Moving On From A Haunted Past of Home and The Inner Caverns of Self Hatred

As a child I moved a lot. Sometimes once a year, sometimes within 6 months of settling we were moving again. We didn’t stay in the same area either. We lived all over the south half of the country. When it came to going to high school my parents decided it was time to try to stay in one place. For the duration of those eight years I didn’t live in the same house the whole time: that would be a ridiculous expectation to have from my parents. I did however stay in the same town at least. I also managed to stay at the same high school from year 7 to 13. Unfortunately it turned out that the only school I stayed at happened to be the one I hated the most. It was perhaps the most damaging school I’ve ever been to in terms of self belief, self-esteem and building yourself during your teenage years. I don’t think the role of high school is to destroy you from the inwards out, but it seems to have that impact on many teenagers.

I remember walking up the hill from the bus park and one of my friends stated, ‘these are supposed to be the best years of our lives’ as if some wisdom of hindsight and insight had been bestowed upon her from the future. I hoped she was wrong when she said it. I know she was wrong 10 years later. School was not any of the best years of my life. Not at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Never.

When I was in high school I started to develop my first signs and symptoms of mental illness. This quickly turned into a long battle with bulimia, and consequently eating disorders and all the shenanigans that erupted at 21. I didn’t feel supported at school. I wasn’t supported at home, although my parents did somehow get me referred to CAMHs via my GP and this is where the one constant figure of hope and support came into my life. I would see her at the outpatients department of the hospital, which I would walk to most weeks. I was very much left on my own in this journey with CAMHs but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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During those years, mainly 2005-2009 I would haunt around the city streets and parks on my own. I spent a lot of time on my own, struggling to maintain friends and my illness in any form of harmony, such as mental illness goes. I would eat in strange places and vomit in even stranger places. The country lanes where I lived for the most part of time in my home town were haunted with my running and cycling endeavours in a constant bid to lose weight, disappear, punish myself and repeat after me, ‘nothing is more important than losing weight. Nothing is more important than losing weight’.

If I cast my mind back to this period of time it is shrouded in a mass of thick black smog. I couldn’t see my way clearly at all back then. I struggle to see through it without the inner of my emotive self construing into tangles of excruciating pain. Yes, this place is technically my home town because I spent the most time growing up here but it was never home. Where we lived was never home. I felt outcasted, strange and extremely alone in my own dark world of writing in coffee shops, puking in public toilets, hedges and woodland, and trying to muddle through school at the same time.

I did have some good times, mainly whilst drunk. Often these weren’t even good times though because drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea any time, but drinking on a stomach that hasn’t seen any form of solid food for 3 or 5 days is just a recipe for an involuntary puking disaster. Surprisingly I remember many of these moments well, puking in the gutter outside my friend’s house, collapsing in a field as the vodka spins took over and I could move, curling up in a hay bail in a barn completely disconnected from the music or people around me. Even my year 13 prom ended with me being traipsed home from throwing up in the hotels toilets for an amount of time that no one has any idea of. No one knows how long I had been in there puking and passed out.

Making connections with people was very difficult for me. It always has been. I put this down to moving house a lot and my impending shyness that creeps into each corner of my life. There was nothing healthy about these years. There was nothing positive to come from my life other than it could only get better once I moved away. It did for a while and even during my times of being very unwell in London I wouldn’t say they were as dark as my time growing up. I lived 4 of my 8 years waiting to leave. This hope is the only thing that kept me going and things did get better in my final year. I went to art school and had one of the best years of my life. Finally there was a crowd that accepted my quirkiness and invited me out anyway. Finally I had friends who I could actually relate to and I was old enough to drink my way through all of my problems without needing to sneak around, climb over fences into clubs and get creative in my ways of obtaining alcohol. Looking back, it really is remarkable that I survived those years as in tact as I did. To this day, I don’t know how I did it.

When I left home to move to London for university it very much felt like a second chance at life. It felt like a clean slate to move away from my demons, move away from the turmoil of my home life as a teenager and make my own way. It didn’t go quite to plan but here I found a home. Since I moved to London 8 years ago I have lived here for as long as I’ve lived anywhere and I’ve been to my home town 3 times. The last time was this year. Before that I went home for one christmas in which I was reminded very much how much it didn’t feel like home to be home, and how much it never really had felt like home. I went back a few years later, then left it a few more years before going back again.

The town felt haunted to me. Seeing my old school as I went by on the train sent a great discomfort through my body. Seeing the old hospital I used to walk to each week, sometimes multiple times a week, swamped me with all the emotion tied up in that experience at once. Seeing the old streets upon which I would wonder alone and drunk in a bid to escape my reality filled me with sadness at how alone I really felt at home. The first time I went home I realised how much I actually hated it. I cried and although I didn’t plan to not return for so long it felt necessary.

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The next time I went home it was slightly lesser of a haunting experience but still it felt strange. It was odd and nostalgic in the most unpleasant way in which nostalgia can stir up old feelings and experiences to churn them over into a curdled mass of sour substance within your stomach. This time I went home, it was a last-minute decision. I was hypomanic and struggling with it. It had become uncomfortable for me and I spoke to my Dad. He said he’d pick me up that night and drive me down.

He has moved house a few times since I left home. He has finally settled in one home which oddly feels more like a home than any of the buildings he has occupied previously. With is having been so long since I left and started to build my own life in London, London is my home. London is the place I’ve been more able to be myself, received more intense help for my mental health problems and met people who are ‘my people’. Sometimes they come and they go but being able to come clean about my mental health illness and still be accepted as a friend to people is something I never experienced growing up. My illnesses being met with compassion and support in my education settings since I’ve started studying up here is something else that has been new. Finally, an education institution with support services and compassion and the belief that you can succeed rather than being surprised when you don’t fail is a place I can learn the thrive.

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My experience of life in London has been very different to the one I knew before. It hasn’t always been easy or good by any stretch of well wishing, it has however taught me a lot and encouraged me to grow. I haven’t been suppressed, I haven’t been dismissed in the way I was at school or home growing up, I have been encouraged out of my dark cavern of self-hatred that I had grown to call my comfort zone. I left home more comfortable hating myself and actively acting on it. I am now in a place where that cavern is becoming a place of the past – and because I’ve managed to move forwards in my life, because i’ve made and had so many new experiences that i chose, because i made a home for myself with what I had even when that meant a back shed with slugs, mice and leaky rooftops it was home. It was the first home i had really experienced. All of this nurturing i have experienced from myself, my partner and friends through these years has shuffled me along to a place where I can go back to my home town when I’m unwell and find it a helpful respite from the chaotic surroundings I create for myself when I am unwell.

Life in London hasn’t been perfect but it has eventually gotten better than where I came from. This allows me to go home and appreciate the nature and beauty of the countryside with fresh untainted eyes. It allows for me to go home and sit in a pub with an old school friend and enjoy their company, fully present rather than drinking until I can barely stand any more.

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I have grown since then. I continue to grow and within that growth there is a strength to face those past memories in a less tangled, less curdling to sourness light. I can be. I can enjoy the place for what it is, a nice seaside town, then I can come home refreshed rather than stressed about my history with the place, and finally, my home town doesn’t haunt me, taunt me or internally destroy me ever so slightly more with each day that I spend there. I am also able to remember the good times from that period of my life.

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The Puzzle of Movement: Find Your Mind

Work On Your Mind

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It is your biggest barrier and your biggest tool to self realisation and achieving fitness goals is your mind. I’ve said it a few times and I’ll say it again, physical activity and incorporating it into your life can be just as much an emotional and mental challenge as it is physical. Sometimes, you may find yourself stopping mid activity because you think you can’t push any further.

Practice pushing your own self limitations and step a little out of your comfort zone. I challenge you, and see what happens. You may shock yourself. I have certainly shocked myself a number of times.

Find Something You Enjoy

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Don’t vow to run 4 times a week if the magic of running hasn’t struck you. I would encourage persevering for a month or two with any activity to see if it grows on  you, but if you’re really not feeling it, try something else. Try getting on your bike, or swimming a few lengths, or an exercise class – of which the variety just keeps on expanding.

Who knows what classes we’ll be attending in 5 years time like we’ve been needing it all our life. I don’t particularly like group exercise classes, so don’t really go or seek to go to them – but for others, they’re a staple to their weekly schedule. Dip your toes in many ponds before diving in completely, getting all the kit and making a plan that you won’t stick with because you’re not enjoying it.

Enjoy Yourself

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I’ll tell you a secret – you’re allowed to have a bloody good time whilst working out. You’re allowed to laugh, smile and make friends. All of which help in keeping activity as part of your routine and daily life. Have fun – some of the best times I’ve had, and the best people I have met has been via exercising, and not getting wasted in a club or pub a few times a week: conversely to popular belief.

Do It For a Reason You Believe In

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Sometimes we need a bit of external motivation. Getting up in the morning to run can be a challenge. Dragging your arse to your 6am gym class before a full work day can seem like the last thing you want to do when the alarm goes off at 5.30am, but people do it. Hundreds and thousands of people do it, and they do it regularly.

Maybe they have something that we snooze button pushers don’t have – and I think it is a purpose and belief in what they’re doing. It becomes a passion and something you couldn’t imagine not doing. Passing up a few more drinks past tipsy to get up in the morning and feel alive whilst doing sun salutations may seem a bit alien to you right now, but after a few months of reaping the benefit you may not be able to imagine starting your Monday mornings any other way.

Know Your Goals

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Know what you want from you activity, and reflect on whether you’re getting it – and how to adapt your schedule and habits until you’re getting exactly what you want out of it. When you do this, you’re more likely to stick with it because it becomes important to you, as important as eating every day and sleeping every night.

In my journey I found focusing my why and purpose of exercising beyond achieving a certain body aesthetic, or fitting into a certain clothes size. With these goals, if you achieve them it can feel a bit like “what next?” or you stop once your goal has been achieved and it’s not really become a part of your lifestyle and if you don’t achieve these set goals within a time frame, it can be very disheartening.

Instead, or as well, have a goal that is immeasurable. Are you seeing your friends through your activity? Are you de-stressing from the day and your worries? Are you trying to replace less healthy coping mechanisms? Are you training for an event to raise money for a cause you care for? Take time to notice the benefit you’re gaining. This seems to cement the “I will feel much better after a run” as a solid memory to recall during times of stress or moments of lacking motivation when running feels like that last thing you want to do – or tennis, or gymnastics, or swimming: whatever your activity of choice is.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Along With Your Therapist?

We don’t get along with everyone in life. Unfortunately, there are just some people who rub us up the wrong way, infuriate us with their breathing habits or perhaps it’s just the mere fact that they exist. These are just some of the challenges we have to cross in our life times, and navigating people seems to be a pretty big challenge for some, especially those like myself who have a multitude of MH problems, some of which include getting along or rather not getting along with people as a symptom.

P.S. I’m not a massive asshole by the way, I just struggle with interactions sometimes.

What makes it worse is when we have to trust this person, and they are supposed to be an important person in your life that helps you, i.e. they’ve been appointed by the NHS as your therapist. Then, it’s even more challenging and difficult to get along when quite frankly, you don’t. So here’s how I responded to not getting along with my therapist and what I perhaps could have done better:

I argued with her.
I hold on the the notion that I had a valid point in each circumstance. Sometimes it can help to argue with your therapist if you don’t agree with their analysis of you, or what they’re saying about you. In fact most therapists are open to being corrected should they get something wrong – my problem with arguing with this particular therapist is that she doesn’t take well to being corrected just like I don’t take well to being analysed incorrectly and having said analysis affect my care.

I cried about it. 
Only slightly as I managed to hold it together more than in the past which suggests progress but I let it go and shed a tear here and there. Sometimes it is healthy to shed tears and cry a little bit. Apparently it releases hormones that make you feel good and a good sense of relief so that I wouldn’t change. In fact, if I could cry more and shorten the grieving process then I would.

I considered suicide over it. 
Now this is an over reaction. I’m glad I didn’t act on it but instead I spoke about it briefly with people because what she was saying made me think “what’s the point?” and “There’s no use trying anymore”. This I would change but I’m thankful I managed to not act.

I spoke about it.
In fact I’ll correct this, I bitched and I bitched and I bitched some more to anyone who would listen to and entertain my pain. I needed to talk about it as I needed to vent, but I would change just how much I needed to talk about it and to how many people because let’s face it, bitching isn’t the most healthy or positive of behaviours for other people to be exposed to all the time.

In conjunction to bitching, I laughed about it. 
This helped a lot. The source of humour was on occasion, perhaps a bit mean but it helped to laugh about it and make a joke of it.

I spoke to other members of my team about it. 
I think this was healthy and helpful because it let my team members know about our clash and gave me a productive avenue in which to vent and work through my difficulties with my therapist.

Thankfully for me, she’s leaving just as this clash came to a head, so I don’t know what the process to changing a therapist in the NHS would have been as I didn’t have to travel that road. In this case I was lucky. However, I think overall how I coped with this scenario since a difficult and painful conversation with said therapist on Wednesday was quite good so I have few regrets over how I managed this situation. I could have done some things better, but no pain or damage has been caused by my coping skills therefore this is an improvement on the past.

 

Lion – Monica Scripture

I wrote this in hospital whilst I was on a 5(2). I didn’t know if I was going to be sectioned again, but the sentiment remains the same.

I am home now. Under HTT, but this is my poem about being in hospital and kept there against your will.

The Story of My MIND Fundraiser – and the importance of MIND in the UK.

The other day I took my body measurements. Once upon a time this was an almost daily ritual over which the loss of a quarter-inch would be rejoiced for a moment before becoming again, ‘not small enough’. To catch me tape measure in hand would have been an invasion into the depth’s of anorexia’s secrecy that encroached my life. For me, this time though I wasn’t smaller than last time. In fact, I don’t even remember when last time was. DSC08961

This time my measurements were bigger than they’d ever been. This time I’m not trying to lose weight no matter which organ degrades to fulfil that need. I am instead focused on a whole new agenda, health and fitness – and this is no anorexia disguise, I mean really, it’s for health and fitness to improve my badass performance in OCRs, running, climbing and it’d be nice to shave commuting time from my cycling trips.

Yes, I’m the biggest I’ve ever been and I’m healthy. My thighs aren’t equally perfect – my right is 1 – 1 1/2 inches bigger that the left but that’s cool. In fact they’re both equal to or larger than my waist in inches was during my anorexic days. I didn’t cry at this realisation, nor did I vow to eat a drastically low amount of calories. I was however in a state of shock which seeped into the stark realisation at how sick I was, and how far from fat I truly was at a time when I felt like my weight was ‘just’ acceptable. There was 1/3 less of me than what I am now and I found myself wondering, how the fuck did my organs fit in such a tiny space?

As you can see, I am health conscious and most definitely as recovered as I think it gets – which is amazing considering I spent 9 years smothered by eating disorders affecting me and dictating far too much of my life. In addition to eating disorders I have bipolar and dissociative episodes – the latter of which is better than it used to be due to extensive and intensive therapy.

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Now that I manage better and am not living in a constant crisis state, nor am I being admitted to A&E or psych units regularly. I attend groups run in the community in a variety of topics such as: mindfulness, arts and crafts and gardening. All of these groups help reduce some of the worst effects of mentally ill-health; social isolation, stigma and loneliness. All of which, added on top of difficulties can make a depressive episode go from shit to actively suicidal. One charity that runs a lot of these groups well is MIND.

This is the work that many probably don’t see done by MIND, but it is in addition to their exceptionally informative website, their help line, their online forum Elefriends, their info leaflets found in most psychiatric units, their advocacy service and their anti-stigma awareness raising media projects. Without MIND I would not have had information to read on my first admission that helped explain the unexplainable. I would not have had leaving services care which directed me instead to the right services when my previous care provider had failed. I would have fewer places to go and be with fewer people in an environment where I don’t have to hide my unemployment or mental health struggles.
I am one person in a country of millions. These are just some of the ways in which MIND have helped me –  now think of how many people in the UK struggle with mental health problems, and how many of those have sought for information and support – and how many people MIND as a charity reach, help, and sometimes probably give hope to in the most hopeless of situations, and therefore keep alive for at least a while longer.

Now isn’t that a charity worth fighting for? Isn’t that a charity worth donating to, or perhaps running Tough Mudder for? This is exactly what I’m doing, but running Tough Mudder this year isn’t just about raising money for MIND. It shows to myself and others how far I’ve come in my journey, and it slaps my ED in the face whilst saying “see how much stronger I am now bitch!” It’s part of a personal journey of proving to myself how badass amazing I am whilst giving me the chance to give something back to a charity that helped save my life and that of at least a thousand others.

My Just Giving Page has a link to the right of my blog, and can be found following this link.

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Switching Psychiatric Labels: And All The Resulting Qualms.

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For years I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I dissociated, and at one time in my life, I engaged with many of the unhelpful coping mechanisms that accompany the disorder: binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, drinking, cutting, and overdoses. I was constantly trying to understand, and ease the immense pain that I felt from living, breathing, existing on this earth.

I had therapy.

I had years and years of various therapies with various therapists of varying intensities and specialisms. CBT, talking, EFT, schema, metallisation, all of which geared towards healing my inner turmoils in order to build a more stable future. Of course, that’s what all therapies are about right?

But it wasn’t working. I was frustrated. I’d cry in frustration – seriously, why am I so fucked up?

“you’re at the start of a long journey?”

“WHAT! The START. I’ve been in therapy for 8 years, how is this the start!?!?”

Because nothing, nothing I did was working on easing my depression – if you believed I was depressed that is. My psychiatrist didn’t. From their responses I gather they considered me to have a hidden agenda within my suicidal obsessions and deep rooted depression. I didn’t. I was quite literally depressed, nothing more, nothing less. Yet still, I had to get on with it even though it felt very real to me, it wasn’t – and so on and so forth.

And I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but for some reason I just didn’t ‘get it’. I did everything that was advised, and everything recommended from various self help resources. I used my therapy, went to as many sessions as possible – and I engaged. I tried, really. fucking. hard. REALLY. FUCKING. HARD. Yet still, I lived in a descended fog of despair and hopelessness. Fuck this. Seriously. Fuck. This. Shit.

Until I started walking on sunshine. Holy shit. I’d been missing the point for so many years, yet now, now all of a sudden, I had all the answers I’d ever been pining for. Of course life was wonderful. No. It wasn’t. Life was fucking magical, and so was I. It’s the highs and lows of the borderline disorder they said: until I lost my shit.

I lost my shit thoroughly for a whole week, or maybe longer, and finally, some bitch social worker named Penny sectioned me. I was re-assessed, and upon release my GP stirred up a fuss pulling my current diagnosis into question.

“You’re not the first, and you wont be the last to be lumbered with this diagnosis because they just don’t know quite where you fit and can’t put any other label neatly on you”

And she pissed a lot of people of, but she didn’t care. She wanted me to have the correct treatment, and could from her own expertise say that she’d seen me on both ends of the mood spectrum. Finally, my diagnosis was officially changed, I don’t have a personality disorder… I in fact had bipolar disorder, and so many jarred edges clicked into place like a the cogs made for my machine.

At first, this news came with a relief. Finally, they were listening and understanding the mood difficulties that I face. Finally, they were taking me seriously when I was down, and when I was walking on magical unicorn sunshine. Finally, I was given medications at a dose that would actually help a person, rather than eager sprinkles of psychiatric drugs that do nothing, to anyone, in the guise of “trying to help’. I’m quite sure they were trying to induce the placebo effect- but it never worked.

However, from this relief spawned a new vulnerability, and a new set of realisations. Shit, this isn’t something I can “get over, move on from and forget”. Shit, this isn’t going to go away as I’d been told it would for years. Shit, bipolar is life long, and I’m going to have to stay on my meds, and shit, I’m losing hope that those depressive episodes will never reappear in my life.

Within my sigh of relief, at the same time, I had a whole new set of circumstances within which to adapt to, to accept, to manage, and to acknowledge. It is not only a new label under my name, on my file somewhere that is likely a meter thick with truths woven between chapters and chapters of bullshit: but also, I have a new treatment plan to accept and use. I have to accept that these problems are probably going to be challenges for a lifetime, and that these challenges are going to have to be managed, but never recovered from: and that believing in my own invincibility last time i was sectioned, might not be the last time that I thoroughly lose my mind altogether for a while. And that uncomfortable thoughts like, “I want to shoot myself in the face” may continue to haunt me for lengthy periods of time again in the future. And that, it is now important for me to adhere to my keep well strategies and routines even more so, for longer than I had initially planned for, in order to prevent a relapse. And all of this I started to take in one evening, on my own, after the sigh of relief had passed and gone into the wind, leaving me bare, vulnerable and having to re-evaluate my understanding, acceptance and management of my mental health conditions.

I now have answers, more answers than what i have previously had: however, I also have more learning to do, more understanding to gain, and more insight to develop. It is rather daunting, but with the support of those around me, I am rather confident that such skills will eventually be acquired, and such resulting challenges managed, I hope.