My Family, My Rocks.

 

As you travel though life, there is little as important as your family. Family doesn’t always mean genetically related, but whether you are lucky enough to have your own genes supporting you, or you are lucky enough to be able to have picked your own family (or variations thereof)… life would be almost impossible without them.

I have touched upon the support I get from my family quite a lot on this blog. That is for two reasons. Firstly to show how much I appreciate them and the love they show, but secondly and perhaps most importantly because I would never have been in a position to share my story without them.

My mental health issues can make me feel alone sometimes… and since I live on my own I do get lonely from time to time. But I am fortunate enough never to have been in a position where there was truly no one I could call for help, no matter how alone I felt. My crisis box has a big list of numbers of people who I can call on in a crisis. Family doesn’t mean never feeling alone, or never being lonely. Family means never *being* alone. Family is the people who support you no matter what, that offer their hands to help you get back up when you fall (even if they laugh first!) and who love you for who you are.

My family has been through a lot with me. They have seen me fall pretty hard. They have been frustrated beyond words with me, spent sleepless nights worrying about me, wasted petrol and time coming to help me out, or take me to appointments, or take me shopping. They have been genuinely scared by my actions, worried I wouldn’t be there the next morning. They have had to clean up my messes. They have had to offer me a shoulder to cry on even when they were angry with me. They have stood by me even when walking away would have been easier. And they love me despite knowing I will hurt them again. They have had to re-evaluate all their priorities and put their own lives on hold, at great personal cost. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But that is what true love is…. it is weathering the storms the best you can, because the rainbows and sunshine after it are worth it.

I have never been a perfect daughter, sister, mother, friend, niece or cousin. I never will be. And that is okay. Because the reward for dealing with me at my worst is seeing me at my best. I know my strength has carried people through difficult times. I know that I am 100% there for my family too. I know that the bad times are gradually becoming further apart and less severe. And that means the good times are coming. And most importantly I know I am capable of doing great things.

I have been feeling quite down recently. I have been having issues with my neighbours (I will post about that soon), my mental health hasn’t been great, and finding the right medication and therapy combination is proving particularly difficult right now. And then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago my dad asked me to go on a mini-holiday with him (and my daughter <3). He decided to take the time out and spend it with me. We are only going for a long weekend (in the week lol) because that is all the time he had spare. And despite that he chose to spend it with me. If that isn’t love, I am not sure what is. More than that, I was supposed to be doing something with my best friend on one of those days. When I talked to her about it she didn’t even hesitate for a second before telling me to go and have fun. That is despite the fact she could have used me there. Again, that is love.

Families don’t keep score. Don’t get me wrong, they will bring stuff up at the worst possible moments, they will laugh at you as well as cry with you and they don’t always make the right move… and they will bring up your past without question… but they don’t hold it against you.

You… you reading this. You have family. Probably a lot more family than you know really. Make sure you appreciate them, and thank them for being your Number 1 fans. They are special, and a little recognition is never a bad thing. Having family also means the tables are turned and you are their family too. So everything they do for you, you do for them.

They say love makes the world go round. Well of course it does! People stomping away after arguments with their loved ones make the Earth spin and so do all those doors that are slamming shut!

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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.

The truth about: living in pain.

Pain can take many forms. Most people will be acquainted with physical pain, but there is mental pain too, and phantom pain. I am writing this because I live in pain. It is constant. I have both mental and physical pain.

The problem with pain is that it starts of a cycle. I am living in so much physical pain that it starts to hurt mentally. You start trying to find ways to cope with the pain… and when hot baths and morphine don’t help where can you turn? If you are me, you turn to cutting*. Mentally, you start to get really, really fed up with the pain. You ask “why me? What did I do?”. You wonder how you can cope with another day in so much pain. The physical pain makes the metal pain worse. The mental pain makes you less able to cope with the physical pain, which feels even worse.

The truth about chronic pain is that it destroys lives. I can’t do the things I want to with my daughter. I am confined to my bed often. I sit and cry because I don’t know what else I can do to cope. It is pushing me right to the edge and there is nothing I can do about it. The pain isn’t going to get better. There is no end in sight. THAT is what chronic pain does to someone.

So next time someone  you know lashes out a bit, next time you get fed up of someone moaning about pain yet again, please try to imagine what it is like to go through. Imagine how happy you would feel when you hurt constantly. In some people, the pain will be obvious. In others, they may look perfectly normal to you. But you don’t know the struggle they go through.

Friends and family of those with chronic pain can feel quite helpless… after all, there is no magic wand to make it all better. The truth is chronic pain isn’t something you can imagine easily. That makes it harder to empathise. We get that. The truth is if someone you love is struggling with pain, they need  you more than ever. Make the effort to give us a hug. Make the effort to go over and talk to us since we may not be able to get to you. Don’t abandon us because we never come out any more. You may never know just how close to the edge we are.. and your kind words may help us cope.

The truth is pain isolates you. You feel alone… like no one understands. We have more time than most to sit and think… which inevitably leads to us to hating ourselves for not being able to do much. There is nothing you could say to make us feel worse, so your opportunity is to make use feel better. It doesn’t take much, but a few kind words can mean the world.

 

*If you feel like self harming, please refer to my crisis box! xxx

 

The Truth About Suicide.

Suicide is not the end. It is the beginning. For those left behind, anyway.

I have stood on the edge of that cliff, and a few times I was shockingly close to jumping. I know what it is like, and I know how easy it is to convince yourself that your loved ones would be better off without you. It is easy to convince yourself you are doing the right thing. And I know that when you are on the edge like that, there is no such thing as ‘the bigger picture’. You get tunnel vision. All you can see is the end, and all you feel is pain. There is no room for anything else. No room for family, friends, anyone else.

Those that commit suicide often convince themselves that nobody will care. That is what a young lady I was friends with thought. She believed suicide was her only way out, despite being just 15. What she didn’t know was how much it would affect her friends and family, and just how many people would be devastated. She forgot how many people loved her, and she had no idea that we would NOT be better off without her.

I still cry about it, nearly 8 years on. I still wish I could have done more. I still wish I had taken the time to talk to her when she asked (I asked her to wait as my baby was screaming for a feed). I wonder what was the straw that broke the camels back. I wonder if I could have saved her. I wish she didn’t feel so alone. She was popular at school. She had the voice of an angel. None of us saw it coming.

I know you feel alone when you are standing on the edge. I know you can convince yourself they will be better off without you. The truth of the matter is that you are sentencing them to a life time of pain, ‘what ifs’ and anger. You might be out of pain but those who love you wont be. And if you happen to think you don’t have anyone that cares, think again. EVERYONE has someone.

The truth is suicide is never your only option. And trust me, I know how tiring the fight can be. It is soul-destroying at times. But there will be good times, and they are what will help you pull though. I have a page full of useful websites and numbers for if you find yourself in crisis.

Suicide is an answer, not the answer. And trust me, it is the wrong answer. If you could only see the bigger picture you would see just how much love surrounds you, even if you can’t see it or find it just yet.

I have included a contact form. If you ever feel like committing suicide, please email me. You are not alone. I will reply to everyone that emails me.

[contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form

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 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?

Self Harming…. *Trigger Warning!*

 

I have been quiet for the last few weeks, and I apologise for that. I haven’t been doing very well. When I started writing this blog, I promised to share the good and the bad. It is important to me that I write about the REAL effects of living with mental health problems. I must warn you, this post contains triggers regarding self harm that could upset you. Please look away if you feel it will hurt you.

For 10 years, my self harm method of choice was always overdosing. Unfortunately, after a while, your body can’t cope with it any more. Because of that, I have cirrhosis of the liver. Half of it is dead, and it can’t repair itself as the damage was just too much.

Recently, I have been under immense pressure, that was added on to the usual massive dip in mood that happens around April and August each year. Basically, I was feeling helpless and lost. I knew I couldn’t overdose again, because genuinely I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to damage my liver even further. But I still needed a release, so I started cutting.

Yes, it was stupid. I know. But there you  have it… that is what happens when you need a release and nothing else works. I should mention that I raided my crisis box and phoned my local crisis team before cutting, and I was very helpfully told to go to bed!! Absolute joke… they are supposed to be the people who help when you are in crisis mode!

My experiences about cutting have in the past has been talking to those that have done it, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of it. I have heard them say watching the blood flow feels like you are letting the bad bits out. I have also heard people say it helps them feel in control, and that the pain helps them feel alive again. I am not sure what my experiences are yet… I just enjoy watching the blood build up.

I never thought I would write a blog like this, and it is a shame I lost the battle with my mind for a little while. But having spoken to various mental health professionals who have said that while cutting is not good, it is better than overdosing considering my liver status. I was given these tips, and I shall pass them on. Before I do, however, I need you to know I don’t condone cutting. I hope you manage to find better ways of coping, and I hope you look at my crisis box post for coping tips. I sincerely hope you never need these tips. But knowing that cutting is NOT a suicide attempt, and is simply a coping technique for when things get bad, means it is better to be safe that sorry.

  • Contact a mental health professional. This should ALWAYS be something you do before you self harm in any way. If you don’t have your own mental health nurse or other professional you can talk to, don’t forget there are still people you can talk to. Here are some useful numbers and websites.
  • Go through your crisis box. If you haven’t got one, please have a look at this page and create one. If you are stuck, let me know, I have been helping people put them together. These are distraction techniques that can be amazingly helpful!
  • Practice mindfulness… tips can be found here, here, here, or in any Google search.  It helps calm you down, and brings you back into the present moment.
  • If you must cut, keep it safe. Use sterile blades at all times (you can either buy sterile blades, or sterilise the ones  you have in sterilising fluid or even putting them in boiling water. If you are using disposable blades, make sure you dispose of them safely. If you are re-using the same blade, be super careful and vigilant about keeping it sterile. That last thing you want to worry about is an infected wound.
  • Wash the area you will be cutting AND your hands thoroughly, I use an antibacterial scrub to help. Keeping everything clean reduces the risk of infection.
  • Once you have cut, keeping the area clean and dry is essential. If it is a small cut, you can use an antiseptic, but don’t do that in a deeper cut as it will just get into your blood stream and wont work.
  • Dress the wound appropriately. Make sure you have a suitable first aid kit with the right size dressings and bandages (if needed). Put the dressing on the cut, and if the blood comes through that dressing put another dressing over the top, and wrap a bandage round it. The bandage should be firmly on, but not tight enough to cut of circulation or be uncomfortable. After twenty  minutes or so, you can go back and redress the wound. If it is still bleeding, reapply the bandage. If after a further ten minutes you are still bleeding, it is time to get some help.
  • Keep wound closing strips (Steristrips for example) handy, wounds heal quicker if the skin is together (rather than a gaping wound  in the middle) and scaring is less evident.
  • LEAVE IT ALONE! Once you have cut, leave the wound alone. Don’t keep removing the dressing to stare at it, you will have plenty of time for that later. The more often you remove the dressing the higher the risk of infection.
  • If the cut does get infected, seek guidance from your GP. Leaving it to go away on its own can be dangerous, so always get it checked over.

I hope you never need that list. The important thing to remember is that there ARE other ways of coping. Use all the tools you have and maybe this time you wont need to do it. Cutting should never be the first thing you do when you ‘feel the urge’.

I am NOT a medical professional of any kind. My advice should never substitute that of someone qualified. However, should you ever need to talk, if you want some advice, or just a friendly ear, you can contact me at any time. You are not alone, you are strong enough to cope, and you WILL come through this. Just stay safe!