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.