Monday, 25 April 2016

Life!

Things have been a biiiit hectic recently, so I thought I'd do a quick life update, because it seems to have been a while since I have. As ever, things are up and down, although definitely more up than down. I sometimes worry that I'm becoming greedy- for a long while back there I would have begged all the gods I don't believe in for a few good days a week. Then I just was desperate for more good days than bad. These days, I maybe have one really awful day a week and I'm so very hungry for fewer, please. It's like how you don't realise you want chocolate until you have a bit and need to eat Charlie's entire factory.

Speaking of which, my eating disorder still seems to be giving me some peace. My body image is still terrible (I won't go into all my current insecurities now, but that may come another day), but my diet isn't too bad. Besides the last few days (I'm hormonal af), I've not been eating as much as I should, but probably not a lot less than a person without a history of anorexia, on a diet. I'm trying to lose a little weight without going off the deep end. It's dancing on the edge of the abyss, I know, but it seems to be going fine so far. I'll always have to be extremely careful, food-wise, but I think it's all going to be ok. Better than ok.

Work is good, too. I go into forensic mental health units and review them and I love it. I love that I'm learning things and terms and all sorts that will help me when I'm a nurse, I love that I'm always getting to meet and chat to different people and I love being in environments where all my experiences are of benefit. I've only got a few more reviews before uni starts, but they're all in the next few weeks. Literally, last week I was in Doncaster, this week I'm in Warrington, next week I'm in Nottingham, two weeks after that I'm in Poole (funny story: I thought Poole was Manchester way on when I signed up. Actually, it's over 6 hours away, hahaha), then the week after that I'm in London. Bussssssy.

I'm ready for uni to start though, apart from how busy I am atm. There has been so much paperwork to do for it (I had chickenpox Christmas 1993 and they even want to know what meds I took for it) and I've not even started student finance. In case you've never dealt with Student Finance England, let me just tell you I once nearly lost my arm because of burns and that was not nearly as painful as SFE.

My love life is pretty excellent. I'm one half of the grossest couple ever and not sorry at all. Especially when I'm drunk. Do not ask me about her when I'm drunk. Seriously.

I think that about covers everything! So please excuse how dull I'm sure this was, and normal service will return shortly ;)

Monday, 18 April 2016

But you stole my life.

I somehow doubt that on those nights where I can't sleep because of what you did, that you also lay awake. I wouldn't imagine that you would recognise my face if you saw it or my name if it was said to you and you'll certainly never read this, yet I'm still plagued by what you did those days 22, 21, 20, 19 and 18 years ago.

I'm sure the reasons for your convenient forgetting are many and I'm sure there are all manner of ways for you to justify it all, even if you were to stumble across a memory of all that happened down that road. But I can only imagine that should the past ever trouble you, you can reassure yourself that it was all so long ago. Maybe it helps that the crimes you committed are unlikely to ever be committed against you. Far from being the young child I was, you're now fully grown men and infinitely safer than I was then.

It's unlikely that you, now, will go through frequent sexual abuse.

I was a 3 year old when it began and 8 when it ended. When you first touched me, when you last touched me. When I first hated myself. From the end of 1993, 22 years of hatred. I can't imagine that you can ever understand where I am now, because although I'm definitely more well than I was a few years back, I can never have those years back. The only way I can possibly explain it to you is to put it in in a way I think you might relate to. It irritates me greatly that I feel like the only way that you'll understand is if I do this, but I'm going to ignore my misgivings about how analogies shouldn't need to be made- people ought to understand the realities of abuse and assault through listening to experts, but I doubt that anyone who could touch a child will ever understand it unless it's made about them.

So imagine being robbed. Now imagine that every day you are robbed again. Sometimes routinely- waking up each morning to your car having been taken during the night, despite you having obtained a new one the day before. Sometimes out of the blue- you nip to the shop and when you come home, somebody has- surprise- broken into your house and changed the locks. Maybe there are things that you don't realise you have had stolen until somebody points out that they have something that you ought to have, but don't. Maybe it's something small, like a costume earring that you'd not even have realised you'd lost if not for its twin in the other ear, marking how you only have half of what you should. Maybe it's something big.

Maybe it's your life.

Because you stole my life.

It's not just that you stole my sex drive, my self-esteem, my education, members of my family and many of my friends. I can and do live without a lot of that. But you stole my life. You stole the life I could have had. I'm not bitter, not now that I've made something out of my life now, but I'm angry that it's been so much harder than it ever would have been without your actions all of those years ago.

I don't credit you with having made me stronger. I discredit you for constantly depleting my reserves- stealing what might have been and how much stronger security may have made me. I discredit you for everything and with everything that I am. I cringe when people speak about how hardships made them stronger because it makes me feel like a failure for constantly feeling lacking.

You didn't make me strong. I did all of that on my own. Despite the robbery. Despite the blog entries you'll never read and therapy sessions you'll never hear about. Despite it all.

Friday, 8 April 2016

A-Z of BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder is complex and difficult, but is most commonly known for self destructive behaviours and rapidly changing, extreme moods and emotions. I was diagnosed with it at 18. At 19 I was told I was bipolar. And then I was back to BPD by 22, and swiftly moved to a BPD in-patient ward where I lived for over 2 years. It's pretty contentious with regards my diagnosis, but I think I know it pretty well still, so here's my A-Z. Obviously, this isn't comprehensive and isn't a diagnostic tool. Please seek professional help if you're worried about yourself or someone else.

A is for Attention Seeking.
This isn't an ever-so popular opinion, but sometimes a BPD behaviour might be for attention. But if a person needs to hurt themselves, they really do need the attention they might crave. We all do need attention to thrive, just with BPD it's harder for a person to learn to do it safely and effectively.

B is for Borderline.
I hate that word. HATE IT. It always reminds me of the idea of sitting on the fence and that's not me at all. Really though, in the context of BPD, it's more like the sufferer, affected by varied symptoms, is a land locked country with borders on all sorts of culturally different nations.

C is for Cutting Out.
People with BPD aren't necessarily the best at picking the right people to have relationships with and are often really vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It took a lot for me to cut some reeeeally negative people out of my life, people I allowed to hurt me time after time.

D is for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
DBT is the main therapy recommended for BPD. It's split into a few modules that focus on how you regulate your emotions, how to manage distress, how to manage relationships, and mindfulness. It wasn't my favourite therapy and I'm not sure how much I got out of it, but I saw others benefit from it. I suppose you get what you put in.

E is for Eating Disorders.
EDs are really common with people with BPD. For some people disordered eating is considered a symptom and with others they are diagnosed with both, as I am. There's a lot of cross over- low self-esteem is pretty commonplace with both disorders, in particular.

F is for Forgiving.
A lot of people with BPD have had traumatic pasts and I think there are some things that you shouldn't forgive. A lot of things that are inexcusable. But the one person who really deserves your compassion is yourself.

G is for Goals.
It's cool to change direction with your goals and to make new ones and drop old ones. It's all about development and people with BPD especially need to give themselves that room, because we are horrifically harsh when it comes to dealing with our perceived failures.

H is for Hope.
I promise, there is always hope. Whilst there is life in your bones and electricity in your brain, there is hope. Sometimes not in the form you'd expect, granted, but it's there.

I is for I.
It's OK to put yourself first. With BPD, sufferers often struggle to say no, for fear of rejection by other people. When I smoked, I was a push over for giving them away and I'm the ultimate bleeding heart still. That's fine, but so is knowing when to put yourself first.

J is for Jokes.
I can't stand jokes where mental illness is the punchline. Luckily, I haven't had to listen to too many BPD specific jokes, but it's really not cool to make jokes about people licking windows or rocking in corners btw.

K is for Kindness.
Most people are a lot more critical of themselves than they are others, but this is amplified with BPD. With others, they become hyper-critical of others, too. When I was particularly ill I was a bitch, but I think I'm leaving that behind. I try and counter anything negative I say to myself with a positive, because I'm determined to be kind to myself too.

L is for Love.
People with BPD feel things deeper than people without the condition. I love harder than anything and quicker than most. I think we're probably more likely to believe in love at first sight too, but I don't have proof, more a feeling. Ask me one time about how I knew I loved my girlfriend.

M is for Medication.
Medication isn't the only way to manage BPD but it can make it easier to engage in talking therapies. For me, I need my meds to function alongside therapy. Will I be on them forever? Who knows. I'm not too worried- whatever it takes for me to be well.

N is for No.
Often, it's really hard for BPD sufferers to say no and learning to assert myself and admit defeat was really key to my recovery. For a lot of sufferers, it's also learning to deal with being told no, and not assuming you're being told that as a rejection.

O is for Opportunity.
I'm a drama queen. Always have been. My last hospital was fantastic in recognising this and developing my skills- I've had opportunities to talk at numerous universities, national conferences, hospitals, workplaces... all over. Opportunities that came from my illness.

P is for Personality Disorder.
If I hate the word 'borderline', it's nothing compared to my hatred of the phrase 'personality disorder' because that sounds so insidious. It sounds dark. Like, you are meant to always say that you value a person's personality more than anything, but if it's disordered, diseased, not right, then what?

Q is for Queues.
I can only speak for my experiences of NHS England, but waiting times can be hellish. It took 10 months for me to get a specialist psychologist after I was discharged from a long-term unit and would have taken longer had I not been hospitalised so much. Things need to change, because the wait for help can make symptoms and behaviours worse because people feel 'not ill enough.'

R is for Robotic.
Because people with BPD feel things so deeply, we often get overwhelmed and can switch off and feel nothing at all. A bit like when an overworked system crashes. We can become somewhat robotic.

S is for Stigma.
Some of the worst stigma I've faced has come from professionals who see BPD as something less than disorders that are purely chemical, like schizophrenia. BPD isn't a choice or fad, it's an extreme illness that can manifest in ways that look like other mental illness.

T is for Triggers.
Because BPD behaviours are so varied, so are the triggers. It's best to understand the triggers of an individual through simply asking about them, rather than trying to generalise.

U is for United.
There's a lot of us out there who are going through similar things and sufferers could achieve a lot if we all stand together. The problem comes when people trigger behaviours in others, so sometimes relationships between sufferers can become dangerous and need to be carefully managed, especially within hospitals.

V is for Voices.
Hearing voices and experiencing other forms of psychosis is quite prevalent in BPD cases. My therapist has said that I need to accept they may never go and learn to live alongside them, which I think is a pretty interesting idea. It can be really bloody tiresome and distressing though.

W is for Weight.
Weight gain is a really common side effect of mental health medication, one that I know too well. On balance, I'd rather take them and be bigger than be in hospital and smaller. It's worth it, I swear.

X is for Xylophone.
Mostly because it's really, really hard to think of a decent X word and given xylophone is one of my fave words and I was once diagnosed BPD, I think it's fine.

Y is for Youth.
Most BPD sufferers are diagnosed when they're young and it's often a contentious diagnosis. In recent years, my diagnosis was changed away from BPD, which I was diagnosed with at 18. Really, people shouldn't be diagnosed with it so young because some 'symptoms' are more symptoms of being young.

Z is for Zany.
Zany is a nicer word than crazy, which is a word that makes me cringe all the way because of how most of the people who tell you they're crazy are just kind of boring. Zany though, zany is a colour that suits me well.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Scales.

Confession: today I dragged out my scales, dusted them off, and decided that I can't handle the meds weight gain any more. Don't worry, I then stole a pack of Minstrels off my mum (sorry mum) and decided that I don't really care to know my weight. There are many, many things that my scales can't tell me and that I'm not really interested in the few things that they can tell me.

Here are the top 5 things they never told me-

1. You can be glorious sunshine, but dancing in the rain is also fun. I'm loved, I'm liked, I'm tolerated, I'm disliked, I'm hated. Hopefully all by different people, but whatever. It's like my mum always says to me, 'you don't like everyone, so why does everyone have to like you?' A bit of metal and plastic can't measure the depth of feeling you evoke and will never love you like the world might.

2. Nobody cares about what your scales have to say. Here's the kicker- you can spend hours working out and weighing your food, but truth is nobody cares. Sure, people want you to be healthy and happy, but people only equate weight loss with happiness when it comes to themselves. I can't say I've ever met someone going through shit and thought it'd all be lovely for them if they were emaciated.

3. You will always be great at some things and terrible at others. I'm great at academic writing and terrible at running. I'm pretty good at maths and pretty awful at catching anything more handy than a cold. It's the same for everybody. Not everything is for everyone. Oh, and losing weight is nobody one's number one talent. Trust me on this, you are more capable of greatness than you know.

4. When you can't trust yourself, trust other people before you trust your scales. Ideally, you should love yourself and trust your worth. But I'd be lying if I said I found that easy or even possible on tough days. Instead, I find myself relying on other people- I'm a work in progress on this. But still, I know I'm loved and I trust people more than my scales. My scales have never told me they loved me.

5. Life is complicated and that's how it ought to be. As much as life is sometimes cruel to everyone, sometimes it's really bloody great. Your scales might simplify your thinking and narrow down your world, but that's not life. It's not simple. It shouldn't be simple. Too simple and you miss the great things as well as the tough ones.

I'd be lying if I said my scales have never taught me anything, mind. Here's a quick run through-

1. My gravitational force. Through the years, I've been able to measure my relationship with gravity. Wahoo. Important stuff.

So yeah, that's about it.

On balance, there is no balance. Scales have a place, but that's only really in hospital, I reckon. My scales have no place at all.