If you only ever keep one promise…

If you only ever keep one promise…

TW content: References to suicidal ideation and awkward train metaphors

Today is one of the bad days

You may not know I have good days because I only tend to write when I’m low, it’s a form of self care. It’s something I can do that makes me feel as though something positive and productive can come out of something that’s painful.

When I have my good days I’m usually too busy doing important life things and taking advantage of all the energy and positivity I have because on my bad days, I can do very little. Days like today are spent just toughing it out, trying to use all the skills that DBT gave me.

Anyone who struggles with mental health difficulties will know about the negative thoughts that come into their head. “My head tells me lies” is one of my favourite mantras, it reminds me that the thoughts occurring are not true. I am loveable, I am not useless, my life is worth living. Luckily, my bad days have become less frequent and severe thanks to medication, therapy and hard work. But still, I have bad days and these bad days will probably always happen, I will always struggle with my BPD to varying degrees throughout my life… and this is the hardest thought to have because it is not a lie. When I was growing up I thought I would grow out of the crippling anxiety and crushing phases of depression. That I’d eventually stop feeling disconnected from others, that I’d feel less empty and isolated. I thought my mood swings would get less, that my ADHD would miraculously disappear when I hit 20… and since then I have become increasingly despaired and frustrated that it hasn’t gone away, in fact in many respects it got worse. I won’t grow out of it… because this is who I am. That thought always makes the pain harder to tolerate on the bad days because what immediately follows that thought is… “is it worth it?”

How much more money will my parents have to pour into my healthcare? How long will they have to support me? How long before my friends and family cannot further tolerate me and my issues? How much am I considered a burden to the people I love?

Oops. There I go again. My head tells me lies.

This thought train leads me down the same track every time and it terminates at Kill Yourself Land! – not a very creative name but hey, at least it’s direct. Choo! Choo! All aboard!

STOP. Do not let this runaway train take you to your termination.

The one thing that consistently prevents me from getting too close to purchasing the one way ticket is my promise. The promise that I make to myself, to my friends, to my family, to my therapist and most especially… to my dog.

I’ve promised that I will not hurt them in that way. I’ve promised them that I will not be the cause of someone else’s trauma.

The one caveat to this is that in order for this promise to remain effective you have to remember that you are loved, that you are not just a burden and that you will most certainly be missed.

This is why the number one weapon in my armoury against suicidal thoughts is pictures and messages. I print and keep my favourite pictures of friends and family close to me, pictures where we’re all smiling, memories that prove to me that I matter too much to give up. I’ve also asked friends to send me letters or messages telling me why they are my friend.

I highly recommend doing this. Reading the messages I have from the people I love is a way for them to be there for me and support me even if they cannot come to the phone at that very moment (or more likely, if I feel unable to contact them when I’m feeling this way). Those messages interrupt that negative train of thought that is trying so hard to take me to Kill Yourself Land.

Finally, I recommend getting a pet, a furry unconditionally loving dependent that will be so lost and confused without you. Who’s going to care for them when you’re gone and how will you know that they’re doing right by your fur child?! It’s best to stick around and do it yourself.

So if there is only one promise you decide to keep in your life… keep this one. Keep making and reaffirming this promise to yourself and to your loved ones, on your good days as well as your bad. Eventually you’ll find that your promise will interrupt every suicidal thought you have and although you may never fully escape those thoughts, they will be less powerful and that’s something.

There are many other methods that can be used if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, these are just the ones that I find the most helpful. If you are currently struggling with such thoughts please know that you are not alone and although I cannot guarantee that you will never feel like this again I can tell you that emotions are temporary and this feeling will pass. Don’t be afraid to go to your local A&E if you feel at risk of hurting yourself.

 

SUPPORT

If you find it difficult to talk to someone you know, you could:

  • call your GP – ask for an emergency appointment
  • call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need 
  • contact your mental health crisis team – if you have one

Another option is to contact one of these support lines.

Samaritans – for everyone 
Call 116 123 
Email jo@samaritans.org

Papyrus – for people under 35 
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm 
Text 07786 209697 
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline – for children and young people under 19 
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill

The Silver Line – for older people 
Call 0800 4 70 80 90

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men 
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day 
Visit the webchat page

*I’d like to take a moment to be thankful to my wonderful family and friends for being my anchor that keeps me from being lost to the darkness forever. I owe you my life. I love you. I promise I will not give up.*

BPD and Back to school

Yay! It’s that time again! Back to school time! Can you feel the crippling anxiety in your bones? I know I can!

It’s been a year since I graduated with BA, I wanted to take a year out to gain some work experience and some perspective.
At least that was the plan… But as we all know things don’t always go as we plan. I didn’t plan to have a nervous breakdown when the structure that the academic world provided me was no longer there. I didn’t plan to spend a month in a psychiatric hospital or to spend the better part of the year in intensive therapy.
HOWEVER. Falling apart have just be the best thing to ever happen to me… in a really dark and fucked up kind of way. If I hadn’t crumpled into a total dysfunctional pile, I may have never gone to Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. I wouldn’t have learnt to understand my borderline personality disorder and taken the steps necessary to rewire my brain. I’m not saying I’m magically perfect now, far from it but when I fell apart, I had the opportunity to learn, grow and put my pieces back together differently.
I feel so much more in control of my thoughts, my emotions (kinda) and my relationships.

I now feel ready to get back in the game. Back to school. Back to reality. I have just registered as an MA student and I couldn’t be more excited or determined.

Having said that. I’m shitting myself.

I may not be depressed anymore but the ADHD, BPD and anxiety haven’t magically disappeared. There will blood, sweat and tears… possibly all on the first day. I have a knack of working myself up into a panic rather easily and panic attacks happen regularly when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Past Nicci would have kept her metaphorical ostrich head in the ground (I keep my literal ostrich head under my bed) and have simply tried to suppress the feelings of instability and panic rising up inside her. But this is present Nicci. Present Nicci has a plan. Present Nicci has a… wait for it…

 Mental Health Care kit!

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Boom!

This bag contains everything I might need to deal with emotional deregulation when away from home.

For my panic attacks which usually consist of hyperventilation, ugly and uncontrollable sobbing I have tissues, my ventilator (cos of all the hyper breathing), rescue remedy (which doesn’t really work but I’m hoping my brain doesn’t know that), eye drops (for the redness) and a small mirror (to fix the hot mess that is my face).  Also like to keep a bag of dried lavender to calm me down and keep me mindful.

For my self harm urges and disassociation episodes I have super sour spray and a fidget cube. Although I would rarely self harm in public I do have a nervous habit of picking at my skin, scratching and digging my nails into my skin. The fidget cube helps to keep my hands busy. The sour spray gives me something strong and sensory to focus on.

For sensory overload I have earplugs. When I feel myself going into overload noise is often the biggest trigger and can be the tipping point from sanity into emotional chaos. For good measure I also have a cheerful aromatic balm to place on pulse points. The scent is delicate enough not to be overwhelming and it helps me to stay present by focusing on the smell.

Last but not least I have an Emergency Action Plan. When I’m deregulated or disassociating it can be almost impossible to think coherently. Having notes in my bag will help me to remember what to do to help myself.

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I also included my STOP notes which help me to make mindful decisions and not act on destructive impulses.

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These are the items that I have chosen for my care bag as I know what works for me. The great thing about a care bag is that you can tailor it to your needs. Think carefully on what helps you feel calm and centred but also consider practical options like tissues. Choose items that will help you to stay mindful and grounded. Maybe you want to add an emergency chocolate bar if your blood sugar drops.

So there we have it. My care bag. It’s my own back to school preparation. I know it won’t be easy and I know that I’m going to have my bad days, but I certainly feel more ready to face them knowing that I have tools I need with me.

What would you put in your care bag? Let me know in the comments.

Coming out the other side of a depressive episode

It’s hard to remember, what life was like before a depressive episode. In that state everything is black and white and days pass in a slow fog… I remember when I first saw the Psychiatrist:

“Are you suicidal?” 

“I have suicidal thoughts but I’d never do that to my family”

“How do you know you won’t act on them?”

“I keep telling myself I’ve got better before, and I’ll get better again”

Sometimes it was a fight to cling to that knowledge. It’s been a couple of months since I left the psych hospital and since then its been a bit of a bumpy road but I’ve been heading in the right direction all the same. Now, after completing my first month of DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) colour is flooding into my life and I feel myself waking up.
Everyday I have to work at getting better. I do my DBT homework, I follow my therapists advice, I take my medication. The work is paying off though, my motivation has improved, my attention span is longer, my mood is more stable. Suddenly I realise that I’m no longer enduring my life but living it.

Today, as part of my DBT homework I created a photo wall as one of my ACE activities (activities that give you a sense of Achievement, Closeness to others and Enjoyment)

I ordered polaroid photographs of my friends and family and strung them up as a reminder of all the positives in my life.

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Remember to look after yourself and to plan things that will bring you fulfilment.

This is a list of my ACE log

  • invite a friend to dinner (or even just a phone call if you can’t manage dinner)
  • Do something kind for someone else
  • Exercise
  • Sing along to music
  • Have a hot bath
  • Go for a walk
  • Bake
  • Write
  • Clean and decorate around the house (best done in small chunks)
  • Meditation or Mindfulness exercise
  • Setting a side a time for ‘life admin’ tasks

I consider myself very lucky to have a supportive network of friends and family around me that have enabled me to never lose sight of what’s important. I wouldn’t have made the progress I have if it wasn’t for their help.

For any readers that struggle with mental illness please take that step to reach out and ask for help from a friend, family member, or you talk to your GP or call Good Samaritans.

Endnote: This post is slightly more serious than the usual banter and for that you have my most sincere apologies (soz, not soz). Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or want to chat. I hope that sharing my experience can help others. 

Tutorial: How to please everyone

…YOU CAN’T.

It’s just not going to happen and you’re only going to make yourself miserable in the process.

(This is not a tutorial. I lied.)

I am a people pleaser. I confess. Being a people pleaser doesn’t mean I’m a sheep, it doesn’t mean I’ll do anything to fit in. I’ve always kinda skipped to the beat of my own bongo and I’ve always been a little bit proud of that. But when it comes to the people closest to me, the people I love, respect and admire… Hell yes! I want to please them. For a good time I didn’t think there was much of a problem with this. I just wanted to make the people I cared about happy, what’s so wrong about that?

The answer?

Because it’s impossible and you risk your own happiness and even your own identity whilst trying. Here’s why…

Scenario: It’s a party. Your parents, your best friend and your partner are going to be there.

  • Your Mom bought you a new dress and she’s really hoping you’ll wear it to this event
  • You promised your best friend you’d go in matching novelty crab outfits, because that’s the way you roll.
  • Your partner is going to be there and shellfish really isn’t their thing plus there is a slinky black combo you know they are going to love.

What do you choose to wear?

The appropriate answer would be: Wear what you want to the party.

But if you’re a People Pleaser like me… you might not be able to see past your need to make others happy. You don’t even know what you want!

So…What do you do when you realise that you no longer know what you truly want?
What do you do when you realise you’re unable to make a choice that isn’t swayed by the desires of others?
What do you do when you come to the realisation that all your life’s decisions, from the way you dress to the hobbies you choose, are all influenced by the desire to please others?

YOU HAVE A GIANT IDENTITY CRISIS!

(seriously, who am I?)

You suddenly realise that all this time when you thought you were busy being your own person, really you were busy being everyone else’s person! Suddenly you find yourself in Julia Roberts’ shoes as the Runaway Bride, who doesn’t even know how she like’s her eggs!

One of the diagnostic symptoms for Borderline Personality Disorder is having an unstable self-image. When I was first Diagnosed with BPD, I (very loudly) disagreed with this part of the diagnosis. I know who I am! (She said as convincingly as she could)

“Unclear or unstable self-image. When you have BPD, your sense of self is typically unstable. Sometimes you may feel good about yourself, but other times you hate yourself, or even view yourself as evil. You probably don’t have a clear idea of who you are or what you want in life. As a result, you may frequently change jobs, friends, lovers, religion, values, goals, and even sexual identity.”

for more info on BPD click on the  (Source)

I’ve come to grudgingly realise that this is true. My self-image is both unstable and unclear! And part of it is a consequence of me trying to please others.
Now, before making a decision I stop and think: “Am I making this decision for me?” which inevitably leads to another question: “Who am I and what do I want?” Usually I hear the tiny, scared voice deep inside of me utter the reply “I don’t know.” 

Not knowing who you are can be a very unnerving sensation, and I don’t have a lot of advice on how to figure yourself out, after all… I’m still working out who I am. But I figure that if you ask the question “Am I making this personal choice for me?” enough times you’ll gradually start to see things a little clearer.*

Maybe keep a diary to keep your thoughts and decision-making on paper…

Or maybe write a blog… I hear some people do that.

 

*DISCLAIMER: I have no idea what I’m talking about.