Blog

So I relapsed…

This blog post is a long time coming. I relapsed a couple of weeks ago which isn’t ideal… I felt like I was doing well then BAM out of seemingly nowhere I self-harmed.

I was out with my old school friends over Easter for my birthday. I was so excited because we hadn’t been out together since before my first admission into hospital, over a year ago. I have to admit I had already drunk a bottle of wine and done a few tequila shots (it was my birthday!) before we’d left so I was drunk, which I know now is one of my vulnerability factors. It was a very stressful night that led up to my eventual self-harm. Firstly, one of my friends was refused entry to the club, by a rather aggressive bouncer, and instead of turning to leave what ensued was a very blown out of proportion argument over how ‘she’s not that drunk’ and demanding we be let in. This all resulted in my friends being pushed by the bouncer and (massively overreacting) my friend decided to call 999 and asked the police to come down as she had ‘just been assaulted by a bouncer’ outside the club.

During all of this drama I started to externally shut down, I was standing very still not speaking, but internally my mind was going crazy. I was getting so worked up and anxious about the whole situation; the arguing, the pushing and potentially the police turning up. To be honest, right then, I had the urge to jump of the multi-storey car park opposite – thank god I didn’t. But I did drunk call my therapist (which was fun to explain), smashed some glass in the bar we returned to and used it to cut my arm and leg. My friends were understandably upset, Amy* decided to call her dad to pick us up then went home rather than stay at my house as previously planned.

We didn’t really talk about it until I met one of my friends a week later and bluntly asked if they were angry with me. She explained that they were upset but also they were angry with what I had done. I understood up until that point. If I had relapsed due to stress with a physical problem they wouldn’t have been angry with me so why was this different? It must have been hard for them to deal with but I felt like I had no control over it, I felt compelled to hurt myself. So, I’m trying to take a step back and not be upset with their anger but try to rationalise it. How can somebody who has never been in that position of wanting to self-harm/commit suicide actually comprehend what it’s like being in that position? They can’t. It’s really that simple. So, rather than feeling offended or hurt at their anger, I have to reassure myself that they simply CAN’T understand it therefore have no idea what was going through my head and why I needed to self-harm. Don’t get me wrong, my friend have been amazingly supportive the last year and visited me in hospital etc, it’s just the understanding of my mental health that has put a bit of distance between us, even before this night.

That’s my friends dealt with, but then how did I feel about myself after the event? Of course after over 4 months self-harm free I was gutted to have lost my ‘streak’. I felt ashamed, sad and hopeless all at once. I’d let myself down. However, after a few days I was able to talk it through with my ‘mental friends’ – the super supportive lot I met in hospital, they reasoned with me that the thought I was back to square one wasn’t true. Yes, I had to start my ‘no self-harm streak’ from zero but I was still mentally in a better place. 4 months ago I would’ve thought ‘fuck this, I’ve failed, I may as well give up’. But I haven’t. I’ve talked it through with my therapist (after explaining the drunken voicemail, oops) and friends and realised I can keep going. The best way forward is for me to not give up, and next time aim for 5 months self-harm free, then 6, then 7, then who knows, maybe even forever?

I think the key thing that I’m trying to get across is how important it is to keep going. Yes, life can get rough, recovery isn’t straight forwards, and shit is bound to happen to knock you down. But what really counts is that you get back up again. You keep going – even though I know sometimes it feels totally impossible – you ask for help when you need it and I guess just try your best. As my Mum says, that’s all anybody can ask for. So remember, it might not feel like it but YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Abuse

TW  -this post could be potentially triggering for people who have suffered abuse so read with caution.

I’m writing this post partly to share my own personal experience of abuse and to try to start a conversation about a very important but often considered a ‘taboo’ topic. Abuse isn’t something that many people feel they can talk openly about and I used to feel like I couldn’t speak about it to anyone. It was only when I was admitted into a Psychiatric hospital aged 18 that I finally opened up to the Psychologist I was seeing and subsequently some of the hospital staff. I had reached breaking point from repressing all the memories and associated feelings over the years of keeping silent. I’m not going into much detail about the abuse but I can explain the background to give you an idea.

So, aged 12 to 15 I experienced abuse from an older family member and for the first year I kept it completely to myself, trying not the think of it, feeling like it couldn’t be real and pretty much in denial. One night when I was about 13 I was speaking to my sister, who is 2 years older than me, and she hinted that she had had the same experience as me and eventually I told her the truth and we both realised that the other was also a victim. It wasn’t until I was 15 and had a huge argument with my mum (who couldn’t understand mine and my sisters behaviour) that we finally told her what had happened. I thought ‘maybe this is the end of the silence..’ hoping I could finally talk about it and start to get through it. No such luck. My mum was shocked but wanted to keep it all ‘hush hush’ to protect the family member and, I think in her head, her reputation as a mum. I couldn’t speak to my friends, my teachers knew there was something deeply wrong but I refused to tell them because of the pressure from my mum.

My sister’s counsellor (who she had only been allowed by my mum to see a handful of times) had to report the incident to Police due to child protection laws. My Mum still hadn’t grasped the gravity of the situation and had made us question the validity of our emotions and we started to wonder ‘was that behaviour wrong afterall?’. When the police and social services came round to ask about the abuse my Mum guilt tripped us into not making a statement, instead making us think she might commit suicide if we did tell the police. With no statements from us, the police couldn’t continue with the case and the family member who could’ve been facing a prison sentence and signing the sex offenders register instead had no repercussions for his behaviour. That infuriated and upset me for years, I felt like I was worthless and had been let down by my Mum, who I thought was going to help us.

Looking back, I think my Mum was in denial and didn’t realise how unreasonable her behaviour was as she was a single parent without a partner to help her through. I was angry with my Mum for a very long time but have started to accept the past, and the fact that it can’t be changed, all I can do is make the future the best future I possibly can. In hospital through talking about it I was able to deal with what had happened and my feelings were finally validated. I haven’t seen the family member in question in at least 3 years and have no plans to see him again. I’m trying to let go of the anger and fear I feel towards him, through talking about it I am definitely in a better place than I’ve ever been, having accepted what happened and cut that person out of my life. I think what I desperately needed was someone to acknowledge that what happened was completely wrong (and to be honest totally shit) and I was entitled to feel angry, sad, frustrated and disgusted.

The bottom line is that abuse is abuse; be it emotional, sexual, physical etc. No matter what others say or try to persuade you to feel, it is UNACCEPTABLE. If you have been affected by abuse I understand the pain and fear in you and I cannot stress enough how important it is to tell someone. I know it is easier said than done and it can feel like you can’t even say the words out loud without vomiting. Things will start to get better once you have talked to someone, whether it is about a past experience or ongoing abuse – no one deserves to suffer like that. Trust me when I say it can get better and the pain stops being so crippling that you can finally start to feel some happiness again.

Mental health terminology

Sometimes, I think that the stigma around mental health is down, not only to the fact that people are uncomfortable talking about others they see as ‘abnormal,’ but also because they don’t have the knowledge of specific conditions or terminology. No-one wants to come across as uneducated or a bit simple, especially when talking to peers, so maybe more awareness would be encouraging to the people who are curious but don’t ask.

Below are some conditions and phrases and a small overview of their meanings:

  • Affective Disorders – mood disorders such as Bi-Polar, Depression or Anxiety.
  • Adjustment Disorder or Stress Response Syndrome – normally occurs after a significant event in your life, giving you stronger than usual feelings of hopelessness and sadness etc that would be considered greater than what is typical for said event.
  • Anxiety – covers a wide range of disorders such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Panic Disorder and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).
  • Bi-Polar – an illness that causes the sufferer to experience periods of intense highs (mania) or intense lows intermingled with short periods of ‘normal’ behaviour. Sometimes genetic, but occurs typically for a person in their 20’s.
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder – the belief that you have a problem with the appearance of a specific part of their body that interferes with their self consciousness.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – a series of 5-20 sessions helping people adapt their mood and behaviour during problem solving. It teaches them to break down the problem into bite size chunks to make them more manageable.
  • Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) – a mental health professional giving long term support to people suffering with mental health living in the community.
  • Crisis Team – a service available 24/7 to visit people in the community who require immediate intervention with things such as suicidal thoughts or actions, psychosis or the potential for a patient to be a danger to themselves or others. They will visit you at home regularly, sometimes multiple times in a day or week, help arrange for medication to be prescribed or make a referral for you to be admitted to an inpatient unit.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder – a severe hostility towards people in authority
  • Post Natal Depression (PND) – affects 1 in 10 women after giving birth. Symptoms include low mood, negative thoughts (sometimes about harming yourself or baby), lack of concentration, trouble sleeping but always being tired and difficulty bonding with or recognising your baby.
  • Post Partum Psychosis – a condition that effects around 1 in every 1000 mothers in the UK. This can cause hallucinations, paranoia, confusion and depression.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – the way of responding to a distressing or frightening event. This may include flashbacks, nightmares and feelings of guilt or isolation.
  • Schizophrenia – an illness characterised by ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms. Positive symptoms can include hallucinations, disordered thinking and delusions. Negative symptoms include a lack of motivation and social withdrawal.
  • Somatoform Disorder – a series of psychological symptoms that cannot be explained medically but that show emotional distress through physical characteristics.
  • Ward Round – a weekly appointment for each patient in a mental health unit with mental health professionals such as your CPN, Psychiatrist, named nurse and occupational therapist. It is designed to give you an opportunity to discuss your care plan and how to move forward.

 

I appreciate there is a lot more to mental health than just the points made above, but I thought it would be good to just start to give definitive explanations for some phrases or illnesses that people may be unsure about.

educate

Apparently, I have EUPD

Recently, I was asked to take part in a research study with the University of Warwick, by my psychiatrist who said I was a ‘perfect fit,’ for the specification they were looking for in a participant.

I was given a sheet describing what was required in terms of my time and the tasks I would be asked undertake and upon reading it, I discovered that this particular project was aimed at mothers with either Boarderline Personality Disorder, Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder or both.

I’d read up briefly about EUPD and had a suspicion for a while that perhaps this was why I suffered some of the following symptoms:

– My inability to regulate emotions
– The feeling of emptiness or not really knowing who I am
– My tendency to spiral out of control with drinking, taking too much medication or self harming (normally superficially, but to me they are one and the same)

And most of all;

– The emotional attachment I have for people I meet.

I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older that I have intense emotional feelings for what I perceive as older, strong female role models. Not in an ,’I fancy the pants off you,’ way but more as a protector or someone who would keep me safe.
When I was younger, I had quite a distant relationship from my Mum. She had an affair whilst my Dad was suffering from chronic depression and alcoholism and subsequently when they separated, we  moved in with ‘the other man.’ My Dad moved 90 miles away to Windsor and had a few stints in rehab to help him with his issues.

At this point, I was in a new house, in a different town, at a different school and my brother (who is 14 years my senior) had moved out because he and this guy did NOT get on.
I didn’t want to be in the house or around him. He just wasn’t very nice and there was a lot of shit from the backlash of their relationship. At 7 or 8, I remember sitting in a tree at the top of the garden whilst his eldest daughter laid into them both and eventually hit my mum – she was only 18; I guess it must’ve been just as awful for her as it was for me.

My mum and I grew distant, because she wanted a relationship with him and I didn’t. By 8, I would leave the house most days at around 8.30am to either go to school or go to the house across the road to a friends. I often wouldn’t go home until my curfew – though I probably broke that more times than I could count! I would even opt to go the local abattoir to work with my friends mum than be at home.

I didn’t tell her things; from what had happened in my day to how I was felt about seeing my Dad pissed up and falling into a river on a boating holiday that just he and I were on. I was 10; how was I supposed to get a grown man out of the water? Fortunately, we were moored and I was able to run for help, but the initial panic was scary. I didn’t tell her my dad would take me to the pub on the weekends I was with him, or that I was smoking on and off from the age of 11.
I didn’t tell her that I hated this guy because he wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in me being a part of my mums life – in fact he actively made it clear. I don’t remember much of my  childhood, because honestly, I don’t think I want to.

I felt like I had to look for that motherly bond elsewhere and to some extent I still do. My mum and I get along just fine (now she’s binned this guy) and she has been hugely supportive of my journey through Post Natal Depression, but there is just something that holds me back from telling her stuff. Occasionally when she has bad days, she apologises still for her behaviour, 20 years on.

More often than not, these intense feelings stay as intense feelings; because generally the people they are towards are not really within my friendship circle or peer group though I would desperately like them to be. But, I imagine telling them things about my past and them helping me or taking care of me. I imagine them taking me under their wing and helping me past any demons I’m facing. Generally, this doesn’t happen and i’m left with a feeling of no self worth because if I was worth taking notice of, then they would’ve done.

Reading this back, I know it sounds like attention seeking; but I literally can’t regulate it. And I wish I could, because most of the time, it just ends in disappointment.