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Day 2 Life as a mental health service user – week special

I’ve been really testing the patience of my care team this week. I have been struggling so much that I have done nothing but call helplines, crisis teams and my Community Mental Health care team. I have been struggling so much that at some points I couldn’t see any future for myself. My mind is so conflicted and I’m scared of what I’m capable of.

I have had phone call after phone call with my social worker this week, and she has calmly explained all the things that she is going to try to do to attempt to make my life better. Things like attending a mental health day centre with me to improve my confidence about being there, surrounded by new people, when that’s exactly what I need.

The Occupational Therapist asked me to fill in a form about which goals I wanted to focus on for my recovery. I struggled to choose just a few goals when there is so much of my life that is chaos, a complete mess.

My first goal was improved concentration. To do this I need to organise my surroundings as well as my mind. I have boxes everywhere from where I’ve only just had my stuff out of storage, as I was in hospital for the first few months I had moved into the flat.Someone kindly stored my possessions but they had to drop the last of it off recently and now I’m overwhelmed by boxes. My mind needs to be sorted out too. I’m in therapy with the CMHT psychologist, and I’m also seeing the rest of my care team but it’s so hard. I feel like I’m stuck in limbo waiting to get better, and I want to be able to start moving on with my life. Instead I’m stuck in this rut, and it feels like I’ll never get out of it.

My second goal was improved energy levels, physically and mentally, so that I can do what I set out to do. This means really campaigning for the right treatments so that I can have better pain management and less fatigue. I’m due to see the rheumatologist towards the end of June and I’ve finally decided that if I’m not satisfied with the treatment plan decided then I’m going to ask for a second opinion. I’m also temped to do the same with my psychiatrist care.

My third goal is to take better care of the flat. To do that I need to deal with my debts, budget better and apply to anyone who can help me to improve my situation. I’m sick of living in a shell of a flat. I want a home. I’ve moved around so much during the past decade. The problem is I don’t want to settle down here, I miss my family and friends in London but I can’t afford to get over there. I’m so depressed here in this city on my own, I just want to be surrounded by people who care. I know that might be wishful thinking where my family are concerned but I have some good friends there, and London will always be my home. I feel trapped.

I will discuss my other goals in later posts. At the moment I feel exhausted and sad and frustrated. I just want to be happy and it feels like, despite the efforts of my care team, that that will never happen.

Do you have any goals that you’re struggling to reach? What are your obstacles and how do you plan to overcome them? Get in touch in the comments section or on Twitter @spursbythebeach.

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.

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.

Checkmate

I thought I’d give you a brief update of what life is like, just over a week after I was discharged from a psychiatric hospital.

As most people probably find when they leave a long-term hospital admission, my financial situation is a mess. No DLA (Disability Living Allowance) has materialised since I got out and it could be weeks, if not months, before this is resolved.

This is extremely worrying as I have now got into heaps of debt, struggling to pay for my carer as well as other disability related expenses. Money is such a worry right now, it must be for me to even be mentioning it on here, for me to be crying down the phone to my dad during his out of the blue phone call today.

I spoke to my new Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) and social worker, and I’ve been instructed to write a list of how much I owe and to whom, so that they can help me to take action against it. I’m so worried about what that action will involve, and I wish more than anything that my physical and mental health weren’t so bad that I could go back to work and repay what I owe.

Also playing on my mind is that I will be waiting at least 4-6 weeks for an outcome in my PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessment with Capita. I’m so worried, as without that financial help, my future options for paying for care and mobility related costs, will be greatly limited.

My care managers are trying to make a referral for me for additional support but I will still need the practical support that I get from my carer, as long as I can afford to pay for it, which is becoming less and less likely.

I’ve tried to continue writing, both blogging and creative writing. I’ve sent off a couple of pieces to competitions and the blog has had increased popularity in recent days, but this is causing me quite a bit of frustration as I’m still having to juggle my blogging/writing with how well I feel.

There are days I spend the majority of my time in bed and other times I’m in so much pain or having so much fatigue that I can’t concentrate on what I want to be able to do.

The level of my isolation is still really bad. Hardly anyone has been near me since I got out of hospital and even the ones who have, usually only want to meet on their terms.

I can’t help but feel sad at how far I’ve deteriorated in the past year. This time last year, I was all set to return to London to study for an English degree, I’d even given up my council flat to move into private accommodation nearby. Due to misinformation from different people at DWP, eventually causing me to become even more unstable than I was in the first place, I had to move back to Wales or risk -and here’s the joke – getting into debt.

Now things are so dire financially, I’m miles behind where I was academically, and emotionally I feel like I’m in ruins. I was counting on getting that degree so much, I had it all pictured in my mind, I was going to put everything I had into it and now I’ll probably never get that chance again.

The odds were always going to be stacked against me, living with disabilities, but now I haven’t even got a degree to show for it, my life looks as though it has been one huge waste.

I long to become a writer or journalist. I wanted so badly to get my voice heard but now I feel like it is being stifled.

I get frustrated blogging about how bad things are and I’m sure that you all get sick of hearing about it. Why doesn’t she just do something about it? I bet people are thinking. Well, I’ve tried and it’s left me in a worse position than the one I was in to start with. I feel like there isn’t a single move forward that I can take, like I’ve been checkmated.

Trying to find the words

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say for days now. The truth is that I’m so far from where I want to be that I feel like I will never get there at all. I’m so close to giving up completely.

I wanted this blog to move in a positive new direction but, more than that, I want it to be an honest blog. Just over a week ago I wrote a list, 30 things that I want to achieve by the time that I’m 30. At the moment it would be an achievement just to reach age 30, later this year.

I started my week quite positively, entering writing competitions, thinking about starting a new scrapbook with a focus on recovery. In the space of a week though, things have spiralled down so much.

I’ve lost all of my confidence and self-esteem, especially where my writing is concerned. I feel like such a failure. I wish I hadn’t wasted time and money, entering writing competitions and I feel like such a let-down as a blogger for not posting more than I do.

I wanted my life to be about more than it is by now. I wanted to reach 30 and have things resolved in my mind. I wanted to have a family, a relationship. Instead my partner is pretty powerless to help from prison and I have very little resembling a family right now except a bunch of people who just expect nothing from me.

I used to have friends, but the majority have disappeared by now and those remaining just don’t know what to say to me anymore. Nothing they can say can make it better.

I’m clawing on to life with everything that I have, but I’m starting to wonder what for? I know that makes me ungrateful but I would give anything not to feel as alone as I do right now.

I’m not going to read through this before I post as I know that I will bottle out of it if I do and I want you all to know the truth about what’s going on in my head. I guess it’s my way of reaching out, in the hope that maybe I’m not alone with thoughts like these and that somewhere out there, there is a way to beat them, there is such a thing as recovery. At the moment though, I’m not so sure.

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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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