First thought: I am a hypocrite. On my Instagram and blog, I call myself a mental health advocate. I also call myself a feminist. Yet I cannot help but loathe myself a little for not speaking up in the #metoo movement. Even though logically I know that it’s my story and I have a right to choose when and where to tell it and if I’m not comfortable telling my story then that’s ok. Well… that’s what I would say to someone who is not me. but since it is me… this is no excuse.
Second thought… I’m a yo-yo, I both manage to overshare and under share information about myself. I will tell anyone who will listen that I have ADHD in fact, at this point, it’s more like a general disclaimer when I meet anyone new… I also feel the urge to disclaim my borderline personality disorder… it’s my way of apologizing in advance for being me. However, asking for help from a friend, telling someone that I am currently not coping… that I couldn’t possibly imagine sharing with someone. I’d rather just avoid people altogether… and then I get lonely. oh yes! I swing from pushing people away to being desperate for company. I look on at groups of friends talking and all I want is to be a part of it… until I am and then I’m panicking and searching for a way to escape it because people are generally terrifying… what with their words and their perceptions. Apparently, nothing is more terrifying to my anxious mind than being judged by others, whether I know them or not.
Third thought… step back and breathe.
actually, I lie, this is most likely my 10025th thought. I have so many thoughts at one time that most of the time its impossible to distinguish which thought is which and in what order they arrive. It’s mostly just a hot mess of words and emotion in my head.
See tonight my colleagues will be panicking and burning the midnight oil to be able to submit their essays tomorrow. I won’t be doing that because I have an extension. (because of the ADHD) And never have I felt more stupid, pathetic and worthless than right now (ok that’s an exaggeration but IT REALLY FEELS THAT WAY IN THE MOMENT!).
… why am I writing this again?
oh yes.. the third thought.
STEP BACK AND BREATHE.
So simple yet so. fucking. difficult.
I can feel myself wanting to spiral down through negative thoughts, through doubt and anxiety. I can feel myself wanting to run away from my problems anyway I can. I can feel myself wanting to resort to problem behaviors, but I also don’t want to resort to those behaviors because I have worked so hard at my recovery and I don’t want to backslide again.
So I’m here, writing my feelings down as a way of processing and as a way of feeling heard. It’s my way of stopping and noticing that I might just be slipping down the rabbit hole. (This is actually a far too gentle a metaphor for my head but “slipping down Satan’s arsehole” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
I apologize for the slightly nonsensical tangent, and this post will most likely be gone by the morning. But for now, this is my way of expressing my feelings to everyone and no one at the same time.
I have a lot of emotions and expressing them is one of my greatest challenges. Especially when it’s in the moment. So this is a new experiment, writing in the moment, while the feelings are ugly and raw… fresh out of Satan’s arsehole as it were.
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!
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.
I also included my STOP notes which help me to make mindful decisions and not act on destructive impulses.
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.
Today I am a prisoner to my own mind.
It’s a little cliche but its true. It’s been a beautiful day today, the first real taste of Summer. If I wanted to I could spend the day outside, with my dog. In the park.
I love the sun, I chase after it whenever I have the chance.
Unless I’m “having a day”. A day where it’s hard to leave the house. A day where I’m too caught up in my own mind to do much of anything, writing currently excluded.*
Outside, yes. That’s where I want to be, but it’s like there’s an invisibe force today that’s pushing me down. I’m anxious… about everything, I don’t know how many times I’ve got up to get dressed only to find myself sitting down again.
I keep telling myself I’ll get up, I’ll get dressed, I’ll go to the park. I’ll walk, I’ll talk, I’ll breathe, I’ll function, I’ll be.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
But it is, and that’s okay. That’s today. Today is not over yet.
Today doesn’t have to be a bad day. I’ll be kind and patient with myself but I have at least try. So I can go to bed tonight and say “I really did try.” So I haven’t cancelled my evening plans to go to the theatre… I’m sure I can get myself out the house for that.
The day’s note over;
*I’m actually quite surprised I’ve started writing again. I think I forgot how much of a relief it was to pull the thoughts out of my head and see them on paper. Maybe I have more of a chance of making sense of them then. And this entry literally is just a spewing of thoughts to text. No editing. Otherwise I overthink it and never post it.
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.
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
Sing along to music
Have a hot bath
Go for a walk
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.
Sometimes I will send annoying texts, repetitively poke someone (in a non-sexual manner) or just generally behave in an annoying and obnoxious manner. Sometimes I just simply but my head into the person like a dog wanting love. When any of these things happen it is because my attention light is blinking.This is an actual system that has somehow gradually developed with my friends and family. I can just tell them now that my attention light is blinking and that I require love and affection. I can be quite a needy person… when I’m not busy being completely aloof.I always justify my need for attention by explaining that I have Attention Deficit Disorder and so really, by receiving attention from others they’re really just helping me with my deficit…
These days, attention seeking has negative connotations. If we seek too much attention we’re called “attention whores”. If a Facebook post is overtly emotional we say the person is just looking for attention like it’s a bad thing. Or the one I hate the most… how self-harming is a cry for attention, which in a sense can sometimes be true but it is too often said in a way that trivializes the persons actions.
I know I’m not the only person who has had these thoughts, I’m pretty sure I read a blog on this very subject not too long ago (and to whoever blog’s it is I apologise, I couldn’t find the article again to reference it). But I whole heartedly agree that asking for attention should not be considered a bad thing. We all need attention and we should all be willing to give our attention to others. Sometime’s all a person needs is to feel noticed, and if a person feels the need to hurt themselves in order to be noticed… I’d say they’re entitled to ask for some attention.
Don’t be afraid to ask for attention when you need it, and don’t be stingey with your attention when you see someone else crying out for it. Let’s all be a little bit more giving, and a little bit more loving.
I just came from watching The Secret Life of Pets with my mother. Which was an interesting experience since there were a lot of other kids there with their parents as well. Only difference was the children were about 20 years younger than me. Still, I’m young at heart. Besides, nothing cheers me up more than animated anthropomorphised animals going on wacky adventures.
I also got a massive metal bucket full of sweet ‘n salty popcorn which was awesome, and I’m going to keep it as my future sick bucket… because I get sick more often than I eat popcorn and every household needs a decent sick bucket.
Anyways, I digress. My point is that there was a poignant moment in the movie where Max is swimming for his little doggie life towards a life saver and Duke is cheering him on by saying. (This may be paraphrased as I don’t remember the quote exactly):
“Keep going! You’re doing great! Well, not really… But you’re not drowning so that’s something!”
And there, right in that small moment… contained the perfect metaphor for struggling with an illness, mental or otherwise. Because half the battle is keeping your head above water.
So When you’re being hard on yourself because you haven’t got much done that day, or that week… or that month. Just remember: You’re not drowning… so that’s something.
My therapist has been insistent that I try mindfulness. Now I’m no stranger to meditation, it’s something I’ve practised many times. I like to think its something I was quite good at… but lately this is not the case. My shrink suggested this app called Headspace, which gives guided mindfulness meditation exercises. It’s actually a pretty neat little app and I’m sure it works great… if only I could get through a session without crying 5 minutes in.
“You cry?” she ask’s with genuine bewilderment.
I nod. “Well then you can’t be genuinely in the moment, you shouldn’t be thinking of anything.”
“I’m not! Other than breathing and “the feel of the floor against the soles of my feet” I reply, maybe a little on the defensive side… “Well, um, obviously you have some deep-seated emotions you need to work through”
I slow blink at her, I know this, this is one of the very reasons I go to therapy.
This woman is not instilling me with much confidence.
I think the issue with mindfulness is the fact that it brings you into the present moment, and I am presently sad. That’s kinda what depression does, being a day dreamer has always been my escape. I find being present in the moment and myself exhausting and somewhat… well, depressing.
I think, instead of mindfulness I will try Mindlessness. This article in The Guardian explains that “Mindlessness operates on the basis that your mind and body already know how to take care of themselves.” It goes on to say that “To be truly mindless, you need to rely on a combination of snap judgments, uninformed intuition and absent-minded daydreaming. All the things I’m best at, in fact.” Which honestly sounds much more my steam at the moment. In fact, I would say I already have mindlessness down to an art form.
However for the sake of my dear shrink I will give the mindfulness the old college try. Perhaps I can get to a point where I don’t start sobbing uncontrollably to guided meditations… I’d take that as a win.
On second thought, maybe there is some benefit to just engaging with sobbing for no apparent reason… I call it Sadfulness meditation. I could hold classes in sobbing, wailing and generalised despair, they always say misery loves company.
I may just start my own movement…
Limbo, no mans land, the place between where you were and where you’re going. I’m at the pit stop of life.
A year after graduating, no job, and waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted to do my MFA. And if I haven’t? Then what? Do I have a plan? No. I can’t seem to plan further than the day ahead of me and even that’s optimistic sometimes. I can worry about my future no problem, I worry about when I have kids, about the future job I don’t have, and other issues that are actually yet to exist. Worrying is much easier than planning, I’m a most efficient worrier of the past, present and future. If I could get paid for worrying then I’d be the most overly concerned millionaire in existence. As it is, you don’t generally get paid to be a professional worrier… I’m tempted to say scientists that worry about climate change are professional worrierers (that’s the correct plural right?) but I also like to think they do research and solutioning (also known as problem-solving) in-between their worrying. Philosophers are great worrierers, but again I don’t think anyone paid them much either. Please let me know if there are any other professional worriers that have slipped my mind.
Anyway, I digress. My point (I think) is that I am currently in the waiting place, which if you read Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss then you’ll know it’s quite a useless place.
“… for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”
– Oh, the places you’ll go by Dr Seuss
I hate waiting. It’s such an uncertain state of being. It’s nothing but anticipation, just waiting to react. I feel like, while I’m in this state of waiting I should be doing something productive. However, the waiting act seems to have played havoc with my anxiety, the lack of structure and stability that the waiting has brought upon me has equally fucked with my ADD. The anxiety, confusion, self-doubt and general low self-esteem has just led to a perfect mind storm of emotional hell. I am, as my shrink puts it, in crisis. I feel as though I have been slowly climbing to the peak of the worlds highest anxiety-coaster (which is like a rollercoaster but with more dread) and from the very top, plummeted down into the pits of despair. Worst. Ride. Ever.
Now I’m back at therapy, back on medication. Although this is new and exciting medication that doesn’t allow me to drink any alcohol, makes me feel phenomenally ill and dizzy, but that should calm down after a week. Suddenly, I don’t mind waiting. I’m quite grateful that my life is on pause. I don’t feel too much pressure get better quickly. I can take this time to look after myself, learn to love myself again. Interestingly enough, this crisis has reignited my desire to write after months of writers block. So there’s a sliver lining.
So I’ll wait for a bit, because when the waiting is done… Oh, the Places I’ll Go!!