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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 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.

30 things I want to do by the time I turn 30.

Today my best friend turned 30. I feel ashamed that I have done so little to celebrate it with her, and that it’s also left me with very self-centred thoughts about what turning 30 will be like for me, when life feels like it’s on hold due to mental illness and physical disability.

There is so much that I thought I would have achieved by the time I hit 30: Having a family, a career, an active social life. It feels like none of that will never happen. I think instead of focussing on all of the things that won’t happen, I need to focus on the things that could happen. Perhaps they will be smaller goals and achievements than I once would have set for myself (I’m sure even some of them may still prove impossible) but I really believe that it’s worth a try as I’m about ready to give up unless I give my mind something positive and new to focus on.

1. Write a collection of short stories based on some of my life experiences. Do my best to submit them to short story competitions and publishers, to see if I can work towards making my writing dreams come true.
It has been my dream for as long as I can remember to be an author and I really enjoy writing stories, I just haven’t put as much time into it as I should have. I would love to reach 30 and be well on my way to becoming a published author.

2. Build up this blog. It has been a real lifeline for me and I hope in time that it will become a lifeline for others. I would love to use it to challenge stigma and raise awareness of the issues that I, and many others face.
That means making the time to research and post every day. It will be a challenge, especially with my creative writing goal but it’s one that I would be very excited to achieve.

3. Start facing up to my financial difficulties. Speak to someone about managing my debts and apply for all the benefits that I am entitled to because of my disabilities.
This is quite an urgent problem and one I will be discussing with my new care manager when I meet her tomorrow.

4. Start living to a budget. Cut down on reckless spending and become more responsible.
Again, hopefully this is something I can work on with my new care manager as well as looking in therapy at the reasons behind my spending, as I’m pretty sure that many of the reasons are emotional ones.

5. Become less isolated. Work out ways to meet new people/make new friends including therapy groups, mental health day centres and possibly some short courses at my local university.
I’ve been putting off doing this for some time now, especially as I’ve been having to deal with my old enemy, panic attacks, and being around strangers often triggers this. I would like to do something though especially as I feel so alone right now. Another thing I’m considering doing is restarting the weekly mental health Twitter chats that I used to host.

6. Decide whether I want to go back to uni again. I have tried and failed on so many attempts, do I really want to put myself through this?
Last year’s attempt went so badly that it’s sort of scared me off but I’m aware that establishing a career as a writer will be a lot harder without the relevant training.

7. Find a GP who has empathy for how much pain I am in and is proactive about fighting to help me to get the treatment that I need.
I am planning on signing up with a new GP this week as I’ve just moved house. I’m very nervous about finding the right GP though.

8. Try to avoid returning to the psych ward as an inpatient and ideally get discharged from the hospital asap.
I have another ward round to attend on Monday when I will probably get discharged. Maintaining life on the outside though, is the real challenge.

9. Persist with trying to help my partner to get a move to a closer prison as while he is in the current one visiting is pretty impossible for me which is extremely upsetting for us both
It’s so stressful and painful travelling such a long distance for a two hour visit. I just want a chance to see him on a more regular basis.

10. Write to the Home Secretary about my partner’s D category situation and campaign to get him returned to at least open conditions.
My partner has been left in limbo for long enough. Yes he has messed up but he has served the time he was set and now just needs to be given a chance, even if that means supervision, he just wants a chance.

11. Work with my carer and new team from the Community Mental Health services to improve my chances of reaching a better standard of mental wellness.
I should be getting a new CPN (who I will be meeting tomorrow) as well as input from a psychologist. I know how lucky I am to have been given this input and had to fight to achieve it but now the important thing is that I make the most of it as the help could be life-changing and I really need it to be.

12. Share what works for me on this blog so that hopefully I am able to help others.
I really want to help others who are facing the same obstacles as I am, I hope this blog can become a place of encouragement and understanding.

13.Get married. My partner is my first and hopefully, my last love. Neither of us are perfect but I can’t imagine my life without him in it and would love to make that official as soon as possible.
There is a lot to arrange and I know it won’t be easy. A lot of people want me to wait but I love him and our relationship is one of the things that helps me to stay strong.

14. Visit my family. We’ve had a challenging time over recent years and they still struggle to understand me, but I would like to build bridges with them and I’d love to spend some time with my newborn niece.
It will probably be an emotional time full of mixed feelings but it is something that I really need to do asap.

15. Spend more time with old friends. I miss them and no-one understands me better than they do so I need to make more time for them.
This may mean working out a way I can travel more easily or finally making a decision about a permanent move. Either way, my true friends are worth it and I need to give them more focus than I have been.

16. Make a scrapbook of dreams and ambitions for the next 10 years and set about focussing on how to achieve my dreams.
I love scrapbooking and it was a huge help while I was in hospital. I feel like it could be an excellent way for me to focus on my future in a creative manner.

17. Set myself realistic goals, especially to start with, so that I don’t give up or burn out.
This could be by starting with 5-10 minutes a day of writing time or a chapter of a book/ a single short story a night.

18. Travel somewhere I’ve never been before. Or somewhere I’ve been long ago that I liked.
A few possibilities could mean finally getting a passport and visiting my best friend in Sweden or fulfilling my dreams of going to Paris or New York. Alternatively I could start smaller with a weekend break somewhere like Cardiff.

19. If I reach the right level of wellness, apply for the BBC trainee scheme aimed at disabled people.
It has been my dream for years to try for this but I haven’t yet reached the level of wellness that I’d like to be at to make this happen. Fatigue and pain are huge obstacles and I’m hoping that in time I can work out ways to overcome them.

20. Make a decision about whether I should remain in Wales or move back to London. Consider all factors such as finances, social support and health care. Once I’ve made a decision, try to do things to help myself stick to it. Until I make a decision, try not to put my life on hold.
At the moment I’m getting a good standard of mental health care here, but was receiving more physical care and had better medication options in London. Finances play a huge factor so a lot will have to remain to be seen.

21. Persist with my request for a better standard of care for my Ankylosing spondylitis and mental illness, refuse to be fobbed off or made to feel guilty for asking for what I need.
I need to speak to the advocacy service about whether there is any way that I can get more care and support for my physical needs. I also need to make sure that I research thoroughly all the options that are available to me, including by contacting organisations such as National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS).

22. Make a decision about whether or not to get a cat.
It’s a big responsibility and caring for it may prove a huge strain but it could be a challenge for me to learn to adapt better to.

23. Try to stick to a routine a bit more so that I over-do it less and get better at balancing activity with rest.
I tend to overdo it then crash for days afterwards. I need to get better at balancing out my energy levels by combining any activity with periods of rest.

24. Look into ways I can improve my opportunities to become a freelance writer/journalist and try my best to make it happen.
Read up on ways to break into the industry and spend more time and energy getting my blog posts to a standard that I am pleased with and hope that that speaks to future bosses.

25. Have a relaxing holiday, ideally somewhere I can focus on my writing.
I’ve heard of writing holidays and this sounds like something that is right up my street and definitely something that I should research in the very near future.

26. Make more of an effort to go to literary events both here in Wales and in London and elsewhere. My dream is to go to the Hay festival of literature. If I can’t make this year’s event I should definitely make sure I attend it next year.
Research and budget for whether a weekend in Hay on Wye would be possible as it would be a dream come true to attend it.

27. Set aside time every day for writing. Everything from blog writing, journalism, creative writing exercises, drafting stories.
It would probably also help to set aside a specific place for me to write, perhaps investigate some sort of laptop desk and somewhere to organise my writing research.

28. Set aside time every day for reading – blogs, newspapers and magazines, poetry, books, writing tips etc. Make notes on what I learn.
Reading used to provide such escapism for me but now I need to start reading in a more educated way, learning from those who have gone before me.

29. Try to have more of a distinct online presence. I want to spend more time focussing on my unique qualities instead of the things that have been holding me back.
I need to develop my own clear identity and work at getting that across to people, trying to break the mould instead of fitting into it.

30. Try to make time just to relax, unwind and have fun!!
Pamper sessions, magazines and trashy tv. Anything that helps me to switch off and stops me overthinking.

Anyway enough about my 30 things before I reach 30. What would you like to achieve before your next big birthday? Answer in the comments section below or on Twitter @spursbythebeach.

Journalling for self expression day 5 part 1

For each of the top 5 things you identified in the last list, list 10 things you can do to gain control of the situation. Underline the top 3 from each list.

Part one:Worry about my partner

Things I can do:

1. Gain more control over my finances, especially by getting out of hospital as soon as I am ready as well as trying to send more money and visiting more often.

Part of this involves him getting a move to a closer prison so at least then I can come up on visits.  Six months without visits and support is a long time to go.

2. Write to my partner more often

At the moment, after a lot of nagging, my partner is writing to me regularly. Due to an arthritis flare-up and severe anxiety and depression, I have had really bad fatigue. I need to get better at juggling writing with rest. I also need to get better at asking for medications on request for pain, when I need it, which I usually do. I just hope that this makes a difference with my levels of pain and fatigue.

3. Be more honest about what I’m struggling with, to my partner and others

It helps so much Blogging and Tweeting about what’s on my mind. There is someone even more important that I need to speak to – my partner. He really loves me and wants to help, he wants to know how to help. Sometimes I’m not sure what will help me, but if I keep him informed of what is happening and advise him of the little things that make a difference [like today over the phone he read me out a page-long love poem] then he has a head-start on how to help me.

It’s hard to be honest sometimes knowing that if I’m too honest, I’ll leave him feeling worried, upset and powerless to do anything. Often I just tell him the partial truth when the full truth would leave him worried sick. In reality I need to make sure that he has the full facts in order that he can show greater understanding.

4. Work on my anxiety so that I could emotionally cope with a visit.

I have apps on my phone, books and websites I could use as well as a weekly appointment with a psychologist. My next big challenge is to spend most of next Wednesday in my flat, probably alone, which I’m really worried about how I’ll cope with.

I need to utilise what I’ve been taught and start to put it into practice. More on coping with anxiety soon.

5.Make sure that my partner continues to write to me regularly.

This sounds a bit unfair when I’m not writing to him as much as I used to. It does make such a huge difference though, hearing from him.

6. Encourage my partner to open up to me more often so that I know the real things that are bothering him instead of fearing the worst.

I always know when something is wrong with my partner so when he refuses to confide in me , not only does it hurt, but it also causes me to imagine that he is keeping something far worse from me than he usually actually is.

7, Accept compliments from my partner. Really let all the good things that he says sink in, instead of believing all the negative things from my childhood.

I’ve been put down for so long, by so many people, that I need to unlearn all of that stuff and keep in mind the kind things that my partner says instead

8. Speak to the Assisted Prison Visits Unit to discuss options for a visit to be planned and paid for in advance by them.

They usually very generously refund the cost of visits if you are on certain benefits/a low income and occasionally they offer this help for me, I need to find out whether this is an option for me within the next month or so. I miss him so much.

9. Write a letter to the prison governor supporting my partner’s request for a move to a prison closer to me

I’m hoping that after hearing the difficulties I face visiting my partner due to my disabilities that they will take pity on us and move him to a closer prison.

10. Once I’m out of hospital, maybe even before, start planning for mine and his future together. Things like visits, planning for our wedding and building a home together.

All I want from life, well my main aim really is to spend my life making mine and my partner’s dreams come true.

I’ve gone back and underlined the top 3 I want to try and have included an explanation of how I intend to follow them. Does anyone else have any ideas that I haven’t thought of? Or is anyone else struggling with similar issues? Get in touch in the comments section below or Tweet me @spursbythebeach. I look forward to hearing from you.

Journalling for self-expression…day 4

Well I’ve skipped a task again as I’d already kind of answered the last one, plus this task applied more two days ago when I first wrote it out in rough. Sorry for my delay in posting, my fatigue has been absolutely awful.

Make a list of things that you feel upset about right now. Write down as many as you can think of until you can’t think of anymore. Then choose the top 5:

Not being able to do everything that I want to do for myself:

From carrying myself a cup of tea (at home I have a hatch so don’t have to rely on the kindness of others) , to struggling with grooming, shopping and isolation because I struggle to get to places. Even at home, the local bus stop is minutes away from me but too far for me to get to without severe pain so I remain reliant on taxis or isolated in my own home.

Being on a psychiatric ward

In myself, I feel that this proves that I am weak, that I have given up, lost the fight. The atmosphere is tense at best, there is a lot of paranoia, including from me, which makes it an extremely difficult place to be. On top of that, it’s difficult to unwind, you can’t usually watch TV because of the constant background noise, even reading in your own room is a challenge. This is especially the case because if you do start spending a lot of time in your room then people assume you either have a problem with them or are being stuck-up. On the other hand, if you do come out you have to deal with everyone else’s problems and needs, as well as your own.

I’m worried about whether I’ll ever get to see my partner again.

It’s been 6 months and I miss him so much [especially as I’m typing this while we’re apart on Valentine’s day] . It’s hard because we get to talk so little, writing to him has been hard as my fatigue has been so bad and visits are impossible while I’m a psychiatric inpatient and my money has been cut as a result. Plus the thought of the journey then being trapped in a visiting room with loads of strangers, I just don’t know if I could do it. That thought makes me feel so guilty because I think I should be strong enough to do it for him. I miss him so much and I feel like a complete failure.

Waiting for the result of my hospital professionals’ meeting.

My anxiety about this is overwhelming and I am so convinced after two no’s from my previous assessments that it will be another no from them. If that happens my fear is that I’ll be stuck on a psychiatric ward long-term and I don’t think I could cope with that. My head is such a mess and I don’t see how I could cope alone in my flat without a decent level of support. The option of staying here long-term or being home without help, makes me want to cry.

My poor money-management.

I’m in debt, I’m trying to pay for my carer again because I couldn’t cope without her. I’m struggling to pay for the costs of my disability without Disability Living Allowance. The bills are mounting up and getting ignored, I’m getting chased for past debts and the whole thing is just making me feel ill.

My anxiety is causing me anxiety.

I’m either off my food or binge eating, I’m feeling sick and I just feel like crying all the time. I haven’t had panic attacks this bad since I was 19 (I’m 29 now). I just can’t cope. I can’t handle crowds (even small ones), I can’t handle being alone. It feels like life is impossible.

My paranoia is making me feel so depressed, I’m convinced that the whole world is plotting against me.

I don’t trust most people, I’m even convinced that my partner, who I adore, will get sick of me and leave me. All of the emotional abuse from my childhood is coming back to haunt me. My friends aren’t trusted to really care and I don’t even trust the food on the ward so I’m living on snacks. I’m terrified about what is happening to me.

Being many miles away from my family and friends.

I keep beating myself up for not working things out and managing to stay in London. I feel like I was happier and safer there. I wasn’t cured but I had more support and distraction, I was loved. My partner isn’t far from London and my entire family are over there, including my newborn niece. I feel like I’ve lost everything.

Negative comparison to others

I’m constantly beating myself up for not being a pro blogger by now (a year), a top published author, having the perfect figure and having finally got that Phd I’ve always dreamed of getting (when I didn’t even finish my degree). I compare myself to friends and family who have successful marriages with kids, and I compare myself to others who have talent, dream jobs or travelling opportunities.

Everyone is always on at me to be kinder to myself but I feel like to do that, I should be in a better place in my life rather than unemployed, stuck on a psychiatric ward.

Top 5

Picking the top 5 things that upset me is really difficult as all of the various things merge into one. If I had to pick, it would probably be:

1.Worry over my partner

2.Frustration over not being able to look after myself properly (physically and financially.

3. My CMHt assessment

4. My anxiety

5. My negative comparison to others.

Day 5’s task, is for each of the 5 things you identified (in the last task), list 10 things you can do to gain control of the situation then pick the top 3 things from each list.

As I want to include explanations with each possible solution before I make my choice I have decided to split each problem into a post on its own so there will be 5 posts linked to this one then later I will hopefully do a follow-up post/s letting you know how I got on with my solutions.

How would you deal with these problems? Are you struggling with similar difficulties? What are your ways of coping? You can comment below or Tweet me @spursbythebeach . I really do look forward to hearing from you.

Journalling for self-expression day 3…What I’m grateful for.

Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for-big things, small things and everything that you can think of:

1.My partner…We’ve had our ups and downs over the years and he is currently in prison, miles away from me, but he is such a huge support and I really do love and miss him so much.

2. My friends…it’s true that friends are the family you choose and mine have been through a lot with me. Being in a psychiatric hospital it’s surprising that not only do you make new friends who understand what you are going through, but you also realise, who of your existing friends, are your true friends.

3. My family…especially my newborn niece. I never thought that I could be more proud of my younger sister than I already was, or be so broody. Sadly, thanks to the meds I’m on, I’ll probably be unable to have kids of my own, so instead I will be spoiling my perfect little niece.

4.Being able to read…although it’s a battle at the moment, it helps me to get lost in someone else’s story, escape to another place/world. Reading has always been my refuge. I’m gradually clawing back the concentration levels I once had, which is a real battle against fatigue caused by the form of arthritis that I have , mental illness symptoms as well as the medications for both conditions. When I’m not able to read I feel angry, frustrated and alone.

5. Being able to write…This is another battle, especially when I’m constantly struggling to keep my eyes open. I love being able to express how I’m feeling deep inside in a constructive way. I like the writing community that I’ve found and I’m beginning to feel a part of it by blogging. I also love that I’ve been able to share my experiences with others as well as to raise awareness of mental illness.

6. My personal assistant/carer…although I’ve had to pretty much let her go for the time being till my finances are in better shape, she has made herself available, even now, for the measly number of hours I can offer her, which shows me what a true friend she is, as well as the fact that she’s made a huge positive difference to my life.

7.Arts and crafts/being creative…I love cardmaking, scrapbooking, clay modelling/sculpture making, photography etc. I love spending time being creative as it helps me to escape my thoughts for a little while and gives me a more positive focus.

8.Watching good/bad TV…A personal favourite is Home and Away. Again, anything that gives me escapism and helps me to lose myself in something else for a while, distracting me from my thoughts. I love the thought of sunning myself on a hot, sandy beach eyeing up the even hotter surfers.

9.Shopping…especially for books, clothes, toiletries and arts and crafts stuff. I tend to overspend though which can be a bit of a problem.

10. Pampering myself…getting someone to do my hair, doing my make-up or trying out new outfits. Anything a bit girly and something to take my mind off things.

Well considering how negative I am feeling at the moment I think 10 things to be grateful for is a pretty good start. My eyes are quite heavy again at the moment, so I’m going to leave it at that. What things are you grateful for? Feel free to comment or tweet me @spursbythebeach .

Mental health recovery idea: Journalling for self-expression day 1

One recovery strategy that has aided me in the past to improve my mental health is Journalling for self-expression. My task, for at least the next 32 days is to follow the guidance of montrealtherapy.com , Journalling for self-expression tasks .

Each day I will attempt to complete, and post, my target for the day. Others are welcome to join me in this . If you do , post your links or write your thoughts in the comments section below.

This task stemmed from courses I attended at South-west London ‘s recovery college. These were aimed at Journalling for self-expression and telling your story, both of which helped me to open up better, which probably led to me writing this blog.

24

The first task is to write down what happened that day and how you felt about it (my entry is actually about Wednesday, although I will try to stay more up-to-date in future). I wrote as much as I could remember about a 24 hour timeframe .

Wednesday 

I think I woke up pretty early on Wednesday . After a cup of tea, I did some preparation for a blog post but mainly ended up chatting to other people on the ward. The downside of being a blogger in a psychiatric hospital, is that it’s so easy to get involved in other people’s problems/dramas, to procrastinate and never get anything done. To fight against that, and because my body seems to be most active at that time, I’ve been waking up early and trying to get my writing done in the fairly quiet hours on the ward.

9am came around before I knew it and my advocate had arrived. The wheels are in motion for me to have a meeting on the ward of all the professionals trying / trying not to be , involved in my care. This will include the hospital team, my physical disabilities  social worker, the CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) and the crisis team.

After that I managed, in a long, tedious, drawn-out, painful process, to get ready for the rest of the day ahead.

What a mess

After this, all I could think about was my partner and helping him out of the financial mess he’s got into in prison, despite the fact that I knew I’d be broke , with big bills due out and my DLA being stopped and overpaid due to the  28 day hospital admission rule not being explained very well by the ward on arrival.. Part of me was also worried about being moved to another ward for a period of time. I know that my mood is currently unstable and I didn’t want it destabilised further by constantly moving between wards.

The great escape 

It crossed my mind to do a runner from hospital and go to stay with my mum in London (as you can see, I don’t always think things through with complete clarity).  My mum refused to let me stay with her which distressed  me further so I got even more distressed. I told the nurse I then went to speak to, that if they wanted to move me wards , they would have to do it forcibly. The nurse was taken aback as I’m usually easygoing, and tried to reassure me, but I was having none of it.

I felt backed into a corner with the quicksand of a mixed episode /rapid cycling deepening and deepening. I was especially concerned about seeing a woman I’d previously been friends with.

After that I called my carer to ask if she could come in early for her last proper day, as I’ve had to let her go, at least temporarily . I was so on edge, I just felt like I was going stir-crazy in the hospital and it made me realise how bad I was going to feel, and how isolated I was going to be in future, without her.

A fixable mistake?

Just before my carer arrived, I had a phone call from my tenancy support worker about my rent arrears. It looks like there has been a mistake with the demand and it is being looked into. I still feel fretful about it but the tenancy support worker has insisted that she has not given up and will be looking into it.

My carer then arrived and we went to sort out the financial stuff that needed doing. This included a problem that had been causing me a great deal of worry.

I went for brunch after a bit of window shopping which ended up delaying me further so I had to rush the meal to get to my friends’ house as they had written me a supporting statement for my PIP assessment form.

What they really think

When I read the statements the ward manger, my carer and friends had written, it made me recognise a few things. Firstly, how much of a trigger my family are to me, secondly, how little independence I have, thirdly, how worried others are about me and lastly, how much I rely on help from other people. This caused me even more anxiety about losing my carer.

We went back to the flat as I was expecting the OT (Occupational Therapist) to visit, furniture to be delivered and to fill in the PIP assessment form with my carer. Nothing got done and I ended up taking diazepam that I had left over from an old prescription, something that, as a hospital inpatient, I am not allowed to do.

Dangerous spending

I needed to get out and followed my usual pattern of being mixed (depressed and on edge) and overspending money that I really don’t have. I went to Hobbycraft, which is always dangerous for me. In the end I bought some scrapbooking stuff, another book to attempt to organise my chaotic life in, in a pretty way.

I then spent more in M & S getting food treats for me and one of the other girls on the ward.

After that was my last drive back with my carer which made me feel really lost and hopeless.

An old friend

I got back and one of my friends had sent me her number via Facebook and we talked. It turned out that she was depressed and what I said about needing to seek help seemed to have little impact. I pleaded with her to contact the hospital and she said that she would. Not long afterwards I received a text message saying that she had taken a serious overdose. I met her recently in hospital and I don’t have her home address , so, out of my mind with worry, I had to inform the ward staff. They tried to reassure me that they’d called the police and it was ‘in hand’.

Deterioration

After this I deteriorated for most of the evening, I felt really depressed and on edge with the occasional glimmer of ok when friends were able to distract/comfort me, which would then leave me feeling guilty. It didn’t help that I had pain in the opposite arm to the one I have suspected nerve damage in.

What a start to the day

The next day started badly and I ended up experiencing a stabbing pain in my knee while I waited impatiently to see the doctor. The pain didn’t last long but it scared me because of the amount of pain meds I’m already on and how bad the pain was.

When I saw the doctors ( I ended up seeing two) , they said that they didn’t see any evidence of obvious inflammation, this made me feel like they didn’t believe me, although they disagreed. They just told me that the rheumatologist needs to see me. This would be all well and good if I’d been able to visit my flat sooner and received the letter from him in time to get to my appointment, which was due yesterday.

I felt so angry, frustrated and hopeless. This really led to me feeling suicidal. My mood drops so quickly lately that it’s frightening.

A bad combination

It was so hard, with a combination of disturbing memories, stress in the present and fear of the future. There was so much that I longed to do but my belief was so strong that I felt that I couldn’t do it anymore. I try my best to keep on keeping on but it is so hard at the moment. My blogs are kind of safety factors as there is so much that I want to do with them. I just need to believe that I can do it.

My overriding mood for that 24 hours was exhaustion/fatigue whilst being extremely on edge. I’m so scared about how I’m going to cope. I have so many things in my life that need to be sorted out, I just can’t focus on anything in particular and I worry that I will never be able to.

Fearing the future

I’m afraid of isolation, of my pain and mobility levels getting worse, and that despite my efforts, my mental health will continue to become more and more unstable, with mood swings that will lead to me spending more and more time in hospital .

I’m sorry that this has been such a long, overly negative post. I’m not even sure if I will post it.

The phone call

My partner called. He tried to convince me that I need to ask for help more often. He also told me to think about who my friends are, because although people aren’t mind readers and have their own problems, it’s obvious to everyone, especially those who know me, what my difficulties are.

Help?!

Is anyone else struggling to deal with having a physical disability and/or a mental illness? I feel so alone right now, it would help a lot to know if there are others like me and how they cope. Thanks for listening.

New year, new focus

As some of my Twitter followers (@spursbythebeach) may already know , i have been re admitted to a psychiatric ward since just before Christmas . Despite my positivity at the end of my last hospitalisation that I would be assessed and care-mana

Me

Me

ged once again by the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and the ward doctor’s assurance that an assessment was due a couple of days after my discharge , absolutely NOTHING happened on that front.

No, no and…no!

Well aside from being assured that I would not be entitled to another assessment from the CMHT, that I did not have a serious mental illness (news to me and the ward doctor!) and that I couldn’t even get advocacy to make a complaint about the decision as I wasn’t being care managed.

Things worsened at home . I struggled to manage my new flat with the limited support that was available to me. I’ve struggled to manage physically, mentally and financially.

Step backwards?

Just before Christmas I was ready to give up. I hit self-destruct and almost lost my partner because I self-harmed. I was suicidal and close to acting on my thoughts, so the safest thing for me to do, although it feels like a step backwards, was to be re admitted to hospital .

This period in hospital has been a challenging one. I’ve had to spend time on two wards, had fewer visitors and less of an inpatient support network than last time.

Recovery

Instead of spending my time focussing on other people, I’ve had to focus on my own thoughts and feelings , my own recovery strategies, my own future, however difficult that has been at times.

I’ve been trying to focus on ways I can move forward that are positive and practical . I’ve started engaging in more creative activities like scrapbooking and cardmaking, although I have to be careful to balance activity with rest because of my Ankylosing Spondylitis (a form of inflammatory arthritis known as AS).

I also have suspected nerve damage in my left arm and hand, which I’m waiting to see a specialist about and which could also be as a result of my arthritis.

Perspective

The other thing I’ve gained from this is perspective . It’s made me question what I really want from my life. I’m in two minds whether to try distance learning , probably in creative writing or something artistic. The main thing I want to focus on this year though is my writing, especially my blogs.

Blogging focus

I’ve been writing this blog for about a year now and trying to juggle it with being unwell has been a real challenge, leading me at times to wonder if I should just give up. However, I love blogging and feel so passionate about growing and improving this blog that I don’t have the heart to give up on it. Plus I still have so much that I want to say. That means that I need to fight harder to make a go of it.

I’m starting 2015 by remembering the reasons why I started this blog in the first place. I want to raise awareness of what life is like with mental illness and physical disability and to reach out to those who face similar struggles so that we all feel less alone.

With this focus in mind my aim is to post more often but to also remember what works: honesty, passion and not being afraid to share things that at times are very personal to me. I do not do this to air my dirty laundry in public, but because I hope that my truth may also be someone else’s truth, if that makes any sense?

Something new

As well as this blog, I also fancied creating a bit of escapism for myself and hopefully others too with the focus on budget make up and beauty products. My blog Http://thebudgetbeautyexperiment.wordpress.com will be launched later this month so for those who might be interested I’ll also keep you focused on my progress with that.

Thank you

Finally, for those of you who have kept on believing in me and continued to read my posts no matter how few and far between they may have been at times, I just want to say thank you! It really means a lot to have your support and encouragement.

Please continue to comment, tweet @spursbythebeach, Instagram @spursbythebeach or email me on brokenglassshimmers@hotmail.co.uk , as I really enjoy getting your feedback and learn a lot from it. If you have any ideas on how the blog could be improved further, I’m always open to hearing a reader’s perspective.

Living with loneliness

I was reading a feature in the UK edition of Glamour, January 2015 issue (page 46) earlier today, which informed me of the maybe not too surprising statistic, ‘48% of us have felt lonely at some point’. Although this is quite a high percentage and often it looks as though everyone else is sorted with loving family and friends and hectic social lives, so many of us actually struggle with this issue. And I have to admit that I’m one of the people struggling.

There are a number of causes and triggers to my loneliness and I also choose to fight loneliness in a number of ways. The feature in Glamour UK was useful as it consisted of contributions from readers as to how they coped with the causes of their loneliness.

Causes/triggers of my loneliness

The first of the main causes of my loneliness is being disabled and having mobility problems. I live with a form of arthritis known as Ankylosing Spondylitis which affects a number of my joints and bones, especially my spine and my knees. This causes a lot of pain, I struggle to travel far and rely on crutches to help me get around. Because of this even getting to the nearest bus stop to my place left me in agony so I am mainly a recluse, reliant on other people to visit me or pick me up. This is extremely frustrating, especially at my age (29) when most of my friends are out socialising or partying and I can’t even make it to the local corner shop. I cover some of the issues I face in the post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/juggling-posting-with-ill-health/

The second cause is having a mental health problem and the stigma that is attached. Aside from the mobility problems that result from my physical disability, my mental illness only adds to the isolation and loneliness as I have a habit of pushing people away or hiding from the world when I’m struggling. Also I have a habit of thinking very negatively and few people are willing to stick around when I’m like that. I cover my struggles with posting with both physical and mental health problems in the post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/reasonsexcuses-for-my-lack-of-posts/ .

Another difficulty that I face that leads to a great deal of loneliness is having a loved one in prison. In the post https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/life-spent-loving-someone-behind-bars/ I explain in more detail how having a loved one in prison affects me in so many ways, including the loneliness I feel as a result. In my last post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/absent-loved-ones-this-christmas/ I explain how living with a loved one in prison is more common than we think, especially for the 200,000 children who have a loved one in prison at Christmas. The main thing is again, the isolation. For many people, they take for granted that their partner is there for them when they need them but I have to wait for a phone call or a visit and as my partner is so far away and my mobility problems and pain levels impact on me so greatly, a face-to-face visit is incredibly difficult to arrange. Not only that, I tend to bottle up my feelings quite often instead of sharing everything with my partner, because I don’t want to cause him worry when he is quite powerless to help.

Another cause of loneliness that is also, I expect, quite common in people my age, are friends becoming acquaintances. As most people my age and younger get married, have families, move away or have challenging careers, their priorities shift. Whereas in the past they may have had time and patience for my dramas, now they have more pressing needs. It’s hard to let go when it’s once someone you were so close with, when there’s such a strong shared history. More and more often though, I’m beginning to see how holding onto these newly acquired acquaintances is more likely to cause loneliness and pain than completely severing all ties. Seeing that you’ve been replaced or just aren’t thought of in the same way, can be hard to accept and the two main ways of dealing with those feelings, internalising or confrontation are rarely very successful. You find yourself longing for what was instead of accepting what is.

Another thing many of us are guilty of that contributes to our sense of loneliness is comparing ourselves to people on social media sites. On social media very few, if any reveal their complete true selves so while we find ourselves envying someone who has a ‘perfect’ lifestyle or ‘dream’ career, it is easy to forget that we are often looking at things through rose tinted glasses. It does nothing for my self-esteem and confidence when I judge myself against the achievements of others as, whatever I do, I will usually end up falling short.

Over the years I have moved around quite a bit and living in a new area usually adds to feelings of loneliness. This feeling is increased when you have to tolerate nuisance neighbours or less than perfect home decor. I spend most of my time at home so the way I feel about where I live impacts a great deal on me personally. Our home is meant to be our refuge but it doesn’t always work out that way. That doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful to have a roof over my head, it just means that I have a long way to go before I see the place I live as my home.

Strategies for dealing with loneliness

One of the things that helps me to tackle loneliness the most is having a carer. She has been working with me for some time now and although it is a challenge to afford the help, I wouldn’t have got this far without it. One of the ways she helps me with loneliness is to get me out of the house but she has also become a good friend and provides lots of encouragement and a listening ear as well as helping in many practical ways too.

Another strategy that is of great importance for me is to keep in touch with my partner and close friends on a regular basis. This could be via his daily phone calls, the email a prisoner service or writing a letter or card. For my friends I’m quite reliant on Whatsapp as many are so busy that they rarely have time to talk. We do try to arrange meet-ups in person as often as possible although I am still struggling to become as reliable as I would like to be.

What also helps is to recognise that you ‘can’t please all of the people all of the time’ and that some people are only meant to be in your life ‘for a season’. It’s rare for me to want to let go of the people in my life but sometimes instead of wasting time fighting for what is lost we should open our eyes to what remains and our hearts for what is yet to come.

Something that has made a huge difference to my life is beginning to blog about my experiences and joining blogging communities. I have received so much support and encouragement already from other readers and bloggers that it really helps me to feel part of something and less alone. The post https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/how-i-cope-on-a-daily-basis-inspiration-that-keeps-me-focussed/ explains a bit more about why I blog and how I feel to be part of the blogging community.

Another thing I try to do is as well as following people on social media who I can look up to and admire for their successes, I also try to have an equal balance by following people who I can relate to. It especially helps me to hear about other people facing similar issues and struggles, and learning from them how best to cope, without feeling like it’s impossible to measure up. I learn from people at all stages of the recovery journey, especially those who remember what it’s like to be in the bleakest of places and who instead of pretending they know it all, admit where they have gone wrong as well as what helps them to get it right.

I think that the important thing about loneliness is remembering that almost half of us will face it at one time or another and that we really aren’t alone with feeling lonely. Being aware of triggers and issues that contribute to loneliness is important because once we know the causes we can begin to figure out how to find the solutions, although often it will be a case of trial and error.

Do you find loneliness a struggle? Or have you found successful ways of dealing with loneliness? What works for you? Feel free to comment below, on Twitter @spursbythebeach or email brokenglassshimmers@hotmail.co.uk .

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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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