From next Sunday onwards, on Sundays, I’m going to be posting a recovery-focussed post. Today though, I thought I’d write an update post to highlight where I’m at:
- Because I need to express in words what’s going on and,
- Because you will begin to understand why I’m so recovery-focussed on future Sundays. (It’s not because I believe that I have all of the answers but, if I find any, I want to share them with others facing similar issues).
This last week and a half has been awful mood-wise. As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, as well as a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I’m also physically disabled (Ankylosing Spondylitis – a form of inflammatory arthritis).
I’m actually in the process of starting up a blog about my life with AS as I’d like Brokenglassshimmers to be about mental illness and mental health recovery, as well as the issues that those of us with mental illness face. There is a reason for me mentioning my AS in this post, as you will see shortly…
I had an appointment with the rheumatologist almost 2 weeks ago. Because of the level of physical pain and stiffness I was struggling with (which was, in turn, bringing me down mentally), he reluctantly, as he knew about my mental health diagnosis, prescribed steroids.
It took a lot of persuasion from me, and a promise that at the first sign of any problems, I would stop them. I felt confident as I’d previously had steroids around a year ago and, looking back with rose-tinted-specs, thought that I coped ok with them.
Instead they have caused me nothing but mental health problems. My anxiety and panic attacks are back with a vengeance, so whereas before I was hoping to wean myself off Diazepam, I’m back to taking the full, prescribed dose.
My sleeping is also all over the place, if I wake in the night I struggle to get back to sleep. I am back to having really severe mood swings, I am extremely over-sensitive and paranoid. Plus my social anxiety is back, so I’m literally shaking with fear about the thought of attending the creative writing group that I began before the steroids.
Why don’t I stop them? You may be thinking. I actually did, a week ago, and I’m still experiencing symptoms, although in total, I was only on them for a few days.
I veer from drained but unable to sleep, to buzzing with ideas. Internally I’m exhausted from the anxiety and lack of sleep and, to top it off, because I’m no longer on the steroids, there is nothing to stop the really bad flare-up that I’m having, of my AS.
So I’m worse than back where I started from. I feel lonely and isolated, but terrified of people. I go from wanting to hibernate to buzzing with ideas.
Sometimes I feel like a fraud for writing about mental health recovery when I haven’t ‘recovered’ myself, but the reason I do is because I’m so desperate for answers, a way to stop the torment that I’m in, and a flicker of hope that things can get better.
What do you think about recovery-focussed posts? Do you find them helpful? I can be contacted in the comments section below or on Twitter @spursbythebeach. Look forward to hearing from you!
This is the last in a 3-part series I’ve written this week about safety in self-knowledge. If you would like to read the previous posts then the link to the first post is here: http://brokenglassshimmers.org/2015/10/22/safety-in-self-knowledge-part-1/ and you will also find the second post on the site (I’m scheduling posts ahead of time so I don’t have a link yet. I will update Twitter and Facebook when I do).
How do I figure out my own ‘baseline’ ?
First of all, think about who you are when you are being completely honest with yourself. That could mean keeping a diary, listening to music, considering your hobbies – even those that you are not following right at this moment.
Who can help?
In your heart of hearts you will probably know best, especially when well. But, if you would like some input, choose wisely. Ideally people you have known for sometime, who either, you are in a give and take, or professional relationship with. Examples could be your best friend who has known you for many years, or a social worker who sees you on a regular basis. These are just examples though.
A tale of two nights in crisis
A few months ago, I didn’t even begin to recognise who I was anymore. A number of emotionally disturbing events occurred and i launched, blindly, into a downward spiral that only recently did I begin to see a way out of. I attempted suicide, pushed away those I love, and made countless other mistakes. Recently though, I had a different experience.
I was in crisis again, ready to follow the same old pattern of self-destruct, but I actually trusted my instincts. I sought help at a slightly earlier stage and, although still distressed, listened to trustworthy advice, and managed to stay safe.
I want to make this very clear. These few good nights do not make me a pro at dealing with mental illness. If you are feeling unsafe, if something I have said has resonated with you, then contact someone safe. Whether it’s a helpline such as the Samaritans, a local mental health team, a doctor or a loved one who has your best interests at heart.
My battle is just beginning. There will be difficult days and less difficult days, but what helps on all of these days are 3 things:
- Seeking safety.
- Knowing yourself.
- Holding on tightly to even the smallest shred of hope that you can find.
I really hope that this series helps. If you’ve read to the end, thank you for sticking with me and I’d love to hear what you think, either in the comments section below, or, for an even faster response usually, my Twitter account @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
What is a ‘baseline’?
You may be wondering what a ‘baseline’ means for you. Well, it’s a personal and individual thing for everyone as each person’s baseline will be unique and individual to them. But to perhaps give you a starting point I will share my own wellness ‘baseline’, (hope it helps!).
- For a start, I’m extremely mentally fast and talkative, even when well. It’s just a case of striking the balance between this and unhealthy, racing, thoughts.
- I’m productive. You may have noticed that my productiveness peaks and troughs where my blogging is concerned, meaning that I can be unreliable when unwell. The same is true of many areas of my life.
- I’m a supportive partner/family member and friend. For example, due to not being well, I ended a serious relationship, have caused family and friends a lot of pain and misery and have only just met my niece, who was born earlier this year.
It breaks my heart when I’m well, the destruction I can cause when I don’t recognise the difference between me and the illness. At the moment, people who I love deeply, think that I don’t care about them, when actually the opposite is true.
Those without a mental illness may think that I’m making excuses, but I’m heartbroken by poorly made decisions.
4. I have certain hobbies and interests that I keep up-to-date with when I’m well too. These include creative writing, blogging, scrapbooking/cardmaking, reading and spending time on social media, especially Twitter.
Before I got ill most recently, I had applied and received an unconditional offer to study the second year of a creative writing degree. I was writing a lot, even entering competitions, and reading widely. I was starting to feel really excited about the future.
Since I got ill, my concentration has been impaired. I’ve become a recluse, including from social media and my blogs, I have had to defer my university place, and it is only this week that I’ve been able to produce writing of any kind (probably why there’s such an outpouring now).
My usual qualities when well are that I am reliable, safe. I have good, or at least OK, awareness of myself, and those around me. I’m usually the cautious one of my friends, one of the first to perceive risks. In fact I can be a bit of a nag about staying safe.
When I’m ill, I often surround myself with the wrong people, and isolate myself from those that I should be trusting. Even those who have never done this, will know that no-one in their right mind pushes away the people that they love, to surround themselves with bad influences.
If any of this sets off alarm bells, either about yourself or someone else, then please seek help or encourage them to seek help. Whether it’s a helpline, doctor or social services, please reach out if you are acting out of character, especially if it is putting you at risk.
If you would like to add your thoughts about this post, please feel free to comment below, search for the Brokenglassshimmers Facebook page, or add me on Twitter @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing from you 🙂
Please drop by tomorrow for the last in this 3-part series on safety in self-knowledge. If you missed the first part then the link is here : http://brokenglassshimmers.org/2015/10/22/safety-in-self-knowledge-part-1/
‘Safety in self-knowledge’ may seem like a strange title for a blog post, so perhaps a bit of an explanation is needed. I’m writing about this subject feeling like a bit of a hypocrite because:
- I definitely DO NOT have it all figured out, and
- If I hadn’t had to learn this lesson the hard way then I wouldn’t even be writing this post today.
So obvious when it’s too late
Things are always so much easier to figure out the hard way (if that makes any sense?) . What I mean to say is that we’re often so unwilling to trust our own instincts/the people closest to us, especially if it means swallowing our pride and admitting that we are in the wrong.
I have been through so many scrapes and setbacks as a result of not being aware enough of my mental illness and the impact that it has on me, but actually, I’ve probably put myself in worse situations because I didn’t know myself better. And by myself I mean Caroline without mental ill health, as well as with it.
In recent months I have put myself on the line more than I have throughout the past ten years. In fact, probably for far longer than the past few months. This lack of knowledge about who I am and what I want, almost cost me the love of my life, as well as actually costing me this year’s place at university, a mental breakdown, and a great deal of danger.
Thankfully I came to my senses with a real crash to earth and eventually asked for help from the right people, was honest with myself and others, and put steps in place to hopefully keep myself a lot safer in future.
Recently I returned to a handout that I was asked to fill in by Occupational Therapy before I left hospital recently. One of the questions really jumped out at me. It was all about knowing my ‘baseline’, basically what I am like when I am well and I, (a bit slowly) recognised that if I know inside-out the person who I am when I am well, I’m less likely to get as ill (because I will be quicker to spot when I am not well), as well as being less willing in future to allow others to impact me as negatively as they have in recent months.
This post is part of a three-part-series with the next two posts to follow in the next few days explaining more about what a ‘baseline’ is and how to figure out your own baseline. I hope you find them useful and I’d love to hear what you think, either in the comments section below or, for an even faster response usually, my Twitter @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
If you need more intensive support then please contact someone, whether it’s your GP, local mental health team, or the Samaritans. Their number in the UK is 08457 90 90 90 or in the Republic of Ireland 116 123. If you would like me to include a helpline from further afield then please contact me. I’m in the process of revamping the blogs (I also blog on fashion, beauty and lifestyle at lifelovesandlipgloss.wordpress.com) and I am hoping to include a useful contacts section in the new website. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to start posting again and thank you to my loyal readers for sticking with me and welcome to any new readers! Look forward to hearing from you 🙂
It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been on a long road of self-hatred and destruction. Thankfully with a mixture of effective and non-effective support, I have come out the other side stronger, and more determined, than I’ve probably ever been.
The truth is that I came dangerously close to not being here. It took that very near miss to make me learn a few lessons about my life, as it is, and as I want it to be.
I decided that although I have yet to see improvements from therapy, that it is worth persisting with, if there is a chance that I could learn to stop the past repeating itself. So I’ve kept going, been fully involved in trying to improve myself and started to think about what I really want from life.
I made the decision that I have so much that I still want to achieve with my life, and this time when I was discharged from the crisis (Home Treatment Team), instead of seeing it as a threat to my well-being, I saw it as an opportunity.
What has helped has been being told by my care-managers that I can’t do what I want to do, what I dream of doing. One of my best qualities is stubborn determination and if I’m told that I can’t do something, often I will work even harder to prove that I can.
Another thing that has helped is better pain management, this has meant more energy and ability to focus on the things that I enjoy. It’s not a drastic change and I still have to live with some pain, but it’s at a more manageable level than it was.
Another lesson that I learnt was that I need to become more self-reliant. Instead of looking up to others and relying on them to help me when I’m in a dark place, I need to figure out what I can do to help myself, and, if that fails, then figure out who are the best people to approach for help.
I learnt that I need to be more self-aware of when I’m on a path of self-destruct/close to causing myself harm, and what to do to nip it in the bud before things get to the point where I make stupid, life-affecting choices.
I have also started trying new things as a way of changing the rut that I’ve been in for far too long. I’ve returned to writing, I’m now back to blogging (which will probably be a more gradual process) and I’m preparing to finally return to uni (my second year) in September. I will be studying creative writing and I’m really excited at the prospect.
I just wanted to say that I appreciate your patience and encouragement towards me throughout what has been an extremely difficult time, and hope that eventually I can prove that you were right to have faith in me. I’m sorry for the mistakes that I’ve made and just wanted you all to know that if you are struggling with difficult feelings and mental illness, you are never alone. Please contact an organisation like the Samaritans (who are the reason, along with medical professionals, that I am still alive). And please try to never give up on yourselves and what you are capable of because even if you doubt what you are capable of – I believe in you!
If you’d like to continue the conversation please comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach .
1.About two weeks ago, after all my determination that it would not happen, I ended up in a psychiatric ward again. This time was different though. The psychiatrist I saw read me like a book and encouraged me to follow my dream and return to university, and he would offer any support necessary for me to do that.
2.From the hospital ward I rang first the local university (who still haven’t got back to me) then I called Lampeter. I was nervous as I knew it would be a huge move for me as it’s too far for me to commute from Swansea, but from the moment I first spoke to the course tutor there as well as all the other helpful support staff, read the course module description and the beautiful campus, I was determined that this was the direction my life would take. I left hospital enthused but still a bit all over the place.
3.The same day I left hospital I was offered an assessment day with the BBC at the same time as I was offered an interview day to study creative writing at a university in mid-Wales. Either way was going to mean a big move but I felt proud of myself for having got this far. It’s always been a dream of mine to study creative writing as I love to write but for a while I was torn as I knew that if I got the BBC job I would be in a better position financially and career-wise. I decided to wait until I had the interview day for the degree and make my mind up from there.
4.The day I left hospital I also had my last visit with my partner (who is in prison). It was heartbreaking knowing how difficult it will be to see him in future as he is moving back to his last prison in middle-England. I was touched when I found out he had taken so much of his time to make me an enormous origami swan. It is so precious to me and reminds me that he does love and think of me often as I do him.
5.I also fell out with my dad and sister and felt like my whole family was turning against me. I felt like I had no roots and must have really messed up in my life to have a family, who it felt, were just not interested in me.
6.From being in quite a good place I spiralled down really fast. All of a sudden the loneliness and hopelessness hit and I couldn’t see a future for myself at all. I rang Samaritans but on that occasion it wasn’t enough to stop me from acting on my suicidal feelings for the first time in 4 years and I attempted suicide. Thankfully they called an ambulance and I got the help I needed. I was very ill for a while and lucky to come through it at all. The scary thing was not even being sure why I’d done it, all I knew was that I did not want to return to my flat and felt like running away earlier than planned.
7.The turnaround was when I was refused entry to a psych ward again, despite begging to be allowed in, till I could be sure I wouldn’t repeat my actions again. Instead they insisted I would be treated at home, offered me a load of empty promises about the level of treatment that I would receive at home (which sadly I fell for) then pretty much left me to it.
8.Going back to therapy helped a lot more. We were able to begin to decipher the patterns that emerge when I’m about to do something to harm myself, and why I do it. I could see that we are beginning to make progress and that it will be worth sticking with it till September so that I become more in tune with how my mind works.
9.I had a good meeting with my social worker and her colleague. They were really enthusiastic about my interview, which was due to take place at the uni the next day. They also gave me ideas on how I can prepare for the move. I felt scared but a bit more ready for it after our discussion.
10.I had the interview afternoon and tour of UWTSD Lampeter on Wednesday and I was terrified. At first it was quite worrying as health and safety had to guarantee me suitable accommodation before I could even be considered for a place, as well as warning me about how big the campus would be etc. The uni will try to do everything they can to accommodate me though, like moving lectures to the ground floor wherever possible, allocating me a mental health mentor, sorting out my needs assessment for DSA (Disabled student’s allowance). The interview seemed positive, the course tutor was keen to have me on the course, but I had to wait till a more senior board could make the decision. The course tutor said he would get it fast-tracked but I was still expecting to wait a while.
11.The tour of the campus was beautiful and I could really see myself there but I tried not to get too excited in case something went wrong. The accommodation size was a shock to the system though. I am going to have to really downsize and get rid of a lot of stuff before I can feel ready to move into a room that small.
12.My appointment with Occupational Therapy the next day was emotional. It was all about my goals and self-esteem. I realised that I often fake confidence but underneath it all I have no self-esteem and put myself down constantly.
13.Since then I’ve been discharged from the crisis team and I’ve had an emotional talk with my partner about what I did. Thankfully, despite the hurt, he is sticking by me but I really don’t want to put everyone through that again. It broke my heart to see how hurt people were.
14.My homework for the weekend was a self-esteem sheet and a positive journal which I’ve been using my Project Life for (more on that in another post). I also have to write a list for myself and my care team about exactly what needs to be done before I can successfully start uni in September. I’m terrified but trying to stay focussed on my partner and uni.
15.That was my last bit of news – I got into the second year of the creative writing degree. I’m officially accepted! Which means lots to do but I’m excited about the future for the first time in a long time, especially now I’m back to blogging too.
If anyone has any comments, thoughts or suggestions on this post please comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing from you 🙂 Finally, I couldn’t have got through this time without the support of my friends on Twitter as well as the ones in the ‘real world’ thank you so much for your support and encouragement, it really means so much. Love you all!
I was depressed from childhood, self-harming in my teens. From the age of seventeen, I have been in and out of therapy. Age 21 I was given my first of a few diagnoses. I had Bipolar disorder and began seeing an amazing psychiatrist as an outpatient. I define him as amazing because he actually believed that he could make me better, and he never gave up hope that he would.
After my marriage broke down in traumatic circumstances, I moved to a different area and was dealt with by a different mental health team, including a Home Treatment Team. Their psychiatrist, based on my self-harming behaviour, decided that I had Borderline Personality disorder.
At first I fought against this diagnosis, there was nothing wrong with my personality! But the more I researched the condition, the more I identified with it.
Since then I have spent time having my care managed by the Community Mental Health Teams in a few areas. I have paid for private help out of my benefits, and I have been a voluntary patient in an NHS psychiatric hospital
I know that there are many others who have experiences with similarities to mine and differences that should also be discussed.
Before doing this week-long special into life as a mental health service user, I thought about the kind of posts I would have found useful/supportive throughout my mental health journey.
I am keen to hear from others who have ideas for other posts/interviews I could do, and I can be flexible in extending this week long special into a longer running or more regular theme on Brokenglassshimmers. I am completely open-minded about where my initial ideas will take me.
- Things to remember before a meeting with your Community Mental Health Team care manager.
- How to get help from a UK Community Mental Health Team -the obstacles that can be stacked against you and how to face them.
- Who to approach in a crisis – is it a postcode lottery?
- Things I wish I’d known before my psych ward stay.
- Things I wish I’d known before being discharged from the psych ward.
- Care in the community – different experiences of therapy.
- The future of mental health services
- Fighting for mental health care
If you have any comments or suggestions about these topics and/or would like to get involved then please comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach
At least a few times a week I have decided to challenge myself, by giving myself an alphabetical theme to blog on. Each theme will be related to living with mental illness/ physical disability. I am also going to do the same challenge on my FBL blog Lifelovesandlipgloss.wordpress.com , although often using different topics for the different blogs.
I chose to write about anger first, because it is something that I struggle with a great deal.
My experience of anger as a child, my parent’s violence and emotional abuse, taught me how much expressed anger can hurt others, so I tend to BOTTLE IT UP.
My anger is mainly triggered by memories from the past which leave me feeling POWERLESS and UNABLE TO ESCAPE, stress which also leaves me feeling BACKED INTO A CORNER as well as UNABLE TO COPE, and being unable to cope leads to a great deal of FRUSTRATION, which makes me want to EXPLODE.
Turning it inwards
Instead of expressing my anger and frustration in a healthy way, I turn it inwards and attack myself. At first it starts off as a mental attack. INSULTS, ABUSE, SELF-HATRED. The things my parents and the bullies at school used to say to me, I say to myself: Ugly, fat, useless, pathetic, unwanted, better off dead.
The negative self-talk can only go on for so long before the anger bubbles over, like I’m in some kind of pressure valve, and I end up wanting to act on the negative feelings I hold towards myself, by physically causing myself pain, also known as SELF-HARMING.
Searching for a new anger-management strategy
At the moment though, I’m desperate not to follow the old negative patterns. I feel STUCK, TRAPPED. I know that I will lose my partner if I end up self-harming or attempting suicide again, and, if I do, I am also likely to end up back on the PSYCH WARD.
I’m trying so hard to change things. Firstly, I try to FILL MY DAY so I don’t have too much time to dwell on things. I try to do things that I know will RELIEVE MY TENSION, from watching a favourite TV show, to colouring in or other creative-type stuff. Blogging also really helps. It helps me to EXPRESS MYSELF in a CONSTRUCTIVE way and to feel LESS ALONE, when I realise that others are struggling with similar issues.
Hopes for the future
My hopes for the future are that my feelings of anger will lessen and I will FEEL MORE IN CONTROL of my anger,that I will learn to express it in a healthy way, that doesn’t leave me with feelings of REGRET after yet another explosion.
Do you struggle with anger? What ways have you found to manage it? What helps you to cope better with it? Either comment below or Tweet me @spursbythebeach.