Getting a diagnosis: Mental Health Issues

Having a mental illness is an emotional roller-coaster, right from the start. But getting a diagnosis is a life changing moment. It is both terrifying and relieving. It is also the start to your road of recovery.

Probably the first emotional you will feel is relief. Finally you will have a reason for the way you think and feel. You aren’t simply ‘crazy’, there is a reason you feel the way you do. It means you can start doing some research on what you have, and it is amazing how many times you will think “wait… that is a part of this?!”. But more than that, it is a relief to finally have something to call this demon you have been living with.

Next, you will probably feel fear. Suddenly you are officially ‘crazy’. You have a label. This isn’t just a bad phase, this is something you are going to have to learn to live with. And for some people, it is a life long struggle that may never leave completely. It is also about the time doctors start talking about therapy and specific treatments tailored for that illness. And then you have to worry about meeting the other ‘crazies’. And when you do that,  you will meet some people who are going through an even harder time than yourself and you will wonder if that is what you look like to the rest of the world. You will worry about what your friends and family will think, about how your employer will react, who you have to tell etc etc.

It is a scary place to be. And I have gone through the same emotions each time I have been given a new diagnosis.

The truth is, however, that an official diagnosis opens doors. It helps you get a tailor-made treatment plan in place and helps you explain what you are going through to others. It takes a bit of the mental strain off too. Sometimes I do or think things I don’t like… but instead of hating myself for it, now I can say “well that is [depression/ BPD/ GAD/ PTSD/ DID etc] in play”. I am not sure about other people but that certainly helps me get through the day.

Don’t hate your diagnosis. It does not define who you are… no more than a broken leg does anyway. It just tells you what you have. And once you have that, you can start looking at why you have it, what treatment is best, and most importantly how you move forward. When you first get a diagnosis, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s the end of the road, but it is just the beginning.

Make sure you take the time to research your diagnosis. I made it my business to learn all I could about mine and it gave me back some of the control that the illness had taken. For example, I had no idea that my spending issues could be traced back to my Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I was just terrible with money (which I still am lol). But now I know what the issue is, I have been able to put things in place to help. Now all my bills are paid by standing order the day the money goes into my account. That way, I can’t spend it. At least it means I am not falling behind on my bills any more! The more you understand the more you can help yourself. And it may help your family to do some research too. As my mum says, she doesn’t often like what I do but knowing the reasons behind it helps her cope. So, don’t give up. This is just the first step!

Here are links to some previous blog posts about the different things I have been diagnosed with and how they affect me:

The truth about: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The truth about: Generalised Anxiety Disorder

The truth about: Dissociative Identity Disorder

The truth about: Borderline Personality Disorder

The truth about: Depression

The truth about: Insomnia

And where to get help when you need it:

Help!

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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!

Time to talk!

We have all heard the saying “A problem shared is a problem halved”. I am here to tell you it’s true! So now, right now, it is time to be brave. Talking is hard. At least to start with. When I write about personal things in this blog it’s never easy. But talking, in whatever medium you chose, helps you to sort things out in your head. It also helps you get the help, love, and support you need.

Many people, myself included, put the bad bits away in a box and lock it up. We hope to forget. We don’t talk about it because it hurts and we hope one day it will all go away. The problem with that is that we can’t make an airtight box in our heads. No matter what we do bits of the bad stuff leaks out and affects our lives. Sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. The problem with that is you never know when that lid will fly open, and when it does you are in trouble.

When I write here, it helps me put everything in order in my head and it helps me make sense of what is going on. When I talk to my best friend, I have practical support and emotional support that never leaves. When I talk to my family I have the never-ending love that helps keep me going. When I talk to strangers I have the opportunity to help someone else. When I talk to individuals I have a chance to hold their hands through the whole process. There is nothing more powerful on this Earth than the words we have. Words can start wars and end them, cut and heal, build and tear down. Words can give or take away power, they can start a revolution, they can further our understanding of the world and they can give hope.

It is time to stop saying things and start really talking. Imagine what you can achieve. It might hurt, it might open up old wounds, it might make you uncomfortable or embarrassed. That doesn’t last long, and once you are over that hurdle there is no limit to what you can achieve. But you have to start somewhere. I am urging everyone reading this to start that conversation and stop being afraid of the stigma, or the judgement. It is time to move beyond our fear and start really helping ourselves and others.

When I was first diagnosed with mental health problems, there wasn’t a lot of help on the internet. And I didn’t know anyone else going through the same thing. I don’t want anyone else to feel that lonely and the best way to do that is to get talking. So go on, do your best. It all starts with ‘Hello!’.

The truth about Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)

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Dissociative Disorder (DD) is commonly known as multiple personality disorder. Before I start, I want to let you know this is a new diagnosis for me (I was told in April) and it is only mild in my situation.

People with DD usually have different personalities, called ‘Alters’, and they switch between their Alters without really knowing it. An Alter can be human, or an animal. Alters can have different names, personalities, even ages. These Alters help the person in question cope with different situations. For example, if the person in question was in a threatening situation, their ‘Protection’ alter may take over. Each Alter can have different memories that are separate from the other Alters. It is a protection thing, so that the ‘weaker’ alters don’t have to remember the really bad things.

As I mentioned above, my case is really mild. Rather than having Alters, I tend to change fairly quickly. It could be one minute I understand fully what my parents are saying when they are offering advice, and I can be more than willing to accept the advice and implicate it in my life. The next second I could be up on my high horse because what they are saying is wrong and I can do it better on my own. My parents are exhausted trying to keep up and say the right words.

If someone tells you they have multiple personality disorder, your first instinct may be to back away. You might get it confused with schizophrenia. But before you choose to turn around and walk away, please consider this… what happened to them that was SO bad that their mind literally had to crack and fragment to cope with it. And then imagine how you would feel if you were the one that suffered that much and people ran away when you try to open up.

I write with the aim of educating and reducing stigma attached to it. Please help me in my endeavour and share my post. You never know, you could just be sharing it with someone who believes they are alone.