Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Why I Dropped Out Of University

*Potential trigger warning: mention of self harm

University was always something I wanted to do, but I never felt it was right going straight from college, I couldn’t have imagined leaving home and being a real life adult at 18 years old so I took a few years out to save up some money, pass my driving test, and generally get some real adult life experience. At the end of 2013 I was working a full time job, feeling stable and relatively happy, I decided it was time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.

I got accepted onto a Musical Theatre course in the spring of 2014, and by the September I found myself living in halls of residence with a bunch of people I didn’t know, in a city I had never been to before and back in education after 2 years away. I felt so empowered and I honestly thought this would be my saving grace, a chance to start again.
But reality began to hit me when the fun stopped and the work started piling up, I suddenly noticed I was becoming that stressed, anxiety ridden girl I was 2 years ago. I would sit at my desk for hours staring at a blank laptop screen willing myself to just TRY but I had no motivation, nothing would work. I started to get behind in the first couple of months and this just spiraled into a frenzy of panic and procrastination. I was feeling sub-par in my practical lessons too, began to doubt my abilities and would constantly ask myself "why am I here? I'm nowhere near talented enough". I would come home almost every weekend because I was so homesick, which on reflection was a bad move because it only made it worse when Sunday afternoon arrived and I had to go back there where I was so lonely.
It was around the beginning of December I really noticed a deterioration in my mental health. Nothing was fun, nothing was exciting. I found myself skipping lectures so I could be alone and I could self harm, which would then in turn prevent me from going to dance classes because I wasn’t able to bear my skin. I was self harming most days and nights not even thinking about it, it was routine. I constantly felt anxious and nauseous, it was like a never ending vicious circle that I couldn’t fight my way out of.

One Wednesday I had made the effort and dragged myself to tap class (the only class I really enjoyed), and within 20 minutes of the lesson I was running down the corridor, tapping with every step, and hid myself in the toilets in a fit of anxiety. I was terrified. It was by far one of the worst panic attacks I have had to this day. I spoke to my mum on the phone and she eventually encouraged me to go back into the class and get my bag to go back to the flat. My flatmate left class early as well to walk me home, I don’t think she knows how much I appreciated that help and reassurance.
I got into my room and I paced back and forth for a while until another of my flatmates came to see if I was OK, which of course I wasn’t and must have been a complete state to look at! I had decided I wanted to drive home that night because I couldn’t stay there any longer, but obviously my parents weren't convinced that was a good idea considering the state I was in. I couldn't care less, all I wanted was my home so I quickly packed a bag and ran down the stairs and before I knew it I was in my car en route to home. I got home at about 8:30pm and I thought as soon as I walked through the door I would feel calm, but I didn't. This attack lasted late into the night, probably a good 10 hours.

I stayed at home until the Sunday when I decided it was best I went back to uni as it was the last week before Christmas. I didn't make it to many lectures but at least I was there. I didn't sleep until about 7am most nights that week, I had so much to think about, can I handle this or do I leave? What happens if I leave? What if I can't get a job? What if I regret my decision?
During the Christmas break I had a lot of thinking to do, but mostly I was just glad to be at home for 2 weeks. I did go back after the break, but only for 3 days. It all started again the moment I got there, the anxiety, the stress, the loneliness, the sleepless nights. Finally, after 3 days of tears, self harming and no sleep I made the decision that this wasn't a healthy environment for me and it was time to go. I packed a bag and left that day without telling anyone, not even the university. I spent a few days deliberating what I would say to my course leader and plucking up the courage when I eventually did and just like that I had dropped out of university after only 3 months of being there. There was a huge sense of relief but also dread, what next?
Dad and I traveled back up there about a week later to pack all my stuff up and clear my room, I handed in my key and drove away, never looking back.

Since leaving university in January 2015 I still haven't worked, not even really completely got back on my feet. In the June of the same year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and since then it has just been a mission to learn to live with what I've been dealt and its certainly not been an easy one.

I do not regret going to university at all, in fact I'm glad I did because if I hadn't tried it I would never know if it was for me, which clearly it isn't! I do have days when I look back and wonder 'what if?' What if I stayed and I was in my 3rd year now, would I have gotten through it or would I have been digging my own grave?

Handmade bracelets made by @recovery.is.worth.it.x
on Instagram

Friday, 17 February 2017

'Low Key Mental'

It might sound strange, or even offensive to some, but a term I've used to describe myself many times is 'low key mental'. Honestly, all I mean is I'm classed as a 'high functioning borderline', I'm not a serial hospital stayer, for the most part I can keep my self harm urges under control, I sleep well, I can maintain friendships (mostly). Of course, I'm not working, and am currently relying on ESA (Employment Support Allowance) and am terrible at relationships so in that respect I guess you could say I'm not all that high functioning, but for the most part I am.

In the time since being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder 2 and a half years ago I have been allocated three different psychiatrists, much to my dismay. "Is it me that drives them away from their job?" "Am I really that awful?" Obviously I know that’s not the reasons I've been passed from pillar to post, but irrational me likes to pipe up and say "Hey, you're an awful person!" once or twice a day and its hard not to believe that when it's all you hear some days.
A post from my personal Instagram a few days
after the appointment
I'm bringing this up because I want to talk about something my new psychiatrist said to me on our first meeting a couple of weeks ago. Her words were "you're high functioning so I don’t want to assign you a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) or a Care Coordinator." When she first said this to me I agreed, of course I don't need these things, I've managed on my own until now and there's no reason why I still can't. But on reflection, I felt more and more upset and a little angry by this, not because I feel like I'm entitled to this help, but why is it that just because I'm high functioning does that mean that I don't need support? This means that I am completely alone with no support offered (apart from a crisis line that is in my experience and opinion beyond useless) between appointments, which with my psychiatrist can be anything from between 3 and 6 months apart. I don't start my new group therapy course for a number of months due to long waiting lists, but hey, I can occasionally get dressed and leave the house so obviously I'll be just fine!
She also suggested getting a job. This is a controversial one, because I know getting myself a job and getting back out there will be beneficial to me in the long run, but right now I can't guarantee that I'll mentally be able to get up and go to work everyday, which will cause me a lot of stress as I can't stand to let people down. Honestly, at that point I felt a bit attacked, like I was being looked down upon for not working, or not being able to work. I'll tell you now, I HATE being on benefits, I feel like a cheat and a fake. I would love to be able to hold down a full time job and start my career like every other person my age is doing, but unfortunately its just not that simple.

I have often felt discriminated against by professionals and mentally ill people alike for not being 'ill enough' which sounds crazy, but it happens and its not okay. People will say "how can you perform when you suffer from anxiety? Surely you're not that bad" or "you look great, I'm so happy to see you turning a corner". They don't realise that performing is what keeps me sane and grounded, some people with anxiety issues go out partying every weekend without a question but would be terrified by the idea of standing on a stage, but just because for me it’s the opposite it comes with a lot of judgement. Similarly, I might have put my best makeup on and my best clothes because I felt like feeling pretty that day, that doesn't mean I'm suddenly cured and it certainly doesn’t mean I'm 'not ill enough' to get the help I deserve.

I feel like this post has became a bit of a pity party, I totally didn’t mean it come across that way, but its something I've had to face for a long time and its something that isn't really talked about. We shouldn’t have to strive to be incompetent enough to get help, if anything, in my eyes the people who make the effort to help themselves deserve it more (not that those who are low functioning don’t deserve help because they 100% do) because they are willing to put in the work and use the sparse NHS resources in an effective way.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

It's not all bad

When we think of mental illness we often tend to get dragged down by the idea that its all bad. That’s not always the case, we are allowed to be happy sometimes, we love unconditionally, and we do even laugh (I know, crazy right?!). Disorders like BPD are no exception, in fact, there are even some very positive traits to come out of it…

People with BPD are often described as 'manipulative' and 'toxic', which is something I, and I'm sure many others, find highly offensive and can be very damaging to hear, especially from professionals. Yes, some people with the condition might have manipulative traits, but so might someone else without. That being said, we are probably amongst the most caring, empathic and compassionate people you will meet. Having experienced such intense sadness and pain gives us a great knowledge and understanding of the people around us, we want to help and share our knowledge, and being as intuitive as borderlines tend to be, we pick up on emotions easily. Yes, the unbearable sadness is a bummer, but what comes from it is beautiful and, for me, its so important to channel those feelings into helping others and being an all round good person.

Borderline Personality Disorder is often confused with Bipolar due to the fact that the intense lows we feel are matched with intense highs, the difference being with Bipolar is that highs and lows can last for up to weeks, sometimes months, whereas with BPD these mood swings can occur several times in one day.
The excitement we may feel about something as small as remembering that chocolate cake you’ve been saving in the fridge can make us feel like we are literally bursting at the seams and bouncing off the walls. The love we feel for our pets, partners, family and friends make us feel like we are floating on a cloud, that intense passion for someone or something can even hurt (in a good way!). Yes, we have abandonment and attachment issues that can cause a lot of problems with relationships, but catch us on a good day and we are full of love that we only want to share with you. Something made you chuckle? We're probably on the floor in hysterics laughing because this feeling of complete euphoria needs to present itself in one way or another.
Of course, as we know, its not all jazz hands and confetti all the time. In fact, these feelings of euphoria will only last a short amount of time and its usually overshadowed by the bad, but its so important to hold on to these feelings and remember we are capable of happiness, even if it is just for 20 minutes before the inevitable crash.

Passion is a huge positive trait of BPD. For me, its what keeps me going, it gets me out of bed in the morning. I am probably one of the most passionate people you will meet, talk to me about musical theatre and you'll have me rambling for hours, its like a release. If you can tap into someone's passion and show an interest, you will instantly see their face light up, their eyes widen, their smile grow as they talk about that one thing in their life that is 'okay'.
I've been told by many different people, including people who know me very well, that as soon as I'm in the vicinity of a theatre, whether it be to perform or to watch a show, I can become a different person - a better version of myself. That’s because it is my one constant, its safe and familiar.
Of course, there are so many things to be passionate about in the world: people, TV shows, music, cars, make-up, animals. I will guarantee you that if you know someone with BPD, there will be something, and if you ask them about it you might just make their day.

I consider myself a very creative person, I like to sing, act, craft, paint…… The list goes on! BPD sufferers are often fairly intelligent people, and with intelligence comes creativeness (in a round-a-bout way). Sometimes its something those who are lucky enough to access therapy come to learn, any kind of creativity can be very mindful and aid in their recovery. In other circumstances its instilled in their make-up as a person. Personally, I have always been creative, as a child I was always making something and getting busy with glues sticks and glitter. Some people throw themselves into dance or drama too, all of these creative outlets are perfect, and you'll often find that someone with BPD is very talented in at least one of them.
I am currently on a waiting list to start a group therapy course called 'Therapy Through Activity' under a team specialising in personality disorders. On this 2 year program patients get the chance to learn new skills, often artistic, whilst exploring their emotions. This' unorthodox' method of therapy has proven very successful in patients with BPD (amongst other personality disorders) and I'm really excited to get started.

Those of us with BPD are not scary, nor are we horrible people. We are just a little more in tune with our emotions (maybe a little too much), and we can in fact make very loyal, understanding, spontaneous, loving, funny, and passionate friends.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A typical day in the life...

9am: Did I even get any sleep last night?
          Am I even awake yet?
          Oh no, didn’t want to read that on Facebook. Ouch.
          Why is everyone flaunting their happy lives in front of me?
          Oh god, it hurts to move
          Come on, you need to move
          No wait, remember that dream you had last night? What does that mean? Did that really happen?
          Oh god, what will today bring?

10am: Give yourself some credit, you're out of bed, time for breakfast

10:30am: I should get dressed
                  Maybe I'll have a cigarette first, somehow it doesn't make me feel better though
                  Brush your teeth, I know its hard, but you need to brush your teeth, you'll feel better

10:45am: OK, you're dressed, make-up?
                  No, make-up is too much work

10:50am: Actually, maybe if I put some make-up on I can go out
                  Yeah, I feel good, going to go to the shops and I treat myself to something nice

11am: Staring in the mirror, make-up surrounding me

11:10am: No, I can't go out

11:15am: Yes you can, you're feeling GOOD
                  Aww, that’s a cute video
                  Haha, funny memes
                  Wait, no, why did I watch that? Why is that not my life?
                  Why am I alone?

12pm: I've not moved for 45 minutes now, everything hurts
            I'm sleepy, might nap
            No its too early to nap, I'll do some chores

1pm: OK cool, got some shit done
          Not much, but it's something
          I feel a little better now

1:15pm: Actually I feel GREAT
                I'm going to turn my life around!
                I am a QUEEN

1:16pm: I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life

1:20pm: I am so sad
                Should I self harm?
                No I shouldn't self harm
                But it will make me feel better
                But it will make me feel worse

1:30pm: I've paced the house for 10 minutes talking myself out of this                                                                                       Should I message someone?
                Nah, they won't be able to help me
                Where's a cat?

2pm: It's cool, I'm safe
          I. Can. Do. This

2:10pm: Ah, mums home. Company.
                Lunch time, why do I live for food lol?
                Should I have some pudding?
                No, I'm watching my weight
                Hahahah where's the cake

3pm: So sleepy
          Just going to close… my eyes……..

5:30pm: Nap hangovers are the worst
                But awesome nap
                You deserved that

6pm: Big Bang Theory re-runs…

6:40pm: I feel so low


                I AM NOT IN THE MOOD
                I'm going to punch someone right now I'm sure of it

7pm: Am I hungry?

7:30pm: Bath time.
                Ah, finally time to relax.
                Lol nope
                Who am I? Where am I? Why am I?

9pm: This is nice
          Good TV is good
          Aww look at the cute animal!
          I feel good, I am loved, I am safe, I am warm
          I love you kitty
          Give me a cuddle kitty

11:30pm: Approximately 6 mood swings in the past 2 hours
                  Night meds

11:35pm: Come on, wash your face
                  Brush your teeth
                  Look after yourself
                  It's easy
                  No its not

11:50pm: Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling
                  Family guy
                  Bed is comfy
                  Bed is safe
                  Hehe cute doggy
                  My eyes are burning
                  Thank goodness for Quetiapine

12:21am: ………..