place for me. Therefore I removed myself from the forum. I still keep in contact with the friends I have made through it though and in that way I still have peer support.

Another place I did peer support was through a local charity. They offered a recovery course run by people with their own experience of mental illness. It was a useful place and much was discussed about mental health and what we all found useful or not. There was a sense of comaradery among us. We bonded and shared many laughs. Again I made friends who are still in my life now.

A major place for peer support that I have found is the Twitter mental health community. Everyone is so supportive of others and it is a great place to get information about many different aspects of mental health and mental illnesses. There can be trolls on Twitter so you have to be careful but the block button is there for a reason. I have made great connections with people on there and found it a great sounding board and a place I can ask questions when I’m unsure.

My latest foray into the world of peer support has been through my local Mind charity. I started by attending the young person’s group and although we don’t really discuss our mental illnesses it is nice to know we all understand when someone is having a tough time and we work together to make the time fun. It is also a chance to be creative and work as a team. I’ve also started attending the DBT peer support group recently, which I mentioned at the beginning. The people have been so lovely and supportive. I’m so grateful for them. I feel I’m making some great friends there.

Overall my experience of peer support has been positive. Of course, as with anything, there have been negative experiences but I believe it has a vital role in helping us learn about our mental health and mental illnesses. However it should not be used in place of professional support, as can be the case, but alongside it.

For more information on peer support you can look on the Mind website here.

If you have any experiences or questions about peer support feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Feeling Broken

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

I’m broken. Broken beyond repair. A failure. A burden. Useless. Worthless.

I’ve been trying to move forward. Make progress. I’m being proactive. I’m making plans. Signing myself up to things. Exercising. Taking my medication. But what’s the point when I just go backwards.

Tonight is a little paradoxical. I’m feeling like a failure not because I self harmed deeply but because to me it wasn’t “good enough”. I’m in pain and feeling not good enough. Therefore I’ve sunk further. All the thoughts of my inadequacy have come to the forefront. People, friends (though why they bother with me I do not know) tell me I’m not what I think but I can see the evidence. How can they not? Or are they just too kind to agree?

I’m nothing. A waste of space. Someone to be hurt. Someone with so little worth that it doesn’t matter what others do to me. I should just take it. Even hurt myself. That’s what life has told me.

Sometimes I forget these things. I feel good. Then I remember. That’s the hardest.

Feel free to follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

If You’re Feeling Suicidal, This Is For You

If you’re reading this you are probably in a really difficult place. It’s one of the hardest feelings to deal with, but I have hope for you because you are reading this (don’t worry I’m not saying I can solve all your problems in a blog post, I know that’s unrealistic).

Great, you’re still reading, thank you. I know with how your feeling it can be hard to hear that things will improve. At the moment it probably feels impossible that anything can change. The world feels overwhelming. It feels like the only option is to end your life. But you are worth more. You are worth love and support.

I know you may not believe me and I understand that. I’ve been there. I still go there at times. But I believe you have value. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing this. There is someone who would be lost without you.

Still reading? Awesome. Now let’s think about some things you might be able to do to help yourself in the immediate future. If you can try and do one of these things it might help put some distance between yourself and your thoughts:

Talk to someone: This is a huge step I know but it could be the most important thing you could do. It doesnt even have to be about how you are feeling, it could be about a TV show or anything that will help you distract for the time being. Of course if you can say how you’re feeling that would be great but I know it’s a big step. It doesn’t even have to be someone you know, you could call one of the crisis lines here.

Take a walk: Sometimes putting some distance between ourselves and where we are staying can be a good thing. If you feel you can keep yourself safe then a walk may help you to feel a bit better. If you can let someone know you’re going that can help you to make sure you are safe.

Do something you’re good at: There is something you are good at. It may be something creative, it may be some sport or it may just be a computer game. Whatever it is do it. It may help you to see you’re not worthless; you can achieve something.

Hopefully there is one thing there that you can do. Or you may think of something else that may help you distract from the thoughts that you are having.

If you’re still reading that’s great. You’ve achieved something just by getting this far. If I was with you I would give you a hug. I can’t take away your pain but please know someone cares; I care. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know you, I would not wish these feelings on anyone and want you to be safe. I’m sure there are others who care too.

This is where I leave you. But you are not alone. I hope I’ve helped in someway. If you want to get in contact feel free to use the comments or 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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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.

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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