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.

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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?? ūüôā 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?

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!

 

 

 

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!!!!!

 

Q&A Help… will this ever end?

Q&A

Below is a message I got from one of my readers recently. He has been going through a really hard time. I want to make it clear, once again, that I am not a medical professional in any form. I am merely someone who has had a rough time of things and want to help. My advice is only that- advice- and should never replace the opinion of a qualified professional. It is always best to seek professional advice when you are feeling low and unable to cope.

 

Hello Hayley,

I was abused as a boy. I lived with the secret for 40 years before telling my wife. She reacted badly, upset that I had never told her before. The thing is, since telling her I have been having nightmares about what happened. I feel like my whole life has been taken away from me because I can’t cope with the constant memories flooding my mind. I was forced to retire on medical grounds 6 months ago, and since then have been completely lost. I have started having panic attacks and I was hospitalised due to one two months ago.¬† I don’t feel like a man any more, my wife is now the ‘bread winner’ and I am struggling to cope. How do I go back to how I was before. I was fine for so long, what happened? And how can I deal with what is happening now. I can’t do this any more!

Love John **

 

Hiya John,

I am so sorry you have been through what you have. You have already started dealing with this and seeking help, and I am thrilled you have found my blog useful. It can be easy to block out what has happened. We put it in a box at the back of our minds, and move on. However, in most cases there will be a point where that Pandora’s Box will be opened… as has happened here. In my case, that box opened much quicker. However, now the box is opened, I am afraid it isn’t as simple as shoving everything back in and forgetting about it.

You have remained incredibly strong throughout your life, and your story has inspired me no end. I know we haven’t been able to post your entire story, but for the other readers of this blog I must stress this man has dealt with more than anyone ever should have to.

John, I recommend you seek professional help. It seems to me that you might be suffering from PTSD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, along with a deep depression. The good news is that these conditions can be managed and treated with medication and therapy. I know you have spoken to  your GP and have recently started some medication that I hope starts to help soon.  Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychotherapy should help you regain control of your life. We spoke about the recovery time, and I know you are aware that this can take quite a while to heal.

I know from experience you can only bottle things up for so long… but once the bottle top explodes, we¬† have to deal with what comes out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Once you have been able to work through what has come out, you will find that you don’t need to bottle things up any more. You will be able to share a more open and honest life with your wife, who I know has been a huge support rock for you, despite her initial concerns. I would encourage you to return to some of my earlier blog posts about ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss‘, and ‘Post Traumatic Growth‘, ‘The Truth About Anxiety‘ and ‘The Truth About PTSD‘. I hope they are able to offer some support and encouragement.

I have a strange little bit of advice for you. It is something that has helped me a lot. Why not try writing a letter to your past self… the child that went through that horrific ordeal. Write to let that small child know that things will be okay, that what is happening is not his fault, and that he will have a bright future and get through this. It is important that you forgive yourself for what happened, and accept that they ONLY person in the wrong is the person that thought they had the right to violate you. You need to let go of the guilt you feel, it will only eat you up.

I know things seem impossible right now, but you have the strength to move forward and cope with what has happened. I wish you all the best in your journey. I know we will keep in touch. It is really important that you don’t give up, because we both you know can do this and you have a lot of support around you. Wishing you all the best.

Lots of love,

Hayley.

 

 

**I have had to summarise the message I received from John (name has been changed) because it was so long. We have spoken in-depth and John has now started getting the help he needs. He is due to start counselling in the next three weeks. The summarised version of his letter was approved by John prior to posting, and he has seen and approved this post. We are going to keep in touch, and I will report on his progress later on in the year.

If you have any questions you want some advice on, you are more than welcome to email me. I will reply to every email, and will only post on here with your consent and knowledge. I change all identifying features of your question. If you just want a friendly ear you are welcome to email me and it will not appear on this blog. I offer advice because I know how hard life can be when you are going through the tough times. As stated above, the advice I offer should never replace professional help from a qualified practitioner.

 

 

The Truth About: Childhood Sexual Abuse.

WARNING: This post may be a trigger point of yours. Please¬† don’t read it if you feel it will do more harm than good.

When I started writing this blog, I did it for a few reasons. I was never under the illusion that every post would be easy to write, or read for that matter. But I know some things need saying. When my family was first forced to face this particular subject, information wasn’t so easily available. It might have only been (just under) a decade ago, but it was a different time really.

Of course, this post is about me, and my story. We are still discovering new knock-on effects from what happened, and the story has yet to end. But, unfortunately, knowing how often this happens means I know we need to speak out more about it. Yes, it is embarrassing, it brings up bad memories, and it isn’t a nice thing to read about, but it is definitely something we should all be acutely aware of.

There are varying ‘degrees’ of abuse. However, the worst thing we can do is to try and judge what an ‘appropriate’ response is. It is dangerous to think someone is ‘over reacting’ to what happened. Since I started writing this blog, and in fact, since I started talking about what happened to me more, lots have people have shared their story with me. And the way people cope varies massively. I know a young man who has suffered for years with PTSD¬† which is the result of a family member giving him an overly friendly a long kiss every time they met (only special occasions). Those kisses had not only terrified him, but had left deep emotional scars. It went on for 2 years.¬† I also know of a lady that was raped. She got into counselling quite quickly, managed to get a conviction against the person who hurt her, and now, ten years on, she has come to terms with what happened and has had no long-lasting emotional damage. She is able to talk about what happened and even laugh at certain bits of it. So, the truth of the matter is no matter what your personal opinions are, people will always react in very different ways to different things.

Me and another family member were both abused by the same person (a family friend). With the other family member, it happened once. With me, it was going on for 7 years, and started when I was just 6. I do not feel sharing the details with you will make any difference to the rest of the story, so I feel no need to make you read it. Needless to say it was more serious than some stories I have heard, and less serious than others.

Fast forward a few years, and I was acting out in a massive way. Looking back, I know it was because I couldn’t say they one thing I needed to say. I lied almost constantly, I wore black, I had no interest in the way I looked (in fact I actively tried to make myself look ugly so that he wouldn’t want to come near me). I stole from my parents, I fought with my siblings, and I did all the things children do when they act out. I know my parents (the whole family, in fact) really struggled to cope with the way I was behaving. Worse than that, because I simply didn’t know how to deal with what was happening, I started overdosing. If you have read this blog before, you may be aware that my overdosing got so bad that I now have to live with half of my liver damaged beyond repair.

Despite my parents desperately trying to get me help (despite not knowing all of the problem at that point) they were met by near continuous brick walls. It very nearly broke them completely. Skipping forward a few years again, I finally got round to telling a family member  what had happened to me. It was at that point the family member said it had happened to them too.

We spoke to the police, we both did video interviews, and the end result was the offender getting nothing more than a caution and a few years on the sex offenders register. We were fortunate enough to have a lovely Police Officer who was very kind to us. She was honest about what the process would entail, and she even came to see me again a few years later when my name was passed across her desk for something else.

I have been to counselling session piled upon counselling session, I have been to therapy, had a forensic examination of my head (that was fun), attended group therapy, got help from a Charity that helps disadvantaged youths, started speaking out about what happened, and about mental health problems in general. At the end of the day, despite the hardships (and there are a lot of them) I have been able to do some pretty amazing things. I was even nominated for a Pride of Britain award and was nominated to be a Young Persons Ambassador.

But there is no happy ending to this story. Not yet anyway. I still have nightmares. There are some nasty physical side effects, I cannot orgasm with anyone other than myself, I don’t particularly like being touched, I don’t enjoy intimacy, I over react to the small things. I nearly fell apart this year because my daughter turned 6 because I was so scared something bad would¬† happen to her. I can’t relax properly, I see danger in everything.¬† I don’t trust people, I suffer massively with guilt (I hate myself for not speaking out sooner, saving my sister). And I doubt everything. I had a friend kill herself shortly after my daughter was born, and I wonder if she did it because the same thing happened to her (the family friend was in her life too, in a very similar capacity… friends with an older sibling). I have to watch my family live with the consequences of what has happened. One of the biggest things is that I can’t look after my daughter, so she lives with my parents. Something they struggle with too. And they have to watch me suffer, they know when I am in pain and they know they can’t stop it.

Believe it or not, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a very, very supportive family (even if they do despair sometimes).¬† They would all move heaven and earth if they thought it would help me. They have made it their business to learn about the mental health problems I have, and they have had to spend a long time learning about me (I change all the time)… they know when they can push me, when to back off, what to talk about and what to keep quiet. There was no manual to teach them that, it was hard work and a lot of desperately trying to see things from my point of view.

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Sometimes there is a reason when children act out. Sometimes there are things you simply wont be able to understand. But the best thing you can do for your children is to keep the lines of communication open always. Let them know that certain parts of their bodies are private and that no one else can touch them, and do it in a way that doesn’t scare them.

There are lots of scary things out there. Most of them are far closer than you think. Being aware of the dangers you face is a good thing, you can then act in an appropriate way. And if you happen to be a little neurotic like me, having people around you that can tell you when you are moving from protective to restrictive in a negative way will help keep you grounded.