Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Good afternoon everyone,

Hope you’re all feeling fine and dandy!

I really wanted to blog yesterday, but the day literally flew past.

I went to Leavers Group, which yet again turned into a disaster. I’m not too sure what it is about me, but in this group I seem to find myself in more conflicts than I do in the “outside world”. I have started to think about whether or not staying in Leavers is a good idea. Something I wish I wasn’t questioning as it’s about my recovery/management for mental health.

After the group, a couple of my friends and I went to have a coffee somewhere. However, we ended up at a restaurant deciding to have a bite to eat and an alcoholic beverage. I could only have the one, as I was driving, but it was so nice to have a cold cider in the middle of the afternoon. It’s certainly considered a treat.

We spent the afternoon chatting away, and being open about a few things. One specifically being about judging a book by its cover.

The reason this was brought up was because I was flicking through one of my friends photos on Facebook and seeing how much she had changed. I noticed so many similarities between her and myself. Almost as if you could see where mental health took a hold.

Of course, the photos of the happy go clubbing days, were just faces of someone fooling around. Someone trying to fit in and feel comfortable about themselves, a photo doesn’t show the insecurities and emotions that person was genuinely feeling.

When my friend first stepped into the therapy room, I worried as to whether or not we would get on. It’s funny how you can judge someone by the way they dress, or the colour of their hair and well, that is exactly how stigmatising works.

After all, I have piercings and tattoos and consistently change my hair style and colour, I also use a walking aid to get about. If I were to find work, they judge me on my appearance, and whether or not the “stick” will affect me in the workplace. When of course, my tattoos and piercings don’t stop me from doing the job, and if I need to alter the way things are done then for my physical health then things can be worked around. Employers just don’t see that. They worry about offending others. They worry how “you” will affect the company in terms of business. Will they lose customers etc.? Crazy!

So, when you realise that you’re doing the same, are you stigmatising people about your own illness too? Are you technically stigmatising yourself?

When we look at those around us, we instantly decide whether or not we will get on with them, without getting to know them personally.

It was only when I started giving my friend lifts to and from the community that I got to know her. Between the two of us, I’d like to think that we have helped each other a lot in regards to some stuff we ought to be discussing in therapy. We found something in common and something we both felt awkward bringing up in a group, that talking to one another was something of a replacement for that loss.

It was really helpful for us to be sitting in a restaurant discussing the thoughts and feelings we had about when we first met. To know that we all had the feeling of what the other thought when we first met. To know the anxieties between us were all there, but then most importantly to know that we worked through it and gave each other the time of day to become closer friends, and be honest enough with each other about everything.

Anyway, the hours flew by. It was a bit difficult at times when I think about it. We’d been discussing so much that we didn’t see the time go.

I think that having been in therapy, it has made me appreciate the friends I have and have made a lot more now. I have found it so hard to keep friends in the past because I’d always turn things onto me, or there would be the competitive streak between us. But the few friends I have now know who I am, and willing to give me a chance. They accept me and don’t expect me to change. The fact I have learned to speak up, and be brave about opinions I may have about something, shows I have grown as a trustworthy individual.

I know that it will be hard work. The future is uncertain in many aspects of my life, but at least I know my friends will help me day to day, to get through it.

Thanks for reading,

Erica

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The Shivering Dance

Hey everyone,

Well, would you believe it? This post makes me up to date with my list! Woohoo!! Then I can talk about things as and when they happen, hopefully… Before I fall behind again!

So, about The Shivering Dance… It’s a small project of mine, which shows off some of my creative side.

Over the past couple of years I have got into jewellery making, which become my safest distraction technique. I then become addicted to making Angels which for some reason I felt extremely connected to. They were quite simple to make, but the feeling I’d get when the Angel was complete was… Spiritual.

At first, I started selling my jewellery and Angels at low cost, raising money for different charities, changing the charity on a monthly basis. It was easy to do this on Facebook as I was able to open up a Page and create an online forum for people to see my work and buy through Paypal. Eventually, I decided to add more work. I opened a new page and tried to focus on the one or two charities. However, for some reason this page didn’t seem to go as well. I’m not entirely sure why, as I was doing exactly the same thing and advertising in exactly the same way. In the end, I gave up with that page because it’d gotten far too messy and despite having spent hours on website design for it as well as create business cards, it was time to say goodbye to that business idea.

Then back in April, I decided to try something new, again. This time it would be focusing on one charity, and raising awareness of mental health. I would show my handmade items and have a small collection of giftware, and donate 10% of every sale to Rethink. I have on show my handmade Angels, pyrography and a couple of other pieces, but have yet to make a sale on this page. Again, I’m not entirely sure, but then I haven’t been working as hard to promote it as I have been trying to pick myself up from therapy.

I have the idea of selling my original drawings, but need to work out how to frame them, and that means needing money to also do so. I currently have no income and the thought of money is extremely stressful, so for now I’m bypassing that thought.

The Angels I have on show are ones which I made as gifts. All my Angels are unique. I sell some of my handmade Angels and bracelets in my hairdressers shop. It was by chance really, and more to the fact I was brave enough to ask! For selling there, we donate a % to Macmillan.

Then, the other day a lady posted a comment on the Page about wanting to sell them in her tearoom. I got all giddy thinking that someone was really that interested and thought they were so nice that they wanted some to stock! I sent a message, and she really is interested. We’ve arranged a date to meet and I will be showing her some of my pieces and seeing what will be of interest for the customers. It’s quite exciting. Especially having been approached. And this is why I wanted to write a little about this. It’s something quite exciting that may be happening, and I wanted to share it with you! It’s something positive, and we all need a little bit of positivity, especially on a Monday, right? ūüôā

To visit the Facebook page, please click the image (I drew this, I did!):

The Shivering Dance

If you would like to donate to Rethink, please text “TSHR87 ¬£amount” to 70070, or click on the image below, thank you!

JustGiving

That’ll do for now… Please let me know what you think! I really appreciate all feedback of my work! Thank you xx

Speak soon,

Erica

Issue with Friend

Hey everyone,

We all have that ‘one’ friend, who we love to hate, and hate to love… Right?

Or is that just me?

Well, let’s just pretend it’s not just me for now! ūüėČ

I have a friend who, well used to be one of my best friends. And then, things went pear shaped, pretty much through my own doing. Before I’d faced any type of therapy, or even have a diagnosis of BPD, I was awol for most of the time. I was often irate with friends and found myself not being able to sympathise, empathise or even support. Instead, I found myself raging inside due to things they’d say, especially if it involved their own chronic pain or mental health problems.

To me, it all seemed too convenient that it was happening to them the same time as me. Not just that, but they seemed to be getting help a lot quicker than I too. I would often turn the conversation around back to me, and then talk as though I knew everything. I don’t. I know that now. I just want to know everything. Especially as I strive towards perfectionism.

My friend and I had such a terrible argument, so long ago – that I can’t even remember too much about it. All I know is that now, on reflection it was most likely down to me being jealous with her getting diagnosed and helped so soon, unlike me who had years of tests and stuff for it.

What made the situation worse was that it was online, not even face to face, so it gave me a mask where I was brutal with my words. What makes it worse is that those words stay in the domain. I lost myself.

And in that process, I lost my friend and I lost a support group because I’d regrettably posted in the public domain which made me out to be a bully, which was never my intention. I care so much for my friends, and the last thing I wanted was to hurt anyone. I ended up hurting myself more. I lost control, and was hurting myself more, and become obsessed with needing the repair the relationship.

As my friend had moved away, it was often difficult to get in contact. I could see messages were read, but ignored. Comments posted, again ignored. I thought, at one point, how much is too much. I was beyond stalking. I was trying ways to find out how she was, what she was saying, and if there was anything I could do to help. Be it even with a fake profile. It was that bad. I do not own any profiles other than my own now. I have learned from that big catfish mistake. As I’ve said already, I lost myself.

I’d say 3 years passed, and I had continued to try to keep her in my life. Even sending a virtual wedding invitation in the hope she’d come. She didn’t.

Then in the 4th year, this year, I found out she was moving back to the area. At first I panicked thinking about the mess I’d made and how I’ve been perceived, but then I figured that since she’s been away, I’d been in therapy and learned to manage outbursts and learn how to manage conversations and intense situations.

Still, would she value the change? Would she believe me? Would she see who I am now? Or would she see the person she left behind all those years ago?

I took it upon myself to apologise. With a sincere, heartfelt essay of an apology, I tried my best to communicate my feelings and behaviour, and apologising for all the hurt I’d caused. I wanted make amends as I didn’t want it to be awkward when we met up in person, if we were to ever meet up again.

Things seemed to be okay, I got the okay responses, and I thought things were changing. But then, since she has been “home”, I have asked on several occasions to meet up. It doesn’t seem to be happening though, and the idea avoided.

A little while back she’d posted on Facebook something which for some reason I took offence to. Despite there being no reason for it being aimed at me, it seemed to represent the avoidance of this person to me. She said something about having a good feeling connecting with old friends who she’d missed, and how it’s better when in person together and to make it happen.

Now, with the comment, I felt a little bit disrespected because after all, I am trying to make amends, and I know most of her friends as we went to the same high school, so all I sensed was she wanted to meet up with everyone but me. Especially considering I didn’t “like” the post, but one of the friends did, and this friend got tagged in a comment about meeting up and having a day out!

I honestly felt heartbroken by the situation because I felt completely abandoned and left out of a situation which could potentially fix everything which went wrong. I just think to myself why do I do this? Why am I drawn to someone I feel pushes me aside? Why can’t they see that I’m “better*” now? *By which I mean, able to understand things clearer and manage situations better.

I’ve tried and tried and tried countless times. I’m not too sure what else I can do. I don’t want to push the person further away by continuously asking them about meeting up.

A few days ago I sent a message about meeting up this weekend. I’d already some plans, but none for today and thought it’s be nice for us to meet up. I got the message today about declining the invitation, but suggested next week… We got into a little conversation which seemed to be flowing, and then again, coincidentally (to me), she’d posted a status about wanting to talk but not knowing how. I, again go straight to thinking it’s about me.

I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, and it is most likely her saying a thought about a boy she likes and wishes she could speak up, but in my head, it’s over exaggerated and I think it’s to do with our conversation. So, what do I do? Call me stupid, but I post a status ago let my friends and family know about my therapy (yet again) and how much I have learned and changed for the better. It’s a brave thing to do, especially to say¬†¬†that I hope my friends who haven’t been in therapy with me, can see the changes in me, and feel more comfortable talking to me, without the fear of me biting their heads off, jumping down their throats, turning it around on me, and making it sound like I don’t care about them and only about myself. To say how much I have grown as a person and how much I care about those around me and how much everyone means to me. It currently has 3 ‘likes’, not that I’m counting…¬†I’m hoping that my friend has read this. I can see she’s been online since, but our conversation is still at a halt.

Why am I drawn to her? I want to help her out, just as much as I want to help others out. I think having support and friendship with someone who has chronic pain and mental health is vital for recovery and management of illnesses. However, our current situation is making more sick than I’d like.

If only she could see that and see how much I’m hurting.

Thanks for reading,

Erica

Therapy Friends

Hey everyone,

I’m slowly crossing out my list, just a couple more things to do, then I’m up to date!

  • Discharge Meeting
  • Recovery Star
  • Spoons
  • Feelings/Worries about friend/bpd/therapist ‚Äď abandonment etc
  • Communication with therapist
  • Issue with ‚Äúfriend”
  • Episode of Casualty
  • Interview re: Therapeutic Community
  • Angels ‚Äď The Shivering Dance

3 things to write about, lets see I can wrap them up now…

Firstly,¬†Feelings/Worries about friend/bpd/therapist ‚Äď abandonment etc…

My friend left the Therapeutic Community a week ago last Friday. Like me, she found it just as overwhelming, intense and distressingly painful. We both shared a bond over a couple of therapists and it’d become something we could discuss with each other to try and work out those feelings. The Community was like one big family, and we all held¬†different “statuses”. Whether relationships felt like sisters, brothers, mums, dads, aunties and uncles. We could relate to everyone in one way or another. And some more than others. My friend and I found ourselves attached to these two therapists because we both had a group with them, where we disclosed our deepest secrets and issues. We’d learned to trust them with our entire heart, and with that come feelings.

I left the Community before my friend. This meant I got my “hug” off of the therapists, and ended up with the intense feeling of loss, and over time I felt incredibly suicidal, useless, worthless and at a loss of what to do with myself. Over time after leaving, I started to feel a little bit better and although I still had bizarre dreams and feelings, or fantasies. Eventually, I started to feel a bit more positive about things and just “grown up” to discuss things clearer and easier with people regarding feelings, or confusing feelings which were there, but not so much.

Then, when my friend left the Community, I suddenly felt all this jealousy again. She likes to question people for a laugh, and out of interest. It is great she can do that, often asking questions I wouldn’t dare ask a therapist. The only thing is, she has been more open about saying “Are you going to miss me?” and also about how she feels about the therapists. Apart from getting the answer from them, that of course they’ll miss her, she’s more confident in phoning them and having a chat about how she’s feeling. So, in a way – yes I’m slightly jealous about it. I haven’t heard the “you’re missed”, or whatever, I’m not comfortable phoning. I have to be in the right frame of mind or completely utterly helpless where I don’t really feel real doing it. Sure, I’ve emailed one of the therapists, who just so happens to be one of the 2, we both have the connection with, but it’s not quite the same as hearing their voice, is it? I just don’t know how I feel about it. Just jealous. And she knows it. Fortunately, we are able to discuss our feelings. A year of intense therapy has made us more open as individuals, able to discuss things without so much black and white thinking.

Aside from this, I was really, really worried about how my friend was going to manage after leaving the community. The attachment is also with friends. We’re close, and they always try and suggest not making friends in therapy for such reasons, and that therapy friends can be bad for your own recovery. However, for our situation, it has been for the better, as we understand each other so well. We just “click”, and it’s been great. The only worry we have is that if something happens, then we instantly think of the extreme. This of course doesn’t help us with our own emotions and turns into extreme anxiety and worry. The panic of not getting hold of someone to just know they’re okay can be terrifying. Thus, not very helpful.

I worried about my friend leaving because of how I felt when I left. My last day was a nightmare. Nothing how I’d expected my last day to go. I’d felt so let down and pushed out already. I didn’t know how it was for my friend, and was worried she’d have the same thing happen. Fortunately, despite the tears, it didn’t seem to be “as bad”, but of course was still extremely difficult. My worry was also for the weekend and week ahead when you realise you have no support other than one day of 2 hours a week. The drop in support is so major, that it’s so important to remember that we have each other we can talk to. Despite the therapists drive to keep contact at a minimum, we’d rather contact each other until it was necessary to contact the crisis team.

I am really proud of how my friend has dealt with the past week. She’s finding it different, difficult and challenging, but with her head held high, she is trying to find healthy distractions and keeping herself busy. It’s the best we can be doing. And then in time, it will get easier.

Annoyingly, I wanted to write more about this, I’m sure of it. But I feel like my head is slightly distracted by another issue. I’ll going to start a new post about that now because I need to get it off my chest, and fortunately it’ll be another cross on the list… “Issue with Friend”, coming right up!!

Thanks for reading,

Erica

Spoons!

Hey everyone,

Here’s an update on my “list”:

  1. Discharge Meeting
  2. Recovery Star
  3. Spoons
  4. Feelings/Worries about friend/bpd/therapist ‚Äď abandonment etc
  5. Communication with therapist
  6. Issue with “friend
  7. Episode of Casualty
  8. Interview re: Therapeutic Community
  9. Angels ‚Äď The Shivering Dance

Today I’m going to talk about Spoons. Because I have just been to the Rheumatology Gym, and could really do with an extra few “spoons” to get me through the day.

So, what are spoons? Spoons are a “ration” for Fibromyalgia, or any other simular chronic fatigue disorder.¬†We start¬†the day with a certain number of spoons, which each represent a “burst” of energy. For example, getting up to shower requires a spoon, and getting dressed is another.

The Spoonie Theory was written by Christine Miserandino, who suffers with Lupus, a condition which is losely related to fibromyalgia, a disorder involving widespread pain, fatigue, and trouble sleeping, among other symptoms

The idea was created when trying to describe to a friend what having a chronic pain illness was really like. She grabbed some spoons and handed them to her friend, who jokingly asked for more. Miserandino replied with ‘No’, and went on to say that the amount of spoons her friend was hold were the only spoons she was allowed for the entire day.

This means, that for a chronic pain fighter, we must use our spoons carefully. On a particular bad day, we could used several of these spoons just trying to get out of bed. It means choosing what we do with our day and limiting/managing the use of spoons.

Before leaving the house, already half the spoons have gone, that completing the activities you’d wanted to do might be impossible and you need to rest due to the pain and fatigue.

Miserandino says:

‚ÄúThe difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn‚Äôt have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.‚ÄĚ

That’s it, isn’t it? Being sick and having to make decisions about what you can and cannot do. All those party invitations you have to decline because you know by 7pm you’d have crashed out either on the sofa, or barely able to move from the bed. ¬†All those cancellations of having to meet with friends after an appointment you’ve just had which wiped you out unexpectedly, and you can’t manage being out for another 2 hours. You say you’ll do it another time but in the end, it becomes the same pattern until you learn to manage the illness, and distribute the spoons “evenly”, which isn’t always possible because chronic pain fluctuates. Some days are worse than others, and it likes to surprise you half way through the day and rain on your parade of “Oh, today I have felt relatively okay! Less pain than usual, and I’ve been able to do this and that…” BOOM. Crash.

So, why is this relevant for me today? Well, as I previously said, I’ve just been up the Rheumatology Gym. Since my fibro diagnosis in 2011, I have been progressing. ¬†From 2009, I suffered with joint and muscle pain in my left wrist, and I’d always had pain and problems with my left shoulder. It was thought the pain was coming from my shoulder and my neck causing the pain in my wrist. But after many sessions of physiotherapy, ultrasound, steroid treatment and tests, I was diagnosed by Rheumatology with Hypermobility Syndrome. As first, I thought but I can do this, and I can’t do this, and I didn’t see myself as someone who could alter their joints, like those with Hypermobility or EDS. I just saw myself as being “weird” or just as I am. I fought for more tests as I could feel the pain spreading. I was being told the pain was just echoing. But that wasn’t it. I saw another specialist in Rheumatology who did the trigger or tender point test for Fibromyalgia, and I cried more and more as he tried these trigger points.

fibromyalgia-trigger-points

I was then diagnosed after the 2 years of continuous, if not longer, pain which seemed to be spreading around my body. Since then, now in 2015, I shake and twitch the majority of the time, it is increased when on stairs. I ache and get extremely fatigued climbing stairs, and I shake tremendously going down them. The majority of my pain is left sided, on all trigger points. On my right side, it’s there but not as intense.

I walk with a walking stick, which seems to be my extra limb, because I need it on a daily basis. I have a pair of crutches for longer distances, matching set of collapsable walking sticks, and a special wooden walking stick which was used for my Wedding.

Over time, our home has contained several adaptions, which have changed when we have moved locations. I used to have a trolley, which I don’t have any more. I have to have a lever bar on the side of the bed to help hoist me up, we had a shower and bars fitted, with a shower bench as I can’t get in and out the bath with ease. I have tripped and fallen several times and dropped things when my wrists have given way. We had sofa raisers, but now have a new sofa which can’t be adapted, so I am trying to adjust to the change.

It’s sometimes embarrassing, because of course you get the looks of “you don’t look sick”, “you’re too young to need a walking stick”, but I forget these people aren’t seeing me on my bad days when I’m bed bound.

Today, I worked on my core muscles, which are extremely weak, which could explain the shaking. However, they have got weaker over time. Not because I can’t exercise because my level of that hasn’t changed, but for some reason, the pain is all too much to bear. I did less that 30 minutes of it, which must’ve used up several of my spoons. I’ve had to come home and rest, despite my plans to go to the library and work on an essay. I have to go out later today to house sit for an hour, I have to tell myself, at least that’s all I have to do. But then there’s managing the dog, which can be exhausting.¬†I’ve been told I can shut him away so, hopefully it won’t be too much. I have also planned to head to town to watch a race which is going on. They are closing part of the town specifically for this race. It means that I may not be able to park nearby, I will also have to stand to watch, or be sneaky and find somewhere to sit. My pain level is already at the intolerable stage, that I want to take some very strong pain killers and muscle relaxants to calm it down. However, I can’t.

This means that I am going to be flat out tomorrow. The plan was to go to a local food and drink festival, but I can see myself being far too exhausted to go. I know I’m going there on the Saturday, so by having things planned in advance, I’m hoping to limit my spoons for tomorrow in order to have these bursts of energy for the weekend. But again, it doesn’t always work like that.

I am fortunate enough to have someone in my life who will look after me and help me get ready when I need it, and do other things which require spoons. Not everyone has that, so I do feel incredibly fortunate, despite it making me feel like a complete invalid and unable to manage anything on my own. I am not 72, I am 27. I want to feel like one. But I don’t think I’ll ever get that opportunity because of this illness taking over my life.

As Miserando says, most people take the simplest of things for granted. It’s not until you have an illness when you realise how precious some moments can be.

Thank you for reading.

Speak soon,

Erica

The catch up.

Hey everyone,

The purpose of this post is to talk about my discharge meeting, recovery star and communication with a therapist. The first two points were done some time ago now, but I feel it is important for me to return to it as it is a part of my journey outside of the therapeutic community. The last point is more recent and you’ll find out why.

Firstly, lets discuss the discharge meeting. I haven’t written about it, but have referenced it in another blog post,Whats wrong with my eating habits?,¬†which was written shortly after my discharge meeting.

Why is it so important? Well, throughout the journey at the therapeutic community, you have a couple of¬†meetings, reviews and outcome measures to see how you’re doing. The first is a meeting with your care co-ordinator and link therapist from the community, then at 3 months you have a review, 6 months you do outcome measures, 9 and 12 months are also reviews, and the 12 months also has the outcome measures. Then when you leave you have a discharge meeting with your¬†care co-ordinator and link therapist again to discuss what’s next.

So, what was next for me?

As I have already mentioned before, when I had my discharge meeting I was left feeling a bit rejected at the end and it felt like it left on a bit of a low point and left me hanging.

The reasons were because we finished the meeting discussing my food issues, but despite this, we had also discussed some steps to work towards…

There were a number of things:
1. I wanted to offer my services to the community by helping them with a handbook, or a guide to the community for the new starters. When I joined, we got 4 sheets of paper with little information, and we have all wished we had more information. For me, it also seemed like the place I worked for needed more information too, as what I’d given them wasn’t enough.
2. I had got in contact with Emergence, about our community and they visiting us and helping us with social visits and education about the illness. It got taken over by a therapist as I was unable to communicate about some of the issues around the community, as it needed to come from a “member of staff”, so it got left in their hands, and although I wanted to keep involved, I wasn’t sure how I would be.
3. I’d do the Recovery Star with my care co-ordinator. I had not idea what that was…
4. I was going to start working on my course, as I’d been able to say for sure what career I’d like to have, and that means working for it.
5. I was also to look for local support groups that I would be happy attending. There’s a new one set up for BPD, but I don’t feel entirely comfortable joining that as I know the people who help run it. I then thought about an eating one or chronic pain one, but it was confidence to get there. In the end I found the self help group for depression and anxiety, which seems to be going well now!
6. I had also put my name down for a therapeutic community visit. Somewhere which has a dog, and I just wanted to find out more about the dog and if he was there for the purpose of pet therapy – seeing as that is what I want to get involved with.

I’m sure there were other things, but for the time being – they’re the most important.

Since that meeting, I have gone to the self help group, I have been working on my course (did I tell you I’ve finished Unit 1, just need to cut the words down now!), I’ve also worked a bit on the recovery star and I’ve been in contact with my therapist about the handbook, emergence thing and community visit.

I don’t need to mention the self help group or coursework, but I’ll let you know a bit about the “Recovery Star” .

This is a recovery star:

Recovery Star

It is designed to help you identify the areas you need to work on in your life. I worked on this with my Care Co-Ordinator on one session, with another member of staff on training present (I was happy for her to be there). I can’t really talk too much about it really, as I only managed to work on 2 points.¬†To give each area a mark, you have to read through something they call “The Ladder of Change”… OoOoooo!

Take a look here: The Ladder of Change

For my session, I decided to focus on “work” and “identity and self-esteem”.

For each point, you choose your “score” and you also get a space to make notes about why you chose the score you did, and what you want to do to change.

I wrote:

Work – 6
Fear of failure and letting myself and others down.
To work on Animal Behaviour course and then Animal Assisted Therapy.

Identity and Self-Esteem – 4
Self identity up and down, inconsistent.
Photography, Art, Writing and Animals
Feel like being in control to help other people.
Difficult to identify something I value about myself.

The idea is to then create an action plan and work on these areas. For me, I noted down what I needed to do, and I have been doing that. However I don’t know if that has helped me with my¬†identity and self-esteem. That is probably my hardest challenge.

As I haven’t done any more since that meeting, I can’t really say any more about it, but if you wish to find out more about the recovery star, click here:¬†Recovery Star

So, other than that, I did mention being in contact with my therapist…

It’s weird, I’ll say that. Seeing as I’m no longer a “community member” but a member of Leavers, I don’t see this particular therapist. I’d sent an email to this therapist, with apologies for if it wasn’t okay, as I was anxious I was breaking boundaries, but it had been agreed whilst I was still in the community, that I would still like to be involved with the work going on and will be able to contact via email. Phew!¬†

So, when I thought about the visit to another community, the emergence thing and the handbook, I knew I needed to try and find out what was happening. I’m not always impatient, but I needed to know whether to keep dates free etc.

So far it seems as though we’re still waiting on confirmation about the visit. The handbook is still being worked on before I can proof read/edit it, and then I need to wait for a phone call from the therapist who is dealing with the emergence stuff.

It’s not like I was looking for a distraction away from my coursework, that’s what this is for ūüėČ It’s more so I know what I’m doing and need to prepare myself for. It’s nice to have things to look forward to.

Though, I’m a bit anxious because this therapist is the one that I seem to have the “confused” feelings about (I don’t really know how else to put that!) but I’m able to be professional because at the end of the day, I am aware of these boundaries. I’m just too attached however… And that’s another story!

So, that’s a few things ticked off of my to-blogabout-list!

Hope all is well with you all!

Take care and speak soon!

Erica

Did an episode of Casualty stigmatise BPD?

Hey everyone,

I’m sorry that this post is a little later than I intended it to be, as it references to an episode of Casualty, series 30, episode 4 or 43, “Cradle to the Grave”. Click here to watch on iPlayer.

Now, when I watched it, I put up a status on Facebook and Twitter to ask what people thought of the show. Why? Well, it featured a pregnant woman who had depression and BPD with episodes of psychosis.

The reason I needed to ask was because I didn’t know how it left me feeling. It appears that there were some people who also felt the same way. Some were also angry at the portrayal of BPD and believe it was stigmatising the illness.

The storyline was an odd one. To summarise the BPD storyline (very badly):
The show starts with the woman wanting to run away, and a man who appears to be trying to stop her by entering her house using a spare key. At this point we have no idea who he is, but he knows the woman. She hits him with a candlestick and he falls, leaving her to run out and start driving. She goes into labour whilst driving, and crashes into a car which has stopped to overtake a broken down vehicle. She ends up in hospital, and the man she hit turns up at the hospital too. The woman saw him and kept her head down, but the new nurse suspects something and finds out they know each other. At first it is believed the man might be her partner, ¬†and she is scared of him due to domestic violence, but all is revealed later on. She’s given a false name to the hospital (which seems to be a common thing to do in Casualty), which they find out by phoning the GP. The lady then tries to escape the building, but ends up having the baby in the ambulance depot. A nurse asks the man if he knows the woman after giving him her real name, which means he knows she’s there and wants to know if she is okay. The audience find out through a talk between the nurses that he is a psychiatric nurse from a unit the ¬†the woman had escaped from the day before to collect her things from home. The man explains to the nurses and the woman, that she has¬†depression and BPD with episodes of psychosis, and that she ran away when she found out that the baby was going to be taken away from her. By the end of the programme, we also find out the father of the child is the¬†psychiatric nurse and that he has abused his position of trust, and he decides that it is best that he come clean and talk to someone, to stop the baby being taken away. But that’s it. We don’t find out what happens to the woman after, and if they get together. After all, the man was married and had his own family. It would mess things up for his family and career. So it is up to the audience to decide.

However, I believe that the show should have been focusing on the psychiatric nurse and his abuse of position. This is such a serious offence. And considering that those of us with BPD have issues with boundaries, him crossing one has not helped this woman out at all. It would have confused her situation even further, it was no wonder she was scared and wanted to get away.

Now, I think that also what has upset many of us with BPD is the way one of the nurses reacted to finding out about her disorder. “She seems so normal.” Oh great! Just throw in the stigmatising card. Of course, the writers tried to defend this remark by having the¬†psychiatric nurse say that,¬†she is.¬†Just happens to have an illness.”¬†However, this comment was overlooked by many viewers with BPD.

Watch the clip here

The reason why I felt rather confused about the situation was due to having my own feelings towards a therapist, and knowing I’m not the only one in this situation. BPD manifests itself in ways such as idolising others, creating fantasies that you can’t work out what’s real and what’s not real, and that is why it is so important for us to learn about boundaries in order to manage the illness itself.

I have been told I have created a fantasy, and my fantasy makes me feel guilt and shame. I feel like I am cheating even though nothing has happened. Even if my dream is sexualised, I feel as though I have cheated on my wife. It is shameful and embarrassing. But it is not real. It does not mean that is what I want to happen, but has underlying meanings about my attachment and insecurities. I need to learn to let go of people as my attachment causes me so much pain. If the boundaries were crossed, then it causes more confusion and more intense feelings.

Another worry of mine was the fact that I am looking into starting a family with my wife. I suddenly got this anxiety that I would not be given the opportunity because I have a BPD diagnosis, or that the baby would be taken away from us. This was seen as quite a sterotypical approach to those with mental health not being about to look after other people or themselves, and pose a risk to society. However this is not the case! I am perfectly capable of looking after all my fur-babies, and to be fair, they are the ones who have helped me out the most in times of crisis!

The storyline should have shown the severity of the ill-treated woman. The psychiatric nurse too advantage of a vulnerable client and the BBC should have shown how severe this is as a safeguarding issue.

I disagree with the comments about the woman being stigmatised by her illness, as if she was a “mental nutcase, having her baby taken away, before the baby was harmed”. We don’t have an understanding of the severity of her illness. And I am sure that had the¬†psychiatric nurse done his job properly, the woman would not have been put in this position, and would’ve received the treatment she rightfully deserves. To say that she is at harm to herself, does not mean she may be at risk to others, which is a little bit what the show said. The only aggression she showed was to the¬†psychiatric nurse, which was for her own protection. She hit him because she was frightened of what he would do with her, taking her back to the unit, and taking the baby away. Any one in that situation would be frightened and want to defend themselves! She yelled at him when in the hospital because she wanted him to go away. There was nothing wrong with that. Again, she was angry at her baby being taken from her. She knew the baby was to be taken not because she couldn’t look after the baby, but because he didn’t want her to keep it as it was his, and if anyone found out, his career would be ruined. Which, ultimately happened.

So, although I am not entirely convinced that this is the way BPD should have been brought up in the programme, Casualty will still be my favourite drama series. After all, it’s fictional, and although the writers try to keep the facts right, of course there will be times when there is an inaccuracy in the writing. I still think they should be proud of themselves for bringing up mental illness in the show as well as having storylines with blood and broken bones. The storyline with a main character called Dylan, has recently been diagnosed with O.C.D, and it has been excruciating to watch because it just shows the pain suffered with this illness. William Beck who plays Dylan, has been doing an excellent job of portraying someone with O.C.D. So credit to him!

I think that is all I have to say on this issue. I know that there’ll be many of you who may wish to disagree with me, or maybe even agree. If so, please share your thoughts with us! It’d be great to hear your views.

Thank you!

Speak soon,

Erica x

Leavers and a Research Interview!

Hey guys,

I’m being a bit naughty and ignoring my list for now, because I really need to talk about today!

EURGH. 

This morning I woke up so tired. The alarm went off and all I wanted to do was hit the snooze button. In fact, I did. Twice. However, I knew it couldn’t last, and I forced myself to get up and shower. I was picking up a therapy friend to head to Leavers Group, so I needed to be ready and on time!

Typically, one of our cats decided to head in just before I left the house, so I had to feed her, as she’s a wanderer and usually disappears for days on end before coming back home!

I picked up my therapy friend – friend –¬†Yes, she’s my friend, from therapy!

And we went to Leavers. It was my friends first session as she is integrating into Leavers from the Community. I think it’s been great to have this overlap, as I was the first to trial it, and I think it really helped whilst I was still a part of the main community. Though, nothing could prepare anyone for how different the leavers group is.

I hadn’t seen my friend since I left the Main Community at the end of July. It was so nice to see her. Despite it being ages, it didn’t feel that long at all. I think that’s what makes great friendships. We also “get” each other as well. Of course, coming from a mental health background, we can understand each other, but with the therapy we have both had, we’ve learned to deal with difficulties and talk about things in an “adult” way, despite our childlike modes!

I wanted Leavers group to be good for my friend (and another new member), but as always, there was the drama!¬†Just like last week, there was a conflict, between myself and another Community Member. Unfortunately, the same Community Member I had issues with last week. I’m not going to explain the entire situation, but the comments which affected me and the comment I said in the moment, which I now feel was¬†irrational.

She’d brought up a comment I made last week, to which set off my frustrated/anger/rage mode, and I not only started being verbally aggressive in tone, but crying and shaking in the anger. I was, in the moment, furious. I said that I didn’t care about her feelings and that the comment I’d made last week hadn’t bothered me, nor the situation it’d caused.

At the end of the therapy session, my friend was extremely patient as she sat in the car for more than an hour, while I attended an interview as part of a research project about ‘Borderline Patients”, in a Therapeutic Community and about empathy. It seems as though, this was quite helpful for me to do, as not only did I get the chance to talk about how I found being in the Community, but also suggest things about what I’d recommend, and also what I’d do if I could do it again, and also say how the Community works.

For example; the Community runs for 12 months, in that time, a Community Member spends approximately 4 months learning how the place runs and what the Community Members are like, an extra 2 months to start trusting people, by the half way point, you feel like you want to leave (you go through a stage of “I hate the place”, “I feel I’m better”, “There’s nothing wrong with me, I don’t need to be here”), then a month or 2 later, you start to open up, you’re 8 months in, and trying to figure things out. You realise that there’s still so much to say, and you say it all at once, 9 months in, and you feel like you’ve said it all and spend the next month saying nothing, then 10 to 11 months in you start to figure out the past things you’ve spoken about, which brings up other issues and questions and suggestions about things, that then leaves you with your last month to discuss. However, your last month is spent discussing your leaving and how you are going to manage, if you’re going to manage, and how your leaving party should be. You leave, and there’s so many unanswered questions. You’re confused and overwhelmed from going from a therapy of 3 days a week to dropping to 2 hours a week. It makes a big change. The first week after leaving, you feel so low, depressed, overwhelmed and confused. You feel numb and lost in yourself so much so that you may feel suicidal (as was my case – it was horrendous).

So, how should it be? Well, I suggested it ran for 18 months.

The structure of the community is as follows:

4-6 months of Introductory Group for 2 hours a week (This used to be 4 weeks!) Р12 Months Therapeutic Community, 3 days a week 6 hours a day Р18 months Leavers Group for 2 hours a week

The Therapeutic Community should be 18 months and the Leavers Group 12 months – Because by that time, service users should be moving on into work or other therapy related courses.

Why should it be 18 months?

As you see above, by the time you reach the 12 month mark, your last month is pretty much wasted discussing your leaving. In terms of your own, personal therapy, despite having been there for the first 4-6 months, you haven’t really said or done anything. You would’ve participated in a few things and written up some pieces in writing, and done some pieces in art, but you’ve not fully understood yourself yet. At 12 months, you’re left with more questions than what you went in with. Sure, it becomes easier to understand or deal with some of the difficulties of control the emotions but not everything is resolved. Still does there have to be a resolution? Not always.

If it was extended to 18 months, you’d be able to start asking the questions which have just raised, start the discussions you’ve been trying to avoid because it hurts too much to talk about, and begin to open up and feel as though you are really benefitting from being there. The last 2 months should be trying to “wrap up” things which you’ve been wanting to work on, and trying to get the best out of what you can. Leaving should be discussed in the last 2 weeks of therapy.

Leaving can bring up some extreme emotions, because we begin to feel abandoned and rejected. Especially as we know we’ll be “replaced” by new community members soon after we leave. However, having spent a longer time at the community, it should be easier to work on and to understand that it is not the end, but the beginning of something potentially wonderful.

You could start a new chapter filled with hope and joy. Of course, there will always be the anxieties about changing groups, and not knowing where you’re going next, but you’re more likely to feel stronger about things having had more support from Community Members and Therapists.

If I could do it all again, I wish I’d had longer. Purely because at the end of it, I felt I had many unfinished things to deal with, and I felt alone in that because joining the Leavers Group with these questions made me feel back at square one with when I first joined the Community. It’s going to take me at least a year to start opening up there. Especially with the way things are going…

So, that brings us back to today. Not only did I get to say pretty much all of the above there, but also about this conflict. Annoyingly, I needed to give some examples, and that happened to be one of them. I said about my feelings about the other person, and how negative they were and how that irritates me. The lady interviewing me, a Psychotherapist, suggested that I am reflecting my thoughts about myself onto this other person.

I’d like to see myself as a happy person. I want to be happy, but when I’m depressed and down, I hate it, and feel like the world is closing in and, well as you know with depression, if you’re unlucky, like me and many others, then the suicidal feelings are all too real and unbearable. The reflection of me, on this person is that they are the negativity that I don’t want to see in me. I feel so frustrated and angry, and now I wonder that if I feel that way about that person, is that what others see of me when I’m at my lowest?

Just as I was saying in another post last week, about how some people seem like they don’t want to get better, this person is one of them. They haven’t changed since I met them last. I don’t understand how all this time in therapy could not have helped them in any way, at least – that is what I see. I am most likely completely wrong!

So, that gave me something to think about. I said that I felt as though the room saw me as attacking and being a bully. I don’t want to be seen as that at all. It’s evident that there are strong feelings against one another, and we need to work out why that is. The reason discussed with this Psychotherapist, seemed to me to be the most logical for my situation. However, I do wonder why… Why it affects me so much.

That’s for me to work on at some point.

Anyway, after leaving the Community, my poor friend was sitting in the car on the phone to her boyfriend whilst the rain was pouring. I hadn’t intended to be so long but it was over the hour it was meant to take.

Much like my blogs of writing too much, I talk too much too! (Unless for some reason I’ve shut down, or can’t find my voice!)

We were cheeky and broke the “rules” by having a cup of tea at mine before collecting my sister from work. I then dropped my friend off at another meeting she had, and my sister and I went home. My Mum turned up and we had a chat about a few family matters, and then randomly she said she’d brought me a present, and gave me a bottle of a new wine to try! Ooo! I was, I am delighted! I’ve wanted some wine for ages now, but without a penny to my name, we’ve no money for treats! We’ve yet to indulge, it might have to be Saturday night for Dr Who and Casualty, if I can make it last that long (It might need hiding!)

I’ve spent the evening rushing around over things, such as paying bills and cooking the dinner. I started getting ready for bed, then figure out that I’ve developed an allergy to our washing powder (we think!) as my stomach, bra line, back, underarms are red raw. I’d been itchy all day, and hadn’t really thought anything of it. But it seems pretty obvious now! Just another symptom of the Fibro… Skin/Chemical Sensitivities! I’m always coming across them now…!!

Anyway, I’m going to call it a night. I want to write again tomorrow, so I need to save some energy for then.

Time for bed now though!

Speak soon,
Goodnight!

Erica

When Veins Go On Strike

Hey guys,

Yes, you heard right. When veins go on strike.

That’s exactly what happened this morning. I had a blood test at the doctors to check vitamin levels, however one arm decided not to dish out the red stuff. The nurse wiggled the needle around, but nope. It just wouldn’t give in! So, my other arm was attacked and after a couple of attempts of trying to find a vein again, it started to flow. It took its time though!

Needless to say, I left the doctors with 2 weak arms which ached at the elbow joints!

Anyway, keeping this short for today as I have so much to do. As you know, I’ve finished my first assignment, but I need to cut the words down, and type up the references correctly, to the Harvard requirements?!

Just updating you, that I just phoned Rheumatology about my previous blood tests, and they’re saying everything seems normal, so I need to go back to the GP about the pain. Yup. Getting fobbed off with the “Oh, it’s your fibro”, again!

Ah well…

Okay, well here’s my list of blog promises to write for you. The points probably mean nothing to you yet, but don’t worry. All will be explained when written in a post!

  1. Discharge Meeting
  2. Recovery Star
  3. Spoons
  4. Feelings/Worries about friend/bpd/therapist – abandonment etc
  5. Communication with therapist
  6. Issue with “friend”
  7. Episode of Casualty
  8. Interview re: Therapeutic Community
  9. Angels – The Shivering Dance

So, yes… Before the list grows, I plan on writing some of this tomorrow afternoon. I may try and get a couple of points into one blog just to cut the list down, but we’ll see. You can always have me ramble on for 2 posts in a day? Right?

Anyway, I’m off now. I have to get on with this work, or it’ll never get done. I’m off the theatre tonight with my Wife, my Mum and my brother. Should be a lovely evening!

Talk soon!

Erica

I

Oh, my mind wandered.

Hey guys,

It didn’t take long did it?

My last post was absolutely rubbish. No idea where my head was at, or going!

Back to “reality” now. And updating you on the things which matter! Get ready…

Okay, so yesterday I phoned my GP practise to ask for the results of my blood test, which was taken last week at the hospital. The receptionist said that the results weren’t in yet, and that bloods taken at the hospital often take a bit longer for the results. Urm… Okay then? It made me wonder, is that a good or a bad thing?

I also ended up contacting the Health Assessment Advisory Service. I’d sent a complaint off at the beginning of last week, and have yet to hear anything. I think I was a little aggressive over the phone to the guy only doing his job, but I have been getting so annoyed, frustrated and stressed about this situation.

My ESA assessments are continuously cancelled, and I’ve not had any payments since the beginning of July as I am waiting to be placed in a group, and have already been on ESA for the 365 days allowed on basic rate. I need this assessment!

He said he’d get someone to call me back in regards to my complaint, and I then demanded I get an appointment. He said that it was already in the post (which I’ve yet to receive, so he was probably making it up), and that I finally have one booked for half way through October! I said to him to put a note on it NOT to cancel it. It will be interesting to see what happens now.

Later on, I did get a phone call back from the complaints department, and the lady said that my complaint was being looked at and I’d hear from them soon about it. Hmm… I wonder how long that will take!

Any in other news…

Due to my HC flaring for much of this week, I didn’t attend the self-help group on Wednesday evening. I’m hoping to go back next week. I’m using the gammaCore as instructed, but am not at a point of feeling any benefits, and have spent a few nights this week going to bed with an ice pack on the left side of my face, head and neck, just to try and ease the pressure.

Oh, the next thing – I’m still having weird dreams. I once dreamt that I was pulling string out of my mouth, but this dream was me coughing, and what I thought was phlegm come out, was actually a weird worm thing, and I was able to keep pulling these worms from my mouth. No idea what that represents, but totally gross! I also keep dreaming about the therapist, I’ve spoken previously about. Again, no idea why.

Oh wait, maybe I know.

I saw my care co-ordinator during the week, and although most of my sessions are silence, I was able to talk about things, and one of them was about the feelings with the therapist stuff. It was a natural, grown up conversation, and I didn’t feel embarrassed discussing it, unlike I have done in the past. I think that I have been slowly detaching myself from the therapist, which is obviously a healthy thing, but she’s still in my thoughts. I know I need to work out what the relationship meant to me, but I do have some inkling as to what it is. I’ll have to have another post for that!

And, this week a couple of my friends finished their year at the community. Yesterday, I was worried sick about one of them. I know she’s strong, but there’s the BPD which can be very destructive, and I’m just hoping that with the year she’s had, she will be able to use what she’s learned to gain some control of the feelings she’ll have. After all, I was there not so long ago, and I got to the point of feeling incredibly suicidal, that even my Wife raised some concerns.

Perhaps, this can be another – if not related to my therapist stuff, in another post.

As for my therapist, I’ve had a little communication with her. I’m trying to sort some things out with her for the community, and also hopefully set something up locally for personality disorders. It’s early days, but something good may be around the corner.

Anyway, I’ll be writing my to-do list shortly, and going through my previous posts to find the things I’ve said I’d write about – such as the Recovery Star (I remember that, but nothing else!)… My next post will simply be a list of promises to write about. I may even introduce something else too!

For now though, I’m calling it a night. It’s Saturday – Dr Who is making its return to the screen and it’s also Casualty night!

Speak soon!

Erica