Alone.

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I’m really struggling at the moment. My first ECT treatment is done, and while I do promise to write a blog about the process and my experience, tonight’s post is more of a “I need to get this off my chest” post.

I am so goddam lonely at the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as lonely as I do right at this moment. It’s the worst feeling; an emptiness in my chest that aches and aches and won’t go away, and I’ve spent all of today crying because I’m finding it so difficult at the moment.

A few different things have contributed to how I feel, as it’s all built up to this point. I’ve been in hospital almost three weeks, and one a visitor once. Other than that, there has been no one. I try to not let it bother me but it definitly hurts (especially on the weekends) when I see people’s families and friends visiting them and I know I have no one coming. Another contributing factor is the lack of communication from anyone. A few select people I work with know I’m in hospital at the moment, and not one has bothered to message and ask how I’m doing. We have a social fund at work that covers gifts for people when they get married, have a baby or get sick, and twice this year we’ve sent flowers to colleagues who have been unwell. I’ve always made sure to sign the card no matter how well I know the person; I know how much little messages like that mean. But nothing. Finally, I lost something today with someone special to me; they were someone I thought I could trust and rely on and I found out I couldn’t. That’s probably hurt the most out of all this reasons.

However all of these have combined to make me feel so alone and it’s a horrible feeling. I don’t have many people in my life, but I was sure  some would contact and ask  how I am. Someone would drop it. Work woul send a card or something. Thinking about it is like a punch in the stomach. Being sick and in hospital is hard and it’s scary and it’s lonely at the best of times without feeling even worse. It makes me truely believe that the world would be better off without me, that no one would notice.

I’m struggling with the suicidal thoughts at the moment and have made a plan that at this point I intend on carrying out. However being in hospital it won’t be for a while that I’m able to. I just don’t want to do this anymore. Mental illness is hard, let alone doing it all alone.

If anyone has any tips on how to manage these feelings please feel free to message, I’m desperate.

It’s Time For My Metamorphosis.

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Things have been hard. They’ve been really, really fucking hard. I guess my blog is well overdue for a life update, and so here it is:

I believe last post I talked about the onset of a depressive episode. Well that depressive episode combined with a whole heap of other environmental factors and turned into a really big problem. The condensed version is that I overdosed, tried to drink bleach, drown myself in the shower and cut my wrists with a kitchen knife, and now I am back, obviously, in hospital.

Treatment has been difficult this time. Initially this stay was proposed to be three weeks to a month. However, after being here two and a half weeks, the suicidal thoughts are still intense. I spend 90% of the day sleeping because I can’t manage my head, and then stay up until 3 A.M. at night despite masses of seroquel because I can’t silence my brain from making suicide plan after suicide plan, accompanied by graphic imagery. The only thing keeping me sane is journalling. I’ve never written so much in my life; words, poems, drawings. I plan to post about this soon, but as to stay on track, my progress has been stagnant. After some difficult conversations with my psychiatrist and her calling in a few other psychiatrists for second opinions, we have decided to start a four week course of Electroconvulsive Therapy; ECT.

I start my first session tomorrow and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out just a little. I’ve felt totally calm up until now, but now I’m nervous. Deciding to try ECT was a big step to take, but necessary considering where I’m at with my mental health at the moment.

With everything going on at the moment I’ve come to feel like I’m going through a metamorphosis, of sorts. I look back at who I was and I don’t recognise that person; I feel so disconnected from who I was and I know that person is gone. That person is not coming back. And I’m okay with that. At the moment I’m trying to build my coccoon; I need to build my coccoon. I need to let go of all the pain and hurt I’m feeling and surrround myself with things that are safe and healing – the hospital, my psychiatrist, my psychologist, medication, DBT, CBT, ECT. If I can do that, if I can build my coccoon and heal, then maybe I’ll be able to emerge a new person. A person who has confidence and self-worth and who has wings to carry themself. At the moment that person feels far, far away; untouchable and unrecognisable. But my psychiatrist told me I need to take this one step at a time, and so I’m going to keep focusing on building my coccoon and maybe I’ll finally be able to complete my metamorphosis and emerge as a new version of me; not the old me, but a new me, a healed me. I have to. Because I can’t do this version of me much longer.

 

Hey There Depressive Episode, I’ve Missed You Not At All.

At the moment I’m having an awful depressive episode. Last week I was managing ok; work and studying for my psychology exams and walking my dogs every night and functioning almost like a normal person.

But what goes up must come down and I’ve crashed spectacularly. I’m managing to make it to work but that’s about it. I get up like a zombie, my OCD makes me clean the house, I go to work, come home about four pm and then curl up in bed and find it impossible to get up even hours later. It’s that whole sandbags for limbs feeling where you just can’t move, and no matter how much you sleep it’s not enough (except at two am when you’re actually meant to be sleeping) and anyway the only way to escape your head is sleeping because otherwise it’s all suicidal thoughts and dark, angsty “woe is me” stuff.

It’s been such a shitty episode that I saw my Psychologist Wednesday and my Psychiatrist Thursday, who then demanded I come in again Friday as she was “concerned about me”. I’m managing (just) and at the moment the game plan is PRN’s and Netflix and hoping to God I can ride this out without another overdose.

One day at a time, right?

By the way – fuck you, depression 🖕

To Med or Not To Med, That Is the Question.

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The decision whether to use or not to use medication to treat psychiatric illnesses is something many people struggle with; I know as I was one of those people. In this post I want to share my experience with medication. This is definitely not intended to be medical advice, but rather a reflection of my experiences as a reference point to others who may be exploring the medication decision at the moment.

I’ve experienced the medication debate through both myself and with the parents of the special education students I work with. Many of these children suffer from anxiety, ADHD or emotional deregulation and their parents are often struggling with the decision of whether to use medication or not. I know this feeling well. When I first began seeking treatment for my mental health I was extremely opposed to medication; I didn’t want it and I felt like I didn’t need it. I remember the moment my psychologist suggested I make an appointment with a psychiatrist and the absolute opposition I felt towards this. I also remember my first psychiatrist appointment where I was handed a script for antidepressants and the sense of being completed defeated that came along with it. Taking that first pill may have looked like a simple process to an outsider, but inside my head a battle was going on – I didn’t need medication, I could do this on my own.

Reflecting back my opposition to medication seem to come from a number of different avenues – I was afraid of the dreaded side-effects the leaflet that came with the medication detailed plus all the horrible experiences I’d read about online, taking medication suddenly made my depression seem much more real and serious, and in a way I saw it as weak, as though I should have been able to overcome this without taking pills.

Fast forward 18 months later and I have a real sense of appreciation for the way my medication has helped me. To give insight into what I take, my current medications include antidepressants (Venlafaxine), antipsychotics (Quetiapine) and benzodiazepines (Diazepam and Lorazepam).

I’m not going to lie, these medications have some seriously shitty side effects. I’ve experience the dreaded weight gain, fatigue and drowsiness, a clamping jaw (this was the worst!), vivid dreams, sensitivity to bright lights and lowered libido. Despite taking these medications for over a year I still have this side effects decide to crop up now and again, and some are constant. The withdrawal is also awful. If I don’t take my quetiapine sleep is impossible, without my benzos I become an overemotional, crying mess (yes, even more so than usual which is saying something when you have BPD) and forgetting to take a dose of my venlafaxine before I go to work in the morning results in the absolute worst withdrawals of all – nausea, vomiting, dizziness and these awful electric shock like feelings in my brain. There is definitely a crappy, horrible size to medication that I’m not going to sugar-coat.

Despite this, the benefits I’ve experienced make it worth it. Medication is not an easy fix to mental illness. I still struggle immensely and undertake therapy weekly with both my psychologist and Psychiatrist, have a community mental health worker who I talk to on a weekly basis, and I’m gearing up to start my second round of group Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). I don’t see medication as a sole treatment and rely on my therapy and DBT skills every single day; rather, medication is an accompaniment to this. Medication has lowered my day-to-day level of anxiety to one that is manageable for functioning, it has stabilised my moods during periods of non-distress (somewhat of course, my BPD makes mood stabilisation difficult) and it has helped the depression lift from never-ending and constant to periods of weeks at a time where it is relatively manageable. Without the mood stabilising effects I’d be too heightened to apply my therapy skills, and this is wherein lies the benefits of medication. It allows me to get to a point where I’m able to function enough to try and apply positive and effective skills and changes to help long-term. I see this a lot with the children I work with too – often I teach them emotional regulation and social skills that they can role-play beautifully, however put them in an actual situation and the heightened state they are in makes transference impossible. While it’s not my role to give advice on whether or not medication is a good option, I have seen it help immensely in many situations.

One struggle I have with medication other than the side-effects is the potential to overdose. I have had over 10 OD’s in the past year, and a majority of them have been with my prescribed medication. When you access to an arsenal of medication that can put you sleep or completely zone you out in under ten minutes it’s unbelievably hard not to take them when things become overwhelming. My partner currently manages my medication for this reason, but I often find ways around this and it doesn’t eliminate the danger completely. The management of medication is something that seriously needs to be considered if you decide to go down this route.

Reflecting back of my initial reasons for not wanting to make medication demonstrate how strong the stigma associated with medication is, even for those who are currently in therapy for mental illness. I consider myself to be quite an open and accepting person, and even I was so tuned in to the negative connotations people held about medication that it presented barriers for me in seeking it. I think this is something society really needs to overcome. We don’t judge people who take medication for physiological illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes, so why do we judge medication for mental illness where there are proven physiological elements to it?

The decision whether to use or not use medication for psychiatric illness is something everyone needs to address on their own. Each person is different and what works for some will not work for others. However I want to stress there is no shame in taking medication for mental illness. At the end of the day you need to do what is best for your recovery and sometimes medication is part of that answer.

 

 

 

BPD Awareness Week.

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Yesterday marked the first day of BPD Awareness Week in Australia, and what would be a blog about Borderline Personality Disorder without a post focused on this?

This years focus is on raising awareness about BPD while decreasing the stigma associated with the disorder, and as someone who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder I can’t stress how important I think this is.

I’ve been diagnosed with BPD for about a year and a half now and I’m no stranger to the stigma that comes along with it. I’ve had my parents tell me to “just stop ruining your life” after an overdose, my GP tell me to consider others worse off such as starving children and the homeless (because curing mental illness is that easy), my partner’s family members tell him how I’m not good for him, my partner’s grandmother asking him if I’m physically violent towards him after she read up on BPD in a quick Google search (despite never giving an indication of being abusive towards him in the six years we’ve been together, three of which we lived with her) and my work place enforcing unnecessary and unfair restrictions on me due to having to take time off for mental health hospitalisations.

In a nutshell, the stigma and discrimination associated with BPD sucks. I find most people either consider you to be acting dramatic or just seeking attention, have no idea what BPD is or assume you are an embodiment of all the negative associations with BPD you read on Google (such as manipulative, abusive, uncontrollable, etc.). People with Borderline Personality Disorder are already hypersensitive and aware to other’s attitudes and opinions of them, and dealing with this kind of stigma is unbelievably detrimental. For example, my GP once told me my behaviour was taking too much of a toll of those around me and that if I ever had children the government would take them away. This brief comment sent me into a month-long suicidal spiral. While these comments are not always meant in a malicious way it doesn’t mean they hurt any less.

It’s because of this that the awareness around BPD needs to be raised; both in the community and among health professionals. Yes I have BPD, and yes I’ve had six psychiatric hospitalisations in the last 18 months, and yes sometimes I go into awful depressive slumps that take me weeks to crawl out of, and yes I struggle socialising with family and friends, and yes I self-harm, and yes I’ve had way too many dangerous overdoses. But that’s not all that I am. I have a job working with special needs children and I have two uni degrees while studying for a third and I always go out of my way to be kind and friendly to others and I own a house and have a partner and a small zoo of pets that I love. Unfortunately, however, people tend to focus on the former, something I’m sure other suffers of BPD and mental illnesses are far too famililar with.

This is not okay. This needs to change. People with BPD are not lost causes or not worth it. They are people just like everyone else who have amazing things to offer. 

Even if BPD Awareness Week can help even a few people gain a better understanding of BPD then I consider that a win; each person who becomes informed is another person who will no longer contribute to the stigma so many people with BPD face.

I also think it’s important to appreciate the amazing people in my life who have supported me through this illness. I have an incredible psychologist, an amazing psychiatrist, an excellent community mental health team and most of all an absolutely wonderful partner who has been with me every step of the way even though he sometimes struggles to understand and despite the fact alot of my ineffective behaviours impact greatly on him, too. I know how lucky I am to have these supports and I’m so thankful for them.

For more information on BPD Awareness Week check out BPD Awareness – there are some awesome programs and events running all over Australia throughout this week and they have excellent resources available if you want to educate yourself or others. We all need to work together to make this change happen and BPD Awareness Week is an incredible step in the right direction.

 

 

R U OK?

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Today is R U OK? Day and what would a mental health blog be without a post about it?

As someone who suffers from mental illness I know what a difference a few simple words can make, or how much it can mean to have someone check in just to ask if you’re okay.

I know R U OK? Day is sometimes criticised for being too superficial and not practical and I get that, but I also think it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about the prevalence of suicide and mental illness, and while it won’t help everyone, sometimes that initial contact can mean everything to someone struggling.

Try to check in with all the special people in your lives today; a few words can go a long way.

Untangling My Brain.

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Tonight marks the last night of my inpatient treatment; tomorrow I get to go home. I’d love to proclaim that I feel completely healed and I’ll never step back into a psychiatric hospital again, but realistically I know, while not impossible, it’s also not likely. This was my sixth or seventh inpatient stay in a year and a half, and deep down I know that they’re probably not over yet; that I probably still have some things that only inpatient treatment is going to help.

And while that isn’t a bad thing, I’m trying not to focus on it too much tonight. Instead, I’m trying to zen myself out for tomorrow – mindfulness, DBT emotion regulation skills, the works. Oh, and medication (I can’t forget my two good friends diazepam and lorazepam). I’m still struggling though. Leaving inpatient treatment is such a confusing mesh of emotions – excitement, relief, fear, anxiety, etc. And worry – there are lots of things I’m worried about. Some things are trivial, others are not. To list just a few:

  • I’m worried my puppy will have formed a better relationship with my partner than me over the three weeks I have been gone.
  • I’m worried my partner and I will end up in an argument a few hours (or even minutes) within leaving here and all the anxiety will come flooding back times ten.
  • I’m worried about the logistics of maneuvering my suitcase to the car without crushing the bunch of roses I received and the bonsai tree I’ve been trying to grow while here.
  • I’m worried about returning to work next week and how they will have handled the time I’ve had off.
  • I’m worried about what time to set my alarm for tomorrow morning.
  • I’m worried that I won’t be able to manage the suicidal/self-harm thoughts I’ve worked on managing while here, and as soon as something goes wrong I’ll act on them.
  • I’m worried about the million appointments I have to go to over the few days after my discharge (okay, a million is exaggerating, but I still have to fit in appointments with my Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Community Mental Health and GP).
  • I’m worried things will be back to where they were before, or worse, within a few days of going home.

See what I mean? Some warrant worry, some not so much. So right now, instead of sleeping, I’m trying to categorise these worries in my mind based on importance and rate to which they need to be attended to. I use a Catostrophe Scale with the kids that I work with, and damn I need one right now. Ah, the life of an anxiety sufferer.

I love the picture above, and I’m trying to keep it in mind tonight as I struggle. It’s a good reminder that life is messy and hectic and crazy and confusing, and that moving forward never looks simple. But eventually you untangle things and get somewhere, even if it’s just the tiniest step.

Wish me luck on untangling my brain tonight so I can get some sleep!

Finding A Pro.

The nurses always marvel at the way I’m able to swallow pills without water. Sometimes I’ll be passing the meds window and not have my drink bottle, and I’ll stop to grab them instead of having to come back later. Considering how tiny most of them are it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, but I get a lot of comments about it.

I always reply with a shrug and a smile but sometimes that voice in my head almost wants to shoot back, “Considering you’ve seen my file and know how many times I’ve overdosed, you should know I’m pretty much a pro at this pill swallowing business.”

Hey, ease with swallowing pills can count as a pro to BPD, right? I mean, you gotta take what you can get with this mental illness thing sometimes!

Oh and the picture goes out to my partner, I know he’ll sympathise when he sees it.

More Than Anything.

Tonight is just one of those nights; a mixture of struggling to get to sleep, endless nightmares and ruminating thoughts that, no matter how much I challenge them, won’t get out of my head.

What I want more than anything at the moment is one day in which I don’t think about how I want to be dead.

Maybe that is too blunt to write, but it’s a reality of mental illness and I’m done with the sugarcoating.