As a self appointed mental health advocate, I have been fortunate enough to be approached by the BBC a few times throughout my crazy journey of ill mental health and my latest opportunity was being able to share parts of my story via the BBC Radio4 and Made In Manchester documentary, “Black Girls Don’t Cry”. Due to resounding success, it is available once more. It airs January 3rd at 8pm BBC Radio4 but is also currently available on iPlayer. Simply Google, “Black Girls Don’t Cry” or https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b9zfws and you shall be able to hear two other brave black ladies as well as myself, share our stories of ill mental health. Catch it while you can. It really gives great food for thought.
Thursday 30th March 2017 was a fantastical day for me. With very short notice (which in high insight worked only in my favour) I was invited to London to speak to a small group of brave and inspirational fighters of ill mental health. All four of us had very different experiences of ill mental health, yet became United when we all acknowledged how empowering both embracing and communicating our experiences have been rewarding and healing on our journeys to recovery. My consistent contact with my support worker for example, talking, sharing and expressing my feelings to her are both refreshing and therapeutic. Some people talk to friends, lovers, family, psychiatrists, whom ever you talk to, a huge part of the healing affect that, that gives you, mostly comes from within, because you have allowed yourself to acknowledge and release!
There are still so many misconceptions about mental health, the subject carries an awful lot of stigma and negativity and is still often considered as a, “Taboo” subject. Until people are brave enough to speak out, loud and honestly about their experiences within the realms of mental health, we cannot blame people for their ignorance and misunderstanding. The best way to educate people about mental health is to speak openly about it, not to be ashamed and feel like you have a dirty little secret. Bottling up leads to denial and increases pain and suffering. Acknowledging and sharing your experiences helps you to process and is a huge step towards recovery. People need to speak and people need to listen, embracing this attitude creates a safety net, takes the weight off your shoulders and brings people together.
Celebrities are starting to admit and share their mental health experiences, the platform of networking that they have means more and more people are becoming aware that mental health exists, that people from all walks of life can have episodes and highlights the fact that it is OK and actually quite common to be vulnerable.
Suffering from BPD, Anxiety, Depression and psychosis myself, I have many stories to tell and share about my experiences, what it is like to be me hour by hour, what being institutionalised is like, how successful/incompetent NHS Mental Health Care staff can and cannot be. The list goes on…
The saddest thing is that even though more and more people are acknowledging and accepting that mental health is just as important as physical health, the budgets just keep getting cut. I am personally fundraising for a community and family friendly festival to celebrate mental health awareness and also donating the majority of the proceeds to “Changing Minds” charity, who distribute the money they receive between Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust. I don’t have a huge networking platform or a huge social media following. I am just no one in particular that is trying to do an extremely good thing whilst simultaneously suffering with mental health and fighting to stay on the road to recovery. It has nearly been a year since my last hospital admittance. Hooray! Yet realistically I could quite easily relapse tomorrow, staying safe and alive are two extremely difficult tasks for me. I am fortunate enough to have both family and professional support and I do communicate but even I often edit the truth, hold back on being completely free and sharing because I don’t want to go back to hospital! So please don’t feel that I do not understand how hard it is to voice and share how you feel and how you are or are not coping. The idea is that once initiated, it may get easier. I think at the very least, this is a great avenue to explore and if it is difficult, try to persevere. Nothing is easy but your life is worth fighting for.
Please check out the BBC link, I feature just after 20 minutes in…
Also please share/talk about/donate towards my crowdfunding…
Keep communicating, thank you for reading.
When you wake up thinking that it is just another day and you habitually vape, check your phone for missed texts, calls, social media messages, statements and recorded visits on my various outlets, once satisfied, I usually take my medication and get out of bed and my day officially begins. One of the texts that I received was off a friend, she said that she had listened to one of my poems on SoundCloud and had really enjoyed it, that compliment ignited my artistic fuel and so I decided that the first task of the day would be to record another. Setting up took a while, choosing the right song, a device to play it from, a source to manipulate volume, my words and another device to record. Getting it right took even longer. Once satisfied, I uploaded and shared it.
When I had finished, I was extremely parched and so I went into the kitchen for the first time that day. I was thinking about food but still felt a little sick for over indulging on my diet snacks in disappointment the night before. I was supposed to be going on a date with someone that I had met online and had been conversing with for two whole weeks. He had cancelled the week before, due to a sustained work injury and being the gullible and helpless romantic that I am, I continued talking to him, at least he had cancelled, the guy that I was supposed to date before, had gone AWOL and so for me this scenario was an improvement. Yet unfortunately it got to date day and I had not heard from him to confirm, I started to get ready whilst making up excuses for him, perhaps he was at work with no access to his phone, as we had planned this date throughout the last week, perhaps he felt no need to check in and confirm. Our date was supposed to be at eight. I didn’t want to come across to intense and insecure but had no desire to get ready and go to meet someone who had seen and ignored my WhatsApp texts. In hope I had begun to get ready, but it got to seven and still not a word. I had officially been stood up, once again. I am rapidly becoming to familiar with this scenario! People complain about bad dates and I can’t even seem to get to the first date stage.
It had been a really bad week for me, being stood up of cause stirs the pangs of abandonment and rejection issues that I already have but not meeting this guy was the least of my worries. I had engaged in a therapy session that I had been anxious about attending, I am better at disclosing stuff to females but with the budget cuts, my only option was a male therapist, the session evoked and awakened the voices that I hear that had admittedly been dormant for at least a month. I had recently received news about having to leave my residence and find a new home, the decision felt heavy and premature to me. My depression had me stuck in a rut, unable to be active, shower, change my clothes and get out of my funk, energy levels low and no desire or motivation. On top of that, my psychosis had come back with a vengeance, my anxiety had me in regular panic attacks and my depression in floods of tears, this was prior to the new therapy about suicidal thoughts, actions and hearing voices that I was due to commence. I was cycling on my wonder core smart one night, whilst sobbing my heart out at the same time, what an image. After therapy with heightened psychosis, I couldn’t rest or sleep properly, disturbed by every sound, music, people, constant chatter and noise, unable to distinguish if the noise was universal or just a burden for me.
When I walked into the kitchen, it looked like the remains of a murder scene! Blood on the floor, surfaces and up the walls. I live alone and so of cause, it had to be my blood. I looked at my body for the first time that day, and discovered blood soaked bandages on my left arm and right leg. What the actual F###!? If I can do such detrimental harm to myself and just forget about it, I fear what may happen next time and in the future. I was clearly unwell, having some kind of episode and quite frankly unsafe to be alone. I was shocked, confused, scared, apprehensive and felt terribly isolated. I wanted to tell someone and ask for help but had strong reservations. Why should I drag people that I care about into this mess? Why reach out to people that I think care about me, only to get shunned and turned away. Why be delusional enough to think that anyone would care when I am just a number, another insignificant and weak being on this planet. Why invite my loved ones into this cobweb of a disaster. Why tell the professionals when I know that, that would result in some serious intervention. I did and do not want to go back to hospital, telling them would result in another psychiatric sentence. I decided to tell them once it had subsided as I believe the incident does need to be logged, yet if it happened again, I would have to swallow my pride and say something.
Throughout that day and the night, I kept seeing gigantic black spiders scuttle across the living room floor. Once again, it was hard to try to get to sleep that night with all of the distractions. I felt this animal jump onto the bed and get really close to my face, paralysed, I could not move or scream. I opened my eyes to see what felt like a fury creature, it was a large black cat with a bushy coat. I turned my head but could still not scream. I don’t have a pet, how did it get in? I hate cats. I was scared that it was more likely to be a rat or something. I had to dig really deep to get movement back into my body and turned the light on as soon as I was free. There was no creature to see but I swear that was not a dream, it was real what had happened to me. This time I decided to call for help, I was still bleeding away. The help said that it was a lucid dream, but I would not accept it and confessed how scared that I was. It was arranged to get a call once the office was open. This was only a few hours away. It was suggested that I get some sleep but I couldn’t and sat up writing. The call came just as I had fallen asleep, there was talk of solutions and action and it was decided that all the information would be relayed back to my mental health team Monday morning and to expect a call. It is now Tuesday and still no call, I even tried to phone them and I am waiting for a call back. I think the worst of it is over now but my illness is unpredictable, I would be a fool to believe that my symptoms are over for good. I hope that this new therapy will help me understand such happenings. What scares me the most, is not being able to remember causing great harm to myself and I fear the severity of injury if it happens again.
Living with severe mental health problems can only be described as an intricate, living nightmare. I believe that it has shaped my destiny, which is to use my experiences of pain and suffering to help others and raise awareness, I have been told that I must die to make an impact. Every time that I see or speak to my little sister, this saddens me.
A lovely someone sent me a link about the best way to support someone with BPD. It revolved around validating the individuals feelings, emotions, actions and reactions. It encouraged patience and empathy. As someone with BPD, my world is very isolated, as it is for most people with secondary level mental health problems, which is exactly why I selflessly write poetry and document my thoughts and experiences via my blogs, to engage, validate and show empathy towards the many people out there suffering and that feel alone.
I feel depressed, teary, stuck, lost, insignificant, frustrated, isolated, misunderstood, a burden, worthless and helpless every single day. I am self destructive, self harm is my biggest problem and suicidal thoughts linger around me constantly. I worry that if I communicate and reveal this to the professionals, they may admit me into hospital, which has kept happening once or twice a year since 2013. From my experience, mental health professional’s believe acute ward’s are not the answer for someone with BPD, which I believe to be an inaccurate theory as they cannot tarnish us all with the same brush. It just cannot be so black and white! If I am at risk to myself, of cause a safe place such as a hospital with twenty-four hour care is the best place to be. The only alternative is daily half hour visits which rapidly decrease and then you end up seeing a community psychiatric nurse every fortnight. There seems to be nothing in-between, no happy medium. If I tell my loved one’s, I worry them, upset them, confuse them and somewhat push them away as they are not equipped to take on the heavy load of problems that I undergo. I personally find helplines’ pointless. The NHS home treatment crisis line is always busy, inundated with many fellow sick people reaching for help. The longest call back time that I have experienced to date, was three whole hours. In that time the damage I feared had already been done.
They say that the best remedy for my personal mental health problems are medication (which I do take religiously)and agree that they help, and therapy. DBT (Dialectal Behavioural Therapy) was designed for people with BPD. Unfortunately it is very hard to come by. To my knowledge, in the city that I live in, you can only get DBT if you opt for private care. Unfortunately I am not lucky enough to be able to afford private care, and so I am stuck in this unhealthy merry-go round of ups, downs, highs and lows, my life hindered by anxiety, depression, psychosis, emotional instability, feeling trapped and misunderstood.
Despite feeling let down by many mental health professionals and the NHS care provided, I don’t want to live the rest of my life the way that I have been these past three years. Therapy has been suggested as a method of care. I had a therapist who performed psycho-dynamic therapy upon me for almost twelve months, first once a week and then twice a week. Unfortunately she suddenly passed away. I was then reluctantly catapulted into a group therapy where I was deeply misunderstood, it made me feel helpless and lead to some serious self destruction. I was then asked to not return, rejected and abandoned once again. This was over a year ago. I believed that I was on some kind of waiting list, I didn’t push or pursue the matter as my experiences were so sad, so bad, so detrimental towards alot of my relapse’s, I was in no hurry to try it all again.
Following my last relapse and hospital admission in May 2016, I came to discover that I had been taken off the waiting list. There has been alot of inconsistent information thrown my way since my discovery, confusion about where I may have my therapy, what therapy, do I even need therapy? The issue is still to be resolved, but if I hadn’t had my relapse, I would have still been silently waiting for contact that inevitably was never going to come!
I have always been very adamant about having individual therapy from a female therapists. I had an assessment two weeks ago, with not one but two male therapists in a rather small room. I felt judged and anxious. I have no recollection of what I said within the one hour and a half appointment but I felt uneasy and like I had failed. It felt like I had just talked my way out of a job. I felt that my intelligence, past success and vocabulary made them analyse me quite intensely and it did not go in my favour. I hope that they remember that ones achievements do not counter their mentality.
I am now anxiously waiting upon some kind of answer or report. I asked them to watch my, “BPD” vlog on my YouTube channel because what I said and how I felt whilst filming that at 4am at my parents house for sanctuary, most likely describes me better then I did in that tiny room with two male strangers. My fate is in their hands, I shall report all as soon as I am informed. Please see my BPD vlog below and watch it and share it, if you may?
I don’t want to sound ungrateful and appreciate that there are many people out there who really need psychiatric care and do not receive it, but even when you are deep in the psychiatric system, when you are within the secondary level care unit, supposedly receiving sufficient support, when you have a community psychiatric nurse, a support worker, therapy, medication, even then; there are still so many mistakes made. You could wave a flag in front of, “The Help”, light it with fire and parade up and down in front of them, still not to receive the appropriate acknowledgment and required care.
I manage my various mental health symptoms to the best that I can. I take my medication. I try to eat well. Exercise. Laugh. Smile. Be honest and in touch with my feelings and symptoms.
Group therapy has been a bumpy ride since the beginning. I missed the first session as I got the times wrong. I cried inconsolably at the second and had to leave the room due to anxiety. The third was easier although still not as rewarding as I hoped, not enjoyable at all. I missed the fourth due to a separate engagement which was unavoidable. My personal fourth session was rather different, there were a few new faces (new peers tend to join every four weeks or so) and also a lady psychiatrist who was standing in for, “Merchant.” It was the first and last session that I actually quite enjoyed, in fact I had contemplated not going at all but it was half term and so my Mother personally took me there and collected me that week. It still felt very much like school, with all the don’ts and hardly any do’s.
“Peer’s must not leave the room throughout the entire session. Peer’s must raise their hand if they want to speak. Peer’s must do as instructed by the therapists. Peer’s must not take notes, even if just for themselves. Peer’s are restricted from using any technology like a phone or mp3 during the session. Peer’s must not leave to go to the toilet.”
I endured such rules over twenty-one years of education but therapy is not school! My peer’s and I are not children. I am sure that all of the rules were created to develop a safe environment but in fact it felt forced and surreal, like no other space that I have been in before. It made me feel claustrophobic, unsafe and extremely uncomfortable.
On Thursday 25th February 2016 I had been very organised and felt extremely pleased with myself. I organised transport to and from therapy and home. I was ready to get something/discover something/feel something that day. I was super early. I sat outside contemplating whether to vape or smoke. There was a really petite and kind lady that joined me outside, it was cold but the sun was shining. She spoke freely to me and it turned out that she was also attending the, “Building Emotional Resilience” group. When called into the room, I noticed the female therapist again.
Every group session began with, “Mindfulness” breathing. I had never really participated in it before that day. I found closing my eyes in a room full of strangers extremely daunting but this time, I tried. It is intended to be a calming and relaxing stimulant, like meditating. The technique is used to begin the session to unite both the peers and professional’s, to alleviate any tension from the week prior and bring down our anxiety levels that build up from the moment we leave group until the moment we return. This very same, “Mindfulness” exercise, meditation and focus strategy is used to keep us calm, ease our body’s minds and dare I say it, souls, perhaps worked far to well! I could still hear my usual psychosis voices that have been present and consistent for sometime but completely hypnotised, my lids became heavier and heavier and I could not snap out of it once the exercise was concluded. I was in a bizarre state of conscious and unconsciousness, my body slumped forward.
The therapist picked up on this and I can only describe her behaviour as pushy and challenging. She accused me of not being interested in the group. She probably came to this conclusion because I had felt comfortable enough to share my reservations the week prior, I thought the whole point was that we were supposed to be honest? She said that my sleepiness was offensive! I was responding but I cannot remember what I said exactly. Initially I was so consumed with tiredness but fighting it and trying to communicate. When I started to regain consciousness, I was surprised that we were still having a conversation. I tried to explain that if I wanted to just sleep, I would have just stayed at home, instead of making some serious effort to get there. I tried to explain that I had fallen asleep in group the first time and, “Merchant” just let me be. Finally, I tried to explain that my old therapist called my seemingly random acts of tiredness, a self taught disassociation technique. My brain often shuts down like a computer, if certain buttons are pushed. I have done it for as long as I can remember. It’s a subconscious thing, but I now understand it. I even used to do it at school, when lessons were tough, bullies were ridiculing me or during exams. I would have assumed that this information was in my notes? Yes the female therapist was standing in for another, but I would expect that she would have glanced at the profiles of my peers and I prior, at least once! She pushed and she pushed and she pushed until I began to cry inconsolably for the next hour or so until I felt so uncomfortable, so rejected, I left rather hesitant about ever going back after being treated that way. Even my peers stuck up for me.
I went home distraught. I had really wanted to put my whole self into group that day, and embrace all things therapeutic, despite the therapists impression.
I well and truly hit the border, the border of the line, borderline. Feeling deflated, defeated, unworthy, misunderstood, rejected and unimportant. Rationalism had well and truly gone out of the window, the dark cloud was not only hovering over my head but had sucked me into a vortex of a black hole where it had engulfed itself around all of me, I was smothered and consumed. The voices were on super drive, completely charged up from all of the negativity that the therapist had bestowed upon me. They were very much present, well they have been for weeks now but prior to this, I am not sure why. Perhaps a few difficulties and complications with friends were the trigger. Perhaps just struggling with the adjustment of the group therapy dynamic as oppose to individual. Perhaps there is no reason at all and it is simply just my psychosis, something that I have to learn to live with.
I went home and immediately took thirty pills back to back with a bottle of cider. I then attacked and struck my left arm with a razorblade and then decided to go to bed. The voices wanted me to kill myself. I just wanted to sleep off the horrible experiences of the day and be done with it, erase the day and in many ways, erase myself. I decided to call my someone, as I imagined that I would be unavailable soon. Still very much upset, through sobs and tears I told him what I had done, he called the ambulance and told me to contact my best friend. Both the paramedics and my friend arrived and I have no recollection of what happened since then.
After about 24hrs in hospital I was given a medical, physical and psychological all clear and discharged. It was decided that I would have daily visits from, “The mental health home treatment team whilst in crisis.”
My someone stayed with me throughout the weekend, keeping me safe and distracted.
Now of rational mind, I think of my loved ones and I very much regret my lack of restraint., but I know that this fight is not over. When psychosis, hallucinations, depression and anxiety get a firm hold of me, I only see darkness and all things good are forgotten. I am angry that trying to recover resulted into such a catastrophic scenario, and only hope that the trust can provide more of a suitable type of recovery procedure for me in the future.
01/03/16 In addition to what happened at group, I received a phone call from the very same female therapist that had upset me so much that it lead to suicidal behaviour. She told me that it would be best if I do not go back to group therapy. I asked if we could continue the conversation and weigh up my options when I had support with me (for back up and evidence). She said that she had a lot of meetings and so I felt obliged to continue. She said that it has been acknowledged that group therapy seems to be creating more problems for me, rather then being heeling. All things considered (the overdose) it would be best if I did not return. I tried to explain that it was not the group itself that lead to my self destructive behaviour, but her and her alone. Her harsh words and accusation’s, her challenging tactics made me feel rejected and abandoned. She said that the way I interpreted her style of delivery was not intended to upset me. I thought to myself, “I’m sorry… is that supposed to be an apology?” She clearly has no idea of the magnitude of distress that she has caused me, the evidence being the fact that she called me. Not as a follow up. Not to offer me options but to simply reject me all over again. My place in group has now been revoked, I am officially banned, no longer welcome and it has been decided for me! The phone call could have made me repeat my actions of the week prior. Why did She think it a good idea to talk to me ever again, especially with such bad news. If home treatment team were not due any moment, I fear that I may have been thrown back into the darkness that she initially activated in me. Rejected by this woman, once again. Unbelievable!