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

Self-Harm

self-harm

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

Man up Man Down

When I started reading about this I got SO excited, I have mentioned previously in my blog the importance and sometimes the neglect that is involved in men’s mental health due to stigma or possibly more of a difficulty to come forward. So discovering due to a chance meeting of tow young Bristol campaigners has led to the creation of a new men’s mental health support community is fantastic!

The founders of this community are Kate Mabbett and James Willetts, who were inspired to set up the site after they both  experienced first-hand the effects of men’s mental health problems.

The website they have created is really interactive encouraging men to speak by sharing their stories and experiences, it also includes podcasts and further advice and contacts.

Kate states, “We want to break down the barrier of men feeling that they can’t talk about their emotional health – we believe that there are certain aspects of our society that hold men back from talking about emotions and we think the first step is talking and we’d like to create a community for men to talk about their mental health,”

Check out their website and learn more about this campaign at Man Up Man Down

anxiety · charity · depression · mental health · paranoia · stigma

Anxiety

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This is something many people can suffer from ranging from someone who appears to ‘have it all together’ to someone who suffers from a severe mental illness, anxiety can affect many of us, so what exactly is it?

Taken from the mind website they describe anxiety as a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something.
The physical sensations we often experience from anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response (our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened).

What is the ‘fight or flight’ response?

Like all other animals, human beings have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from dangerous, life-threatening situations. When you feel under threat your body releases hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, which help physically prepare you to either fight the danger or run away from it. These hormones can:

  • make you feel more alert, so you can act faster
  • make your heart beat faster to carry blood quickly to where it’s needed most

Then when you feel the danger has passed, your body releases other hormones to help your muscles relax, which may cause you to shake.

This is commonly called the ‘fight or flight’ response – it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it. In modern society we don’t usually face situations where we need to physically fight or flee from danger, but our biological response to feeling threatened is still the same.

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Though anxiety is a natural human experience it can become a problem for many, anxiety once experienced incredibly intensely can become paralysing where many cannot sleep, eat, or even leave the house causing it to become a problem in everyday life. This is when you could be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or where anxiety is becoming a mental health problem.

What does anxiety feel like?

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How to cope?

Different techniques work for different people, if you click on the link at the end of this sentence there are examples that mind provides for helping people cope with anxiety.

Personally writing it down, healthy eating and regular exercise help me with my anxiety and things such as binge eating on sugary foods and drinking alcohol always makes my anxiety much worse.

Supporting others with anxiety

I think it’s important to state here that helping yourself before you help anyone with a mental health problem is important, not to be selfish but before you help others you need to make sure your well-being is ok as otherwise it can be an incredibly draining experience helping someone else through their tough times while ignoring your own.

Being educated on what they are suffering from – this helps provide you with the information to better know how to react or advise them on any problems they are facing.

Making sure you are patient and empathise with their feelings and situation – as if they are taking the time to open up to you they are probably already feeling vulnerable.

Encouraging them to get help – especially if their behaviour may be risking harm to themselves or others.

Being there for them to listen – this is important to listen without coming across as trying to ‘fix’ them.

 

A poem I’ve written on anxiety…

It hits me in an instant, like shock waves through my body.
I simply hear your voice or read your words.
Then one big POUND and my heart starts to thud faster and harder,
leaving an echo resonating through my whole body.
My brain is a blur as my body starts to ache,
I cannot stop these accusing thoughts spinning around in my head.
I go to type, go to speak but my fingers start to shake.
The adrenaline just keeps pumping through my veins!
It feels like I’m stuck, frozen in a confusing state of fear.
I have lost all control.

bpd · depression · mental health

What is (BPD)?

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As I mentioned beforehand I have been diagnosed with BPD in the last few years, not many including myself had any idea what this disorder was let alone what it entailed so I’ve tried to provide some information below.

In a brief summary BPD is a
serious mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively. The disorder occurs in the context of relationships: sometimes all relationships are affected, sometimes only one. It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.

BPD like any disorder mental or physical can differ in severity from person to person but here are a few symptoms taken from the mind charity website:

  1. You feel very worried about people abandoning you, and would do anything to stop that happening.
  2. You have very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident in the morning to feeling low and sad in the afternoon).
  3. You don’t have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on who you’re with.
  4. You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships.
  5. You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using drugs or driving dangerously).
  6. You have suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour.
  7. You feel empty and lonely a lot of the time.
  8. You get very angry, and struggle to control your anger.
  9. When very stressed, sometimes you might:
    Feel paranoid
    Have psychotic experiences, such as seeing or hearing things other people don’t
    Feel numb or ‘checked out’ and not remember things properly after they’ve happened.

Stigma

There is quite a negative stigma around BPD (as you can imagine by even looking at some of the symptoms), people who can feel this emotionally vulnerable react in many different ways occasionally or even often lashing out towards loved ones.

This is a hard situation for both parties as how do you the sufferer of BPD live with, understand and educate yourself on a disorder while at the same time battle a daily emotional rollercoaster and try to help others understand the disorder and where you are coming from?
Also as a friend or loved one of someone with BPD how do you take all of this on board and not see that person differently, or be patient when they lash out at you or themselves due to overwhelming emotion that you might necessarily not understand?

It really is a battle for everyone involved and that is another reason we need to become more aware, educated and open-minded about mental health in general.

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A number of celebrities have been diagnosed with BPD including Angelina Jolie & Amy Winehouse. They are no more important than anyone else suffering, but goes to show there are many people out there in the world who suffer that others are unaware of.

 My experiences

Personally I relate on varying levels to the typical symptoms listed, I may have a disorder that can be common but I am still a unique person who is not her disorder and whose personality cannot wholly be listed down in bullet points.
Having said that emotionally I would describe the ordeal of being unstable and often impractical in my emotional responses to situations can be lonely, sometimes scary, occasionally funny (my theory is if you don’t laugh you’ll cry). It could be described as feeling like a bomb has gone off in my mind but no one can see it or hear it, and realistically even myself as well as those around me can tell my emotions are being unrealistic at times but none the less it does not stop them from happening or taking over any rational thoughts in my mind.

As I said I do not want this solely to be about me, or my stories and experiences.
I’m not able to particularly describe in detail any of it nor am I educated enough to do so, but I do write poetry and I am sharing this one purely because it describes my experience of BPD rather perfectly.

So I hope people can either relate or better understand what a few seconds in my mind and possibly many others has felt like at times…

Tormented Soul

Who let you out, my tormented soul?

You were supposed to stay deep down below.

Won’t show the face which makes loved ones weep,

Can’t let you out, your pain is yours alone to keep.

How can you climb up these towering walls?

I built them up so high that they might never fall.

Even without the silence I can hear your malicious steps,

Getting closer and closer behind me, making each day more complex.

Why do you want to starve me of all meaning, why can’t I make you drown?

I’ve tried so hard to keep it together why come again for me now?

I don’t know where you came from, I don’t know how to make you go,

My only wish is to send you back into the darkness down deep below.

I know why you are coming for me, I know your monstrous goal,

I beg of you please release me my poor tormented soul.

****

mental health

The Plan.

I have created this site to take you through a journey…

This is not a page purely based on telling ‘my story’ but an attempt to raise awareness and education for mental health.

Come next year I will be raising money for the charity called mind (www.mind.org.uk) by going sober for 3 months, if I raise over £1000 in this time I will be going sober for 6 months.

I have decided to do this as those who know me will also know that this will be quite the challenge for me, as since my ‘recovery’ alcohol has played quite a big part and not a particularly positive one.
By going sober I hope to share and educate others who either suffer from mental health problems or do not particularly understand them.

So first as brief as I can be this is where my story begins…

From a young age I have suffered from depression particularly increasing when entering my teenage years, where I was often told this can be a difficult time and typically depression is common. Though the crippling sadness I felt daily did not feel all that common so fairly quickly I tried creating coping mechanisms, the first and most addictive of these for me was self harm which started roughly around the age of 13.
Skipping out all the nitty gritty details this all came to a head around the age of 16 where I had enough of feeling drowned in a constant state of anxiety and overwhelming emotion and started to plan my death. I tried all I could to find reasons to change my mind but planning my exit route became a count down to the day all the suffering would be over.
Luckily that day never came after having an experience which made me decide to give life one more chance.
During this period however I was receiving mental health support with a psychologist and also undergoing art therapy. From this time I don’t remember many specifics besides a few attempts at mentally diagnosing me and constantly turning down the idea of medication.

Moving on to 18+ there was great improvement however depression I noticed is something you become accustomed to and I could always feel it waiting to strike at any moment.
Many distractions were used at this time from smoking to drinking all parts of any form of escapism I could come up with, self harm still being one of them and self harm I have realised comes in many different forms.

Skipping forward again to early 20’s another realisation at this point is no matter where you run to or what you run from eventually it all catches up with you.
Depression and self harm became a very real and numbing experience in every day life again and one which I could no longer escape from. At the age of 24 it all got too much again and I attempted an overdose and then despite the attempt not working I tried again later that year until it became very apparent I needed help and ended up in a mental day care centre for 2 weeks.
Here I was eventually diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and after leaving the day care centre is where the rest of my story continues…

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