“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.

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.

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.

First Post

And we’ll all float on, alright.

That song has been my anthem for today. I made the twenty minute bus journey from the city centre to my workplace this morning, listening to Spotify on random, and that song came on. In that moment, I knew everything was alright. And that everything would be alright. It put a smile on my face, I bopped along to the music and looked forward to my Monday morning.

That’s what this blog is going to be about, pretty much. I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but I’ll be damned if it controls me, or my life. I intend this blog to be an account of the mundane (my daily life, musings and ramblings) as well as my more serious thoughts about BPD, depression and the mental health system.

So. I’d best introduce myself.

I’m Carla. I’m 23 years old, I have (dyed) red hair, I’m ridiculously tall and I’m a bit of a geek. I’ve lived in Norwich for the past two years, but I’m originally from Lincolnshire (alright, duck?) and I say the words ‘castle’ and ‘bath’ properly. I’ve just started a job in the insurance industry, and I’m really loving it so far. I have aspirations to study further in English, but we’ll see how that fits in with my current career plans. I love RPGs, books, sci-fi, fantasy, dressing up and socialising.

Borderline Personality Disorder was first brought to my attention in around 2009. I’d only ever been diagnosed with depression and anxiety (and a brief period of OCD), and I’d never heard of BPD. I had a one-off appointment with a mental health professional, and she asked me the usual questions… but then, she asked me about my anger. I’d never been asked about it before, and it caught me off guard. I’d been getting very easily and very intensely angry at the time, and this (amongst the other symptoms) led her to suggest that I had BPD. She gave me a factsheet about it, and it was like being given the last piece to an otherwise unfathomable puzzle.

That was the beginning of my journey towards getting better. I started taking Citalopram, and I was already receiving some great counselling from an NHS counsellor in Leeds. Before I could take advantage of some BPD-centric therapy, however, I broke up with my then boyfriend and moved back to Lincolnshire. Therapy and treatment was very patchy there. It was when I moved to Norwich in 2011, that I got the help that I needed in the form of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).

That’s a very short and very condensed summary of my BPD, and my mental health in general. Hopefully it’ll give you a brief background and understanding, and I can then explain different aspects of BPD in the future. It’s a very complex disorder (and now referred to as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, if I’m not mistaken).

Anyway… I look forward to writing again, and I hope to perhaps reach out to other BPD recovery blogs, or just people in general that might like to talk.

-CJ