This new year I have set myself a goal to try and do a doodle a day and also complete a writing prompt a day. Yesterdays writing prompt was quite an interesting one- “compare your past self to your current self”. My first reaction was a very negative one- looking just at the lack of change in self harming behaviours. Thinking they have had little change over the past few years, thinking that I’m not doing anything with my life and generally thinking very negatively. Taking another look at the question a little while later I have come back with a much more rounded answer to this prompt. In the comparison of 17 year old me to now 19 year old me you can see there has been a huge amount of change and progress. Although I am still struggling with negative behaviours, there is so many more things in my life that have changed in the past 2 years that I can be so so proud of. This time two years ago I was a month into a psychiatric hospital admission and was spending most of my day harming myself- to the point that I wasn’t safe to be left alone and was eventually put on 1:1 observations. This time two years ago I was 3 hours away from home, scared and struggling to eat. I had just turned 17 and was in quite possibly the darkest place I have ever been. Two years on, I am at home and have just celebrated my 19th birthday. I am still struggling massively with self harming behaviours but I am able to keep myself safe most days. Over the past two years I have made some amazing friends and learnt to let people into my ‘world’. To not automatically shut everyone out for fear of being hurt. I am still finding it hard to open up, but I know now that there are lots of people who want to help me and reaching out for them is always an option. I may have not changed as much as I would have liked to outwardly but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been change. I am proud of the progress I have made, it has been hard to get to this point but I have faith that in the end it will all be worth it.
Anniversaries are always a bit of a weird one. It’s been two years since I was admitted to hospital. Two years since I met some of my best friends and grew a second family. Two years ago I was spiralling so quickly into an illness that makes it hard to let anyone in, thinking that I wasn’t sick enough for treatment. Looking back I can now see that I was really very unwell. It was never an easy path to take. Being admitted to a hospital 3 hours away from home so close to christmas, but everyone knew it was the last option we really had. It was that or I would die. I find it so scary that a mental illness is so strong that it can make you think that you aren’t ill at all. Two years on from the beginning of my admission I am still close friends with many of the other patients who I met there. I have an even closer relationship with my family than before and my general outlook on the world has changed. I find it difficult to have gone through an experience that not many other people have been through. But as time goes on I know that difference isn’t bad. The memories from that ward will stay with me forever. The good the bad and the ugly. They have been the product of many a good story! But mainly I’m just happy that I’m still here.
I have been struggling a lot at the moment. It’s really hard to find the light when it all seems very dark but I have met some people in the recent months that have really gone the extra mile to help me. I recently found myself in a bit of a sticky situation where my brother ended up having to call me an ambulance. One of the paramedics that came was particularly lovely, she helped me to follow the emergency treatment that I needed to have. She spoke to me about my blog and writing to distract me from the whole situation. We spoke about writing quite a lot and I gave her the name of my blog so that she could look it up on her break. As I was waiting in A&E a notification came up on my phone of a new follower and new likes on my blog. You guessed it, it was the lovely paramedic who also has her own blog! After silly amounts of blood tests and junior doctors failing with canulas. She came into A&E with another patient but briefly sat next to me to say that she has been reading and enjoying my blog and can’t wait for my next post, so thank you lovely paramedic for going that extra mile to make that shitty situation so much better.
It is coming up to a year since I was discharged from a 9 month long inpatient admission in a adolescent psychiatric unit. It has been a very interesting year. Somethings were more challenging than I had thought they would be other things were a lot easier than I thought they were going to be, but over all life out of hospital is not what I expected it to be. Its been interesting to see that all of my hospital friends have followed different paths since we all left the same ward. Some have gone back into CAMHS wards others have turned 18 in the past year and have been admitted to adult psychiatric units. Some of us have gone back to school and gotten part time jobs. Some people have really distanced themselves from everything to do with their time in hospital. Everything that everyone has done is understandable and has its own merits but it is interesting how we have all done such different things in the past 12 months. For me, the past year has been about finding my feet at home and working with my mental health team to get the right balance of support while also maintaining a social life. The friends I have made in hospital are a huge part of my life still, we are a cheer squad for each other through the tough times and we are there to enjoy the happy times too- because we all know how hard we have each worked for those smiles. I’m incredibly aware of the fact that some jokes I made in hospital are not funny to people from the ‘outside world’ (keeping hospital friends close for these moments is crucial.) I also have come to realise some of the stories I hold from hospital are unique and hysterically funny to people who I have re-told them too. I’ve learnt that a year on from discharge I still am in awe of the staff I met on the ward and miss them everyday. I have also learnt that it isn’t a bad thing to miss people and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling this way it’s a natural human emotion after-all. The past 12 months have made my relationships with my family grow even stronger and made every happy moment (however small) that we share together even sweeter. With my loved ones help I have been learning more than ever to find things that I truly love and grab onto them with both hands because if I’ve learnt anything in the past year its that those are the things that life is all about.
There are many, many items that came in with me on the day of my admission. A lot of these didn’t make it through the 9 months, for various reasons. Most of which are through self harm incidents but that isn’t what I am going to be commemorating in this post, this is a tribute to some of the items lost in other ways. I hope they rest in peace somewhere in the vortex that is the staff office, or now at home with the wrong patient.
- Patients would have things we could use in communal areas or under supervision. Once you gave these items back into the office it was a slight raffle as to if you would be seeing them again.. *prays staff member will put item back into the correct named box with other belongings*
- My converses (still internally crying about this one)
- countless items of clothing- lost in the great room stripping of 2014
- Headphones, so many pairs of headphones.
- My winter coat
- Toothbrushes, soaps and deodorant…- These ones are pretty essential to daily life so they were replaced pretty fast, even if I did go through the same cycle multiple times.
- The books that were borrowed but never returned (I’m talking to you, night staff)
All of these material objects are small fry when it comes to the reality of life and death. Thankfully I gained so much more from my admission than I could have ever lost.
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 was at our local GP surgery today with Mothership. The appointment was booked for something irelivent (at least irrelivent to this blog) but as we were in there the topic of my scars came up, we began to talk about if I have any options to reduce the scarring or to help with the pain I experience. When the seasons change and the scars become painful (due to the change of temperature.) For the first time ever, the option of having some of the bigger scars surgically removed came up. My Mum has been very patient and understanding towards my thoughts and emotions around this being a possibility for me in the future. Part of me wants my scars to go away so maybe some day soon I could slip past people in the street without stares or comments. But another part of me is emotionally attached to the story behind all of my scars, they all add up to a bigger picture and I know that I will still be left with scars after the surgery and maybe this could become part of the story too, I can’t help but feel hesitant in hiding parts of my past. The good the bad and the ugly- it has all shaped me into the person I am today and yes, that includes my scars too. My scars start conversations, yes not all of them are ones I wish to have but every so often people share hushed comments of a path we have both crossed. Just being the person that I am and growing more confident in my body -that is ever changing has the potential to open up peoples minds to difference. It is okay to have scars, stretch marks, birth marks and everything in between. They are individual to you and make you the wonderful version of yourself that you are today. Cliche I know but it is very true, beauty goes further than skin deep. This all being said I am making the decision to not have my scars surgically removed. I only want to have medical treatment if it will reduce the pain. I didn’t think I would be making this choice 4 years ago. I want to see how far I have come and seeing that journey on my arms keeps me motivated to keep on keeping on.