We’ve come a long way baby

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s the end of October already.  That of course means that it’s the end of the mental health month focus here on the blog.  I know that must seem strange, because my blog is primarily about mental health, but I took this month to write about nothing but mental health.  There was more of the mental health and less of the ‘parenting and everything in between’.

It’s been a pretty eventful month that’s for sure.  It started off in leaps and bounds with Q&A coming to Rockhampton.  Through pure luck I was interviewed as I was leaving the theatre and this lead to a longer interview on ABC Capricornia.  It was a pretty surreal experience and I still can’t believe that it happened.  It’s so strange listening to my own voice.

I was also named blog of the day with UK Parenting Site, Mumsnet for World Mental Health Day.  I asked if blogging glorified mental illness, and the overwhelming response was no.  Of course I knew this all along, but sometimes I think it’s important to get that white elephant out there.

I was lucky enough to have people share their stories here on the blog with me.  It’s important that the different voices of mental illness are told, and well that doesn’t happen if it’s all written by me unfortunately!  You can check out the guest posts here, here and here.

My blog was also shared on Make BPD Stigma Free, both on their Facebook Page and their blog.  It always makes me happy to see that people resonate with what I write and want to share it with people that they know.  I still can’t believe it most of the time.

This month has been such a wonderful experience for me.  I am so glad that I stuck with it because it was hard going there for a while, and I did contemplate just throwing in the towel.  That feeling of accomplishment though is so worth it.

I hope that you’ve found this month helpful.  If this is the first time visiting my blog, you can check out all of the posts for Mental Health Month here.

Lacking insight

As part of ABC’s Mental As Week there was an inside look into Sydney’s busiest public mental health unit in a documentary called Changing Minds.  The documentary followed patients and their loved ones, during their stay in the psychiatric inpatient unit.  It was the first of it’s kind, allowing the cameras access to therapy sessions, tribunal meetings and behind the locked doors of a high dependency unit.

Dr Mark Cross was a big feature of the three part documentary and something that he said really hit home for me.  It seems to be happening a lot lately, the epiphanies that is.  He was speaking about the various things that brought people to his unit (he was the medical director of the unit).  He said that most of the patients lacked insight into their illness, they didn’t believe that they were sick.

I wonder if this way of determining if a person is unwell, is one of the reasons that there is such a huge gap between crisis and long term management care in the public system.  Is this the reason that a patient must be at a danger to themselves or others, before they are seen by a psychiatrist in the public system, at least as an adult.

Dr Cross also spoke about the model of treatment for psychiatric illness, that it is the only form of treatment where most of the treating is done against the will of the presenting patient.  He said that it was hard because so many of the patients were unable to see that the things that were happening to them and around them, were in their best interest.

I was really impressed with the documentary and the way it was presented.  All of my psychiatric admissions have been to a public ward.  My experiences were at odds with those that were presented by the private system.  I didn’t have access to groups, outings were few and far between and unless you played pool there wasn’t a whole lot for you to do, especially if you didn’t have leave.

The documentary showed an experience which was similar to what I have seen and experienced first hand.  It showed that the psychiatric inpatient units aren’t places to be feared, they aren’t the asylums that the media would have us believe.

It was also interesting that they showed the dynamics between the patients.  Sometimes, the other patients offered better therapy than the doctors.  There was a strange sort of comradeship between patients, you felt a mix of happiness and sadness that people you knew were back in hospital.  You’d share little tidbits of your life, there was no pressure to be sane, to be ‘normal’.

I’m really glad that ABC decided to include this three part documentary in their week of mental health viewing.  I hope that it helped people to understand what it is like for people when they go into hospital and that sometimes hospital provides that much needed safe place for people when they are unwell.  I hope that it gave people a better insight into mental illness and the different ways it is treated.

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Living in a triggering world

*The following post contains triggering information.  Please ensure that you are in a safe place before reading.  If you need help please call Lifeline 13 11 14 or speak with someone you trust*

Some days it can be hard to live in a world that seems hell bent on throwing triggers in your face.  A trigger is an object, sound, smell or even person that your mind links with a negative or painful experience.  Every day people are faced with things that remind them of people they know, or experiences they’ve had.  However it starts to get problematic when you link those reminders with something that you wish to avoid.

I first started self harming when I was 14.  I would harm with anything that I could get my hands on.  Everything become a trigger.  Just looking at something sharp made me think about the feelings I got when I was self harming.

It felt like I had my triggers in my face constantly.  Even the scars left behind were triggers.  I saw the marks fading and I was scared.  While I had the scars, the marks that proved how little I was worth, I felt safe.

When I lived at home, we had a rule around the razor I used to shave with.  It was left in the bathroom, as long as I didn’t self harm with it.  It’s a rule I have adapted to my life now that I don’t have someone to lock away the sharp objects.  I have a lot of rules, they keep me safe.

When I first moved out to go to Uni I was giddy with the freedom that I now had.  I did all of the things that I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to do.  I bought razor blades.  I bought pills.  I tried to destroy myself.  The next few years were spent pin balling between houses.  I let the triggers win every single time.

Now, I have too much to lose to let the triggers win.  I need to set myself boundaries and believe in those lines with everything in my being.  I stick to safe razor brands.  I don’t buy the ones that will bring those memories flooding back.  Realistically there is nothing stopping me from buying them but I live in a world filled with triggers and I’m done hiding.

This is the real world and if I want to live in it then I need to learn to deal with my triggers.  I need to use ways that suit me.  I live with the scars and as I see them slowly fading, I feel those familiar pangs.  I can’t let them win, I have too much to lose.

How do you deal with triggers in your life?

 

You’re so brave

‘You’re so brave’ is a phrase I hear often when I share my personal stories of dealing with mental illness.  People believe that I am brave for speaking up, and I believe that other people are brave for sharing their stories.  However I struggle when it comes to myself, I don’t feel brave.

I’ve never really hidden the fact that I have a mental illness.  I have scars covering nearly every inch of my arms..I always thought it was pointless to pretend that I was completely sane.  Growing up in a small town also meant that nothing was every truly a secret, maybe that toughened me up.

While I have always been up front about having a mental illness, it was only this year that I was forthcoming with exactly what the mental illness I was diagnosed with.  I bought into the stigma and I hid it from everyone.  I was advocating being open, while I was happy to push down the truth about myself.  I wasn’t brave.

Maybe having no choice about owning up to my past has meant that I am dismissive of my own bravery at speaking up.  I still remember the day I told a boy in my class that Prozac wasn’t a happy pill.  Getting hauled into the principals office for writing about a suicide attempt for a class assignment is still burned into my mind, as is being told to rewrite an information booklet, the day before it was due.  They were scared, scared that what I had would be a reflection on them.  Maybe I was a little brave.

I have told people to shove it, I have tried to educate them on the reality of mental illness, and still I don’t think I am brave.  This is who I am, this is what I need to do.  I’ve seen the revulsion in people’s eyes when faced with someone who has a mental illness.  It is those looks that spur me on to talk about my story.  It’s not bravery.

I hope that soon it won’t be considered brave to share stories of mental illness, not because the stories aren’t filled with strength but because it will be normal to talk about mental illness.  I hope that one day, there won’t be hesitation about telling an employer that you have a mental illness, that it will be treated no differently to any other illness.  It is my hope that the bravery we show today, will mean that our children and their children won’t have to be brave too.

Linking up with Jess for IBOT

Justification of life

Last week I read this post about justification. It really struck a cord with me and rather than leave the poor woman with a giant novel of a comment I decided to nut my thoughts out here. To give a little background on the post, she noticed that people are finding they have to justify their decisions on social media.

I justify my parenting decisions, a lot. I do it without even thinking about it. Some people must wonder what on earth I am on about when I start rattling off the reasons that I have made the decision that I have. This justification goes from the small things (like toast for dinner) all the way to the big stuff (like our decision to start melatonin). There is no middle ground.

The thing that worries me the most about this justification is that I find myself doing it to complete strangers. I spew out words about why I made a choice, as if it is any of their business anyway. I chastise myself afterwards, upset with myself that I once again failed to show conviction behind my choices.

Justification isn’t just said out loud to peole I am talking to. My inner dialogue is often one big stream of justification. It’s almost like I am waiting to get caught, waiting to have to explain my actions to someone, even when I am alone. It can be 3am and I’m getting a drink of water, still the justification dialogue is going. Who is going to stop me, really?

I know that this justification, in its extreme isn’t logical. I know that most people couldn’t give two shits about what other people are doing. I know that strangers opinions, hell anyone not walking in my shoes, don’t matter in the long run. I know all of these things and yet here I am, justifying everything.

This justification dialogue no doubt has a lot to do with my anxiety, my fear of failing. I want to show that I am ok, that I am good. I aim to please and feel rejected when my justifications aren’t enough.

Do you find yourself justifying your actions to those you encounter?