“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Oh, Sylvia. How right you were.

So, after feeling incredibly overwhelmed last night – to the point of talking to friends about it, crying, staying up until gone midnight ‘thinking’, I’ve had such a better day today. It’s been the perfect example of how I should be treating myself during recovery. Over the past few weeks I haven’t really been taking care of myself as well as I should be. I’ve been lurching from one day to the next, consumed in what’s going on at work, my relationship, my friend’s lives. Everything… but me. Mindfulness is such an underrated and valuable tool, and I mean that. I didn’t read it in some ‘dummy’s guide to Borderline Personality Disorder’ book that was published in the 80s – I’ve never really found self-help books to be… well, that helpful – I’ve learnt it, and I’ve used it, and I’ve lived it. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone – not just as a tool for recovery, but for life.

After initially distracting myself with Batman: Arkham City (fantastic game, incidentally), I approached a steaming hot bath. I slowly got in, noticing how good the hot water felt on my body (gosh this sounds like it’s getting a bit rude, doesn’t it?) and focusing on those physical sensations. I laid there for ages, feeling every bit of stress leave me as I stopped thinking about everything around me, and just was. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy – especially not at first. It’s a learned skill and you have to be committed to practicing it. You can do it, though. It’s a wonderful technique that has genuinely helped me so much.

I’ve also painted my nails. I know that’s a really small and insignificant thing, but it’s taking care of myself. Maybe not in a serious kind of way, but those little things are important. Just that action of doing something for yourself can make you feel that little bit better. I first started noticing this when I was going through Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). I started moisturising more often – particularly my arms, where my self-harm scars are. Oh, and in case you were wondering – I painted them in Aqua Glitter. My nails, I mean. Not my arms.

So, in summary – look after yourself. Learn about mindfulness – you don’t have to, but I honestly can’t recommend it enough. Paint your nails (you too, boys, if you like). Lose yourself in sensations (oh my). Be incredibly silly whenever possible. And be proud of every little step.

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Body Confidence, Mental Health, and Batwoman

First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the people who have decided to follow my blog, or even just look at it. No matter how big or small that number is, it’s really touching to think that there are people who read my inane (and often insane) ramblings, and maybe even get something positive from it. Maybe. 😉

So, another thing that’s been on my mind a lot recently – as if it’s ever far away from my mind – is my body. Body confidence is hard for anyone, but I think it’s usually even worse when you have a mental health problem. That goes without saying for eating disorders, of course – not something I’ve lived with myself, but I can only imagine how hard that is. I did have an issue with overeating when I was being bullied back in secondary school. I was an averagely sized young teenager (well, apart from being ridiculously tall), started getting bullied, and ballooned due to comfort eating.

Shortly after I left school, I lost all of the weight. I’m now a healthy size 12-14, in proportion for my height, and generally quite happy with my figure. However, my ‘default mode’ is often the girl that was bullied in secondary school, not the girl who gets complimented rather than insulted by others. When I receive a compliment, my brain flips to that default mode. I think they must be joking, or they’re being sarcastic, or they’re simply just being nice. If someone wolf whistles me, I immediately go on red alert in my brain, thinking ‘are they making fun of me?’.

I get very self conscious when I walk down the street. I assume everyone’s looking at me. The feeling has lessened as I’ve got older and more confident as a person – it used to be much worse. I used to feel like someone who didn’t belong around other people, that belongs away, alone, hidden. I used to feel strange… alien-like. I was different to the general human populace, my past made me different, and my fucked up brain made me different. I don’t quite feel that way anymore, thankfully, but I still certainly see a very skewed version of myself in comparison to what other people tell me they see.

So, I’m very self aware – aware of my face, my hair, my height, my body, my looks in general. Sometimes I genuinely wonder if I have BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) as I’m so obsessive about my image, seeing flaws, seeing certain things that other people don’t see. So what am I doing on Sunday? I’m only wearing a skin-tight costume, cosplaying as Batwoman, where I will no doubt have at least several pictures taken of me. The very thought fills me with a slight terror – but also excitement. That’s the confusing thing about my self confidence – there’s rarely a middle ground. It now flips between being very, very unconfident (like, wanting to hide in a hole level of unconfident) to ‘hey, actually, I’d probably do myself’. It’s probably confusing for other people. I’m not sure if that’s just me, or Borderline Personality Disorder, or kind of normal. Who knows. Brains, eh?

Image

So, what am I going to do on Sunday to combat my nerves? I’ll channel my inner Batwoman. Because Batwoman doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially no silly, gorram mental health disorder. Shiny.

Self Harm, and Scars

Below is a post I made on the wonderful Minds Like Ours forum, and wanted to share it on my blog. It’s an issue I’ve touched upon in a previous entry, but felt it deserved its own post.

 

Something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, is my self harm scars. I recently saw this tumblr post and it made me think about how people perceive self harm scars, how many people hide their own, and the stigma surrounding self harm in general. People are finally starting to talk about mental health in a positive way, thanks to the amazing work of organisations like Mind, Minds Like Ours and lots of other fantastic charities. There are also lots of celebrities getting their stories out there in an effort to stop the stigma against illnesses such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders and so on.

Something I’ve noticed, though, is the lack of mention of self harm. I haven’t seen all of the BBC’s ‘It’s A Mad World’ season but I was very interested to watch a few of its programmes, such as ‘Diaries of a Broken Mind’ and ‘Failed by the NHS’. I was happy to see Borderline Personality Disorder mentioned, as well as a good, broad range of other illnesses. However, I was quite surprised at the lack of coverage of self harm. I do appreciate that self harm is a tricky thing to include… it can be very triggering, and something to be handled very delicately. But the problem I have, is that whilst I begin to feel better and more open about my disorder (BPD), I still struggle with my self harm scars.

I believe that a huge stigma still surrounds self harm, that hasn’t been addressed anywhere near as much as it should be by now. With all of the coverage and awareness that’s been created around mental health, why aren’t we talking about self harm more? We know how common it is, especially with young people… wouldn’t it help to know there were others, to see people’s scars and to know you don’t have to be ashamed? I remember when I was a young teenager, there was a documentary featuring the website Recover Your Life. At the time, I was a young, depressed teenager who had problems with self harm and just knowing there was a whole community out there of people dealing with it, and actively trying to overcome it, was such a huge comfort.

It’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve had scars that are very noticeable. I used to self harm very ‘lightly’, and the scars were very faint. However, last summer I made cuts that were much worse and much deeper, which has led to bad scarring on my upper arm, and one large scar on my lower arm. I now cannot bring myself to wear short sleeves in public. I never minded this as a teenger when I had fresh cuts – I knew it was just for a few weeks. But my scars are still severe after over a year… and the idea of always wearing cardigans isn’t very appealing. I’m slowly starting to become less ‘ashamed’ of them but it’s not easy.

It’s not like you can walk down the street and generally see those kind of scars on someone – I’ve only ever met one girl who openly shows her scars, and her attitude about them is so admirable. Privately, I’m not ashamed of my scars as I’ve survived some really, really tough stuff and they are a part of my past – almost similar to how my tattoos represent parts of my history, so do my scars. The main thing that I struggle with at the moment, is keeping up that attitude in public and daring to bare them.

Do you have scars that they are self conscious of, or are you proud to bare them? Do you have any thoughts on the stigma surrounding self harm… and should we be doing more to raise awareness about self harm?

Recovery

Sometimes, you don’t really know how well you’re progressing in your recovery, or how far you’ve come. You don’t really have anything to measure it against, and it’s hard to have an objective view of your own mental health. For me, I won’t think about how I’m getting better for ages, and it’ll suddenly hit me.

That just happened now, and prompted me to blog about it. I checked out BBC iPlayer to see if there were any other ‘It’s A Mad World’ programmes available, and noticed a couple of mental health related documentaries. I’ve just started with ‘Football, Madness and Me’. It follows three people with various mental illnesses, who take part in a football league where everyone has a mental health problem. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t completely gripped by the premise of it (I’m not the world’s biggest football fan), but I didn’t want to dismiss it too quickly. I also noticed in the blurb that one of the people featured had problems with self harm – something I’ve rarely seen in mental health documentaries.

I hope that self harm gets a fair representation in this documentary. I think it’s very often overlooked in mental health programmes, I haven’t seen or heard much about it for a long time. It’s a huge issue that affects so many people, and needs to be better represented. Not just because so many people suffer from it and could benefit from seeing others’ experiences, but also to help those who are recovered, but struggle with their scars. I myself have some significant scars on my arm and find it really hard to show them in public. If there was less stigma around it, perhaps I’d feel less self-conscious about them. Who knows.

Anyway. I’ve only watched ten minutes of it so far, and hearing about Hayley’s depression suddenly made me realise that I’m a million miles away from being depressed. It was almost a shock to me, I’m so used to having something… depression when I’m not anxious, or anxiety when I’m not depressed, and so on. But right now, I’m happy. I look forward to tomorrow. I look forward to a lot of things. I’m so, so far from the place I used to be in and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

Don’t get me wrong, those symptoms still need to be managed – I have to try to control my impulsiveness (generally!), keep my emotions in check and make sure I look after myself (plently of sleep, regular meals, not drinking too much, etc). And that’s something to always keep in mind with recovery… you can never just suddenly wake up one day, and be cured. You have to work at it, and mean it when you say you want to get better. You need to look after yourself, and try to do so with love and respect.

It’s a long road, and you will have relapses. You’ll have times where you thought you were getting better, have a low point and wonder if you’ll ever get there. You will. As long as you want to, really want to, and take proactive steps towards caring for yourself, you can get better. I’ll leave you with one particular technique that I learnt in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, called PLEASE MASTER. (Oo-er)

PLEASE MASTER

PhysicaL illness (treat) – If you are sick or injured, get proper treatment for it.
Eating (balanced) – Make sure you eat a proper healthy diet, and eat in moderation.
Avoid mood-altering drugs – Do not take non-prescribed medication or illegal drugs. They are very harmful to your body, and can make your mood unpredictable.
Sleep (balanced) – Do not sleep too much or too little. Eight hours of sleep is recommended per night for the average adult.
Exercise – Make sure you get an effective amount of exercise, as this will both improve body image and release endorphins, making you happier.
MASTERy (build)
Try to do one thing a day to help build competence and control.