Moving ‘home’

Hi there.

I have moved.

new blog is aweebitblue. please jump over and give it a follow, if you’re that way inclined!

it will incorporate my blogging and poetry exploits, because to be frank, I got tired of ‘managing’ two blogs.

I will be leaving this here for the time being, but hope to eventually be able to delete.

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BPD and me

I want to preface this post with sending out some love to anyone who’s reading this who has a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) (also called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) diagnosis.

I know that many people (including mental health professionals) will treat you differently because of this diagnosis. I have witnessed people with BPD being called manipulative for how they cope/ask for help, abusive for lashing out while overwhelmed by emotions which often stem from abuse they suffered in childhood, being told that they can’t be treated – that they will just have to learn to live with their illness (which, by the way, is totally untrue!), and just generally being treated like crap, both online, and by professionals in real life.

This is unfair in the extreme. Your illness is not somehow ‘your fault’ because it was caused by how you developed from childhood. In fact, that just means that it definitely is not your fault.

As for the stereotypes, I have never found my friends with BPD to be manipulative, or abusive. In fact, they have been completely the opposite, picking me up when I’m down, because they can relate.

I have to say, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some people feel like BPD is a good diagnosis for them. They feel they meet the criteria, and are happy to have something to explain how they feel/behave. But even if the diagnosis has felt positive, I’m not sure I know of anyone who hasn’t had a bad experience due to how they’re perceived because they have BPD.

So, this is the part where I say that one of the reasons I know how badly people with BPD are treated (especially by professionals) is that this diagnosis has been following me around for a while.

Despite only meeting two of the criteria for a diagnosis (you have to meet five, and most people I know would meet at least one), and not meeting the criteria for BPD treatment (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)), I have had professionals tell me I have BPD repeatedly for the past couple of years.

This has changed their attitudes towards me. I have been treated with suspicion, I have had my crises minimised, and on one occasion, I was told that a member of the Crisis Team couldn’t do anything to help me, because I ‘just had unstable emotions and that was just how it was’.

The fact is, my emotions are very stable. Very stably low. That’s what depression is. I have flashbacks and nightmares which cause me distress, avoid things that might remind me of the trauma, and feel constantly on alert. That’s what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is.

Unfortunately, because of my need to avoid things that remind me of the trauma, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to start talking about it, giving professionals a fuller picture of what’s wrong.

Still though, because of my propensity for self harm/suicidal ideation (one of the two criteria I meet), the ’emotionally unstable’ label has stuck around, like chewing gum on my shoe. (As an aside, if you are a young woman who has issues with self harm, you are much more likely to be diagnosed with BPD than men with similar issues).

Not wanting to rock the boat, I haven’t really said much when people have said I have BPD. But it…just didn’t fit.

So, at my last appointment with my (new) consultant, I ‘put on my big girl pants’, and asked him about it. He said that it was on my records, but that he had it as ‘under review’. We had a chat about it, and in the end he said that he was very clear that I had a ‘complex mood disorder’. Mood disorder because of the depression, and complex because of the trauma. So not a personality disorder, after all.

I finally feel understood, and like we can make some progress.

Awareness Days

Someone I know online has had breast cancer. She hates ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Day’. Says we’re all already aware. That wearing pink means nothing. The same with that fad of turning your Facebook picture black and white (without saying why!), for ‘cancer awareness’. She wrote a Facebook post about it that went viral. The picture she posted was a black and white selfie…of her topless, showing botched mastectomies. You could say the words she used were harsh. She said that people were already aware of cancer, and that what people need is actual help, not a bunch of black and white selfies. That the people who did it were self-serving, and wanted to feel better about themselves.

I have an odd relationship with mental health awareness days.I realise that there is a lot of work to do on stigma. However, these days don’t seem to be doing that. I once wrote:

“[mental health awareness day] seems to be an exercise in people who want to appear open and inclusive encouraging other people to have clean, sanitised convos about ‘easy to understand/relate to’ mental illnesses so everyone gets to feel smug. There, I said it.
WE DO NOT EXIST TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF.
We are not cuddly injured puppies. We are a monstrous scary mess.”

I was feeling particularly ranty when I wrote this, but I think I have a point. These days seem to exist more for the people who support them, than the actual people with mental health problems. Additionally, where is the awareness of the ‘less palatable’ mental health issues? I can tell you that my friends with schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychotic illnesses etc do not feel included in these days.

My final gripe with awareness days – they very rarely take reality into account. ‘Just ask for help’ is all well and good, but when mental health provision in no way matches the demand (for example, after several months of waiting, feeling regularly suicidal, my friend just received an appointment through to see a psychiatrist…in August), we have to ask ourselves how responsible that message is?

It is not a case of asking for help and accessing it at a point of crisis. The reality is long, lonely waiting times. And while I acknowledge the fantastic work of organisations like Samaritans and Breathing Space, they should be an addition to NHS services, not be expected to catch all the people failed by the system – some of whom have multiple and complex mental illnesses.

What is the answer? More NHS resources, of course. Will that happen? I’m not holding my breath, but in the meantime I’m sure there’ll be an awareness day.

Four months

Four months. A third of a year. That’s how long I’ve just spent in hospital. When I went in in October I didn’t dream I’d still be there in February.

Hospital is a totally artificial environment. Days are structured by meal times and med times. You have to live relatively closely with 23 other patients, some of whom are very actively unwell, and some of whom (as with the general population) are just well dodgy. You learn who to be wary of, and who to trust.

Inevitably you form relationships with other patients. The important thing is to ensure that they’re healthy relationships. Which is hard when you’re all acutely unwell. Still, I made some lasting friendships, for which I’m hugely grateful.

I felt a lot safer in hospital than I do at home, but I’ve come to realise that it’s all a construct – a holding place and some breathing space until you feel well enough to take on that fight again. I’m not sure I am well enough – I’ve already had a trip to A&E since I was discharged – but I’m also not sure that more time in hospital is the answer. What is? Who knows?

It’s certainly not the Crisis Team, who after promising the ‘intensive support’, have come up short once again. Am I surprised? No. Disappointed? Yes.

Maybe the answer is to just accept that I won’t be safe for the foreseeable future, and plod on, dealing with catastrophes as and when they arise. Gosh, that’s a cheery prospect, isn’t it?! But realistic, I think.

Writing

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit, but I have been writing!

I’ve been going to a writing group. It’s at the hospital, but it’s not ‘therapy’…at least not in the traditional sense. Once a week, for an hour and a half, we’re all just writers. There are random words or phrases as stimuli (so far I’ve written about old folk, faith, hating something, autumn and the police), and we just write. And it feels good. Writing is something I enjoy, and something I’ve been told I’m not too bad at. I still can’t bring myself to call what I write ‘poetry’, but that’s definitely my own issue.

On top of this, I’ve been doing a bit of ‘writing’ at home. I say ‘writing’ because it’s all done on my phone, so doesn’t feel like proper writing. I have a friend who I trade writing with, and I have been bombarding her with my not-poems over the past wee while. Some aren’t bad, and some are. But that’s ok. It’s the writing that matters.

Meds

We call them ‘meds’.
Informal –
like a friend.

For most of us, meds are old friends,
who we arrange to meet every day
(but miss a few
here and there)

Meds have personalities.

Some are daredevils, walking a tightrope ten feet up.
Making us sick to our stomachs.

Some are dull, going on and on and on…
Until we can’t keep our heavy eyelids open

And some absolutely love meeting for food.
Forcing us to eat and eat
(just to be polite).

But, sick tired and fat,
we hold on to that spark of hope
– try to kindle it.

Because maybe, just maybe
They’ll work this time.

My Unfiltered Life (in doodles)

See Me are currently running a campaign called #myunfilteredlife alongside the existing #powerofokay.

The campaign aims to get people to post pictures of their lives unfiltered; pictures that show what life’s really like. In the spirit of this, I decided to write a blog post about my unfiltered life.

My unfiltered life involves the following things:


Struggling to get out of bed. When in the depths of depression, I literally cannot – and do not – move from my bed except to go to the toilet. How glamorous?!


Struggling with showering. Not showering for days (I know, right?!), or else obsessively showering ’til my skin is all pale and wrinkled.


Struggling with eating. Eating too much or too little; comfort eating or forgetting to eat entirely.


Struggling with crying. Yes, I have a weird relationship with crying. There are times when I just cry, constantly (most people’s idea of depression). But there are times when I can’t cry at all, too.


Struggling to go out alone. I can go out with someone with me, but the anxiety is all too often overwhelming when I try to leave the house by myself.


Struggling with sleep. I didn’t really sleep last night. Or the night before. Or the night before…you get it. Taking hours to fall asleep. When I do sleep, I wake to nightmares, or just wake super early to lie wide awake for hours.


Struggling to enjoy myself. So not really enjoying anything. I really have issues with this one, because, not only do you get to do fun things and feel no enjoyment from them, you get to feel guilty for not enjoying them afterwards.

*no picture*

Struggling with thoughts of not wanting to be here/do this anymore. ‘Nuff said.

Some of these are things I’ve written about in more depth in other blog posts, and some aren’t. But this is my real life, unfiltered. So there you have it.

Hospital (or Happy 30th Birthday to me)

A symptom of my depression is suicidal thinking.

Suicidal thinking is like a parasite. It latches on to you and eats away at all the resources you have to fight it, so that it can stay exactly where it wants to; pressing replay in your brain. Even on a relatively good day, it’s there – the thought of causing your own death.

But when every day is punctuated by suicidal thoughts, how do you know when to seek help?

For me, I know I need help when simple thoughts build to a crescendo of concrete planning.

I’m currently in hospital. In fact, I just spent my 30th birthday in here.

I think there is a perception that hospital provides the time and space to explore your thoughts and feelings in a therapeutic environment. Unfortunately, this is not my experience. And what with the NHS being so woefully underfunded, it’s not really that surprising.

So what is my experience? 

Hospital has provided some (much needed) respite from dealing with suicidal thinking alone. I have been very lucky to have found a few nurses with whom I seem to have made a genuine connection and seem to really care. They have carried some of the thoughts for me, and given me some semblance of a break. 

I’m being discharged in a few days. Am I ‘recovered’? Not at all. Am I even ‘better’? No. But the hope is that my depleted resources have been restored enough that I can cope on my own again.

I really hope so.

Faith and hope

“Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism each have founder figures – Muhammad, Jesus, and the Buddha, respectively. And in thinking about these founder figures, I believe we must finally conclude that each brought a message of radical hope. To seventh-century Arabia, Muhammad brought the promise that anyone could find fulfillment and everlasting life through allegiance to the one true God. The Buddha held out hope that suffering could be transcended. Jesus brought the message that the last shall be first, that even the tax collectors and lepers – the outcasts – had cause for hope. And so that is the question I leave you with in this final: What is your cause for hope?”

Looking for Alaska – John Green

Faith is important to me. My relationship with God is important to me. But sometimes, in the midst of illness, that gets obscured.

I’ve read and heard stories of people who, at their lowest, felt God’s presence, and they knew everything was going to be ok. I haven’t ever been so lucky. When I feel particularly bad, I feel far away from God – disconnected, and lost. And I can’t help but wonder why.

I know it has a lot to do with my own attitude to myself. I have a problem with feeling that I deserve to be loved. Now, I believe that God loves everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. And I would argue that point strongly with anyone who was questioning their own (or anyone else’s) worth. I can believe it for everyone else. But with myself, I get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts.

This is something I’m working on with professionals, but in the meantime, I’m struggling again with feelings of inadequacy.

These days, I have ‘God moments’. They are few and far between, but they do happen. And although I am hugely grateful for the moments I get, I want more. I want to feel closer to God. Because these fleeting, ephemeral moments are something that bring me hope. Hope that things can improve. That I won’t always feel the way I do. That change is possible. And for that I am truly thankful.

Getting better

I’ve not been very well recently. If I’m honest, I’ve not been well for quite a long time. But for years, I have tried my best to ignore it and ‘get on with my life’.

How ridiculous is that? To live with debilitating and potentially life threatening symptoms, for years, and do almost nothing about it? Maybe go to the doctor once or twice, but never commit, never follow through with treatment, never give myself a chance to recover?

It probably has a little to do with the fact that being ill has been difficult for me to accept. And even more to do with the number of times I’ve been told get over it, pull yourself together, stop feeling sorry for yourself. Because the fact is, illnesses like mine, mental illnesses, make people feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even angry. Imagine having that reaction to a person who was suffering from a physical illness. To gloss over it, ignore it, or worse – to have a go at them for being ill in the first place. Mental health is often not discussed openly, leaving those who have problems – and let’s face it, it’s a heck of a lot of people – feeling like they have to hide away, keep their suffering a secret, and (perhaps most worryingly) that they can’t ask for help.

But things are changing, for me personally, and in general. People – famous people, politicians – are talking about mental health. Some have even, very bravely, talked publicly about their own experience of mental illness. Stigma is being challenged by some wonderful organisations. Support is being advertised. Very, very, very slowly, attitudes are changing.

And me? I’ve decided it’s time to get better. Time to engage, to try things, and to do the work that is needed. Over the past wee while, I have made a start. It took a while to realise and accept that I am not well. And even longer to believe that getting better is possible (if I’m honest, there are days when I still struggle with this one!).

So, today is the start of my journey towards mental wellness (or my version of it). Feel free to join me.

Period jokes

Hormones. It seems that we (men especially – thanks guys!) are quick to blame  them for changes in mood. No matter how much you may hate the ‘irritable woman on her period’ jokes, for many people, there is a least a grain of truth in it. PMT/PMS, pregnancy and menopause can all have some pretty unpleasant physical and mental effects. In addition, some people experience very serious mental health problems which are caused entirely by changes in hormone levels. But what about those of us who are already suffering from an unrelated mental illness?

For me, hormones definitely affect how I experience depression. My deepest lows and darkest thoughts almost always seem to come in cycles. At first, I wasn’t sure whether it was coincidence. I was looking for patterns, reasons, something to blame. But after months of seriously suicidal thoughts and feelings leading up to my period, I’ve realised that there is a pattern, and something that definitely isn’t helping when it comes to trying to recover.

So this week, I came home from my GP with a prescription for the contraceptive pill. As a gay woman, I have never really needed to consider contraception. I find the whole thing a bit odd, because it’s not something I ever thought that I would need to take. And of course, like most medication, reading the side effects was alarming – blood clots?! This would have been enough to put me off in the past, but now I feel like I’m so fed up with feeling low that I’m willing to risk it. Having committed to trying everything I can to feel better, I can’t not try this.