Sunday, 24 May 2020

It hurts

It hurts 

My soul is tired from the constant wearing of a mask,
It hurts
The brokenness of my mind so obvious to me,
It hurts
This broken mind is so fragile, yet you can’t see that
It hurts
My heart is heavy from the inner screams that can’t escape,
It hurts
The momentary strength fades away as the pain takes over and
It hurts
The laughter from my friends, I decide is about me, and they can’t see that
It hurts
I’ve lost myself in the fear and the chaos, I can’t find myself again and
It hurts 
I’m overwhelmed and I’ve forgotten who I am,
It hurts 
I’m beaten down, with shame, with fear, with despair 
It hurts
This heart is beating, but I don’t want it to be and each time it beats 
It hurts 
When everything is out of control, nothing is going right
It hurts 
The pride I once had in who I am has disappeared and
It hurts
The shadow in which the monsters lurking and is all too familiar to me
It hurts 
When even giving up causes pain to you and those around
It hurts
But I must hold out hope for the day when no longer does 
It hurt

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Reasons to Recover #2

10 more Reasons to Recover
Inspired by a Reasons to Recover workshop

1. To be able to look in the mirror and not hate myself
2. To go out with friends and be anxiety free
3. To feel happy
4. To have a loving relationship
5. To have the confidence to date
6. To realise I am more than my diagnosis's
7. To be there for Esther and Logan, my God Children 
8. To trust my relationships and not have paranoia surrounding them
9. To go back fully to the job I love
10. To be spontaneous without worry.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

The Reality of a Psych Ward

The Reality of a Psych Ward

I asked some friends to share their experiences of the reality of an NHS psych ward. Maybe you've never been to a psychiatric ward, I hadn't done before April 2019, or maybe you want to read the differing experiences and views of 4 friends and myself. I hope this gives you a glimpse into the reality of a psych ward. 

Maddie - "I knew if I didn’t go into hospital, I wouldn’t be here at all."
I felt at my safest on the ward and met the most interesting and strongest people I know. Everyone stigmatises mental health and think it would be most scariest horrible place but during my crisis, it was my safety. However, I didn’t get what I needed from my admission- Therapy and plan of continuing recovery care. I did make a friend who can understand totally how I feel and she inspired me to start writing and I found my voice. Despite what anyone says or thinks, I know if I didn’t spend 2 weeks in hospital during my crisis, I wouldn’t of been safe and I definitely wouldn’t be here today- continuing to fight and making first steps to recovery. I finally saw the ward consultant psychiatrist, who took time to listen to me. The consultant was first person to put it altogether and make referral to a neurologist. She also put together my whole history and symptoms and diagnosed me with EUPD as well as PTSD. 

Overall to sum it up, my 2 weeks in hospital was best decision I made during my crisis episode, it wasn’t perfect but I learnt a lot about medication, care, stigma and ultimately myself. It helped to keep me safe and I found my courage, fight, voice and understanding, which together has brought me to where I am now. Recovering. I will not be made to feel ashamed that I went to a psychiatric hospital for 2 weeks to enable me to survive a mental health crisis. I have learnt that it was right and safest thing for me at the time and it has enabled me to take the first steps towards my recovery and has been a huge learning experience, which I am grateful. I got the protection I needed to enable me be where I am today. 

Brooke - A psych ward isn’t all about lovely nurses and doctors with mind stopping medicines. It’s not about painting to your hearts content or spending hours in therapy. The reality of a psych ward is seeing people you class as your friends cry in extreme mental pain. It's witnessing the unimaginable, self harm, suicide attempts, violent fights - with no chance to escape. Its constantly being on edge, just waiting for the emergency alarms to go on, again. It’s being told what to do, what medication to take, what to eat, how much to drink. A psych ward, is not a therapeutic place to be- it’s traumatising.

A -  Being a psychiatric inpatient is hell. It’s not the cushy place you might imagine, with inspirational quotes all over, miracle pills and access to 24 hour airy fairy therapy. When I spent time here last year I was lucky to see a therapist once a week (and that was only on one of my admissions). I was also circulated through a heck of a lot of different medication to reach the right mix - which is largely the same as today. The consultants all had varied views about my diagnoses and seemed to ignore all others when they landed on EUPD. There were patients screaming, shouting and swearing, alarms going off and sadly patients who would wander around not even knowing where they were.

But being a psychiatric inpatient is also safety. It was walls that held me until I was strong enough to build my own. I made a few of my closest friends there - not so I could ‘speak mental health talk’, ‘get ideas’ or ‘compare notes’ as my family seem to think but because they understood me and I knew I could turn to them when things were bad. 
Amidst the storm of the ward, there were certainly moments of calm (and even sunshine occasionally!) and the best care came from certain lovely nurses, HCAs and even the cooks and cleaners. I wouldn’t wish being an inpatient on anyone, but I also wouldn’t take it away from me as it has made me who I am today.

Ciara -  Some people think a psych ward is about medication and therapies. Actually it’s a lot more than that, it’s about having an attachment to certain people and then having agency nurses come in every night. Its watching the people you have grown close to, cry out in pain and distress, it’s feeling the pain everyone around you is feeling, it’s having medication thrown at you if your distressed. It’s seeing things you cannot forget, hearing alarms because someone has done something to harm themselves. It’s being told how you can and can’t go about your day, what you can and can’t do, when you can and can’t go out. People think psych wards are somewhere therapeutic to go, trust me they are not. They are traumatising and distressing.

Steph - I've been on 4 different wards of 2 different hospitals and each one has many similarities. The thing that sticks out most to me is the emergency alarms that go off throughout the ward when there is an incident of self harm, suicide attempt, violence, absconding or something different. If you've been on the ward for a while these alarms have an extra layer of worry as you consider could it be someone you know the staff are running and attending to? Theres been many occasions I've watched as staff from throughout the hospital run towards the room of someone I know and I wonder if that person is ever going to be alright again. 

If you spend a while on a ward you grow close to staff, make attachments only for them to be cut abruptly short when you get no notice of your imminent discharge. You don't get to say goodbye, or if you do it's the hardest goodbye because those members of staff have literally picked you up off the floor on your darkest of days. How can a simple goodbye be a good enough thank you for those members of staff? 

Psych wards pump you full of meds, your dose increases or your meds change and you spent so much of the day recovering from the drastic side effects that so many meds give you. It's about being distress and the first response being give you meds to calm you down instead of a chat because most of the time they're short staffed or busy. It's having to ask permission to leave, to have what your wearing written down each time you leave site, it's about locked doors and doors with windows so they can check on you regularly. It's the no privacy, even in the bathroom, and it's the lack of dignity as you experience incidents of your own. It's about befriending people who you don't know if you'll ever see again, it's about the waiting round doing nothing day after day after day. It's the small snippets of time where the Occupational therapy team or the activities co-ordinator manage to plan something you feel well enough to engage in. Its about weekly ward rounds with a doctor that barely knows you that could mean anything, discharge, a longer stay, who knows? 

I saw a (lovely) psychologist twice on my longer stays on ward, but often on a shorter stay I didn't get to chat to many staff at all to help me process what was going on in my head. You witness the unimaginable on a psych ward and you hear screams and cries you never want to hear again. It's full of nights you can't sleep but you can't chat to staff because most of them are agency and you don't trust them yet, and full of nights you sleep too long and miss meals or activities.  Inpatient life is not therapeutic, it's somewhere you're kept reasonably safe during a crisis.

However, psych wards have kept me alive when I couldn't do that any more, and I've met some of the kindest most inspiring nurses and HCA's who when they can take time out to chat to you, play a game with you or help you get out of a panic attack. 

Friday, 3 April 2020

50 reasons to recover

50 reasons to recover

  1. To meet my new baby niece
  2. To be involved in her upbringing as much as I can.
  3. For my niece and nephew
  4. Particularly for my nephew and Auntie day out I've promised him. 
  5. To prove the doubters wrong
  6. To walk back into the psych ward this time as a peer support worker.
  7. To go back to work
  8. To enjoy puddings out with friends.
  9. To actually live and thrive not just survive.
  10. To really laugh again.
  11. To have days out with friends uninterrupted by anxiety or worry. 
  12. To read all the books on my to read list. 
  13. To watch all the movies on my movies to watch list.
  14. To keep watching all the series I watch and find out what happens next. 
  15. To not have any more new scars.
  16. To travel more. 
  17. To watch beautiful sunsets. 
  18. To make myself proud.
  19. To make my family proud.
  20. To make my friends proud.
  21. To prove to myself I can do it.
  22. To prove to other people I can do it. 
  23. To not let comparison rob me of any more joy.
  24. To settle in properly to my new flat.
  25. To one day move into a bigger place. 
  26. For house parties.
  27. For my big 30th birthday party I've got all the ideas for. 
  28. So I can be independent.
  29. So my parents can trust me once again. 
  30. So the staff at A&E don't recognise me every time. 
  31. To make my dreams become reality.
  32. To drive to beautiful places. 
  33. To have lazy days and not be ruled by urges.
  34. To have more brain space.
  35. To meet new people.
  36. To get a puppy or a dog. 
  37. To never be ruled by rituals or counting again. 
  38. To go on holidays with friends. 
  39. To swim without being ashamed of my scars. 
  40. To wear shorts and not have to hide my scars.
  41. To wear short sleeved t-shirts around kids and not have to make up stories about how I hurt my arms. 
  42. To see the girls I used to nanny regularly again.
  43. For silly selfies 
  44. For photos with friends.
  45. To make new memories with friends. 
  46. To see the young people I work with flourish and grow.
  47. To go back to volunteering in my old school.
  48. To mentor young people again.
  49. To adopt.
  50. To finish my bucket list.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD Diagnosis

During my first admission into psychiatric hospital the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder or emotionally unstable personality disorder was talked about in one of my ward rounds. Ward round happens weekly and a nurse from the ward, yourself and the psychiatrist meet together to discuss your admission, how you’re doing, discharge, medication and diagnoses. This was when BPD was first thrown in the mix for me. However it was mentioned by a doctor who had only met me in one ward round and wasn’t the normal psychiatrist I saw in ward rounds and therefore I dismissed the thought of this as a diagnosis straight away. 

It was during my other admissions following that one that I was given the official diagnosis of BPD and first I wasn’t happy or convinced that it fit my problems at all. I knew I suffered with anxiety, depression and OCD but this extra diagnosis just didn’t seem to be me. I hadn’t suffered trauma as a child and my parents had done a great job of raising me and my sisters. At first, all I knew about BPD was that most people that suffer from it have experienced trauma as a child. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me and I didn’t get on too well either so I just decided at the beginning that he was wrong and so he put BPD traits as my diagnosis rather than just straight out BPD. 

During another admission on the same ward, with the same doctor he changed it to BPD and at first again I was not happy or convinced. But I started to research BPD a bit more and discovered whilst a large number of sufferers have experienced trauma you don’t have to have to be diagnosed. At this point I was starting to realise some of the things I could relate to and that maybe the psychiatrist had been right, although it still pains me to say it! They say you must experience at least 5 of of following to be diagnosed so I will go through each one and say how I relate to it. These were taken from the Mind website, the link is below. 

  • You feel very worried about people abandoning you, and would do anything to stop that happening.
  • For me, fear of abandonment is there but it’s not extreme.

  • You have very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident to suddenly feeling low and sad).
  • This is true for me some of the time, again I wouldn’t say I experience this to the extreme. 

  • You don't have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change significantly depending on who you're with.
  • My self esteem and sense of who I am waivers quite a lot. In some circumstances I feel very confident about who I am and what I do, other times I feel like a complete failure of a person, who I dislike very much. 
  • You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships.
  • This isn’t true for me. 

  • You feel empty a lot of the time.
  • This isn’t true for me. 
  • You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using drugsor driving dangerously).
  • This isn’t true for me at all.

  • You have very intense feelings of anger, which are really difficult to control.
  • I have only started to recognise that some of my feelings I experience strongly are anger. 

  • When very stressed, you may also experience paranoia or dissociation.
  • I have experienced both of these in crisis before.

Being diagnosed with BPD, for me, was quite a long, stressful and challenging process and time. At first I completely disagreed with the diagnosis but I agree with it now and realise that knowing what I am struggling with is only going to help me improve my life and work through the challenges that BPD presents. Many people think those with BPD are manipulative and challenging in relationships with short tempers and challenging behaviour but I urge anyone to just get to know the person, rather than jumping to any conclusions. BPD does not define a person but if you struggle with it, recognising that you do, can be the start of your journey to recovery as you learn more about you and how your mind works. 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

One year

One Year

One year ago today my life changed. I went to a gig in Brighton with my friend Keturah, I socialised with people, I enjoyed myself, I had a smile on my face and I laughed. But nobody knew what I had planned for that night, I planned to take my own life. Thankfully I found some bravery somewhere deep down and I told Keturah how much I was struggling, and what my plans for that evening were. She had no idea. Nobody would have. 

At this point she demonstrated how amazing a friend she was as she sat with me in A&E for hours on end waiting to see the psych liaison team to decide where to go from there. She sat with me until the early hours as I cried and as I grew more and more weary and unwilling to stay any longer. At a certain point Keturah had to leave me and I was given a bed in CDU, the clinical decisions unit. Nobody else knew what I was going through at this point, I hadn't yet found the bravery to tell my family. 

The next day, I dug deep for the confidence to share what was going on with my sister. The rest of my family didn't even know I'd been struggling with my mental health at this point. My sister was an absolute life saver and communicated all that I wanted with the rest of my family. 

It was decided, by the psych liaison team that a stay in psychiatric hospital would benefit me, as the state I was in with self harm and suicidal thoughts was life threatening. 

I spent much of my time in CDU sat in the corner of my room on the floor crying or having panic attacks, the other part of my time I paced the corridors. There was only one person successful in helping me up from my crying, screaming state on the floor and that was a nurse called Jess. Jess helped me literally pick myself up from the floor and start to turn my life around. 

After a couple of days in CDU, I felt unable to stay and tried to leave. It was at this point the psych liaison team sectioned me on a 5.2 (72 hour section) for my safety. They thought that if I left I would try and harm myself or take my own life. After 6 days in CDU I was given a bed in a psychiatric ward in Chichester, 36 miles from home. I ended up staying in Chichester for a month before moving to a more local unit. 

What followed in the last year has been an absolute rollercoaster of emotions, of admissions into hospital, of suicidal thoughts and attempts, of self harm, of both speaking out and of bottling it all in. I never thought my year would turn out how it did, but I shall remember this year for the rest of my life.

But this year, I've learnt so much. I've learnt about myself, I've learnt how to dig deep and find the bravery and confidence to speak out when I'm struggling. I've cried tears I thought would stay bottled up forever and I've fought intrusive thoughts, urges, rituals and compulsions like I was in a war. I've hurt myself far too often and I've left scars on my skin forever, but I've also grown. I've grown into this 28 year old woman who can speak up about suicide, self harm, anxiety, BPD and OCD. I've grown in confidence and I've grown in bravery.

One year ago today my life changed. I went to a gig, I socialised with people, I enjoyed myself, I had a smile on my face and I laughed. But nobody knew what I had planned for that night, I planned to take my own life. Thankfully I found some bravery somewhere deep down and I told someone, and that was the bravest thing I've ever done in my life. Nobody would have had any idea I was struggled but because I spoke out I received help that I so needed at that point. 

Please reach out if you are struggling, it might just save your life. 
Please speak to people if you think they are struggling with self harm or suicidal thoughts, it might just save their life. 

Friday, 20 March 2020

One Year On

One Year On 

One year on, 
Since my freedom was thieved from me, 
I was sectioned and taken away. 

One year on, 
Since I was picked up from the hospital floor,
Screaming and Crying 'make it stop.'

One year on, 
Since the voices in my head got too loud, 
haunting me and scaring me. 

One year on, 
Since I first screamed someone please help me, 
admitting to my struggles and revealing it to everyone. 

One year on, 
Since death seemed the only option to get me out,
where living was only going to hurt me. 

One year on, 
Since suicide seemed attractive to me, 
my only escape and way out

One year on, 
Since I was hospitalised in a psych ward & checked up on,
every hour through a small window in the door.

One year on.
Since the voices were loud enough to be called torture, 
the harming myself considered fatal.

One year on, 
Since the counting, the rituals, the compulsions, 
reached out of control. 

One year on,
Since all of this and more, 
my life changed, flipped, was turned upside down. 

One year on,
Since so much has changed again, 
Finally everything, the intensity is less
And I keep living instead of dying. 

Monday, 16 December 2019

Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,
You take up so much time in each thought that travels through my mind, 
creating what if scenarios, and forever keeping my brain whirring.
You keep me up at night, whispering in my ear;
Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? 
Questioning everything, even my own existence. 
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety, 
You never leave me alone, at peace, 
Your requirements are that I think about things often and in great detail.
In more detail than those around me and diving deeper into the what ifs than the average person.
You are constantly there, like a gremlin on my shoulder. 
You persist and persist, quizzing me about everything and everyone. 
The feeling of dread never deserts me, and feels heavy on my chest every waking moment. 
Normal people feel you for a while and then you go away, 
But I feel you to the extreme and you never go away. 
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety,
You’ve wrecked my 2019 and you fill my next year with fear, 
because I don’t know if I can get past you anxiety. 
I don’t know how to leave you outside and never invite you in again. 
You’ve haunted me for so long and ruled my life since I was a teenager. 
Anxiety, you’ve made me hurt myself, cry myself to sleep and hurt other people in the process of learning to live with you. 
If I can’t get rid of you completely I don’t know what I’ll do as I have no clue how to thrive with you by my side. 
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety, 
Most of the time I have no words for you but today I’m writing you this letter begging you to please, please, please leave me alone. 
You’re slowly ruining me and taking away my sense of belonging, sense of hope and sense of purpose. 
I never thought I’d let you stop me doing the things I love, slowly but surely you’ve seeped in, gatecrashing every moment, and taking away my joy. 
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety, 
You’re a deadly disease, but people don’t understand that they think that you’re just in jumbled up heads. 
Theres been times I think I’ve made you up but how can I have made you up when the physical affects of you take over me.
Like when the panic rises over the level I can manage and the attack begins.
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety, 
the weight of you on my chest and on my shoulders is unbearable. 
The hyperventilating, the fast heart rate, the sweaty palms, the hiding wherever I can, all come hand in hand with the racing thoughts and the muddled mind. 
I can’t hide you anxiety, in my mind and body you have made your home. 
But it can’t stay this way. 
You’ve broken me anxiety. 

Dear Anxiety, 
I’m done with you being the one in control. 
I’m done with you dictating what I can and cannot do. 
I’m done with the way you have stolen my joy and purpose. 
I’m done with the way you’ve robbed me of the things I love the most, including my job. 
I’m done with the way you tell me this way is the right way to do life. 
I’m done with the exhaustion. 
I’m done with you anxiety, you no longer are going to be in charge. 
For this body and mind you’ve inhabited is not yours but mine. 
And I’m claiming it back.

Dear Anxiety,  
I’m claiming back the time you’ve stolen from me. 
I’m claiming back the thoughts you’ve taken over.
I’m claiming back the energy you take up and the job you robbed me of.
I’m claiming back the mind you’ve made confused, disjointed and disorganised.
I’m claiming back the control. 
I’m claiming back the thoughts of life and not those of death. 
I’m claiming back the fun you’ve taken from me
And I’m claiming back the enjoyment 
because you’ve drained me of everything I am anxiety 
so I’m saying HERE is where I start again and rebuild what you have broken. 

Dear Recovery

Dear Recovery

Dear recovery,
You scare me more than you’ll ever know. 
You are close to me, 
within my touch, 
within my reach
Yet you’ve also never felt so far away
you stare me in the face desiring me to look into your eyes 
and for me to fall in love with you
But when you’ve learnt how to live hating yourself and destroying yourself 
doing the opposite seems impossible, unreachable. 
And though it’s hard to say, undesirable.
I have fallen in love with ruining myself 
and so falling in love again, 
this time with you is just not possible.
Dear recovery, 
you choose people,  
Sometimes you choose those that seem the furthest away from you 
and you try and entice them near 
like offering candy to a small child. 
You’ll do anything to get them 
but I’m onto you recovery. 
I know what you’re doing.
You try and convince me to love myself and I can’t do that so I can’t be with you. 
You try and make me want to live 
and when I’ve spent so long wanting to die 
how do I do that?
Dear Recovery,
You scare me because I’m scarred permanently with the marks of this mental illness, 
even if I’m with you there will be reminders that I’ve been where I am now. 
I can’t deal with the way you target those around me to inspire me. 
Sometimes I’m jealous 
Other times I’m just done with you wrecking my head 
by being with them and not with me. 
I’ll never be like them, I’ll never hold on to you as tight as they manage to.
Even when I want you recovery 
I have decided you are too good to be true 
and I sure as hell don’t deserve you. 
Dear recovery,
I’m here reaching for you on some days 
And turning you away on the next 
You want to embrace me
But I’m not so sure you’re right for me?
I live with the voice in my head so against me
How you can be so for me? 
Dear Recovery, 
Oh boy do you scare me
When I’m battling with those who care for me?
They want me to hold your hand 
Run with you into the sunset 
And never look back
But recovery
Some days I’ll hold your hand and run with you 
Other days I’ll let go and escape from your reach
Some days I despise you
Other days I desire you
You confuse me recovery
My mind is unsure what to make of you
But I’ll tell you this recovery
You make me want to shout at you
In anger, in rage because I don’t understand you
And in love and hope because you’re the only unchanging thing I could possibly cling to.
Dear recovery,
Why do you feel so unreachable 
Why do you scare me 
When all you want is me to reach out to you
I don’t know who I am with you, 
But in all honesty I don’t know who I am without you either.
There is hatred, 
there is anger,
 there is the a self destruction button 
that I’ve pressed far too many times.
Dear recovery, 
Everyone expects me to be best friends with you 
to want you more than I want anything else
But what happens if sometimes, just sometimes,
I want the thing that I’m used to.
The mess in my mind is what I’m used to
And sometimes my comfort zone is all I want to know 
But, recovery, it’s about time I leant on you, 
 learnt from you 
and spent time with you 
So please help me recovery, 
even when I’m unsure, 
help me to choose you. 
each day I need to make a choice 
and despite our dodgy History 
And what the voice in my head might say
I want that choice to be you recovery 

Friday, 6 December 2019

3 weeks

3 weeks

I don’t think you’ll understand 
but today marks three weeks self harm free. 
All I want to do is self sabotage, I want to
Ruin it.
I can't explain why 
but that's where my brain goes 
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

If you don’t understand, I’m glad.
The feeling of three weeks self harm free.
It means you haven’t experienced that
Dark place.
I'm still suffering
In silence this time
When I've been three weeks self harm free.

I’m loudly proud 
of being three weeks self harm free.
But then comes the feelings, that I’m not
sick enough. 
Not sick enough for support,
not worthy of any help
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

I’m quietly anxious
of being three weeks self harm free.
Anxious I’ll slip up, ruin my streak, and 
mess up.
Mess up I will not, 
I beg my mind, please,
When I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

The urges are high
battling through three weeks self harm free.
I cannot cave. I will not give in, I must 
resist the urges
like Jesus facing Satan, in 
the wilderness,
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

Missing the euphoria 
and being three weeks self harm free.
The adrenaline gone, not there, 
completely absent 
I can’t miss the feeling,
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

The scars are fading 
because I’m three weeks self harm free.
The marks that cover my body, disappearing 
slowly, slowly.
The body confidence I’ve never had may come, 
or maybe it won’t, 
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

It’s a weird, mixed feeling
of being three weeks self harm free.
I can’t decide whether I like it, or whether
it kills me. 
Doing it makes me feel alive, and now 
it’s gone, 
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.

Be proud, they say,
I’m three weeks self harm free.
Be happy, they say, 
Embrace it, they say. 
Enjoy it, they say.
Not yet, I say, 
when I’ve been three weeks self harm free.