ADD · adhd · anxiety · depression · help · mental health · stigma · support

The First Step.

new journey

How to start? Where to start?

From the very beginning?

No. As recently a new beginning has started for me…

A BPD diagnosis was a big part of my journey so far. Vicious cycles of meds, depression, self destruction, pain, confusion, CBT therapy, Group Therapy and Council Support.
But it always ended where it began, at the edge of a mental cliff.

So when another ‘bad period’ caught me somewhat off-guard I ended up having to take 5 weeks off work just to go through the system and be told by the NHS that there was a massive waiting list to see a councillor or a therapist, well due to this the conclusion was the time had come to go privately.

I chose someone local who specialised in a few things one being BPD, so to cut a long story short within 30 mins of the session I was asked ‘Has anyone ever told you that you might be ADHD?’
My initial reaction was to laugh, I mean isn’t that what mostly little boys had in childhood? I remember knowing a boy who had it and they were known to be the class clown or the trouble makers, I didn’t know girls could have it? Let alone in adulthood!?

From too young an age I have never had an ‘official’ diagnosis so Harley Street psychiatrist here we come! Another discussion of going over my past and eventually the conclusion? Signs of ADD mainly and ADHD. Who knew!?
I was started on meds which would confirm once and for all if this was my diagnosis. (How this works is the ‘fast release’ ADHD meds I was given only work on the brain of someone who does in fact have ADD.)
Well they worked, not miracles yet but they worked!

All this time, all this wondering, all this confusion and not feeling like I fit in… turns out all this time I was ADD??? 

This was not a diagnosis I took on lightly! I researched loads and turns out most symptoms of BPD are the same for ADHD, and the signs can be different in women. The more I learnt the more it all made sense!

So here starteth the new journey!

My therapist helped get me on this path, I worried it would be like all the ones before, but this time it’s not, it’s right, I can feel it. How can you work with or treat an illness when either you don’t know it’s there or you have been told you have something completely different?

So here is my new journey of the mind, you’ve read of my past, my research, my pain, my hope, my relationships, my fears and part of my story, but not of my future…

Now I believe I truly have a future join me in discovering and stepping forward for what feels like the first time in a long time in the right direction.

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bpd · depression · grief · help · men · mental health · PTSD · stigma · suicide · support

The Breakdown

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For all of those who don’t know what happens when you are seeking professional help after struggling with mental health let me paint you a picture…

Recently though not easy to admit a pattern has formed in my life where I noticed my mind was getting the better of me, things were spiralling out of my control. No matter how much I created positive distractions or looked after myself my mind quite simply kept crushing me and only when I had two weeks worth of anti-depressant pills in my hand and a bottle of water did I realise it was time to get fighting again, but I need help.

So the process… crisis line as in 111 was called, protocol questions are asked, then you are passed on to someone else who will call you back within the next hour otherwise an ambulance is sent to your location.  However in my case I got a call back, again questions which are hard to answer have to be asked such as, ‘Are others in danger?’, ‘What has happened recently to bring this on?’ 1
I mean if only I had a nail sticking out my leg those questions would be much easier to answer when in my situation from the outside nothing is visibly that wrong.  Eventually the conclusion was an emergency doctor’s appointment the next day was to be made and the crisis line would fax over what information they could to help the doctor who would be seeing me.

The next day comes, doctor appointment arranged, sat in waiting room, name called, walk in and sit down. How can I help you today? My initial reaction to the question is ok don’t think he has received the fax details from crisis line… the next thought being how do I even begin to answer this question?
I started by focusing on my plan, aim and concern at wanting to take my life and attempting to do so. He then asks what again may have ‘brought this on’ and I am aware besides a recent tragedy in my life I have nothing to complain about besides well a truck load of emotions with no logical reason behind them and a mind which sends all my senses into overload and makes me do and say things far from my character.

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So the usual answers are given and a reference to my past involvement with mental health services is mentioned, ultimately again this has to be passed on to the mental health team which I have previously  been involved with.

 

But before the next step or ‘plan of action’ is mentioned not so helpful statements are made such as ‘Your life is your responsibility ultimately’, an obvious and slightly unsupportive statement. Also to mentioning a tragedy of losing someone I knew and cared for the response being ‘That’s life’, again an obvious  statement of which I assume might seem cold to many none the least someone with an emotional unstable disorder.
So without even considering replacing my medication I am told a letter will be written with no indication to when the mental health team will be in touch and a simple ‘hang in there’ in the meantime (easier said than done!) 7e486d93357beedf78dc7960b2e10819

Now I won’t slate the NHS as that is not my aim, I won’t even slate the doctor who’s unwanted and unneeded opinions were hurtful and unhelpful as I know many might abuse the system. But I want to bring to light that physical and mental conditions are treated completely differently, for example you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient that their life is their responsibility as they never asked for such a tragic disease to happen to them in the first place. Neither would you rush someone into A&E after a tragic life threatening accident and then just tell them ‘that’s life’ send a letter to another healthcare team and ask for them to ‘hang in there’ until contacted to start a whole other waiting game.
Extreme examples I know but I only hope to highlight changes need to be made here!

Eventually the question was also put to me ‘Did you really want to take your life?’ Well yes I wanted to and still think about taking my life a lot and I won’t lie to some extent I don’t care how that makes others feel because after a lifetime of burying myself in guilt considering each and every way my illness might make others feel I ask myself, do you know how it makes me feel?

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.

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 · stigma · support

Month No. 4

Month Numbero Four

Well it’s hard to believe I’ve been 4 months without a drink now and only 2 more to go!!!

This month has probably been the hardest in all honesty. Not just the sobriety side of it as I find myself no longer really craving an alcoholic drink, but instead having days when I feel it would be really nice to have one or just wanting to sit down relax and unwind with a drink. Other than these thoughts and the occasional urge to ‘hit the town’ I seem to struggle less and less as time goes on.

The reason this month has been the hardest is the realisations I have come to with my sober mind. Being haunted by memories and nightmares of theImage result for lonely girl things I have said and done when incredibly intoxicated. The realisation of what I did to myself and what others have done to me too. Then the hardest of all the realisations I encountered was that of realising who your true friends really are, and I often hate a phrase such as this as it almost seems like emotional blackmail but it really is true. So many are not here anymore, and it’s caused me to have many lows and left me with a lingering yet intense feeling of loneliness.

This feeling of isolation has bought up many emotions most of which I cannot connect to specifically, but I guess the vulnerability of speaking about something I don’t quite understand can be both relieving and scary at the same time. You feel so vulnerable (especially emotionally) you worry and fear one wrong comment, one misplaced foot could send you off the edge! Yet the more open and honest I am, the more I try to communicate these things the more I realise that the worse doesn’t often happen and when it does I still in time manage to stand back up again.
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So another roller-coaster month but one which has really confirmed to me the power of speaking out and the importance of attempting to communicate what is going on in my mind, so to help others and myself understand better how to live and how to support someone with mental health struggles.

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help · mental health · poetry · stigma

Bad Days

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In an attempt to remain open and honest on this journey I felt a post on what ‘bad days’ can feel like would be appropriate and that many could possibly relate and others understand better what it feels like on one or many of these down periods when you just have to check out for a while.

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Recently I had quite a bad day, for some reason a heaviness overcame me, I could not wake up, I couldn’t move, the world was too much to face that day and I felt as though if I didn’t concentrate hard enough I would forget to breathe. A strange combination of feeling way too much and nothing at the same time.

The world even looks different on bad day’s colours not so bright, warmth not that comforting, just walking around your day as if you were seeing it through someone else’s eyes completely detached from your surroundings. Then the ‘feelings’ or ‘emotions’ whatever you want to refer to them as they consume you, reminding you of the past, the pain, the things you have done, bringing up flashback’s and condemning you constantly in any way possible. Leaving you feeling so very alone and wanting an escape anything to consume your senses and distract yourself from that heaviness held over you and that aching heart and that whirlwind of a mind, anything!
The escapism is often not healthy, in fact at times it has been so destructive it almost draws you to something to personally sabotage yourself. Maybe your job, relationship, your body or your health, even friendships and family… it hits you where it hurts so when you have barely any control over your mind and want nothing more than to escape the inner turmoil the spontaneous and often harmful decisions that were made end up making you pay for them longer than just a day but for months and even at times years.

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Recently I just binge ate. I know it’s Easter weekend and I know health wise I don’t need to be overly concerned with the odd binge on whatever I can get my hands on. But I ate so much I couldn’t move without needing to be sick. I ate so much it effected my mood causing me to be snappy and irritable as my poor shocked stomach attempted to process all the crap I’d just thrown in there. I did it as without alcohol and with other forms of escapism not being an option, food was all I had… 
I wanted to overwhelm my senses to focus on something else, it worked temporarily but all together left me feeling even more tired and leaving my mind guilt tripping and attacking myself more so than ever. So I just went and ate more… You can see how this could be anything you want it to be though, could be alcohol, could be self-harm, could be casual sex, could be starving yourself, I mean ultimately it feels like a blank space you just fill in, ‘When going through emotional mayhem please engage in BLANK to attempt some form of escape’.

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Speaking to others can be so scary on these bad days too. You are aware how emotionally vulnerable you feel and the idea of speaking out and being shot down is petrifying, or opening up and having people belittle your pain and not understand is equally as frightening. A day of impending doom with no particular ‘reason’ or ‘trigger’ can be so difficult to explain, then when compared to just feeling sad and being told to have a shower or go for a run it can just send you deeper down into that despair and loneliness as you come to believe more and more that no one will ever understand.

There is also a feeling of responsibility, yes you suffer from this unreasonable, un-explainable and inescapable pain but it’s yours why share or burden others with it? Why risk dragging others down with you or upsetting them with your struggles?

On the outside witnessing this I can only imagine what it might look like. It could look or feel like that person is being unreasonable or even selfish, could be misinterpreted for stubbornness and self pity. It’s hard to know what it must look like as I’m so often the person who has been observed, who looks into peoples confused helpless faces and cant muster up a comforting word as I’m too busy being attacked by my own mind, I might just muster up ‘You don’t understand’ or ‘I just can’t today’ or if pushed I will snap because I cant show you, I cant tell you what a bad day in my mind and body feels like, a bad day for me can feel like potentially the last day and I cant even tell you why.

 

A poem I’ve written on ‘Bad Days’…

I claw, I grab, I pull, and I drag,

I tug, I rip, I climb, and I trip.

Screaming, crying, dying, wailing,

Heavy, heartbroken, forever failing.

Punching, fighting, kicking, fleeing,

Weeping, lying, and always disagreeing.

Hoping, praying, begging, pleading,

Frustrated, drained, and sometimes bleeding.

Starved, exhausted, lonely and broken,

Quiet, empty, words left unspoken.

Then silence.

 

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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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