Psychiatric Hospitals – patient kindness

Things I’ve seen…

On the night before my 21st birthday I saw a group of patients stand in the garden (in November) and wait until 12.01 to sing Happy Birthday to me. They had bought me flowers.

I’ve seen a girl buy another girl a teddy because she said she had left hers at home.

I’ve seen guys watching football together and girls getting frustrated because they wanted to watch the bake off final. So they agreed, one ward would watch bake off and the other the football.

On my first night in an adult psychiatric ward I saw all the women in my dorm hold me and stand around me until I stopped crying.

I’ve seen a patient take another patient to the shop because, although she was allowed out, she was too scared to go on her own.

The day I decided to try and eat after a long period of having nothing, I saw 2 girls decide between them who would hold my hand and who would wipe my tears.

I’ve seen notes of encouragement and letters being left on peoples beds.

I’ve seen a girl come back from pass with emergency moustaches (yes you read that correctly).

I’ve seen people of all ages – from teenagers to men and women in their 60s sitting outside together drinking tea, listening to music and bitching about how the old doctor we hated was better than the new one that we now hated more.

I’ve seen girls braiding each other’s hair and doing each other’s nails.

I’ve seen people telling others when they should ask for help – or getting help for them. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.

Yes psych wards can be loud when people are unwell and it can be unsettling and it can be scary – but usually we just feel bad for the person in distress.

Some of my closest friends are people I’ve met through my admissions and mental illness.

And in the words of Harry Potter…

“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other”

And I think that knocking out a 12 foot mountain troll is just as hard as trying to recover from any Mental Illness.

A Long Overdue Update

“You have the power to say ‘this is not how my story will end’”

Hello everyone,

So yet again I have to apologise for my considerably long absence. Things have been incredibly hectic and despite thinking to myself at least twice a week that I need to write a post, I either haven’t had the time or I have not had the energy.

I think my last blog post was “A day in the life of an Anorexic” back in January 2019. I hope you found it both informative and interesting.

This blog post is probably going to be a bit of a mess structure wise and definitely all over the place. I want to do an update so I will briefly go into the events of last year and then continue on from there to now. I will try and keep this as short and as concise as possible, but then again we all know how long my blog posts end up being!

I actually don’t think I have written a personal post for a long time. And I’m not going to trail all the way through to 2017 as it isn’t really necessary and has little effect on the here and now. But I will say this, I ended 2017 in a pretty good place. It had been a very up and down year with my self-harm but I was in supported accommodation and any admissions I had to general or psychiatric hospitals were brief. A few times my self-harm got so bad I needed blood transfusions and there were some very close calls when I was in serious danger. At times I wasn’t sure whether my supported accommodation would take me back due to my risk. However, looking on the year as a whole, it wasn’t one of my worst years. I entered 2018 pretty happy and despite having to drop out of university again, I had come to terms with the fact that I probably wasn’t ready. In 2017 I went on holiday to Majorca and had a road trip around England with my father. I was in therapy and fighting hard to get better.

2018

Predictably, in January 2018 I ended up back in hospital for what was going to be a very long 8 months. I say predictably because there seems to be a trend that my Mental Health plummets after New Year and tends to result in an admission to a psychiatric ward (there are reasons for this involving trauma). The basis for detaining me was due to the severity and increase frequency of my self-harm. I was needing blood transfusions more and more and staff were regularly phoning ambulances and finding me in my room which they said “looked like a murder scene”. Yet I must say this, for support workers that were not trained as medical professionals, they were incredible. They kept calm and rational despite the knowledge that this could be the time I might not make it. The reason for such a lengthy admission was not because I constantly proved to be high risk, but because my supported accommodation had decide that they could not take me back. And I did not blame them in the slightest. I was upset and angry, but only with myself.

Naturally this created a problem. Where would I live now? Ideas were thrown around like frisbies and no-one had the faintest idea what was going to happen. One moment I was going into another supported accommodation, next I was going to a long term rehabilitation ward after that I was going to live independently. So after months of debate it was decided I would live alone and be closely monitored. By this point I was allowed to leave the ward for full days at a time as well as having overnight passes back to my parents’ home in Edinburgh. I was singing in my choir and going to groups. I was even allowed to go on holiday abroad for ten days and come back. Effectively I was living independently, I just had to go back to the ward at night. By the time October came I was so excited for discharge. I felt confident in my ability to function in the community. I moved into my flat and all seemed well. But that week was incredibly difficult. I guess this is because, despite barely being on the ward in the weeks prior to my discharge, staying in the ward I had the comfort of knowing there were people to help me through the night. But on my own, I had no-one. The next few months from October through to December were pretty stable. Of course things weren’t perfect, but whose life is? But I was coping well. I had a truly lovely Christmas and saw in the New Year with some of my closest and most supportive friends.

2019

I started the year in a good place. I had finally got all my old belongings into my new flat and I was starting to really enjoy my freedom. Against the odds (including getting through the festive period) I managed all the way to March doing group therapy and, for the most part, staying out of hospitals.

But from the beginning of February I had started to experience severe dissociative symptoms. I have always suffered with dissociation to some degree. It used to primarily be de-realisation – where I felt the world around me was fake and I did not exist. I would wander slowly through streets and stare at every person feeling so disconnected that it was like watching a film I wasn’t in. I often turned to self-harm by cutting or overdosing just to feel alive or “more real”. I was losing time more and more often which was something that had only rarely happened previously. I had gaps in my memory and would often end up in dangerous situations without knowing what I was doing or where I was. During March and April things didn’t improve. I decided I wasn’t stable enough for therapy and began to hurt myself more often. I would overdose and not tell anyone. I would cut and not get stitches. Most of the time I was hurting myself I had dissociated and it took a while for me to “come to” and realise what I had done. I was so scared. Particularly because I now knew what I was capable of.

This fear of being out of control coupled with the feeling that no-one had any answers to my memory gaps or any suggestions of how to manage it led me to decide to take matters into my own hands and attempt suicide. It was a very bad incident and the fact I survived was sheer luck. I was discharged into the care of my father who was staying with me at the time, but the next day he felt he could not cope and asked me to go into hospital. So against every bone in my body and every thought in my head I agreed.

And this is where we are now. I find myself, yet again, in a psychiatric ward completely confused as to what to do. I am not used to voluntary admissions and I am desperate to discharge myself. I know hospital does not help me and they are limited in what they can offer me. I feel we have hit a dead end with treatment options and we are going to fall into symptom management. I now have an intense fear of my own thoughts. They are very overpowering and controlling which leaves me feeling powerless. So I am not in a very good headspace at the moment.

As I suspected this post has been incredibly long and detailed and I apologise for that. It is probably not very coherent or easy to read. So I hope you can forgive me.

Despite my situation, I want you all to know that I have not given up. I am trying to hang in there and I hope that you all are too.

I would also like to ask if there are any topics you would like me to cover. If you have any ideas please comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

Take care guys

xx

Anorexia Recovery: Lets Play Poker.

Imagine you are playing poker. There are two players. Anorexia and your body. The chips symbolize who has control. Sometimes Anorexia has all the chips. Sometimes your body has all the chips. Sometimes it is half and half.  You have to decide who you want to side with. But the game is not easy. Anorexia has a well practiced poker face. You want to believe what it is telling you. You desperately want to believe you can side with it and win. But your body is crying out for you to help it. It desperately needs the chips. It needs you to give it control. It needs you to listen to it and nourish it. But Anorexia is good at bluffing. It is telling you it has all the cards to win once and for all. It is a promise of happiness. Deep down you know it is a lie. Somewhere along the way you discover that siding with Anorexia just brings misery and a whole lot of useless cards. But you feel like gambling. You feel like sticking with it just in case. Yet at some point you have to make the decision to switch sides. You have to realise that you cannot keep gambling. Because in reality this is not a game of cards. You are gambling with your life.

Your body may not have the highest cards. It may not even have the cards to win every round. But you have to choose to stick with it. You have to believe deep down that you and your body can eventually win the game. There may be times you waver, there may be times when you long to side with Anorexia because you are so desperate for the high and adrenaline starving gives you. But you have to be strong. You have to hold your ground. You have to side with your body because its promises of health and happiness are true. Your body does not bluff. Your body is not manipulative. Your body wants to survive but it needs your help. It needs you to help it win. And you need to make sure that Anorexia is left with nothing.

xx

Coping With Bad Body Image Days

The vast majority of us all have days when we struggle with our body image. However, to those suffering with an Eating Disorder these days can seem unbearable and incredibly difficult to cope with. They can massively impact our behavior and social interactions. I cannot count the number of times I have refused to go out because I knew simply getting dressed would be a totally traumatizing experience. So how to cope with these horrendous days? Well, I have eight things to remember for when I am struggling with my body image.

  1. You are so much more than that number on the scale. It does NOT determine your worth as a human being. It is just a number, nothing more, nothing less. The scale cannot tell you how loved, valued or special you are.
  2. Fat is not a feeling. One cannot feel fat, just as one cannot feel orange. It is simply not possible. It is much more likely that you are feeling something deeper, such as insecurity or depression and it is these feelings that need to be examined and dealt with.
  3. Treat yourself as you would treat others. I was once told by a nurse that if I spoke to my friends in the same way I speak to myself, I would have no friends left. And she is right. You wouldn’t judge a friend on their size, weight or shape, so why would you judge yourself? Treat yourself with the same compassion you show others and it will make a world of difference to how you feel about yourself.
  4. Don’t focus on what you cannot change. Focus on what you can. Think about the reasons behind your negative thoughts and the impact they have on your feelings towards your body. Your body is wonderful. And when it is healthy it allows you to do so much. It fights hard to keep you going and it deserves to be treated with respect.
  5. Fight the negative voice in your head. The negative thoughts are just that, thoughts. You can fight them. You can challenge them. And you can recognise them for what they are and choose to dismiss them.
  6. You are not alone. No matter how much it feels like it. You are not the only person who struggles with accepting their body. And in a world of diet culture and where thin is in; body dissatisfaction amongst woman AND men is at an all time high. It may surprise you how even the people who seem the most confident, will still have days when they struggle with their body image.
  7. Look after yourself. However hard it feels, self-care is so important. I never used to shower on days when my body image was particularly bad. I couldn’t even get dressed. But I soon learnt that taking care of myself on my bad days actually made me feel better as I was taking control and not letting my negative thoughts win.
  8. You are unique. You are worthy. You are beautiful. And life is far too short to be caught up with worrying about the size and shape of your body. There is a lot more to you than that.

xx

Hope

Today I felt hope. A little burst of light burning inside of me. If only for a moment I belived I could do this, that I could pick myself back up and become stronger for it. I felt that maybe, just maybe, I could move on from my past and the people who hurt me. I felt hope and that terrifies me. I’m so afraid to admit it as I felt it was something I had lost forever.

It may have dwindled slightly now. The light may have started to fizzle out but I will try my best to keep it burning and not allow the darkness to extinguish it completely. Keeping it burning is my weapon against the darkness. This is MY war and MY victory and MY recovery. And I will keep it burning, I will keep fighting. Because that small light is all I have left to hold on to.

Xx

Taking Control Again

“It is the courage to continue that counts”

So I’ve been rather quiet these last few weeks and the truth is I’m not doing well. On the 18th of February I had to come back into hospital, and in all honestly I feel ashamed to admit that. I feel I should be doing better and able to cope on my own in the community. I wasn’t going to blog about this admission but I’m tired of being embarrassed. When I started this blog I decided I was going to be open and honest. And this is the reality of Mental Illness. Recovery is not a straight line by any means. It is full of hurdles and twists and turns. Sometimes it can feel like you are running in circles. Other times you can feel like there is a 10 foot wall blocking your way.  But I have to remember relapses happen and it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means I have to find the determination in me to get back up and try again.

It is scary how quickly things can change for me. How I can be doing OK one minute and the next feel as though I am being propelled back into the suffocating darkness. These last few weeks have been some of the worst I’ve ever known, I have been all over the place and experienced every possible emotion. I’ve felt lost. I’ve felt stuck. I’ve felt trapped in a body I hate with a mind that has declared war on itself.  These past few days I’ve just deteriorated. I’ve given up and seem to have hit my own self destruct button. And actually the harsh reality is that there is only so much people can do. People can support me as much as they can, they can try and help, but ultimately I have to be the one to change. I have to be the one to decide to fight again. I have to be the one to pull myself out of this hole. And that terrifies me.

But today something changed in me. I got a wake up call from my psychiatrist who just looked me straight in the eyes and said “where is this going Jenny”…and I just broke down. Because I don’t know where it is going, I just know its not forwards and I cannot continue like this. So I’ve decided it’s time to take control again.  I feel like I’m at a cross roads. I can continue down this self destructive path which is so horrible yet so familiar. Or I can take a leap of faith and start fighting my way back up. That road is much harder to take because first I have to believe in myself. I have to believe I am worthy of help. I have to believe that I can recover. But most of all I have to believe that I have the inner strength to keep going.

You see in recovery you don’t have another option. Sometimes being strong is all you can do. It is all you have. It is all you can hold on to. We fight because we have an instinct of survival. We live for other people when we cannot live for ourselves. We keep holding onto that tiny slither of hope that tomorrow can be better, can be brighter. And today, for the first time in weeks I felt that hope inside of me. Hope that maybe, just maybe, I can do this. And I can come out the other side, fighting.

xx

 

Fighter

I hope to find a place someday

Free from sadness and disarray

Where feelings come and feelings go

But I still feel like I’m in control

 

I hope to fight head on my fears

And live a full life without tears

I want to know what it’s like to laugh

And not be living behind a mask

 

I hope to find the strength inside

To ride the waves and know I’ve tried.

I want to get myself to a better place

Where I can feel the sun shine on my face

 

I hope I can find the light in darkness

And recognise what is true happiness

I want to end this deadly war with me

And learn what it’s like to simply be

 

I hope to remember that I’ve survived

Things over which I’ve cried and cried

That have struck me down and left me broken

Yet I am stronger for I have spoken

 

I hope I can fight my darkest thoughts

And untwist myself from all the knots

That have kept me tied up for so long

That have made me tired and not feel strong

 

I know the struggle that lies ahead

Is long and hard and I’ll wish I were dead

But I have belief things can be brighter

Because, I know that I am a fighter

xx