So it’s been a little while since I last posted anything on here. I’ve had major writers block and have been lacking motivation- but I’m back now with a post about something that happened to me recently. I’m currently in the long process of gaining trust with my family to be left to have time alone. It’s a struggle for me to be given time on my own without using it to hurt myself. It is a constant battle between wanting to show my family (and self) that I can use time alone safely and wanting to hurt myself so very badly. The other day I was given a few hours home alone and I managed to get through it without doing anything. Most people will see this as a good thing, something to be proud of. But for me I feel horrendously guilty for “wasting an opportunity” to self harm. Later in the day I spoke to my mum about how guilty I was feeling and she said something to me that was really helpful. She told me that everyone who is trying to overcome an addiction says that in 10 years time they don’t want to be still damaging themselves in this way. It’s all very well and good to say that you want things to be different years down the line but one day you are going to have to make a change. Today day I made that little change. I managed to take a step so that in the future I won’t be hurting myself anymore. And for what it’s worth, I’m a little proud of that.
I currently have a diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder, PTSD and bulimia. I am in recovery for each of these illness’ and I am giving it all I’ve got. Recovery is about enjoying the better days as much as you can and looking after yourself through the darker days. This isn’t easy and sometimes it can really feel like a losing battle, but I recently stumbled across some statistics around BPD which surprised me quite a bit. They were;
-BPD has remained relatively unknown. However, researchers estimate that about 1.4% of the population has BPD
-About 70 percent of people with BPD will make at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime.
-between 8 and 10 percent of people with BPD will complete suicide; this rate is more than 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population.
Despite all of this I have made it to a point that I am happily and safely living at home with my family and enjoying life with the help of my community mental health team. I am in no way ‘fixed’ or fully recovered but I am always making those baby steps in the right direction. I am proud of myself and all other BPD sufferers for making it through to this point (whatever point others may be at- you have still done incredibly well). I have attempted suicide countless times and to still be here living, breathing and fighting is remarkable and by the sounds of some of these statistics the odds weren’t exactly in my favour. So I will wear my recovery with pride because against the odds my baby steps have got me here and now the road ahead is looking a lot brighter.
My recovery from self harm is moving full steam ahead and I have recently passed the five month milestone since I last cut myself. I am trying not to think about it too much since my self harm urges have been getting pretty intense as winter is always a hard time of year and cutting seems to be relentlessly nagging me. Something that has been helping me a lot for quite some time (and can be used in other times of struggle) is making lists and mind maps. The way I am using it at the moment is writing reasons why my life is better without self harm. It helps me to think of all of the things I am fighting for, because I lose sight of those reasons when I am in the midst of tackling urges. I have been known to cover several pieces of paper writing the same reason to continue staying strong over and over again. At the moment I am finding it helpful to remind myself of the day to day crap (for want of a better word) I had to face when I was cutting regularly. I no longer have to spend a small fortune on dressings and other first aid items. I haven’t had an awkward repetitive conversations with a member of A&E staff in the early hours of the morning for quite some time now. I haven’t had to deal with infected self harm wounds and all of the pain that comes along with it. But above all else I now have the power to choose. I know this might sound a bit strange at first, but when you have been living with a behaviour so closely and at such an intense level it will begin to limit you in every aspect of your life. I never realised how powerful this reason is to help me stay strong, until I managed to have some distance from cutting. It has put me back on track so many times. I need to remember that cutting brings a moment of relief but as soon as you let it back in, it becomes nothing less than completely suffocating. Recovery is the only option and it does not matter how many tears and hours of struggling it takes I am determined to get my life back and achieve all of the things that I have my heart set on. Focus.
I know everyone always says that they much prefer giving gifts than receiving- *pause for groan at the cliche statement* But this year I have really found this to be the case. Last Christmas I didn’t have the chance to buy or make any presents- and there are only so many risk free christmas crafts a bunch of mentally ill teenagers can make. I have made many a scrapbook page on all of the things I have been enjoying this festive season that I didn’t have access to last year. Such as;
- waking up in my own bed
- wrapping presents
- fairy lights
- A christmas tree!
And many more! But on christmas morning, 2015 the moment that made me the most thankful to be at home was handing over a gift that I have chosen or made, in wrapping paper with a ribbon that I tied around it. Giving someone a gift that I put thought into- I didn’t have the spare thoughts last year to even contemplate what someone would have liked for christmas. Having the means to get my loved ones gifts was really priceless. The gift of giving has gotten even sweeter and made for an incredibly special christmas.
This time last year things were very much falling apart in regards to my mental health. It doesn’t feel like 12 months ago I was nearing the beginning of my 9 month hospital admission, the past 12 months feel very blocky. Before admission, during my admission- things were still tits up, during admission- things were getting better and finally- home again! I am finding it really hard to think about the past and just how unwell I was 12 months ago, so in an effort to change the way I have been thinking about this time of year. I am going to share some goals that I will hopefully be able to say that I have achieved by 11th December 2016.
- I would like to be writing more and more.
- I hope to be able to go into a shop and talk to a member of staff if I can’t find something in store.
- I would love to do some volunteering again
- I want to be able to confidently talk to strangers/companies over the phone
- To be maintaining a healthy weight (this is a big one, not too much pressure on it!)
- Wear short sleeves- outside
- Catch up on all of the water-sports that I missed out on this year.
- To continue staying strong and not cutting
- maintaining healthy relationships with friends and loved ones
- Have a tattoo!
These are just a few of my goals for the upcoming 12 months. I don’t want them to be huge, but they are meaningful and realistic and I am excited to start reaching them.
Yes is the short answer. Yes, I spend a large part of my day- everyday feeling sweaty palmed, heart racing and generally just pretty anxious. But when this question was asked today after I had just ordered 2 drinks for us both- neither of which were ‘easy’ they both were the kind of drinks that needed eye contact and a short conversation, above the usual “would you like ice with that?”. I smiled with the normal ‘yes, yes this does make me anxious..’ But rather than just ending the conversation there I decided to add to that “yes this does make me anxious, but I guess you just have to pick your battles don’t you? I mean if I didn’t do any of the things that make me anxious I don’t think I would ever leave the house!”. I have had this mind set for a very long time and when I want to withdraw from this mantra I always have my Mum behind me pushing me forward. I know this must be a hard thing for her to have done, to make me go to school, appointments, social meet ups- regardless of the tears. It might seem a harsh thing to do by other people looking in, but a lot of mental health recovery is like this. Black and white, yes or no. I guess it might be because mental illness is such a messy and emotional thing so the way you need to combat that is by having people around you who will stand firm and support your ambition when you are flagging. It’s exhausting, just the same as recovery from a physical illness, you have to push yourself work through things that are painful knowing that you are moving towards a bigger goal of getting stronger. I know that I can become very critical of myself and feel like I am not making enough progress. But it is important to (again) surround yourself with people who are going to point out how all those baby steps are starting to add up and you are achieving a lot. So try to go easy on yourself, you are doing the best you can. slow and steady will win the race.
All of the cliche comparisons mental health professionals will give you, for me none of them will be as accurate as the metaphor of my mental health being like a game of wack-a-mole. I don’t know if this is more relevant because of my BPD diagnosis. As all of the elements that come along with BPD can be overwhelming and hard to keep stream line and all in check. But for me the balance of PTSD, bulimia and my good old friend- self harm are the fun factors that I link mainly with my seemingly never ending game of wack-a-mole. Just when I have made it a week free from bingeing my mind seems to up the anti with the urges to cut myself, or hey maybe jumping out of that second story window would be a good idea… or how about putting my hand in the flame of that candle? NO BRAIN we don’t do that! WACK! The main behaviours seem to rotate endlessly and it is extremely tiring to be fighting all of them at the same time. I struggle to keep them all under control and it seems to me that there is always one behaviour leading the way and the others are less intense as I am in the depths of whatever my focus is on. At the moment bulimia is taking centre stage. I haven’t gone a week free from bulimic behaviours in months. This must sound pretty negative and you would be right if you were left to remain to looking at just one side of my recovery. On the other side you will see how I am coming up to 4 months free from self harm at the end of this month and I have never felt stronger. So, where does this leave me? Well… I am going to continue plodding on, I am going to continue fighting all negative behaviours as much as I can. I am find it easier to fight self harm and I am having more success in not using those behaviours, but this doesn’t mean that I am not having success with battling bulimia, because I am! I have been making progress but I am trying to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day (another one of my favourite sayings 😉 ) and I need to keep pushing myself because slowly but surely I am making baby steps in the right direction. Sorry this is kind of an open ending but this is real life recovery and I am definately a work in progress I am just very happy to be sharing it with you guys:)