anxiety · bpd · depression · grief · help · mental health · reading · stigma · suicide · support

Be kind to yourself

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The art of learning to be kind to yourself.

I don’t know if this is something too many people can relate to but it’s something through therapy such as CBT and MBT I was encouraged to learn to do. I don’t think I had a positive word to say about myself for so long and the way you view yourself, talk about yourself and maybe mentally talk to yourself really does define you in ways I had never really known.

Looking back is not something I’m fond of as though there has been good times my mind and body like to constantly remind me of the pain, the tragedies and what feels like my constant failings. So when I look back and see this bleak darkness it’s hard to move forward in good hope that things will be different. Here is where I am starting to discover the power of being kind to myself.

You know that feeling where you have promised yourself you are going to lose weight and get that body you have always known you could have but you just have never found the time to do it? So you set yourself a challenge and start doing the exercise, you change the diet and your lifestyle and you start to see the results which is great and this could happen for weeks or months then you relapse you have a week of pizza, booze and cake and in your mind that’s it you’ve ruined it all!
This is how I often feel about myself, this attempt to be perfect as I view myself as something resembling ‘damaged goods’ to redeem myself I must try to be perfect no room for mistakes, which when you have a mental health disorder is to put simply beyond unrealistic. I think that’s why I got so close to the edge I always fell short of my expectations for myself, not good enough, kind enough, intelligent enough, pretty enough, compassionate enough I could go on and I’m sure people can relate to this the guilt you feel when you get things wrong when you step over the boundaries you have put up to maintain that image of your ‘perfect self’. I am learning to be ok with not being perfect, of accepting my flaws and my often immature behaviour or stupid impulsive decisions, but being kind to myself is like re-wiring my whole brain I just haven’t done it in so long it’s alien to me.

A few moments in my guilt ridden mind is hard to explain so to share with you a scenario of a night out drinking where I got far too drunk and had to miss work the next day, at first something resembling a panic attack starts to happen head spins into a blurry mess, palms sweating and heart pounding ‘fight or flight’ is very much at work here. My mind screaming things like ‘you will never get better’, ‘permanently a screw up’, ‘you ruin every good thing you have’, ‘that suicide idea was probably your best decision yet to bad you screwed that up too’, ‘everyone hates you’, ‘this is all you are worth’. A few moments of tackling these thoughts feels like going a few rounds in a boxing ring with Mark Tyson and being beaten to a pulp, leaving me with barely any energy to move let alone attempt to battle each one of these thoughts.

There is a temptation to look for confirmation from others when in this state, to have them tell you that ‘You’ve done nothing wrong’ or ‘Don’t beat yourself up about it’ a desperate need for comfort as I cannot find any within myself. But recently I’m trying to change that… not many people know a few things about me, one being I am a Christian and my faith is probably well more honestly definitely the only reason I’m still here, but it’s no walk in the park, no comfort at times but it does remind me I cannot be perfect and should not expect myself to be, if you believe in God or not we cannot be all knowing and any attempt or expectation to be means we will always fall short.

It’s ok to make mistakes, it’s human to get things wrong, it’s even human to hurt people if it be intentionally or not, we cannot control others thoughts or feelings anymore than we can attempt to control our own. Often my biggest achievements have occasionally come from selfish intentions, and my biggest mistakes from my greatest intentions. That’s life, that’s normal and that truly is ok. Even writing these words brings some comfort to me, to tell myself ‘it will all be ok’ and not hoping to hear it from others brings a peace, brings space to open up the door to more possibilities where I wont view myself as a good for nothing failure.  

The whole reason I wanted to write this post is vaguely to get it off my chest to declare it to the ‘blogging world’ and make my peace with it, but also as I know there are people out there who must do this too and I’m probably too comfortable with myself being treated like dirt but am far from comfortable with the idea that others do this to themselves. So to be an example I will say a few things to myself I know to be true, but in my heart of hearts I still have a fair way to go before I start believing but that doesn’t mean they are not true, and these are as true for me as they are for you, ‘It’s ok to make mistakes’, ‘I am worthy of love and peoples time’, ‘I am beautiful inside and out’, ‘I am not a bad person’, ‘My life means something and is important’, ‘I am loved’, ‘I deserve peace’. I think that’s all I can about manage for now as even writing them I feel the stir of something uncomfortable within me awkwardly stirring in disbelief as I say them to myself internally, but I must learn and will learn life is no walk in the park and being kind to yourself is so important to get you through all those tough times.

So lets make a decision to choose to think good of ourselves even when it feels like the most impossible thing to do.

anxiety · bpd · depression · help · mental health · paranoia · stigma · suicide

Think before you speak!

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I have tried to be as subjective as possible in regards to a lot of the posts I write on here. Both considering those who are new to understanding mental health and those who are very educated and clued up on the matter, as well as being mindful of those who suffer.

However as a BPD (borderline personality disorder) sufferer I wanted to write a post entirely on what it is like experiencing relationships and friendships from my view or rather ‘our’ view (for those out there who also suffer from emotional unstable disorders). 

What inspired me to write this was going on to Google and typing in ‘how to communicate in relationships/friendships when you suffer from BPD?’ And the majority of results that came up were links stating things such as ‘Why BPD relationships are so tough’ or ‘How to love someone with BPD’.  All these links providing reasons why other non-sufferers struggle to be friends with ‘us’, or how it is hard on them to handle ‘us’, and why many break from their relationships or friendships due to the turbulence of the experience of being close to this said person with BPD.

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I must admit this does boil my blood a bit, and lets not now suggest that this reaction in itself is due to my ‘disorder’ and having a BIG reaction to something seemingly small.
No it makes me angry as the sufferer seems to be portrayed as some sort of villain. As the question is often put across as, ‘how does it make YOU feel that your partner has a mental health disorder?’ Or how it makes YOU feel that your mum has BPD or even your best friend?

Now I’m not attempting to take away from this importance in the slightest as it is important how this makes YOU feel, as the education you receive on the subject will help you better understand and know how to communicate and cope with the sufferer. But don’t be fooled to believe that this text book education or small insight tells you or even begins to touch on what it’s like in the head of that sufferer, and I can guarantee to you most of the time they want to spare you the description of that daily battle.

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So how about how it makes US feel? Having friends who expect too much of you emotionally? Or partners who leave you over a condition you cannot control? Or parents who look at you in those dark times as if they have no idea who is standing in front of them? How it feels having strangers call us attention seeking or mental?
Well I can tell you it’s not good that’s for sure!

How about why WE want to distance ourselves from friends who judge us? Who get angry at us? Who put unnecessary pressure on us? All again because of an illness that due to them not being able to see they therefore cannot seem to understand? 
Or why we don’t want to, or are scared to enter relationships? Because we fight this pain and negativity and self-criticism in our heads daily, and believe me we know and already feel guilty towards any pain it may cause you! We can see and feel it affecting you, but just as someone in a wheelchair cannot get up and walk we cannot just switch this off.

No reminder needs to be said of how hard it is for you, how difficult it is for you, how painful it is for you etc. etc. as we have already gone through all of that in our own heads, hence why so many stay silent.

So before you speak to someone with a mental health disorder THINK about your words as they often only confirm our scars, only validate our constant self-criticism and lack of self-worth and ultimately only push us closer to that edge.

Think before you speak to someone with BPD, THINK!!!
As it often does far more damage than you can even imagine.

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anxiety · depression · help · mental health · news · reading · stigma · support

Anxiety Disorders

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Warning Signs That Anxiety is a Disorder

Most people experience some form of anxiety in their lives. In most cases, anxiety is a normal human response to stressful situations. Periods of anxiety can help people suppress pain and often acts as a signal that danger is near. However, excessive anxiety can lead to an unhealthy response that turns into a disorder. 

For some people, anxiety interferes with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Daily routines that were once normal now feel like a heavy burden that takes an enormous amount of effort to complete. Excessive anxiety puts an immense amount of strain on a person’s body and some studies indicate it can lead to an increased risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, or heart disease. When struggle with anxiety, people suffer from emotional instability and an inability to form and maintain personal relationships. 

Anxiety Disorders- Signs of a Larger Problem

Clear cut evidence does not exist that shows why some people suffer from excessive anxiety. What mental health professionals do know is warning signs do exist that often signal a person’s excessive anxiety is, in fact, a disorder. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classifies five major types of anxiety disorders:

General Anxiety Disorder– Classified as chronic anxiety, the characteristics of this disorder include exaggerated worry and extreme tension with no clear reason provoking the anxiety. 
• Panic Disorder- People who suffer from panic disorders feel immediate and intense fear followed by physical ailments such as chest pain, excessive sweating and shortness of breath. 
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder– Known as OCD, the symptoms of this disorder include repetitive, unhealthy behaviors coupled with recurrent, unwanted thoughts. Many people who suffer from OCD will excessively wash their hands or clean their houses. 
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder- Commonly referred to as PTSD, this disorder normally occurs after a person suffered a traumatic event causing grave danger or physical harm. PTSD warning signs include angry outbursts, difficulty sleeping and constantly feeling “on edge.” 
• Social Anxiety Disorder- Also known as social phobia, this anxiety disorder causes people to experience an overwhelming feeling of self-consciousness during social situations. 

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Other Common Warning Signs of an Anxiety Disorder

Most people who suffer from an anxiety disorder have no control over their feelings of worry. What troubles many mental health professionals is most people who suffer from the disorders know they have a problem. Knowing they suffer from an anxiety disorder, the symptoms often become worse. The symptoms include constant muscle aches, headaches, unexplained pains and feeling tired all the time. Persistent symptoms often include excessive sweating and feeling light-headed or out of breath. Unfortunately, for many people, there is no relief from the symptoms without professional help. 
Treating Anxiety Disorders

Although successful treatment for anxiety disorders is individualized, there are several accepted approaches among mental health professionals that have proven effective over the years. The treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, medication and complementary and alternative treatment. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has proven highly effective. Using this treatment approach, doctors can identify and change a person’s thinking and behavior patterns. Treatment centers that offer CBT ensure their patients are actively involved in their own recovery. For more information about anxiety disorders, please click HERE.

bpd · charity · depression · help · mental health · news · stigma · suicide · support

TV Appearance

This month I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to appear on ‘That’s Oxford TV’, where I had a chance to share my personal story on mental health.

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I was interviewed by the lovely Emma-Jane Taylor and though the experience was fairly nerve wracking it was great to have a platform to discuss such an important topic, and by sharing some of my experiences I hope others can find that bravery to start to share theirs.

To watch the interview just click the link below: WATCH HERE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIYAM1wjYV4&feature=youtu.be

 

charity · depression · help · men · mental health · stigma · suicide · support

Self-Harm

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This is a hard subject to approach and a hard one to write about… there is a lot of stigma behind this topic and also confusion. What exactly is self-harm?

For me I would sum it up as taking anything surrounding you good or bad and turning it against yourself to cause physical or emotional harm. Sometimes taking pleasure from the pain it brings, other times doing it as a form of self-punishment believing that it’s what you deserve.
It can often become an addiction and a coping mechanism for very difficult feelings.

For those who don’t understand why someone would turn to self-harm here are just a few reasons why it might appeal to someone or become a last resort…

  • express something that is hard to put into words
  • turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
  • change emotional pain into physical pain
  • reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
  • have a sense of being in control
  • escape traumatic memories
  • have something in life that they can rely on
  • punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
  • stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
  • create a reason to physically care for themselves
  • express suicidal feelingsand thoughts without taking their own life.

 

Types of self-harm

I almost don’t want to list any as sometimes I feel like I’m listing to myself the only options I used to feel I had. I also feel reserved doing so as these are by no means good options and any release they bring I can guarantee they hold a lot more pain and hardship for you in the long run.
However here are just a few I can think of:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Cutting yourself or causing harm to oneself by punching/pinching etc.
  • Refusing to eat (starvation)
  • Burning yourself
  • Self-sabotage in friendships and relationships (on purposely pushing others away)
  • Promiscuous behaviour (with intent to replace other forms of self-harm or as a form of escape)

 

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Besides the obvious reasons self-harm is bad for you there is also a high risk of addiction, as these things may bring temporary release it’s something people can come to rely on so when in desperate need or in emotional turmoil they turn straight to self harm as some relief can be better than none. It’s almost like a distorted comfort blanket but any comfort self-harm brings you is a lie and only pushes you to devalue yourself and your life more and more.

 

Myths and facts about cutting and self-harm
Because cutting and other means of self-harm tend to be taboo subjects, the people around you—and possibly even you—may harbor serious misunderstandings about your motivations and state of mind. Don’t let these myths get in the way of getting help or helping someone you care about.
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.

Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally harm themselves in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.

Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.

Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or a previous trauma—just like millions of others in the general population, but that doesn’t make them crazy or dangerous. Self-injury is how they cope. Sticking a label like “crazy” or “dangerous” on a person isn’t accurate or helpful.

Myth: People who self-injure want to die.

Fact: People who self-injure usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their problems and pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.

Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.

Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.

Personal Experience and Recovery

Self-harm can enter peoples lives in a manner of different ways. For me I was a somewhat usual hyper child, however I do remember I could get carried away with my feelings and sometimes it would get me into trouble. One time I got told off for my behaviour and I suddenly felt this internal pain which was sharp and made it hard for me to breathe, by no means had I been yelled at or scolded but it felt like I might as well have been! Once I got home this feeling didn’t leave and I simply remember wondering if physical pain would counteract this strange overwhelming feeling, then without any real intent to harm myself I took a paper clip and one cut was all it took, the worse part of all it worked.

I do not want to overindulge in where it took me further into teenage years etc. but safe to say that self-harm (cutting myself) became an addiction of which caused temporary relief to what was a constant emotional roller-coaster. At roughly 16 I do remember stopping for a few years, but it soon came back as it was all I knew that helped, and with little concern for my body or well-being it branched out into many other forms of self harm into my early 20’s.
I stopped cutting again temporarily but turned to things such as drinking too much and other self destructive behaviour. With no value for myself or my life I wasn’t really bothered by the consequences, but my actions not only harmed myself but sometimes others also. Which in turn lead me down a whole other path of guilt and self-punishment pushing me ever so closer and closer to the edge.
In short self-harm simply gets you no where positive fast, if anything it pushes you further and further back into the darkness.

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Recovery
I am no authority on this whatsoever, and I wont lie professional help was at times often quite scarce but recovery started within (as cheesy as that sounds!) but choosing not to self-harm simply because it harmed my body and doing things like pampering myself and attempting to paint my nails or having a healthy dinner were acts of self-love which slowly rippled into my sense of well-being. Telling myself ‘I am worth more than the temporary release of self-harm’ or ‘I matter as a person’ and ‘This is not your fault’ became challenges I would daily try to repeat to myself in an attempt that if I continued to say then maybe eventually I would believe them?
Communication with others was a massive and scary step! The idea or dealing with rejection made me feel like I may be pushed over the edge and I was scared at times of what I might do if reacted to negatively.
Ultimately recovery is different for everyone though, some really need professional help, others the support of friends and family can be a life changer, but for me the final step or the big PUSH was a follow up sort of ‘damage control’ appointment after being hospitalised after an ‘episode’. It was only meant to be 30 mins but it carried on for over an hour and by the end of the session they turned around to me and said ‘thank you’, they mentioned my insight into my condition and self-awareness was incredibly eye opening and I was doing better than I thought. They even mentioned I could go on to help and educate others, this set alight something in me and by no means did I go home and suddenly get better but I was determined to work out how to tell people and help support others who felt the same as I did.

tumblr_static_self-loveIn group therapy I got a chance to meet others who did feel and think very similar to myself and that was the final straw! I refused to let myself and these wonderful people suffer in silence, condemned by our own thoughts, often house bound and sometimes criticised by others who had no idea of the daily battle within our minds.
So though I am still recovering in many ways on this journey when I say you are not alone I am not throwing a comfort blanket over your pain, I’m saying I see your pain, I hear your pain and I am telling you that you are NOT alone and you are worth far more than you can even comprehend. We all have fight in us just choose to fight for the right people and the right causes and most of all fight for yourself.

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charity · depression · mental health · stigma · suicide

Stigma

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Seen as one of the main reasons I started this blog was to help prevent stigma I thought it would be a good topic to address. So what exactly do we mean when we associate stigma towards mental health?

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Though statistics show that over 450 million people world-wide have a mental health problem, there is still a strong social stigma attached to mental health, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.
Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.

We know that people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to:

  • find work
  • be in a steady, long-term relationship
  • live in decent housing 
  • be socially included in mainstream society.

This is believed to occur because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.

Media doesn’t help at times often portraying those who can suffer with mental health difficulties to be dangerous, aggressive, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives. Which is far more often than not very far from the case.

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That is why campaigns such as Time to Change tackling stigma towards this subject are so important! Below they address some forms of stigma towards mental health…

There are lots of myths about mental health. Knowing a few facts can help us to challenge any negative thoughts and actions. 

Here are some to think about:

  • Myth: Mental health problems are very rare.
  • Fact: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
  • Fact: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.
  • Myth: Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty, it’s nothing.
  • Fact: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.
  • Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable.
  • Fact: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence. 
  • Myth: People with mental health problems don’t experience discrimination
  • Fact: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.
  • Myth: It’s easy for young people to talk to friends about their feelings.
  • Fact: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.

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Mental health stigma and discrimination has become such a talked about subject that many including the royal family are looking at addressing it and tackling it as no one should ever be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone that they experience mental health problems.


The more we focus on educating others on mental health and the more that sufferers feel happy to speak up and speak out the more we can change peoples attitudes and lives. 

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anxiety · bipolar · bpd · charity · depression · help · mental health · stigma · support

Medication

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Mental health and medication has always been an odd subject to approach, personally from a young age and including my teenage years I refused medication, not liking the idea of a pill changing the way I think and feel. I was suspicious of it and didn’t want to risk the long list of possible side effects which can come with taking medication.
However eventually I did end up on medication in my 20’s and I have been pretty lucky with the results as it has been a massive aid to helping me get myself and my life back on track after years of turbulent emotions and events in my life.

Medication prescribed for mental health reasons is referred to as ‘Psychiatric Medication’ which includes all drugs which can be prescribed to treat different types of mental health problems, or to reduce the symptoms.

The idea of taking this medication is not to cure the mental health problems the individual suffers from but to help reduce the symptoms of their diagnosis and help them cope better.
It’s also known to be combined with other types of therapy so taking medication and undergoing a type of talking therapy can work together very well hand in hand.
Ultimately it is down to each individual on what medication and treatment is best.

 

Stigma towards mental health medication  medication

As this medication is ultimately for the mind there is a fair amount of fear and stigma towards whether or not people should be taking this medication or relying on it to help with particular mental health symptoms.

One big fear is the side effects, like most medication it is possible to suffer from them but when taking any medication there is always a risk.

I for one suffered many side effects with trying contraceptive medication but then suffered barely any on roaccutane which was prescribed for my skin at the time.

Personally I think if your symptoms are so bad you are considering medication in the first place it’s worth the risk. But many have a bad history with side effects, so again it’s down to the individual and how they feel, and what they want to do at the end of the day.

55688Personal Experience

The first from of medication I accepted was anti-depressants (one I believe most people are fairly familiar with) I had got to a point where I really needed the help! Depression as in deep, dark, forever looming depression laid heavy on me daily, and I needed ALL the help I could get so I made a doctors appointment and started on a low dose.

This very quickly was made clear to me that it wasn’t working, the dose being far too low. Personally I was unsure of whether this was down to the doctors testing the ‘placebo’ effect at first but either way the dose was quickly increased and I started to feel a difference. It was by no means a miracle cure but the sting of depression was no where near as painful and with no noticeable side effects (which were bad enough to complain about) I was happy to stick to taking this medication which was advised to be taken for the foreseeable future.

A different medication I was not very aware of was prescribed to me within a mental day care centre after a series of many difficult ‘episodes’. Here I was given an antipsychotic, a drug I could barely pronounce and knew very little about. Avoiding reading the long list of side effects I was told by a psychiatric nurse which side effects to look out for and as I was very tuned into my ‘mental make-up’ at this point I was confident going forward on being able to notice if I was becoming worse.
Thankfully I was lucky it had a positive effect, I mean it dulled my senses, particularly my emotions which considering I have an emotional unstable disorder wasn’t bad at all!

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Alcohol however often made both of these drugs either not work or do the opposite of what they were supposed to do, encouraging my episodes to spiral put of control quickly. I mean technically you can drink on them but then again the amount I was drinking it was not a good idea at all and caused many problems moving forward.

Not drinking has made a massive difference to taking the medication and I hope to eventually come off the antipsychotic medication all together and take it slowly and monitor the anti-depressants. But I am not ashamed to say that I needed the help this medication gave me and if I have to remain on it then I’m grateful I have it as an option and if I feel strong enough to come off it then again I’m happy it helped me get to the point that I felt comfortable enough to do so.