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The October update – my struggle with anxiety and mood swings

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:

  1. Because I need to express in words what’s going on and,
  2. 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!

Safety in self-knowledge – part 3

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:

  1. Seeking safety.
  2. Knowing yourself.
  3. 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.

Safety in self-knowledge – part 2

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!).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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/

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 .

Weekly special: Life as a mental health service user

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.

These are:

  • 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

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.

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.

5 relapse signatures that my mind is becoming depressed

Depressed Kitty

Depressed Kitty

Care planning

Today I was working on my care plan with my Social Worker and my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) and they asked me to think about what my signs are that I am about to relapse. At the time I struggled to think of any, but I’ve given it more thought and come up with 5 for me to be aware of.

1. Tearfulness

I cry at anything and everything when I’m becoming depressed. Once I start crying, I’m in floods of tears and nothing can stop me. The slightest thing could set me off then that gets added to my insecurities, low self-esteem and bad memories, and it feels like I’ll never get away from the misery.

2. Lethargy

I have absolutely NO energy. My eyes are getting heavy this far into writing this post. All I want to do is sleep. I try to fight it but it never lasts and as a result my routine is all over the place and I find myself writing with my eyes closed.

3. Poor concentration

At this point in drafting the post I really could no longer focus so I went back to bed. Words were jumbled in my mind and I couldn’t work out where best to place them. It’s a struggle to both read and write, even picking up a magazine is a huge challenge. All I can think is, this isn’t me, this isn’t what I wanted my life to be like.

4.Loss of interest in things

Mainly people, which isn’t like me at all. It’s like I’m trying to distance myself from the pain that they would feel if I were to act on my suicidal thoughts. This can include isolating myself socially. I also stop doing the things that I love such as reading and writing, or I do less of them.

5. Difficulty making decisions

From what to wear in the morning, to what to eat, to what to buy, it’s so difficult to make a choice, because I’m convinced that I’ll make the wrong one, with my self-esteem so low.

People who know me, and maybe some who don’t, are probably noticing that I fit my relapse signatures at the moment. I’m nervous, but I’m trying to fight it by reaching out on here and social media to see if anyone feels the same as me or knows what to do.

Keep on fighting, then rest

I do kind of know what to do: keep busy, keep fighting, keep talking about how I feel, sleep when it’s safer to sleep, take my medication as prescribed and once I’ve reached the peak of fighting it, allow myself to rest.

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Confessions of a Bipolar Girl

srstanyon

This blog is my efforts to end stigma around mental illness and for me to explore my diagnoses in writing. My wish is to make people aware how common mental illness is and that being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn't mean your life is worthless.

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