Posts Tagged ‘big long posts that make me feel smart’
Hopefully this won’t be offensive to anyone, in general, with its topic matter. Warning for discussions of self harm, eating distress and general madness.
I think when one is first diagnosed with a mental health problem, or first realise it, or whatever… it can become strongly entrenched in your identity. Even others, actually especially others will make it your identity for you. I was Outwardly, the 16-year-old depressive, the 16-year-old self harmer, the 16-year-old bulimic. I was the “overdose in cubicle 3″, the “DSH, known to CAMHS” in the paediatric waiting room. I started out identifying with self harmers on forums, curious about the lifestyle of my brothers and sisters in this futile war against our physical selves. I identified with my brothers and sisters in the futile war against the next meal, the next concerned facial expression from a loved one, the next pound dropped.
Then I identified with the other young people held in a psychiatric unit. We, young people, the next generation, who were meant to be living “the best years of your life”. Drugged into oblivion, occasionally sparking into life when something interesting was on the hospital menu. Encouragement to get out of bed, to get dressed, to go to classes were met with the quite reasonable question: Why should I? Why should we, indeed, when this was how it was. Messed up crazy kids on a messed up crazy kids ward. No outside friends, brief phone calls to family on occasion, feeling the sun on our faces only if there were enough staff to control us outside. Yep. That was us, the Messed Up Crazy Kid Brigade.
Then you start wanting out. You don’t want to be the 18, 19, 20… heck, 40-year-old ”DSH in cubicle 3″. You know that you have a condition or illness or distress to come to terms with, but you don’t want that to define you. You want people to look at you and think of how funny you are, or how bad you are at maths, or that time you wore that shirt that really shouldn’t have suited you but it did. You don’t want people to look at you and remember you being dragged into the back of an ambulance in the middle of the night. You don’t want people to talk to you and remember the time you screamed the vile details of being abused at them while dissociated.
Where is the equilibrium? How much can I forget, forge a new identity and yet still wonder what other people will remember of me? Is there actually anybody in there, in me, apart from the madness? Who would I have been, had none of this ever happened to me?
I thought I’d put together some ramblings about things that I learnt over the course of several years of injuring myself, mainly from cutting. This doesn’t sound like any experience you could learn from, especially when I’m only 18 and therefore not necessarily old enough to have “learnt” anything! However, on reflection, and after going through what feels like thousands of distraction lists on the internet to kick this thing in the ass for good… I think I’ve actually got some good understanding from it. I hope it doesn’t sound too preachy and it’s just my experience but hey. Why not.
Lesson one: Self harm is…. invalidating.
Sounds obvious but it definitely wasn’t to me. I felt/feel/etc. as though being able to injure myself as a way of processing my feelings was very validating. I could “see” my pain. I could “take care of” my pain. I was being nice to myself. I was helping myself feel better.
Being told that you have made yourself look a mess by A+E staff when you are getting stitched up is not validating. Having stitches put in without anaesthetic because “self harmers would like it too much” is not validating. Causing yourself painful scarring is not taking care of yourself. Trying not to get infections, buying first aid supplies, rehearsing your “story” for the triage nurse…. it doesn’t deal with the actual problem. Having to hide wounds, bandages, scars, feeling ashamed to wear shorts or swimwear does not improve bad feelings about yourself. It doesn’t take care of the pain, it just gives you something else to think about for a while but it comes back. And like many addictions, you start off small, maybe “recreationally”. Before you know it, you’re down a road that can be really hard to come back out of.
That’s not to say that self harm hasn’t played a strange role in keeping me safe sometimes. The alternative to releasing those pent-up feelings would have likely resulted in a suicide attempt, and it was very helpful to have professionals that encouraged me to limit my self-injury, rather than ban it completely. But after 5 or so years of hurting myself, I’m not really any further forward. I have a lot of scars that hurt and a lot of horrible memories of being in hospital. It makes me sad to think about. I’m nowhere near recovery as yet and there are times I’ve hurt myself when dissociated and not really in control of what I’m doing. On a conscious level, though, I feel like I’m starting to figure out things I can do that make me feel a bit better without resorting to harming. Self harming didn’t really give me an immediate fix and neither do distractions. Maybe the “trauma” or whatever is just something I will have to deal with at some level for a long time yet. It’s very painful and upsetting but there is a certain freedom in trying to accept how you feel and realising there is no magic quick fix, whether it comes from a blade or from a DVD.
It’s crappy and it’s fine for it to be crappy, cos crappy things happened. And maybe I will go through all those freakin’ distractions and end up slipping up anyway but that’s okay because I’m human. And I tried. I’m not a failure if I slip up, sometimes the distractions just don’t work. But learning about them is a process, like learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings.
It’s a process, rather than a cure. Maybe I needed to get to the states of self harm I’ve been in to go through that process? Who knows.
As regular readers of mentalist blogs and TWIM may know by now, the wonderful Miss Littlefeet author of the Chaos and Control blog has had to password-protect her posts and discontinue updating after issues arising with the staff in her inpatient unit Big deep breath after that long sentence.
This brings up so much more than the experience of one individual, but rather how the NHS (and people in general) view mental health, social media and blogging. I’m struggling to put my thoughts into words but I will try my best. As it stands to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in my writings here that I would not say to people’s faces. I make sure to not give away any identifying features of other patients, staff or people I’m associated with. I’m not telling their story – I’m telling mine. For a while now, as I start to reach out within “real life” mental health awareness and come out as a full-on mentalist, I’ve been waiting for someone to put two-and-two together and ask if this is “me”. Does expecting to be caught out writing about my mental health defeat my anonymity? No. Are all mental health bloggers liars? No.
One of the biggest benefits to me about blogging is that I can connect with other people who are also making their journey through the mental health services and recovery all over the world. Of course, there will be people on the internet who lie, or who may not portray the whole truth, perhaps. That is not specifically limited to people with mental illness. Internet old-timers will remember the story of “Kaycee Nicole”, a woman who posed as a teen writing a blog about living with cancer. That is unfortunately the nature of the internet. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has encountered people who offer some questionable stories in a psychiatric care facility. It would be ridiculous to assume that inpatient care should be scrapped incase someone doesn’t tell the truth. Instead, there are guidelines and subtle advice offered to inpatients to protect themselves.
When is the NHS going to join 2012 and do the same for those that use social media? Okay, we are four days into 2012 but you get the picture.
It’s a crying shame because for a lot of people, writing is how they process things. I know after an hour of staring at the little “add new post” box, typing whatever rubbish comes into my head first, I’m usually feeling a lot calmer. For some who are perhaps very vulnerable and not considered able to keep themselves safe online, by all means take protective measures. I’ve been told by a lotlotlot of mental health professionals of the DANGERS OF THE INTERNET!!!11!1!1! Not that I’m old enough and ugly enough to take the advice of a registered charity website like Rethink, rather than Google “how can I cure schizophrenia with the process of photosynthesis”. And at risk of over-egging the pudding…. the Mind report into crisis care reveals damning evidence of the lack of good acute psychiatric care when people are at risk. But rather than, y’know, try and help people who are at risk of killing themselves, let’s demonise one of the few 24-hour avenues of emotional expression, support and understanding.
I’m no MHA/MCA expert but. Boo. Boooo.
I am just one big ball of fail and drama teetering on the edge of the border line.
Now that I’ve got the dramatic intro out of the way…
I am feeling rather frustrated. I don’t quite know how the mental health services want you to work. If I don’t ring the crisis team tonight and end up having a Fail and I unfortunately survive it, then they will be annoyed that I’m not taking responsibility for myself. Cue angry psychiatrist and care-coordinator appointments, angry faces, angry angry angry. But. If I DO ring the crisis team because I don’t want to have a Fail, that means that I didn’t ever feel like Failing in the first place, so please leave us alone now thanks bye.
I don’t know whether this is just how treatment works, it wasn’t the case in CAMHS but then it’s a pretty well known fact that child and adolescent mental health care is better than adult mental health care. I really do wish I was back with CAMHS. I miss CAMHS. I’m even starting to miss being inpatient. Before that really does sound crazy, let me explain.
There were one million and one things horrible about being in hospital but. For that period of time, I didn’t have the problems at home that I do now (and the problems most professionals agree contribute to my mentalness a great deal). I was removed from it, limited to a 15 min phone call in the evenings. Rather than exercising alone at night, or just sitting alone crying, I could have a hot chocolate and find a member of staff to talk to (depending on how good the staff were that night!). You were there because you were crazy and everybody feels sad when they think of a crazy young person. Crazy young people deserve trips out and having their makeup done for them and lessons that you might only get half a piece of work done, but they realised just how much it took to complete that half piece of work when your mind was shattering. But somewhere around my 17th birthday, I was propelled into “adulthood”, adult services, adult treatment, adult total disregard for feelings.
I talk to adult services, where my messy little 17 year old self is treated on par with 50+ year olds. I am expected to have life experience and understanding that I just don’t have yet. I study at an adults further education college, where just getting your work done one day when you’d rather kill yourself isn’t an achievement – neither is getting the work done good an achievement. Perfection is an achievement… or was it expected all along? Grades are everything! And what about your career? It’s all about the dollar, baby. No, no, no, we don’t CARE if you’d rather work with people than earn money. Success is measured by your wage packet at the end of the month, the size clothes you wear, the car you drive.
Somehow over the past few months, I’ve built myself a little shrine to Miss Perfect Outwardly. I’m overachieving at college, or was. I signed up to a billion volunteer projects. And then I got offered some more and you can’t turn it down because I thought you were doing well? I thought you were better? We won’t ask how you are because things might not be going well and then you’d have to talk about it.
And this all happened at 12:01am on my 17th birthday. I’m not even out of my teens and I’m now an adult. I’m barely legal to have sex, I couldn’t get married without parental consent, I can’t even drink alcohol.
It’s a very hard gap to bridge. One I think isn’t being addressed enough. In some areas in the country, the cut off for CAMHS is 16. 16? Some eating disorder experts have even gone as far to say as treatment for 16-18s with eating disorders would be better cared for socially, emotionally & educationally in a CAMHS setting, rather than adults specialist eating disorder care.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re really the mental ones in all of this. And I think I’ve ranted enough for tonight. And I’m no further forward in deciding whether to call the crisis team or not.
“Blessed be the cracked, for they let the light shine through”.
I started a review of this year & then decided… no, I don’t really want to dwell on the negative things (of which, I realised, there are many!). Instead I shall offer an irritatingly positive & optomistic post about what I’ve acheived & what I hope to achieve for 2011.
So far, I have..
…. found out a type of therapy that helps me & developed coping skills from it.
…. had a brief but very enjoyable “remission” from my mood swings.
…. thereby being able to further figure out the things I enjoyed & spend time with my friends
…. & go on a sort-of weekend trip with friends.
…. gone 8 months with only isolated occasions of self harm.
…. started college!
…. I can’t think of any more but making this list should be one!
Things I hope to achieve in 2011…
…. continue to utilise the support I get from college to keep up with my course.
…. pass my exams to get onto the next level.
…. work more on my music, writing & photography.
…. gain more independance travelling places.
…. begin my modules with the Open University!
…. keep reaching out for support to keep safe.
The second list will probably get longer as the year goes on, but nevermind!
Thank you all for the nominations on the TWIM Awards, they are really really appreciated I never really expected anyone to take notice of my writing, but I enjoy thought-vomiting on here & if it helps people understand growing up with a mental illness more, then that’s fantastic! More & more, I feel like I want to do as much as I can to raise awareness & fight on behalf of people who have these kinds of difficulties, especially young people. That’s not to say that young people have it worse, because (& I know) adult services can be really difficult to work with. But I remember this year struggling to cope because I could either remain with one appointment a week with CAMHS or going inpatient for 6 week blocks, being taken away from my friends & family & everything I loved, several hours away. There is a massive gap in the system for those transitioning to adult services, & community services/schemes for children & young people’s mental wellbeing. For all that I’ve read on the internet about creative approaches to mental health, I feel like there is a lot that is yet to be explored too. I guess these are fast becoming passions of mine.
I know I wrote earlier this month about working in an area unrelated to mental health & I definitely think that I will do some kind of creative work that is purely because I enjoy it, especially dance , music or writing. I’ve been writing since I was young (obviously, but you know what I mean), about the struggles I had with physical health problems, & we approached publishers who said my work “wasn’t what people were interested in”. So I may attempt this again in the future. I have drafts of novels & poetry & random snippets of my autobiography tucked away in files all over the house so… you never know.
I think I have rambled on enough! I won’t say “Happy New Year” because that just feels… strange to me but, here goes another year of mentalness & blogging! Lots & lots of good wishes, see you next year..
I am so glad to have a place I can just dump all my thoughts again. I apologise in advance if it’s less-than-well-written, my mind is in a strange place tonight.
My diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is somewhat haunting me at the moment. I have a very clear memory of being in A+E this year after an (relatively useless) overdose & being stared at by some nameless doctor who could’ve walked into my cubicle off the street for all I knew. The big “do you have a diagnosis?” question came up & I averted my gaze in preparation.
“I’ve been diagnosed with BPD.”
“Ahhh yes! Borderline personality disorder…”
I would much rather now “forget” to mention my diagnosis at all, because it precedes me. Before people have time to understand that, underneath my diagnosis, I am a walking talking human with feelings – I have already been judged, decision made & treatment planned.
I worry that this blog will become just a forum to air my frustrations with the mental health services & my diagnosis (& trust me, I have already been told that disagreeing with my diagnosis is a part of BPD. Didn’t see that in the diagnostic criteria..) but… it is something that is affecting me.
It seems to be the answer for everything just now. Eating disorder? Low self esteem, caused by BPD. History of abuse? Ahh, now that’s common among those with personality disorders. Broken toe? Happens a lot to people with BPD.
I’m exaggerating, I know. I’m not denying there is a problem, or that that problem is BPD-shaped & flavoured. I’m just having difficulty with how it’s being treated. I think things have moved on from how it was viewed some years ago, but I fear that some of the old prejudices & stigma still remains. All mental health problems carry some degree of stigma, & as long as there is ignorance (both the rude ignorance & the genuine misunderstanding variety), there will be stigma. I wonder what makes certain conditions more prone to it, though?
Schizophrenia? That’s the one where you see & hear things & stab people. Depression? Oh, pull yourself together, everybody gets depressed. Bipolar? That’s what Robbie Williams has, right? I have mood swings, I’ve probably got a touch of bipolar.
I think it’s important to get the balance right when you’re diagnosing somebody with a mental illness. Too hopeful & it’s just annoying, too depressing & you will make us want to kill ourselves even more. I was told when I was originally diagnosed that I would screw up every friendship & relationship I had, & my experiences of abuse were testimony to that. Well, I’m managing college (albeit in my own special/crazy way), I have friends there, they haven’t run screaming for the hills yet, even ones that’ve either guessed or I’ve told about my mental health difficulties.
I can understand why they try not to diagnose you with anything, especially BPD, when you’re young. Your personality is still developing, & everyone is a bit BPD when they are growing up. Mood swings, rapidly changing ideas about yourself, anger… that’s just what life is like growing up these days. It can make that growing up process a bit more difficult. Of course, if it means you get better treatment, then that’s a great thing. I just don’t know if I’m so happy about being diagnosed with it a few months after turning 16.
I think I’ve thought-vomited enough for now. I hope this doesn’t sound too judgemental or anything. As I say, I probably should not have posted when my mind is so chaotic!
I’m nervous for some random reason. I don’t like getting involved with politics, so I suppose I’m virtually solely to blame if the country goes to pieces over the next 5 years. Oh wait, I can’t vote yet. Yaya.
I’m watching the Channel 4 Alternative Election Night, purely for comedy reasons. I will be flicking over to the other channels to find out what’s happening in the real world too.
I’ve been trawling the internet, looking for what the parties said in regards to what they’re doing concerning mental health. I’ve been hard pressed (oooh!) to find some, actually, but I did sign the Rethink petition so I’ve done something at least.
I’m quite curious – what would you like to see whoever-who-gets-into-power do for the mental health services/mental health care?
I’d like to see shorter waiting times to see someone from the mental health services and more psychiatric units. And improve the care on said units. The hospital I went to was miles and miles away and I’m not even that far out in the countryside. And it was crap. But let’s not get personal.
So yeah. If you’re lurking like a lurking thing and reading this, I’d love to know what you think and what you’d like to see.
Updates throughout the night! Perhaps.
So I like to intellectualize, and I shall indulge in that defence mechanism shamelessly in this post.
The consultant at the hospital didn’t think some of my symptoms were “severe” enough to meet the criteria of PTSD. Although I was diagnosed with it in the community before I went into hospital. But he said the things that’ve happened in my life have contributed to my apparent personality disorder.
Maybe I just didn’t understand him properly. Or he doesn’t understand himself. Or I don’t understand myself. What?
I’d like to do away with the DSM altogether and treat people as individuals but it just doesn’t work like that. My experiences (mostly with physical and sexual abuse) are just that – my experiences. They are not to be sized up and judged to see what box they can be fitted into. They are not tools for nameless, faceless pseudo-gods to measure my level of sanity.
Too much happened and my mind broke. There’s my own personal diagnosis. Broken-brain syndrome.
I actually really love intellectualizing. I can come out with fancy words and impress doctors and make them forget that they were asking me to talk about feelings. Because whenever they try to (and believe me, they do try), I just take them off track by discussing theories or criteria or something equally fascinating. Before you know it, the 50 minute “psychiatric hour” has passed and I’ve avoided getting down to the nitty gritty for another session.
It might sound pointless to anyone reading this, like I’m wasting their time. I suppose I am, but I know how I can get if I do get talking about things that’ve happened. I become dangerous. My self harm gets out of control. I get on first name terms with the nurses at Accident and Emergency. I might be crazy but I’m not stupid – I’m not going to mess with a relatively stable sense of mind by bringing up things.
Does that make sense? Maybe it doesn’t to anyone but me. And I guess it hasn’t worked that well because I still tried to kill myself and I still ended up in hospital and I’m still how I am now because I can’t handle remembering or seeing it all the time.
So I’m no further forward, or even backward. I’m just stuck and all these labels aren’t doing anything because each doctor has their own opinion. And I have neither the energy nor the will to go back and think about those things.
Except I’m thinking about them now and I hate it and the flashbacks are starting and I want to binge. We have loads of millionaire’s shortbread downstairs. Oh Lordy Lord.
I’m so screwed up.