2015 Goals & Aims

[Note: I did one of these posts for 2014 so, some of those which I didn't achieve will be going onto this 2015 one and they will be marked with a *]
1. I want to try to pay off my overdraft this year*
2. I'd like to complete my trauma therapy*

3. I want to go to London when I can actually enjoy it

4. I'd like to successfully manage co-facilitating the creative writing course at Recovery College so that I can facilitate my own workshop.

5. I'd like to become more confident with my body*

6. I'd like to have more confidence in my style to experiment a bit with fashion*

7. I'd like to have some sort of job/role/volunteering that I do on a regular basis

8. I'd like to have some kind of holiday/time away with my Mum and with Chelsea

9. I want to be well organised with paying my bills

10. I want to go and see the Pandas in Edinburgh Zoo with my Mum.

A Christmas in Recovery

Christmas, has never been a problem for me. I know that for a lot of mental health service users it can be a difficult and triggering time, and I'm so grateful that my trauma hasn't taken this from me too.
It was lovely to wake up in a place other than my bed at my Mum's, but to be happy about that. To wake up to my little Dolly squeaking (she still isn't meowing) at my door.
I walked over to my Mum's and we opened presents and had a lovely dinner (thanks Mum). Then it was lovely to come back to my own home and spend the evening playing with Dolly and her new toy from Santa.

And then things went down-hill.
I noticed my tummy was swollen; as swollen as it gets when I'm in urinary retention, but I'd been going to the toilet. And then the codeine my GP gave me, wasn't settling my pain. I called 111 (non-emergency number) and they advised I go to A&E and sorted out the transport for me. I hoped it'd be empty with it being Christmas, but no. I was waiting about two hours before seeing a Nurse! He gave me some paracetamol and codeine and got a nurse to do a bladder scan. I told them that I'd come because of the pain and that I couldn't in retention as I was passing urine. Guess how much fluid was in my bladder?... - And bare in mind, it should hold between 400-500mls! I had almost a litre! 906mls! I was so surprised and then so upset because I knew it meant I had to have a catheter, and that meant I had to stay in. So, I was given entonnox (laughing gas) during the procedure and I took my long over-due meds but it was no good; it was uncomfortable and I wanted to be at home. The delay in taking my anti-psychotic medication coupled with the procedure, resulted in me feeling unsafe. I was having the old thoughts and ideas but with none of the old feelings; I didn't want to do these things. So, I calmly asked to  be discharged, got myself a taxi and took my Lorazepam. I was so desperate to be safe that I ended up taking 4mg in total (my daily limit). So, when my Mum came to mine on Boxing Day, I had a massive benzo (benzodiazepines) hangover! I made our little buffet of goodies, and then fell asleep and Mum waited a few hours for me to wake up but I didn't. And then Dolly joined me in the nap so she let herself out!

I've thought about it all (as I do with everything these days, to work out what happened and why) and found the good in it. The good, ladies and gentlemen, is that I didn't want to be in A&E. In the past, I've only ever wanted to be out of hospital because I didn't want them to make me better or repair the damage I'd caused. Now, I didn't want to be there in the way most people don't want to. I don't like hospitals. I want to be in my home. In my own bed. With my own things around me. And my Dolly.
And that, is a Christmas in recovery.


So I said to my kitten "let's do a tree selfie for the Christmas Day blog post!"

My message to you on Christmas Day 2014? Keep going. Keep trying. You'll get there in the end, I promise. And if you're not 'there' then it's not the end.


New Recovery Goal & The Christmas Party

So, it's been brought to my attention that I left things on a downer in my last post, and I wanted to put your minds at ease, by assuring you all that things have improved.
I pushed myself to attend the College Christmas Party and it was so good! We made some paper chains, had lots of food, laughs, and Christmas Sing-A-Longs!

I also, introduced myself to the manager as I found out I got onto the Peer Support Development. Programme starting in January. This course, is pretty much what most who attend Recovery College are aiming for as it opens the gateway to have a Peer Support job with the NHS. So, I introduced myself and explained how I'd been told there'd be paid Peer Support roles coming up within the next 6-12 months and I said "I'll have done the Development Programme and facilitated by own workshop by then, so will that put me in a good position to apply?" And she said 'yes, definitely.'
Since getting my kitten (Dolly) I realised that she had been my goal for so long in my recovery and that once I had her, I needed something else to aim for. I've struggled to think of this. So now, being in the best position possible to apply for a Peer Support job is my new recovery goal
Dolly Update
It has become apparent that many of you have fallen in love with my new kitten; Dolly, so here's an update! She's settled in very well! However, we've had two incidences... She literally, SHIT MY BED. TWICE!! The first time, I was washing the duvet cover so had (stupidly) put the duvet back on the bed and she went and shit on that! So, at 11pm, I had to put it in my wheelie bin and go buy a new one the next morning! I was furious! She uses her litter tray so there's no excuse! She's now locked out of my bedroom and only goes in when I'm there. Her recent 'thing' at the moment is that she runs and jumps at things now... Her scratch post, the settee, a dining room chair, my leg, visitor's legs and the Christmas tree!
She's very content; is forever purring and she's very happy and loved.  



So, mood swings.
Everyone has them. When they become a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, is when the swings are dramatic, overwhelming, frequent and uncontrollable.
8am I was excited to get to College and see my friends.
10am When I got there I proudly showed off my baking for the College Christmas Party.

10:20ish We did a silly bucket list task where we each had think of something we'd like to do before we die... I was going to write down 'commit suicide' but my sensible sidekick (Ashleigh) persuaded me to resist temptation. And then I thought about it... There's nothing I'd like to do before I die. So then I thought 'what am I bothering for?'
10:50am I began buying paracetamol
11:28am I was on the bus, thinking about how I'd wasted two years at the specialist hospital and I'd come back and it was all going to go to how it was before. I was convinced that I'm just destined to kill myself. I thought about my Mum. I thought about my kitten. And then I thought about me. I was unhappy. In pain. And incredibly tired. I won.
12:15ish I was so happy to be in my home and with my kitten that I immediately felt happy, excited for the future, and positive!
2:50pm I was talking to my funder on the phone and it was all coming back; the hopelessness, the sadness, the excitement at the thought of suicide... I was going to do it.
3:50pm I have sixteen Co-Codomol tablets in my hand, and a drink of water on my dressing table...
... It takes me ten minutes to throw them in the bin and take some Lorazepam (sedative) instead.

And now? I've had a lovely shower, I'm in my pyjamas and watching a movie with my kitten. This wouldn't have happened had I swallowed that handful of pills. And ultimately, it was mainly that which stopped me. People put a lot of pressure on what it is that stops you from acting on your thoughts of self-harm or suicide, but I think, as long as you manage to come up with some reasons that are good enough, then it's nobody's business what they are. And it's for no one to judge your reasons. It just so happens that I was thinking of A&E; how they used to treat me, all of the attempts to find a vein, the nausea, the lack of sleep from the other patients, hospital beds and having to try keep myself occupied during the 24 hour long anti-dote. I'm now sure I've done the right thing after speaking to my Mum and hearing how upset she would've been if I'd overdosed, and hearing how pleased my professional support team are that I didn't do it. And I can look forward to the College Christmas party tomorrow!

Eleven Steri-Strips

Trigger Warning

On Saturday night, my thoughts got strange.
My Funder has asked me to write down what was going on in my head over the weekend so she can better understand and use it to get me an urgent appointment with my new Consultant. So, I did. . .
The last thing I remember was cuddling up to Dolly, and then there was blood dripping down my leg. The night before I'd picked up a shard of glass from the car p
ark behind my home, and I used it... I called the organisation providing my 'floating support' in the community and was advised to call an ambulance. No way. I called my Mum and she talked to me whilst I stopped hysterically crying and packed a bag to stay at hers for the night. Once I got through the front door, I sunk to the floor in tears; it was one of those moments when just breathing is hard work and tiring. All the old thoughts were there; I wanted to cut away every piece of me that had been touched by the bastard, and I wanted to die. I imagined my Mum being told and her being sad but ultimately, realising that at least I'd find happiness. Needless to say, I took all of the PRN available to me and my meds, and went to sleep, worrying that when I woke, I'd regret cutting.
Mum had helped me put plasters on my leg but I knew it needed steri-strips (stick-on stitches) so, on Sunday morning, I went to minor injuries at A&E. The Doctor made me have an x-ray to ensure there was no glass in the cuts and then it was dressed.
Now, fellow 'service users' will understand when I say; I'm not a cutter... You see, for those who don't; people who self-harm, will often have a particular method or preferred way to do this. For one person, they might cut, daily. For me, it was always about overdosing. I did cut, but that wasn't my go-to self-harm. So, for me to need 11 steri-strips is the worst it gets for me.
I think my one regret is regarding the scarring. I had begun to feel confident about my legs and the biggest cut, which needed all of the steri-strips, is literally about half the length of my thigh! It's one of those things though where you have to judge how acceptable it is to moan about these sort of things when it was you who caused it... I also feel bad for cutting whilst Dolly was in the house, and I missed her so much when I slept at Mum's. I've been trying to make it up to her today!
I was given an urgent appointment with my new Consultant but for all the fuss I put up in wanting her advice on my meds, the appointment barely did me any favours.

Recovery With A Pinch Of Salt

I always vowed from the beginning of this blog that I'd blog about the good and the bad and that's become a little more challenging as I progress through 'recovery.' A part of me wants people to think 'wow she's totally better!' and I worry that blogging about anything remotely negative will cause people to doubt my 'recovery.' The thing is though, all mental health professionals strive for is to get their patients/service users into recovery. That's all they babble on about; 'oooo you can do that when you recover' or 'don't worry that'll all go away when you recover.' Readers out there who are hearing those lines? They are lies. I am considered in recovery and it isn't the picnic that professionals try to paint it as. Although, I guess if they were honest then perhaps less people would strive for it. And that, could be dangerous. I don't want people to read this post and be put off the idea of recovery.
So, the bad bits... On Saturday (6th December) my mood dipped and my hallucinations began their slow return; I began to see things out the corner of my eye and I heard music and noises that I couldn't place. I barely remember Saturday because when I was going to bed on Sunday I couldn't remember going the night before. All I knew, was that I'd taken my PRN.
On Monday, I had an appointment with Urology at the local medical hospital and I didn't know why, so I assumed that Urology back in Bradford had just referred me up. Apparently not. I was told that I was having a 'pre-op' assessment! It turned out that because they'd discovered more blood in my urine, I had to have yet another cystoscopy (camera into my bladder). I can't even describe how I felt; it was just such a huge shock and I hate medical things... So that, and my already low mood, made collecting Dolly,a slightly less sparkly experience than it should've been. This, really upset me and when I was home with her, I was just looking at her and thinking 'you're not good enough to stop it.' I had hoped that having a kitten to look after would mean self-harm was completely off the cards, yet, there I was; hadn't even had her 24hours, and I was planning what to use to cut. My Mum came over to see me and Dolly on Tuesday and that lifted my mood but on Wednesday, I was in tears. I'd let my therapist read my diary and we were talking about how I was struggling and I just burst into tears at the thought that once she'd dropped me off back at home, I'd cut. In the past, I haven't cried at the thought of self-harm; because I've wanted to do it. So, I guess this was a good thing. In our chat, my therapist was saying how I'd been busy all the time and she said I needed 'me time' so, worn out from crying, I went to bed.
Today? Today was awful.  I went shopping and I had a massive headache and I was tired; worst combination for my mental health! I pushed myself to all of the shops I had to go to and when I was unable to get through on the phone to anyone (funder, CPN, therapist, GP...) I called my Mum in tears in the middle of the shopping centre. I took my antipsychotic PRN and then when I was almost home, I took Lorazepam. My funder finally called me and suggested we meet for a review and I explained how I felt that when I was doing well, everyone was fussing and when I actually need someone, there's no one!
I've requested a medication review because it seems that now I can get myself through these thoughts and feelings safely, people think that it's ok that I keep having these mood dips and struggles!

On another note; the positive things about being in recovery....
1. Having a Christmas tree with built in lights!
2. Living with a kitten
3. Receiving Christmas cards from my neighbours and not other patients

'I feel I am able to positively use my experirences to help others' - A guest blog by Rebecca Walters

Hi, I’m Bex!
I’m 23, married, and I am a Peer Support Worker.
I met Aimee through the Ivy Centre for Recovery Knowledge where I work one day a week. I was actually introduced to Aimee’s blog by a colleague, before even meeting her in ‘real life’ and being an avid bookworm of online blogs, I immediately read every single entry, and was inspired by her.
Aimee is facilitating a course at the Recovery College in the Spring/Summer Term 2015 focused on blogging, and Aimee has kindly agreed to let me co-facilitate with her, which I’m very much looking forward to.
Aimee offered me the chance to guest blog which I really appreciate, so, I thought I’d give you all a brief insight into my background and how I came to become a Peer Support Worker.

The early years…
I grew up in a little village in Leicestershire – I have two very loving parents and an incredibly supportive younger sister. Primary school was great…I was the tallest, the biggest, but, I had some friends so I couldn’t really complain too much. Secondary school was…different. I don’t particularly have one single traumatic experience; it was more a series of little things that spiralled out of control.
I had some ‘friends’ who weren’t too healthy for me, although of course at the time, I didn’t see this. I was 14, happy at home, happy with having met someone online, but I was easily led, and over time, along with them, I spiralled into a dark depression. I began self-harming at the age of 14; when my parents discovered this, they were understandably upset and confused, but they understood that I needed help, and I recognised this too.
At the time, the waiting list for the children’s mental health service was ridiculously long, and, it sounds morbid, but I, and those around me, didn’t know if I had that long. So, my Doctor referred me to a private child Psychiatrist. I saw this Psychiatrist 1-2 times a week for almost four years. For the first year I said nothing – I went into his room, sat there, staring at my feet, and picking at my fingers, and then when the hour was up, I left!
I’m not sure what led me to this decision, but after a year of intense sessions, I decided that I didn’t want to do this anymore; I knew I had to start trying. It took a while, but with CBT sessions every week, I started to improve – I didn’t want to lose the game of life anymore.

Fast forward to July 2012…
I had recently graduated from the University of Sunderland with a 2:1 BA (Hons) Sociology degree and I was ready to live my life. I had recently become engaged in February 2012 to my boyfriend, and I was excited about life. However, the only downside was that I had no job and no idea what I wanted to do. I was unemployed for almost 9 months, during which, I kept on receiving rejection after rejection, and it was soul destroying. I was starting to fall back into obsessive behaviours, but then, one day, I was casually searching for jobs online and saw that NTW were advertising for Peer Support Workers. I immediately wrote my personal statement, detailing my experiences with depression, anxiety and self-harm and sent it off, hoping that I would get some form of reply.
In early 2013 I was ecstatic to find that I had been offered an interview. The experience was good... I was honest, as I would always have been, and I felt it went well. A day later I received the phone call I felt like I had been waiting for, for months! I had been offered the job!

Fast forward to present day…
I have been in my Peer Support Worker post for 1 year 8 months. I have had some fantastic opportunities since starting, and I hope to have many more in the future.
For those who don’t know what a Peer Support Worker does...I work with a range of individuals/service users/patients that have a variety of mental health problems. I
work in a recovery focused way, offering my experiences of mental health and recovery to support them in their recovery journeys. I use an array of recovery tools including: Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Recovery Star/Empower Flower and SWEMWBS to support them. It is a very interesting, inspirational and rewarding role. For the first time I feel I am able to positively use my experiences of mental health to help others.
I currently work in the Sunderland Psychiatric Liaison Team (#NTW_SPLT) which is based in Sunderland Royal Hospital.
No day is the same, which I thoroughly enjoy. I am privileged to work amongst some brilliant people and value opportunities of working with individuals who perhaps need a little inspiration to begin or maintain their recovery journey. It sounds cliché, but if I had someone like a Peer Support Worker whilst I was very ill, I sometimes think that I may not have become as ill and may have improved quicker.
Outside of work, I am incredibly passionate about music…along with my family, husband and mental health professionals; I really do owe a lot to music. I have wrote my own songs and music since I was 12, and over time, as I became more confident with playing the piano, I have performed particular songs to the public (eek!). Writing songs is incredibly therapeutic and something that I know I will always enjoy doing – it has helped me so much in my recovery.

On a final note – sorry this has been so long…
Being involved with mental health is extremely important to me. When I was a teenager, my Psychiatrist told me I could be anyone, do anything I like…I didn’t know then that I would be working in mental health though. My role helps combat stigma surrounding mental health. My role shouts from the rooftops that you can move on and you can get better, and, most importantly, you can live a good life. I still have days where I am low, where I am drawn to old, destructive behaviours and you know; sometimes, I need to take some time out and reflect on who I am and what I’m doing, but this is a strength. I am now strong enough to recognise when I’m faltering, and I am brave enough to tell someone that I need some space, that I need some ‘me’ time.
I am involved with the Royal College of Psychiatrists as a Service User representative in the Liaison Psychiatry Faculty meetings. My involvement proves to me how much society has changed over the past 10-20 years. Past, present and current service users are being offered opportunities to become involved with important meetings and formulations of new and upcoming projects all across the country / world – we have the chance to be heard and we should take it.
I am constantly pushing for better services for young people who have mental ill health. YoungMinds participate in some brilliant pieces of work to raise awareness of mental health in young people, fight for equality, and banish the stigma and taboos surrounding mental health. We should be doing this! I have been very privileged to be involved with their Young Leadership programme – there I met some brilliant people and was overwhelmed by the amazing work they do for young people. Please visit their website for more information; it may just be the saviour that you or a friend/family member needs.
Thank you for having me Aimee!

You can find Rebecca on Twitter or e'mail her at Rebecca.Walters@ntw.nhs.uk

Dolly's Home!

So, on Sunday (7th), Dolly turned 8 weeks, which meant she was finally old enough to leave her mummy!
I went with my Mum and Case Manager to pick her up yesterday evening. She cried all the way home but I think it was the movement of the car because whenever we stopped or got stuck in traffic she stopped crying. And oh my gosh her cry!!!! It's like a little squeak! It's so cute!
When we first got in and I let her out of her carrier, she started exploring and I thought I'd leave her to it whilst I got my pjs on but then she was just stood crying and I'd have to peak my head out into the corridor so she'd see where I was and come running. She followed me everywhere (she's literally perched on my shoulder as I write this!).
She slept for a while and I thought 'she's going to be wide awake when I go to bed!' and she was! She was leaping all over my duvet! In the end, I had to ignore her so she'd settle down and she ended up sleeping on the pillow beside mine! Every time I stirred though, she was trying to play, and when I had to get up at 7am to put the bin out, she was so excited!
She's enjoyed playing with the belt on my dressing gown and she's tried to climb up my legs when I was at my dressing table and when I was washing the dishes. She's also still figuring out her bowls, because they're joint together and she keeps putting one paw in the water bowl to try and reach her food!

Settling In

On Monday (December 1st) I was officially discharged into the community and out of inpatient care.
I managed to unpack fairly quickly but I've had so much going on this week that I thought it more sensible to blog when I had some time than to try and cram it in right at the beginning.

So, on Monday morning my Social Worker helped me sort out my money and took me to Recovery College for my second 'Emotional Resilience' class. Unlike the first one, there were more people than just Ashleigh and I, it was a good group and it went well even though I got a little bit told off!

Afterwards, my Case Manager helped me move, we had a McDonalds and she hung all my clothes up in the walk-in wardrobe! She's just been on holiday for a fortnight and I actually really missed her so I managed to talk to her a bit about me being worried for her leaving me because once I'm settled in the community, her job is done. She basically came onto my team to help move me back near home.
On Tuesday, my Mum came to see the home for the first time since I'd properly m0ved in and she loved it. She's helped me through a lot of the moving process, with deliveries and things so it was lovely for her to see it all finished. But, it wasn't finished... There were two massive holes out the front and the back of my home after the gas leak which needed to be filled in, and there were changes to be made to my bathroom to remove the disability facilities. So, that began on Wednesday... I also had my 72 hour follow-up, and then I had to attend my 'new patient' appointment at the GP. I was so anxious because the practice is in a building where there has been a lot of... Memories. I remembered going in there when I'd cut to have my arms dressed, going in there after being attacked back when I was 15... I realised that it would've been much easier if I'd taken some Lorazepam before the appointment but then I would've thought that I'd only coped because of the meds, so I'm glad I didn't.
Yesterday, I had therapy and right now, I'm waiting for the boyfriend to get out of work so we can have drinks and a Chinese!
I'm so glad this week has gone quick because the entire time there's been a piece missing; my little Dolly. I get to pick her up after College on Monday so expect another post next week with BILLIONS of cute kitten photos!! #SorryNotSorry ;)
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