Thanks to a poll on my Twitter back in November, my wonderful followers decided that I should publish a blog post and film a vlog every day for the entirety of December!
So welcome to December 4th…
Yesterday (December 3rd) I went to Whitley Bay Playhouse and saw Jack And The Beanstalk with my Mum. Now, should you be surprised that I’m not just writing a review on the pantomime? Not if you’re a long-time reader! There are so many excellent blogs out there that write great reviews, that you don’t need another one from me(!); so I like to put a different spin on things and with it being the first time I’ve seen this story, it got me thinking about writing this post on new things and firsts…
Ironically, I actually wasn’t sure where to start with this post because when I think of firsts, I immediately go to the negatives; the first time I self-harmed, my first suicide attempt, the first time I was sectioned… and I felt as though I shouldn’t talk about those things in Blogmas but hey! This is a mental health blog and mental health doesn’t just go away for December and Christmas! So, to put a positive spin on things; here’s the lessons I learnt from my firsts…
1. The start of the abuse - take responsibility for your actions
I think that firsts can be a tricky subject for me to properly think about because I feel that people would expect me to know the first time I was abused and being unable to say that makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. As though ‘if she doesn’t know the first time, then how can it really affect her?!’ I guess the reason I can’t give a date is because things become a bit blurry around the abuse and it’s hard for me to distinguish when things went from wrong to worse… It’s difficult to define ‘wrong’ when he spent so long reassuring me that everything he did, was ok. But I can tell you the exact date he first found his excuse to begin the abuse and looking back, it starting in that way really taught me a lot about taking responsibility and not using an event or another person as an excuse for your behaviour. Though, admittedly, it took me a long time to actually learn the lesson!
I always wish I’d learnt the lesson at the time and then I might never have started self-harming. The first time I did, I remember just being so long in the moment and being so desperate to end all of the terrible feelings and thoughts I was experiencing in that moment and I guess, that’s what self-harm is all about… It’s a desperate and impulsive bid to escape from something. When you do it, do you think about consequences? A trip to A&E, stitches, Nurses, assessments, medication, tears… I would say that if you were thinking of those things then you wouldn’t do it but there’s been many a time when even with those things in mind, I’ve been so desperate to escape the hallucinations and memories, that I’ve self-harmed anyway.
2. My first suicide attempt/sectioning – learn everything about everything!
The first time I attempted suicide was also the first time I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A little while ago, I had a Psychiatrist comment on my extensive knowledge of what happens when you overdose on paracetamol and part of me was like ‘of course I know; it’s happened to me so many times’ but then, when I thought about it, I realize that the terror at having no clue what was happening to me on that first occasion gave me the motivation to learn everything I could. I wanted to understand the Mental Health Act so that I knew my rights and I wanted to know about the antidote treatment so that I knew what to expect. A mental health crisis – attempting suicide or self-harming, is probably when you’re at your most scared and vulnerable so the last thing you need is to have no understanding of what’s happening to you and what the people around you are doing. At a time when you have very little understanding of yourself and what’s happening in your own body, you need the ability to understand what is happening around you.
3. My first Christmas in Hospital – make the most of every Christmas
My first Christmas in the psychiatric hospital (which I talked a lot more about here) made me especially grateful for my first Christmas in my own home. Spending a Christmas that was very regulated and had minimum festivity; with tinsel and glass baubles being banned and the mulled wine being non-alcoholic. You know that thing about how you really don’t appreciate something until it’s gone? I’ve always enjoyed Christmas but having these basics taken away from me really showed me how much I’ve taken Christmas at home for granted. We hear all the time about how different Christmas is in third world countries where illness, homelessness, and poverty are rife; but how often do you keep that in mind while you’re opening your presents on Christmas morning or passing the veggies round at Christmas dinner?!
4. The start of life without Dolly – appreciate my pets more
Losing my four-year-old cat (an experience I talk more about here); Dolly, didn’t come as a surprise as she’d been in the Vet’s Intensive Care Unit for almost a week on and off so – in the end - it seemed almost inevitable that it was going to happen. People talk about making the decision to have their pets put to sleep as the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do but it was easy for me; because I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew 100% that it was what had to happen. If I’d been a tiny bit unsure then I wouldn’t have made the decision. It’s not something I took lightly and it’s a decision that I’ll never forget having to make.
With Dolly coming into my life as my ultimate recovery goal (which I talked more about in Take A Break magazine, which you can read about here) that I’d had for over a year whilst I was an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital; I always felt that I had a super special bond with her.