Tuesday, 29 November 2016

"I wouldn't mind being sectioned"

Rewind a few months back, and I was sat in my local A&E discharge lounge, waiting to go home after one of my many self harm incidents, and the patient opposite me said, I wouldn't mind being sectioned.

Being sectioned means that you are no longer a free human being to come and go as you please. For many of us in mental health services, or those who've had encounters with the police in regards to mental health, we've had the threat of being sectioned, under either section 136, 2, or 3. The threat is enough to make anyone want to run as far away as possible, but for me and many others, being sectioned brings with it overwhelming sadness and hopelessness.

You have now been detained.

5 words than can change someone's life forever. Words that I never thought I'd hear being said to me.

Imagine yourself in a place, mentally, where you can't see yourself living to see the next day. When you think, this is it. It will all be over by tomorrow. But then two police officers have you in an upright restraint while you scream at them to let you die. You don't want to hurt anyone else other
than yourself, so you're desperately trying to get away from them but it's no use. You're a danger to yourself so they handcuff you, search you in the middle of the street and then put you in the back of a police car. They tell you you're now detained under section 136, and you'll be taken to a 136 suite. The whole car ride there you feel numb and detached, as if someone has reached inside of you and taken the part of you that feels emotions away from you. You pass by people who are going about their day to day life - shopping, going to pick up the kids from school, walking the dog. And you think to yourself, why can't I be normal? You arrive at the 136 suite and as soon as you get out of the car, you panic. There's no way you can go inside there! You try to run but it's no use - two officers already have a tight grip of you. You scream and stand your ground but they just drag you inside and the door is locked. It's over.

You're assessed by three professionals under the Mental Health Act and they decide you need to be detained under section 2. You cry and beg them to let you go home, but it's too late - you've already been detained. You're then taken to your nearest psychiatric hospital, which could be miles from home depending on the beds availability, where you'll be staying until your responsible clinician decides you're well enough to leave. The door that you've come through is locked by one of the staff, and thats when it hits you - you're no longer a free human being. 

You walk down the corridor and there's patients sitting chatting and they smile at you, and you think maybe this place isn't so bad after all. But then the screaming and shouting starts, and you start to cry. You beg the nurses to let you go home, that you'll try harder to stay safe. They comfort you but it's no use - all you want to do is go home. They've decided to put you on 15 minute observations so you take your chance to engage in self destructive behaviours. No one will find out. Then the overwhelming emotions come and you feel enveloped in this huge bubble of sadness and anger that hits you like a tonne of bricks. You can't stop yourself from screaming. You feel out of control; you cry, scream and hurt yourself. The staff come in when you're in the middle of your meltdown and try to calm you down. You shout at them, tell them to get away from you so you can hurt yourself. You didn't want to be here in the first place. And then the staff are restraining you away from the wall so you can't hurt yourself anymore. You cry and struggle to get out of their grip but it's no use because you're then held in a floor restraint and given an injection of medication to calm you down. Against your will. Imagine that you're then placed on 1:1 observations. You have a member of staff following you about constantly, watching you. When you're sleeping, when you're sitting in communal areas, even when you're in the bathroom. All for your own safety. You hate it, it's driving you crazy!

Your responsible clinican tells you that you can only have escorted leave around the grounds, three times a day for 15 minutes. But then when you want to go out there's no staff around and being on the ward is driving you mad. So you resort to sticking your headphones in and blasting your music. But then a patient comes up to you and wants to talk to you, and you feel rude ignoring them so you engage in a conversation that you couldn't care less about. These patients that you once thought were going to be crazy and violent become your best friends but then you see them being dragged to their room in a restraint, or you witness them screaming at the staff to just leave them alone. 

You lose most of your freedom and you end up staring at the same walls day in, day out. Days become focused on meal times and all your decisions are made by your responsible clinician, whether you agree with it or not. You may have no visitors for weeks at a time because there are no beds in your local psychiatric hospital, so you end up miles from home. Being sectioned and being in hospital becomes normality, so much that when you're given overnight leave your home doesn't feel like home anymore and nothing feels right. Your responsible clinician may decide that actually, you're not well enough to leave so you have to have another care programme approach, which isn't for 2 months time. Or how about you're told you have to be moved to a low secure unit or a psychiatric intensive care unit because you're too risky and your current unit can't manage you.

Being sectioned isn't like having break times with refreshments. It is a constant having to live alongside your thoughts in isolation - drowning in them. There's is no power in your life - your mind and clinicians have power over you.

Being sectioned isn't a walk in the park, it's a war ground, tackling it one day at a time. 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Please, don't kill yourself

Approximately one million people commit suicide every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

When you kill yourself, you won't be able to see your friends, family, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, or children ever again. Your pain may be over, but it then transfers onto everyone that knew and loved you. People care, even strangers.

"Whenever I hear on the news that someone has killed themselves I bawl my eyes out - I understand that desperation they're feeling and I just wish they could see the absolute wonders that they were.  I wish I could have told them it got better, and I wish I could have held their hand through that journey."

"It's absolutely devastating when you hear someone's taken their life. I think about the people who loved and knew them, their family and their friends. How they won't be able to laugh with their loved ones, or talk to them again."

"My heart aches for that person and their family. It hurts because I was once in that position, and I wish I'd known the person so I could have told them that although life may be really bad right now, it will get better and to just hold on. Thinking of how their family and friends must feel breaks my heart."

"If I saw that someone where I live had killed themselves I'd feel so very sad that they felt that suicide was the only way to solve how they feel. Sad that someone amazing had lost their life battling their own mind and that they aren't going to be able to experience how amazing life can be."

4 strangers. 4 people who said they would feel absolutely devastated hearing on the news about someone they didn't even know committing suicide. If you're reading this, and you having even a single thought about ending your life, we care. I care.

I know how it feels. Not fully, because I'm not in your head. And I know you think no one cares. You think that you're a burden on everyone around you, and that you're hurting people by being alive so what difference does it make if you're not around anymore, right? I, and many others, have felt like this before. It's like there's no other way out, and the only way you can think of to stop the pain, is to end your life.

I remember a few years ago, there was a girl in my area that committed suicide. I hardly knew her, but she was such a lovely and caring girl. Everyone, even people who didn't know her, or knew what she had been going through, were absolutely devastated.

Your family won't ever get to see their baby again. Whenever they go upstairs, they automatically go in to check if you're okay. Or when dinner is ready, they shout you down. Everyone goes silent
- your mum, your dad, your sister and/or brother. Because it hits them.

You're gone forever.

Your friends text you to see if you want to meet up, or message you on social media. As soon as they send it, they remember.

They won't ever get to see you again. 

Your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife, rolls over in their sleep, expecting you to be there. Or they knock on the bathroom door in the morning, ready to tease you about how long you're taking. But you're gone.

Your child or children ask where you are. Your loved ones try to explain that you're at peace now, in heaven, but they don't fully understand. When they grow up, they leave flowers at your grave on your birthday and at Christmas and sit there for hours, because that's the only way they can spend time with you.

When you commit suicide, you're gone. That's it. Your heart has completely stopped. And once it's done, there's no going back.

Everyone would blame themselves. Some of them knew what you were going through, and they'd blame themselves because they'd feel that they should have been able to do more to help you. But they didn't, and that will stay with them forever. Or people who didn't know your struggles, would blame themselves for not making more of an effort to talk to you, and to see if you were okay. They didn't want to bother you, in case you felt uncomfortable talking about it. The guilt would stay with them for all of their life, despite everyone else saying it wasn't their fault.

But they keep on blaming themselves.

When you end your life, your pain transfers to everyone around you. You think no one would care, but in fact, everyone cares. Some people don't show this well, or don't tell you enough, so that's what I'm doing right now.

Whoever is reading this - if you killed yourself, I'd be absolutely heart broken. Devastated that you didn't feel able to reach out for help, because maybe you felt like you were bothering everyone. I promise you, you aren't a burden and you aren't bothering anyone. I'd feel so sad that I hadn't reached out to you, to at least talk to you and ask if you were okay. My heart would ache because I hadn't told you that I'm living proof that life does get better, and if you just hold on tightly, you'll start to see the wonders of life that you thought you would never see.

If you're reading this, and you're thinking about suicide, please, talk to me. Reach out, even if it's just to say you don't feel good and you need someone to vent to. Or maybe you're wanting more practical advice. Whatever it is, I'm here, I care, and I won't you leave you.

Please, don't kill yourself

"Losing someone is the hardest thing to accept. Remembering you is easy, I do it every day. Missing you is the heartache that never goes away." 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

I am a suicide attempt survivor

More than 55,000 suicides occur in the European Union each year, including more than 6,000 in the U.K. and Ireland.

This figure means that each hour, 1 person commits suicide. This isn't counting the number of people who attempt suicide. 

Whenever I hear that someone has committed suicide, whether that be through social media or the news, I can't help but feel extremely sad, and my heart aches. I feel for the family - the parents that will never be able to hug their son or daughter again, a sibling that will never be able to play fight with their sister or brother. I feel for the friends that will never be able to celebrate their friend's birthday with them being here. I feel for everyone that knew that individual, because they will never be able to see them again. I feel so deeply, and why? Because I know what it's like.

I am a suicide attempt survivor.

I can't put into words how miserable and fed up I must have been, to try and end my own life. "Selfish" and "attention seeking" was what I'd get told sometimes, all because I failed. As someone who has survived countless suicide attempts, I am not selfish and I was not attention seeking. I, and many others who have attempted or died by suicide, have been in excrutiating emotional pain when carrying out that attempt. Imagine being set on fire, but the fire is in your head instead. It's that painful. I didn't necessarily want to die, but I just couldn't stand living in this much pain anymore. If I was selfish for being in so much pain that I tried to end my own life, then why did I carry on living for so long? Why did I drag myself through everyday, despite not wanting to live? Because I knew I would tear my family and friends apart. And it only got to the point when I wasn't eating, sleeping or looking after myself, that I thought, I can't do this anymore.

I couldn't physically or mentally cope with the amount of mental pain I was in. I knew it wasn't a quick fix, and if it couldn't be quickly fixed, then I didn't want to live. When I made that suicide attempt, I didn't take into account what impact it would have on those around me. I tried to think of others, but it was as if my brain had blocked it out. 

When I made that suicide attempt, I didn't think I'd be here today, writing this blog post. 

As a survivor, I am dedicating this post to anyone who has, or wants to, end their life.

It's not worth it.

I didn't expect to survive, so I didn't think of anything I'd have to deal with as a consequence. I didn't think of how distraught my family and friends would be. I didn't think of anything but how I felt.

If you're in the position I was a few months ago, and you're even just thinking about ending your life, let me give you a few reasons not to:

1. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You won't get to see your family or friends again, you won't be able to do anything. You'll be gone forever.

2. Life will get better. Maybe not now, or next week, but it will. I am living proof that life gets better. A few months back, I never thought I would be content with my life and stable, I never thought I'd be getting myself job interviews. I didn't for one second think I'd ever enjoy life again.

3. You have so much to offer in this world, this life. Don't throw it away over a problem that will get better. 

4. You may not think it, but everyone will be distraught if you died. Your family, friends, even people who didn't really talk to you much. They'll not be able to stop blaming themselves, thinking that they could've done something more to help you.

I promise you, life will get better, no matter how bad you feel or how dark a place you're in right now.  I went from being not being able to get out of bed, hardly sleeping or eating, not looking after myself and landing myself in hospital every week. For months on end, I don't think there was one week that I wasn't in hospital. And now?

I smile and laugh, and for once it's genuine. I don't have to hide how I feel anymore, because I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed to say I've struggled and that I am a suicide attempt survivor.

I am a survivor, and you can be too. 

"Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after all I've been through. I said, it's because no matter what, I am a survivor. Not a victim." 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

I hate you don't leave me

I am sad. I am angry. I am okay. I am anxious. I am happy. I am numb. I am every emotion rolled into one.

I hate you. You're horrible! Leave me alone. Please don't leave me. You're a good person. I'm lonely. I need you. I'm a bad person. Go away! I don't need you. I'm sorry. I hate you. Don't leave me.

I am inconsolable when I cry. I am bubbly and bright when I'm happy. I throw things, shout, scream and hurt people when I am angry. I hurt myself so I don't feel so empty. I deserve it. I am a bad person on my bad days. I attempt suicide because I feel like there is no other way out. I am sometimes uncontrollable. I am impulsive. I make reckless decisions. I hurt people because my head tells me they're bad. I want people to hurt as much as I hurt. Things are black and white, there is no in between. I push my friends away. Please don't leave me.

I am treated like a criminal by society and the police. Society tells me I am crazy, that I should be locked up, that I will never amount to anything. The police tell me I am childish, that I am wasting their time, that the next time they see me they'll treat me like a criminal because that's what I'll turn into. I am a bad person.

Borderline Personality Disorder.

"You know what that is, don't you? A disorder that's VERY hard to treat. You'll probably end up killing yourself or locked up." 

This was something I was told by a police officer. A force that is supposed to make me feel safe, from both others and myself, yet tell me I'm just being silly and lock me up when I'm having a bad day. BPD makes me feel like the world is a bad place, and this just validates that.

What's it like having BPD? Surely it's not THAT bad?

"Crippling" "intense" "rollercoaster" "chaos" "lonely" "draining" "violent" "unstable"
"A suffocation of all that is good"
"It's not knowing what normal is anymore and having the equivalent of a third degree burn on my emotional skin"
"It's like living in a nightmare that you can't wake up from".

These are all words used by people who have BPD, to describe what living with it on a daily basis is like. Unless you've been through it, you will never be able to understand.

But let me just tell you one thing. If I tell you I hate you and never want to speak to you again, don't leave me. It isn't me talking, it's the BPD part of me. I love you with all my heart and need you in my life. If I am having a bad day, comfort me. Don't shout, please.

I am not a criminal. I do not deserved to be treated like one. I am a human being.

I am a good person, and I will get better. Please don't make me feel like I won't.

I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I am not a monster.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Adult psychiatric wards

 Being the youngest on an adult ward was probably one of the most frightening experiences I've had. When I got told I was being admitted to hospital for the second time and on an adult ward, I was very scared. So many thoughts were racing through my head – what's it going to be like? Are the staff going to be horrible? What are the other patients going to be like? I was anxious and panicky because I can't remember anyone saying anything good about adult wards. I was in the general hospital at the time, waiting to be transferred, and one of the nurses came and said to me, 'Why do you look so scared? The other patients will be just like you'.  I didn't believe her.  I thought all the staff were going to be unkind and uncaring, and I thought I'd witness people kicking off and having to be restrained.

 It was nothing like that.

 When I arrived, I was greeted by one of the staff nurses who went through everything with me - she took  me into a room and went through my belongings. She then told me that I was the youngest on the ward and that if I needed anything to come and speak to staff, because some of the other patients were quite unwell and at times it could be frightening.  The nurse that I met when I first came through the doors was lovely and caring. Nothing like I thought they would be.  But even walking down the corridor felt very overwhelming, as I was the youngest. I've had experience of being on a camhs ward, but because I was now 18 it meant I had to be on an adult ward. I remember a patient coming up to me, telling me she love the pattern I'd done on my hands. Another patient came and spoke to me about clothes and shopping, and what she'd done that day. She also told me if I ever needed anything or I wanted to talk, that I could always come to her.

My admission to adult wards haven't been anywhere near as bad as I first thought. The staff that I thought would be unkind and uncaring were the ones who hugged me and comforted me whilst I cried. They were the ones who picked my belongings up off the floor when I had thrown them across the room during a meltdown. The ones I thought would be rude and horrible to me because I "need to take responsibility for myself", and who I thought would shout at me when things had gone wrong, were the ones who sat with me, talked to me, and told me it was going to be okay, after the police had brought me back or I'd had an incident. Or what about the nurses I thought would be too busy to speak to me, were the ones who persuaded me to come out of my room to play bingo with them, or to get my nails painted by them, or would take you out somehwere. These were the staff who always had time for you no matter how busy they seemed to be.

 And these patients who I thought would be "crazy", were the ones who made me laugh until I cried. The ones who I thought would attack me were the ones who kept me safe from myself. The ones who were so much older than me were the ones who adopted a mother-like status. These "crazy and psychotic" patients sat up with me when I couldn't sleep, comforted me when I'd had a bad day, believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, made me laugh until I was doubled over, made me cry  and cried with me, made me stay out of my room when I was struggling, encouraged me to speak to staff, spoke to me like a normal person instead of just someone in a psychiatric ward but most of all, some of these patients I thought would be unkind, uncaring, horrible, psychotic and crazy, became some of my closest friends.

Both staff and patients witnessed me at my worst - self harming, throwing things about my room, crying, screaming, giving up on myself, trying to discharge myself because I wanted to die, shouting at other patients and on my worst days, being presumably rude and unkind. These were the staff and patients who said goodbye to me on my discharge date, only to see me readmitted a week later on a section - they weren't horrible or unkind because I'd been readmitted, but caring and reassuring. These people saw me not only at my worst but at my best - being given my leave back only a few days after I'd run off and had to be brought back by the police, and managing to stay safe during it. They saw me bright eyed and bubbly after an overnight leave, they laughed and joked with me and when the ward was unsettled, us patients would stick together and support each other.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this:

Don't judge a book by it's cover. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Today is the NHS's 68th birthday, and I am so grateful for all the help and support I have received from the NHS. So this post is dedicated to the NHS. Without them, I wouldn't be alive right now.

The NHS has looked after me when I needed them the most, and for that I will be eternally grateful. For as long as I can remember, they have provided free healthcare which I speak on behalf of everyone in England - we are so grateful for it. Whereas in other countries you have to pay for healthcare, I'm so thankful that we don't. For those of us who need psychiatric help, without the NHS most of us would probably already be six feet under. They've provided me with specialist psychiatric help; taking me in at the age of 13 and looking after me until I turned 18. I don't know about other places, but the NHS in Newcastle has been my life line for the past 6 years. My camhs team were one of the best, but only now that I've left do I realise that. I shouted, screamed, cried, broke down and shut down in front of many of the professionals working on my case, but not once did they threaten to discharge me or leave me. They stuck by me until I transferred over to adult services. If I hadn't been admitted to an adolescent NHS inpatient service, I can 100% guarantee I wouldn't be alive. Thank you to the NHS in Middlesbrough where I received inpatient help. Thank you to the NHS for employing such inspiring, wonderful and life changing mental health nurses and health care assistants at the inpatient unit I was admitted to. Thank you for letting me turn my life around with the help of professionals, and letting me meet other young people who made me realise I'm not alone. Thank you to the NHS for the wonderful doctors, nurses and health care assistants at A&E, who have treated me with such care, compassion, respect and dignity. Thank you for not judging me when I'm admitted to A&E for an overdose, or for self harm. Thank you for employing the most wonderful psychiatric nurses and creating the psychiatric liaison team at my local hospital. Thank you to the NHS for creating specialist services, such as personality disorder services. Thank you for employing wonderful psychiatrists and psychologists who make you feel loved and cared for. 

Thank you to the NHS for helping me staying alive. 


The NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

An open letter to anyone who's struggling

Dear reader,

I'm so sorry you're struggling right now. I know how it feels, I understand. Not fully, because I'm not inside your head, but I do understand to an extent. I understand how it feels when you think no-one cares, and no-one understands. And of course, because of this, you feel incredibly alone. I mean, you could be in a room full of people, and you'd still feel so, so alone. And that's one of the worst things. Because even though people do understand, no-one can fully understand what goes on inside your head, and it makes you feel even worse.

What is your head telling you right now? Is it telling you that you're fat and ugly, and you don't deserve to eat? Is it telling you that no one loves you and no one wants you around? That you're better off hurting yourself and you're better off dead?

Your head is a liar. All the negative things it's telling you are untrue. Your head can be a manipulative, horrible place to be and I promise you, you are so much better than that. It's okay to recognise you aren't doing well, or you're struggling. It's good to recognise your thoughts and feelings, but please don't let them drag you down. It can be so easy to get caught up in the negative thoughts, that they can drag you right back down. And even if it does, you pick yourself right back up and push on. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. It's really really hard. It's so hard to carry on living when you're tired of fighting your thoughts constantly. You're tired of eating, drinking, walking, talking, even breathing. Everything just feels very hard. And because it feels so hard, it makes you not want to carry on. You just want to curl up under your duvet and sleep until all this passes. Or even worse, you want to sleep and never wake up.

Then come the self-destructive behaviours. Your head starts to tell you that you deserve to hurt yourself, no-one is ever going to love you anyway, and that you're worthless. And you hate yourself because of it. I have everything. I have a good family, good friends, I'm not poor, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear. You start to think this over and over again. There are people worse off than me! I'm just being pathetic. The thoughts go round and round in your head until you can't take it anymore, so you turn to self-destructive behaviours. Just this once. But it's never just this once though, is it? You said that years ago.

I promise you this will pass. I know you're probably thinking, everyone says that and it hasn't gotten any better! I'm just another one of those people, right? But I was like you once. I used to get so mad at the people who told me "it'll get better". I hated them and I thought they were lying to me. But they weren't; I just couldn't see it at the time.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm no where near recovered, but slowly but surely, I'm learning to love both myself and life once again. When I get dragged down, I pick myself back up, dust myself off and push through all the negative thoughts. Because now I've realised that I'm so much better than my thoughts will ever be. I'm not saying that they've gone away, they're still there. I've just learnt how to cope with them. It is possible to recover, and I'm living proof of that. Like I said before, I was once like you - I had no hope, and I certainly didn't think I could ever recover. And because I felt so hopeless, I didn't want to live anymore. However, with the help of professionals, my friends and family, I've realised that recovery is really worth it.

Just think about it for a second. Forget about everything, and just think about this:

A life of misery or a life of happiness?

Recovery is definitely a life of happiness. It won't be like this all the time - there'll be times when you want to give up, when you hate the world, and when you want to relapse. But there'll be more good times than bad times. If you decide not to recover, because it's "not for you", then you're going to live a life of misery. You're going to be a slave to your illnesses until you decide that you don't want to be one anymore.

Life can be such a beautiful thing, but you have to experience it first! There are so many life experiences and opportunities out there, and you can do anything you set your mind to. Whether that be travelling the world, swimming with dolphins, volunteering. A n y t h i n g. 

Recovery is waiting for you, waiting for you to take that step between where you are now, and getting better. It's going to be one hell of a journey, an emotional roller coaster even, but if I can promise you one thing, it'll be this: it'll be so worth it. 

You're going to have bad days, you're only human after all. But the day that you tell yourself you want recovery, and that you don't want to be a slave to your illnesses anymore, is the day that your life truly begins.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mental illness is not a competition

I'm so sick and tired of seeing people "compete" over who is the most mentally ill. I've mainly seen it over social media, and more times than I would've liked to. You'd think that those individuals would know how hard it is, right? Not only how hard it is, but how debilitating and life changing it can be. I, for one, know how awful being mentally ill is, and if I could snap my fingers and get rid of it, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

There are so many different mental illnesses, that I couldn't possibly name them all; personality disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis, anorexia, bulimia, the list goes on. Each and every person who is mentally unwell is fighting their own battle, day in, day out. So why do some people feel the need to turn it into a competition? It seems as though it's about how many times you've been inpatient, how bad your self harm is, how much you eat, etc.

I hate how having a mental illness has turned into a competition, because we should be supporting each other. It seems as though you can't talk about how bad you're feeling or that you're getting worse, without someone saying they've already been inpatient and they're only 14, or that they've been inpatient several times. You can't talk about self harm without someone commenting on how they've had loads of gaping wounds and needed stitches, while all you do is punch walls. You can't discuss anything in relation to food or weight without someone mentioning they've gone days without eating, or they've already had the NG tube 3 times. There's always someone who points out how many times they've been to A&E, or how many encounters they've had with the police.

It seems as though you can't talk about your mental illness without someone pointing out that they've had it "worse". It shouldn't matter how bad your self harm is, or how many times you've been inpatient, or even if you're receiving help. It's no wonder people don't like talking about being mentally unwell because there's always someone who doesn't think your sick enough because you're not underweight, you've never tried to kill yourself or you've never received medical treatment for self harm. I've seen people say to others "you've never been inpatient, you're only diagnosed with depression, you aren't that bad". There's an attitude of "well you aren't as bad as me so get on with it" surrounding mental health, and it has to stop. No one knows how much a mental illness affects someone because you aren't inside their head. One person with the same illness may keep it all inside, whereas another may verbalise it or act out.

No one should have to worry about whether they're "sick" enough, because if you are suffering from a mental illness, or if you just don't feel quite right, then there's something wrong. It doesn't matter whether you're diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, ocd, or a personality disorder. It doesn't matter how many times you've relapsed. It doesn't matter how bad your self harm is.

It doesn't matter.

People should be encouraging others and supporting them in their recovery, or at least supporting them with what they're going through, and not belittling their problems and making them feel worse. At the end of the day, everyone that suffers from a mental illness is unwell. Comparing how "serious" someone's mental illness is compared to someone else's, or belittling their illness, isn't going to help you find happiness.

My piece of advice is this:

Go at your own pace.

Don't listen to others when they say you should be recovering at a faster pace. Because you never know, that may set you back even more. Go with what you feel comfortable with. Recovery isn't about how fast you go, it's about how much progress you make.

And one more thing:

Don't compare yourself to others.


Recovery is a journey, not a destination. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Is the internet really a bad place?

As everyone knows, the internet nowadays is a massive thing, and it's used for a variety of reasons. Shopping, paying bills, completing school work, and keeping in touch with people via social media. There's no doubt about it, the internet can be a horrible place. More often than not you see news articles on grooming, stalking and sexual exploitation; either these have been committed and an individual has been arrested, or they're arrested on suspicion of it.

There are numerous websites and campaigns, such as the NSPCC and ChildLine, who are there to help prevent grooming; they advise parents and young people on how to stay safe whilst using the internet. However, these websites and campaigns don't stop it. Even with all the advice and help out there, including visiting schools and teachers advising pupils, it's still happening. Parents whose children who have just started using the internet don't think that this could be a problem, because "nothing would ever happen to my child". This is very untrue and when a child starts to use the internet, parents should talk to them about how to stay safe online. But even when advice is given, it doesn't stop this from happening. Take my experience, for example. When I first started to use the internet, my parents had a talk with me about internet safety; who not to talk to, and when to know to come away from it. So after this, I thought nothing could happen to me. I started to use chatrooms, as many of my friends were at the time, and started speaking to different people. Most of whom were older than me. Me being naive, I didn't think this was a problem. However, my parents soon found out who I had been talking to and what they had been asking me to do - it was essentially grooming. I'm lucky it didn't go any further, and it stopped when it did. It could have escalated into something much bigger.

Ever since then, I've been wary of using the internet, especially social media. Not only does grooming/stalking occur via social media, bullying does also. My parents have always taught me never to speak to strangers over the internet, because you never know who they are. And this is accurate - you could be speaking to someone who you think is your age, however they may be faking who they are and could be much, much older than you.

So, is the internet really a bad place?

It's only bad if you make it bad.

I have always stuck by that saying. If you make the internet a bad place, then of course it's going to be bad! Parents always tell you to never speak to people you don't know online, because you never know what may happen. However, what they don't tell you is that through talking to people online, you may meet people that become your best friends.

Through a recovery community for mental health, I have met some incredible people, some of whom have become my best friends. I couldn't name everyone who I've met online, because the list would be endless! However some have been there for me more than ever and I couldn't thank them enough. I've met people who suffer from a variety of mental health problems; depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, psychosis, the list goes on. These people are so important to me, because they're the small majority that understand. They don't say, "I understand" because they care or they feel sorry for me, they actually do understand. And although they may not understand fully, because they're not in my head and they may not suffer from the same illness as me, but to some extent they do. They know what it's like to have to battle with your own mind 24/7, they know what it's like to feel alone even when you're in a room full of people, and they know what it's like to want to both live and die at the same time. I've witnessed mental illness break these people down; I've seen them utterly defeated by their own mind. Not only this, but I've seen these people bounce back stronger than ever, ready to fight their illness/es. These "strangers" are always telling me that they're there for me, any time of day or night. They've seen me at my best and my worst. They've seen me happy, smiling and laughing. But they've also seen me when I'm having breakdowns and running away and hurting myself. Some of these people have even had to call the police for me, because they're terrified that this time I'm going to go too far. Let me tell you one thing:

I couldn't have survived without them.

I couldn't have survived without these people by my side. Without them, I don't think I'd be alive right now. They've supported me through my best and worst times, and not once have they left me because I'm "too much" or they can't be bothered. They've encouraged me to seek help when I needed to, or they've sought help for me. When adults warn you of the dangers of the internet, they should also tell you that you could meet your best friends online, because I have. Some of these "strangers" have now become my closest friends. Even though they may live hours away from me, sometimes the other side of the country,  I've created memories with them. From phone calls, FaceTimes, inside jokes, creating nicknames for each other, to actually meeting. Yes, a few people from the internet I've met in person, and I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling it is.

I can't thank my internet friends more, for sticking by me in my journey to mental health recovery.

Sometimes the people who are thousands of miles away from you can make you feel better than the people who are right beside you. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Mental Health & the Police

There is one thing that is very rarely talked about, and this is mental health and the police. I've never wanted to talk about it, because I felt ashamed that I'd even been involved with the police, because I always assumed that people would treat me differently, or even like a criminal. A lot of mentally unwell individuals end up being involved with the police. Before I started to become unwell, which started at around January 2015, I'd never been involved with the police before. I always thought that I'd never have to see them because of my mental health, but I couldn't have been more wrong!


The police can be called for a variety of reasons to do with your mental health. A few are:
running away; you may be a danger to yourself if you've run away and have mental health problems. the police will try and find you with the cars, but after a while, if you aren't found, they will get a helicopter and a police dog out.
crises; if you're having a serious mental health crisis, whether you're in the house or outside, the police may be called to try and calm you down. after that, they may contact the street triage team, take you to A&E, or section you.
if you refuse to go to A&E (& you need to); if for some reason an ambulance has been called, this may be due to self harm, an overdose or a suicide attempt, and you refuse to go, the police can be called. if you still refuse when the police arrive, they can forcefully take you to A&E.
if someone is really concerned about you; if a friend, family member or a member of the public is concerned for your welfare, they may ring the police to come and speak to you.

If you're in a public place and the police are concerned about you, they can detain you under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. This means they can take you to a place of safety; hospital, a 136 suite, or a police cell. You can be held for up to 72 hours, and you will be assessed by an AMPH (approved mental health professional) and two doctors. The AMPH will decide whether you need to be admitted to hospital or sent home. In some cases, the police can detain you under section 135 of the Mental Health Act, which is where you can be taken to a place of safety from a private property.

Unfortunately, not all police officers understand about mental health. I've gathered together two different people's experiences with the police, and also mine, which are shown below:

"The way people deal with you in a mental health crisis makes all the difference. Whether it's nurses, mental health professionals, or even the police. Well, mainly the police. I've had countless experiences with the police when in a crisis, normally when feeling suicidal. I've been dragged out my own home, dragged off sea walls, pinned down in hospital beds and so on. A lot of the time police are calm and understanding. They ask what's wrong and ask a couple of questions. Normally I'm then 136'd or if I've taken an overdose they take me to A&E. That's all good and well, when they deal with you like that. They are kind and considerate and do actually care. But sometimes you get the ones who really don't have a clue and push and shove and drag you about. I've been sworn at, shouted at, arrested for assault and wasting police time. When in actual fact when they looked into them both, I wasn't doing that at all. Some police need to learn how to handle mentally ill people in a crisis better, they need more training and guiding with what to do. Personally I'm always scared of the police as they have so much power over you, but honestly when you actually speak to them they are really kind people, they sometimes look beyond the role of being the police. You need kind and caring people to deal with you in a crisis."

"Suffice to say, police have saved my life on countless occasions. I do not think I would be alive today if the police had not got involved with me in times of mental health crises. Policing and mental illness has always been controversial. Not everyone thinks it helps. I can see when it doesn't, when there's an officer that doesn't understand, they think you're being attention seeking, or use excessive force to get you to do something. That can do more bad than good. I have friends who have been traumatised by their encounters with police whilst being ill. But I can think of more times, personally, when the police have been amazing with me. They have sat up all night in A&E with me whilst I've been sick, comforting me and keeping me safe from my own actions. Finding me lost and alone in the middle of a field and convincing me to reach out for help. Just coming round for a chat when someone's called them up, concerned for my welfare. I have been seconds from death and they have saved me so many times. I'll always be grateful for that. I do think police are needed at the moment for mental health patients. There isn't any other alternative out there at the moment."

"During my involvement with the police, I've met some lovely officers. Some have given me good advice, and I've even had 2 police officers visit me every week for a few weeks, just to see how I was. When I've been missing, officers have kept on texting me to try and calm me down, and convince me to reach out for help. Officers like this can be really helpful when you're in a mental health crisis - they make you feel as though someone actually cares. On the other hand, I've also met some police that aren't very nice, don't even try to understand, and make you feel as though you are wasting their time. The nicer police usually take their time to talk to you, to try and understand how you're feeling and what's happened to make you feel that way. I've been detained on a section 136 of the Mental Health Act twice. Both times, the officers I had with me were brilliant. I was told the second time that if I didn't walk in calmly, I'd be handcuffed, dragged in and put in a police cell until I was taken to the 136 suite. I liked how I was given the option, and it gave me time to think. However, some officers don't do this. There have been times where I've been told I'm an attention seeker and there are real emergencies out there. There have been times when I've been sworn at, restrained, thrown into police cars and arrested for wasting police time. Some police use excessive force, which can leave someone feeling traumatised. Police officers need more training in what to do if they are called out to an individual with mental health issues, as kindness can actually save someone's life. There have been times when police have saved my life, by coming out to find me when I've run off and attempted to take my own life. I will always be thankful to the police for helping me, however I'll never be able to forget my bad experiences with them."

The top 2 paragraphs were written by two 18 year old females, who both suffer from mental health problems and have been/currently are in mental health services, and the bottom one was written by me, As you can see, we've all had both good and bad experiences, which are different. I know there's a lot of bad stuff said about the police when they deal with mentally unwell people, and unfortunately it's true. Some officers just don't have the patience, and this can result in using excessive force, and generally making a person feel worse about themselves. However, the police aren't all bad, and there have been times when they've probably saved all 3 of our lives. I speak on behalf of the two other girls included in this post when I say we're all grateful for the nice police officers we've met. However, I think the bad experiences will always be embedded in our minds. Just a reminder of how the police aren't always nice and supportive when it comes to mental health.

So often we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to enjoy the journey. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Self Harm

Self harm always has been and probably always will be, one of those taboo subjects that everyone hates to talk about. It's always brushed off as nothing, until it escalates to the point where you're ending up in A&E. This is exactly what happened to me, when I first started doing it, everyone put it down as "typical teenage antics", and that it would go away soon. So I started believing it, I started to believe that it was nothing, and it was just a phase I was going through. But it wasn't a phase, self harm is never just a phase. If help isn't sought soon, it can escalate quickly.

This is the last time.
Everytime I would self harm, I'd tell myself this. But I knew I was lying, to myself and everyone around me. Excuses were becoming harder to come up with when people were asking how the cuts had happened. In the end, I just gave up. Self harm is extremely addictive, however some narrow minded people claim that it's done for attention. Not one bit. Most people that self harm try their best to hide it, and unless you're going around showing everyone, then it isn't done for attention. People use self harm for various reasons, but for me, the reasons are listed below:
A release; I needed to do something to cope with the emotional pain inside my head, because it was becoming extremely painful. Self harm became my coping mechanism, something I turned to when my head became too overwhelming.
I deserved it; I felt as though I deserved the pain because I was a bad person. I also felt like everything I came into contact with fell apart, so I felt as though I deserved to punish myself.
I needed to feel something; Sometimes I felt so numb and empty that I didn't feel anything, and it scared me. Self harming meant that I was feeling something, normally to remind me that I'm still alive.

I hate self harm with a burning passion, and I hate that I've let it get this far. If I could go back in time and stop my 13 year old self from doing it, then I really really would. But unfortunately, that's impossible. Every time I do it, I hate it so much. And I tell myself that next time, I'll try harder to fight the urge. It's true, I do try harder. Yet I still end up doing it, and it's now gotten to the point where I've been to A&E that many times to get my arms steri-stripped and bandaged that the psychiatric liaison team know who I am. My arms and legs went from having white scars, only a few of which were visible, to being covered in lumpy and pink scars. Yes, I know they'll fade, but they're always going to be visible. They're now constant reminders of how much I hated myself. Even in the future when I'm better, they're still going to be reminders of my past, and that's something I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for.

My battle with self harm has been long and hard. Sometimes I don't even try to fight the urge, because I don't feel strong enough. But other times, I physically sit on my hands until the urge subsides so I can't do anything. It's a daily struggle. If I go into a shop and buy a pencil sharpener, or razors, the first thing I think of is self harm. Whenever I see someone that has a scar or cut on their arm that's not from self harm, I automatically panic and think that they've self harmed. I can't go to certain places around my area without being reminded of the time I went there and self harmed. Everyday consists of triggers and urges, and I have to fight with myself day in, day out.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who self  harms, or who's  thinking about it, it would be this; get help as soon as possible.
Go to your GP, speak to your parents, speak to a teacher, speak to your school counsellor. If I had sought help earlier, then maybe it wouldn't have escalated to the point I'm at now. But the sooner you get help, the more likely you are to recover.

Self harm ruins so many lives, don't let it ruin yours.

I will win. Not immediately, but definitely.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Self soothing & distractions!

When I was in a psychiatric hospital a few months ago, the staff would constantly say to me, "use your distractions!", "try some self soothing", or "make sure to take care of yourself". Every time a staff member told me this, I wanted to scream at them, because I really thought they didn't work. When I'm not feeling very well, I hate self soothing and looking after myself, because I feel like I don't deserve it. As well as this, I also thought distractions were pointless; they don't exactly make things better, or make things go away, do they? It's only when I was discharged from hospital that I started to realise the importance of self soothing and distractions. They don't make mental illnesses go away, but they can help, even if they only make a tiny difference.

So why IS self soothing and distracting yourself important? 
How do they help someone with mental illness?

These are questions that I used to ask myself, and only now that I'm out of hospital have I come to find the answers. They're important life skills, and can help to aid recovery from mental illness. These techniques can be used whenever, whether you're feeling down/struggling, going through a crisis, or even if you're having a good day. In no way whatsoever do they make anything go away, however they can prevent a bad situation from getting even worse.

What are the benefits of self soothing and distractions?

1. You're doing something nice for yourself. So often when we're struggling or not feeling well, we feel like we don't deserve to do something nice for ourselves, or we forget to. Sometimes doing something nice for ourselves can help to lift our mood, even if it's only a tiny biit.

2. You're taking your mind off your current situation. Whether you're in a crisis or just struggling, using self soothing and distraction techniques can help you to forget about the situation you're in for a while. Even though it doesn't make the situation go away, taking your mind off it can sometimes help you to think of better ways to cope with it.

3. You're taking care of yourself. Mental illness can make us feel so low and tired at times, that we completely neglect our personal hygiene. With certain self soothing techniques, such as taking a bath, means you're taking care of yourself. Not only this, but it can help you to relax.

4. You're concentrating on the here and now. Sometimes we can be so caught up in worrying about things that have either happened in the past, or are happening in the future, whether it be a few days, weeks or months, that we forget to concentrate on the current moment. Carrying out self soothing or distraction techniques can help bring us back to the present moment. 

My self soothing & distraction box

For my 18th birthday, a close friend bought me a self soothe/distraction box, which she filled with different things that I can use. Over the days and weeks, I've been adding to it, and it's the first thing I go to when I know I need to look after myself, or use my distractions. It's good to have them all in one place, as it means I can just open the box and choose something, instead of having to look around and find something.

My box looks quite empty at the moment, as there's things I need to add into it, but here's a list of what I usually have in there:

Books; they help me concentrate on something other than my thoughts, and I can lose myself in a book and create a whole new world
Colouring books & pens; they can help distract me from my thoughts and bring me back into the present moment
Bath bombs, Lush bath stuff & Radox bath soak; I use these to self soothe and to make me feel nicer 
Coloured threads; when I'm feeling anxious and irritable, I use these to create bracelets, as it keeps my hands busy and serves as a distraction
Headphones; when the voices get too loud, I grab my headphones, plug them into my iPod, and put my music on as loud as I can stand it
Diary; when things become too much, I turn to my diary - writing has always been one of my main distractions!
Sketchbook, watercolour pads & paints; sketching and painting helps to distract myself from how I'm feeling, and you can never go wrong with art
Tangle toy; when I'm really anxious, having something to keep my hands busy really helps
Soft toy; when I need to feel something that's nice, I have a soft and cuddly toy owl that I hold in my hands or rub up and down my arms
Positive notebook; the day I was discharged from inpatient, some of the patients and staff wrote a positive message in a notebook I'd bought; when I feel down, I go and read through it and it can make me remember why I'm trying my hardest to fight mental illness 

Life is like a book. Some chapters are sad, some happy and some exciting, but if you never turn the next page you will never know what the next chapter holds.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The darkest nights produce the brightest stars

At the start of February 2016, I was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric hospital.

Megan, we are formally detaining you under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

I just remember the police officer telling me this, and I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I was taken to a 136 suite in Alnmouth, Morpeth at 10pm. I felt and looked absolutely dreadful, and I was frightened. 1:30am came around, and the two psychiatrists and a AMHP arrived to assess me. One was an adult psychiatrist, and one was a CAMHS psychiatrist. They spoke to me, and after a while they all just looked at each other and nodded in mutual agreement.
Can you let us arrange an ambulance to take you to hospital?
I didn't really have a choice. Because of what had happened over the past week, I knew that if I didn't go as an informal patient, I'd most likely be sectioned. I had to give my all into recovery. I was taken to an adolescent psychiatric hospital in Middlesbrough, called the Newberry Centre at West Lane Hospital. I was transported by a transport ambulance, and I arrived at 3:45am. I'd heard so many horrible things about inpatient units, so I was terrified.

Arriving at the unit

When I arrived at the unit, we rang the doorbell and had to wait for the nurse in charge (NIC) to open it. Because I'd arrived quite late, it was quiet and the patients who weren't on leave were in bed. Me, the AMHP who came with me, and the ambulance driver got taken into one of the family rooms. It was a medium sized room, with comfy chairs. The AMHP explained why I was being admitted, and the NIC asked me a few questions, too. I met the two HCA's that were on nightshift, and one of them showed me around, before the NIC took me to my room. I got a few hours sleep before the on-call doctor came to properly admit me, to ask me some questions and to check my physical obs.

What to take

As my admission wasn't planned, I wasn't able to pack my own things. However, if you're admission is planned, then here's a list of things that you might want to take with you:
t-shirts (short & long sleeved); we had to have our arms covered if we self harmed
hoodies/jumpers; some units don't allow hoodies so ask beforehand!
jeans/leggings/jogger bottoms
dressing gown
shampoo & conditioner
shower gel
deodorant; my unit allowed sprays, but some units don't so it's best to ask
toothbrush & toothpaste
sanitary towels
razors; in my unit we had to keep all razors in our locked cupboards 
hairbrush, hair grips & bobbles
phone, music device (e.g. iPod) & headphones; my unit allowed these however some don't
colouring book & pens 
cuddly toys 
positive quotes; to stick on the wall 
stress ball, tangle toys
school work
lined/plain paper

The following day

The following morning the staff let me sleep in until dinner time, as it was a weekend and I was the only patient on the ward. I met two of the HCA's and one of the staff nurses, and they were lovely. As the patients started arriving back on the ward, I retreated back to my room. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been so frightened. My mam came to visit, which just made me feel even worse, because I missed her loads. That day, I met my key nurse, and she was super lovely. She went through everything with me; the routine, who my consultant was, etc. My key nurse urged me to come out of my room, but I felt scared. I wasn't familiar with the routine, I hardly knew any of the staff and I'd only met one patient. After I'd had a shower, another patient came and got me, took me out of my room and into the night lounge to meet everyone else.

Daily routine

The structure of the routine became my rock. Before I was admitted, I lacked structure which contributed a lot to my mental illnesses. At around 8am, a nurse or healthcare assistant would wake you up, telling you to get ready for the morning meeting. If you were on meds, these would also be given to you. If you were like me, you'd get out of bed, get dressed and go and get breakfast. For some other patients, it was "get out of my room!", that was a regular occurrence! Breakfast was between 8am and 8:45am, whenever you managed to get out of bed really. The morning meeting happened at 8:45am in the day lounge. The nurses and HCA's would find me and a few other patients sat, raring to go. I mean, who didn't love getting out of bed to go to a morning meeting that either rarely happened if certain HCA's weren't in, or was late? Anyway, moving on! Education was between 9am and 3pm, with breaks in between. Well, that was the case for the Priory lot. For us few that were with Middlesbrough education, it hardly happened because they didn't bother turning up! On a Monday morning, there was DBT group. DBT group was basically all patients sat in a circle for 2 hours listening to the psychologist talk. On rare occasions, one of us would speak. At noon, it was lunch, which we'd often complain about. Even the kitchen staff complained about it! 1pm it was back to education, and at 3pm when it finished, you'd usually find us in the day lounge watching 1 of 3; Dance Moms, Impractical Jokers or Jeremy Kyle. Between 3pm and 5pm was free time, unless you had appointments with the psychologist, key nurse or nurse consultant, which happened once a week. 5pm was dinner, and there was always an evening activity. Then came the weekend, which meant home leave. Yippee!

My experience

For the month I was there, I had both good and bad memories. Patients came and went, some were in and out in a week or two, some got discharged just before I did, and some I had to leave behind. I became close to a lot of the patients, sometimes they were more helpful than the staff! We all had good memories playing pool, going out on trips, tie dying t-shirts, movie nights, and the list is endless. Despite this, we all had our bad times, which for me included breaking down to the staff and wanting to go home. I have to give it to the staff though, most of them were incredible and really knew how to cheer you up. Like the time there was me and 2 other patients on the ward on a Thursday night; most of the other young people had gone on home leave. One of the nurses and HCA's decided to get the tambourines out. Music time! No, definitely not. I didn't enjoy being chased down the corridor by them with tambourines. It was especially NOT fun when they decided to go outside and bang on the window of the room we were in. Safe to say it ended in a pillow fight! The first place the staff would go to check on me was either the sensory room, or the garden room. I pretty much spent most of my time in them rooms! Especially at night; at around 8pm me and another patient would sit in the garden room chatting and watching the clock, praying that there's good night staff on! Only because we wanted hot chocolates of course.

All in all, my experience in a psychiatric hospital wasn't necessarily a bad one. I met lovely staff, I made lifelong friends, some of whom I'm still in touch with now, and I learnt new skills that I still use now

What did I get from being in a psychiatric hospital?

1. I learnt valuable skills - distractions and mindfulness. Everytime the staff mentioned the word 'distraction' or 'mindful', I wanted to kill them. Mainly because at the time I couldn't see how they would help, but now that I'm out on my own in the world, I can see how useful they've become. In fact, they've become my lifesavers.
2. I met some incredible nurses and HCA's that really made me change my way of thinking. Especially my key nurse, who told me about the 3 Cs - choices, chapters and challenges. Everytime she mentioned it we'd both just burst out laughing. But honestly, those 3 Cs have stuck by me throughout my admission, and even now that I'm discharged.
3. I met patients that made me realise I'm not alone in my struggles. Before I got admitted, I felt so alone, and at times it felt like I was the only one going through it. But now? I realise that I'm not, and the patients really helped me on my journey to recovery.
4. Most importantly, I found myself. I didn't know who I was before this admission, I felt as though I was just going through the motions of life, and not really living. Although I still struggle now, I've found myself more thanks to this admission.

Remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Mental illness is NOT a choice

For some reason, many people think that people choose to have a mental illness. Maybe it's because they don't understand, or maybe it's because of their ignorance about mental illness. There are many reasons, some of which I've not even thought about until now. However, telling someone that the illness they have is a choice, is not okay, and I'll never understand the reasons why people think this. Yes, not everyone understands mental illness, or understands what it's like to have one. But this doesn't mean people are allowed to tell others that their illness is a choice; it's not okay.

Over the time that I've been mentally unwell, I've had so many things said to me.
Just smile! Be happy. Stop being anxious. You have no reason to be sad. Just eat. Tell the voices to go away. Just ignore the voices! Why are you so moody all the time? 
This is just a very small portion of what people have previously said to me. When I used to get told all of this, it made me so angry. Why would I choose to be this way? Why would  I choose to be mentally unwell? I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy, and if I could switch my illness off, I'd do it in a flash. So, let me give you an insight into what life is like for me. For those of you that don't know, I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Social Anxiety Disorder. As well as this, I also suffer from auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia and paranoid beliefs. For the people that don't know what BPD is, it basically causes extreme mood swings, intense emotions, unstable relationships, etc.

I wake up. Great, another day to drag myself through. I lie in bed for at least an hour, contemplating on when I'm going to get up. Just 5 more minutes! However, 5 minutes turns into 10, and then 15, and so on. I hardly have any energy to get up, and I have to drag myself out of bed. I drag myself to the bathroom and run a bath, because I've not washed myself or my hair in a while. Gross, I know, but it's reality of being mentally unwell. Once I'm in the bath I don't have the energy to get back out once I'm washed, so I end up staying in there for too long. When I've summoned the energy to get out and get dressed, I stumble back to my bedroom where I collapse on my bed out  of sheer exhaustion. For someone who is mentally well, all of this would take about 1 hour, maybe an hour and a half at max. For me, all of this takes about 2-3 hours. So I'm all washed and dressed. Now what? I could use my skills and distractions. Painting, reading, mindfulness, going for a walk, writing, and the list is endless. Yet all this just seems too much. On a good day, I'd use some of my distractions. But on a bad day, I just can't be bothered. Then comes the intense emotions of sadness, anger and emptiness. When the intense sadness comes along, I just sit and cry for hours. Intense emptiness results in me sitting somewhere, either the floor or my bed, and just rocking back and forwards. And then there's the intense anger. Oh boy, I dread this emotion. I hate knowing that when it's gone and it's over, it's going to come back, and I dread it. Because once it comes along, I'm verbally aggressive towards other people, I scream, shout, throw things and hurt myself. In the past, this intense anger has resulted in the police being called, and being threatened with an arrest. Once I've calmed down from my intense emotions, I feel guilt and shame. What have I done? How could I hurt other people? And then I feel like I need to hurt myself. I feel so empty that I need to hurt myself to feel something. To feel alive. 9 times out of 10 I end up in A&E or the urgent care centre to get my arms cleaned, steri-stripped and bandaged. Then the questions of "Why did you do it?" come along. I don't know. Maybe it's because I feel numb and empty constantly. Maybe it's because I hate myself. Or maybe it's because it's the only thing that keeps me sane.
Back home I go, without any support. If I'm in A&E, I'm seen by the psych team and sent home, because there isn't anything they can do for me. And that's the worst part, because I feel like I'm screaming out for help, yet no-one will help me. At times, I feel really, really desperate. Once I'm back home I usually feel calmer. I can use some of my distractions and skills, until it gets to night time. The sadness comes again, and it's worse than ever. The voices have been at me all day, and I'm fed up. Why me? Why can't they just leave me alone? Next thing I know, I'm using different methods of self harm, including smacking my head repeatedly off a wall, just to get them to shut up. But it's not just the auditory hallucinations, it's the visual too. And oh Lord are they scary! Imagine hearing and seeing the devil, everywhere you go. If you can't hear him, you can see him, and vice versa. He's constantly laughing and saying things to me, and he even speaks to me in Russian (not that I can understand him). Not only this, but imagine getting into bed at night and just lying there. You can hear a few people pacing up and down your room, mumbling things, talking to each other. These people are known as shadow people; they are literal shadows. They're talking about how they're going to hurt you. As well as pacing up and down your room, you can feel them pulling at your hair, scratching at your skin. It's utterly terrifying, and I've had a lot of people, including professionals, say to me:

Just ignore them.

If I could, I really would. When I'm in bed at night, I pray that the voices, or the shadow people, or the devil, will just kill me there and then. Because that's how terrifying it is. I pray that I don't wake up in the morning, that something happens in the night so I die. Mental illness has made me so desperate that I pray to God to kill me already, to save me from this living hell. It's made me so desperate that I've lost count of how many times the police have had to come to my house, or come out looking for me, to save me. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be alive right now.

It's like your drowning, but you can see everyone else around you breathing. 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

My struggle with mental illness

When I was younger, I never thought about the concept of having a mental illness. I remember when I was first starting to experience depression, before I was referred to CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service), and a few of my friends were suggesting the idea of me suffering from depression. I just laughed at them. Me? Have depression? I honestly didn't think I had it, everything that I was doing at that point was completely normal for me. Suicidal ideation and self-harm was my idea of normal. It wasn't until I'd had my first appointment at CAMHS, and I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, that I realised things weren't normal. But how can I have depression? It's just something that people like me don't get diagnosed with. I denied having it, it just couldn't be true.
But it was.
When I was 13/14, I really thought I was at my lowest and things could never get any worse. Oh how wrong I was! But I suppose when you're at that age, you really think things can't get any worse. The bullying and torment that I'd suffered from fellow pupils since primary school had subsided, but that didn't stop the constant thoughts and feelings. It felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over me all the time, I just wasn't happy. Of course around friends and family I'd put on my 'mask'; I'd smile and pretend everything was okay. However, it was far from it. I never realised how detrimental putting on this mask would be, or else I probably wouldn't have done it. Even though I've never really been a big talker, I never spoke about how I was feeling. It got to the point where I was just lying my way through my CAMHS appointments. They started me on fluoxetine, yet after a few months I just stopped taking it. My counsellor didn't know this, I'd been telling her that it had been helping, when it wasn't. I didn't see the point in taking something that wasn't helping, so I stopped. I can't remember if this was before or after I was started on medication, but I remember my first overdose so clearly.
My parents had gone out for the day, and my sister wasn't in the house either. I already hated being in the house alone, but the suicidal thoughts made it so much harder. I didn't tell my mam and dad this though, I didn't want to spoil their day it. It seemed as though I ruined everything. I wasn't going to let that happen this time. Not long after they'd gone out, I searched through the medicine cabinet for any tablets I could find. I took a handful of paracetamol, and then panic set in.
How could I have done this?
I rang an ambulance, and a police officer and an ambulance crew arrived shortly after. My parents arrived soon after they got to the house, too. I was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where I had a cannula put in and I was kept in the children's ward overnight for observation. In the morning, I was assessed by the mental health team, and discharged with a follow up from CAMHS. I'd scared myself so much by doing it, that I never wanted to do it again; I never wanted to hurt my family like that. I just wish I could have stuck by that.
I hate the fact that I've been in and out of CAMHS since I was 13, and I'm now very close to being 18. I've grown up around mental illness, and sometimes it feels like it's the only thing I've known. As normal as people may think I am, I've not been able to live a happy, normal life. Yes, there have been times when I've felt okay. But these periods of happiness and positivity have never lasted long, and in the end I've always crashed harder than the last time. At the start of 2015, I started to run away from sixth form quite a lot. This was around the time that I'd had an emergency referral back to CAMHS by my GP not long after being discharged. I just couldn't see the point in living anymore. On a lot of occasions when I would leave the school, I'd end up overdosing. I always refused to go to hospital, because I felt like I deserved the hurt and pain I was inflicting upon myself. Everyone was so angry and annoyed with me, but I couldn't control my actions. One time when I was taken back to sixth form, a police officer came to speak to me. He told me that I was hurting everyone around me, and that I was stopping the police from attending real emergencies. That was the word that got to me the most - real. It felt as though my problems were being undermined, and that no-one really cared.

After a while, things slowly got better, and my appointments with my CAMHS psychologist were reduced. In the summer of 2015, my parents split up. This was a huge shock for me, as I thought my family was the type where my parents would be together forever. Clearly this wasn't the case, and it just goes to show how unpredictable life is. Although I put on a brave face and tried to cope with my parents' separation, it felt as though my whole world was falling apart. I had to be the brave one, because everyone else was struggling to come to terms with it. Not only was I having to hide my feelings about the separation, I started to become unwell again. I blamed myself for the separation, I thought if I'd been a better daughter, then none of this would have happened. As a result of this, I started inflicting more pain upon myself, in the form of self harm. I'd been doing this on and off since the age of 13, but now I was starting to carry it out in different forms.
Cutting, burning, pulling my hair out, restricting my food intake, punching myself, banging my head off walls, scratching myself.
I hated myself, I couldn't stand looking at myself in the mirror. Everything seemed to be going downhill again, and even though my appointments with my CAMHS psychologist had been increased again, nothing seemed to be helping. I felt hopeless, and I didn't know what to do anymore. This was when I took my second paracetamol overdose. I hadn't necessarily done it to end my life, it was just one of my impulsive actions. After I'd done it, I rang an ambulance because I realised what I had done. How could I have been so stupid? I was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where I was made to drink activated charcoal, to try and reverse the damage the paracetamol may have caused. I was seen by the doctor and I was kept in overnight for observation, and discharged the next day.
Nothing seemed to be improving, in fact my mental health was deteriorating. So my psychologist decided to refer me to a more intensive team; ICTS (intensive community treatment service). I was also referred to start Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), which would consist of 1:1 therapy and group therapy each week. I had my first appointment with two mental health nurses from ICTS, and they seemed really nice. From then on, I had appointments a few times a week with them; sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. My mood was all over the place, and from October-November things were really up and down. Most of the time I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster. Around the end of November I stopped going to sixth form, and this was when my mental health started to slowly go downhill. Christmas came around, and it was a really hard time. I felt as though I was a burden on my family, and I didn't deserve anything I'd received. I had to put on a brave face and pretend everything was okay, when inside I felt broken. I struggled to eat, and I struggled even more to be happy.

2016. The year everything went wrong. By January, I hadn't been to sixth form in around 2 months. I was hardly eating, I wasn't sleeping properly, I was self harming pretty much every day, I was actively suicidal and I was always hallucinating. Towards the end of January, I decided enough was enough. I couldn't live like this anymore; I couldn't live inside my own mind. I felt as though I was being tortured by my head and the voices, and I just couldn't cope. It was the first time I'd ran away from home, and the euphoria I felt when I got out of the house was insane. I'd planned it out well, and it had worked. Previously to running away I'd taken a staggered paracetamol overdose. I felt on top of the world, everything was going to plan. I honestly didn't think anyone had noticed I'd run away, until the police found me. I was taken back home where I was taken to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington. I had my bloods taken, but despite what the results were, I was started on parvolex, because I'd taken my biggest overdose yet. I felt dreadful, and the drip made me feel so sick. I was kept in overnight and discharged the following day by the mental health team, with plans that I'd be seen by ICTS. However, a few days later I was discharged by ICTS. 

I started constantly running away from home, and I was always involved with the police. I often spoke to ChildLine, who would ring the police because they were concerned about me. The following week after my overdose I ran away and went missing for 11 hours. Running away was one of my biggest impulsions; I felt out of control. But I just couldn't stop myself. My hallucinations were becoming pretty bad, and I ended up running away because of them. Everyone started to become really concerned, because I started to put myself in dangerous situations. At the start of February, I ran away twice within 48 hours and made two serious suicide attempts. Both attempts resulted in a lot of police looking for me, police dogs and police helicopters. After the second attempt, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Middlesbrough, where I stayed for 4 weeks and 3 days. During my stay here, I was diagnosed with emerging Borderline Personality Disorder.

Even though I'm not completely recovered, I'm at a much better place than what I was when I got admitted to hospital. I still have my bad days, however I'm starting to have more positive days. I still have trips to A&E when I'm unwell, but I have loads more skills to use when I'm in crisis. I've found ways of communicating with people to let them know I'm unwell, which can be really useful so I don't go into a crisis. I still have a long way to go, but that's all part of my journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.