I am not done yet!

Something was said to me last week by the therapist and it’s not the first time she has said it either but I think its finally started to sink in and I think for the first time in a long time I have really thought about it, evaluated it and actually began to think about my life and what exactly I want to get from life. It somewhat relates to a previous blog post I wrote about continuing on with DBT but its much more than that, what she said has meaning, what she said is true and it has taken me months to finally accept that she has been telling me the truth.

In almost every session that I have had with this therapist over the past four months she has told me that I have to potential to be a happy healthy person. I didn’t believe her and never really thought that much into it, until this week I disagreed with her because I couldn't see the potential in me. Whats more is that I'm not angry at myself for not seeing this potential in me because so much of my life has been a struggle that I have spent most of it living in the past, trying to make sense of things that happened and trying to find ways of coping that I never considered I could be healthy, mentally or physically because the way I coped in the past was by harming myself. I still struggle to this day with self-harm, I still have times where I give into the urges in the hope I can get some relief, I have days where I fight the urges and I win, I have days that I fight the urges and loose but comparing my self harm now to what it was 3-4 years ago I have come a long way. 3-4 years ago if you asked me to go a day without harming I would cry and inevitably I would not be able to do it, I did not have the knowledge or skills then to overcome the urges and while the urges still get the better of me at times knowing that I am now stronger than the urges shows me I have the potential to live a healthier life.

Despite having come a long way over the past 3-4 years and believe me I have come a long way, I've been off my meds for almost 5 months (originally under medical supervision), I have reduced me self-harming significantly and I have continued with therapy despite at times not feeling I was getting much out of it, I am not living my life. I am not living my life, I have the potential to live a happy and healthy life but I'm not. Why you might ask, well I guess there's many reasons but I haven't figured all of them out just yet, I'm not sure if I ever will but one main reason is I'm not giving myself the chance to live my life. Don’t get me wrong I do things I enjoy, I go to college, I go to wok, I go to athletics, I go to scouts and I spend time with my family but that’s it, nothing more and nothing less. I do these things because at this stage they are routine and because I enjoy them but I want more out of life, I want more then just going through the motions. Right now I don’t have a social life, when I say that I mean it too. I don’t go out with friends, I'm pretty sure I'm lucky to be able to say I still have friends and if I keep going the way I am not I'm not sure how much longer I will be able to call them my friends. Right now I don’t have relationships, the closets person in my life is my brother but even at that I cant depend on him forever, I'm already holding him back from doing things he wants to and as much as it pains me to say it I know its true. My relationship with my dad is next to nothing, I can go days without talking to him and I wouldn’t even miss it. If I'm not at college, in work or volunteering I'm at home, spending hours upon hours stuck in my bedroom doing nothing most of the time other times I'm binge watching TV series on Netflix and I need this to change, I need to change and I need to move on, stop living in the past and I need to use my potential to live the life I deserve to live.

Ive been reading Norah Casey's book, Spark and it honestly has got me thinking about my life and there is a chapter entitled “Are you done yet”(hence where this post title came from!) and the answer is no, I'm not done yet. I'm not ready to let my BPD take over my life, I'm not ready to continue to sit around and do nothing, I'm not ready to continue living in the past, what I am ready to do it move on, take on each new day as a new day. I am ready to begin to live my life. I am ready to begin to develop relationships, step out of my comfort zone, rekindle old relationships and most of all I am ready to figure out who I am meant to be, if that is a youth worker, a community worker, a girlfriend, a coach, I don’t know but what I do know is that I am ready to try and figure it out. I am ready to figure out what I want to do with my life, If I want to have a family, if I want to continue throwing discus, if I want a career as a youth worker, I am ready to begin to challenge myself, identify who I am, stop focusing on my weakness and imperfections and begin embracing who I am once I have begun to figure it out. I'm ready to use my potential and live my life.

I know this is a big cliché, but 2015 is going to be the year I begin to find myself, figure out who I am and make my life worth living. Its taken me years to reach this point and had it come in May I would have written this post then but it didn’t so while it sounds like a cliché I can assure you it is not, I am ready to live my life!

The 'Big Sister'

When I was seven years old my life changed significantly, I became a ‘ Big Sister’, a step-sister but a big  sister nonetheless. It was a big change despite not living with my younger step-brother it took a lot of getting used to and to be honest I'm not really sure I ever got used to it. Two years later at the age of nine I welcomed yet another younger step brother into my life and again while it was great not to be the baby amongst my siblings the novelty of having to younger siblings, step siblings soon wore off. Not having fully gotten used to the first new addition the second new addition didn’t make it any easier. I believe that as a result of not living with my younger step-brothers, having two parents constantly fighting and a parent being diagnosed with cancer I wasn’t necessarily in the position to take on the ‘ Big Sister’ role and well because I didn’t live with my younger step-brothers I was still considered the baby of the family.


If I'm honest when my mum got really sick, after she died and indeed into my teen years the fact that I had two younger brothers became less important to me. Yes I acknowledged them, yes at times I told people I had four brothers and often when in school I would identify myself as having two step- brothers specifically in Irish and Spanish classes as it allowed me to improve my vocabulary in that particular language. Up until the past number of months when my younger step-brothers became a greater part of my life I never really considered myself as a ‘ Big Sister’.

Over the past number of months, maybe even the past year my younger step-brothers have been spending every Tuesday or Wednesday with my dad and up until then my interaction with them was limited, Christmas time, some birthdays, seldom weekends and family holidays to Florida were the only times I had much interaction with them since about the age of 13. Now maybe due to my age or maybe because I have that weekly interaction with them I feel as if I am a ‘ Big Sister’, I feel as if I have a role to fill and to be honest it is a role I'm not entirely sure how to fill or even if I'm all that comfortable filling it.

An important aspect of having an older sibling is knowing that you can talk to them when you need to, I know that because of my older brothers and I know how important it is to have that because being honest if it wasn’t for my two older brothers I would have succeeded years ago with my suicide attempts. Ive told my younger step-brothers numerous times that they can talk to me if they need to, but how can I reinforce that if I don’t have a relationship with them? How can I ensure they know I am here for them if I can barley have a conversation with them? How can I be their ‘ Big Sister’ if I only see them once a week and even that interaction is filled with tension?

For most of my life I have struggled with building relationships with people, at times I can have great relationships with people that are build over very short periods of time because it was meant to be while with other relationships I struggle even to build one over time. I guess I have been lucky that people have been so patient with me when it comes to developing relationships and my interpersonal skills are something I hope to develop should I continue with DBT therapy but If I cant even build a relationship with my younger step-brothers how can I be there ‘ Big Sister’.

Before I decided to write this post I did some googling, I googled how to be a good sister and something the popped up time and time again was that it is important to set a good example. Having come to the conclusion that I need to be a good example for my young step-brothers I thought about whether or not I have been a good example. To be honest I didn’t come to a conclusion and still now as I am writing this post I am trying to figure It out but honestly deep down I don’t feel as if I have set a good example, I mean how can someone who is covered in scars from cutting herself be a good example for two young and impressionable boys, how can a self harming ‘ Big Sister’ be setting a good example. It might be different if I could say I no longer self-harm but the reality is it is a daily struggle o fight the urges to self –harm and often there have been times where I have given in to those urges.

Its been almost 3 years now since my time in a psychiatric until and I have been sharing my story ever since I got discharged so I worry that being so public with my mental health issues given that there is still a stigma attached to mental illness  and mental health health in general could have a negative affect on my brothers, younger and older. I cant imagine what it is like to grow up with your ‘ Big Sister’, or little sister being borderline. I worry everyday that my oldest step-brother who is now 13 could be getting bullied in school because of having a borderline sister, having a sister who in the eyes of most young people is crazy. So how can I be a ‘ Big Sister’ if me being a sister could cause him pain and hurt?

Is it possible to be a good ‘ Big Sister’ when you cant even be good to yourself?


What should I do?

I try to keep this blog as positive as possible, share my story highlighting the positives, how I've come out the other end still in one piece and how I can live with a mental health issue but sometimes its not as positive as I make it out to be. Don’t take me up the wrong way, don’t get the idea that I'm trying to trick you because I'm not because things do get better and they have for me but that’s not to say things cant take a turn as well.

I haven't been writing lately not since October and I've missed it, I've missed sharing whats going on inside my head, my day to day activities and I've missed how writing makes me feel good but over the past couple of months I haven't been able to write because things haven't been so good. Ive had some tough weeks and I've had some good weeks and right now I'm off my medication and engaged in DBT therapy which have contributed to my tough weeks as well as my good weeks. As a result of fear I decided not to write because I was scared of letting you guys in, I was scared to let you know how things really are for me and I was scared that I might dishearten any of you who are currently dealing with a mental health issue but I decided that I need to be able to write to help keep myself well and if that means being honest and highlighting that I'm struggling here on my blog then it is something I need to do because without writing I struggle to keep going.

Ive been thinking a lot over the past 2-3 weeks about therapy and how I feel I'm doing and to be honest I don’t think I'm getting as much out of it as I could because I haven't been giving it my best shot. I'm struggling with it, I'm engaged in to sessions a week, one an individual session while the other is a group session and both are hard, the group more so than the individual sessions. Ive been considering dropping out of therapy, going back to trying to cope with things myself but I'm not so sure if that’s a good idea either. Ive been asking myself do I really want to get better, move on with my life and leave the past in the past? It seems like a pretty straight forward question and the answer should be yes, Yes I should want a better life, one free from self-harm, free from my anxieties and one free from my mind holding me back but these struggles are part of me and they are all I have known for most of my adolescent/adult life. If I was ready to move on to bigger and better things, a more positive life, no self-harm I would be giving 100% in therapy and I wouldn’t be considering dropping out. So maybe I'm not ready to change my life around, maybe I feel as if I'm meant to have a life full of misery but then again I don’t. I am constantly plagued with these contradicting thoughts and to be honest I don’t know what I'm doing with my life at the moment.

Today though I'm having a pretty ok day, taking things hour by hour and not trying to upset myself or be to hard on myself but that’s not to say things cant change in an instant but right not, right now as I'm writing I'm doing good and that is what I want to focus on, this moment right now. As for therapy with 2 months left it seems right to stick it out to the end and maybe if needs be have another go when I'm ready, when I know its what I really want and when I'm ready to give it 100%.


P.S I'm back writing so keep an eye out for some Brady family antics this Christmas and some underbite surgery updates!

Mindfulness


Part of my DBT programme  is learning how to be mindful and a lot of people don’t understand what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is about living in the moment, being aware of the present and allowing your mind to be full yet focusing only on what is happening in the current moment.

Mindfulness is something which I have struggled with since being introduced to it while I was in hospital. Part of my treatment plan while in hospital involved taking part in a mindfulness group. I engaged with the programme  and struggled to focus on the present moment while I had some good days I never really got the hang of it. After being discharged from hospital I never continued with practicing mindfulness which is one of the reasons I'm not all that fond of it but I have been engaging with the DBT programme and the mindfulness and it is beginning to pay off because  the more I practice the easier it gets.


Living mindfully is not something which happens out of the blue, you don’t wake up one morning and and be able to live mindfully without any practice or repetition. Mindfulness takes time,  dedication and patience and it can be done in many different ways. For me athletics something which I do mindfully. While at athletics, be it coaching or training myself I am 100% in the moment, I don’t think about what I'm going to do when I go home, I don’t thinking about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. Once I walk into the track nothing but athletics matters and it is then when I am living in the moment. Not every time I go to athletics I am 100% in the moment. There are some days that I have to work hard to keep my attention on what I am doing but with constant practice it gets easier.


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy


A few months back I was told my name would be going on a waiting list to begin a therapy which would hopefully help to treat my borderline personality disorder, safe in the knowledge that in a few months time I would begin this new therapy I went about my normal day to day somewhat boring life. In august I got the call saying my name had come up and I was asked to meet a therapist to discuss taking a place on the programme. Almost without hesitation I agreed to take a place on the therapy which is made up of three parts, Individual weekly sessions, weekly group sessions aimed at learning new ways of coping and homework which is practicing the skills we learn in group. For the past three weeks I have been attending my weekly group sessions which last 2 hours and 15 minutes and for the past 4-6 weeks I have been attending individual therapy sessions.

So far I have struggled to begin to open up to the new therapist but last week I feel as if I had a breakthrough as I finally opened up about some stuff that was really bothering me, it wasn’t anything major but for me it was making me feel low and I could feel myself starting yet another downward spiral as a result of it but that changed because somehow I managed to open up. While individual therapy may be going good the group sessions are a lot harder, trying to learn new skills to take the place of self-harming is hard and something which I still feel I am a bit reluctant to try but if I don’t try I'm never going to get better am I?

Throughout the past three group sessions we have been learning the skill of mindfulness, something which I have done before while I was in hospital and have avoided ever since then. But Ive been engaging with the programme , doing my homework and mindfulness has been getting easier to do and whats even more surprising is that I am beginning to do it more freely, without resistance. I'm still not its biggest fan but I guess when you practice every day you begin to like the thing you are practicing and as it gets easier I feel I will being to like it more.

To be honest this post was not due to be about how I getting on in therapy but more about the therapy itself, somewhere I got lost in what I was writing, something which seems to be happening more and more lately but anyway back to the topics, DBT.

DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan and is a comprehensive cognitive behavioral treatment which was originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. Similar to CBT, DBT is more intensive lasting for a number of months with two weekly sessions and a number of weekly homework assignments involved also.  Here is a brief history of the origins of DBT taken from behaviouraltech.org


“In the late 1970s, Marsha M. Linehan (1993) attempted to apply standard Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to the problems of adult women with histories of chronic suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, urges to self-harm, and self-mutilation. Trained as a behaviorist, she was interested in treating discrete behaviors; however, through consultation with colleagues, she concluded that she was treating women who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the late 1970s, CBT had gained prominence as an effective psychotherapy for a range of serious problems. Linehan was keenly interested in investigating whether or not it would prove helpful for individuals whose suicidality was in response to extremely painful problems. As she and her research team applied standard CBT, they encountered numerous problems with its use. "

Photo of the day. :)

Looking at this photo makes me feel old, have I changed over the past 16 years?

Does it get easier?


Over the past couple of weeks I have been thinking a lot about my mum and specifically about her death and each and every time I think about her I begin to get tearful and find myself asking the same question over and over again, when will it get easier?

When my mum died and indeed before my mum died people told me it gets easier, things will be ok and that as time goes by it gets easier to deal with her death, but does it? Does it ever get easier? I still think about my mum everyday, I remember her death so vividly, I can still feel the atmosphere from the hospice room, I can still feel my back against the wall and I can still her the nurses soft voice almost whisper "she's gone". The pain doesn't go away, the hole in my heart has never been filled and the constant reminder that I am never going to see my mum, hug my mum or even talk to my mum again never goes away. Each time I think of my mum, despite the positivists I am plagued with all the negatives, the cancer, the hospitals, the hospice and her death and I find myself again asking does it get easier?

I have thought about that question a lot, almost everyday I think about when it might get easier to deal with my mums death, her illness and indeed the fact that she actually is gone, not just for a day, a week, a month, a year but she's gone forever. When I think about the question, does it get easier? I realize that it does, each day I think of my mum and each time of think of my mum I get this feeling, a feeling that grows and develops the more and more I think of my mum. It’s a feeling I struggle to describe but this feeling is proof that things get easier. I still think of my mums death, I still thinking of her and her illness and I still struggle to come to terms with the fact my mum is gone even after 9 year but the feeling deep inside me which grows each and every time I think of her allows me to realize it gets easier. 

This feeling makes me feel comfortable, hopeful, grateful for the years I had with her and most of this feeling makes me feel happy, happy that she's not suffering, happy that I can remember her and happy that I know she is somewhere keeping me safe. So while I continue to question at times whether things get easier, I realize they do because as the years go by, as your heart aches you begin to realize that no matter what, no matter what you believe in the person you have lost is still around you, they are still there and they are what’s keeping you going each and everyday making each day that bit easier than the last.




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