Year in review and looking ahead

Hello dear ones, how are we feeling?

I’d like to take a little moment just for you to check how you are feeling, take a deep breath and just settle in for a little read. I’d also like to thank you all, our little community, for all your support this year. I’m so thankful for those of you reading my posts, my thoughts on different topics, it’s been quite the year hasn’t it? Welcome to all the very new people too, you are most welcome here.

This is a bit of a stereotypical post I suppose but I feel like doing it anyway. This year has undoubtedly been hard, at times heart-wrenching, and chaotic, I could easily list and rhyme off countless miseries of the year. But I’m more about hope in this little space. At times it can be more powerful than sadness and fear, which a lot of people can experience at this point. A time when post festive season blues can kick in, or when it can feel daunting that another year is here. People online mocking those thinking 2021 will “magically” be better. But I say, what’s stopping it from being like that?

Now, I’ve pretty much kept you all up to date on what I have been going through but I thought it’d be great to just have a little summary post of things I have enjoyed, little moments, small wins and what I’m so looking forward to now in this new year.

I think one of my all time favourite moments of 2020 was when I was down at my partner’s and we spent a hot, sunny day on the beachfront, sat on a bench and watching innumerous dogs pass by. It was just such a wonderful time, where I felt carefree and I was with my favourite person. We were just sat there for over an hour, and I loved it. Christmas was also so, so wonderful and I got to take plenty of Polaroids to put in a new scrapbook, very retro. Much earlier in the year I got to present and do a bit of motivational speaking for the first time, rather than purely speaking my experiences. It was so much fun!

I am proud of a few accomplishments of 2020 including passing another year of university with flying colours, starting my final year. I have, this festive season, tried two new foods and really enjoyed them. Earlier in 2020 I also found I could watch certain foods cook without being so averse to it. These are huge wins on their own.

I have learned the true value of gratitude and been so appreciative of my aspects of my life. My strength truly has been tested like never before and I’m still coming out winning. As my dissociation got worse, I became so afraid, but with the help of others and through my own self-determination I’m getting back on track. Again, I’m very grateful for this.

So what’s ahead? Well, a lot. This will be the year I finally graduate, I am hoping to do my Master’s Degree if not finding a job in mental health. I will be moving out, across the country. I hope to do more volunteering. I will be continuing this blog. I will get answers about what is causing all my physical pain, I will be trying to get my body stronger. I hope to finally be able to have savings.

It’s definitely sounding like a lot for that. But for now, my goals for the first quarter are to focus on assignments, get a little workout regime sorted and eat a little better, have a small emergency savings fund, focus on deepening my connection to Buddhism and finding a new volunteering placement. Little actions with little steps are the key here. Of course, I will also hopefully create some good content for you here as this section of the internet has been so wonderful for me. I hope that is reciprocated.

I hope you are able to find some wins in 2020, and I hope you all have a magical year ahead filled with such joy, goodness and happiness.

Be gentle with yourself and take care,

L x

Reflections on November

Hello all my lovelies,

If you read my posts you know I love a good reflection. So I thought, why not reflect on a tumultuous month such as November?

I will be honest, November is a month I am struggling to remember giving that my mental state is not at a decent capacity. There were definitely some atrocious days but I can’t say it was all entirely bad and these words have such strange meanings, I guess the correct version would be it was a hard-hitting month.

So I have a couple of topics in mind, let’s take it that way. I think rounding up with all the things that cause stress would just make this a very depressing post. While I’m not for toxic positivity I do think I need to be realistic.

So, let’s start with relationships. Relationships are often a foundation of how we cope, they are apart of us. Having at least someone to back us up can make all the difference. I can happily say I have had no problems with support and positive relationships during November. My family may not have understood what I was going through, but they checkeup on me and helped where they could. Whether that’s taking up additional chores from myself or feeding my wonderful guinea pigs: and they gave me respect. My partner was fantastic, he was essentially my sounding board and while I tried to be a good partner to him, he was very respectful when I couldn’t give 110 percent all the time. So no complaints here!

I guess health would be the more contentious issue. I will be straight up honest and say that my GP he was of no use during this time, I understand that there are many stresses going on behind the closed doors (I’ve seen what happens as a GP receptionist). But I have come to find out that when I asked for my antipsychotic back and he made no mention of my circumstances to the psychiatrist it essentially was “can L have her antipsychotic back?”, so I’m glad I took it upon myself to write a letter about my mental capacity when I was more lucid. I would like to let you know that I have since gone it back until my telephone assessment with the mental health team in a couple weeks time. They were shocked at how I have deteriorated and quite unsure as to why my GP did actually take me off it. So I am happy to say I have been sleeping for the first time in many weeks.

With physical health, I’m not further forward until I have MRIs and the next rheumatology appointment but I have since purchased a support to help me sit properly, knee braces and a cane to walk better. They do help so that is also a bonus and I haven’t gotten physically worse which I really count as a win.

University! What a bonus. It’s been a really positive one, because I got back my first assignment results for my final year at 72% and 78% which I am quite happy with. I have feedback that is constructive and can use in the next assignment to hopefully improve upon. My tutor who will be helping me on the research project in particular has been so supportive and understanding which is really just refreshing so I know, should I falter infuture they will be there to ensure that I take care of myself.

November felt truly terrible in the moment but this is why reflection is important. You gauge the true impact of each moment and my reflection has shown me that yes it was awful but I had a pretty successful November, that’s my takeaway and I think it really puts things into perspective.

Wishing you all my love,

L x

Lessons I have learned from anger

Good day to you lovelies. Are you all settled in?

I thought today would be a good time to finish my lessons learned for now. Today’s topic is, I would say, a bit contentious to those of us with EUPD. Mainstream media would paint us as aggressive, quick to anger, and act on blind rage. Whilst I have had moments where rage and anger take over, this is simply because for myself I do have difficulty in dealing healthily with anger. It is one of the most potent emotions I experience, an ever-consuming fire. But it would always be contained, in the past I did not handle it well at all and it turned into suffering.

I want to preface this by saying I have never acted on my rage and hurt others physically, nor do I condone this in any way.

Like all emotions, anger has its place in our emotional repertoire and experiencing anger in the way I have, and reflecting on this in therapy has taught me a couple of things.

When boundaries have been crossed
Now, we all have boundaries within ourselves that safeguard our well-being, whether we are aware of them or not. Some are instilled in our conditioning as we grow, others we explicitly form ourselves. It is common for anger to rise in me when my own boundaries have been crossed, whether through words or actions. I have learned now more about the boundaries I have, and when I need to put some in place temporarily to protect my well-being and reduce the chances of me having to experience anger. Though I have healthy outlets, it certainly does not lessen the intensity of the experience.

Anger signals when I view, hear or experience things that go against my values/moral compass
Much like boundaries, we all have our own values as humans that guide our morality and ethical compasses. Oftentimes, I have become angry when my values have been crossed, when I witness something that goes against who I am as a human being. For example, injustice, or reports of hatred in the news. There have been times when my anger has gone to extremes, I will not lie. But each time I become angered now, I ask myself why, what is it in particular that has caused this experience, what can I learn from it?

Not to hide emotions
This is a big one. For so many years, I was used to putting on a mask of sanity, if you will, hiding anything and everything for the sake of others. To lessen the stigma and annoyance by other people. Yet in reality, it made things so much worse, not only for myself but to others around me, they would think I was fine and that was not the true picture. In order to properly process my feelings and emotions, they need to be fully experienced, fully shown, appropriately expressed and then dealt with.

What has anger taught you?

Wish you joy and happiness,

L x

A ramble on my health

How are we all? I sincerely hope you’re all well as the nights get earlier.

So I haven’t done a ramble in a while and I know it was liked a while back. So I thought I’d do a little update on health. I find with both my physical health and mental health, each will dip one after the other.

In August, I had a day being bedridden and thought, “I’ll heal up quickly, my arthritis has spread to my knees but I’ll be fine”. Let me tell you, it definitely was not fine. After a few blood tests, medication changes and many calls with GPs I was finally referred to a rheumatologist. I now spend most days in bed, I have almost fallen a few times because my knees have given way. Just the other day I spent 7 hours in A&E due to my ribs burning and having shortness of breath. I am rather immobile. On top of this, my mental health became disastrous at the same time which has been very rare. I had an awful episode the other week.

Yet I’m still here.

I’ll be honest, the fatigue is getting to me, I really am feeling like everything is out of control. I started November 1st utterly depressed, then manic, making lots of goals and plans to improve my fitness and mental health. Yet it was not to be after this week. And I have accepted that. I guess the fear of what is going on in the world got to me. And that is okay too.

People often say we have to help ourselves and have this notion that we can just fix ourselves when really, chronic conditions are usually pretty much here to stay.

So what have I done to help myself? I have followed basic self-care and fought to be referred to rheumatology, my appointment is next week and while I will definitely struggle to get there, I will be there. I have took up private therapy to work through everything. I am taking new medication for my mental health, having been taken off my antipsychotic and adjusting to that. I have accepted that all of this is a process that could months, but I’m prepared to see it through. But for now, I shall have to do what feels right for my body and mind, even if it’s not the way I want to be.

I have found that in these times when everything seems wrong, we must especially have hope, find the strength to keep on and keep going forward, otherwise what was the point of starting the journey to fight? I will not lose the joy and wonder of life. I will keep writing, reading, studying for uni, studying Buddhism. I will keep myself going and fill life with what I love as much as I can.

I shall also use the wonderful Black Dog Institute mood tracker to keep an eye on things and see where I’m at with myself, my 2012 style.

It is times like these where I really see the inder-dependency of both mental health and physical health and the impact of each other and how they link. When I feel so limited in my body, my mood utterly drops. When my mood is low I don’t try to do much with my body which hurts it. Times like these are why I’m so grateful for when I am well. Yet, I’m strangely grateful for these times too when I think about it and reflect. I know that doesn’t make sense. But nothing is permanent, and I learn what I can from these points and I’m reminded of my unadulterated strength of being able to get through this.

Keep going lovelies, we got this.

Much love,

L x

Lessons learned from mood swings

Good morning one and all. How are you today, have you had enough rest, plenty of water?

Let us get straight into this as I think it may get a little interesting. One of the facets that make EUPD so complex is the mood swings. For me personally, my mood could change in second and minutes, there would rarely be a day that passed where I was only facing one or two moods. It was an endless torrent of waves in a crashing storm. Once upon a time, I had little I could do except let the waves of emotions batter me about in a broken dingy.

I wish I could say I have learned many valuable things from my mood swings, much like depression and mania have taught me. I suppose in reflection I have learned some of the vital lessons in life but little in way of useful advice for you all.

How to fight
When I say how to fight, I most certainly do not mean violent acts. That is never the answer, which anger taught me (more on that another week). I mean in the sense of keeping on going, to ride the waves. To not let my emotions stop me from living life. I guess I only, truly, really learned on reflection when mood swings are at a minimum now. I was so sick of constantly changing, I cannot imagine the stress my brain was under, flurrying chemicals to chemicals and nerves and parts of the signal, an endless barrage. I guess I got so sick I wanted to show my brain what was what by keeping on. Never ceasing. Drinking and partying, college, work, relationships, episode after episode. I still kept on. That is how I learned to fight initially, just see the next day through.

Then 2018 happened. I had to find another way. And so I did. In seeking and demanding support. In defying misconceptions held by the mental health services, which is ironic I know. I wanted to start seeing the good, I tried to deny the villain-esque thoughts but that just made things worse. So I went further and fought for therapy. I went head on with whom I now call Medusa (borderline me). I showed Medusa her new cage and have carried on with life, with minimal interruption bar winter.

Life is messy
I have not had the most conventional life I will admit. But dang, if mental illness has not prepared me for the messiness that is life, then it has not taught me much. Life will never be a ‘happily ever after’ and I have made peace with that: I am just glad to have peace sometimes. There are always going to be setbacks, and instability and hard times, heart-wrenching times. But I have learned, with a healthy support network, a good partner by your side, and a determination like no other, then life’s messiness won’t always mean going back to square one.

We do not have to go back to square one, we could even go to square one and a half, we may take a couple of steps back, but we will always go forward. And I hope you take this as a sign, that if things are tough right now, there is a way forward. One thing that helps me sometimes (when I can do it physically), take the words from House of Pain “Jump Around”.

Much love,

L xx

The power of journaling

Hey all!

So I have spoken a bit in the past about journaling and thought this week would be a good time to discuss it. As we come to Autumn in a few weeks and many people start to take stock of the year ending and year beginning. I find I am quite reflective as I cosy down in blanket nests, certainly.

So journaling, at its core essence, is writing your thoughts and feelings, privately for you. It has become quite a popular technique in therapeutic settings in recent years as well as in the wellness industry. Journaling has also become popular through a technique known as Bullet Journaling which can be made into art for many people, but I will not be discussing that. There are an endless amount of ways to journal, depending upon your needs and is a versatile activity.

Journaling for you mental health can be a brilliant tool and is recommended by a lot of clinicians, it has the benefits of reducing worry and stress, improving the ability to rationalise and improving mood. Using journaling can help you organise and priorities thoughts, reflect on behaviours, track moods and symptoms also.

I used to journal quite a lot when I was younger, often writing page after page after page my thoughts and feelings. However, by the time I started therapy, I realised I could turn this into a more effective strategy for me. This is because I did not really feel much better and when journaling can help us reflect, I cringed at what I read which should most definitely not be the case. I started a new method for a therapy journal last year using a key for what I had learned in the session, a part for my homework and a part for reflections.

For my birthday, my best friend gifted me a wonderful journal to track sleep and my mood, noting a cause of the mood but with only space for a couple of sentences. I loved this because it really made me consider my mood and be able to learn from what was going on. I learned just how sensitive I was to lack of sleep, or lack of food. I was still doing my rambles in another journal, but when I became really low I found that I just did not want to write anything, which lessened the impact of this well-being tool.

Now that journal has been filled up, I have created my own in a basic red notebook. Underneath the date I list the rough time I fell asleep, woke up and how many hours I had to sleep, then comment on the quality or if I had woken up. I then reflect on how I am feeling at the end of the day and briefly state why. I go on to create a ‘highlight reel’ of things I have done that day, no matter how repetitive or mundane it may seem, this helps me when I have an off day to see how much I did actually accomplish. Finally, I list a minimum of two things I am grateful for.

I have seen a greater increase in my own engagement with this streamlined journaling method, I can easily reflect on what I am doing well and where I feel I could make improvements upon my own life and spot patterns in my behaviour. I certainly think my method will change in the years to come but for the time being I am happy with what I am doing.

Do you have a particular journaling method, let me know!

Kindness to you all,

L x

Arthritis, physical and mental health

Good, good afternoon everyone, how are you doing?

Come on in and let’s have a little chat – I am afraid that this post may not be as positive as usual and there is a content warning for this post: I speak around depression. But current circumstances are something I want to talk about.

Essentially, I have had problems with my back since I was in year 7 (12 years old), I slipped on ice and tore the muscles in my lower back. Every so often, I would have a flare up that resulted in some quite severe pain. I would go to the doctors and, like clockwork, be prescribed some pain relief and onwards I would go. In December 2017/January 2018, it was really bad. I ended up needing an MRI because of the sensations I was having down my legs; numbness, burning, pins and needles. The A&E stated it was muscular and that the MRI would show nothing. It turned out I have a couple disc protrusions and arthritis in the lower half of my back.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased. But I went on with the pain and taking medication as needed. It eventually started in my hips over the next year and I ended up (and now) taking pain medication daily just to keep on top of the arthritis. Recently, my knees have now given way and the bad flare ups can last for a few weeks. But the toll it has taken on my mental health is something that needs to be discussed. I hope by sharing this, I can help someone else reach out if needed.

Most of the time, I can quite happily continue on with life, make light of my situation and just do things as best I can within my ability. But these last few weeks, with my knees being swollen and having odd sensations, I can barely walk for 15 minutes. I have had to rely on family to drive me to the shop, or to the vets for little Brenda. It is not a great feeling, I will grant you that. But each time a flare up occurs, it seems to feel worse. I hit a very low point, fuelled by frustration and panic. One thought that has recently stuck with me is: “if this is me at just 24, what am I going to be like when I turn 30, or 40?!”

It is quite scary how much I am impacted, because I worry about my physical independence, I have always hated relying on others, feeling like I should always depend on myself only. To me it is a very real possibility that I just will not be as mobile in just a few years or decades. It fuels my anxiety to an extreme. Most people will say not to think like that, but if I live in complete ignorance, then the shock of what may come will hit harder. That expectation does not get me low despite the anxiety, it feels realistic.

But when I have flare ups, yes, my emotions run high. This is because I suddenly feel so limited, unlike with mental health, I don’t have any warning signs, I wake up and am stuck in bed. If the pain is beyond control, I do become upset, I can become someone who feels like everything is meaningless – near nihilistic. I am like this for the first few days, just wanting to cry and do nothing else. When I become used to my “limited” capabilities, I adapt, so I can study in bed, have a little more assistance with the guinea pigs or getting somewhere I need to be. I am thankful I have such a great support network.

At the moment, I am struggling a little bit with adapting, I am unsure how many weeks this flare up has been going on for to be honest. It feels like a long time. But that is what happens with a chronic condition. The ways in which I cope I feel are healthy, I use the spoon theory to delegate my time well, I have found ways of adapting so things I need to do are still done without much impact on my body or mind and I have a support network to help keep my spirits up.

One thing I am truly thankful for is that I never feel worthless, I don’t feel as devalued because I cannot do as much. I remind myself, the pain is temporary, this is just a temporary new normal. If you suffer with chronic pain, I hope you know you are still as worthy as any other human, you are absolutely brilliant and I see you. I applaud your bravery for fighting every day and continuing on as the fabulous human you are. Because it is hard, at least in my experience. The impact on mental health is no laughing matter, and if you need help I hope you seek it.

Keep on going,

L x

5 things depression taught me

*CW: mention of suicidal ideation in lesson 3*

Hi all.

So I am back with another series of lessons, I have previously discussed what I have learned from therapy and mania. Today it’s what I have learned from experiencing recurrent depression and low moods. Please remember these lessons are what I personally have learned, are an individual experience and not representative of other people’s experiences. If you have any questions for me, please ask away!

1. How to rest

This is absolutely the key lesson I have learned and it took a long time to learn. I started experiencing depression at 15 years old, quite severely so, after a few months I was placed on a medication to help ease the symptoms and at the time it didn’t, it would take another 8 years before I found the correct combination for myself. Under mental health teams I was always advised to rest. But it wasn’t until the last 18 months to two years that I really learned my long term ability in resting well in a way that helps me. I originally started out by sleeping all day, as I couldn’t sleep at night. I would binge watch and binge eat to pass time. That became my life at many points.

It’s common knowledge, especially to those who have done CBT, that not doing anything when in low moods can exacerbate the already present depression. In 2018, I knew these unhealthy coping mechanisms had to change. I had to change my own habits. So my idea of what rest meant to me changed. I started getting into routines, I would make my bed, on low days I would have one goal, one activity to accomplish. Resting would be reading a book, or creative writing, not just mindlessly watching films and shows that made me feel worse.

Rest for each individual is as different as people and for me finding a moment of contentment in meditation, reading or other activities that give me time for a state of flow is restful.

2. The joy of DOG days

I can’t remember when I came up with this concept, I believe it was early 2019. I felt I was missing joy in my days and wanted a day dedicated to goodness and joy. And thus, days of goodness were created. At first I would have one day a week for nothing other than activities I enjoyed like reading, yoga and meditating amongst other activities. Nothing that “should” be done was completed, not housework or university work. I felt like I had something to look forward to each week. Whilst I don’t have DOG days as often now, they still remain a part of my wellbeing toolbox and often act as a reset for me. They help clear the fog of my brain.

3. Strength

This lesson is a no-brainer. We never learn the true potential of our strength than in hard times. Or in my case quite often, so low I thought of suicide every second of every day quite actively. I just do not care when depressed, I can grow quite sick of living when low. But I have always, like many others, had people around me who need me to carry on. And so I did, so I do now. I was not at all stable 2 years ago but I had a fierce determination that felt quite unique to me to see this life through. I am glad I found that strength.

4. Curiosity

This was a very subtle quality I learned during therapy and when I was depressed. Curiosity. Curiosity about my brain, my mind, the future, what could be. It kept me going. I guess being a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, the curiosity in growth and knowledge has helped me to keep pushing forwards and learn more and more about myself.

5. To be truly appreciative of the good days

I believe I have mentioned this before. I have always loved my good days, but would take it too far and end up burned out. But gosh, aren’t the good days great? Now more than ever has depression taught me to be grateful when life just doesn’t suck. Thankfully, I am maintaining a positive recovery so the positive days FAR outnumber any negative times. I am eternally grateful for every good day I get to experience.

In the future I will be explaining lessons I have learned from experiencing mood swings and experiencing anger. 

Much love,

L x

Journey to the centre of me..

Hello all.

Today is another personal post of sorts but am excited to discuss a bit more about it after the last few weeks. One of the things I am quite proud of is my self-awareness and knowing who I am, especially since for many years I have experienced identity crises. However, times are changing and I along with it. In recent weeks, I have been in the process of not only changing my relationship with food, but also my spiritual relationship and studying Buddhism.

Relationship with food

I have not had a healthy relationship with it since I was 11. After my panic attacks started I felt like I needed something to control, however, had I known the long-term impact, I would certainly have found a healthy coping mechanism. These days I often binge eat and have lost control. I have tried diets, HIIT workouts and facing my fear of food by trying different things occasionally. This was thinking my weight was causing my unstable habits and a diet to me was a “healthy” way of recovery. It is not. A person whom I look up to suggested Intuitive Eating a while back and just a few weeks ago I started reading the original works by nutrition therapists and registered dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

I devoured this book within hours, learning of the ten core principles and finding it made so much sense, I was eager to start respecting my body, honouring my hunger and rejecting the diet mentality, along with the other principles. I was quite anxious about how I would cope. I am very much an emotional eater, often eating just because I am bored. But the first few days, I was pleased with being able to truly listen to my body and all of its needs. 

I have not binge eaten in weeks, I think nearly a month. I am slowly learning my hunger and fullness signals too. Understandably, it’s a long process and there’s still more to learn but I am already noticing a change in how I view food, it’s purpose and what I need. 

Buddhism

I understand religion can be a contentious issue, let me start by saying I believe religion and spirituality are a personal choice but thought starting to share my journey may be of interest. Personally, I have always been spiritual, believing in something divine, otherworldly. I have always felt it took a large space in my heart. I have over recent years expanded in to researching and seeking out guidance. Having the country in lockdown gave me time to think and really reflect on my worldview and values.

It sort of hit me that values and actions I have taken in the last few months almost aligned with Buddhism. I have always had a great respect for their teachings, a part of me had long enjoyed Buddhism and in a moment I knew I needed to seek out guidance. I messaged a well-known meditation teacher and Buddhist monk, Gelong Thubten for advice. He directed me to Tergar. 

I am now undertaking the beginning course to deepen my meditation practice which I can already witness is giving me greater clarity of mind and heightened awareness in my day to day life. Those around me have also noticed positive differences. I am also slowly integrating Buddhist teachings and following them as best I can right now. I am so excited for what the future holds in store for me as I learn.

Peace and love to you,

L x

It’s a WRAP!

Hello all, how are we doing?

This week I thought I would I would talk about a useful tool called a WRAP, this is a wellness recovery action plan. There is plenty of information about WRAPs online but I thought it might be useful to add my experience and my voice about WRAPs.

This tool was developed in 1997 as a way of recovery from mental health issues and maintaining recovery. The main concepts built for a WRAP include having personal responsibility to take action, fuel hope to stay well, educate yourself on what you need to do to stay well, self-advocacy to get what you need and support to and from others for a better quality of life.

They are designed to be inclusive for anyone at any time. The WRAP will list what you are like when you are well. It should include what you need to do every day, every other day, every week and every month to keep well, stressors that can impact your well-being as well as early warning signs that you are becoming unwell and what you need to do to regain balance, a crisis plan is usually incorporated also. 

I made one as part of the therapeutic process last year. As My Psychotherapist said, “if you’re not following and looking at your WRAP, you’re not looking after yourself”, she was right on many occasions. When I started to falter I wouldn’t look at the WRAP until I realised I was suffering and then it acts as a measure to take things back to basics and build on from there.

After my experiences over the winter months I decided to complete an extension the WRAP to prepare for the next winter season. I detailed the triggers that made me low and how to overcome them. I also added what I would need to purchase to create a box of soothing and useful and useful items to help me feel prepared. This includes items such as face masks and hot chocolate sachets to vitamins and tissues should I get a cold.

I hope you found this interesting!

Take care,

L x