Archive for the ‘self harm’ Category

A reminder that life goes on around me

September 23, 2008

When you live with mental illness, your world is small. If something doesn’t affect you directly, the chances are that you won’t care about it, or even let it register. You spend each day battling intense mood swings, chronic lack of motivation, and bone numbing fatigue. You wish people would care more for you, or at least acknowledge the pain you are in. I know that I have frequently wished a serious physical ailment on myself, just so I can point and say, ”look, this is where it hurts.”

When I think back to this time last year, my mind is almost a blank. I was spiralling into a deep depression, which resulted in a hospital stay. I see news items now, anniversaries of events from a year ago, and I wonder why I have no memory of them. But time stood still back then. I was wrapped up in my own little world, protecting myself from any more bad news.

This evening my father phoned with the latest update of his cancer battle. What was scheduled to be key hole surgery to remove his kidney has altered following an appointment with his surgeon today. The cancer appears to have spread to his lymph nodes, which will mean a bigger operation, and in the longer term, a much lower survival rate. Dad was his usual self. Not making a big deal of it. His wife was more upset and would have told me more if he hadn’t been whispering to her in the background to not worry me. So the next few months will be filled with hospital visits and cancer jargon, whilst I firmly place my normal mask on my face.

And therein lies the problem. I resent having to act normal. I want to fall apart. I don’t want to be the strong one. Hello! Excuse me! Mentally ill person here! Never mind the man with cancer. Of course I care about him deep down. I was briefly in tears after I hung up the phone. But I can’t lie about this. My primary concern is for myself and how this will affect me and that’s a personality trait I can’t stand about myself.

But life doesn’t stand still just because I have chosen to. Dad has been wonderful in the past year, whilst I’ve bemoaned my life and spent time in hospital. I didn’t really stop to think how distressing it must have been for him to visit me there, especially as I’d told the staff not to tell him why I’d been admitted (overdose). He was, and still is, bewildered by his youngest child’s emotional state, and yet he calmly offers himself as a shoulder to cry on any time I need it. Will I be able to do the same? I’ll certainly do my best but I know it will cost me one way or another. I feel held to ransom by his cancer. The option of ending my life, should I want to, has gone, for I could never add that stress to Dads’ life. My coping strategies will need to be secretive again. Rather than put the world on hold, I now need to put my mental illness on hold, at least until Dad is well again. It’s going to be a difficult few months for us both.


Hallucinations or angry feelings?

September 17, 2008

Yesterday a woman walked past me at Starbucks and threw her baby off the mezzanine onto the floor below.

Well that’s what I saw. Until I blinked and saw her continue on past me, with the baby safe in her arms.  For a split second I felt horrified at what I’d seen, but have to admit to a nagging wish that it had been true, rather than my mind playing dirty tricks on me again.

I’ve pushed people over, stabbed pensioners in the queue in front of me at the check out, punched my father in the face, seen passing cars explode into flames. Just split second glimpses of what feels almost like a parallel world, where my anger and aggression has real consequences on those around me.

I’ve never physically hurt anyone other than myself. A lot of the cutting is to do with my guilt at these images. They’ve been part of my life for so long, since early childhood, that they are almost normal to me now. I brush them away fairly easily when they are of strangers, but the frequent thoughts and visions of killing people close to me disturbs me. I feel like I’m keeping a secret from them. Don’t they realise they have a monster in their midst?

There are different types of hallucinations too. Some seem to appear from nowhere, at a time when I don’t feel particularly stressed. Others I can very easily link to feelings of frustration or anger at those around me. I have tons of horrible thoughts about people too. And voices / thoughts out loud in my head, saying bad things about them or me.

I guess the difference between myself and someone with real hallucinations is that after that split second, I know they are my imagination. But that doesn’t make them any less unpleasant.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just a tiny step away from losing my grip on reality. It would be so easy just to give into it and lose the responsibility of being well. I wish I’d been born decades earlier and could have spent my life in an institution, safe away from everyone. No need to put on this pretence of being normal. Is that just the bpd talking? I hate being so confused about who I am and what I feel. I see the pdoc tomorrow and don’t know how to explain this to her. When I asked for the referral I was agitated and hyper. This week I’ve been depressed. Previously I was detached. Now I’m anxious. I seem to go from one state of mind to another so quickly and as each one passes I discount it as a period of self indulgence.

Today I have a huge urge to self harm. However, I know that it’s down to the upcoming meeting and I am determined not to succumb to these feelings. So much is riding on this appointment. I’ve been stupid to build my hopes up like this. I’ll go in there and be all passive as usual, overawed by her authority, and agreeing with everything she sais. I won’t tell her about the visions or the voices. I never do. I need to make her understand how much I’m struggling on a day to day basis without her over reacting and not letting me leave the hospital. I can’t be sick right now. Dad needs me too much. I just need something to get me past the next few months whilst he has his op and recovers or dies. Whichever comes first.

Therapeutic Communities. Do they work?

September 11, 2008


It’s nearly two years now since I finished group therapy and sometimes I wonder just what, if anything, I learnt from my experiences there. If you’d asked me a few years ago whether I would ever have considered giving a year of my life to full time introspection I would have laughed and replied ”Of course not, I’m not that mad!” Indeed that’s what I said to the community manager during my first assessment. You see, I’d asked for a referral for counselling to help with my longstanding depression. I was expecting to receive the bog standard hour per fortnight with a psychologist, so I was quite angry to sit there 8 months later and be told I should give up my job, go on benefits for a year, and attend a centre 4 days per week. I was horrified that anyone should think I was that ill and I returned to work and forgot about therapy. A year later, after a winter spent feeling suicidal and wanting to murder my work colleagues, I capitulated and found myself back in the same office, pleading for a second chance.

And so began the strangest, most frustrating, yet often most rewarding year of my life. Sitting in a room with up to 16 strangers and being expected to talk about your feelings is absolutely terrifying at first, especially when you wouldn’t recognise a feeling if it smacked you round the head and said ”hello i’m angry, now fuck off.” It took me quite a few months to settle in and stop staring at the floor. At first the staff encouraged me to speak, then they cajoled me, and eventually they threatened me with eviction from the community. At some point, and I’m not sure how, I started to talk.

I loved the weekly art therapy sessions. A chance to be a child again and splash paint around. Even better, a chance to criticise other people’s work afterwards, albeit it ahem constructively. Art therapy always brought the bitch out in me. Actually group therapy in general brought the bitch out in me, and I started to see that I had a nasty bullying side to my nature. But slowly, over time, I began to care about those other people. I formed friendships in the smoking area, one of which has lasted since leaving the community, and become one of the best friendships I’ve ever had. I finally managed to eat in front of the other members (it took 6 months) and after a few relapses, learnt to control my urge to self harm.

But it wasn’t all a bed of roses. The protective wall of self reliance and extreme independence I’d carefully constructed over the years was  beginning to develop holes. Being alone and managing my feelings during the days off was increasingly difficult. I had no crisis support, no medication, no friends other than those in the community, and the weekends stretched longer and longer. There were some issues which I never managed to talk about in group, sexual abuse being the main one. The one time I managed to bring it up I received a negative response from the therapists and I clammed up again after that. There was a huge emphasis on staying in the present, and moving on from the past. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you just desperately need someone to say ”That’s awful and it shouldn’t have happened to you”. Instead we heard a lot of ”You only have yourself to blame” and whilst they may not have meant the abuse, that’s how my mind interpreted it.

In the latter months I began to feel the pressure of being seen to have succeeded. The therapists thought I had turned a corner because I stopped fighting and started being positive about life. The reality was that I felt a huge responsibility to the newer group members and didn’t want anyone to know how frightened I was of leaving. So I put a smile on my face, shut off the part of my mind which still mourned the past, and sailed out of the centre on my last day with huge plans to get a job and report back to the follow up group as the most successful member ever!

5 months later I walked out of my new job. A few months later I was in hospital following a suicide attempt. I had pleaded with my doctor for help from the CMHT but that request was blocked by the community therapists, who felt I should be encouraged to be responsible for myself. They failed to understand that after 20 years of mental illness I knew how to recognise the signs, and I knew the difference between a blip and a serious slide into depression. I’d stopped opening my mail and paying my bills. I was close to being evicted from my home, and couldn’t even get dressed most days, let alone wash my hair or eat properly. The worst of it was that after a year of learning coping strategies, I knew I was fully to blame. So I hated myself even more. The therapy had been a last resort for me. Lets face it, if a year of full time treatment from the NHS doesn’t fix you, what will? And they sure did rub it in every day how lucky you were to have a place there.

Before I started therapy I had managed to hold down a full time job for 6 years, albeit with a lot of sick leave. Now I sit at home, on benefits, becoming more and more isolated as the weeks go by. My confidence is shot to pieces. I feel guilty for not acheiving a happy life, for not being ‘fixed’. I have a new (to me) diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality traits, which comes with the knowledge that I’ll be left to get on with it on my own now. It turns out that the therapeutic community was specifically for people with personality disorders, yet that term wasn’t used once the entire time I was there. None of us had been told about our diagnosis. Imagine being a depressive and going somewhere where you are constantly told off for feeling low. That’s how it is when you have a PD, because suddenly you’re not allowed to have ‘real’ depression anymore. You’re just acting out or being non compliant. If they’d just been honest with me from the start, I could have worked with them to overcome this condition. Instead I spent months in a state of confusion, wondering why I was being blamed for being ill.

To sum up, when I think about the TC I often have very angry feelings. Their biggest failing was the follow up care once you leave. To go from 4 days per week to one hour per month is a big wrench and something they really should consider changing.

However, there are positives too. I have learnt how to articulate my feelings. I recognise the triggers for most of my mood swings and I know they won’t last for ever. I’m in contact with my family again for the first time in several years, and I’ve learnt not to judge them in such black and white terms. If I could start that year again I would put so much more into my time there. I would make myself speak up about the past and work through it, rather than shut it away. And lastly, I would have taken the issue of boundaries more seriously and not got drunk and slept with another group member a few months after finishing the programme. Oops. I’ll just blame that bit on being borderline lol.

I’m making a distraction box

September 9, 2008

I’m still having strong urges to self harm or od, although i’ve managed not to do it as yet. Anyway, a friend suggested to me that I make myself a distraction box, full of lovely things to keep me occupied when the urges come.

So that’s my plan for today. A trip around town, mostly rooting round the charity shops as I don’t have much money. I’ve thought of a few things to go in there. Stress balls, red pen for drawing on my arms, a pack of cards, notebook and pens for drawing or writing things down, puzzle book, sudoko book, some funny postcards, the leaving cards i was given when i finished group therapy. Perhaps some glue and glitter and other craft items to play with. Some photos of people i care about. Emergency cigarette. DVD of chicago which i love.

I don’t need any excuse to go shopping so this is going to be fun!

trying to fight the urges

September 7, 2008

I want to OD. i want to cut my wrists. i don’t want to die. i want attention. there i’ve said it. i want attention. i want a couple of days in the hospital being looked after. but once i do it i can’t control the outcome and that is what is stopping me. i don’t want to be sent to the psych ward. i don’t want anyone in my house because it is dirty enough that kim and aggie would be scared to come in! i’d be so ashamed to let people know i live in this filth. yet if they knew i would probably get the help from the cmht that i need, so i’m not doing myself any favours by not telling them really. that inbuilt fear from childhood of not letting the neighbours know, is so ingrained in me.

there’s also the risk that the od would kill me by accident too. much as i would quite like to die, i can’t do it at the moment. my dad has cancer and is due to have his kidney out in a few weeks time. the last thing he needs right now is to organise a funeral. he’s on holiday this week and that’s why the urge is strong now. the thought that i could do this and be back home by the time he returns to the country. so he never needs to know about it. i resent him for being ill. i’m the one who’s meant to be ill! that’s what the child in me thinks anyway. my neighbours are away for the weekend. i’m feeling very alone. typical borderline. i slept all day to avoid the thoughts. got up and had to run to the shop before it closed to buy chocolate to binge on. thought it would help my mood. it hasn’t. hate being held to ransom by this bloody eating disorder.

i know i’m not suicidal and i know i’m not all that low. this is just a dip and i’ll get over it. i just hate it right now. i’m having a pity party and i hate partying on my own. aah well, just as well that i’m too lazy to walk to a and e tonight so i’ll probably just sleep this off on the sofa.

BPD. Not a mental illness?

September 3, 2008

How do you define a mental illness? For years I was awarded the ‘reactive depression’ tag. Most of my care providers were sympathetic. They understood that just getting out of bed was a daily battle for me during those bad times. They knew that I only went to see them when I’d deteriorated to the extent that I could barely function for the cloying black fog which had settled around me. They let me cry in their surgeries. They gently encouraged me to take baby steps back to good health again. They agreed that mental illness was a bitch and that I was likely to suffer these relapses throughout my life.

But then a pdoc who barely knew me slapped a personality disorder diagnosis on me. ”You’re not mentally ill. Just mildly depressed. You need to stop stomping around this ward and remember there are people here who are much worse than you.”

And suddenly the reaction at my gp’s changes subtly. There are no suggestions of a future referral to therapy anymore. When I lose my control and dare to cry in front of them I’m told that my symptoms are just part of being me and there’s nothing they can do about it. They want me off meds because there are no meds for bpd. Don’t get me wrong. They’re not rude or angry, just dismissive. Afterall, a doctor wants to treat a patient and make them better. So why invest any time in a bpd’er who can’t be treated?

It appears I don’t get depressed anymore. Not like a ‘normal’ person. My mood swings are just the child in me acting out. Just ignore her. Selfharming? She’s just attention seeking. Ignore it and she’ll go away. We don’t like her because she doesn’t do anything to make herself better.

I’ve spent years battling these moods. I’ve held down jobs most of my life, despite feeling like I’m being thrown to the lions everytime I walk into a room full of people. I’ve worked hard in therapy. I’ve taken on board what people have said to me. I’ve accepted full responsibility for my behaviour and succeeded in changing much of it. I’ve learnt from the therapists how to look and act normal, to become less offensive to the public by hiding how I feel. I’ve spent a year at a therapeutic community, being broken down and built back up again into a more socially acceptable shape. I’ve lost who I am, if I ever even knew who that was. I’ve conformed. I’ve let people belittle my feelings for the past couple of years and tell me I bring my depressive moods on myself.

And where has it got me? I danced out of that TC on a high. Buoyed up by their expectations and insistance that I would be fine. That I could go back to work, maybe go to college again, be normal. 3 months later I started to slip. I tried to talk about it to them. Ask their advice. They put their hands over their ears. We’ve given you the skills. Go away and use them. Don’t mess up our success rate.

I knew what was coming. I’d been there before so many times. The only difference was that this time I only had myself to blame. I’d been told to let the past go. So when the urge to die became stronger each day, so did the guilt. Because if you’re not mentally ill and you want to die, then you must be a bad person right?

So that’s where I am now. Facing years of forever battling someone of my own creation. Because here in the UK a personality disorder is still seen as self inflicted. And whatever the reports may say, it is still a diagnosis of exclusion.

On being fat

August 31, 2008

I’ve been a compulsive eater for as long as I can remember. I can remember being in trouble at 4 years old for eating all the chocolates in the house, but my problems spiralled out of control when I hit puberty. Partly due to the hormones I suppose, but mostly to do with the available cash I had from my paper round, all of which went on sweets until I started smoking a few years later lol.

My mother was as thin as a rake and that’s where the problems started. I really feel that if less emphasis had been put on my puppy fat as a child, I wouldn’t be over 20 stone now. Fat women were always pointed out to me with the promise that I’d end up like them if I didn’t stop eating. I was told I’d need to take more baths as fat people smell. That I couldn’t have long hair because it makes my face look fatter. At the time I was at the most, 10lbs overweight.

During my twenties I drank (a lot) which helped keep my weight down to a fairly acceptable level. But since hitting thirty I’ve gained at least 6 stone, especially since I left work last year. My day revolves around getting and eating food. I live on ready meals and snacks, despite loving healthy options and veg. The depression makes me so lazy and fatigued that just the thought of making a sandwich is too much for me a lot of the time so I buy preprepared food. Yet I have the energy each day to take a bus to my supermarket and buy binge food. So of course this fatigue is all in my head.

Today I was sent some photographs of myself taken recently on a day out. I barely recognised the woman in them. Huge arms. Rolls of fat and a disappearing chin. I look ten years older than I am. How did this happen without me realising? Perhaps because I refuse to have a full length mirror in the house.

Self harm scars can be hidden from most people. Drunkeness can often be explained away as socialising. But fat is seen by everyone. From the kids on the street who shout ”ugly cow” to the men in the pub who push their friend into you and shout ”she’s yours” whilst they all laugh.

Yes I eat too much. No I don’t exercise. Yes it’s my fault. God I know all that. But when you see that fatty on the street, stop to think for a second. Would anyone who was happy really let themselves get into that state? From the moment I wake up I panic about where I can get food from. I’m sat here right now obsessing about the indian food in my fridge. I’ve tried Weightwatchers, National Slimming Centres, Atkins, Caveman diet. I’ve tried swimming until someone laughed at me. I’ve tried exercise dvd’s at home but just can’t motivate myself. Every time I attempt to restrict my binges the urge to cut comes back ten times worse. So I have a choice between scars or fat. Hobsons choice. I wish I could starve myself.

To blog or not to blog?

August 29, 2008

As the title of my lovely new blog suggests, I spend most of my time welded to my big red squidgy sofa. In that case, what on earth do I have to talk about? Well we’ll have to see what transpires I guess. Probably a lot of self obsessed musings about my depression, coupled with the occasional bitter rant at mental health ”services”.

So a bit about me. 35 yrs old, terminally lazy (my gp calls it chronic motivational problems but bless him for trying to be tactful), various dx over the years of reactive depression, bulimia, compulsive eater and the latest (drumroll) ………. emotionally unstable personality traits! Wonderful. It says a lot about me that my reaction to the latter was to take umbrage at not being given the full blown personality disorder diagnosis. I feel like i’ve only acheived 40% in an exam lol.

I’ve been in and out of psychiatrists offices since my teens, with varying success. Some were good. Some were bad. Sometimes I was good, sometime I was bad. Most of the time I just didn’t click with them and I do tend to make my mind up about people very quickly (i.e they’re all out to get me).

Last year I had a mini meltdown which resulted in a months rest in one of our wonderful NHS psychiatric hospitals. An eye opening experience as it had been many years since my last ‘holiday’ and one which I am yet to move on from.  But more on that another time.  On my discharge form I noticed my new diagnosis. ”What’s this?” I said. No answer or explanation was forthcoming from the nurse, and so started a long journey into the world of bpd and the internet. For the purpose of this blog I’ll be using the term bpd traits, partly because it’s more known than the term EUPD and also because that’s what my gp calls it. Also because having read up on it at length, I’m fairly certain that I display most of the traits if not all of the time.

So why start a blog today? Well it’s partly because I should be getting dressed and going out to the shop, so this is the perfect excuse not to. Secondly, a few things have been going on recently which have made me more introspective than usual. I don’t really expect anyone to read this (oh ok yes i do, i’m nothing if not an attention seeker), but I have found that keeping a diary helps me occasionally, and hopefully this will act as another distraction technique.

I’m a self harmer. Over the years my destructive coping mechanism has varied from drinking, over eating, cutting, hair pulling, to hitting myself in the head with a hammer or grinding gravel into my knee in the school playground as a kid. Self harm has been part of my life for as long as i can remember, but I always tended to only see the cutting as SI in the past. It’s never been something that I think of as cool. I love my scars. I hate my scars. I hide them from the general public, but I do tell the doctor if I’ve done it. A couple of nights ago I cut my wrist. I didn’t slash it. Nothing so dramatic. Just a cut deep enough to need steri strips and a quick trip to A&E. I’d put it off for two weeks.  In the last month I’ve been dealing with an attempt at coming off meds which failed and also finding out that my dad has cancer. I also have an upcoming appointment with the consultant from hell, although the dreams I have where I strangle her in her office are most enjoyable lol. But she deserves a post of her own.  Anyway the upshot is that I’ve been feeling very detached and the cutting was to bring me back to life. It worked for a while. Enough for me to start writing things down here.

So that’s who I am I guess. More to come.