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 🙂