The inner battle of taking my medication

These pills, these tiny little pills. Especially this one. this single white pill.

a.jpg

It seems so simple, so easy. Follow the instructions on the packet. Yet, my experience with it is so far from easy. Me and this pill, we have a complicated relationship.
This white tablet in my hand, you see, is an antidepressant. And it’s not just any antidepressant, it’s my antidepressant. Prescribed by my doctor because she believes it helps me, but I have so much trouble taking it.

I can’t tell if it helps me or not and taking it is difficult because it means I’m actively doing something to help myself. A lot of the time I don’t feel like I deserve help and I don’t know if I want to get better. Why? Because this is safe and familiar and anything different is scary. I don’t know how to live without mental illness. Feeling better terrifies me because who will I be if I am not who I am now?

For some reason, I can take sleeping pills and vitamins but antidepressants scare me. It’s because they affect your brain chemistry and your brain chemistry is makes you who you are. I am still the same person if I take this or not though and I need to keep reminding myself that. Taking this does not mean I am weak or will magically be cured. All it means is that I am taking it. Maybe it will help or maybe it won’t but regardless, I am still me.

I wish it was easier to do this. I wish my brain could see it as a solution or medicine but it’s hard to see it that way when results aren’t immediate and when it’s your brain that’s sick.I’m scared of feeling better but I’m also scared I’m going to feel like this forever.

I am starting these again because I have to, deep down I know I have to. I need medication and that’s okay. I wish there was a sign pointing to the one that is the right one; the solution of all solutions. But I’m learning that it’s not that simple.

Please work little pill, I need you to work, even if sometimes I don’t want you to.

Advertisements

You’re not beyond help

I know what it’s like to feel like the world would be better off without you. To have gone through medication after medication, sit through unproductive therapy sessions and to experience life through hospital walls. To feel like nobody can help you. I know how much it hurts to see how your suffering is affecting other people. I get it. I do I’ve sat and cried and begged for everything to stop because the pain was so unbearable that death felt like the only way out. But I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as being beyond help.

You may feel like you are not worthy or that you’re too much trouble, but none of that is true. You’re not too much trouble and there are people out there who care and want to help. It’s okay if you haven’t achieved everything you want to. There’s still time. There’s still time.

The worst day with you here is better than the best day without you. I get that this may not feel true. I understand it might be hard to believe, but you make the world a better place just by existing. You are worthy of life and worthy of help. No matter how hopeless the future seems, you are worth the fight. Please don’t give up because you are worth it.

You are not beyond help. I haven’t given up on you and you shouldn’t either. Hold on. Please, please, please keep holding on. One day this pain will all be worth it. You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone.

Suicide warning signs from a survivor

Disclaimer

Before I get into this I want to put a disclaimer here; this post is solely based on my own experience and may or may not relate to others. It is far from a complete list and it’s important to acknowledge that many people who attempt or commit suicide do not show any signs and also that displaying any of these does not mean someone is thinking of hurting themselves or suffering from any sort of mental illness. But I’m writing this anyway because I think it can be helpful to be aware of what to look for as an outsider and also within yourself.

Regardless of everything else, any talk or behaviour of suicide or self harm should be taken seriously.

The background behind this post

Once during a really bad spell I decided to record what was going on for me using the beyondnow app (available here). At the time it felt pointless because surely I’d be able to remember and notice when things were going downhill? Well it turns out sometimes it’s hard to have emotional permanence and your cognition when you are suicidal is often significantly impaired which means you aren’t thinking straight. This list is helpful because I’ve been able to look back at it when I think I’m doing okay and realise that maybe things aren’t great. Maybe they are slipping. Maybe it’s time for me to reach out.

The list

Disturbed sleep. One of the first things that I notice is that I can’t seem to sleep during the night. I toss and I turn but I can’t get my mind to switch off and this can easily escalate to the point where I can’t cope anymore. Dispersed amongst these periods are for me days at a time where I do nothing but sleep. Insomnia or hypersomnia are common symptoms for many people.

Decline in self care. I’ll go from showering every day to a week passing before I’ve even touched my hair. Leaving me feeling disgusting and horrible but without the energy to do anything about it. Which is hard when I know showering is exactly what I need to feel slightly better. It’s disgusting but sometimes I can go days without remembering to change clothes or brush my teeth.

Increase in negative coping skills. I find myself engaging in behaviours such as self harm or binging and purging in search of any sort of relief. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs or just general reckless behaviour.

Agitation. This doesn’t always happen and sometimes I experience the complete opposite but it is common for me. I get this restless anxiety within me both physically and mentally. I feel the need to be constantly moving or playing with my hands. My thoughts become loud and racing. This is usually the point where I need help from someone whether it be medication or increased support.

Feelings of guilt and worthlessness. I mean nothing and my presence is merely hurting people. My head tells me that everyone would be better off without me.

I feel like I’m being weighed down. Like there is something pressing on my shoulder and stopping me from achieving anything.

Cleaning. I have at times been known to go through all of my possessions throwing things away so that I don’t leave too much mess behind for other’s to sort through. My thought process is that I want to make things as easy as possible for them. This has also sometimes meant printing out photos into albums so that my family will only have good memories of me.

….and yet

Despite all of the above, sometimes there are no signs. Sometimes I have a clear plan in my head with a date and method, sometimes just a method and at other times everything is impulsive and decided in the moment. There is no certainty when predicting suicide, it is not an exact science. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

For those of you that have been suicidal or depressed or had thoughts of hurting yourself it’s worth working out what some of your signs are. If you can work them out then consider letting someone know and asking what they notice as well because sometimes other people are better at noticing these things.

And for those that know someone who may be struggling or who are worried about someone, look for if they are doing or saying anything out of the ordinary. And most importantly; ask. Ask if they’re okay. Ask if they want to talk. Ask how you can help. And if they don’t want to talk just remind them that you’re there and then keep reminding them because sometimes if there’s a small chance that it can help then it’s worth it.

BPD doesn’t make me attention seeking

‘Attention seeking’, ‘dramatic’ and ‘manipulative’ are just some of the terms that come appear in google searches of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Within the mental health community there is still so much stigma associated with this diagnosis and you do not have to look far to find people who have been treated with prejudice because of this diagnosis. There are even professionals out there who refuse to treat borderlines because they believe we are too high risk or manipulative. And they call us the crazy ones.

Borderline Personality Disorder is classified in the DSM-5 as an axis 2 personality disorder.It is an ingrained pattern of behaviour that causes significant difficulty in a person’s life. The core features are difficulty regulating emotions, impulsive behaviour and unstable relationships and self image. That’s the clinical description. Diagnosis requires 5 of a possible 9 criteria to be met, and thus there are 126 possible ways that the disorder can present meaning that two people with bpd may only have one symptom in common and it has a highly variable presentation.

On a more personal level, it causes me to feel things deeply and often and on a level that most people don’t experience. I am wounded easily and dealing with these intense emotions causes problems in my day to day life.

Every emotion that we express is 100% real and we lack emotional permanency. If we push people away or cling to them, it’s because we fear that they are going to leave us to deal with this pain on our own.When we cry it’s because the sadness is so overwhelming that it feels like our insides are burning up and nothing is ever going to be okay again. If we yell, it’s not to hurt anyone but because we have to let the anger out somehow. We don’t want to feel everything this deeply but we don’t have a choice. Living this way is exhausting.

Often the emotional pain is so intense that we’d do anything for some brief moment of relief. This is why people with bpd engage in impulsive behaviours such as self harm or drug and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, these actions are often viewed as manipulation or attention seeking when really we’re just trying to make it through another day alive. There are times when we’d wish someone would notice our pain and that we possessed the right words to describe our suffering. Sometimes this might lead sufferers to try and show others through our actions but this isn’t true for everyone and it usually  isn’t an isolated reason. But please don’t let that turn you away  because when someone collapses onto the ground you do not leave them there. Our pain may be emotional but it is just as real as anything physical.

Living with bpd is a full time job, and when our behaviour annoys you just remember that this is an illness and it doesn’t just disappear when we need it to. We our trying our best and what you see is only the tip of the turmoil going on inside.

2016; The year that was

,The year. The worst year. The year that was the worst year so far.

January-

My weight has declined rapidly. I am in the depths of my ed but I cannot see it. I feel amazing. Depression is nowhere to be found.

February-

img_5685
I started falling all the time

I am forced to have twice weekly physical check ups, weekly therapy and blood tests in order to stay out of hospital. I see a dietician for the first time but don’t stick to the meal plan because ‘I’m not sick’. I struggle with turning 19. I am miserable.

March-

I return to uni against everyone’s advice and do well for a while but it’s difficult and I can’t concentrate. I am isolated from my peers by my illness. Inevitably I  gain most of the weight back, leaving me full of self hatred. I stop my meds. Stop talking to people. Stop going to appointments. Start skipping classes.

April-

img_9823

Depression roars it’s ugly head. I throw everything into study.

May-

I start on medication #2 (escitalopram) and sleeping pills again because my head is too loud. I recommit to therapy. Almost exam time and I become incredibly suicidal. I don’t study because I don’t plan on sitting them. I’m failing my classes. My exams are deferred.

June-

img_9825

Admitted to an adult psych ward. First time in hospital and I’m terrified. Everyone is so much older and I feel like I’m making everything up. I am kept physically safe but there is no treatment. Out after a week but nothing feels better.
July-

 

I get to vote in an election for the first time. Struggle through exam time. I’m not getting better. A culmination of things lead me to taking a large OD and ending up in hospital. I have a bad reaction to a medication they give me, and hallucinate but then I wake up the next day and I’m fine. Covered in bruises from being restrained, but fine. I’m glad I don’t remember this. Have to have my heart monitored in hospital for a few days. I am angry at being alive. Have to defer uni. The pressure eases.

August-September

I spend these months holed up in my room miserable and wishing I was dead.

October-
I am stopped from making another attempt and am transported to a youth ward. The nurses are lovely and the patients are kind but being locked up without my normal coping mechanisms causes me to stop eating.  I trick everyone into thinking I am fine. But when I’m allowed out after a week I really do feel good. Strong. Maybe I can do this.

November-
I’m starting to feel better and positive about the future. My meds are working and I’m seeing my friends again. Things are great.

December-

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Coasting along. Starting to make plans for next year. Didn’t think I’d still be here. I’ve stopped taking my meds again but I feel happy and stable. For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful that things might get better.

Please wait for me

What I’ve always wanted out of life is to help people whether it be as a health professional a stranger or a friend. It’s been the thing holding me to this world, getting me through the dark nights. My dream is to one day become a clinical psychologist and I really hope I get there. If I could make any small difference in one person’s life then I have to fight this. The suffering would be worth something.

I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire. -Stephanie Sparkles.

Except that right now…. I don’t know how to help people. I can’t be that person because I’m still burning. I can’t even help myself.

Sure, I can spread positivity and tell people to not give up because one day things will get better and they deserve to see that day. But I’m not sure if I believe that. For other people certainly, I do but I’m not sure things will ever improve for me. In fact, I’m certain they won’t. I feel like a hypocrite for telling someone something that I can’t apply to myself but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how they can recover or what will hep because I’m still struggling and I’m going through this all myself.

To everyone out there who is struggling, I want you to know that you are not alone. It may be impossible for another person to know exactly what you are going through but the things you feel, the thoughts you have- other people have them too. You are not alone. You are not alone. Repeat that over and over if you have to until it sinks in. There is help available and there are always other options. The times you feel like giving up, are the times that another person wants to give up too.

We need to fight. for each other. We need to fight so that one day adequate treatment is available and all mental health workers show the kindness and respect that is so desperately needed. We need to fight so that one day the stigma associated with the word ‘mental’ will be no greater than that of ‘illness’.We need to fight so that the world will become more understanding. You can make a difference so please don’t give up.

To those struggling, I want you to hear that I am coming. I am coming with buckets of water and firetrucks and bandages but I need to heal myself first. Please wait. I am coming.

Time flies when you’re falling apart

Everything is great but I wish I was dead. My mood was better. I’d stopped engaging in certain behaviours. I’d been reconnecting with friends and getting out of the house. Everything was great but I’m not doing well at all. On the outside, I can engage in conversations, I am almost at a healthy weight and there are days when my smile returns. But none of this means as much as people think it does.

I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that my time with my mental health service is coming to an end soon. I should have been finished with them a while ago but they’ve been stretching things out and there’s only so long that they can do that. I won’t be left without support and I’m being referred to the ed service but I can’t help feeling abandoned and let down. Let down because this type of therapy hasn’t helped me and now everyone seems to think I’m doing better but appearances aren’t everything.

Recently I told my therapist about my plan to not be here soon but I wouldn’t disclose any specifics and she responded by saying that the very fact that I was telling her this meant there was a part of me that wanted help. I agree but I don’t think it’s because I wanted to be stopped but that I want someone to help me die. I want someone to help take the pain away. None of this makes sense. None of this is logical.

In other news, I met for the first time with the disability service at uni and have registered in a summer class and am planning on doing three subjects a semester (if I make it that far). My case manager was so happy when I told her that I had enrolled, she looked so proud but I still don’t know if I want to go back.

My experience with the disability liaison officer was not a pleasant one. I had to take my mum along with me to my appointment because my anxiety would not have allowed me to go otherwise and I’d been putting off making this appointment for two years. The lady I saw really did not like that I brought my mum into the room and seemed to think that she shouldn’t be there but I really needed the emotional support and this was a really big step for me. I feel hurt that a service which is meant to make things easier left me feeling worthless and like a failure. She didn’t seem to understand the ‘severity’ of things putting it down to just normal anxiety or something whereas in actual fact the pressure from uni is what led to my last suicide attempt. This is probably because my diagnoses weren’t disclosed to the uni for privacy reasons but I had a letter from my doctor and I feel like she should have taken that as it was and not questioned the existence of my illness.

After I come up with some adjustments that I think are adequate I need to go back again to make an adjustment plan/statement which I can email all my professors and will allow more leeway with attendance and due dates. I am definitely going to see a different advisor if possible because I don’t think I could cope with that hostility again and I shouldn’t have to.

This year is almost over and I’ve accomplished nothing but accomplished so much at the same time; I’ve had two week long admissions to psych wards and one to a medical ward, I’ve completed 6 months of uni, spent 6 months holed up in my room and have completed a year of therapy. It’s not much but I’m alive so I guess that’s something.

Storm clouds break

Suddenly the world seems a little darker, a little sadder.  Nights stretch into weeks and weeks become years. The flowers that once grew their roots in my lungs have been painted with the salt in my tears. My heart keeps skipping beats, I think it’s preparing for it’s last. Let this end. Let me end. Let this end me.

Songs that play like sobbing sound better, coffee as my sole meal of the day tastes better and what’s the point of getting out of bed when I’ll just be back in there tonight?- Lora Mathis

People get so frustrated with depression, as if we should be able to overcome the chemical imbalances that we have no control over. They secretly wish we’d just ‘get over it’. But what people don’t get is that depression doesn’t care.


The above is an excerpt from my journal from a few months ago. It’s an insight into what was my state of mind.

The past 6 months have seen me experience the worst moments of my life. I reached rock bottom and then fell even deeper into a hole that I couldn’t crawl out of on my own. I didn’t want to live anymore and I did the only thing I could do which was try and make it all stop. I couldn’t see things getting any better. But I was found and treated by some amazing paramedics and medical staff and I am still here. Not long after, I ended up being hospitalised again, this time in a psych ward, and it was there that I met some of the most lovely nurses and patients who showed me more kindness than I knew to be possible.

I’m still not illness free and I’m not sure that I ever will be but I’m doing significantly better and I’m starting to move on with my life. I will not let this period of darkness define me. Medication makes my depression manageable and I’m no longer ashamed to say that I rely on pills to keep me alive. I’m now thinking about volunteering and going back to studying and I’m planning my future.

I plan to have a future.

I’m not okay but that’s okay

 

I’ve spent a lot of this year pushing things aside and telling myself that I was on top of things. But, boy was I wrong about that. Recently I took the difficult step of reaching out to someone and while it hasn’t immediately fixed everything, it’s a start.

Throughout this year my mental health has deteriorated quite a lot and it’s been a struggle for me to come to terms with. Unlike many people, I didn’t make any close friends in my first year of university and I’ve spent a lot of it on my own which I believe has contributed to my issues. Because of this I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to and it got to the point where my grades had dropped so much that failure became likely. I turned to a student advisor who was probably the nicest person I’ve met this year and I believe that she probably saved my life through the conversations we had. She reassured me that I wasn’t the only one struggling and helped me take the next step which was a referral to a counselling service, they’ve since referred me to a more specialised service and I’m currently waiting to see if they will accept me. It’s difficult because I don’t currently have any label for what is going on and I’m imagining worst case scenarios. Hopefully things start to look up for me soon and I can get back into living my life the way I want to.

Right now things are going okay(there’s that word again ironically) and I’m awaiting my results to see whether I will need to get a late withdrawal or repeat an exam for any of my subjects.

For anyone reading this, I just wanted to say that you should never feel ashamed for any illness or problem that you are having. It does not make you weak or any less capable than anyone else. Some people that you can turn to when you are finding things difficult may include; a tutor, teacher, counsellor, psychologist, GP, friends, family, a Headspace centre… There are plenty of options.

If anyone wants to chat about anything, I’m always here and I’ll do my best to give advice where I can.

 

Let’s talk Mental Health

I have a confession to make. The intention behind this blog was not merely to write about university and I hope to incorporate other things, for there is far more to life than just studying. Originally it consisted of posts relating to how my mental health issues influenced my education. I then had a change of heart and went back and edited out all of the parts that were important. Now I’d like to add them back in.

‘We all exist along a spectrum, with one side considered to be an absence of a trait and the other, its most extreme manifestation.’

Revealing this to you is incredibly difficult because in doing so, I am vulnerable. Through my writing I have forged a relationship with you but by leaving out the things that make me, me. It’s as if I am peeling off my skin and letting you in to see the deepest parts of mind that we have all been told should remain secret. I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of talking about how I feel and I shouldn’t feel as if every atom making up my body is flawed. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Mental illness sufferers exist. We’re here and we’re struggling. But we’re surviving.

There is so much overlap between what is considered normal and healthy and what is considered not to be and the best way to describe this is an idea that was taught in my psychology class. We all exist along a spectrum, with one side considered to be an absence of a trait and the other, its most extreme manifestation. Most people sit somewhere in the middle. Take hallucination as an example. The most extreme form of hallucination that the majority of people will experience in their lifetime would be dreaming, and as you move further along the spectrum there are auditory and visual hallucinations that, when occurring naturally, could be classified as psychosis. Then on the other end- some people don’t ever remember their dreams. It leads one to wonder what must be done for everyone to realise that mental illness need not be so alienated.

I’ve been told multiple times that my depression is all in my head and to me that’s an obvious observation. Of course it’s in my head, where else would it be? Just because it’s in my head it doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. The world as each of us know it is a subjective construct of our own mind. All we can see is what our brain has pieced together with the information it has received from our eyes. We still think the world is real. So then why do some people assume there is a difference?

This is something that I live with every day but not something that I want to keep hidden forever and not something that I want to let prevent me from achieving my dreams. I’m at university, one that I’ve dreamt about attending for years, and it’s amazing. I didn’t think this would ever be a reality as I assumed I was too dumb, too sick and not motivated enough. Getting accepted made me wonder if this is what Harry felt like when he found out he was a wizard, for Melbourne uni is like our own little Hogwarts. Of course it’s only the beginning and it matters less where someone is studying but what they do with the knowledge. At the time, it felt like somebody was patting me on the back for my efforts and that they were realising that there was more to me than what I saw, more than what those around me saw. But now I’m realising that of course there is.

Human beings are complex; we are like onions whose layers never stop revealing more. My year 12 English teacher once told us that our ideas should be like onions but I think people are the biggest onions there could ever be. We can explain more about nature and space than we can about ourselves and our own brains and that, to me, is the saddest truth of all.