Happy Fourth Birthday, I'm NOT Disordered: 4 Things I'm NOT Disordered Has Taught Me In 4 Years

It was I'm NOT Disordered's Birthday on January 6th and after having published a post (with each featuring a list of the good and bad moments from the previous 12 months) on that date every year, I'm a little embarrassed (but it is still the Birthday month!) that this post is going up later; but I decided that I'd rather risk embarrassment than not post it at all...
First Birthday (2014)
Second Birthday  (2015)
Third Birthday (2016)

In all honesty, I was a little surprised - and not in a good way - when I went back over these previous Birthday posts and saw that each one had the same kind of theme and layout. It only served to fuel my absolute determination to give I'm NOT Disordered a makeover and over-haul for 2017 (I haven't made even half the changes I plan to). In recent months I have put a lot of thought into my content and began making a conscious effort to update it, play around with it, and just mix it up a bit (I really hope you guys have noticed! Or that you will notice if you look back through recent posts now that I've told you!).
So, in making so many changes, I think it only right that...1. The Birthday post be different. And... 2. I talk about the lessons I've learnt from the past four years with I'm NOT Disordered; because you only making changes after having learnt something that inspires you to do so.
Photography: RJ Photography
"What do you want to do when you're older?"
Until 2014/2015, I'd had a lot of different answers over the years.
It's something that I've always felt quite embarrassed about because I thought of it as quite a childish quality in that most children frequently change their minds on what they'd like to 'be' when they grow up. Like most children, my ever-changing fixations with careers was brought on by changes in my life; e.g. when my trauma began to take place I wanted to become a Lawyer. Then when I finished Sixth Form with no good A Level grades; I turned to fashion, thinking of it as a different kind of smart... Less book-ish! When I had my most stable period in my mental health (in 2011); and knowing that I wasn't well enough for full-time employment, I volunteered in some charity shops and became determined to become a Visual Merchandiser. And then along came I'm NOT Disordered! One of the many positive things to come from blogging is the feeling that I've finally found my 'calling in life!' And that is something that is so incredibly special and overwhelming after having felt like I wanted to end my life for so long.

Never panic, stress, or worry if you feel like all of your friends know what they want to do, and they all have ten year plans or if you don't know exactly what you want to do in life. You'll know, when you know.

"You can't end I'm NOT Disordered because of a few trolls! Don't let them win!"
I feel like a lot of you won't know that there was actually a time between it's birth in 2013 and now, that I'm NOT Disordered has been shut down. There were a lot of reasons behind it, and although, looking back, I wouldn't have made that same decision; but I'm glad I did. From it, I came to realise just how much I enjoyed blogging, and how important it was to me, and my mental health recovery; and it was that realisation that has motivated me to continue blogging; no matter what life throws at me. It's because of that determination to continue blogging, that I'm NOT Disordered's popularity and content have led to me being offered lots of amazing opportunities to work with lots of influential people and/or organisations through has definitely spurred me on through the past year or so.  That, and other projects, have given me not only the determination to continue blogging.

One of the key qualities you need in recovery from a mental health illness, is determination. The road to recovery (for all mental illnesses) is long, littered with glass, and broken up by walls of different heights. Some of things you might have to do or go through to recover will be painful (physically, mentally, emotionally etc.), and you might come to a point on your journey where there's something blocking your progress. Don't worry if the hurt feels overwhelming and unbearable, or if you can't find the painkillers, or it seems to be taking a while for them to kick in and help make the hurt more manageable. And don't feel hopeless if you think you've come to a complete standstill, or have no idea how to get around the things that stand in your way. With the determination to reach your recovery goal/s, (no matter what that is/means for you) you'll be able to either stitch up your wound from the glass, or learn how to walk without putting pressure on it, and you'll either discover a way around the wall, or harness the strength that your determination will provide, to climb over it - or crash right through it if you're feeling particularly determined!
"If you're called out to someone on a bridge, you have the potential to make them jump, or to bring them back onto the other side. And after working with you all today, I think you guys have the potential to save lives!"
  I'm NOT Disordered was never about hope in the beginning. Yet, it has provided me with so many different types of hope, with each being caused by very different experiences.
I didn't start blogging because I hoped things would get better and hoped it'd become a place on the internet with the story of a girl who, a lot of people thought would end up killing herself, getting better and feeling happy again.
But it has! I never grow tired of having readers tell me that because of I'm NOT Disordered, they've asked for help, or they've told friends and family what they're experiencing, and that they feel less alone and most importantly, that it has restored their hope. Occasionally/very rarely, it is of their hope in the system, inpatient services, community mental health teams, and professionals in general. Mostly, I have people tell me that seeing how I felt, what my thoughts were, how I was behaving, what I was experiencing; helped them to have hope in their self. By acknowledging that recovery might just be possible for them, they could hope for recovery. And here's the twist: and that, gives me hope! Hope that less people will suffer. Hope that more lives will be saved. Hope that the stigma around mental health can dwindle because people are speaking out; asking for help.
I didn't start blogging hoping that it'd earn me lots of amazing opportunities and experiences with lots of amazing individuals and organisations.
But it has! At the moment, I'm collaborating [mainly] with four different organisations; with each one bringing something different to my life to be hopeful about. Through my work with Time To Change (we're currently collaborating on a few special pieces of work for Time To Talk Day - February 2nd), I'm hopeful that through their encouragement for more people to speak about mental health, the stigma and discrimination against it will continue to dwindle.
Through my joint partnership with both Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and Northumbria Police, (we're currently delivering Mental Health and Learning Disability Training Sessions for all new Police recruits) I'm now hopeful that those in a mental health crisis will receive the most beneficial care for them at that time; increasing the chance of someone calling for help, and reducing the rates of suicide, self-harm and unnecessary/detrimental hospital admissions.
Finally, in my partnership with Cygnet Healthcare (we're currently collaborating on establishing a 'Recovery College' in the Hospital that I was in when starting I'm NOT Disordered, and creating a forum for Cygnet service users to share their opinions and trust that they will be respected, and considered, in any changes/decision-making) I'm hopeful that other service users won't face the battle my entire ward did in being heard, being listened to, and being respected.

Once you think about ending your life, it is so incredibly hard to imagine the possibility that things might get better. You think 'if there was a chance, I wouldn't be contemplating suicide.' When anyone tells you that they think you'll feel better in time you're sure that they clearly don't know just bad it is in your head. And in a way, that's always the case because absolutely no one could ever know exactly what another person is going through, but that doesn't make you a lost cause. It doesn't mean you're hopeless. Perhaps, your head is so completely dark right now, and your body is so completely hurt and exhausted, that you can't see beyond that. Perhaps that could be why they, as outsiders, can see something that you can't? [This next part will be controversial] And if you're so convinced it won't get better, then what's the harm in letting them have a shot at helping? I used to say to professionals 'I'll do what you want for a week but if not one thing positive happens then that's it! I'm gone.' As time went by, and if I looked honestly, then I could see positives, and so, I moved their 'deadline' to a fortnight. And then a month... It's eight years later and I've been in recovery for two of them. Suicide doesn't prevent things from getting worse; it prevents things from getting better.

"...she was the only person - other than my Mum - to come and visit me! And she brought me a pink Christmas Tree!"

When I began receiving comments about I'm NOT Disordered being an insight into mental health and inpatient services; I had the realisation that I could harness that quality of it to help my own friends and family (mostly family) to understand the inner workings of my mind so that I didn't feel so... This is going to sound strange; stay with me. Each overdose or incident of self-harm, or going AWOL or being restrained in Hospital, felt like... getting in trouble at school. I was embarrassed and would do anything to either prevent my family from finding out, or play the entire incident down. As though I'd get into trouble! [Just to make it clear; nothing actually happened to have given me this belief] But I thought that if I felt more comfortable in them knowing all of the nitty-gritty; then they'd be better equipped to support me because they'd know what to do in which situations e.g. if I'm angry from an argument with staff, or not being granted leave that I feel I deserve, then they'd know it's best to give me some space and wait until I'm ready to call them. Or if I'm struggling with hallucinations, or there's been a trigger to bring back memories of my trauma, then they'd know it's best not to push me into talking about it, and instead, to cheer me up with photos of my cat, and to control the conversation with different topics.
This has meant that having personally experienced this useful aspect of I'm NOT Disordered, I'm so overwhelmed when readers tell me that the blog has given them the confidence to talk to their friends, confide in their family, or even actually speaking to a professional and asking for help! I know myself; how reassuring, comforting, and rewarding it feels, so to know that I'm NOT Disordered has made others experience those feelings is incredibly humbling.

It's so hard to open up to those whose support you would benefit from, when you feel like you've been hurt when you've done so in the past... And when talking to someone could make such a difference to your mental health and life in general, it's made that bit more difficult because you tell yourself that if you were to talk - to make yourself vulnerable - and were let down again, it'd destroy you. But then, no matter how unlikely you think it will be, there's always a chance that if you were to confide in them, it might actually help. And no one can support you if they don't know that you need support.

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