Things you should never say to someone with mental health issues.

There are some things people say that really get my back up. And it isn’t because they come from a bad place, it is mostly ignorance and a lack of forethought. So I thought I would create a general list of things people with mental illness really don’t want to hear. It is imperative that you don’t compare yourself to someone who is mentally unwell. Our brains work differently, we cope with things differently, and we experience things differently. This is true even of completely ‘normal’ minds, but when there is mental illness involved it is a completely different kettle of fish. It is like comparing oranges to apples, black to white, and stripes to spots.

“Just…….”

Putting ‘Just’ before a sentence implies what you are asking someone to do is easy. There is no ‘just’ when it comes to mental health issues. They are by definition messy and complicated, and different for everyone.

“Get over it”

Again, this implies that it is something easy to do. You wouldn’t tell people to get over a broken leg, so why tell them to get over a broken mind? If it were that simple, don’t you think we would have done it by now?

“You’re making excuses”

This one really is a pet hate of mine, as I have a friend who says it all the time. I am not making excuses, I am giving you reasons. Just because this is something you can do doesn’t mean we all can. Imagine trying to teach a 2 year old algebra. Their ‘excuse’ is that it is just to hard for them. Do we try to guilt them into learning it? Or shout at them for not knowing it? Do we make them feel stupid for not doing it? Of course we don’t. We know that their brains just aren’t quite ready to handle it yet. There are some things my brain is perfectly capable of understanding, but not capable of doing. When I tell you how something is going to make me feel, that isn’t me putting limitations on myself or making excuses, it is me knowing how I will react. Say if I walk 10 steps, on the 11th step I would fall over. If that has happened the last 100 times I have walked those 11 steps, it is more than reasonable to expect it will happen again. Of course, I cannot be 100% sure until it happens, but expecting it to happen and preparing for it to happen is not the same as making an excuse. In fact, preparing is the smart thing to do, and if I can arrange it so I only walk 10 steps at a time and not the 11th all the better.

“You have the same illness as _____ and s/he manages just fine”

A broken leg may be a broken leg, but it could be a fracture of the femur, tibia or fibula. And even on the same bone, you could have a hairline fracture, a clean break, a spiral fracture and so on and so forth. So while I may have the same mental illness as someone else, it doesn’t mean I will experience it in the same way. More than that, finding the right treatment plan can take years. The amount of time you have lived with a mental illness plays a role in your recovery too. For example, BPD generally gets a little better with age. So it is really intense in your teenage years and slowly gets better until (for most people, particularly those diagnosed in their teens) by the time you are in your mid thirties it has mostly gone. If you didn’t get it until your 30’s, however, the age at which you recover will be later. Therefore it isn’t fair to compare one persons recovery to another’s.

“You seem normal to me”

I get this a lot. People generally wont know I have mental illnesses unless I tell them, and most people are very surprised to hear just how many I have. I blame the media for this. ‘Crazy’ people in films are often shown in the middle of huge breakdowns, unable to communicate properly, unclean and untidy, often sitting in a chair muttering and rocking back and forth. This isn’t the reality of mental illness. The truth is unless you know someone very well it is easy to miss the signs, and we can come across as perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean we are normal though. There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors, and we aren’t at rock bottom all of the time. Mental health waxes and wanes, sometimes you are okay and sometimes you aren’t. The chances are you aren’t seeing the whole picture.

“Stop focussing on the bad stuff”

You are assuming that simply focussing on the good is all we need to do to get better. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Also, lots of mental health issues make you think of the bad bits without really wanting to. Depression sucks all the colour out of the world, PTSD shoves painful flashbacks and nightmares in your face, BPD amplifies negative emotions 100 fold, GAD makes you excessively worry all of the time. Mental illnesses can be all-consuming. That is hard to fight. And it doesn’t mean we don’t cling to the good either, it just means we can’t simply blot out the bad.

“It could be worse”

That is true. For every single person on this planet, their problems could be a LOT worse, and there are always going to be people who suffer more than us. And I know people say this to try to make us feel better. But I don’t feel the way I do because I think nobody in the world has suffered more than me, I feel the way I do because what I have been through sucks. Knowing someone else is going through worse makes me feel bad for them, but not better about myself. I count myself as very lucky, and very blessed. Making me feel guilty for complaining when others have it worse though wont help. When you get a flat tyre you don’t think “well at least I don’t have cancer!”… you think “damn, I have a flat tyre. What a pain”.

“It is all those tablets you’re on, you should stop taking them and then you will feel better”

This infuriates me. And I hear it a lot. It makes me cross for two simple reasons. 1) If I was fine, I wouldn’t have gone on them in the first place. I didn’t wake up one day and think “Hey! I know what! Today I will go on antidepressants! Because they will make me have mood swings and put on weight and make me numb and that will just be so great!” 2) I dread to think what I would be like off the meds. Here is a simple fact… without medication I wouldn’t be here today. It really is as simple as that. And I know that medication alone is not the answer, and I know medications aren’t right for some people. But you aren’t my doctor, you don’t know my medical history, and you don’t know where I was without them. So don’t comment! Advising people to stop taking any medication is dangerous and frankly stupid. Please don’t do it.

What makes me sad is that people with mental illnesses (or any other ‘invisible’ illness like Fibromyalgia or ME) still have to justify themselves to others. I shouldn’t have to explain why I feel the way I do. If you love someone, you should love them warts and all, and realise the line between encouraging someone and doing them harm is frightfully thin. Raising your voice and demanding people snap out of it, or just do what you do, or just get on with it is harmful. More than that, it is out of order. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop making a fuss, get off the crutches and start walking already.

Suicide doesn’t stop love… and why we should fight stigma.

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Today marks 8 years since a young lady, just a teenager, decided to end her own life. She was beautiful, popular, funny, intelligent, and talented. She had a smile for everyone. And yet, inside, she must have felt so alone. She either decided that we wouldn’t care, or that we would be better off without her.

I understand feeling like that. I have been there. What she never knew was just how much love there was for her in this world.

She is one of the reasons I started this blog. In my own small way, I wanted to make sure that people know they are not alone, and offer guidance and support, along with details about how to access more direct help. I didn’t have anything like this when I was first diagnosed with mental health issues. Me and my family had to stumble through in the dark without out dated and unhelpful information. It left us sorely unprepared for the realities. With this blog, I aim to help ensure no one else feels that alone.

But I can’t do it alone. I need your help. I hope once you realise you are not alone yourself, you can help make sure none of your friends are feeling isolated. A simple message saying “Just wanted you to know I am thinking of you and hope you are okay” can transform someone’s day. It takes a few seconds to do.

Mental health issues don’t care if you are rich or poor, what colour your skin is, what post code you grew up in, how old you are or what your job is. At least a quarter of us will suffer some form of mental health problem in our life time. ALL of us know someone who has had, has, or will have a mental health issue. And to be honest most of us know a lot more than just one.

This is a shared problem that affects every single person on this planet. So it is time to stop the stigma. Stop the naivety. Stop the prejudice, the discrimination, the hate just because people are scared. It is time to educate people about the realities of mental illness, thereby enabling even more people to get help rather than trying to face it alone.

I find people often get stuck on what to say when they find out someone has mental health issues. The best advice I can give is to start with ‘Hello’…. or “Howdy” if you are feeling really adventurous! We don’t tend to explode without warning you know. We don’t bite! (Well….most of us anyway) We don’t want to make you feel awkward. What we do want is to be treated like human beings and not like problems. If we can get rid of the stigma, maybe we can help our friends, family and loved ones before they get to the point where they can’t see a way out.

By writing this blog, I hope I can help a few people. What I really want, though, is for YOU to help a few people. Then those people to help a few more. The only way things will ever change is if we get the issues out in the open. And if you are reading this thinking it doesn’t apply to you? Well I am afraid you are mistaken. xxx

Check out this if you are ever in a crisis situation. And this if you ever feel you are at rock bottom.

If you need help and don’t know where to turn, check out this link.

Clinging on!

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So it is nearly 4am, I can’t sleep, I am in pain… so where else would I be?? 🙂 I thought I would write a positive post for once. As the readers that have been with me for a while will know, my birthday is coming up (17th April). This time of year, I usually have a dip in my mental health. I am not sure why, but I think it is because I get fed up that I have had to fight for another year. It gets me down and wears me out.

This year, however, I am not doing too badly. Whilst I can feel my mental health dipping a little, normally I would be in the gutter by now, and I am not. This is fantastic news!! When I was younger, my mood swings used to be much more frequent, and I would go up for a few weeks then down for a few. Over the years, the gaps between my dips have gradually gotten larger, and now I tend to dip in April and August. It makes sense, as both of them are anniversaries. I have hope, however, that the fact I haven’t dipped QUITE so far yet means the time between dips is once again expanding.

I still suffer with nightmares that make me wake up screaming, and I still struggle with anxiety… but the fact that I am coping a little better each year gives me hope that this battle wont be so hard forever. Of course, I could be completely wrong. It could just be that last years August dip was SO bad that my mind feels it has done its work for a while.

Either way, I am counting my blessings and enjoying it. After all, I don’t know how long this will last so I have to make the most of it while it is here.

It is hard sometimes when you are climbing a particularly tricky mountain to take the time to look down at how far you have come rather than up and how far you have to go. When I look down, it is like looking into an abyss. It is dark, and ever lasting, and miserable, and impossible. If I gaze up a little, I can see the beauty around me. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by so many beautiful people it is sometimes a wonder how I manage to feel sad at all!

So here is my advice to you… if you are reading this and have mental health problems, no matter how bad things seem right now take a second to look back. If it helps, do what I did. Set up a private Facebook group that only you have access to. Write in it all the good memories you have, all the good days you have, all the people you love and everything that makes you feel good. When you are in your darkest moments, you have a good read of that page, and remember the good times. If you do that, you will start to see the beauty around you and you will start to look at how far you have come and what you have got, not the fact that you can’t even see the top of the mountain yet because it is covered by a huge black cloud. And just think, when that cloud clears and you have reached the top…what a view you will have!!!!

That journey will have made you empathetic, sympathetic, a wealth of advice, and your muscles (strength) will be phenomenal. It doesn’t matter if you hit an icy patch and slide down the mountain a bit, because if you do it gives you the opportunity to see that view again. And that is what will help you up.

It helps, of course, if you have a guide to help you navigate and some friends to help egg you on when you get lost. You may lose some of them along the way but you know the ones that are with you when you reach the top will be with you forever. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more people you bring with you the easier it will be. And despite what you think, you will never be alone if you don’t want to be.

Everyone has someone

Now is the time to ask for help. Be that from your best friend, your parents, your GP, your MH support worker, the crisis team or Samaritans, there is ALWAYS someone who will be willing to talk to you and who will want to help. And why not talk to other people in the same boat? After all, some will be able to help you and pull you up, and others you will be able to help, which also gives you a boost up. So what’s your excuse! Get going!

As always, my inbox is always open and I will reply to every message, though it may take a day or two as I get so many. If you feel alone, you have a friend in me!

The police just woke me up at 3am by banging on my door!

 

I am annoyed. I am tired. I am scared. I am bloody pissed off. I just had 4 policemen show up at my door. I wake up to hear them literally banging on the door, threatening to ‘break in by force if necessary’. Unfortunately this is now the third time this has happened.

I am not a drug dealer. I am not involved in anything illegal. I was there alone, and asleep. And yet I get  treated like a criminal and they barge in to my HOME to have a look around. Why? Apparently because I was screaming again. That is what happens when you have PTSD. You get flash backs. And apparently my neighbours thought I was being murdered. Again.

It  is absolutely terrifying, and, to be perfectly honest, I really, really need a cuddle. The police didn’t do anything wrong. They settled down when I told them what happened and they made me a cup of tea. They managed to calm me down a little, though I am still in shock. I am an idiot. I didn’t even check for ID, I just let them barge in without so much as a word. Don’t get me wrong, they were legit, but they don’t take into account that people are not as vigilant when they have just been woken up.

I have to put up with these flash backs quite often. My daughter lives with my parents at the moment, and this is partly why. When she is here, I stay awake, all night, because I am terrified I will have an ‘episode’ while she is there. So I just sit there quietly all night.

Apparently, the police have to report this to my landlord and someone else I can’t remember. According to them, if I continue ‘disturbing the peace’ like this my tenancy could be in jeopardy. They said they were sorry they had to tell me that. Now I need someone to tell me what on earth I can do to stop this from happening again. How am I supposed to stop it?

Nightmares are awful. Night terrors are horrific. But flash backs? A flash back is reliving the worst things that ever happened to you over and over again. It is so real you can smell, touch and feel everything that is going on. It is exactly like it is happening again. Those who have never had a flash back can’t understand what it is like, and I hope they never have to find out.

I am shaking, and crying. I feel weak. I feel vulnerable. And if I am being perfectly honest I have a very strong urge to cut. I feel lost, and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to fix me.

Just to kick me when I am way down, my BPD is making me feel everything 100x more than ‘normal’ people do. My depression is consuming me. My anxiety disorder is pushing me on the verge of a panic attack and I am trying to write to calm myself down. I am trying not to go into a dissociative state. I am fighting no less than SIX separate mental health problems at once. You tell me. How am I supposed to win?

I survived another circle around the sun!!!!!

 

 

So, it is my birthday today! I have made 23 trips around the sun. And to be honest, a lot of them have been a real struggle. But this year, I am super proud of myself. As I have told you in past entries, my mental health seems to dip around April and August each year. The April dip, the one I am going through at the moment, is usually the toughest. In fact, I have overdosed this time of year, every year, for 10 years. But this year…. NO OVERDOSE. Which is brilliant when you take into account that I have cirrhosis of the liver thanks to the overdosing- so not overdosing is a very good thing to do.

I have struggled at this time of year for a long time now, but it was only about 3 years ago that I started to understand why. I realised that every birthday meant I had spent another year feeling miserable, fighting every second just to stay afloat, and I get sick of it. I want to give up, and throw in the towel, because I can’t bear another minute of it. Even the struggle of getting out of bed is horrific most days. I have absolutely no motivation to do anything, and even a trip to the dentist takes weeks of planning. I am going next week so they can paint some enamel type stuff on the teeth to repair the damage (nerves showing) of excessive, severe grinding… that I can’t seem to stop no matter what I try. I also have to fight the guilt surrounding my daughter, who is currently living with my parents due to my inability to look after her. Fortunately, they live very close so I get to see her all the time.

I live every single day in pain. Physical pain is one thing, and I have plenty of that, but it is the mental pain that gets you. I suffer with crippling guilt about a lot of different things… and that guilt leads to excessive anxiety. I am still screaming in the night when I get flash backs. I still fight the urge to end it all, escape, and leave the pain behind. I still struggle with the BPD when my emotions just get too big to handle, and I brood over things for hours, hence me writing this blog at 3.30am!

This year, however, has been different. I thought really hard about my ‘preventative factors’… those things that stop you from killing/ harming yourself. I have fought harder than I ever have before not to fall into the deep pit I know so well.  I have been determined that this year, this year I will survive. This year I wont give in to the urge to OD. I am finding better coping techniques and I have been heavily using my Crisis Box. I am still really struggling mentally, but I am doing better than last year. After all, this time last year I was in the funny farm.

I know things are hard for me at the moment, but for the first time I am beginning to feel hope that it wont be the same fight forever. If I can manage this year without overdosing, what about next year? What changes can I make then? And I am still looking forward to the 5 year intensive psychotherapy course I have been generously offered. I have a couple of other small therapy groups to take help me through the 12 month waiting list.

My dream is to be able to live with my daughter, and have as normal a life as I can. This year, I can actually picture that happening. And that is why I will fight until my fingers bleed, and then fight some more for my gorgeous little girl. She will never know, but she is saving my life, every day, just by being there. And for the first time, I am GLAD that I have BPD, because the increased emotions are good when you are feeling the pride, love, faith, and hope that only the innocence of your offspring can be. I sometimes feel like I am literally going to burst with the love I feel for that child and my family.

After all, this time 7 years ago my princess was due, and she stubbornly waited an extra 7 days before vacating my womb, just so I can get our birthdays confused on all the forms!

I am never expecting life to be perfect. I don’t even expect it to be good. But, if it can just be manageable, I would be the happiest person on Earth. So, here is to another trip around the sun. Another year, another fight, but another year of wisdom and knowledge to add to  my ever-expanding belt… and that is what will pull me through. Bring on 23!!!!!

 

Crazy Me!

So this post is to let you into my head a little. It is surprisingly difficult to explain sometimes what I feel like. At the moment, I am going through a ‘odd patch’. I can feel my brain and body wanting to spiral down, and I am fighting them all the way. The result? I am exhausted! It is hard fighting every second of every day. Of course, it helps now  knowing that my coping method of choice will kill me rather than save me… it is a strong motivation not to overdose, after all, I already have cirrhosis of the liver as a result of the overdosing. I am well aware I have a lot to live for, even if it doesn’t feel like it all the time.

I have been rather emotional recently, a direct result of the BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and PTSD along with Depression no doubt. It is like a huge magnifying glass on every emotion you feel, making it more intense, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

I was lucky enough to be given a fish tank recently. In eagerness, I filled the tank half way, and unfortunately encountered several problems meaning I couldn’t go any further. Because the water was left in the tank for a few weeks I decided today to empty it. But the funny thing was, as I was emptying it, I felt really sad for the water. Knowing it was just going to fall down the drain into goodness knows what horrors upset me. In truth, there was probably something much deeper going on, but I must admit I was a little embarrassed at myself.

When watching programs, I have an emotional roller-coaster! I was watching Call The Midwife on Sunday, and honestly I cried one second and was laughing the next. Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so deeply… it  is hard work. But it does pay off when you get the positive emotions magnified.

I spend the rest of the day contemplating how to tackle the various tasks that need doing, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything. What is worse, my pain is increasing, which is also draining me. I am fortunate though, I have an amazing Grandma who has said I can come and stay with her for a bit if I need to get away. Just knowing I have that option  has helped me avoid doing it, if that makes sense. It is comforting enough (for now at least) to help me through. I always tend to dip down massively in April, and the dip normally starts in November (I have a fairly regular ‘cycle’ where I dip badly twice a year) so actually I am doing really well.

The key for me has been to recognise quickly when things start to go down hill. It is very easy for it to creep up on you, so knowing yourself and what is ‘normal’ for you is vital. When I start to feel bad, I engage much stronger family support (spending more time with them or on the phone with them), I let the mental health professionals know what is going on, and we move on from there. It is amazing really. I just feel awful for those who have little support, or just need more help. That is why I advocate the crisis box so much… it really can save your life.

Sometimes, I can’t stop the tears from flowing. Sometimes, nothing sets it off and I just cry, silently (just tears rolling down my face) for up to 2 hours. It is very disconcerting. Crying makes me feel weak. Especially when I cry at the little things. But I bottled up so much for so long, I refuse to feel guilty about showing how hard I have had to fight to get here. Every tear is a triumph because I am here, and alive. Sometimes working hard (it isn’t easy) to put a positive spin on things makes a huge improvement in your recovery time and mental well-being.

Be proud of the scars you have, visible or otherwise. Use them as motivation because they are proof of how far you have come and what you have overcome along the way. Ha! I never thought I would say that. I guess  my Mum was right all along… as usual!

Get over yourself!!!

Are you perfect? Of course not. And I shall tell you a secret… I am not perfect either. In fact, no one is. So I never understand why people seem so afraid to admit it.

It is human, at the most basic level. We can’t control it, prevent it or stop it. So we might as well get used to it. By accepting that we are going to make mistakes, we take some of the pressure from ourselves. And, interestingly, the less pressure we are under, the less mistakes we make.

Making mistakes is one thing. Repeatedly making the same mistakes is quite another. The only way we can better ourselves is to learn from the mistakes. Generally, the more painful the mistake, the fewer times it will be repeated. Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I believe the definition of insanity is shockingly similar.

Of course, the only way to accept your mistakes and move on from them is to accept responsibility for them. And I think this is where the real issue begins. Accepting responsibility means not only accepting you were wrong, but accepting the consequences for that action. And consequences often suck. They can be cross employers, upset families, disappointed friends, or even worse, disappointment in ourselves. But remember, if it didn’t hurt, would you have learned from it? Nope!

As someone whose mental health problems mean I feel emotions extremely strongly, I, more than most, understand how important certain emotions are. In fact, believe it or not, I think the emotion with the least genuine use is also one that feels amazing. Lust.

It is never nice feeling bad, but if you understand why you are feeling those emotions, you can come to understand what you need to do to change them, how they can help you to do that. Never underestimate your ability to understand your body.