Mental Illness can kill

“There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout, but you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out”

Having a mental illness should not be a death sentence. But sadly for many it is. And I must confess that, for me, there have been times when I have wondered whether I would survive my illnesses. I have been told straight to my face that if I continued starving myself I would be dead within weeks. More recently I have been told that I am likely to die from misadventure (i.e. by accident) if I do not stop self-harming behaviours.

It is funny how blind having a mental illness can make you. In the same way a smoker tells themselves that they will not get cancer, I told myself would not die from these illnesses.

As an Anorexic (with a critically low weight and poor bone density) I told myself that it would not be me. was invincible. I could survive like this.was not in danger. It hurts looking back now at just how poorly I was and I feel shock at how I did not realise how dangerous my position had become. I remember sitting in front of my therapist at the time and watching her get emotional because she could see me deteriorating in front of her eyes. But I was not worried. Everyone else was but I didn’t care. As long as I was thin it didn’t matter. I pretended to be blind to all concern. I came down to Edinburgh for my birthday and watched as my mother cried at the sight of me. I vaguely saw peoples looks of worry or glances to each other as I refused food. But it didn’t worry me. I wouldn’t die. However, as I became even deeper absorbed in the disease I began almost wishing it would kill me. When I began to realise that Anorexia was not the comfort blanket I always thought it to be, I hoped It would kill me. I remember thinking it was ok because I wouldn’t die fat. Eventually my doctor stepped in and got me the help I needed, but for those few months where death was coming closer I was completely blinded by my illness. And even when things started to go wrong and I realised I was no longer in control I then wanted to die.

It is easy to see now how Anorexia (and other Eating Disorders) take lives. Whether through complications relating to the Eating Disorder or suicide. Sufferers take their own lives because, like me, they could not see a way out. Or there was no help available. Or they kept getting refused help because services rely on BMI to determine how sick someone suffering is. They forget it is a MENTAL illness and if your weight is not low then there is often not enough funding to treat patients at a healthy weight even if mentally they are struggling.

But having depression can blind you too. It makes you feel awful, worthless and useless. It tears you down and forces you into a pit of despair. You struggle to do the most basic of things due to lack of motivation. Why bother? You are not important enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. No-one will ever like you and your friends and colleagues are just pretending to like you. The negative thoughts come thick and fast and there is nothing you can do to stop them. That is when the idea of suicide infiltrates your brain. You believe people would be better off without you. You believe you would be doing the world a service if you died. And you believe so intrinsically that you do not belong in this world that death seems like a good option. Depression kills. And is responsible for the majority of male deaths under 50. I have speculated in past posts as to why this is, whether it is stigma or shame. But the truth is it does not really matter as the facts speak for themselves. Sometimes people go to the GP and they are not taken seriously which makes them reluctant to go back. This then means their depression goes untreated and undiagnosed. This is so dangerous and a key factor in why people commit suicide. Early intervention is so important. I was lucky and my GP diagnosed me straight away with depression at 14 and put me on anti-depressants. But others are not so lucky.

My Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder often means that I do not think of the consequences of my actions. Or if I do its because I’m planning something serious. 10% of people with EUPD die through suicide. The self harm which I engage in (which is a symptom of my illness)  has, at times, been life threatening. Some of the overdoses I have taken in order to hurt myself but not necessarily to die have resulted in me being in intensive care or I was in danger of seriously damaging my liver. And then there are the suicide attempts themselves. The reckless behaviour. The taking unnecessary risks. But I am blinded by my impulses. I do not see my behaviours for what they are until after the event. I just do what I feel like doing in the moment and often that is something very self-destructive. And even now when I am being told that I will only survive so many times until I accidentally kill myself, I continue to do it. Because my illness makes me believe that I am the exception. That I will not die. That I will not become a statistic. I know rationally that voice is wrong, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to shut up. But I’m fighting back and trying to reduce the severity of my self harm.

So you see, in all these diseases the mental illness can blind a person to the truth. Whether that be Anorexia, Depression or EUPD. There are, of course, many other Mental Illnesses but I have chosen to focus on these as they are the ones I am familiar with. People do not think it will be them. They convince themselves that, while it might happen to others, it will not happen to them. This is wrong. Anyone can die from an Eating Disorder or serious self harm. And even those who attempt suicide don’t always want to die they just don’t want to live. Yet even a half-hearted suicide attempt can kill. Mental Illnesses are dangerous and we must not forget that. People die from Mental Illnesses and that is the one thing I would like my readers to take away from this rather long winded post.

There should be access to help for EVERYONE no matter of their sex, age, ethnicity, postcode or social standing. And early intervention is key to recovery. A lot of people go to their GP out of desperation only to be told that they are not depressed enough, not anxious enough, not thin enough etc. This does not happen with any physical illnesses. When cancer is found the doctor does not tell you to wait to see if it gets worse before starting treatment. That would be negligence. However, with Mental Illness it seems to be a completely different story.

As always thank you for reading (medal if you got this far)

Take care guys

xx

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore”

So it’s that time of year again. It is #eatingdisorderawarenessweek and this year we are asking the question, #whywait? It is estimated that people wait about 3 years between symptoms developing and getting help. This is ridiculous. No physical illness is treated like this. No-one waits that long for treatment. And there is proof to show that early intervention means people are much more likely to recover. I often wonder how much money the NHS would have saved had they treated me sooner.

When I first started developing symptoms I told my psychiatrist at the time and she did nothing. She watched me deteriorate in front of her eyes. It was not until I was given a new psychiatrist that I was finally diagnosed and even then I had to wait for treatment as I was not deemed ill enough. They waited until things got so bad for me before even attempting to treat me. This is shocking and sadly the case for most suffering from an eating disorder. A lot go undiagnosed and untreated for years before anyone steps in.

Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate among all Mental Illnesses. They are serious psychiatric diseases that need treatment, and fast. Stepping in sooner would see admissions to psychiatric and general hospitals fall and give sufferers a greater chance of recovery.

It is also important to remember that Eating Disorders and not just about weight. There is so much more too them. Yes, weight loss is often a physical side effect of Anorexia Nervosa, but in other eating disorders weight is often irrelevant. They are often about control and perfectionism. They are about not feeling like you deserve to take up space. They’re about body image and comparing yourself to others. And for me it was about not wanting to grow up and look like a woman.

Eating Disorders are hell and while I am quite far along in recovery I still have my struggles. 10 years on and I still suffer from an Eating Disorder. It took four years for me to be diagnosed. I was 18. Despite having suffered on my own since I was 14. I have now been in recovery for 6 years. It is a long battle, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

If you notice someone struggling around food, excessively exercising or having rules and rituals surrounding food and drink. Be brave. Ask them how they are. Tell them they matter and that they can beat this with the right support. Encourage them to get better because if you are not recovering from your Eating Disorder you are essentially dying. Your body can only take so much – something I learnt the hard way. Physically it can make you very unwell – whether that be from having a low weight, binging, purging, using laxatives to excess or over exercising. So please step in if you see a friend or family member struggling. I promise they will thank you for it.

And that concludes my essay on Eating Disorders. Thank you for reading this and I hope I have helped spread awareness of what are seriously misunderstood psychiatric conditions. Let us all continue to ask the question #whywait.

Take care guys

xx

Self Injury Awareness Day

“I hurt myself on the outside to kill the thing on the inside”

Today is self injury awareness day and I was not going to post. BUT losing Claire has sparked a fire in me. I am determined even more now to break down barriers surrounding Mental Health and to speak out to end the stigma.

So yes my name is Jenny and I self-harm through cutting. You do not know how hard it is to write those words down. Or even to say ‘I am a self-harmer’ out loud. But I am and have been since I was 14.

I did not really know what it was at first. I did not understand why I was doing this to myself. Punishment, for me, was a big part of why I started as it was also when my Anorexia first started to take over my life. I punished myself for eating. I punished myself for being ‘fat’. I punished myself for being me.

The negative thoughts bombarded me and I felt worthless, useless and a burden to others. It soon became my way of coping with day to day life. It gave me a release. The pain was a distraction from the internal pain I felt inside. It was not long before my friends found out and told a teacher. And it was probably the best thing that could have happened. I finally had someone to confide in and I could talk about my problems or what I was struggling with. It helped. She was by far one of the best teachers I ever had- and I am so happy to say I am still in touch with her today. She has seen me through some very dark places and continues to support me. I am eternally grateful for I do not know what I would have done without her support.

But unfortunately the self-harm continued. It became an addiction. It was soon out of my control. I have stopped for periods of time over the years. But usually when my eating disorder has been fully in control.

In the past few years my self-harm has gone from bad to worse. What started as a few scratches turned into deep cuts frequently requiring medical attention. I have even needed blood transfusions a few times.

HOWEVER, all self-harm should be taken seriously. I was lucky in the sense that the ‘minor’ self-harm I was engaging in at a young age was taken seriously by the school and I was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). I received help and the school continued to give me on-going support all through my teenage years.

I would have liked to be able to end this by saying I no longer engage in self-harming behaviours. But the truth is I do. However, I do not give into the urges lightly any more. I fight them with all my might. I try my hardest to NOT cut. But when it’s the only coping mechanism you have it’s incredibly hard.

I really wish I never started. I wish I had never made that first cut. My arms are a mess now. And I am ashamed of them. I have to wear long sleeves all the time – even in hot weather. It is uncomfortable. I worry all the time that someone might see them and be disgusted. I’m scared I will be judged.

But I shouldn’t be afraid. I should not feel ashamed. They are a part of me and a part of my story and while I may hate having them and wish for clean arms again I am starting to accept them. Slowly, but surely. In the same way I tell everyone to love their bodies no matter if you have cellulite or stretch marks or any other problem, I want people to not be ashamed of their scars.

I also want people to know that there are many ways a person may self-harm. I personally cut but others burn or insert objects into their bodies.

If you suspect someone to be self-harming please please step in and offer them your support. Listen to them but do not judge. You will likely have no idea what they are going through. Self-harm is an addiction yes but like all addictions it can be overcome. And I have faith that the day will come when I do not feel the need to self-harm anymore and where I am content in myself. One day I want to not feel that deep desire to punish.

I hope I have opened your eyes into why people self-harm – it is not a phase or a trend. It usually comes with Depression, Eating Disorders or Personality Disorders. And is feature of them.

Take care guys

xx

Battling On

“You have survived 100% of your worst days”

Jungling several Mental Illnesses at once was never going to be easy. For me, when my EUPD gets better my Anxiety and Anorexia gets worse. I am so black and white, all or nothing and I struggle, really struggle, to find any shade of grey.

Since leaving hospital I have tried my best to get back into a normal life – to find that grey area where I am successfully in control of my Mental Illnesses. And for the most part I am managing. I have been attending my supported work placement and meeting friends for coffee and drinks. But it has been tough, so tough. I still get days when depression cripples me. When the thoughts of harming myself are so overwhelming that there is nothing I can do but to give in or fight hard against them. I still get days when Anorexia controls me. When every bite kills me and food feels like poison infecting my body and seeping into my cells. I have days where my body image is so bad I cannot bare to shower, let alone get dressed as I feel no-one should have to see me looking like this.  I get days where Anxiety renders me house bound because the world outside is too frighting for me to face on my own.

But above all, I still get days when EUPD is the front runner of them all. When my impulses get too strong for me to control. When my mind races and runs to places that I cannot bare, straight into the dark corners of my mind. Where the images and thoughts that cause me so much pain and upset are replayed over and over again like a video tape stuck on repeat. The same thoughts. The same pictures. The same voices. They taunt and torment me. They take over my my mind and turn me into someone I don’t even recognise.

But in all this I still have hope. I still cling onto that glimmer of light that things can and will get better, get easier. Because without that hope where would I be? Alone. In darkness. With no light to guide me. And in my worst moments I remember the good things I have in my life. I have wonderful friends. Both with and without Mental Illnesses. I have a fantastic family who support me and are fighting with me. I have amazing professionals who do there upmost to help and never give up on me. They pick me up each and every time I fall and we start again and build back up. And I have you. My wonderful readers who bare with me while I ramble on about my struggles and through comments and messages have helped me so much. So thank you.

To those of you suffering from any kind of Mental Illness – don’t give up. Even at your worst times, try and find the light in darkness. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Take care guys

xx

Trying to Find my Feet

“Rock bottom is good solid ground and a dead end street just a place to turn around.”

So its been a long time since my last blog post. At the beginning of the year things were going OK – I had thrown myself into university and was managing as well as I could have hoped.  However, it did not take long for things to deteriorate and I was back in hospital by the end of February. University was causing me too much stress and as a result I was forced to give it up for yet another year. Things became easier after that. I was ‘coping’. Nothing was perfect but things were going well in terms of my supported accommodation. And that stability continued for a few months. Food wise things were good although I was and still am by no means happy with my body shape or weight.

We are now in June and at the end of May my Mental Health began to worsen for no apparent reason. I was doing fine, then all of a sudden I was not. I guess that is the nature of EUPD. For this reason I was admitted back to hospital for some respite. Although things have steadily gone from bad to worse and I am severely struggling with my mood and thoughts and I do not know what is going on or how long I will have to stay here for. Everything is up in the air at the moment. My supported accommodation are extremely concerned and are unsure if they are able to cope with me. I do not know where to go from here. I do not know how to get better. I do not even know what better is. My head is a mess at the moment. My food intake has suffered as a result of being sectioned and all control being taken away from me.

So things are not great but I am hoping they will improve and I will be allowed back to my supported accommodation, but I just don’t know If that will happen. I feel like I have lost my fight and positive attitude to recovery. I am so tired of this illness. It is draining me and it is taking everything in me not to do something drastic and dangerous. But I am not done yet. I am still here, and still trying to re-gain some of my energy to continue fighting. But just. In this moment. I feel lost.

Take care guys

xx

Back to University I go

 “Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight.”

A year ago I was in hospital, a year ago I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, a year ago I could not keep myself safe, a year ago I was miserable and a year ago I was engulfed by Anorexia. Today I am out of hospital, today I am no longer sectioned, today I can keep myself safe, today I am content and today I am fighting.

Wow, it’s been a quick few weeks. I started back at university after a two year break and it is safe to say it has been a tough two weeks. I went from virtually doing nothing to suddenly being in third year of a Law degree and it has not been an easy adjustment. Going back to university was never going to be easy so I know I am going to have to push myself to stick it out. I will not lie and say the thought of dropping out has not already hit me. The negative thoughts come thick and fast, bombarding me with feelings of unworthiness. But the negative thoughts are just that – thoughts – and I alone have the power to fight them. Fighting the thoughts makes me stronger and I have learnt that I need to believe in myself. I may not be the cleverest in my class or get the highest marks but that is OK. It is OK not to be the best whatever my head tells me.

Being back at university is improving my Mental Health by giving me a focus and an end goal. When I was doing nothing, I had time to wallow in self-pity but now I’m keeping myself busy and it feels so good. I’m trying hard to make this work as I am enjoying my course – it is just a lot more work than I anticipated. I forgot how intense Law is and the amount of reading I have to do is phenomenal. But I am determined to keep going and keep fighting. Unfortunately, the stress of university has meant that my Eating Disorder has tried to worm its way back in again. But I know the warning signs now and I know how to fight back. I point blank refuse to relapse because that road only leads to hospital and I am not going back.

Battling Mental Illness and studying a Law degree is so tough but I know I can and I will do this. I want to make people proud but I also want to make myself proud. I am sick and tired of Mental Illness ruining my life. It is time to take control back and not allow my illnesses to jeopardise this opportunity for me. I refuse to let it beat me. I am stronger than the thoughts in my head. I think I am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Take care guys

xx

2016 in Review

“You won’t know until you’ve tried”

So it has been a while since my last blog post. If I had one word to sum up the last month it would be “turbulent”.  New Year can be tough. Every year I feel like this is another year of my life that I’ve wasted. Another year of starvation and engaging in bad coping mechanisms. But I do not want to think like that. I could sit here and wallow in self-pity. I could focus on the negative (the countless hospital admissions, my struggle with food and the loss of some of my independence). I could think about all the things that have gone wrong and all the mistakes I have made, but part of recovery is giving yourself credit for what you have achieved. And believe me it is tough. But most things can be turned into positives. The amount of progress I have made this year is something I should be very proud of. And I honestly struggle to write that. A year ago I was in hospital, a year ago I has stopped eating entirely, a year ago I was intent on hurting myself in any way possible.

After I was discharged in the spring of last year I went on holiday with my family and ate out every night. I ate what JENNY wanted not Anorexia. I managed better than I could have hoped and I need to allow myself to realise that. I had such a good time and was able to enjoy myself for the first time in months.

However, after a few difficult weeks, It was suggested that I should move into supported accommodation. This was probably the toughest decision I had to make in 2016. It was hard because I had to decide what was best for me and my health and put that above everything else. Of course I wanted to stay in my flat with my dog, but the reality of the situation was that I was not coping at all. So my social worker and I agreed that we would give it ago and honestly it was the best decision I could have made. Having the support of staff is amazing and I get on well with all of them.

At the end of 2016 I made another hard decision – to go back to university. I decided that I could keep putting it off and waiting until I felt “ready”, but I realised that that time might never come. So I made the choice to go back. And honestly I am terrified. My anxiety is sky high and I am worried about so many elements. But I am trying to be excited about the prospect of returning and I plan on enjoying myself to fullest. I am worried about whether I will be able to stay well and get through it, but as my psychotherapist says “you won’t know until I’ve tired”. I am nervous about meeting new people and trying to make new friends. But I am hoping it will be ok and that everyone will be friendly. I am also scared of failing and letting everyone down but I do have resources in place to help me through my studies.

2016 has not been an easy year for me. There have been a lot of changes and a lot of ups and downs but focusing on the moment is important. And right now I am keeping myself afloat, reaching out when I am struggling and preparing myself for the next chapter of my life.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

Take care guys

xx