Who sits at a desk like this?

I like to make places and things “mine” make them reflect me and my personality, sometimes this surprises people like last year when a drunken colleague who got me as their secret Santa nicely summed me up saying “you’re pink and girly but not pick and girly” I love pink, my mobility aids are pink, I have quite a girly* bedroom but I’m mouthy and sweary and suggestions of laddette to lady have been made. I do know that all this gendering of colours and behaviours is to be fair a load of bollocks but lots of people do like to gender everything.

I think for me it’s important to make things and spaces reflect me is because I spent a lot of not time feeling like I lacked an identity which is one of the traits of BPD, I know it’s normal to go through phases and even identity crisis’ especially during adolescence and teenage but i was a human (dinosaur) chameleon I’d change the way I acted and even spoke around others it wasn’t deliberate I just soaked up other people’s personalities and mannerisms like an emotional sponge.

Of course I went through various embarrassing phases such as the emo phase (though I’m still an emo at heart) but it wasn’t just my tastes and appearance changing I didn’t feel I had a sense of self I felt like a hollow shell lacking an identity.

When I started my job six months ago I bought a pink desk organiser which has since been joined by pink in trays, a couple of toys and a coaster saying punch today in the face, I’ve also decorated it for Christmas and put up motivational postcards on the wall, for me it’s important that my work space reflects me especially as I spend so much time at work it really helps my wellbeing to feel it’s somewhere I belong physically as well as emotionally. Although I still experience the occasional existential crisis I feel more secure about who I am than I have in the past, part of this is having things I’m passionate about such as my job and writing, that’s not to say my job is my entire identity but mental health is obviously something I’m very passionate about so I’m Georgiesaurus I like pink, I swear a lot and often drink too much, I love House MD, my top artists on Spotify include Bruce Springsteen, First Aid Kit and George Ezra, I believe pineapple belongs on pizza, I hate Theresa May and I wear cat mittens.

“This is the only me you get”

It’s personal

I’m clearly no stranger to sharing my life both online and offline, if I was this blog wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t be reading this now but offline I’m starting to get tired of sharing my story and talking to people about my history and mental health. I’ve spoken to so many people in different settings from pop up cafes to fundraisers, funding bids for work and over 1000 young people through volunteering on the youth service I now run and although logically I know it’s not true it does feel as though there must be a shortage of people who haven’t heard my story by now.

Today I’m running training with my new volunteers on writing their personal story and although no one is forcing me to I don’t feel like I can avoid telling it again it doesn’t seem fair to ask them to share theirs and me not share mine, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and Im still not entirely sure why I’m so against telling it now I think it’s partly that I’m tired of hearing it and then the fear of being judged and the shame of not really having achieved much in my life. I really do enjoy my job and it’s not that I think it doesn’t count but I’m in my 30’s and just getting started in career where most of the people around me are younger than me and more qualified. I don’t feel like an inspiration or someone to look up to, hearing other people’s educational backgrounds and qualifications reminds me of what I don’t have and what I’m not clever enough to ever achieve, maybe this is internalised to an extent but I also know the reality of my experiences in education.

When you’re known for one thing or people see you a certain way it can be hard to break that view no matter how much you change or try to move on you’ll still be seen the same way, I’ve talked about my past so many times as a volunteer and although not in great detail there’s a high chance that I’ll be meeting people in my new role that have heard my story, I don’t hide having mental health problems and it’s not like I even could if I wanted to I’ve made sure of that it’s something I’ll never be able to fully hide but even though it’s my own fault I wish I had a choice.

There’s nothing more to it, I just get through it

My motivational coaster at work

My motivational coaster at work
A brightly coloured coaster saying punch today in the face

I’m struggling. As a mental health blogger you’d think that would be easier to say than it is, it’s probably a combination of reducing my Quetiapine, a new job and being utterly exhausted but either way I’m not feeling great. I admitted I was struggling at work yesterday and told my manager that I spent last Friday crying at my desk because I felt so isolated being alone all day, i probably work in the most understanding organisation for someone with mental health problems and despite a fuckton of therapy I still find it hard to admit that and ask for help.

I don’t feel that I’m hard on myself I just think I should be able to manage though of course my brain is now telling me this was all a mistake and that I knew I’d fuck everything up it was inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to cope blah blah blah. It’s one thing when these thoughts are conscious because then I have some control over it but this is like a running commentary in the back of my mind it’s not me deliberately putting myself down but it won’t stop and I don’t know what to do to shut it up. I’m still working out boundaries and what is the right amount to share with people, I feel like I overshared yesterday to someone who isn’t my manage who doesn’t need to deal with my mental breakdowns and now I simultaneously want to crawl into a hole and die and also apologise repeatedly (not sure if this is a mental health issue or just being English).

I do have targets to meet I do have things I need to do and achieve but I’m not under pressure these are things I have a year to do and everyone keeps reminding me it’s only been three weeks so it’s not that. I have a psychiatrist appointment in just over a week and I’m hoping things have levelled out a bit by then, if I’d known it would take several years to come off this medication I might have thought twice about taking it though not everyone has such difficulty with medication adjustments so how would I even know this would be so hard.

Attachment issues are naturally coming out to play because I feel low and I want to cry constantly (which is actually really unlike me) so once again having thought I was feeling ok about someone I suddenly miss them again.

This was disjointed rambling but I wanted to actually start and finish a blog in one go rather then going back and making sure it was post worthy because my head is disjointed rambling right now and I need somewhere to dump it all, I guess one positive is I have no desire to self harm and I’m still over 5 months free.

I just keep on keeping on

Working 9 (30) – 5 (30)

A photo of me at work wearing pink glasses and a black top with my chin resting on my hand looking stressed

I took part in a photo project on Facebook for people with chronic illness a few months ago and balance was one of the prompts that stood out for me, people talk about a work life balance and having a life outside of work but another type of work life balance for me is the balance between how I’m seen as a member of staff and a person with mental health problems.

My mental health isn’t a secret it couldn’t be if I wanted it to be not just because of this blog or the very obvious signs all over my body including my hands (big regret) but also because I came into the organisation as a service user which is something I make no secret of but at times it’s hard to know how others see me. This may be my own internalised anxieties or not feeling good enough but I find it hard to know whether at times of stress I’m see as a stressed or frustrated member of staff like any other or if I’m seen as a person with a mental health problem overeating as a result of their mental health.

Again this may be internalised anxiety and probably a generous dose of feeling like I don’t deserve help or that I shouldn’t ask for help and should be capable and prove myself (probably mostly the last part) but because I feel like I should be able to cope and I’m afraid of being seen as incapable I find it really hard to say I’m struggling at work. I know I keep going on about how scary it is that people having expectations for me to live up to but Friday afternoons seem to be the time my brain likes to have a breakdown and I even got left off work early for being mental today, being overtired and alone all day meant I spent more time crying at my desk than actually working.

My mental health and volunteer experiences help me support my volunteers but I worry that I’m seen as less professional especially because of my self harm and the fact that I don’t cover my scars or that people will think I’m not capable; as it is I’ve been judged by professionals when I’ve attended consultations or panels as a person with lived experience or service user rep, metaphorically patted on the head or had things I’ve been dealing with for years explained to me with a patronising smile and yes some of these people may do it to everyone but when you’re trying to prove yourself or been seen as more than just a token or a tick box to satisfy a requirement it’s that bit more frustrating. I keep being told that everyone experiences anxiety at the start of a new job and it’s normal to have doubts but again this is where the difference lies because I always feel I’m waiting for people to see through me and tell me this was all a mistake.

This blog is a bit all over the place but what (I think) I’m trying to say is that the balance between work and life is more complex for me than just work and outside work.

This existential crisis was brought to you by caffeine and chocolate.

Fake it till you make it

Tonight* my brain is spiralling down into doom and failure convincing me that I’m a fraud just waiting to be caught out and that I’ve someone convinced people into believing I’m something I’m not, that people will soon realise this and see right through me and that giving me a job, responsibility and letting me run a service is a mistake. I’ve had the talk about imposter syndrome with someone before, someone I respect who to most people would never appear to feel this way I even bought myself a print of the picture used in this blog to try and convince myself that actually I’m not the imposter I think I am.

The feelings of responsibility and expectation are once again terrifying me, for a long time I’ve believed that if I never try I can’t fail and I can’t screw things up but I’m restless and wasn’t feeling stretched anymore by the things I’ve been doing. I’ve spent a large amount of this evening crying as my thoughts continue to spiral and snowball collecting more and more until it becomes and avalanche (sorry for the naff metaphor) anxiety has been creeping in recently and I’m trying to tell myself that it’s normal to feel some anxiety about a new job.

It doesn’t really matter what people say because my brain won’t listen, I know I’m not the only one that feels this way and I also know that I did well in my interview but facts and emotions don’t mix and the fear is strong. I wanted this job so much and I still do but the loss of security and increased responsibility and the worry of everything going wrong is very much on my mind (and in my dreams).

Today I have my induction with two other new members of staff and I’m hoping that I’ll just be treated like any other member of staff and not have to hear everyone say I know everything and that I’ve been here forever because this is still new to me and there’s a lot I’m going to have to learn.

*I started writing this last night

Image credit to People I Loved screenshoot from Blurt Foundation on instagram

Part of the problem?

Dinos back
A green backgroud with pink dinosaur cartoon carrying a black brefcase and pink walking stick. The words dinos back are at the top in black

Guess who’s back? Back again, dinos back, please like and share.

So it’s been a while, I’ve had to do lots of writing for work recently which hasn’t left me with much brain capacity to write for enjoyment, but I’m back and return with a rant.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is stress which is ironic as stress and work are the reasons I haven’t blogged recently. It often feels like a week can’t go by without there being some kind of awareness day/ week/ month so far this year we’ve had time to talk day, self injury awareness day, university mental health day, eating disorders awareness week and no doubt many others. This month is borderline personality disorder awareness month normally I’d write something about these or use them as a springboard to write about a related subject but this time I’m writing about other peoples way of promoting these awareness days.

I know that I often use these awareness days and campaigns to promote my blog and that’s not what I have an issue with but people using it to promote their illness or compete over who is the illest especially on social media. Mental health problems and chronic illness already have so much stigma attached and there are so many misconceptions around them, the biggest areas of stigma I’ve found are within the medical system from Drs and medical staff I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been poorly treated and discriminated against due to my mental health and especially self harm. So why when there is already stigma attached do people within the mental health and chronic illness “communities” claim to be “raising awareness” by glorifying their illness or posting things that just add to the misconceptions?

Posting pictures of your self harm as part of an awareness day isn’t going to reduce stigma, posting pictures of your face scratched up or countless pictures of your starved body is shocking and attention grabbing but ultimately adds to the idea that self harm is purely graphic and bloody, that personality disorders are all about self harm or that eating disorders are about being thin and fragile, mental illness is complex but it’s not pretty and we don’t need more images of fragile, delicate white girls or bloody and bruised bodies in the name of raising awareness. If I had £1 for every time a health professional made a throw away comment about people with personality disorders or treated someone’s self harm in an unprofessional or even cruel way I would be a wealthy Dino.

We need to change how we raise awareness and avoid glorifying mental health problems as a way to show the reality of living with a mental health issue because the reality isn’t just what’s visible and just showing that side of things not only gives a very narrow view but also undermines people who don’t experience mental illness this way, it’s a broad spectrum and everyone is different and we all experience things, everyone has different symptoms and lifestyles, mental illness is invisible not everyone has scars (at least not physical ones) and that should be the message we send that mental health problems aren’t uncommon and they’re increasing and you can’t always tell just by looking at someone.

I got pills they’re multiplying – Time to Talk Day 2018

TTD
A purple banner saying you can talk about mental health anywhere even here

*mentions medications, doses and side effects and self harm

Let’s talk about medication; the world and his wife and their depressed friend seem to have an option on the subject, the internet is full of memes about going for a walk in a forest and you know the Daily Mail will have something to say on the matter but the reality isn’t just popping a pill and everything is better it’s much more boring, frustrating and often unpleasant. I’ve been on and off medication almost half my life and I’ve been on some form of medication consistently for around 10 years. I’ve tried almost all the common antidepressants – citalopram, venlafaxine (made me throw up so much), sertraline (no effect but made me sick when I took myself off it), citalopram again (worked well then stopped working), seroxat – the scary one from panorama (worked well then stopped working, made me very mental coming off it), duloxetine (still on this the most effective and long lasting though I’m now on the maximum dose) I’ve also been on and am still on an antipsychotic quetiapine.

med
Enter a captioThe top picture shows a forest with the words this is an anti depressant. The bottom picture shows a green and yellow prozac tablet with the words this is shit.

I loved quetiapine it helped me sleep, it lowered my anxiety and evened out those wonderful BPD mood swings it was great until I decided maybe I didn’t need it anymore that I was tired of being tired, I wasn’t in love with it anymore but it didn’t want to let me go. When I first reduced my dose the withdrawal was horrendous I remember the nausea that made me late for college because moving made me want to throw up, I lay on my sofa and cried for a day before breaking 6 months self harm free and phoning my care coordinator begging for diazepam instead they gave me promethazine this took me to three types of medication.

After this I increased the dose twice and things were ok until I tried to leave quetiapine again and it let anxiety and depression came back in, at this point I was just starting my new job and was also suicidal from the medication withdrawal, this then led to an increase of my antidepressant duloxetine now up to the maximum dose, the anxiety was unbearable so propanolol a beta blocker was added; 3 little pink pills a day.

A referral back to the mental health service and a medication review with a psychiatrist i’d met through my work with commissioning groups and we decided to try lamotragine an anti epileptic but not until I’d had a blood test to check my liver and kidney function oh and watch out for a rash because this can suppress your white blood cells.

My view on medication is that I’m neither for or against it, for some it’s a life saver and others it’s poison that dulls the emotions and sedates people into compliance but I do think people need to be more aware of what they’re taking and how it could affect them. Medication and the side effects are one of the reasons people with enduring mental health problems die on average 20 years earlier than the general population many of the health initiatives around weight loss and stopping smoking aren’t helpful to people who’s mediation has ground their metabolism to a halt or has increased the effects of nicotine on the brain and that’s not even looking at the social side of eating or smoking amongst people with mental health problems.

med2
The top picture shows a forest with the words this is an anti depressant, the word antidepressant is crossed out and underneith it says an amazing way to spend a Saturday. The bottom picture shows a variety of medication with the words this is shit, the word shit is crossed out and underneith it says prescribed medication that literally saves lives  

Medication has and continues to help me in combination with the therapy I’ve had it helps me do my job which in turn benefits my mental health, had I known more about the side effects before I was put on an antipsychotic maybe I’d have decided not to go on it but even if I’d made the same choice at least I’d have had all the information needed to make an informed decision.

There’s still a lot of stigma around being on medication and those memes about taking a walk in a forest really don’t help, there’s no shame in being on medication so please take your meds.

The most wonderful time of the year?

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A rather appropriate Christmas card I saw last year

I don’t like Christmas, call me Scrooge or the grinch but i really don’t enjoy it. Christmas can be a really difficult time for so many people there’s a big emphasis on joy and happiness, being around family and friends but the happy family isn’t a reality for many, my family diminished over the years with elderly members moving into nursing homes and dying and now I have no contact with my immediate family though the family Christmases I did have often were rarely happy ones.

My mental health tends to deteriorate around this time of year the run up to Christmas really makes me stressed and anxious despite knowing rationally that the day itself will most likely be fine and that I’m actually going to spend it with two people (and two cats) that I’m choosing to be with. One of the struggles I have with Christmas is that most of the things I do to support myself aren’t an option, I’m off work for two weeks, there’s a big reduction in public transport so as a non driver I’m limited on how much I can get out, health services are reduced as are most other things like council services and housing association (not that my housings are any use when they are in) it feels like the world shuts down and the prospect of over a week with nothing to do doesn’t feel me with joy but anxiety.

I need routine and structure to stay relatively sane (emphasis on relatively) though this structure is mainly external as left to my own devises I tend to spend too much time in bed or watching YouTube but the idea of days with nothing to do and falling back into bad sleep patterns reminds me of when that was all my life consisted of endless days of nothing stretching out ahead of me with little point in knowing what day it was when they were all the same, where I’d stay up half the night and sleep half the day (this was mainly a way of reducing the amount of time I had to spend around my mother) although how ever much I need routine I’m not missing getting in at 8:30 to prepare for volunteer training.

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My attempts at festivity fairy lights wrapped around my crutches and stick

Christmas is also shortly followed by new year and the thought of change and reflection, I’ve been reflecting a lot recently especially on relationships as I mentioned in my last post, I’m tired of missing people especially people who don’t miss me who made promises they didn’t mean I don’t want to miss them anymore. In January I’ll be once again going through medication changes in an attempt to finally get off antipsychotic medication something I’ve been wanting for a while.

Disability, chronic illness and mental health problems don’t go away for the holidays it just means different challenges and things that can affect pain or fatigue and trying to manage pacing while still enjoying the day.

To anyone struggling this Christmas, with isolation, pain or mental illness you’re not alone this dinosaur sends love and solidarity. If you need support during the Christmas period the Samaritans are always there and comedian Sarah Millican will once again be doing #joinin on twitter for the 7th year running, have as good a Christmas as you can a big Christmas RAWR from The Perks of Being a Dinosaur.

Ghosts of attachment past

PP hug tight
A rabbit hugging a hedgehog with the words “one day, someone is going to hug you so tight, all your broken pieces will go right back together” by paper panda

I was reading Amy’s mystery illness which prompted me to write this. A favorite person when you have a mental health problem like BPD isn’t always a friend, don’t get me wrong my best friend is the person I talk to daily, see as often as possible, share everything with (yes everything) she’s even been dubbed my wife but in the context of BPD and attachment she’s not my favorite person.

I know I’ve talked about attachment before and it’s likely I’ll talk about it again, it’s something I struggle with, being self aware isn’t enough to break the pattern it’s one thing knowing I have a type and knowing I get attached to certain people (mainly older women often those in the care profession) it’s another thing knowing how to manage those feelings especially when relationships end.

In MBT they encourage you to check things out to test your perceptions with reality, the black and white thinking that comes with BPD and the certainty that the way you think and feel is accurate often isn’t but the problem is sometimes it isn’t possible to check things out and test the feelings which leaves you questioning reality. There are 4 people in particular that I’ve had these strong attachments with, all of them were professionals and all of them left (I want to say left me even though I know that’s not true).

Building new relationships is hard it feels like a betrayal to get attached to someone else it’s also a challenge when dynamics and boundaries change and figuring out new relationships with different people especially people who aren’t my “type” it’s both refreshing and confusing. Changes in my life can be hard to when they affect relationships when moving from a volunteer to staff it changes the relationships with people around me.

People leaving is always hard and loss is painful but the difficulty I find is being left with questions or wondering whether they even cared at all, I don’t want to play the BPD or mental health card but it’s hard when you struggle with attachment issues and you feel led on that someone promised you something and made you feel as though you mattered but didn’t actually as ad they said they would. As I don’t know who reads this blog I am being intentionally vague here but the attachment to a favourite person someone you’ve relied on and told some of the most personal things about you and your life is to me something far more intense than a friendship even with someone close who is trusted completely where there is no risk in disclosing personal information. The loss is still there the right feeling in my chest, wishing for contact now joined but anger and frustration, I don’t want to miss them but I do.

One of my former favourite people a mental health professional said things that left me feel completely invalided and life my issues were insignificant, had it been someone else it may have been unpleasant but due to the relationship we’d had I felt as if I was losing my mind, again questioning whether they’d ever cared, I was angry and hurt and resented others for the reaction they got from this person. Leaving the service they work in and no longer attending the place I saw her has helped to an extent.

This post has been a bit disjointed and I’m not quite sure how to end it, It’s still hard to talk about attachment and feels very cliched to be attached to these older women, the mother figures, I find it embarrassing though writing it is less uncomfortable than saying it verbally. I hope that the more I talk about it or write about it the easier it will become and the less shame I feel and that in reading my posts other might feel less ashamed by their struggles too, writing about uncomfortable topics is a way of challenging myself and being open and vulnerable it’s also something very relevant at the moment struggling with letting my guard down and opening up, it would be nice if in time it wasn’t so hard to talk about and my attachments become less intense.

Rocket Science

If you can’t here expecting a review of a lush  bathbomb then sorry to disappoint you this is a rant about mental health services, maybe try Lulu or Jen

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A blue rocket shaped bath bomb made by Lush cosmetics

I am not a frequent flyer, I don’t have air miles I haven’t been on a plane in years and the last time I went abroad was to Edinburgh by train. Despite this I and other in a similar are labelled frequent flyers or regular attenders (this is meant to be the better term) because we find ourselves in situations where our mental health has got to a point when we need support and intervention often requiring medical attention as a result of harming ourselves.

Self harm isn’t something people do for fun or because they enjoy being in a&e it’s because emotions become overwhelming (and this is a very simplified explanation of a complex issue) and as I’ve written before the treatment once you’re at a&e is often not pleasant or equal to the treatment of people going in for accidental injuries with long waits in loud and busy waiting areas and psych liaison who at most may give you a leaflet and discharge you at 4am with no way of getting home.

It’ll be no surprise that this latest rant is inspired by a crisis concordat meeting this morning, two hours of frustration at having to bite my tongue in frustration at the language used and throwaway comments about people with personality disorders and the triggering content in the suicide prevention information listing the age groups and sex of people who ended their life and details of methods chosen again separated by sex.

Sometimes I look at the people sitting around the same table as me and wonder how they can be so oblivious to the blatantly obvious, do they really not see the link between the high numbers of people in Richmond who come into contact with the street triage team and the above average number of people detained under section 136 of the mental health act and the complete lack of crisis services in the borough? Are they actually surprised that people who are distressed or in crisis don’t want to travel an hour or more to an area they may not know to get support? And may not have the means to do so? It really isn’t rocket science or a difficult connection to make, I don’t exactly consider myself the sharpest tool in the box yet I can see it so why can’t they?

Aside from Mind since I’ve been a part of the crisis concordat (around 2 years now) and the outcome based commissioning program (coming up for 8 months) only one person has actually asked me about my experiences of a&e and the treatment I receive it still seems like a radical idea to most of the people involved to actually listen to someone who’s been in the very situation they’re talking about. Despite feeling like i’m banging my head against a wall (thanks Steph) and frequently coming away wondering if being there serves any purpose I still keep going if only to play my own version of crisis bingo.

Coping admirably

The back of one of my pink smart crutches with a sticker saying coping admirably

*clears out the tumbleweed*

Long time no blog, I’ve had a few semi written posts on the go but most of them seemed to get stuck half way.

There are lots of changes going on around me and in general this year has been full of them, I’m not normally a fan of change and prefer to keep a tight grip on familiarity instead yet it seems to keep happening despite my complaints. I don’t like uncertainty yet I’m bored; as ever my brain is a contradiction, I often feel as though I’m stagnating seeing people move on around me people I was in the same position as a couple of years ago have bypassed me it’s no coincidence that as I write this young people across the U.K. will be getting exam results and finding out where their future path lies thinking about my own education and career tends to leave me teetering on the edge of an existential crisis.
I’ve develop a habit of doing all the things I feel like I need to make up for lost time and lost years to catch up with all those ahead of me. Since joining Mind there have been many staffing changes and several younger members of staff have joined, people younger than me which as well as the problems with attachments to people who have left has brought some resentment and shame at being a volunteer managed by people younger than me; there are volunteers older than me but most of them have had lives already and at 32 I’m only just at the start of any kind of career.
One thing I’ve been trying hard to do is be honest and open more, in some respects I guess I’ve had to as I no longer have one person I can go to and no mental health support has probably forced me to do this. One thing they don’t tell you in therapy is how long things take to have an effect I finished the main MBT treatment in 2013 and sometimes it feels like my brain is only starting to process it, I’ve said since it finished that the ways it helped me aren’t so obvious as the main issues I have such as self harm haven’t gone away but expressing my feelings and telling people how I feel about them is something that although still a work in progress is probably the biggest change and recently I’ve surprised myself with these changes by telling people that I feel I’m trying to make up for lost time and compensate for the years of not doing anything.
The downside to doing all the things is I’m currently lacking direction, life doesn’t come with a map it’s more like a badly programmed sat nav that has you going all the way across the country for a pint of milk instead of 5 minutes up the road and right now I feel like I’m sitting trying to find the right direction but I’m not sure exactly where I’m going and I’m not sure the address is right but I sort of know where it is just not exactly. What I know is I want to work in mental health in a way I can use my lives experience, I know I enjoy working directly with people (oh how 16 year old me would have laughed at that) I also enjoy delivering training but I don’t know whether I want to work with adults or young people or what sort of project or service I’d like to work on. Sometimes I think life was easier when I was catatonically depressed, if anyone knows how I can resign from adulting please let me know until then I’ll be building myself a pillow fort.

Coping admirably sticker from hand over your fairy cakes

Surviving or thriving? (Another awareness week)

A mental health awareness week promotional image by the mental health foundation

Is there anyone who isn’t aware of mental health problems? Survive or thrive? Sink or swim?
Much like my life and my mental health the way I approach these awareness days/ weeks/ months are how I feel about can vary. This is partly down to whether I’m representing RB Mind or another mental health group or whether I’m just representing myself. Having started this blog at the beginning of the year having awareness events can be a prompt to write and I always try to be genuine, I want to present the reality – my reality of having a mind that is often not mentally healthy but the reality is it’s often not very interesting.

I often feel like contradiction and the idea of survive or thrive fits that nicely because I can be one or the other or both, although I want to be seen for the things I do at mind or with mental health awareness rather than the things I do to myself I also want to fight the illusion that I create. The term high functioning is thrown around a lot in various communities whether it be neurodiversity, learning disability or mental health it’s meant to be a compliment yet I’d happily drop the term into the nearest active volcano; I’m a (mostly) high functioning borderline I volunteer, I live alone, I’m in a relationship and while none of these are bad things they tend to be used to overlook the other side of things and the part the wants to sabotage all this because the more you do the less help you get.

Black and white thinking is something frequently mentioned with BPD but it’s not as simple as they make out my thinking can be very black and white in specific areas but in others I can see in technicolour. There’s a lot of mental push and pull especially when it comes to “recovery” I’m not a fan of the recovery model some days I want to move on from all this and thrive others I miss and crave the self destruction some days I go round in circles between the two and it’s times like this that being high functioning and self aware is actually painful because I can see what I’m doing to myself and others but there is no pull in the world strong enough to stop me from self destruction that can override the self hate and self sabotage.
I found myself arguing with someone the other day trying to break this myth that I’m high functioning and can manage without support that I’m ok that they only see one side of and it’s not the side that gets kicked out of a&e at 3am or that feels like the internal rage could burn up the entire world if it was fully released. So many things are subjective and thriving is one of them, as much as I welcome the idea of mental health awareness I’d like an awareness of the lack of services of the people who turn up to an appointment to find their care coordinator has left, of the people who feel that they’ve been chucked onto the mental health scrapheap because they’re not recovered and the high functioning people who are really just treading water and desperate to keep their head above water.

In search of validation 

Cardboard letters B P and D painted black with splatters of colour across them

I rarely feel pleased with myself for the things I’ve done, I get pleasure from the work I do and feel proud of the things that have been achieved but I don’t feel proud of myself. I’m not writing this because I want compliments or want people to tell me I’m great I struggle with praise and don’t know how to respond to it, criticism or negative comments are more familiar to me.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have a type, the same type of person I get attached to, there have been a few notable ones. There’s an obvious pattern it’s something I’m very aware of and even embarrassed by I’m 32 I shouldn’t be looking for a replacement mother, I know I’m not alone but it’s still hard to talk about, just writing this makes me feel ashamed.
I don’t have any contact with my family, I haven’t spoken to my mother in over two years and even when I did she wouldn’t be someone I’d go to if I wanted validation or praise so I look to other people to be proud of me even though I don’t feel it myself. I know everyone is different and I’m often told I’m hard on myself but I don’t see it, to me I’m so far behind my peers and where I should be by now. I have a tendency to separate my life into different boxes and present different sides of myself to different people, at work I want to be seen for being capable and functioning I’ve found it hard to show the parts that don’t function well as if I’m different people when I’m at home, capable by day self destructive by night.

Recently two of the people I looked to for praise or validation, the people I wanted to be proud of me and see me achieve things have gone from my life and aside from feeling that a large part of my support system has gone I don’t have those people I wanted to be proud of me and I’ve gone back to separating myself. I know the obvious answer would be to feel pride in myself and not look to others to feel validated but I’ve never felt good enough or that I’ve achieved anything and the behaviour patterns and attachment issues are hard to break and just move on from. 

End the stigma 

A large rabbit comforting a small rabbit with the words “life is tough, my dear but so are you” beneath it

There’s not a mental health charity or campaign that doesn’t talk about stigma around mental health issues but these campaigns as important as they are don’t address stigma within the mental health community or internalised stigma.

Mental health services are generally seen as the Cinderella service of the NHS and personality disorders services especially so, people with borderline personality disorder are often seen as attention seekers, over dramatic and untreatable (the name personality disorder doesn’t help), people often find if they say they have depression or post traumatic stress disorder or bipolar they receive better treatment especially in a&e.

Trauma is a complex issue and most people agree that there is a lot of overlap in mental health issues that come as a result of trauma, complex post traumatic stress disorder is generally less stigmatised especially within the medical world, some people challenge or avoid being diagnosed with BPD because of the stigma surrounding it and barriers it presents whether it’s an appropriate diagnosis or not. There is a general attitude that everything someone with BPD does is for attention that suicide isn’t serious and they don’t really want to end their life, some people even believe that personality disorder diagnosis especially BPD should be scrapped and replace with CPTSD.

I don’t claim to be the authority on all things mental health this blog slightly more coherent than the general stream of consciousness and thoughts rattling around my head and I really try to only focus on issues I have experience of as it’s not my place to talk about a diagnosis I don’t have but so many of the problems with people’s attitude to BPD in particular are around the behaviours that come with the condition or the unpredictable moods and changes some of which do cross over with other issues but I generally seen as BPD problems. If we removed the diagnosis people would still self harm, they’d still have problems with mood changes and relationships; if we transfer those issues to another label would we not just be transferring the stigma?

Of course I can understand why people wouldn’t want a stigmatising disgnosis but when people seem horrified at the suggestion that their diagnosis being BPD not bipolar or other people suggesting someone clearly has BPD based on their actions or behaviour it really doesn’t help those of us that are diagnosed with it and doesn’t help to change the attitudes to mental health problems when even within our own community there’s so much division and stigma.

Being diagnosed with BPD was about as surprising to me as someone telling me I had blue eyes it was very much a bears shit in woods and the pope is catholic situation. In the 8 or so years since I was told I had BPD I’ve had many different feelings about it from relief and validation to anger and hatred to shame but although I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m proud of it I am open about my diagnosis and don’t hide it. I do believe that there should be more clarity around the various overlapping mental health problems and issues that stem from abuse and trauma but if there are going to be changes then we need to find ways of removing the problems faced by people with BPD and other conditions with heavy stigma rather than carrying them over to another condition.

Image credit Louise Firchau – paper panda 

Dear Dr (a message to Healthcare professionals treating self harmers in hospital)

I’m a regular in my local, that probably doesn’t sound unusual or uncommon except I don’t mean my local pub I mean my local a&e department. Like around 1 in 4 people in the U.K. I have mental health problems and often require medical attention for self harm, I decided to write a post about my experiences in a&e as an open letter to medical professionals.

A collage picture of a wolf howling with song lyrics “Lately it’s hard to let you know that I’ll never learn” above and below

Dear Dr or health care professional

The NHS is underfunded and over stretched, you work long hours in a challenging conditions often with little thanks or support; it’s impossible to be oblivious to the current state of our health care system. When you’re juggling patients and trying to be in 3 places at once it’s not hard to understand why you might not want to spend an hour or more treating someone for self inflicted injuries especially when you’re coming to the end of a long shift; however you chose a career helping people and taking care of their medical needs and I am a person in need of medical attention.

If you’ve never experienced a mental health problem or felt a need to harm yourself then I don’t expect you to understand how I feel or why I do what I do but the way I got my injuries doesn’t change the way they should be treated. I’ve been treated in ways I can’t imagine people who are there after an accident would be. 
I’ve had wounds washed out in a sink in front of all the other cubicles and taken from one part of the department to another with nothing covering my arm while people stare at me often horrified, on one occasion my arm was covered so it wouldn’t scare the children in the paediatric a&e. 

I’ve been stapled with no local anaesthetic and told it’s fine because it doesn’t hurt (it does), I know this is in partly due to guidelines but I’ve also had malicious treatment where one Dr repeatedly pulled the Staples out and re did them all the while telling me if I didn’t stop I’d lose my arm while I sat in bed crying. I’ve had Drs tell me to think about how long it took them to treat me compared to the time it took me to hurt myself and when I’ve felt faint from blood loss and said I need to sit down told I can wait a couple of minutes. 

In my a&e notes it says most of the time that I’m not distressed or that I was making eye contact; apparently that means I’m fine. My mental state is frequently being judged as fine because I’m not shouting or being abusive or absconding however on times when I have been visibly upset I’m ignored.

I know accident and emergency staff are there to treat my physical injuries and leave the psychological side of things to the psych liaison but please remember that attached to the arm you’re treating is a person, I know my cuts can be deep and you may need another opinion but I’m not an exhibition for everyone to come and have a good look and discuss the damaged I’ve done, I see the signs that talk about dignity privacy and respect yet that doesn’t seem to apply if you’re a mental health patient; a little discretion wouldn’t hurt.

This isn’t intended as a criticism of the NHS I know I’d be dead without it but I didn’t choose to be this way, it’s something I’ve not been able to break away from despite treatment and no amount of snapping elastic bands of holding ice cubes has ever replaced it as a coping mechanism.

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