6.5.16

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Its 6.30am and as I am sitting here writing this I am trying to make sense of an overwhelming sense of hope, of belief, of courage and of solidarity. This morning, at 3.30am I made my way along with some family and friends to take part in Darkness into Light, Maynooth and without a doubt it has been an amazing an unforgettable experience.

I have often said that there is hope, that things will get better and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel but sometimes this can be hard to see, and recently I have been struggling to see that hope and light. This morning I saw that light, this morning I took a journey with my family, one which I have made many times before and this morning I travelled from darkness into light. It was more than raising money for a good cause, it was more than doing some exercise, it was physically stepping out of darkness and into light, reinforcing the belief that things can and things do get better.

May is green ribbon month, a month in which ireland is encouraged to open up and begin conversations about mental health, a month where ireland shows their commitment to change and their strength and ability to deconstruct societal inequalities. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland and while it may be decreasing it can be hard to see the change in peoples attitudes towards mental health. Today I saw what I can only describe as a commitment to change, a commitment to encourage people to talk, a commitment to support and guide those who may be struggling and a commitment to accept those going through a rough time.

I have so many thoughts surfing through my mind at the moment, trying to make sense of this amazing experience. My journey this morning is one I will continue to make throughout my life, it is one of hope, of commitment, and of change. My journey this morning reminded me that no matter how bad things seem light will always slowly make its way back into your life.

Throughout the walk I reflected on my actions over the past number of months, the self-destructive behaviours I engaged in and I realised something. I realised that I am not alone, I realised I have the strength within me to change things, to take back control and that I have support of not only those closest to me but also thousands of people in Ireland. Setting out along with the endless stream of people this morning made me feel emotional, it showed me that people care, it showed me that together we can break the stigma, we can break the cycle and we can save lives. 

Im in awe sitting here, thinking back to the moment when I noticed the light coming through. I somewhat expected to walk along and suddenly notice a significant change in the light but that wasn't the case, gradually, throughout the walk, light started to creep in, overcoming the darkness and gaining power. This realisation that no matter how hard I try things will not change in an instant, it will not just happen suddenly, it is a process, a slow and steady process of building up strength and diminishing the darkness. taking control and and allowing myself the time I need to ensure I come out on top. I learned today that it is not about jumping ahead, it is about working to reduce the darkness, taking your time, allowing yourself to have set backs and accepting setback, I learned this morning that change will happen but only if I recognise it needs to happen, allow it to happen, encourage it to happen and give it time to happen. Day by day, step by step I will notice a change, removing the idea of a sudden bright light appearing is half the battle. 

Where you find a community, you find a light that gives hope





15.4.16

Where did it all go wrong?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I found myself battling to escape a relapse, it ended on a happy note with me feeling I was beginning to see the light, beginning to make a my way out but that has not been the case.

The past two weeks have been the hardest two weeks I have had in years. Last week started with a hospital admission after taking an overdose. Four days in A&E hooked up to a drip to protect my liver, one which I wasn’t sure I wanted, the feelings of anger and frustration grew. I was so low, so miserable and desperately wanted a way out, I wanted to escape from my mind, for it to just shit off, to be free from conflicting thoughts that never cease. I got my medical treatment without too much of a fuss, although the staff were aware I wasn’t too gone on the idea and then I waited to see psych. It was foolish of me to think I could get out of the hospital and not have a heart to heart with a member of the psych team.  I told them everything, I figured I had nothing to loose. Part of me wants to get better while another part of me doesn’t, the daemons have well and truly taken over and I no longer no what I want, do I want to live? Do I want to die? Do I want a chance to make things better? After four days, countless drips, sleepless nights, a psych consultant and I was finally free to go, with follow up in the community of course, but anything was better than being admitted to a psych ward!

This week saw another visit to A&E to check my liver, as there were fears I could have damaged it as a result of my overdose. Thankfully it was one day, a few blood tests, a scan and some time on a short drip and I was free to go home, but once again not without seeing the psych team! Luckily no damage was done and I was free to go home.

Currently I’m at a bit of a loss as to how I feel. Confused, broken, isolated, low, frustrated, and angry while at the same time almost feeling nothing. I don’t know when things got so bad and I don’t know where it all went so wrong. It could have been the stress of college, the weeks without outpatient support, the pressure I place upon myself, it could be a whole range of different things and that in it is enough to make things worse.


I’m not really sure what the point of this post was, to let you know I’m not doing so good, to write it all down and make the events of last two weeks seem real, to remind myself that it is ok to feel this way. I’m not sure there is one single reason, rather all of the above and more I’m sure. What I do know right now it that I no longer want to feel the way I am feeling, how I change that, right now I’m not so sure!

27.3.16

Relapse

Over a month ago I wrote about how I had managed a full year without self-harm. An entire year despite some challenging times but I managed a whole year without self-harm and I was over the moon! Proud of myself, glad I finally felt like I was making real progress and I was ready to continue on with my life free from self-harm. About a week or so after that post things took quiet a turn.

My mood dipped, my sleep became disturbed my appetite was disappearing and I was finding it increasing difficult to manage my constant changing emotions and soon I found myself battling with the urges to self-harm once again.  It was almost as it had just creeped up on me, I almost didn’t notice this relapse taking over; depression had engulfed me in a matter of days.

Simple tasks become a struggle, going to college, scouts, athletics the youth café and even work became a struggle and the enjoyment I got from these activities soon decreased and they simply became the things I had to do to make people think I was ok, that I was holding it all together, that there was nothing wrong. But just like this relapse running through the motions of life soon became very tiring and I broke, entering back into the negative cycle of self-harm.

Like many times before it started out with just one act, just one simple act to get relief but it progressed and it progressed to a stage where I could no longer hide it. I was dying on the inside, feeling confused, lost, broken, hurt, angry and sad. I felt there was no hope, no future and no point in life but it was then that I somehow managed to find the strength I needed to open up and so I went to the doctor who immediately started me back on my anti-depressant medication followed with a referral back to adult services and daily appointments with her to keep an eye on things.

It took a while and things continued to go downhill and to go down hill fast! I was self-harming at an alarming rate but somehow managed to keep myself out of hospital. I was on medication, seeing doctors, waiting for referrals to take place and I just felt like I had entered back into a world in which I didn’t not want to be in. I was once again face to face with my illness, I was again battling with my borderline personality disorder trying so desperately to be the bigger person, to come out on top, to put it back in its place but I didn’t have the strength, I didn’t have the energy and I didn’t have the power to keep fighting. I felt defeated, isolated, scared and lonely. I wanted to give up, I wanted to find a way out, but the only way out was up and so I let people in. I told my family, I told some close friends and I got the support I needed.

I’m not quiet back on top just yet but I’m on my way. I’m attending regular appointments with a doctor along with regular appointments with the adult mental health services. I’m exploring some of my DBT techniques again and I’m talking to those around me who are providing guidance and support. I challenged this before and I’ve come out the other end so I know I can do it, I know I can get back on top but it doesn’t happen over night and that is important to remember. It will take time and I must be patient but I will get back on top and self-harm will become a memory once more rather than a reality.

I’m trying so hard to focus on being nice to myself, to look after myself, to smile as much as I can and to remember that I have the power to change things but it is hard. I look around me and I see so many people who appear to be happy, who appear to smile just like me and I want to be able to smile just like them, to be happy but the reality is I have no idea if they really are happy. We live in a society while although it is changing there is still a stigma attached to mental health, one that prevents people from asking for help and this needs to change. I know its ok not to be ok and I know its ok to ask for help but when you live in a society in which you are looked at different for asking for help it discourages you from doing so.

If I had caught the sign of my relapse earlier I might not have gone back to old ways of coping but if there was no stigma surrounding mental health I might have spoken out sooner the very first time I starting experiencing mental health issues and indeed at this relapse.

People don’t understand the effect stigma can have on a person, the shame associated with having mental health issues because of it, the fear of judgment and ridicule and the sense of not being ‘normal’ or fitting in. nobody is immune to mental health issues and for that reason it is everybody’s responsibility to tackle this stigma! I’m slowly on my way back up, slowly but surely I will be back on top my borderline personality disorder and I will be back to my old self, but It will take time and so too will breaking down mental health stigma.





20.2.16

Swamped

I know that my blog as of late has not been regularly updated and a lot of the reasons for that is because it can be hard to write and I often find that I write much better when I’m in the moment rather than planning in advance. Sometimes my best writing happens when I’m meant to be doing college work or when I’m having a bad day and so I try my best to keep it as unplanned as possible. Planning every post I want to do in a week can often, for me anyway, take the enjoyment out of writing.

I know even more than usual my writing has been spread out, going some months without a post and while in the past it has been very much mood dependent or if I actually had something to write about but now, now I feel as if I have an excuse! Yes I am writing a post today to inform you that if I am not positing it s because I am swamped with college work. Although now after saying it I’m sure it may not be an issue because lately if there is one thing I do well it is procrastination and something that aids my procrastination of college work is blogging.


I am trying to focus on getting through the last few months of college, getting assignments in on time and one to the best of my ability to hobbies have begun to take a backseat, not kicked out of the care completely but they have become settled in the back. And as blogging is a hobby it is something that also needs to take a back seat, t give me a chance to focus on getting college work completed. So while the blog may be lacking over the next few months it is my intention that once I make it through my final college days I will be back to blogging and hopefully I will have some adventures to write about too!

17.2.16

Time for a career?

Every now and again someone will suggest I get into the area of journalism. It has been a reoccurring theme for the past 4 years, around the time I had to look at what I wanted to do in college. In the beginning I liked the idea and I even entertained the idea, researching the points required, what would be involved in a journalism course but in the end I decided that it wasn’t for me. Why? Well I guess the number of points required in the leaving cert was a big issue, I knew I wasn’t able to achieve the points required and while some people might say well why didn’t you try, I didn’t try because for me it wasn’t an attainable goal. Why would I just upset me self when I end up disappointed? I guess another reason was I wasn’t really sure if that was what I wanted to do although even now in my final year of college I’m still not sure what I want to do!

I guess now that someone has mentioned doing my masters in journalism I have been questioning is it time I take my writing to the next level? Do I turn my hobby into a career? Right now I’m leaning more towards the no side. I write because I enjoy it, it’s a way of getting things out of my head, its what I do to release stress and tension and it is what I turn to when I cannot verbalise my thoughts. I worry that if I take writing and turn it into a career I will loose the enjoyment I get from it, it will become a way of putting bread and milk on the table rather than looking after my mental health. I’m worried that turning my writing into a career will affect my blog, would I still have a blog? Would I want to spend all day writing to come home and write some more? It just wouldn’t be the same.

I feel as if my blog has become a part of me and it has become something, which people associate with me. It is something, which I am proud of and it is something, which I want to keep going as long as possible. It has presented me with many opportunities and I’m sure it may present me with more in the future. It is something which I feel I need in my life and while at times I may not post for months and other times I may post daily it is something which I feel I need in my life. I worry not only that becoming a journalist will take the enjoyment out of writing but I too worry about the impact it will have on my blog, will it damage the level of writing on my blog? Will it hinder my passion and desire to write? And will it take the time I need t write on my blog away from me?

I know that this is all thought and that if I did get into journalism I may even find I enjoy writing more, I may find that it enhances my blog, it aids my style of writing or it enriches my passion but how can I be certain of that? I know we can never be certain of anything in life but I feel I need to be at least 70% sure that writing as a career will enhance my life and right now I cant say that is where I am. Right now in general I feel very unsure as to what I want to do in the future, do I want to write? Do I want to work with young people? Focus on mental health? Get into social care or community work? Do I want to travel? Keep my job in the children’s play centre? To be honest I really don’t know where I am going in life and I know that’s ok and for now I feel as if the writing as a career opportunity is going to disappear once again for a while because I’m not so sure I’m willing to risk taking the enjoyment out of something I so desperately need in my life.




13.2.16

Is it a full year without self-harm? Yes it is!!!

I woke up this morning in disbelief, I knew this day was coming, I even marked it on the calendar but even still when I woke up this morning I wasn't really sure if I had actually made it! Today marks one whole year without self-harm, even writing it down shocks me, I never imagined actually lasting a whole year without self-harming in any way shape or form! 

 It has been tough! I’m not going to lie and I have been faced with many challenges which have encouraged self-harm urges but I have somehow managed to fight them off, to battle through the urges, to sit it out, distract myself, engage with my support system and take back control of my mind and I have made it an entire year without self-harming! I still can't believe it! Last night and even today I found myself retracing my steps, trying to remember if there were times that I self-harmed but didn't admit it, if there were moments when I gave in and let the self-harm take over but there wasn't! Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I was prepared to self-harm, implement in hand, ready and waiting but I couldn't bring myself to do it. In that moment it was something, which annoyed me, was I not strong enough to do it? Was I scared? The answer was I was strong enough, strong enough to recognize that self-harm wouldn't solve the issue, I was strong enough to put the razor down, strong enough to take a step back, remove myself from the situation, and find a more appropriate way of coping. Was I scared? The answer was yes, I was scared to enter back into the world of self-harm, I was scared to let cutting take over my life again, scared I would let the addiction I had been trying to fight take over my life again.

I began self-harming when I was young; my teenage years saw it escalate to concerning levels. It become a way of coping, a secret and was a cry for help that no one could see. It become a way of living, it let me get through the day, it gave me the strength and energy to get out of the bed, do the things that needed to be done and get on with my life, it also did the exact opposite. Once the adrenaline had worn off the urges would creep back in, the feelings of worthlessness, emptiness, sadness and despair would be very much alive again. The thoughts of taking my own life, how I was a bad person, how I should be ashamed by what I had done to my body were no longer silenced and so too took hold of me once again and I found myself in a never-ending cycle. 

It began every so innocently, a cut here and a cut there, maybe once a week maybe more but that didn't last. The relief I received lasted for less and less each time and soon I found myself needing it, craving it, and not functioning without it. There were times when I couldn't even make it through the school day without it. It wasn't long before I was addicted, cutting twice before school, during school, after school, before activities, after activities and before bed. Why you might ask, it was simple, I felt like shit, my life was crumbling around me, I was in the depts of depression, struggling to get through each day and self-harm was my drug, it was what made it possible for me to get through the day, it was what allowed me to seem "normal", just like everybody else. I needed it in my life as without it I didn’t have the ability to function, I would not have been able to get out of the bed, I would not have been able to eat, to think or to sleep. It was the only things that at the time made sense in my life.

It got worse before it got better and even after it got better I still had some pretty rough times dealing with self-harm. I would make it a few months, three, or four, six at the most and then I would fall of the wagon, pick up a blade, and get the relief I had been longing for. It helped me get through the hard times but it didn't really! It didn't really make things better, for a moment or two it would make it seem like my life was perfect until that feeling wore off and once again I was left in utter despair, wishing for the pain to be taken away.  

It took five years of therapy with the child and adolescent mental health services, a four month in patient hospital stay in an adolescent mental health until, a correct diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder and six months on intensive outpatient dialectal behavioral therapy along with countless visits to the school chaplain, endless emails and after class conversations with Mrs. L trips to the college counselors, phone calls to friends and family and medication to help to get me to where I am today.  

It wasn't as simple as stopping self-harming or taking all the objects I could use to harm with away, it went deeper than that. I took many painful therapy sessions for me to understand why I was self-harming in the first place, it took hours upon hours reliving painful memories in order for me to deal with them, to put them into the past and move on, it took trial and error, finding new coping mechanisms and it took tine and patience. Self-harm cannot be changed over night, there will be setbacks, bumps in the road and falls of the wagon but it can be changed, it can be challenged and it can become a memory, it does not need to define you, it does not need to be in your life and not matter how bad you feel it does not make things better. After that initial relief, you will be back where you started and each day where you started gets a bit deeper, a little bit deeper into your depression, your anxiety or whatever it may be, slowly but surely self-harm creeps in and takes over, it becomes your drug and you become addicted and without addressing the root causes, no matter how painful, it will not cease to have control. It is up to you to take back control of your life!

One whole year without self-harm, I never thought I would see the day and yet here I am, self-harm free! I hope that this time next year I will be able to report to you that I am two years free from self-harm! It will always be apart of me somehow, I may get urges but I will battle through, I may get thoughts but I will push them aside because now, now I am the one in control!