Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Ways in which we cope

A therapy appointment I had recently got me thinking about the ways in which I cope and process different events mentally in relation to my BPD.

It seems to me that as I'm growing older and learning more about myself, I'm subconsciously developing problem solving strategies as I face crisis's rather than recognising everything in life as a crisis by which I need to stop living.

Like most individuals, I've gone through a lot of stress in my 23 years. More recently, mentally I've been feeling quite overwhelmed with trying to juggle living between two houses, the final year of my degree, a job, therapy, saving for a mortgage and attempting to have a social life. Of course, life events have too contributed to this especially in the last year, what with a lot of ongoing distressing situations in Nathan's family and my Dad blocking me out of his life for what looks to be forever.

On Friday, my Nan was diagnosed with cancer.

Those of you who know me will know that to me my Nan is like an extra limb. I lived with her as a kid for several years and she brought me up in the way my Dad should have done. I see her now at least twice a week and she is one of the most influential and most important people in my life.

My way of coping with this news has been to me, slightly bizarre. I cried before finding out, and I cried when I found out. But I didn't react in the way BPD Amy would have done. I didn't throw things across the room, isolate myself, and refuse to speak about it. Instead, I processed it rationally and naturally, cried when I needed to cry, spoke to my friends and Nathan about how I felt, and allowed myself to openly feel infront of others.

I'm devastated, of course, and I'm not sure I can ever be prepared for the upcoming months. But I'm noticing changes in my behaviour which can only prove positive for me as I face the next few months ahead. I'm not violently lashing out at those I love anywhere near as much as I used to, although I have a lot of work to do in regard to my moods still. I'm still trying to keep going and keep living and not hide away no matter how much I want to. I'm trying to attend events and University and keep my spirits high even when they feel at an all-time low. This is such a different behaviour from ones I exhibited back in the day and I'm not sure whether they are helping or being a hindrance but I guess only time will tell.

Even now, 7 months on, my Dad's refusal to speak to me feels so raw. So many events from my life feel so raw and painful, even events which relate to my 'Letter to C' post 5 years ago. Names people have called me, times where I've been abandoned and people who have walked away. But the way I'm coping with them is different now. Maybe I'm realising that sometimes I really do just have to keep going no matter what life throws at me. That to stop means that my illness wins. That the 90% of negative energy that possesses me is allowed to possess. That getting up, getting showered and dressed, packing my bag and going to work or University is an example of the 10% of me that is a fighter. I don't always have to be a superhero. There's no perfect way to cope with anything but sometimes just getting through each day with a smile on my face, even if it feels pretend, is one step in the right direction and less of a move backwards.

As I mentioned in my last post, last November I took a dangerous overdose which was triggered by no life event or no significant memory. It was impulsive and scary and felt necessary all at the same time. Interestingly, no part of my Nan's cancer diagnosis or my Dad's departure made me want to do those things but random days where my depression takes over are the days where I feel powerless to self-destruction. I wish I could work out how and why I cope with these events differently, and whilst I'll probably never be fully emotionally regulated, there seems to be a lot of change there and a lot more strength then there used to be.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Time to Talk Day 2016

Just a quick note that I apologise if this post seems a little rushed. Life is crazy busy right now trying to reach the end of my degree whilst juggling a multitude of other things and my blog has taken a backseat. I'm sorry! To the blog...

I'm very lucky that over the last four years or so, I've felt able to have open and honest discussions about my mental health.

Work colleagues, friends, customers, family and family friends, you name it, there's rarely a person I know these days who doesn't know at least a tiny bit of my mental health history.

I guess over time it became natural to me to want to show other people that I was more than a label. That I could work, socialise, study and do all of the things that 'normal' people do whilst still internally battling with intrusive thoughts and complex emotions. These days, when I tell people, they tell me that they'd 'never have guessed' or follow with a compliment on how smiley I am and how they wouldn't expect somebody like me to be suffering with a mental health problem.

But the reality is, the battle is all too true and exists every single day, whether it be in the forefront of my mind or not. I was twelve years old when I first began showing visible signs of mental health difficulties, self-harming, refusing to eat, being withdrawn and crying all the time. Almost twelve years on from that and so much has changed, but at the same time not much has changed at all.

Over the years I've gone from a child who couldn't cope with her day to day life to an adult who can cope on the forefront but can barely process the emotions internally. However, I've come SUCH a long way and that is recognised by so many people in my personal life, whether it be school teachers, university tutors, family, friends, and most importantly my boyfriend Nathan.

I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that my deepest, darkest most intrusive thoughts occur between the months of October-December and getting to know myself and my mind means that I try and prepare myself for what seems to be an inevitability of falling backwards. My moods fluctuate rapidly as a result of my BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and my anxiety worsens in certain situations where I feel out of my own control, but these months of pure depression are the most terrifying and I've learnt that no matter how much I try to prepare myself, sometimes my emotions like to swing right back round and bring me right back to a state so deep I often feel I've never felt it before.

Last November, in one of these periods, I took another overdose. That's the first time I've admitted that online.

Why didn't I feel able to talk about it at the time? I'm not quite sure. I've never been so unwell following an overdose before and I knew that I didn't want to die, but didn't quite want to live at the same time. Half of me thought myself stupid for making myself potentially critically ill, and the other half thought I deserved it.

I find it interesting that I'm so happy to talk about my past experience of mental health, something that feels so distant from reality, But when it's so real, so raw, so present, I can't admit I'm not okay at the time. Part of me in a way still lives with shame that this still dominates my life to an extent. How can I admit that I'm not okay when it's not SO obvious to everyone else that I'm not okay? I guess one of my tasks for this year is to be more open and honest with myself and how I'm feeling. Tell people when I'm not okay. Be in tune with myself. Stop trying to block the thoughts out and instead just let them be. The more I suppress, the more events like last November will happen again as a way of 'coping'. I would be able to 'cope' better if I just talked and used the support that's available to me.

I feel so lucky and privileged to have the support I do. My lovely boyfriend Nathan of over 6.5 years, my friends who haven't walked away, my family, my wonderful therapist Michael who has helped SO much especially in the last 6 months or so, and my incredible University tutors. But the more I try to pretend I'm perfect and able to cope with the world when I can't, the more I deny myself the opportunity to be in touch with myself and my emotion. I'm getting better at it, sure, but I need to let my guard down sometimes.

Talking about mental health is something I've learnt to not be ashamed of. I'm in therapy. I've been on medication multiple times before. Sometimes I get off the tube a stop early if I'm feeling a panic attack coming. Sometimes I lash out at those closest to me. Sometimes I want to self-harm. Sometimes I cry constantly over the stupidest things because my emotions are so intense. That's okay though. Everyone has their own way of being and this is my story. The more I talk about it, the more it's accepted and not seen as taboo. The more people don't view the term mental health as a avoidant word. The more we can all show a little more self-compassion and realise that not all of us can be perfect all of the time.

The more we talk, the more we can change preconceived values and stigma. The more we talk, the more we can reassure others that they're not alone. The more we talk, the more we can change.