anxiety · bipolar · bpd · depression · help · mental health · OCD · paranoia · reading · stigma · support

TRIGGER ALERT

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When I first started looking on the internet to discover others who battled similar mental health problems to me I would often come across a few blogs or articles with the words ‘trigger alert’ written in the title which always confused me as I wasn’t entirely sure of what exactly reading the context would ‘trigger’ in me.
In fact the word trigger itself is one I have come to detest as it reminds me of many a counselling/hospital/therapy session when I would explain my feelings and someone would ask the inevitable question, ‘What do you think triggered this event or these feelings?’ The answer to this question 95% of the time is unknown to me but there was always this image in my head of someone’s finger on the trigger of a gun, slowly applying pressure moment after moment until at some often random moment the trigger had been pulled too far back and would fire leaving nothing but destruction in its path.

Related imageI have come to realise this term ‘trigger’ has a different meaning for many in particular circumstances, for example reading an article on OCD while you yourself suffer from the same condition could trigger old feelings or habits and could ultimately cause you to take a turn for the worse.
Another example is someone who has been abused in the past and therefore suffers possibly from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) a particular situation or even words can cause flashbacks and doubts leading even the best intended advice to actually cause more damage than good.

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Triggers could be anything and what they may trigger in that person can be unknown to the person accidentally or intentionally pulling it. I know for me at least triggers are incredibly varied, and though I am still learning about them I am now aware of these triggers and try to avoid them or try to voice them better.


To better understand what I mean by triggering emotions in someone who suffers with mental health difficulties I have had someone describe their experience below…

Disclaimer -In no way am I trying to say that this is what people mean when they say these things. I guess I’m just trying to show that:

  1. a) in this situation this is how I translate them
  2. b) more generally to show how we all subconsciously translate, and more often than not misunderstand, what people to say to us.

In this case when it is related to a traumatic event, or maybe a strong emotion/experience, I think this is exaggerated as we interpret almost everything around us according to how we’re feeling, for example letting it reinforce feelings of low self-esteem or self-doubt. Even if the ‘translation’ may seem irrational, and may be completely fictitious, the response and effect still feels very real.

In sharing this it’s not to say that we should necessarily do or say anything differently, although I think we can all constantly be trying to do this, but just to try and show how a lot of the time what is said, and how someone interprets it, can be very different – and I guess maybe if we are all a bit more honest day to day about how what someone says might makes us feel/how we have interpreted it we can try and prevent the often painful effects of these misinterpretations on both sides – I think this is the basis of the need for ‘time to talk’ about mental health.

I guess this is almost like a CBT exercise or ‘mentalizing’, and for me I found it therapeutic to write this down as I often feel guilty when I unfairly respond to what are meant to be supportive words with upset or anger, but this anger comes from fear, frustration and pain.

 

What People Say What I hear
‘It could have been worse’ People have been through way worse than you have, you’re exaggerating your own experience and belittling others ‘real’ experiences in the process.
‘You’re safe now’ How can I know that, or you know that, or anyone ever know if they are safe? In my head when I am out, whether it’s dark and I’m alone (or it’s the middle of the day and I’m with other people) I am certain someone will attack me – I know it’s irrational and sounds completely ridiculous but I am convinced this will happen and I’m in permanent ‘alert mode’.
‘If you feel/act like a victim then they’ve won, they have the power’ Not only did they have the power over me when it happened, but they continue to have power over me now – at the time I was weak for not being able to stop it, and now I’m weaker for letting it affect me – I let myself be the victim.
A response to worrying people might not believe you – ‘It’s how it feels to you that’s important’ There is already a lot of self-doubt and stigma, I’m looking for someone to validate me and say objectively it wasn’t my fault and it shouldn’t have happened. For me when you say this it sounds like you’re saying ‘I don’t really believe you’ or ‘I think you’re exaggerating’ but I recognise that it’s affecting you. The onlookers who saw what was happening and didn’t do anything already made me question myself, and now I’m doing this even more.
‘You should find someone to talk to about it’ I’m trying, I want to talk to you about it, but I don’t know if you want to listen. I understand why and I’m also scared that I’ll misread your response anyway and feel worse/misunderstood afterwards. But I want to talk about the facts not how I feel, because talking about the facts reminds me that it happened and that it makes sense for me to feel this way, just feeling is too hard.
‘What’s wrong?’ Maybe it’s 2 weeks after it happened or 6 months, but for me it can feel like yesterday and you asking this question can make me feel really hurt like you’ve forgotten, while I literally can’t forget/stop thinking about it as hard as I try. It makes me feel invalidated like it’s silly that it’s ‘still bothering me’


A poem I have written on this subject…

Each word you say cuts me like a knife!

Can you not see how sharp your words are?

Honesty and good intentions are lost in this pain,

Hit me if you must just please stop with these words!

You may feel lighter letting these words escape,

But your gain only comes at my loss.

Two steps forwards and these words have sent me so far back!

They bring no comfort only confirm my nightmares,

They bring no release only throw me back to the start line.

Please stop speaking and take a look,

Look at what your words have done to me.

But even your sharpest words cannot cut as deep,

For my own words have cut me to the core.

I know you mean well but please no more words.

Just no more words.

anxiety · charity · help · mental health · OCD · paranoia · reading · stigma · support

Relationships

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I recently read a post regarding an individual’s experience on dealing with relationships during her mental health struggles and it has inspired me to write a post on this too, and also I strongly encourage others to read her experience here.

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There is a big stigma behind relationships and mental health.
I’ve come across posts and pages where people have warned others of getting involved or being friends with someone who suffers from mental illness, calling it draining, or calling the individuals selfish and claiming they are better to stay away from.

In fact a recent study by the UK mental health charity Time To Change found that 57% of single people would not date someone with a mental illness.

As many of you can imagine with feelings of possible inadequacy already at play and a realization that you struggle with mental health an individual may come to believe that they’re a burden on loved ones, or possibly even incapable of being loved. These have been thoughts I myself have struggled with at times anyway…

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This post is not focusing on the stigma behind these comments or feelings though, but more so how these thoughts affect the individual and can cause ‘coping mechanisms’ which create almost an emotional numbness to the outside world.
You can start to distance yourself from others, guilt ridden that you shouldn’t burden them with your problems and that they wont understand. Or you smack on that fake smile leading others to be none the wiser of any inner turmoil you’re going through. It can lead you to be less sociable and less available, and even coming across as slightly rude and uncaring at times.

For the individual this may seem like theImage result for lonely best option and not necessarily just for themselves but for those around them. They want to protect those they care for from their sadness, as they torture themselves with how they ‘should be’ or who they ‘used to be’ and the reality of who they believe they are becoming.

 

Now what I have found is essential is attempting to see the other person’s point of view. The person who loves and cares for the sufferer. Now not everyone is very educated or knowledgeable on mental illness, so a distance can be created both ways with the person on the outside asking questions such as… ‘Why is she not talking to me?’ or ‘Why does he not come out anymore?’ and ‘Why do they keep cancelling on me?’
Without communication the sufferer is not aware of the support they have and can be suffocated and drained by their own damning thoughts. Where the friends, family or partners of that person can be left confused, frustrated and at times even angry.

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I think the reason we don’t open up can be due to fear. I know personally I fear I will become vulnerable just to be rejected again, that I will put myself out there just to have my own condemning thoughts confirmed true. That ultimately, my little world of sadness isn’t worth being risked on that tiny glimpse of hope which could possibly end up sending me even deeper down into my depression. I feared if I reached up for help I would eventually just drag others down with me.

For me at least I realised two things which helped give me the courage to try and break my patterns.
1. I cannot read peoples minds as much as they cannot read mine.
2. Yes some people may reject me but ultimately they are not the kind of people I need in my life.

So I started talking and the world didn’t crumble, I opened up and others opened back up to me, slowly but surely the chains started to release and I was free to feel a bit like myself again.

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This is my encouragement for others and my apologies to all of those I hurt when I was spending all my time hurting myself. A sorry for not being there, a sorry for pulling myself away and pushing you away, a sorry for not coming out or cancelling on plans and a sorry for all I did and all that I didn’t do…

And an encouragement to those who are still sat in uncertain silence SPEAK OUT take that risk and keep taking it as people do prove you wrong, and eventually those negative voices about yourself suddenly start loosing their grip on you and the hold they have on your life.

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bpd · depression · mental health · news · OCD · stigma

Soul Relics

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This is an amazing website set up to help tell other peoples stories on mental health through objects that help them connect or express to a present or past experience they have had with mental health.

It’s a unique and creative idea to help people come forward and share with others what mental health problems have been like for them and a safe and constructive way to read of others experiences while being brave enough to share your own.

Take some time to have a look or contribute to this wonderful site and you can either do this so anonymously, under a different name or if you feel comfortable enough to share your name you can take that step of sharing your experience with others or read about how many other people have suffered and dealt with mental health.

Together we can raise awareness and education on mental health, get your voice heard!

SOUL RELICS

anxiety · depression · mental health · OCD

OCD

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Many of us have heard of OCD but are not fully aware of what it really is or the symptoms it includes, without going into intense detail here is a brief explanation…

‘Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.’

Symptoms

If you have OCD, you’ll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

  • An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
  • A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

Causes

There is no specific evidence to what causes an individual to develop OCD but here are some contributing factors.

These include:

  • family history – you’re more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it, possibly because of your genes
  • differences in the brain – some people with OCD have areas of unusually high activity in their brain or low levels of a chemical called serotonin
  • life events – OCD may be more common in people who’ve experienced bullying, abuse or neglect and it sometimes starts after an important life event, such as childbirth or a bereavement

 

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What’s it like to live with OCD?

Although many people experience minor obsessions and compulsions, these don’t significantly interfere with daily life, or are short-lived.

If you experience OCD, it’s likely that your obsessions and compulsions will have a big impact on how you live your life:

  • Disruption to your day-to-day life. Repeating compulsions can take up a lot of time, and you might avoid certain situations that trigger your OCD. This can mean that you’re not able to go to work, see family and friends, eat out or even go outside. Obsessive thoughts can make it hard to concentrate and can leave you feeling exhausted.
  • Impact on your relationships. You may feel that you have to hide your OCD from people close to you – or your doubts and anxieties about the relationship may make it too difficult to continue it.
  • Feeling ashamed or lonely. You may feel ashamed of your obsessive thoughts, or as if they are a permanent part of you and can’t be treated. You might feel that you can’t talk about this part of yourself with others. This can make you feel very isolated. If you find it hard to be around people or go outside then you may feel lonely.
  • Impact on your physical health. Anxiety caused by obsessions can affect your physical health. 

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OCD like all mental health issues is a daily battle, which at times can feel like torture. Knowing more and being educated on the illness itself helps others better communicate with friends, or family who may suffer from the disorder. For though it may not make sense to many of us for the sufferer it is their daily reality, trying to understand can make their battle that bit less lonely. 

Read more on OCD here.

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