Posts Tagged ‘recovery’
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?
What, precisely, is recovery? Because this concept is starting to get my goat.
The Mental Health Foundation describes it thus:
What is recovery?
For many people, the concept of recovery is about staying in control of their life despite experiencing a mental health problem. Professionals in the mental health sector often refer to the ‘recovery model’ to describe this way of thinking.
Putting recovery into action means focusing care on supporting recovery and building the resilience of people with mental health problems, not just on treating or managing their symptoms.
Rethink Mental Illness has this to say on the topic of recovery:
Recovery as a concept is about the process of building a meaningful life as defined by the person with a mental health problem themselves.
There are four key component processes suggested:
- Finding and maintaining hope
- The re-establishment of a positive identity
- Finding meaning in life
- Taking responsibility for one’s life
Trying to work out how these relate to my individual story is difficult. Compared to how my mental health was 6 months ago or more, I could be considered “recovered”. My self harm is no longer severe, if it occurs at all. I’m attempting living without medication and I haven’t needed a “break” (of a psychiatric-facility nature) in this time.
There are still things that can trigger a full-scale emotional tits-up, things which I don’t thing are that obvious or understandable. Hearing a story about abuse or bullying in the news won’t set anything off, but I can spend a week or more in a state of constant anxiety over particular nicknames, or songs, or smells, or people behaving in a certain way. I still wake up screaming from nightmares and I still dissociate, quite noticeably “going offline” at times.
This is where I get confused. If I view myself from the point of the “model” of PTSD, these could be thought of as “symptoms” that will be “recovered” from. I’m starting to doubt how valid this is though. Not doubting the validity of the experience, but who would react quite normally and sane-ly when confronted with traumatic experiences? Wouldn’t adapting to such experiences as a normal part of life signal madness on someone’s part? Society as a whole would be in even more of a mess if we had no sense of justice, or self-preservation, or self-protection or… feelings.
So I don’t really know where this leaves me. Maybe the time will come when I’m not as severely affected by things. At what point can I say “that’s enough recovery, the rest of it is just being human”? Or vice versa maybe, how much of my reactions are being human and how much is mental illness?
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.
*eating disorder number trigger – as if you haven’t read the DSM criterion for eating disorders..*
I’m too tired to write about how things are going while in the epicbinoflooniness. As an interesting aside, I’ve never experienced mania from the perspective of someone on the outside. I can virtually cut off and they will continue at high speed, rapidly changing from subject to subject with no obvious link between the two. It’s an experience.
Today I had a check-up by the GP and as I got sent for the standard blood test, I noticed on the form that the reason given was bulimia. The doctor said it was because using other words wouldn’t do any good and that facing what things really are is what starts recovery.
Up until now, it’s always been “poor nutrition”, “repeated vomiting” or some vague term. But seeing the word “bulimia” written just makes me want to cry. Partly because it’s very crap and partly because someone’s acknowledged that, at least regarding my eating, I’m not just a time-waster or attention-seeking or “an emotional woman” or not sick enough to be actually sick because my BMI is over 17.5 or a crazyborderline.
I’m poorly and someone’s noticed and I want to cry. Weird.
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..
You get what you need.
That phrase, or something similar to it, is going through my head a lot recently. Hmm.
Mood is somewhat stable, so I’m taking advantage of it by doing what I can and preparing for any other slip-ups. I’m more aware of the thoughts that lead up to me doing stuff like overdosing or trying to jump in front of trains. So I’m making a special ‘box’ to prepare for times like that. It’s going to be full of photos of people (and pets!) I love, letters and cards from friends and a letter I’ve written to myself. I sound even more crazy, I know.
When I’m feeling impulsive, I don’t really remember it. I’m usually very energetic, but that’s not the word I’m looking for. It’s almost like… mania. I can’t stop moving, I have to act on the impulse to get it out my head. So the majority of the box will be visual things, like photos. I don’t have enough focus to read much in the thick of it. It’ll also have all the numbers for helplines, CAMHS, the crisis team(s), etc.
Hopefully, this will help. I’m going to try anyway. I don’t know whether the unstable moods are scarier during them or while you’re waiting for them to return. The calm before the storm, as it were.
I’ve been walking, cycling and swimming today. Check me out.
I’m going to look at the kinds of live music events there are and stuff. I’ve got it into my head that I want to go to a festival (since reading the post about festivals on the Mental Nurse blog!) or something like it, even just for a day.
Tonight is my final night of taking that disgusting mirtazapine liquid! Woot! etc. etc. etc.
I’m now safely onto my lil white citalopram tablets without much difficulty. They’re not as sedating as the mirtazapine, though, and I’m already feeling the effects on my sleep, but you win some and lose some.
Yesterday was therapy and we, in part, discussed my BPD diagnosis and what it means for me. It means that I have to put it down on my Occy Health (Occupational Health) forms, which is a bitch, but it shouldn’t mean I’m discriminated against, which is cool. I can have a personality disorder and be an aspiring mental health worker at the same time. Oh, the glamour.
My moods are still up and down and round and round, like ever. I never realised quite how noticeable it was. With my friends, I can be a really confident person one minute, silent and almost visibly depressed the next, and the bitchiest person out the minute after that. If you add to that the fact that underneath all this mental health craziness, I’m also just a teenager with teenagerish mood swings, you can imagine what my dearest and nearest are having to put up with.
Thanks for all the comments on my last post. To be honest, I hadn’t given it much further thought, which I’m guessing is a good sign. I have been thinking a lot about the suicide attempt but not in that sense. The thoughts are there, under the surface but it’s nothing dangerous at the moment. At least, I don’t think it’s dangerous. But then I’m not exactly renowned (how do you spell that anyway? or even use that word properly?) for thinking straight at times.
I should really put some more forethought into what I’m writing on here and why. Expound my innermost feelings and thoughts, revealing a fantastic, sensitive, humourous insight into the world of growing up with a mental health condition. Or I could just blurt out stuff.
Yeah. I’ll do that.