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Friday, 30 December 2016

Surviving suicidal ideation

TW This piece talks about suicide, and in more depth than most of my other posts. So please take care if it might trigger you. It might be distressing for some people to read.  

A few years ago I was lying on the floor with a suicide plan and the means to do so.

I hope that I wouldn't have followed through with it. I had what the professionals call 'protective factors', that is, family and friends who I loved and who loved me, passions, interests, dreams for the future.

Drawing from a few years ago. 

The internal screaming of suicidal ideation was so deafening and incessant that, rather than diffuse the roar inside me, the love I felt for my family and friends seemed to add to it.

Being suicidal isn't to do with how much people love you. It is something that can happen when you are in severe distress and pain.

Some people think that suicidal people feel no joy and no love. But for me it was as if the force of every emotion I had ever felt, from love to joy to anguish was searing through me; I felt so strangulated and drowned that killing myself felt like the thing to do.

Most of all, however, I felt three things: unbearably sad, frightened and lonely. This was accompanied by agony of a physical kind searing into my core.

Drawing I did a few years ago. 

Someone wrote that suicide happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with that pain. This is what has happened to me several times in my life. Lying on that floor, plan, I didn't want to kill myself. I was in extreme distress and needed help.

Suicidal ideation matched the pain I felt at the time. I didn't have a crisis plan. I didn't have someone ready who I felt able to turn to.  I felt extremely alone and scared.

If I had felt comfortable enough to share what I was experiencing- without fearing that decisions were going to be made that were outside my control or that I was going to be shamed, rejected or scare people- then I believe the situation would have diffused.

Instead, I felt I couldn't risked being rejected, shamed or abandoned when I was already on the brink of killing myself. I never wanted to scare people with how I felt. I couldn't risk the consequences, so I didn't put words to my pain until I was found and someone took me to A&E.

Drawing by me. 

If mental health and suicide were talked about more openly, many people would feel more comfortable to reach out when suicidal. And others might know more about how to respond. This would save lives. 

I'm lucky and deeply thankful that my family found me, many people don't have that luxury.

Since then, I have learnt how to cope with my overwhelming emotions. I'm more grateful that I didn't kill myself during that period.

I'm making my peace with what I have been through. I have found help and support that I didn't previously have. I know what a strong person I am and can be proud of myself sometimes now.

Me

I hope that sharing my story makes you feel less alone if you have experienced something similar.

You can contact Samaritans any time everyday here.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Euphoria / Hypomania & Depression

A few years ago, when I was in the most intense throes of emotional distress and instability, my emotional experiences were immensely wide-ranging. From despair to euphoria and back again within an hour. Some people might liken this to mixed states or rapid cycling referred to in bipolar.

Drawing from years ago by me about highs and lows. 


With the words depression in the media comes images of people with their head in their hands and clouds looming over them. I did feel plunged into despair. But also at that time in my life, I experienced 'highs' in tandem, or even simultaneously, with depression. The swirling euphoria combined with being flattened with depression.

I know depression is usually known as the absence of all joy- and yes it certainly can be that. That indeed was often my experience of depression. But at other times I was hit with these euphoric, hypomanic highs.

Drawing by me of the contrasting moods. 

I found them really confusing. And it really hurt me when people dismissed me when I talked about them. As I were lying about them, as if they were 'impossible' at that time to me.

At one point someone close to me told me, 'You're wrong, you're not happy. In fact, you're a deeply unhappy person.' This was an immeasurably unhelpful thing to say. It meant that I have had to work really hard to acknowledge my experiences as valid, as real and therefore as deserving of help. 

So if this is your experience of your emotions within depression, I want you to know that I have been there, it is a real experience and it deserves to be acknowledged, like any and all emotional experiences.

Your experiences are valid. You are valid. 

Photo by me, taken when I was very depressed. 


We are all individuals


Some people take medication.
Some people don't.

Some people like therapy.
Some people don't.

Drawing by me. 


Some people want a diagnosis.
Some people don't.

Some people find a label helpful.
Some people don't.

Drawing by me.


Some people tell people.
Some people don't.

Some people find medical models helpful.
Some people don't.

Drawing by me. 


What one person finds helpful.
Others don't.

What words one person likes.
Others don't.

Drawing by me. 

Or maybe you sit somewhere between these positions. Or in both. Or in none. Or you don't know where you sit.

There is no place for judgement, no place for sanctimonious advice when it's not asked for. No place for being holier-than-though.

One of my cartoons about talking about mental health. 


Everyone deserves respect.
Everyone deserves choice.
Everyone has the right to self-define.
Everyone is an individual.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Carrie Fisher: Mental Illness Warrior


A few weeks ago I wrote this tweet to acknowledge that well-known people have used their platform to speak about their experiences of Bipolar. The same cannot be said of well-known people and BPD.

It's very sad news to hear that Carrie Fisher has come to the end of her life. She had bipolar and wasn't afraid to speak about her experiences. This gave comfort to so many, who realised that they were not alone, not flawed, not the only ones...speaking out rather than upholding dangerous silences around mental illness meant that others felt more able to break their own silences.

Image result for carrie fisher bipolar
Image from Huffington Post

I feel that it would be wonderful if someone in the public eye were to do for BPD what Carrie Fisher has done for bipolar. I believe it would make more people with BPD feel more comfortable about talking about their experiences.

For now, I am thankful to Carrie Fisher for talking about her experiences. Carrie's last column for the Guardian was about bipolar, offering her support to someone writing in about their bipolar. Her beautiful closing lines were:

You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. But you reached out to me – that took courage. Now build on that. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do. (Guardian) 


My Eating Disorder: Comfort & Cruelty

TW Eating disorders. Please be careful if you are sensitive to descriptions of how eating disorders can feel. 

I've likened the eating disorder I used to have to a bear in a previous post, describing it as something that felt at once cosy and safe, like a fluffy teddy bear, but something which was also ferocious and dangerous, like a grizzly bear.

On Pinterest, I came across this and it struck a chord with me. It reminds me of how I felt like the eating disorder I had was a safety blanket for me, an anchor, when my emotions and experiences felt so chaotic and overwhelming.

Drawing by me expressing how my eating disorder felt.

I clung to my eating disorder as a way of life, even though it scared me and caused me a lot of discomfort, and a lot of pain to those around me too. At the time, I ultimately felt alone with my emotions and experiences that my eating disorder was something that was always with me that was 'mine'.

After a lot of therapy and support from my family over months and years, I managed to live my life without the destruction that my eating disorder was creating. Recovery can be a problematic word, but I describe myself as having recovered from my eating disorder now.

Drawing from my sketchbook when I had an eating disorder.

That time of my life was gruelling and repetitive; leaving my eating disorder behind demanded grit, determination and resolve to say 'I don't need or want you anymore'.

I've spent years feeling embarrassed and beating myself up about being someone who has 'suffered from' an eating disorder and depression (and later the diagnosis of BPD). I'm at a place now where -I'm making my peace with this...I know anyone- myself included- who deals with depression, eating disorders and any kind of  emotional distress has grit, determination and strength that deserves the utmost respect from both themselves and others.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

2016...a year of greater emotional stability?

TW self-harm 

One of my main goals and new year's resolutions for 2016 was emotional stability. I wanted to gain power over what I call my 'emotional storms', so that my life was less dominated by chaotic ups and downs; emotional tempests in which I feel like I can't breathe, can't stop crying, like the emotions are drowning and suffocating me.

Emotional storms that hit with a force and a volatility that make me feel so vulnerable, scared, helpless and out of control, that I am willing to do almost anything that will give me a moment of relief from feeling unbearably overwhelmed.



The desperate desire for a moment's relief has led to impulsive behaviour, such as self-harm, running away, acting very chaotically and in self-sabotaging ways. I turned to these behaviours instinctively as a way of grabbing a momentary sense of relief from the emotional storm.

Such behaviours may have taken me away from the emotional storm for a moment, but they have not been effective in the longer term for my emotional regulation, my relationships and my life as well as that of others.

For example, in the past when I have gone into an emotional storm and it is sheer terror...a physical sensation...my body a 'whirlpool', out of control, the overwhelming force of emotion....lying on the floor, 'knocked over'....like my whole body is being sucked into the ground, my stomach a massive black hole sucking everything out of myself...

When that happens, I look frantically for an anchor to keep myself from falling down, down, down....

I am desperate for words of reassurance, a memory, a thought, a scrap of something- anything- that can act as an anchor amidst this storm. 

Drawing I did of a BPD episode

When I have failed to find this- or, worse still- when I have been able to ask for help and it has not come- self-harm has been a means of 'bringing me back to myself', of jolting myself out of the storm.

I would imagine this description doesn't make sense to you if you're reading this and have no experience of what this feels like. I have heard of other people describing BPD episodes as a 'black hole' or a 'vortex', and I can totally relate.

So my goal for 2016 was that I wanted these emotional storms to happen less frequently. I wanted to be able to come out of them quicker when I came into them. I wanted to be able to deal with them without being sabotaging and destructive in my life and the lives of others.

Starting therapy again towards the beginning of the year has helped massively. Being increasingly open with people about my experiences has been really helpful. Learning more DBT skills from DBT Path, online and books has given me a few tools that have empowered me to regulate my moods on a larger scale, as well as on a moment-to-moment basis too.



I hope this post might be able to give someone somewhere a sprinkling of hope... if you are having your own BPD episodes or any other kinds of emotions that arise suddenly and you find yourself acting impulsively out of desperation and pain: they can get better. My episodes happen much less frequently now and for shorter lengths of time.

If things have become easier for me, then there is hope that in time things can become easier for you too.

Photo by me

Tweet me @TalkingAboutBPD if you want to comment or share your experiences, I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

DBT Skill: 'Cope ahead'

TW flashbacks, crisis, suicidal thoughts, self harm

As you may know, there are four categories of DBT skills: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance.

At the moment, I am thinking about the category emotion regulation. For me, emotion regulation is about coping with the intense highs and the crashing lows. It'a also about knowing the triggers and recognising (through mindfulness) when I am speeding up into a high- which can all too often lead to a crash. A skill I am digging out at the moment from emotion regulation is called 'cope ahead'.

I'm digging it out because it's coming up to Christmas and a time of year when, historically, I have struggled and have been in crisis. It has been a time when in the past I haven't been able to regulate moods and I have spiralled into self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

I am worried about being catapulted into a past mental space because of the associations with particular times. So using the skill 'cope ahead' right now means that I'm making a plan for how to deal with any flashbacks or difficult memories that are stirred up.

Cope ahead, especially with regard to flashbacks, might involve:
  • mindfulness: reminding yourself that you are in the present moment
  • rehearsing the upcoming situation so it's less of a shock
  • knowing your support network for that time 
  • remembering to be responsive, rather than reactive. Waiting to see if the impulse passes.
  • using other skills such as '5 senses', to distract, ground yourself during difficult memories etc. 
  • using 'describe', for example, 'I am anxious because I am experiencing a stressful memory. It will pass.' 

Learn to surf

Have you got experience with any of these skills or experiences? Please feel free to share them @TalkingAboutBPD if you want to. 


I define myself- not Google!

The time that followed my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was a tricky one. I felt scared that if I told people about my diagnosis then they would read about BPD online and allocate the limited, and often inaccurate, descriptions to me.

Drawing by me.

I have come a long way since that time of fear. I know that who I am cannot be reduced to an online description. Google will not tell you who I am because...

1. I am not a list of the symptoms of BPD. To meet criteria for BPD a person must meet 5 of the 9 symptoms. That makes for 256 combinations of those symptoms. Plus, there are infinite nuances within the symptoms themselves. Then, add in all the other immeasurable ways that people are individuals...experiences, identities personality, interests and so on. It should go without saying, I am so much more than the list of symptoms of a diagnosis.

Drawing from my sketchbook

2. The websites that write as if there is a set 'type' of person with BPD are wrong. There is no 'type' of person with BPD. Put a bunch of people with BPD in the same room, chances are that we will have wildly different personalities. There will be shared experiences and maybe some profound emotional  connections between some of the individuals, yet much of the common ground shared by people with BPD is likely to be a shared experience of stigma, difficulty accessing treatment and feeling unheard and silenced.

Photo by me.


3. The term Personality Disorder does not tell you what your personality is 'like'. Many people- me included- feel that the term Personality Disorder can be unsettling and unhelpful. Hearing the word 'disorder' applied to me was, frankly, frightening. I wondered what  about my 'personality' was 'not in order'. I have since emerged from that slippery spiral with a deep knowledge that that the words attributed to me by a DSM wielding psychiatrist are not a definition of who I am. Your personality has countless components, a bit like a jewel with light glimmering off it from every angle. The words Personality Disorder is a way of looking at some of your experiences through one viewpoint.

Me!


I used to be terrified of telling people about my diagnosis of BPD out of fear they would use the results of a Google search to define me.

The more confident I have become in who I am, the less I am affected by others' judgements of me- or indeed that they will use the internet to create an incorrect idea of who I am. After all, Google will not tell you who I am.

Only I can tell you who I am.

I define myself- no one else does. 

My photo

I write my blog and Twitter as a way of countering the stereotypical and singular narratives of Borderline Personality Disorder. We are a diverse and beautiful set of people with this diagnosis.

Recommendation: Doll Hospital Journal

I don't know how stumbled upon Doll Hospital Journal but one thing I do know is how glad I am to have found it!

Doll Hospital is an 'art and literature journal on mental health' founded by Bethany Rose Lamont. The journal is a beautiful work of art, intended to be read in print as 'something still, something quiet, something just for you.'

I downloaded Issue 1 (and hopefully soon print editions will be available) in the quiet of a late winter's night. Rather than it being 'something still', it actually gave me the jitters because I found its mission, tone and aesthetics so exciting!

Doll Hospital buzzes with the energy of ownership, empowerment, self-definition and self-acceptance. 

It revels in the power of expression, in the flexibility of the human mind, of identities...of being able to talk about your own experiences on your own terms.  

The journal is doing something palpably intersectional...it embraces expressing ideas about feminism, about trans identities, about disability, about race and much more...it's about getting voices which remain largely unheard, heard. 

Image result for doll hospital journal
Issue 1 of Doll Hospital

Like the jam-packed cover of Issue 1 pictured above, the magic of Doll Hospital is situated in its polyvocality. Doll Hospital doesn't propose a single construct as 'truth', instead it allows for a multitude of voices to sing out their own tunes, loud and proud. 

As the Doll Hospital website states, 'we want to offer a platform to those who experience mental health firsthand, in their own words, on their own terms'. 

Doll Hospital is unafraid and holds its head up high as it speaks out in a variety of voices. Its energy is infectious, its topics and tone important. I can't recommend it highly enough. 

You can check out their website here or find them over on Tumblr

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The 5 most helpful things for me to hear when talking about mental health


1. It's fine for you to talk about this. 

Historically, I have shame not only about my experiences, but for my need to talk about them. I've been told by former friends that I'm inappropriate for broaching topics and that I should 'never talk about this again'. Embarrassment rushed through me like a hot rash and an unnecessary sense of shame silenced me for a long time. Luckily, I have moved on and have been able to talk again with open-minded people who have given me positive and accepting reactions. Through talking with understanding and open people, I have been able to release a lot of shame.


2. You can talk to me again whenever you need to. 

Because of reactions I have experienced when talking about mental health, I am constantly worried that I will 'make people uncomfortable'. I have since realised that if someone is uncomfortable with talking about mental health, it is more likely to be their own prejudices than my insensitivity. So I feel very validated that it was okay for me to talk if friends say I can talk to them again.

My drawing of a good friend when talking about mental health. 

3. I don't think of you any differently than I did before you told me this. 

When I have talked to people in the past, I have been worried that they will see me in a different light once they know about my experiences. I'm worried that they will think they didn't know me before and are judging my actions and character on the basis of the new information they have about my life. So when people treat me just the same as they always did, that reassures me. After all, I am much, much more than my experiences of mental illnesses/distress.

My drawing of me with one of my best friends. 


4. I have / know someone who has had a similar experience.

When said without that annoying dose of 'I know it all', this can be incredibly helpful as it can make me feel less alone.



5. It's up to you. 

I don't like being told what's best for me. I like to supported. But at the end of the day, I know myself and my experiences best, so I'd rather people hold off with any sanctimonious judgements. I don't like having my experiences and emotions judged, quantified and defined by others!

Me!

I have written about how conversations can change things, how talking can really turn things around. Please feel free to add to the dialogue by tweeting me @TalkingAboutBPD.

You might also like my post on why it can be hard to talk about mental health and talking about suicidal thoughts.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Ways of Coping: Harry Potter

**TW This post mentions suicidal thoughts**

HogwartsSmall.jpg
Art by Anne Lambelet

I absolutely adore the Harry Potter series, they mean so much to me and have given me so much since I first started to read them aged eight. They have been there for me as forms of escapism, comfort and inspiration. I derive so much warmth from the love, friendship and the idea of togetherness that lies at the heart of the stories.

I love how vulnerable Harry as a character is, the loss he has experienced, his anger and sense of injustice. I love how he can't always articulate himself, he makes mistakes, he longs for things he can never have. I love how his sense of alienation, despite being surrounded by loving friends, expresses an age-old human inner conflict.

I could write for hours about why I love the Harry Potter series, but for now I want to write about what I feel is one of J.K. Rowling's most powerful metaphors: the dementors.

Dementor. I think I actually know some of these. They suck all the hope and good out of the room they walk into:
potterpics.tumblr.com

JK Rowling has spoken about her experiences of depression. She personifies the inward pain, torment and loneliness of depression as 'among the foulest creatures that walk this earth'. Dementors extinguish all joy and can even suck out souls'; when dementors loom, the world turns monchrome, grey and there is a pervasive dread. Depression, in my experience, is synonymous with terror- and JK Rowling's dementors manage to frighten all characters in their midst.

Beautifully, JK Rowling's antidote to dementors is a patronous. A patronus is silvery white animal and a protector which chases away the dementors. Patronuses are conjured by the wizard or witch by summoning an intensely happy memory.

Although this metaphor could sound glib if overly simplified (the old patronising, 'think positive to combat depression'), the meaning I gain from it is that there are times when our memories can keep us hanging on.

I have been suicidal many times and have been 'brought back' from that edge by the words of someone to close to me. That could be words from someone in person at the time. But equally it could be the memory of an interaction with someone. It could be written words in a letter or a message on my phone.

When I have been suicidal, the moments at which I have grasped at the memory of a human connection have been my patronus moments. Those memories, and ultimately those people, have saved me, have been my patronuses of my world.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

I'm told to talk about it. But I can't always do that.

**TW this post mentions suicidal thoughts and self-harm very briefly.**

Sammy Nickalls created a mental health movement that I admire. It's called #TalkingAboutIt and it states that 'we all have mental health', questioning, 'why are we keeping ours a secret?'


I think this is a very good question to pose. It's one I ask myself a lot within the context of my own life. One of the answers to that is stigma and discrimination, which are sadly rampant in society. I largely keep mine a secret- which is hard work when it often exerts a powerful pull on how my life is shaped.

If you're living life with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, an eating disorder or depression it can feel almost impossible to ignore how you're feeling because chances are these thoughts are in the foreground of your mind.

Chances are, they will be shaping your view of yourself, relationships, your work life, social life and how your live your day to day life. If you're anything like me, then you may have had times when you're mental health situation has shaped every part of your being and breath for months at a time; my whole life and self collapsed into the realm of eating disorder, depression, mood swings, and so on.


And so to not talk about what is infiltrating every corner of your life, colours every breath you snatch and shades every part of every minute can be suffocating.

Not being able to talk about mental health can be like being in a desert with no water and not being able to talk about being thirsty.
I feel that movements such as Sammy Nickall's #TalkingAboutIt and Time To Change's #TimeToTalk are wonderful. However, sometimes I am left frustrated with myself because I don't feel like it is my #TimeToTalk and I'm not #TalkingAboutIt.

Or rather, I am talking, but only under the cosy waiver of anonymity. And maybe that is colluding with the loneliness I feel because I can't talk about something that is such a massive part of who I am and my life experience.
I want to talk about it, it's part of me and my life, but I'm scared. I also don't know how to feel about the fact that I'm uncomfortable with opening up. In a lot of ways I really want to be able to talk about it, but I don't know how to. It's not easy to find the 'right time' and all to often I say something and regret it.

Talking is the biggest thing that helps me cope. Conversations can change things and I'm lucky to have friends in my life who I can share my experiences with in a whole-hearted way. I am so deeply grateful for that. There are friends who have empowered me and enabled me to live my life much more freely and less painfully.

A page from one of my zines about mental health


Even though I am starting to feel more liberated with talking in some of my friendships, I can't help but feel more generally a lot of the time that a massive part of who I am is hidden and held back.

Does anyone else feel a tension between wanting to talk and find their way to some sort of potential emotional liberation, whilst feeling silenced, suffocated and often unable to talk? Please join the conversation with me @TalkingAboutBPD if you want to.

I don't know anyone with BPD

I was diagnosed with BPD a few years ago ago and I've never met anyone in real life who has it. Not that I know of anyway. Because it is talked about so little, maybe there is someone I know who has similar experiences to me. I don't tell many people about my experiences.

Perhaps if I did talk about my experiences more I would find out that others know people with similar experiences to me. Then I meet feel less alone with what I've been through.



I love campaigns such as 'time to talk' and hashtags such as #TalkingAboutIt. But I still don't feel like I can talk. Sometimes I feel suffocated, like I have no air to talk.

Image result for silence

It feels risky to tell people about my experiences. Risky for so many reasons. Although I know that the benefits might outweigh the risks. I might meet someone in real life who, like me, has a diagnosis of BPD.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Ways of coping: The little things are the big things

This post is part of a series on ways of coping. Recently, I wrote about swimming and getting my emotions out through drawing and writing. The phrase 'the little things are the big things' is borrowed from my amazing friend. I want to write about five 'little things' which amount to 'big things'. Things which enable me to stay 'on track' with my moods.

Just as an aside, my moods are a lot more balanced out than they used to be a few years ago. I was frequently experiencing hypomanic states (highs, racing thoughts, euphoria etc) alongside suicidal lows. It was extremely difficult to live life with these polarised strands of highs and lows. It's thanks to a lot of therapy that I've been able to manage these highs and lows.

Here are five of my 'little things'.

1. Messages from friends
Just a few words can be enough inspiration for me to regain my belief in myself when I'm going through a rough patch. This is one from my best friend, I'm so lucky.


This is from a message I got from one of my best friends.

2. Instagram 
Just having a little scroll through my Insta feed or Pinterest at the cute, colourful and crafty images that gather there can brighten my day and distract myself from what's going on in my head.

restocked && ready to love bomb the crap out of this town ps. sorry #bunningswarehouse  #spreadgoodvibes #loveletterstostrangers #typography #typographyart #typographyporn #handlettering #handletteredtype #handwritten #illustration #handwriting #type #goodtype #wordstoliveby #youareloved #swlfamily #soworthloving #moreloveletters #wordcrush #paintchip #paintchips #guerillaart #radicalselflove #spreadinggoodvibes #streetart #streetquotes #guerillaartist #streetgraffiti:
Rin Dawson @paperedthoughts

3. Animals 
Watching nature programmes or looking at pictures of my favourite animals.

Image result for planet earth 2
Image from BBC's Planet Earth II which is on every Sunday at the moment!

4. Beauty
From shower gels, to lovely smelling products, to nail paint and perfume.

5. Coffee. 
Words can't express how much I love coffee!!

I appreciate how annoying it can be when people suggest you just 'cheer up', 'don't worry'  or 'look on the bright side'. I'm not suggesting that there are quick fixes to emotional storms or any sort of mental distress or illness (whatever word you choose to use to describe what's happening).

But in my experience there are some times when the little things can take 'the edge off' and make things that little bit more bearable.

What are your 'little things'? Tweet me @TalkingAboutBPD :)

Friday, 18 November 2016

The politics of mental health

I completely agree with Vanessa Garrity (‏@VanessaLGarrity) that mental health nursing is bound to social justice, especially in terms of nurses having to stand up for the cuts and changes to the NHS (privatisation is what I don't hesitate to call it).

 I'm a teacher and I feel my profession is a heavily politicised job and I feel that I have a duty to protest and attend rallies in order to stand up for my rights and the rights of the children in my care. I believe the same for NHS workers too.

Picture of one of my zines about mental health

In fact, I see the parallels between NHS and the education system, and I see how the two are in very similar predicaments and social positions right now. I believe both professions can offer each other support in this extremely difficult political climate. The politics of mental health is an enormous topic, from diagnosis, to psychiatry, to pharmaceuticals to stigma, identity and more.

But I think it's also important to recognise the thousands and even millions of people who have been failed by a lack od access to appropriate and timely mental health care. Recently, Sally Brampton's death made the news. There have been many, many more who have been failed by the inadequacies of our mental health services too.

 Em (@DrEm_79) is one of my favourite mental health bloggers and her recent Tweet struck me really hard; it speaks for itself about the predicament in which we find our mental health services.

1400 followers! I never would have dreamed of it!


I'm over the moon- and in shock- by how many people relate to my tweets and the messages I'm trying to spread with this blog. I hope you will share any thoughts you have with me on Twitter @TalkingAboutBPD!

From my sketchbook.

Thank you so much to everyone for the multitude of support you have given to me.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Our voices deserve to be heard!



This is me!

This who I am.

Colour http://www.pinterest.com/emmagangbar/boards/:
Photo from PlayBuzz. 

And if people find me 'overbearing', 'too much', 'overly emotional', then that doesn't mean there's something wrong with who I am. Maybe I'm just not their kind of person to hang out with. This is who I am, and there are others similar to me too.

People used to give me the nickname 'one step', for taking things 'one step too far'. But I think it's good that my heart is on my sleeve and want to speak my mind. This is who I am!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

I am the same person as I was before...or am I?

I’m the same person I was before you found out I have a mental disorder.:

Or am I?

TW This post mentions suicide and self-harm very briefly and with no detail. 

For me, being diagnosed gave me a whole new context for how I experienced my life, my emotions and myself.

It gave me a whole new lens through which I could view all of these components of what makes me me.

I can choose whether to accept the diagnosis and how much I use it to 'understand' myself, if at all. But once you have chosen to get a diagnosis there is no going back on that, even if you choose to ignore it.

I have found diagnosis hugely helpful for me in terms of being able to view myself compassionately and accept my struggles as real. I used to think I was 'making it up' and there was 'nothing wrong with me', even though I was terrified of what I was experiencing and feeling. So diagnosis validated my experience as real and I stopped dismissing my difficulties. This meant I could begin to treat myself a bit more kindly.

It has been a few years since I was diagnosed and how I view myself and my struggles has evolved through time. Talking to others and gaining more confidence in who I am has helped massively.

I'm the same person I was before I was diagnosed on a simplistic level (loves, interests, personality), and yet I am someone different. If I hadn't been diagnosed I don't think I would be in the position I am today. I live a mostly stable life, have a busy job, living independently and seeing friends etc.

For one, diagnosis enabled me to access knowledge which I have used to come to terms with my experiences and deal more calmly with what I call 'emotional storms'. Having a diagnosis of BPD opened me up to the existence of DBT, which has helped me a lot.

 If I hadn't been diagnosed, I believe things would have carried on getting on worse and worse (more and more chronically suicidal and self-harming) without the understanding of my experiences that diagnosis allowed me. So in a way diagnosis enabled me to liberate myself of the pattern I was trapped in.

It has made me look at myself from another perspective, which has been mostly helpful, but sometimes it has been painful too.

Lanie Lane A similar art can be found in Blackbird Corner, a store in Darcy St Newcastle, NSW Australia:
Art by Lanie Lane 

Diagnosis has been problematic and thorny for me at times too, it hasn't been plain sailing for me to come to some sort of an understanding of where I fit into (or around?) my diagnosis/es. I will  write more about the more problematic aspects of it and identity later.
Please feel free to tweet me with your thoughts and experiences @TalkingAboutBPD. Thank you!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ways of coping: water & swimming

Those of you who are familiar with DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), might know the skills of 'distraction', 'mindfulness', 'self-soothe', 'mini-holiday' and more. I find that a great way to enact some of these is through the use of water. 

Nature Illustrations - Svabhu Kohl - Whales and Constellations Artwork | Small for Big:
Art by Svabhu Kohl

I like to go swimming, I feel free in the pool and I find the immersion and gliding through really relaxing. Similarly, showers also relax me a lot too, especially when I have soap and shower gel that smells lovely. Oh, and I love whales, dolphins, mermaids and all marine life too!

Amaia Arrazola captures the escapism of water beautifully in her art. 

Amaia Arrazola blog:
Art by Amaia Arrazola

Because I have had such a hard time coping with my emotions and regulating my moods, I find water a really calming tool.

Do you? Do you have any ways of coping you would like to share? Tweet me with your thoughts @TalkingAboutBPD.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Acknowledging stigma: quote from Emergence


This is a quote from Emergence (which has sadly closed due to cuts to services). I wanted to post the following in order to acknowledge the additional layer of difficulty that can come from society and mental health services, on top of dealing with mental health problems themselves.

'Personality disorder is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and feared diagnoses [...] People given a diagnosis of personality disorder have also had very difficult experiences in health services where stigma and discrimination have been equally common, with devastating effect. 


For many years, it was thought that people given this diagnosis were untreatable. Difficult assumptions were made by service providers about the behaviour of people with a PD diagnosis, e.g. that they are manipulative, difficult or attention seeking.


As a result, people given this diagnosis have often been unpopular within mental health services. They may have been turned away from services or not received the support and understanding that anyone in distress deserves. ' (Emergence). 


Stigma has made me feel very alone in the past. It has made me feel like I'm carrying a world within myself that no one else sees. 
One of loveliest illustrations of a mermaid that I've seen.:
Art from 1000 drawings Tumblr 


In the past, I have lacked the confidence to believe my experiences for what they have been- unfair treatment- and this quote makes me feel like my experiences are valid. Feel free to tweet me with your experiences and thoughts at @TalkingAboutBPD. 


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Distress is NOT a crime: People in crisis being detained by police

**TW this article mentions suicide, but in no details.**

There have been three articles published by the Guardian this autumn about the interface between the police and mental health services.

These articles have me stop and think, and my emotional reaction has been that of anger. Anger that the government is not prioritising the funding and resourcing of mental health care. This means that the police are having to step in in the absence of urgent care mental health services, such as in the case of Kate Simpkins who had to sleep in the back of a police car (Guardian, 2nd Sept. 2016) as there were no hospital beds for her in the whole of the county.



Kate Simpkins has had the courage to speak out about her experience and in doing so is spreading the message that in many areas people are resorting to uncomfortable, ad hoc, and quite frankly, ludicrous arrangements in the midst of a mental health crisis. This is not okay.

Articles such as Police say they are becoming emergency mental health services (Guardian, 9th October) are highlighting that vulnerable and distressed people are being held in police custody for long periods of time- up to 72 hours- before they are transferred to a healthcare setting.

Let me give a bit of background to this. The Mental Health Act of 1983 states that police custody may be used as a safe place for people in a mental health crisis, even if there is no indication that they have committed a crime.

The police can use Section 136 of the Mental Health Act to remove people experiencing 'mental disorder' from a public place to 'a place of safety'. This place of safety may be a hospital or a police station. Although hospitals can be far from the places of compassion that they ought to be (see my post about when nurse told me to leave A&E or they would call the police), it can be argued that they are more likely to be appropriate for people who are mentally unwell than police stations are.

A lack of hospital beds and resources from crisis teams means that people who are being given a Section 136 are having to be held in police custody, rather than being taken to healthcare settings for appropriate treatment.

I have several issues with this. Vulnerable adults, and young people too, who are experiencing acute mental distress of all kinds, are spending up to 72 hours in police cells. I appreciate that the safety of the person going through mental distress is of utmost importance. But it shouldn't be the case that hospital beds are simply not available. There is no excuse, this 2016 and the Conservative government has promised 'parity' for mental health and physical health. This has not happened.

Not only are police stations and cells uncomfortable places, but police officers are not trained like mental health professionals. It is imperative to recognise here too 'approximately half of all deaths in or following police custody involve detainees with some form of mental health problem' (Independent Police Complaints Commission). I can conclude that police custody is not necessarily a 'safe space' for those experiencing distress. Whilst many police officers may be caring individuals, they must not be a substitute for a mental health professional.


Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
From my sketchbook.

Not only are people being held in uncomfortable situations without access to the kind of treatment they need quickly, I take further issue with people regularly detained by the police. It reinforces the shame that many people with experience of mental distress feel.

Police custody is synonymous with crime. People in distress, often already suffering mental agony that many people couldn't even begin to imagine, are having to question their own innocence and integrity.

When I have been distressed and police have been mentioned, it only served to reinforce the stigma I felt within myself- that there was something 'wrong' with me for feeling this way. Or that there was something 'bad' about me. There is NOTHING wrong with being mentally unwell or being in crisis. Nothing at all. But it's easy to feel like there is when you're incredibly distressed and vulnerable.

Furthermore, whenever getting the police involved has been mentioned to me, it made me feel extremely frightened of things happening that I had no control over. Such as being taken in a police car or spending time in the police station against my will.  Not only was there fear of the unknown and being out of control, but I also felt demonised. I have never ever made any threats or indications that I will harm other people, my thoughts and feelings have always been about hurting myself, not others.

It seems backwards to be mingling suicidal thoughts and plans with the police (suicide was a crime until 1961). In my opinion suicidal thoughts should be safely dealt with in a therapeutic manner within the healthcare system and should not within the police system. A suicidal person in contact with the police system is likely to begin to question their own innocence, integrity and who they are as a person because of their location. No one should have the already often muddy waters of suicide further muddied by being held into a space connoting crime. 

As a person who has undergone my own experiences of acute mental distress, I find it hugely unacceptable  that people in crisis are being detained in cells or are sleeping in the back of police cars because there are no beds available. 

I find it deeply worrying that so many vulnerable people are having to question whether there is something 'wrong' or 'bad' with being in crisis because they have ended up in the back of a police car or in a cell- simply because mental health services are at breaking point.

Distress is not a crime.

People in crisis need to be taken to compassionate healthcare settings rather than be detained by police because there is nowhere else for us to go. I'm fed up with  mental health being the poor sister of physical health. I'm angry about it and it must change.

Please tweet me with your thoughts @TalkingAboutBPD using the hashtag #NotACrime. I would love to hear your experiences and opinions.