Therapy homework

May 9, 2012

I met with my new therapist for the first time last week. I was having a bit of a wobble due to screwing something up in the real world which made it hard. I cried which was really embarrassing and something I’d rather avoid. Anyway, she set me some homework to write a list of all the things I have achieved since I started to recover so that when I wobble I can look at it and see proof of progress. When I get upset, things quickly spiral out of control and I tend to forget or downplay all the things I have done so I can see that this could be useful. However it means being kind about myself which is something I really struggle with.

So here goes:

  • It’s been two years, almost exactly, since I last tried to kill myself
  • I haven’t self harmed for about 3 months and I haven’t self harmed badly for more like a year
  • I am in a stable relationship with someone I love and who supports me with what I want to do
  • I have found a good group of friends through my stitching group who I am happy talking to and being open with (plus I think they get on with me too)
  • I have started a business from scratch. OK, it’s not big and successful yet but it has potential and most importantly it makes me happy.
  • My self confidence has improved a little bit. This is an area that still needs a lot of work but I am doing things I would never have imagined I could. When I started doing craft fairs, I wouldn’t talk to anyone now I can give customers the story behind my products and chat a little to other stall holders.
  • I am actively engaging in recovery through attending therapy and taking my medication regularly

That’s all I can think of for now. I may edit this if I come up with any more. Apologies for the arrogant post.


Let’s talk about suicide

April 11, 2012

When I was Internet hopping the other day I came across this. It really struck a chord with me. As most of you know I have tried to kill myself several times in the past and on one occasion was very nearly successful. After each attempt most of my family and friends with a few notable and much appreciated exceptions pretended it hadn’t happened. People avoided asking how I was doing or what I was up to. They must have had questions, I know I would. Why? What was it like? Even did you see a bright light if they were so inclined? In some ways I can understand their reticence. They must have been worried about upsetting me or even making it worse however by refusing to acknowledge it all they succeeded in doing was reinforcing the stereotype that suicide is in some way shameful or even wrong. It became a giant elephant in the room, always there but never discussed. Not being able to talk about what happened led to me bottling it up to the degree that it still causes me problems.

I tried to find some statistics on what proportion of people attempt suicide but failed. Whatever the figures, that’s a lot of stories that are going untold. The taboo around suicide makes people less likely to seek help if they are feeling suicidal for fear of being judged or even laughed at. Until we break it down more people will die or suffer for the lack of a conversation. So please, tell your story if you want to, ask questions if you have then, you never know who you may help.


March 24, 2012

I had a rough time of it last weekend. I worked myself up into a completely paranoid mess. Boyfriend had gone back ‘oop north to visit his parents and I became convinced it was just a reason to leave me. Every time my phone beeped, I thought it would be an email or text telling me he didn’t want to be with me and wasn’t coming back. I was in a horrible state. For the first time in I don’t know how long I had to drug myself to sleep as I couldn’t think of another way to keep me safe. The urge to self harm or worse were overwhelming and I honestly couldn’t see it getting better.

You know what though? He did come back and he does still love me. I was being paranoid and it wasn’t necessary. While I’m frustrated that it took so little to bring those thoughts back to the fore, I’m proud and rather surprised that it faded away so easily and I returned to an even keel. I am making amazing progress and having a setback has actually made that clearer. I am not normal and I never will be but I don’t want to be. If I can be quirky in a positive way, a sort of good crazy then I’ll be so happy.

I was talking to my therapist, and realised that for the first time in I don’t know how long, I feel settled. Prior to moving here, I’d lived in five cities in as many years and before that it was three years in different uni digs. That’s a lot of upheaval even though I thought I was doing it for all the right reasons.  I know I’ve only been here for a year as well but I can see me staying, I don’t need to move to chase whatever it was I thought I needed. I’m making friends through my stitching group, friends who I don’t have a history with and that’s a fresh start. I don’t need to constantly apologise for twatish behaviour in the past and I don’t need to worry about conflicts of interest and emotions with my ex. I still need my longterm friends, the people who saw me through so much but it’s good to have people local I can meet up with for drinks or a chat. Finally, there’s my fledgling business. Having the opportunities and control it brings. Doing something purely for me not because I feel it’s what I should be doing or what I think other people want me to do. Settled, it feels good.

I had a rough time of it last weekend. I worked myself up into a completely paranoid mess. Boyfriend had gone back ‘oop north to visit his parents and I became convinced it was just a reason to leave me. Every time my phone beeped, I thought it would be an email or text telling me he didn’t want to be with me and wasn’t coming back. I was in a horrible state. For the f

Right to die?

March 13, 2012

There’s been a lot in the news recently about whether people should have the right to die when they choose. The news stories always focus on people with incurable illnesses, locked in syndrome, degenerative multiple sclerosis. I’m very much pro-choice, people should be allowed to do what they want within reason, it’s their life. Something happened on Twitter last night though that really made me question the extent to which this applies to mental health. Should someone who is acutely suicidal just be allowed to get on with it or should we (both personally and as society as a whole) intervene?

Rather than get into big sweeping generalisations, I’m going to talk about my own experiences. I’ve been that acutely suicidal person with an absolute desire to end it. I tried and it’s only through intervention from friends and the medical profession that I didn’t succeed. At the time I resented it hugely. I thought dying was the only option I could face and I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t let me go for my own sake.

Now I see things somewhat differently. While I am not entirely jubilant at life all of the time, I am at least interested in seeing how it pans out. If I’d been allowed to do what I thought I wanted, I’d never have met my boyfriend, got a puppy, had the chance to start my own business. I look back and I’m grateful that people intervened when they did, they gave things a chance to change.

I’m not saying that things will change for every suicidal person with a mental health condition. However, bad brain chemistry, call it what you will, does make you see things in a distorted manner. This can make you feel and think things are one way when that isn’t entirely the case. How do you determine when a decision is what someone really wants or if what they want can be changed with the correct help and treatment?

I don’t know the answer. I’m just glad that people did intervene and give me the opportunity to get to where I am today.

Doing all the right things

March 4, 2012

TRIGGERS for weight and food discussion.

As I mentioned a while back, I have put on shed loads of weight since starting antipsychotics, particularly quetiapine. This means I now weigh 15 stone, 150% of what I weighed when I was healthy. When I realised I had a third of my weight to lose, I realised some drastic action was necessary so since January, I’ve been working really hard towards losing some of it.

Six days a week, I do an hour of exercise on my Wii. I know that doesn’t sound overly impressive but it leaves me sweaty and exhausted. It involves lots of squats, lunges, running, jumping and general stupidity. I walk the dog for at least half an hour, usually double that. I’ve really worked on my diet, I have one sandwich at lunch instead of two on brown bread with no spread and a low fat filling. I have a healthyish dinner which I eat off a side plate rather than having a full portion. If I crave chocolate, I go for a small piece of high cocoa black chocolate rather than a whole packet of Smarties or Buttons. I’ve cut right back on my drinking, at the moment I drink less than once a week and when I do, it’s less than I would have done before. The only thing I still do which is a bit naughty, is have a slice of homemade cake or a biscuit after dinner.

I’ve kept this up for two months now and the result? Nothing. In all that time, I’ve lost 2kg and that’s it. It’s pathetic. I’m trying to pretend it doesn’t matter, I am getting fitter and I am sleeping less so I’m getting some results but not where I really want them. I almost feel like giving up, I’m giving it my all and I’m getting nothing back.

The last time I put on a lot of weight was when I was taking Carbamazepine as a mood stabiliser. My weight ballooned, although nothing like to the extent it has now. My efforts in getting fit that time coincided with a medication change and the weight just fell off. Within 6 months I was healthier and skinnier than I’d been for years with half the effort I’m putting in now.

It seems the problem is the quetiapine, not only has it caused all the weight gain but it’s clinging to every pound and refusing to relinquish them. The obvious solution would be to give it up or try something different but I’m doing so well right now. I feel reasonably stable and most of the time I’m even happy. I’d be a fool to risk that. Last time I stopped my antipsychotics, I retreated back to a trembling, paranoid mess who was unable to leave the house because everyone was watching and judging me. I can’t go back to that.

There’s not a right answer to this. It seems I’m either stable and fat or skinny and mad. I just wanted a whinge really.

Busy like a bee

February 25, 2012

I have so much to write about and no time to write it! I honestly don’t think I’ve stopped for the last fortnight but in a boundless energy rather than a running myself into the ground kind of way. I feel fabulous at the moment, I even told my therapist that I was awesome! I’m sleeping less, averaging fewer than 10 hours a night which anyone who has lived with attest is virtually unheard off. I’ve even started eating breakfast semi-regularly which I don’t think I’ve done since I left school.

I competed my business skills course with the Princes Trust. It was an excellent if rather rushed introduction to the practicalities of running a business. I now feel less nervous about the records I have to keep and how to deal with HMRC. I worry that in practice I will forget things or not keep the right details. I’m going to try and counter this by making a colourful and enticing filing system and making magical Excel spreadsheets that do all the maths for me. I’ve also signed up to do a couple of short courses run by HMRC aimed at people starting their first bsuiness. Hopefully this will fill in some of the gaps and reinforce the bits I think I understood.

The next step is to produce a business plan. Thankfully I’ve been given a pro forma to work through which the PT trust will then translate into the actual document. I’ve made a good start but there are some confusing questions and I’m a bit worried about doing a financial forecast as I don’t want to set myself up to fail by predicting too much. I’m aiming to go to Launch Group in April and after that I will be assigned a mentor and can call myself a business for real. It’s a bit terrifying but also awesome and a real opportunity.

Over the weekend there was a Europe wide massive craft trade fair locally. It was free to enter and there were loads of great workshops so I’ve learnt lots of new techniques. Also picked up loads of freebies which is always good. Made some great contacts so should hopefully be able to buy some of my supplies wholesale in the future. I’m finding it easier to talk to people at the moment, less worried of what they think or of the consequences.

I’m trying to keep my exercise up, aiming for a workout at least five times a week. It’s hard but my motivation is good and I have a lot to gain health wise. I’m finding that medication related weight gain is even more difficult to shift than normal weight gain but I’ll keep plugging away and if nothing else, I will at least be a bit fitter.

At the moment, I rock! Somewhere in the back of my mind is the thought that the higher I fly, the further there is to fall but to be honest currently falling seems impossible.

Baby Steps

January 27, 2012

I’ve started to take baby steps towards turning my life around, it’s a very slow process but I think I’m getting somewhere. I had a meeting with the Princes Trust last Friday and they are happy to put me on their Enterprise Scheme which is the best result possible. I’m going on a three day business skills course in the middle of Feb to teach me about tax and business plans and the like. Then I get some one on one support to get me up and running and finally a mentor to support and encourage me for the first couple of years. I couldn’t be more excited! If I can turn what I love into a proper profitable business, it would be wonderful. I am struggling with some guilt over it. I have a degree, I should have a respectable high-flying office job, earning thousands. I need to come to terms with crafting being a valid job and that I’m not worth any less for doing it. I think the business training will help me to view it as a proper opportunity, not just a hobby where I occasionally sell stuff.

I’ve also started therapy with someone I feel I have a good rapport with. He specialises in Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy, which as far as I can tell is like CBT only decent. Thankfully I’m not being limited to the standard NHS six session cure all, which is a good job as we’ve had five sessions already and haven’t got much further than discussing what problems I want help with. It’s hard work but fascinating from a purely scientific viewpoint. As for whether it will help, I think it’s too early to say but he tells me it will and that gives me some faith. This week I told him of the problem of which I do not talk, the event which turned me from a somewhat quirky individual into a deeply damaged one. One day I will find the strength to blog about it, I feel it gives a lot of insight into where my problems started and why they’ve developed as they have. He was the first professional who I feel has taken it seriously and not belittled it or told me it was irrelevant. I’m working one on one with him for an hour a week, he’s technically retired but does one day a week because he enjoys it so much. From next week, he wants me to also join the group he runs in the afternoon. This is a frankly terrifying prospect but he feels it will help me to talk to people who’ve had similar experiences and can relate. Thankfully at the moment there are only two other people in the group so I’m hoping it won’t be too overwhelming and the extra support would be nice.

I’ve even started going to the gym. I was shocked to discover I need to lose a third of my bodyweight to get back to the weight at which I was happy with my figure and healthy. It’s a daunting prospect so I’m trying not to focus on it too much and instead aiming for small improvements in fitness. I’m trying not to blame myself too much for the weight gain, a lot of it is from antipsychotics and not having the motivation to move from the sofa. At the moment I’m doing EA sports on my Wii four times and going to the gym at least twice each week. I’ve also cut down to eating my dinner off a side plate just to get things started. The hardest thing is beating my tendency to  reward exercise with chocolate which is somewhat counter productive. I certainly don’t look any slimmer yet but I am sleeping slightly less and feeling more energised.

Finally, I have forced myself back into my tip of an office. It had got to the stage where I was avoiding it as I couldn’t face the mess. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly tidying and finally you can see most the surfaces and the majority of the floor. I’m just waiting for some more storage to be delivered so I can finish off. Hopefully I will then be inspired back to crafting which would be kind of useful seen as I want to make a business out of it!

For once it seems things may finally be going my way. I’m treading cautiously though, I know I have a habit of pushing too far too fast and driving myself back into the ground. I also feel more than a little bit guilty, why am I doing so well when so many in the Madosphere are struggling so much. It isn’t fair. I almost didn’t publish this because I don’t want to be seen as looking down on people from my feeling OK position. I’ve been avoiding twitter a bit for similar reasons, I don’t want to shove my new found optimism down peoples throats. I wish I could share this feeling with all of you, maybe we could each have a few hours a day? I think I’m scared, I’ve made being mental so much of my identity that with less of it, I don’t really know who I am. I’m terrified of being cast out from the bit of the internet where I’ve carved myself a comfy niche, not mental enough to be a mental any more. Sorry, I seem to have turned a positive post into a negative which isn’t what I wanted.

Basically, things are slowly changing for the better. I’m not sure where this will lead to but for the first time in years, I’m almost looking forward to finding out.