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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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?

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!

The Most Exhausting Job In The World!

Caring for someone who suffers with Mental Health problems is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It can make you want to bang your head against the wall, cry in despair, shake your head in frustration, make you want to give up completely and even cause you to have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety yourself. You will find yourself constantly worried, stressed, and angry at times too.

So why would anyone in their right mind put themselves through it? The simple answer is love. No one would be able to do this without loving the person they are caring for. Whilst speaking to others about this particular blog entry, ‘money’ has been raised as a reason people care for those with mental health problems, particularly in the cases of mental health professionals. After some thought, I have to disagree… the money paid for doing a job could be earned in many other jobs where they wont get attacked, feel responsible if someone takes their own life, wont have to enter homes of patients in a mess you can’t even imagine, wont get shouted at, sworn at and blamed for all life’s problems etc. I believe that it is a job people go into because they care, and, as my mum pointed out, so that they can make a difference to the lives of the people they meet. They don’t get paid enough to do it for the money.  And worse than that, with their budgets being cut time after time after time, they have to live with the knowledge that they are potentially giving a service that cannot put the patient first. They have to live with the knowledge that people have and will continue to die as a result.

If you are the friend or family of someone with a mental illness, you will soon understand that it is a pretty thankless task. If you look after someone with a life threatening or long-term illness, the public will praise you. They will tell you how wonderful you are, what a brilliant job you are doing, and inevitably you will gain some sort of satisfaction from doing that. It is completely different when looking after someone with mental health problems. If you are a parent, people may wonder if you did something to cause the problem, people may urge you to walk away, and you live in the knowledge that this could just be a lifelong commitment.

I have been hugely blessed with a family that have not only stood by me, but been my rock, my biggest fans, and have always been actively involved in helping me, in whatever ways they can. They do it because they love me, and they want, more than anything, for me to be happy. My parents have spent countless hours driving me to appointments, and sitting through them with me. As a prime example, when I was undergoing DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), my dad drove me to the centre, which took two hours each way twice a week, every week, for 12 weeks, and waited while the session was going on. This is despite working nights. He takes my to my medical assessments, medical appointments, he picks me up and drops me back home every time I go to see them (which is usually weekly). They are on the phone when I need to talk. They remind me to take my medicines. They show me the way to go when things go wrong. They even drag themselves to the psych ward when I have been an inpatient there, knowing what nasty, scary places they can be. They don’t get paid to do that. They do it at personal cost, both of money and time, just for me. They were the ones that drove me to the hospital and spent countless hours in the emergency room when I overdosed.

The biggest thing my parents have done to help me, again at huge personal cost (money, time, emotions), is to look after my daughter. They have saved both me and her, by taking her on and saving her from the social system. Due to my illnesses, and especially due to me still not having completely kicked the self harm issues, I am unable to look after her. It was a huge decision for all of us- it is awful, awful, awful to have to admit your own flesh and blood would be safer and more secure without you. And yet, thanks to my parents, I can see her whenever I want, she is healthy, happy and settled. She is doing brilliantly at school, and is genuinely the funniest person I have ever met. We would be lost without her.

When caring for someone with mental health problems, however, the physical side of things… the appointments etc are not the biggest challenge. It is the mental side of things that will determine if this is something you are able to do or not. I know my parents never stop worrying about me, even when I am ‘well’ or on an ‘up’. They know as well as I do that things will eventually go bad again. And at that point they worry they will get a knock on the door from the police one morning to be told I have committed suicide. Against that constant worry and stress, they have to put up with my loosing my temper sometimes. I can say awful things, things that I don’t even mean just because I can’t express it properly. Sometimes I get cross when they try to protect me from something I don’t want to be protected from. Sometimes I will sit there and cry, like I am never going to stop. And a lot of the time, they have to sit there and listen to me talk for England because I live alone and can’t shut up whenever I meet someone.

In some ways, my parents are fortunate.  I do tend to understand things (eventually!!), I am not violent towards them, I don’t get in trouble with the law, I am not an alcoholic and I don’t take drugs (at least not ones that aren’t prescribed). They don’t live in fear that I will be violent to them. And to be honest, the only reason I don’t do those things is because I was brought up well. It could have turned out very differently.

I am very lucky too… because I love to write. It helps me sort out what is running through my head, and helps me make sense of what goes on around me. I find writing helps me when I want to self harm, too. I am also lucky because I have spent a long, long  time finding out as much about my problems as I can. That way, it doesn’t seem so scary. I know what to expect, I know myself, and through that knowledge I am now, finally, mostly able to reach out for help before things slip too much. Something  I was never able to do before. Even now though, my family are so acutely tuned to me and my problems, they still often know when I am going downhill before I do. They know not to tell me though, as I wont believe a word of it!

Getting to know someone is hard enough anyway… but getting to know someone who can change in a million different ways at any given moment is really hard. Nearly impossible, in fact!

So if you know of someone going through this struggle, be supportive to them. Understand that, as carer’s, they have the hardest job in the world. And just because the world may be ignorant about the facts, doesn’t mean you should be. My parents appreciate a ‘Thank you’ and a ‘Well done, you are doing  great’ more than most. If you happen to suffer from mental health problems never forget to say thank you.

So… to my lovely Mum, Dad, Brothers, Sister, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and my stunning not-so-baby-anymore-girl, THANK YOU. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you.

Surviving ‘Rock Bottom’.

Most of us reach that moment in life when you realise that it is impossible for you to fall any further. You are already impaled on rocks like those above, and the only thing you can do is contemplate what happened to bring you to that point.

For a lot of us, this will not be an event that happens just once. I have hit rock bottom 4 times now. And spent much more time just above rock bottom than I care to admit. It is amazing really, it is like flying, except there are strings holding you up.

In my experience, it is essential that a person hits that point (only if they are actually heading in that direction… not if they are doing fine!). Why would I wish such an awful thing on people? It is simple: we can be idiots. And more often than not, especially if this is our first time going down, we have no idea it’s happening. And it doesn’t matter how much we try to help them, they have to come to the conclusion that they need some help. They have to reach a point where beyond all reason and doubt they have to admit they are not in control of it.

For some people, that means suddenly realising you have lost all your friends, pushed your family away, and you are all alone. I have been there. It is a horrific feeling. Suddenly the colours have gone, nothing is fun, you lose motivation and you feel rather sorry for yourself. Without this realisation, however, no help will ever be able to help. They absolutely need to make the first step themselves. Telling someone.

I have been blessed greatly, because despite pushing my people away, they have always been there for me after. Many people will find their friends receptive to them again once they have admitted they need help and support.

Believe it or not, hitting rock bottom is a good thing. There is nothing that motivates a person more. The ONLY way from rock bottom is up. There simply isn’t any way things can get worse. And, although you wouldn’t know it at the time, it is actually comforting that this is as bad as it gets.

To survive rock bottom, you need support. You need people you can talk to honestly, people who can distract you, support from a care team (psychiatric care if needed), and people you can call at any time. This support usually comes from many different places, which reduces the amount of pressure on all of them as you are not relying on them alone for everything.

The type of rock bottom I have been talking about  above mainly refers to people who are having a so-called ‘break down’ or ‘mid-life crisis’ (I hate those phrases!). A lot of people will only have the one. But  there is another type, the type I have. That means I frequently go in ‘cycles’ (I tend to dip in April and August). That used to mean hitting rock bottom each time, and really, really struggling to get back up on my feet. It was during those times that I did the most self harm. I was overdosing once a week… or more in some cases. It was so bad that now I have cirrhosis of the liver as a result. However, it is possible to survive these significant dips too… I have made it my business to learn all I can about my illnesses, and especially how they affect me. And now I am able to recognise myself going downhill before I reach rock bottom, so I can get help quicker. Which is great, because the further you fall the further you have to climb back up.

I am still advocating my crisis box, because it is such a good distraction technique and can help in so many situations.

Another one bites the dust :(

When I was 16, my mental health problems got so bad I was put in a funny farm for 3 months. For the vast majority of my time there, I was the only one who wasn’t anorexic.

There were 6 of us that got on really well, which was great, because 99% of the time we were the only ones there. We had two girls come in during the time I was there, but they were only there for 2 days.

It is strange that you  can get so close to people in that place! The girls there were very, very ill, and this place was the last stop before hospital, sedation, and force feeding. (As we were all under age at that point, our parents were still able to make decisions about our care for us).

It wasn’t a particularly high security place. So one day, one of the girls was so ill she had to go up the stairs in a chair lift because simply walking up the stairs could have killed off the last 2 calories that were keeping her alive. Maybe 3 calories.

One day, she ran away. She made it 2 miles before she died. None of us said much for the rest of the day. We didn’t know what to say. It was a shocking reminder that none of us are invincible. And just how dangerous this disease is.

When I left, I had the numbers of those girls. We kept in touch. About a year after I was discharged, I had a phone call from the mother of one of those friends. She told me that my friend  had died because of an overdose of heroin. I was shocked, because she really wasn’t that sort of girl. I was devastated. And I don’t think I am as ‘over it’ as I thought I was, because I have just started crying!!

Fast forward to last week. Another of the girls had died as a result of her anorexia. She was one of the most beautiful women in the world. Absolutely gorgeous. She just couldn’t see it.

To top all this off, I had a friend who committed suicide a few years ago. She was well and truly loved by an awful lot of people. I just wish I had had the chance to help her. I feel responsible, like I could have prevented it. But unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly was it is it would probably count as libel/ slander.

The terrifying thought is that HALF of the people I was there with have died. Sometimes the illness beats you, rather than the other way round. And perhaps I have learned that no matter if you are given the worlds best treatment with world-class counselling, things can’t always be fixed.

I wish I had a magic wand to make things better.

The most I can do is direct you to this page, and to let you know I will be making up crisis boxes so if anyone wants one, message me. The prices will vary as I will make each box individual, but I don’t see them being too expensive (around £25 ish?) or if you like I can give you some ideas so you can make your own one). I will be selling at cost price, so I wont be making any money. It is something I am so passionate about these boxes that I am willing to do them non-profit. I might even ask for some donations to hand out to people who really can’t afford them. But I would love to hear your comments on the matter.