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Life after a crisis

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 .

How I want my life to feel

Recently in Cognitive Analytical Therapy, my psychologist got me to fill out a sheet, which got me to consider how distorted my thinking and feeling is, as well as how I would actually like my life to feel.

1. I would like to be more open with people, especially my partner. I tend to bottle things up, especially as many, including my partner, struggle to understand my battle with physical and mental health problems.

People tend to be either completely ignorant, or so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing, or avoid me. My partner is one of the few who really worries about what these problems mean for me, he sees it as a real possibility that he could lose me as a result of these difficulties, especially my mental health, and so he fears it. He emotionally blackmails me, in an attempt to keep me safe, as though that’s the opposite of what I want. I love him and my friends dearly, but sometimes I wish people would ask more questions, instead of just making assumptions.

It’s also hard when friends make plans that don’t take into account my disabilities. It’s nice that they see me as ‘one of them’ , ‘normal’ , but the fact is that I am different and I would love it if more often that difference was embraced, rather than forgotten. Especially as it’s a difference that I have to live with every day of my life.

2. I would like to feel less angry and more forgiving about my past with my family. I hold onto so much from the past and it is time that I started to let go. To do this I need to continue engaging with therapy and writing.

What makes me angry? That my family hardly ever call, that I always have to call them, that even Skype is too much of an effort for my computer literate sister, that my niece will probably grow up not knowing me as her aunt, that I am still ,and probably always will be, the black sheep of the family, That even when I was in hospital there were hardly any phone calls, and none of them contacted, or visited the hospital. Finally without the disruption of my childhood home life, I may have been more successful in my education.

Looking at it differently though, their lack of support has made me more independent, and even if I did have an amazing education behind me, my disabilities would probably still get in the way of me achieving, and my family are  not responsible for my disabilities.

3. I would like to feel happier. I want to finally win my long-running battle with depression. To do this I need to spend more of my days doing the things that make me happy as well as facing up to my worries.

The things that make me happy include blogging, creative writing, scrapbooking and being creative. The things that worry me are debts, health problems and my partner’s parole. As well as facing up to these problems I need to find time to have some fun.

4. I would like to feel less afraid of criticism, as I feel that this holds me back a great deal. To do this I need to continue to fight back by blogging, even if not everybody likes me. Instead of attempting to be a people pleaser, I need to focus on being honest, even if people don’t want to hear it.

5. I would like to feel more confident to follow my dreams, without constantly worrying about the barriers that I need to overcome to achieve them. To do this I need help to overcome these barriers, like my mobility problems, pain and fatigue. If, at my next appointment with the rheumatologist, he is still unwilling to do a great deal to help me, I will be finally requesting a second opinion.

6. As I mentioned before, I want to be less of a people pleaser, as this causes me to hideaway a great deal. I want to be less worried about how people will react if I just be myself. To do that I need to actually start being myself.

One example is my drinking, I usually only drink when I want to fit in, but I need to recognise that if I am going to show my real self, then masking it with booze every time I’m with friends, will not help me. On top of that, for health reasons, I shouldn’t be drinking anyway.

7. I would like to feel less anxious as I feel that this would help me to become more independent and less socially isolated.

A big part of me facing up to this is the possibility of me getting a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair through the Motability scheme. The thought of being more self-reliant makes me feel very nervous and excited. It would be great to get involved in community courses and activities and just to get some fresh air. Does anyone else have a Motability vehicle?

8. I would like to have better self-esteem, instead of constantly putting myself down. I’d like to start believing in myself. I could start this by praising myself for the things that I do well – however small, from getting more organised to posting on my blog.

9. I would like to feel more stable and in control of my mind. The only way I feel that I can do this is by persisting with medication and engaging with my care team. This includes attending and engaging with therapy sessions as well as my social worker and Community Psychiatric Nurse.

My dream to be confident, happy, organised and independent, seems so far away, but with the right steps I may be able to realise that dream sooner than I think.

Does anyone have any goals about how they would like to feel? What steps are you going to take to achieve them? Feel free to comment below or tweet @spursbythebeach .

A is for anger

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.

Expressed anger

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.

Triggers

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.

Alternatives

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.

Ready for a fight

You may or may not have noticed, that I have been absent, and almost absent, from the blogging community and social media. Hardly a word has been typed during this past month.

As a result I have felt isolated and lost. I was just starting to really think of myself as a blogger, when it all seemed to crash and burn, and I wondered if I would ever get it back.

The thought of a life without this blog and social media, depressed me and made me feel more alone than I’d felt in a long time. I missed the community that I’ve had on this blog and Twitter etc.

What happened?

This time has been less obvious as I wasn’t constantly feeling suicidal (although I still have my moments), I wasn’t on a psychiatric ward. Instead it has been a mixture of lethargy, distraction, personal problems, anxiety and depression, specifically negative thinking.

All I seem to do is sleep. I’ve tried reducing meds, but that made no difference, so I’m mostly back on them again. It’s so frustrating. I’m fighting back though. I’m determined to start posting again this week, and to finally return to the blogging and social media communities.

How do I plan to do this? Focus!

Frequently write something in draft form, coming back on a regular basis to add to, and edit, what I’ve written, so before I know it, I’ve produced another blog post.

Old posts could inspire follow-up or new posts, or give me ideas on ways that I can improve the blog. So I’m going to go through the blog with a fine-tooth-comb to decide where I go next with the it.

Confidence – believe in myself. Don’t let negative comments hold me back, instead, learn from them and move on.

Understand myself . Some days will be easier than others. There will be days full of inspiration, and days where I struggle to get a single word on the page, whether due to energy levels and concentration, or just plain and simple writers’ block.

Statistics – learn from them. What worked, what didn’t. Most importantly, write from the heart and don’t be ruled by them.

Anyway if you’re glad to see me back or have any useful tips to share, please feel free to comment below or tweet me @spursbythebeach.

When you feel like hiding from the world

Kitty feels like hiding from the world

Kitty feels like hiding from the world

For far too much of my life, I’ve felt like hiding from the world. It started when I was a child. I was ashamed of the way I looked, afraid of the bullies, worried my parents would embarrass me/kick off when they were drunk.

Now I’m almost 30 and not a lot has changed. This time it’s social anxiety, fear of being judged for my disabilities and severe depression, in which I feel like being around people just makes me, and them, worse.

There are things I’d like to do: Blogging meet-ups, physiotherapy groups, day centres, book clubs. Even when I was thinking about starting university the anxiety about being around hundreds of people during lectures, freaking out about fresher’s week and how I was going to go it alone as a disabled person and make friends, was tearing me apart.

I’d love to have another chance at education but at the moment my anxiety and depression are so bad that I’m constantly changing my mind about whether or not I should give it a try, because I don’t feel like I’m good enough. I’m not living, I’m existing.

I want to be a journalist and was given the opportunity to blog for my local newspaper but I’ve bottled out of doing it more than one time because I’m worried I’ll make a fool of myself. I know that sounds strange coming from a mental health blogger, but I’m ashamed to admit that negative feedback terrifies me. It causes me to beat myself up and is the reason I’ve spent too long hiding away or not doing the things that I love.

I want to change and I know that the only way that I can do that is with one small step at a time. I’ve started Slimming World and trying to wear make up more often so that I can be more physically confident. Mentally, is another matter entirely. I’m so scared of getting hurt or messing up. I’ve just started seeing a psychologist and I’m really hoping that it makes a difference as I’m so tired of being like this.

Being honest about how I feel, especially on here, helps a lot. The support I’ve received from Brokenglassshimmers’ followers, has meant so much.

I’m thinking about branching out with the blog too and doing an email newsletter for followers to chart my progress, what works/what doesn’t, perhaps even interview some of you too if you’re interested. If you would like to receive something like this then please let me know. I’m available on here as well as on Twitter @spursbythebeach .

52 weeks of gratitude – week 1 – Why start this challenge?

Thank you

Thank you

Recently, in fact for quite some time now, I’ve been feeling negative. I’ve been letting my health issues bring me down and leave me feeling negative and frustrated.

I spotted the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge on Pinterest (apologies I can’t remember who started it off), but I thought that this would be perfect for me.

Instead of focussing on the negatives all the time, the things I can’t do, I’m going to spend more time being thankful. I’m going to start this off with ‘Thankful Thursdays ‘. Every Thursday I am going to take part in this weekly gratitude challenge, helping me to look over the week with more positivity and start the weekend with some optimism.

The main reason that I am doing this challenge though, is because I know what happens when I get caught up in a negative thought cycle: I stop doing the things that I love, for example blogging, I isolate myself, I start thinking negatively towards myself and before I know it, I’m having thoughts about/actively trying to harm myself.

I want so badly, to break this negative thoughts cycle, and this seems like a great way to do that, by focussing on the positives in my life.

If you would like to join me with this challenge, please feel free to comment with your links/thoughts below, or Tweet @spursbythebeach . I hope that this can be useful for all of us.

Mental illness, how to move on?

Fed up Kitty

Fed up Kitty

Fed up, what can I do to make it better?

For the past few days, I’ve been completely panicked that something is wrong with me, physically because of how exhausted I’ve been, sleeping constantly, especially during the day. I am awaiting blood test results and, like the drama queen I am, I even called the out of hours doctor. What I forgot is, I’ve been here before. These are all symptoms I’ve already experienced and likely will again. These are most likely symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

There is a depression checklist in a DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) book that I have that makes it even clearer. Here’s the checklist and my response:

Persistent low mood: I feel rock bottom. I feel alone, worthless and like I will never amount to anything.

Increased appetite/ Decreased appetite: I’m not eating regular meals but when I am eating, I do tend to binge.

Difficulties falling asleep: This sentence should continue with ‘At the right times’. I’m becoming nocturnal, when I want to sleep I cannot, and when I want to stay awake , my eyes start to become heavy.

Feeling empty: I really feel like this, especially since my failure at university last year. I had put so much of my energy into becoming a successful student and now I see myself as nothing/a nobody.

Social isolation: This is partly my fault and partly the fault of others. The main reason it’s my fault is that I left London and all my old friends there and came back to Swansea where my friends had moved on. Even if they haven’t and I’m just being paranoid, that’s what it feels like.

Problems with memory: I have no problem remembering the things that haunt me, but the mundane, everyday stuff, that I need to remember is becoming a lot more of a challenge.

Persistent anger: As you can probably already tell, this is mainly directed at myself. Why do I always get it so wrong?

Irritability: Again, this is mainly directed inwards, I am extremely frustrated with myself for not making university work out, for not being near the end of my first year. Who knows how different my life could have been?

Decrease in motivation: When I’m well/stable, I want to be a successful mental health and fashion, beauty, lifestyle blogger, that means raising awareness of what life is like with a mental illness and how you can help. I want to help form an online community that makes up for the community I’m missing out on in the real world. When I’m like this, I lack the motivation to do anything because I feel like I don’t have the ability to make things happen.

Feelings of hopelessness: I feel like this a lot lately. What’s the point of trying when I just mess up anyway? I know that’s an extremely negative attitude to have but I started this blog to be completely honest about how I feel and how I (hopefully) get through it.

Weight gain: As usual, when I’m depressed I eat rubbish, which leads to weight gain.

Waking early in the morning: I more likely haven’t gone to sleep yet from the night before.

Restlessness: When I’m awake I’m really edgy in my own company (Most of the time) and feel like I have to be keeping busy or sleeping.

Low self-esteem: My self-esteem is beyond low, I really feel like I am capable of nothing. I spend all my time comparing myself to others and how much more than me they can do.

Tearfulness: I cry at anything and everything, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed, which is often.

Loss of interest in things: I usually would love to read and write creatively, but at the moment, I’ve completely lost interest.

Feelings of worthlessness: I feel like the world would be a better place without me.

Loss of enjoyment in activities: I’ve even considered stopping the blogs because I feel like I’ll never get to where I want to be with them.

Poor concentration: I either struggle to focus on a single thing or try to focus on a few things at the same time.

Thoughts of suicide: Yes my old enemy thoughts have started to come back to the forefront of my mind. I feel like everyone would be better off without me.

Waking frequently during the night: At the moment I’m awake most of the night. When I do fall asleep though, I do wake frequently.

Increased sleep: I’m currently sleeping on average between 16-20 hours a day.

Feelings of helplessness: I fear that there is nothing I can do to make things better.

Feeling guilty: I feel guilty for my negativity when I KNOW that there are others worse off than me.

Mental confusion/ Difficulty making decisions: I feel so out of it and confused most of the time, I can’t make my mind up what to do for the best from trivial to more serious things.

Inactivity: Much as I’m trying to keep busy, I’m struggling to do anything.

Lethargy: When I’m not sleeping I feel exhausted.

Dwelling on the past: As you can see from this and recent blog posts, I’ve been dwelling on the past quite a bit recently, especially my university failure and recent hospitalisation.

What can I do to make it better?

  • Balance activity with rest.
  • Attend my appointments with my care team and,
  • Being honest.

I worry that this blog will become a negative place, that people will avoid it because it’s so depressing. All I want is to be honest.

How are you feeling? Are you struggling with any of the stuff on this list? How do you handle it? Either comment or Tweet @spursbythebeach.

Thinking about the future

Today I finally had some news from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about my disability benefits and it looks like it will be very good news.

I’ve been fighting for this day for so long, after hearing all the scare stories, I never expected to actually be awarded the rate that I should be entitled to due to the impact that living with physical and mental disability has on my day-to-day life.

It felt like forever to get a result and I’ve still only heard that result verbally so I’m waiting to see it in black and white before I allow myself to get too excited.

That help financially will make such a huge difference to my wellbeing. I will be able to pay for my carer, pay travel expenses to attend additional activities and pay for all the extra costs involved in living with my disabilities.

Now that that pressure is off me a bit, I have also started to try to make decisions about what I want from life. For years I thought that that was university but I’ve realised that my main reason for wanting to go to university was because I thought it was my only route into becoming a writer/journalist. Thanks to blogging, perseverance and hard work, it looks like my writing dream could become a reality.

The decision I must face now is that if university is not an option for me, then what is? I want a challenge but I don’t want to make myself ill. I’m looking into online distance-learning courses in journalism and blogging. I’m also looking into attending a local day centre that does arts and crafts and therapeutic wellbeing courses. I’m also hoping to attend book groups at my local library. I want to try to build my life up and build up a social circle.

How are you trying to get your life back? What do you think will help your recovery?

Tweet @spursbythebeach or comment below. Look forward to hearing from you.

When the safety net is gone

The past few days has proved to be extremely challenging. My partner is having difficulties in prison that he was unwilling to share with me and I was beginning to spiral downhill again as I’m used to us sharing everything with each other. It felt like a very lonely place not to be a part of that team, I’d begun to feel reassured by.

A similar thing has happened with my friendships recently too. Whereas before we would lean on each other, now we have become distant and wary of sharing what’s really on our minds.

I don’t know if it’s just that certain relationships reach a point where you’ve given all you can give, and you have nothing left to offer. I certainly don’t believe this to be the case with my partner. I understand that, especially where male pride is concerned, it can be hard to open up when you feel you’ve got it wrong. Female pride is bad enough.

With the friendships though, as days pass without hearing from them, heading into weeks, I feel that it is about more than pride. I’ve pushed them too far with my emotional desperation, the needy phone calls and the consequent pushing them away, when I’m ashamed of how much I’ve depended on them.

I think the important thing for me to take from this, is that I need to choose the right people to lean on.

Instead of my partner, who is powerless to help me and likely to react in stupid ways in his desperation to try, I should be leaning on my care team. I have been lucky enough (after a lot of fighting) to have been allocated a Community Psychiatric Nurse, a social worker and a psychologist. They are also trying to arrange a support worker to take some of the pressure off me paying for my carer as much as I do.

I find it hard to seek help from them though. I worry that they’ll be too busy for me, that I’ll get rejected, or that how I feel will be belittled.

Well today was an important step forward, I reached out to my CPN, explained my difficulties to her and listened to what she had to say in response. She actually made a lot of sense!

It’s hard sometimes, not being able to share everything that happens with my partner, as it happens. Or even to just share with other likeminded individuals. I’m trying to face up to this by starting to attend two book clubs in my local area next month. I’m also still considering part time study for four hours a week in creative writing and literature. After the debacle of how ESA dealt with me last time I tried to further myself, I’ve been quite put off daring to take a step forward.

Alternatively though, there have been some positives from the past few days, I’ve received some mentoring from a couple of newspaper editors and I may have an exciting new project in the pipeline, watch this space…

This proves that when I take responsibility for my own happiness, instead of leaning so heavily on others, good things can happen.

What good things would you like to see happen in your own life? Either comment below or Tweet me @spursbythebeach.

Brushing my feelings under the carpet

Bottling things up

I’m so tired of bottling things up. Of putting up and shutting up. There is so much I want to say and the truth is I don’t know where to start, or whether or not it’s worth starting, when all it’s likely to do is finish off burning, the already burnt bridges.

What if?

I said in my last post how tired I was of one-way friendships, we agreed on Twitter that it was time I made new friends well perhaps that is true. If that’s the case though, why is it so hard to let go? Why am I reminded of the good times we shared and left wondering ‘what if?’.

I blame myself, for pressing the self-destruct button on my life and pushing away the people I cared about. Now they’re pushing me away and while I’m at this vulnerable point in my life, it really hurts.

Mean Girls

Sometimes women in their twenties and thirties still behave like Mean Girls. There is still so much ignorance about mental illness and hospitalisation, even from those with mental illness themselves.

Then when I think to myself that at least, whatever I’ve lost, I’ve always got my partner, he starts to push me away, which leads me to feel extremely insecure. He may be in prison but usually it feels like he’s the only one I can count on. Since my financial problems though, things have changed. At first he was really supportive, a huge encouragement. Now though it feels like he has forgotten what we’ve both been fighting so hard to achieve.

Hibernation

I am becoming more and more reliant on Lorazepam and sleep as a way of getting through this awful period. As a matter of fact, I can hardly keep my eyes open now, so I’m off to hibernate for a little while. Hopefully I will make more sense when I return.

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