Today’s blog is about what to do when you are in crisis.
Firstly, how do you even know if you or someone you know is even in crisis? A good question but a hard one to answer as one man’s crisis could be another man’s euphoria compared to what they suffer from. Everyone is different and mental health is so vast, I believe that it would be impossible to give a, “one answer suits all”, and so I will write from my mental health state point of view, someone with anxiety, depression and bpd, because this is what I know!
So let me firstly remind you that I have suffered from depression from a very young age, the first signs of this is when I developed alopecia at the age of ten. I believe that whether you understand your problems or not, you cannot deny them and they will become active in one way or another. Being unaware, clueless and therefore not acknowledging or receiving help, your body will still find a way to release, to try and rid of what is wrong with you, like bodies do. Your body will show that something is wrong, for example psoriasis, eczema, acne, weight gain or decrease etc. When I was ten years old,I developed alopecia areata. I was not even aware that I felt down, but looking back now, I realise that I had serious dual parent envy. Something, well actually someone was missing. My life was lacking the presence of my biological father and knowing that he was alive and well, able to father his other children yet having no time, love, respect, consideration or feelings for me, made me feel unaccepted, different, unloved, unworthy and incomplete. Something was definitely missing from my life and all of that pain and strife that I could not handle, control nor understand as a child, found away out of my body.Overtime the situation worsened. I had a step father for nine years but he left without even a goodbye! That added salt to the wound, especially as by then I was much older. I was a teenager with all the regular teenage angst and hormonal nightmares but on top of that, I had been rejected and abandoned by the two fathers that I had in this world. The alopecia continued and worsened. The treatment was horrific, bullet shot injections straight into my head which would result in bee sting like tender bumps. My alopecia never ceased, it worsened to the point of me becoming basically bald. It had transformed from alopecia areata to alopecia totalise (from spots and patches to whole areas of the head, if not its entirety) even my eyebrows went and I nearly lost my luscious lashes but fortunately they stayed. Once we are on the topic, there is one more type of alopecia, it is called alopecia universalis, that means that all your body hair goes. I always say that God or the universe, whoever is in charge is having a laugh at my expense! I still have to shave other unwanted hairs on my body, the places where I want hair just don’t abide. By the age of twenty, I had to have the last bits of my hair shaved off. Afro hair is hard to manage and only having a quarter of a head of hair was far more trouble then it was worth. It was twelve years ago now but I still remember crying as my best friend shaved it all off and I sat on my bedroom floor. It never grew back. Also eventually both eyebrows also fell out and now I have to get them make-up tattooed.The whole alopecia thing has made dating particularly difficult, perhaps 7 out of a potential 10 boyfriends in my life have done a runner upon discovery and now I have being overweight and my mental health issues to also disclose and give men fuel to run off, but that is another story!
My point is that sometimes we don’t realise when we are unwell and/or in crisis. If we don’t know, if we can’t recognise and then fight the warning signs or symptoms, our body and/or minds will act on them anyway.
The best thing to do is make notes on what has happened before you fell ill as soon as you have enough clarity to do so. Keep a diary, overtime you may discover common triggers. Triggers don’t have to be big drama’s like deaths, arguments, fights, fall outs, break ups and confrontation. Triggers can be as small as smells, tastes, words, audio or visual. It’s the little triggers that we could all do with recognising, they could link to bigger episodes that we have forgotten.
I used to live in London, mostly in Hackney. At one point I would commute from Leytonstone to Hackney Central quite often. One day, a normal day on a normal journey, I blurted out, “I hate Hackney Wick” to my boyfriend at the time, as the train passed through. He asked why and for a second or so I questioned myself, and then went on to disclose that about seven years prior, I had been sexually assaulted by a female work colleague at a house party in Hackney Wick. She got me on my own, pinned me down, pulled at my clothes to expose my breasts, whilst forcing me into a position that I could not free myself from. She rubbed and grinded on top of me, forcing me to spread my legs and be still, repeating, “Come on, it’s ok”. She manipulated my body for her sexual pleasure until she satisfied herself. The next morning, we caught trains home from opposite platforms at Hackney Wick train station and I never saw her again. She never came back to work! I supressed that memory for seven years, never spoke of it, I had forgotten about it, buried it so deep and therefor I did not deal with processing the trauma. It was Hackney Wick itself that sparked the memory. That is one of the first times that I ever experienced a panic attack, it was mild but happened none the less. Now I am aware that, that place, conversations about abuse, explicit lesbian sex, butch black women, thoughts and memories of the episode, can trigger panic, anxiety and deep depression in me. It has been a long process but patience, analysis and diary logging have been worth it. The more triggers that you are aware of, the less alarming it all becomes.
I have two states of mind. I suspect that most people do. I can think clearly and rationally but engage in bad habits or think unclearly, loose control of thoughts all together and engage in self destructive tendencies. Despite the catalyst of the situation, the outcome is almost always the same, self harming and over dosing. I made up the useful term, “PRC”, myself. “Problem”. “Reaction”. “Consequence”.Ideally, “I” for, “Intervention”, should come before, “Reaction” and “Consequence”. In order for this to happen, you need to realise and understand that you are in fact, in crisis.
A) The clearer, more self aware elements to my mind, is far less out of control then, B) when I am in disassociation mode, the other more dark and irrational frame of mind.
A) If there is a problem and I am aware, which is 25% of the time, I will call the home treatment team, but I have found that it is usually a callback system and that is if they answer at all! You can call the likes of, “The Samaritans” but I prefer not to have to go back to the beginning of my mental health history every time I have to have a conversation.Each to their own though. There are also of cause 111 or 999. If rational and in control, tell someone, anyone, before you loose it.
Admittedly the other 25% of the time, feeling anxious about disclosing the problem, being unable to pin point the problem and feeling unworthy of any attention, like a nuisance for bothering people, it is quicker to self harm rather then it is to pick up the phone. It gives me instant release and I feel much calmer, way quicker then going through the rigmarole of dialling, waiting, chasing and speaking.
B)when psychosis kicks in and takes over, unfortunately I feel that I have no option but to obey their orders. They are impossible to ignore. I often don’t realise what I am doing until my self-destruction is over with, but when I come round, I do always either tell someone or ask for help.
It is always hard to identify, acknowledge and accept when you are in the midst of crisis. If you are fortunate enough to have loved ones, they should also look out for triggers and/or signs mid crisis. If not, keep communicating and the professionals should be aware, maybe even realise the level of crisis that you are in before you do.
I personally have a very poetic and creative brain. I may not say, “I want to commit suicide”, out loud and outright but if you really listen to me, you can often hear that I am trying to communicate that something just isn’t right. Drawing from the past, I may use phrases like, “The storm is coming”, or, “I keep glitching”. Whether I understand the context of what I am saying, whether I am aware of what I really mean at the time or not, those types of confessions should not be listened to lightly and be interpreted as me needing and asking for help.
I hate confrontation, I live quite an isolated life. I have a small voice, a lack of resilience and barely any confidence. I expect my nearest and dearest to know that I am a, “suffer in silence”, kind of person. I need reminding that I am safe to be honest, that I am loved and deserved of being so. I expect people to recognise changes in me, to visit and contact me, not just when I am noticeably ill, when things are dramatic but all of the time. My personal illness goes above and beyond crisis, I struggle everyday, battling both audio and physical hallucinations that go on and on about how unloved I am, how unlinked I am, how replaceable I am, how annoying I am, how much hard work I am and such negative things take their toll after so long. I don’t like to be a nuisance. I don’t like to have to ask, yet I really do need more consistent support all round really, professionals and loved ones, but from friends and family would help heal the fragmented pieces of my broken heart, mind, body and soul, and give me ammunition to fight and continue.
To summarise, mental health should be observed and treated indefinitely. Over time, patterns will emerge and we must take note of them. Things like therapy, communication, medication should help to avoid crisis. Deter you away from what you know can trigger an episode. If you can identify that you are in crisis or just feel different or unwell, always make at least someone who cares for you (medically/ professionally/personally) know. If you find yourself in danger, try to contact help. If you have already been self-destructive, still tell someone, to avoid further damage. You are important and deserve to be helped sincerely, without question or judgement.
It is neither weak or attention seeking to admit the truth and ask for help. Except when you are offered health, even though you may think it unnecessary. Ultimately, being unwell or in crisis is all relative, mental health has a deep and complex spectrum but fighting it alone, may well be impossible in my opinion. The road to to recovery will certainly be slower. Crisis is awful and terrifying but help can bring a little light. Light your own candle. Let the help shine a torch and keep both going. Then you may live to see another day and find the sunshine may banish the demons away.