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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Having intense emotions

TW Suicidal thoughts and self-harm

For the last few weeks, I've been in one of those times I get when everything is heightened. All emotions, both the happy and the sad, have an edge to them.

Drawing from seven years ago articulating the highs and lows 

Every feeling I have is sharpened and I have peaks and troughs with real spikes and dips that are hard to deal with. The lows are really low, yet I also feel happiness and love and excitement and passion with such an energy.

It's incredibly confusing.

When I feel low, it can take me close to crisis. I've had a couple of those in the last few weeks. It's when I have suicidal thoughts and I don't understand why that is, but all I know is that they're there and they are frightening and horrible.

I'm not going to act on them. But all the same, it's a really harrowing and confusing experience.

Drawing I did years ago. 

Usually I can't stop crying, and I panic, and it's a physical sensation too. It literally floors me, knocks me down and I have to lie on the floor- for gravity to pull those feelings that are pulling on the inside of my stomach, to let them sink downwards into the floor.

Basically, I am a mess when this happens.

When these low episodes have happened in the past, several things could happen:

1. In the past, when I had these low, suicidal episodes, I used to self-harm. It seemed the only thing I could do, it was a natural response to those feelings. I've been able to move away from self-harming now in most instances.

2. I called or texted someone. I wanted help, but this often led to miscommunication and panic. I ended up getting even more distressed and then self-harming.

3. I called Samaritans and was able to talk and find some relief.

I have these episodes less frequently these days, but during the last few weeks I've had a few times when I have been close to a crisis.

Drawing by me. 

It's hard to talk about due to my fear of overwhelming people, so lately I have kept this to myself. It's hard. I hope this time of heightened emotions will pass soon.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Opening up about mental health

When I've been able to open up about my experiences and tell the truth about what I feel and how I live it has led to closer and more meaningful connections with people in my life.
Recently, I spoke out about mental illness, specifically eating disorders and crisis care (or lack thereof) in a creative space. Afterwards, someone came up to me and told me that I had said something that they had been wanting to express, but didn't know how to.

Drawing by me

This moved me. Speaking out about my distress is adding my voice to the conversation and that makes me so happy. I have been moved by artists, writers, bloggers, tweeters and others who speak out about their experiences. Those creative encounters through books or blogs have shifted me into my own expression.

I hope I can pass that on, like a chain of expression. One utterance, one expression sparking another. I hope through sharing my story can encourage others to do the same if they want to.

Drawing by me

I told the person who came up to me after I had spoken out that in time they would likely find their own words. I wished them well. I told them that I used to think I wouldn't have the words. I didn't used to feel comfortable enough with language to express things, it felt so difficult. I didn't feel like I owned my experiences at all.

It has been a deeply uncomfortable journey at times and I have felt embarrassed, scared and alone. It has taken time for me to taken ownership of my experiences.

Drawing by me

It has taken time. I have needed years to gather my own meanings and to find ways of speaking that I feel okay with. Not only that, but trusting people has taken time.

In some cases, I have found out that some friends are not able to cope with me speaking to them. Sometimes I have been hurt and I then silenced myself for my own protection. But little by little, I am starting to break those silences.
I have some amazing friends, some of them quite new, who have had inspirational, open-minded attitudes towards mental health. This has been a real driving force for my confidence and moving forwards from being stuck in scary, lonely mental health experiences. Some people show their humanity at their warmest when a friend needs that warmth, acceptance and open-mindedness.

Drawing by me from many years ago

I wish everyone well in their own journeys to find their own language for their own story, if they want to speak about it. Tweet me @TalkingAboutBPD, I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Talking as risk taking...

It was Time To Talk Day 2017 yesterday. I want to write about how talking feels like a form of risk taking for me.

I often feel very nervous to tell people about aspects of my life. I'm more or less fine to mention the word depression and eating disorder, but when it comes to talking about BPD related experiences, suicide, self-harm, it feels like a whole new ball game for me. The risk of rejection feels multiplied by a thousand.

Page from my sketchbook. 

Once when I told a friend about BPD, she said 'oh I know about that. It's like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.' I cannot tell you how offensive I found that! It was too raw for me at the time, and having been recently diagnosed with BPD and I needed that be seen in the context of my whole personality.

Having my new diagnosis equated to a Victorian murderer really didn't help! It made me feel terrible for weeks and months!

I'm in a stronger place now to relate to my own experiences of diagnosis and if I receive a stigmatising reaction, I am much better equipped to deal with that.

Most of my risk taking has paid off. I have usually been met with acceptance and warmth. Many times people have felt more comfortable to talk about their own lives with me too, and it has opened up pathways to closer friendships.

Photo by me of some flowers I was given!

I like the Time To Talk Day campaign, but it needs to be nuanced somewhat. What if you talk and you are rejected? Or your social life as you know it breaks down? Or you can't deal with the embarrassment or shame that you feel as a result of being disbelieved or mocked? Or it leads to the loss of your job?

Discrimination is out there, it's real and it hurts. 

Humanity, understanding and acceptance is out there too- and it's the most wonderful thing. Talking remains today an act of risk taking. It shouldn't be...but I have to acknowledge that it is.