I allowed myself time to heal.

In this first picture it was April 2016, I was 18 years old and I was in my first ‘adult’ mental health hospital. This first picture captures my whole admission. Lost, misunderstood and scared. I was under weight for my height as I stopped eating and drinking which resulted in my physical health deteriorating as well as my mental health. In this admission I was self harming daily in various ways. I was finding any object I could to cut with, I was banging my head against walls and corner of wardrobes, I was tying ligatures in hopes I would pass out and not wake up and wanting to end my own life was a daily battle. I felt so misunderstood and out of control and, the last thing I wanted for myself was to be like this. I kept thinking to myself, ‘I have a family, future and goals to achieve’ but in those moments It honestly felt like I had no way out which led me to believing that I was never going to recover. I thought that was the way I was going to be for the rest of my life.

I was then transferred to a specialist Personality Disorder ward after that hospital realized that they couldn’t provide the care I needed anymore because I was too ‘complex’. I don’t like to use the word complex much but, in their words, I guess at the time that is what I was. This new hospital was where I received the appropriate treatment and care that I needed for my diagnosis of EUPD. I had group DBT therapy twice a week and an individual therapy session once a week and I’m not going to sugar coat, it was difficult and sometimes I thought I’d never get to the end of it! Having such an understanding/hard working therapist and the incredible MDT on my ward I did managed to get my life back!

2 years on and after A LOT of hard work (and a good selfie), I am living my life to the fullest, grabbing opportunities with both hands and I am for the first time since 2016 (if not longer) truly happy. I was discharged from hospital on the 27th February 2018 and I still wake up grateful everyday that those many suicide attempts didn’t work and that I was saved.

Just before I turned 18, I never imagined having a future or a life however in 2 weeks time I will be celebrating my 21st Birthday and it overwhelms me with pride that I have made it. I now also have a part time job which has been a huge positive factor for my recovery, I have been accepted into college for September to begin my access course in social sciences (in the hopes to be accepted into University next year to start my Occupational Therapy degree).
Most importantly I am surrounded by amazing family and friends that have been by my side since day 1 and I am forever thankful for them.

I’ve finally got SO much positivity in my life and I know it’s because I decided that ending my life back then and giving up was NOT an option.

I just want people to know that if you suffer with mental health issues or you’re right at the beginning of your recovery that things do get better. No matter how cliché that might sound. If you allow yourself time to heal it WILL happen and you will flourish and achieve all of things you want to in life.

I want to end on this note…
Take care of yourself.
It’s the most important thing you can do

4 things I’ve learnt since leaving a mental health hospital.

1) You need to structure your time.

Whilst I was in hospital I had a structured routine, Monday - Friday from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. At the time I used to moan that I had no time to myself or the classic 'this is pointless' statement that I probably made about 100 times a day, I actually realise now how important having a routine is now I'm in the community.
I find now that if I don't plan my day or week in advance I feel my anxieties heighten and I begin stressing myself out unnecessarily all because I'm not as organised as I could be.

When I talk about planning my day/week it doesn't mean I do something significant every single minute of the day because I end up exhausted however the simple/important things are the most effective. I like to plan my week ahead on a Sunday evening, to plan my important things first, for example; doctors appointments and DBT sessions (this is what I like to call 'adulting') and by doing that first it then gives me a rough idea on when I can schedule in the rest of my plans for the other days/hours that I'm free.

When I have a lot of free time and leave myself with nothing to do I tend to get unmotivated and start ruminate in my own thoughts. This for me can then lead down a road of procrastination, self-loathing and eventually a relapse. This is why for me structuring my time is SO important!

2) Self-soothe is key.

Self-soothe is not just a skill I learnt in DBT, I found that it can simply be about self care, giving yourself some 'me time' and most importantly it can be a good distraction. For me, self soothe helps me interrupt the negative signals my brain is sending me when I'm feeling low or destructive and it can then give me a focus for the next however long which also makes me feel good after.

Win win situation... 

However I don't always need to self-soothe if i'm feeling low in mood or struggling with urges, I simply use an hour out of the day to pamper yourself, watch a feel good film or simply meditating. By using self-soothe as a technique in everyday life it can then give me the knowledge and all the practise for when I really need it. It soon becomes second nature.

3) Now is when you need to practise your DBT skills more than ever.

Whilst in hospital I received DBT therapy (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) as a group and as a 1:1 and  to be honest I can't thank Marsha Linehan enough for creating such an effective therapy that has helped me and so many others.
However there is a difference between practising DBT skills in hospital and practising them in the community.

On the ward I had constant reminders to practise my skills as there was mindfulness sessions twice a day, we had weekly homework focussing on a specific skill from 1 of the modules which meant I was surrounded by them 24/7. However being out of hospital is so different and I have found that this is when I've had to put those skills into practise more. I've had times where I've been like 'I probably should've used my interpersonal effectiveness skills back then', or 'I should've just had a bubble bath hours ago, I feel so relaxed now', and that's ok to think I should've done that, because sometimes we forget the things we've been taught and that's why PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT! (but no-ones perfect so just practise practice practice)...

Now pretty much most of the skills are engrained in my brain after doing it for so long however sometimes it's nice dusting off my DBT folder and having a look. Trust me, it helps!

4) It's ok not to be ok, all of the time.

I used to put so much pressure on myself when I first came out of hospital to be 'fine' and not appear to be struggling because I didn't want to seem like I wasn't coping or was falling apart. Now I realise that not every day is going to go your way, some days I may have a customer at work that doesn't appreciate the fact that I've been on my feet for 8 hours and that I'm really trying my hardest. Sometimes I get out of the wrong side of bed and think 'I can't wait for today to be over' and do you know what. THAT IS OK!

Nobody is perfect in this world and I have soon come to realise that no-body is going to judge me for having an off day or having a good cry because I'm having a day of 'what the hell am I even doing?'. You know, behind closed doors I'm sure many people feel the way I do and in a way that is quite comforting...

Despite having bad days (or weeks) I always remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and just because today I feel crap doesn't mean I'm a crap person or I'm failing at life. It means the complete opposite. It shows strength and courage to let those barriers down temporarily but picking up the pieces and shaking it off (with the use of some self-soothe I mentioned earlier) can be the difference between having just a bad day or having a bad life.

Losing a friend to suicide whilst feeling suicidal yourself.

So in 2016, I lost a friend to suicide.

When I found out the news, I fell silent, clammy hands, my heart was palpitating and I was just trying to comprehend what I had just heard…
I had known this person since school and although I knew briefly the struggles she was facing it was still hard for it to sink in. She had been in a mental health hospital, taking medication daily. She had a history of self-harm but no matter how much or how little you know about someone’s mental health it still comes as a shock to know that this time they unfortunately succeeded.
Even though suicide and mental illness is more common than you think, nothing ever prepares you for it being you friend, sister, aunty, daughter or even your primary school teacher.

I, without knowing how quick, began thinking and started asking questions in my mind, ‘why, how, when, what time’, and despite this, I was still just left with the unknown until I found out more information on the matter. I was shocked. And that was ok.
In this time, and for the next however many months/years, I’m going to feel a tornado full of emotions, some more tolerable and some unexplainable.

The hardest thing for me, apart from of course losing such a special friend, was the fact that I also felt suicidal myself. I had done for months/years and when I tragically found out I was currently detained in a mental health hospital myself. So alongside the normal emotional rollercoaster and the 5 stages of grieving, I also on top of this have my highest of highs, crippling depression, my self harm urges and of course my own suicidal thoughts. You know, the difficult thing is trying to ground yourself at the times where it get’s too much and you think that being with your loved one is the better option. It’s not.

Yes I feel so deeply hurt, confused and at times hopeless, but I can assure you that despite feeling suicidal myself, I don’t want anybody feeling the way I do if this was me. At times I catch myself feeling angry at myself. Could I have done more? Should I have called her that morning? Endless questions that I wont get the answer to.

What you need to remember if you are in this position right now, is that throughout all of this, it that all of these feelings you’re experiencing are normal and they can be managed if you want them to be.

Something I have felt to be quite soothing in this sad time, is simply reminiscing the good memories, the random 3am chats and the not so serious arguments over the best lipsticks, or about craving Krispy Kreme doughnuts AGAIN! These are the things that should keep you fighting if you’re struggling with these thoughts yourself. You are never alone, and yes at times you feel so on your own you to the point where you may question whether you can take much more. But you CAN!

I do truly miss my friend, and at times I feel like I have literally lost a limb, but this makes me want to fight for recovery even more so.
My friend will always have a special place in my heart and no one can take that away from me and although I still find it painful, I now know that she would be more proud of me for fighting an illness that is so taboo and raising more awareness to help save someone else.