I’ve been working on a question and answer piece with a very special person recently and it made me wonder whether readers would be interested in me doing a little Q&A and publicly answering the questions I’m most often asked by professionals, service users, and readers…
About my blog:
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes, when I was younger, I was obsessed with horses and I used to write short stories about them and characters who would go for adventures with their horses or who were teaching riding lessons like the ones I was attending. They were mostly inspired by the Sheltie book series by Peter Clover (please tell me someone else remembers those?!). My Mum and Nana would read my stories and I thought that meant I was an Author. I loved watching them read my words and it was rewarding to see their reactions to something I’d put a lot of effort into. When the abuse started though, I stopped writing so much because I was so worried that I’d end up pouring my heart out and writing about what was happening to me; and for so many reasons I had to keep it a secret.
Why did you start blogging?
Not long after my first suicide attempt and detention under the 1983 Mental Health Act, I realized that writing would be a good way to communicate with the professionals who were consistently failing to understand why I was struggling. The didn’t understand the hallucinations, the reasons I would self-harm, why I felt suicidal so often, why I was always angry and uncooperative… This realization that writing could be helpful to my mental health and to those supporting me really motivated me to start blogging. Another motivation was that on the day I started I’m NOT Disordered; I had agreed with my Key Nurse that I would start writing about the abuse every evening and it felt like a huge turning point. As though maybe it was the start of my recovery; and I wanted to document that. I also wanted to use my blog to give people insight into what being a psychiatric inpatient is like and to help my friends and family who were over 100 miles away, see what was going on for me day-to-day.
How did you think of the name for your blog?
I’m NOT Disordered is based on my thoughts on my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I remember after a Psychiatrist diagnosed me and I saw my Community Psychiatric Nurse and asked if it was official and she said “no, once we give you that label it’s a death sentence! No service will touch you. No one will want to help you!” Looking back, I definitely should have put a complaint in about her attitude towards the diagnosis but at the time (2009), that was just the way most professionals felt towards BPD. So, right from day one of being diagnosed I was taught to be ashamed of it, and to fight it. For me, the worst part of the label is the use of ‘Personality’ because a personality is usually defined as being who you are and to say that it is disordered is like the ultimate insult. The ‘NOT’ is in capitals and a different font in the logo because I wanted it to come across as slightly childish and immature.
How does it feel to have so many readers?
Overwhelming? Incredible? Huge? I was once asked why the amount of readers matter so much to me as though the fact, they do is something to be ashamed of! I celebrate the number going up because it means that as my readers climb, I’m able to access more and more incredible opportunities, and the chance of me helping others is increased. I don’t think about how many people are reading what I write when I’m typing my posts because I worry that I’d get stage fright and I’d forget what I wanted to say or would lose the confidence in being as honest and open as I am about my mental health. I’m one of those people who struggles to blow their own trumpet and although I recognize that not all these people will like my writing, as the amount rises it becomes harder and harder to not see I’m NOT Disordered as an incredible achievement in my life.
Where do you get inspiration from for your blog posts?
Everywhere! Literally, everywhere! From watching TV shows, movies, listening to music, talking to friends and family, things that professionals say or do, things that I’m thinking about or struggling with… I think that people who know me would say I’m quite a creative person and this definitely helps with finding inspiration for content on I’m NOT Disordered. That doesn’t mean I’m sometimes stumped as to what to write but the great thing about not having a schedule and saying “I’ll post every Sunday at 7pm” is that there’s never any pressure to provide content on a regular basis. This is great too because it means that none of my content feels forced or that it was published just for the sake of having something to post! Finding inspiration in a variety of places also means that my content is so variable and – hopefully – unique.
Which has been your favourite post or collaboration?
This is something I’m asked a lot, but I can never really answer! I’m a very passionate person and once I get behind a project or collaboration then I’m fully dedicated to it! I think this is because when my mental health was really poorly I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – commit to anything as I was constantly in and out of hospitals and struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings. Now that things are more stable, I’m able to take on the responsibilities that come with collaborating with a big organization or a well-known individual. I will say that my three favourite collaborations (in no particular order) have been working with Cats Protection, Northumbria Police, and Richmond Fellowship. I’d choose these three out of all the organizations I’ve worked with because they are all completely different fields but ones that I’ve managed to make my experience in mental health relevant to. I’m honoured and very privileged to have been given as many opportunities as I have!
About my mental health:
What was the first ‘symptom’ you experienced?
Ok, so bear in mind that when I was diagnosed with BPD, the diagnostic criteria was that you have at least five of nine possible symptoms and I was deemed to exhibit all nine. Though, I do think that they built up and it wasn’t as though I suddenly woke up one day and had all nine symptoms. Subconsciously, the first symptom was probably the ‘inappropriate or intense anger’ and it was as a result of the abuse and rape I first experienced when I was 15. I was angry that no one realized what was happening to me even though I was going out of my way to hide it, and obviously I was angry at the person abusing me for thinking he had the right to hurt me.
How does it feel to hear voices?
Firstly, everyone experiences voices differently but for me, I describe it as though listening to music through headphones; in that the noise is coming through your ears but somehow fills up your entire head. Unlike the music, though, I can’t control what I hear or the volume at which I hear it. People who hear voices can also hear different things; for some people it’s as though there’s a group of people talking about them, for me there was four very distinct, separate voices and they each had their own personality.
What was it like being sectioned and in hospital for two and a half years?
It was probably the second biggest challenge I’ve been through in my little life (the abuse being the first biggest). Initially, I was given the option of going into the long-term, specialist hospital over 100 miles away from home and refused. Then, when I ended up on life support after attempting suicide in 2012, the option was taken from me and I was sectioned and taken there. When I’d had the assessment for the hospital, I’d refused to go because the assessment team had told me that the ward was very strict and had a rigid timetable in place with wake up times, therapy groups, psychology, reflection meetings… The whole idea of my days being so structured when I’d gotten used to my life being such an impulsive, and unordered mess(!) was impossible to imagine. Looking back at the photos of my bedroom and en-suite bathroom in the hospital, I can’t believe that was my life for so long! I hate the thought of being in hospital at the best of times and find it difficult to stay put just overnight so being in one for so long was definitely an unwelcome challenge. To say that I didn’t want to be there when I was first admitted would be an understatement; I was once so desperate to escape that I kicked the locked doors and broke my foot! After about a year, I finally began to accept that I needed to be there and that I wouldn’t be leaving until I co-operated with the therapy timetable.
What motivates you to self-harm or feel suicidal?
I sometimes find it difficult to talk about this one because I don’t want for people to read one of my reasons and think that they feel like that and so they should be hurting themselves, or for people to judge my reasons and deem them unworthy of me wanting to be dead rather than experience these reasons for a second longer. What I will say is, I always have a number of reasons and that isn’t because one of them alone isn’t reason enough, it’s because I can cope when it’s one by itself. The suicidal thoughts creep in when a few of these reasons are present at the same time because that’s when I can’t manage them and feel overwhelmed.
What would you say to someone feeling suicidal?
Talk to someone, and please know that you don’t deserve to be judged for feeling this way.
What medication do you take?
So, a lot of psychiatric medication can work in different ways depending on the dosage but as an antipsychotic I take Aripiprazole, as a mood-stabilizer I have Lamotrigine, and my two anti-depressants are Mirtazapine, and Fluoxetine.
What’s been the most helpful thing for your mental health?
I guess there’s a mixture of things that’ve helped and I honestly don’t think I could pinpoint one or say it was the biggest or more helpful than any other because they each helped in different ways. For me, it was a mixture of medication, talking about what had happened to me, and being sectioned. These things aren’t always helpful for everyone and if you find they don’t help you then please don’t feel hopeless or think that you’re a lost cause! You just have to find what works for you and what will spur on your own recovery.
Is there anyone you’d attribute your recovery to?
Yes, as many times as people told me that I had to want the recovery for myself; there were a few people and organizations, who gave me the opportunity to recover and who spurred me on through it.
Who was it?
I’m honestly not sure that I’ll ever be able to publicly answer that question… I’d say that I will when he’s brought to justice and is prosecuted but I’ve had to accept that day might never come, and I’ve had to learn how to cope with that thought. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again though; if I were to disclose just one little detail about him then those who really know me would know who it was. I think that this should say a lot about him.
How do you feel about the abuse now?
I’m pleased that I reported it to the Police and told people what had happened to me otherwise I might’ve always blamed myself if he did it to someone else because I’d be thinking that I hadn’t done everything in my power to stop that happening. I don’t think I’m thankful that it happened, but at the same time I’m grateful that it made me into the person that I am today. Sometimes, yes; I don’t like that person, but mostly I enjoy my life and appreciate all of the wonderful things that might never have happened had the abuse not taken place. I still get very angry about it and that my abuser was released and is probably just continuing his life makes me furious sometimes. It also spurs me on too because I just think that the best revenge would be for me to succeed in life.
What would you say to someone being abused?
Report it. I can’t stress that enough. There are no words to describe how challenging and difficult it is to tell someone what has been done to you, but I promise it’s worth it in the end.