So many people are pleased to say goodbye to 2020 since so many terrible events have happened during it. Aside from the pandemic and UK lockdown, I personally, lost quite a few loved ones this year. Yet I still struggle to view it as entirely ‘bad…’ Since my Aripiprazole (an antipsychotic medication) was restarted and increased, I’ve not experienced a single hallucination and therefore, haven’t self-harmed since August. I’ve also achieved quite a lot this year relating to I’m NOT Disordered (particularly reaching 800,000 readers), so I feel torn between being thankful that the year is ‘over’ whilst also having the ability to look back at it with some level of fondness…
So, I was looking at last year’s blog post (which you can read in full here) and thought I’d include updates and new thoughts around each of the 20 points I’d discussed.
The first was about saying a thank-you to Richmond Fellowship who have provided me with a support worker (the worker has changed a few times over the years) since my hospital discharge in 2014. But I wasn’t really thanking them for that support, I was actually acknowledging the amount of opportunities they’ve given me through events and meetings. And that still stands! Over the last year, the lockdown has prevented so many face-to-face meetings and pretty much every single event; but I’ve still felt included in being a member of the Working Together Committee – who have a huge influence on the general way in which Richmond Fellowship is ran. I’m enjoying have the ability to speak up on behalf of service users and being treat with respect that regards my views, thoughts, and feelings on different topics, as important. However, I’d also like to thank my support worker this year! Since the beginning of the UK lockdown, our face-to-face appointments have been scarce and that has meant using the phone to get support… I used to struggle with audio calls because it reminded me of the auditory hallucinations in that I could hear them but couldn’t see where – or who – they were coming from. Being almost forced to do calls though, has gotten me used to the sensation and I find myself ringing my support worker and speaking to her even more than when it was just normal appointments! And she’s been brilliant with this.
My second thought was around saying goodbye to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) because my discharge from the Team was already planned. And it happened (you can read about it here)! After having not self-harmed for about six months, I was discharged just a month before discovering that the pharmacy messed up my medication (you can read about it here) and I relapsed again! Fortunately, my relapse was purely due to the medication error so I didn’t need to be referred back to CMHT because once the Aripiprazole (an anti-psychotic) was corrected and increased, I bounced back!
The third point was about my blogging aims, and in this part, I decided that I had no goals in terms of reaching a particular reader count within the year. That still stands. But this year I’ve achieved almost 150,000 readers in nine months (I reached 700,000 in March – which you can read more about here) I also said that I’d like to do more collaborations and I think this is definitely something I’ve achieved throughout 2020! I’ve particularly enjoyed all of my Blogmas collaborations (which you can read here) with organisations ranging from B&M to ASOS to Wilko to Superdrug! For 2021 I’ll definitely continue with collaborations – I actually already have three planned for my upcoming Birthday! – since I really enjoy using my blog as a platform to help others and not just myself.
The fourth point was a ‘hello’ to trauma therapy! I was planned to be discharged from CMHT in the February and then begin trauma therapy six months later but the UK lockdown meant my discharge was postponed and when it finally happened in June, my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) explained to me that the trauma therapy could be my choice. As time has gone by – since the medication caused relapse – I’ve come to be reluctant to do it because I’m so scared of ‘rocking the boat.’ I feel so happy and safe now, and I’m not willing to lose – or risk losing – that for anything! There’s obviously a part of me who believes that maybe things will never get fully better until I talk more about the abuse and speak with someone specially trained in trauma. Because right now, the most detail I’ve ever gone into has been with the Police and whilst they were so brilliant, they aren’t the right people to do that with. So, I wonder whether having trauma therapy will give me a more full closure… They said to be six months without services before starting therapy because if you still need support then they believe you aren’t ‘ready’ to go through your trauma. If you’ve been stable though, then maybe you’re robust enough to go through the hardship of trauma and cope with it safely… Maybe it’s just not the ‘right’ time for me to do it. Maybe that’ll change, and maybe it won’t.
The fifth thought in beginning 2020 was the recognition of Dolly’s absence – the fluffy little maine coon cat had been with me for four years before she was put to sleep in 2018 (you can read about it here)… There’s a lot of controversary around death and the element of whether the loss of someone – or something – gets ‘easier’ as time goes by. I think that this shouldn’t be a set rule. I believe that it’s sometimes true that after some time, the death becomes less raw and therefore becomes less challenging to cope with. But I think there can be other losses where you feel you never get any relief in your grieving. I think that Dolly’s passing has been that last one in that whilst it’s still very painful to think about her death, I’ve come to manage that hurt a lot more safely. Over the years from losing her, I’ve also had the time to change my way of thinking around it. I used to be reluctant to think of any memories of her and to look at photos and videos; but now, I find comfort in doing so. When cute videos of her pop up on Facebook’s memories function, I smile and consciously decide to concentrate on her life rather than her death. And it might be almost three years later, but I still think of Dolly every single day and I don’t like the thought of that ever stopping. I don’t want to ever stop missing her; I’ve just needed to be able to do it in a safe and healthy way.
My sixth point was a thank you to all my best-friends. This one made me sad to think about because it included Becky, who passed away a few months ago. I haven’t really spoke about it on social media or even on I’m NOT Disordered just because I feel that doing so, would be like concentrating on the impact her death has had on me when really, there are so many other people who’s experience with the loss of Becky are much more important. I think this also stems from the fact that she and I had fallen out a little bit before her death, so I felt kind of unworthy of grieving for her. Since she died, I’ve spoken with her family and we’ve shared happy memories of her, and they’ve all reassured me that I shouldn’t feel bad for our fall-out. Something to come from losing Becky, has been that – even though I thought it wasn’t possible – I appreciate and love my best-friends (Marty, Georgie, Lauren and Ellie) so much more! And when Lauren told me she’s pregnant, I cried with happiness and it made me so grateful to still have these four, amazing people in my life!
The seventh point was a bit about my pets; my calico cat Emmy and lop-eared, Lionhead bunny, Pixie. And the exact same things I wrote about are still true – I still love watching them together and when Emmy jumps onto Pixie and starts washing her! Since my last relapse – over four months ago now – I came to realise something… People have always said to me that if something happened to me my pets would be rehomed, but I think that’s it one of those things where you need to realise it for yourself. And the realisation around this that hurt the most was the thought that chances are they’d not just be rehomed, they’d be separated from one another too! And that would be so unfair on them. Like, I could imagine them dying from a broken heart. So, when I was still struggling toward the end of the relapse, keeping this in mind was a huge motivation to stay safe, and it’s something that makes me really grateful for my previous suicide attempts ‘failing.’
My eighth thought was around the fact that I have no relationship goals and honestly? This still stands. I had a short relationship earlier this year and when it ended, I realised that I really don’t need a man in my life to make me happy! Being single for a long time, I don’t feel that I’m missing out in any way by not having ‘another half.’ And my thing with this point is… since the rape and abuse, I’ve struggled with anything to do with sex so even if I was in a relationship, I doubt I’d have my own children – I’d want to adopt. So, I really don’t need a man to have the children I imagine myself having much later in life.
My nineth point was my thoughts on body image. From my teens until I was 21 or 22, I was underweight, to the point where if my periods had stopped, I’d have fitted the diagnostic criteria for Anorexia. When I was admitted to the long-term psychiatric hospital for two and a half years, a combination of the medication I was put on and the limited exercise I had as a patient sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act, meant I put on a lot of weight. Of course, some people deemed this to be making me healthier, but I’ve struggled with my body confidence ever since. I try to remind myself that when I was underweight, I didn’t recognize it and I wasn’t grateful for it; so, would there be any point trying to get back to that? My mental health has also meant that I’ve developed the recognition that you only get one life and it’s often far too short. And that on my death bed I won’t be remembering the time I didn’t have cake! In fact, I’d probably be thinking ‘I wish I’d had that cake!’
The tenth part was about my medication and that I felt settled with it after a period of disagreement between myself and CMHT when a Psychiatrist deemed that my hallucinations weren’t worthy of an antipsychotic medication. When my mental health deteriorated after a medication reduction, the professionals finally listened to me and it was increased. There’s a sad sort of irony that in the beginning of 2020 I had spoken about finally become confident in my medication regime and within months a pharmacy error completely turned that on its head! Fortunately, since it was the pharmacy’s mistake, it was kind of simple to correct – though it meant six to seven weeks of self-harm while the medication built back up to its highest level in my body. During that time, my self-harm severed some branches of the radial nerve which, after two surgeries, the Plastic Surgeons have said; will never recover.
My eleventh point was about my ‘biggest achievement’ of 2019 and I listed reaching half a million readers (which you can read more about here). I guess my obvious achievement should be the latest reader milestone of 800,000 on November 2nd (you can read about it here)… But honestly? Now that my mental health is so much better, I’m not all that sure what my biggest achievement of 2020 is. Part of me wants to say overcoming the relapse from the medication error. Part of me wants to list a few collaborations… I guess you become grateful for different things when your mental health changes.
The twelfth thought was a little ‘shout-out’ to my Mum! And I’m literally forever grateful to her for all that she’s done to save my life when I didn’t want it to be saved. In the 2020 post, I talked about how being in the psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home has helped me to appreciate and recognize her unconditional love and support. Going through this last relapse in my mental health was obviously also really hard and frustrating for my Mum. I think more so because of the nature of it, in that I had no responsibility for the relapse since it was the pharmacy’s error. I think it was scary too because there was the very real possibility that I was going to take my own life because of someone else’s mistake.
The thirteenth point was around education and the online courses I had planned to take through the Centre of Excellence. At the beginning of the year they were Feline Behaviour and Psychology and Freelance Journalism. I completed the Feline Diploma with a score of 97%! And, so far, I’ve completed 73% of the Journalism Diploma. During 2020 I’ve also started a Novel Writing Diploma and a Forensic Psychology course. And there are so many more I want to do, but I’m prioritising the three that I’ve already started before adding anymore! I really enjoy learning because, as I said in the 2020 post, I believe a lot of stigma and discrimination around mental health is from a lack of education. So, I’m passionate to be educated in topics I want to know more about and that I want to understand better.
The fourteenth part was about having no regrets from doing Blogmas and Vlogmas in 2019. Of course, that still stands this year because I’ve done it again! I did a few things differently this time though… I started writing my Blogmas posts in September (you can read about my decision to do that here) because one thing I’d learnt from last year was just how long it takes to prepare twenty-five blog posts to publish every day through December 1st to Christmas Day! And I knew that the time and effort it takes could end up ‘spoiling’ the actual Christmas period and filling it instead with stress and frustration. I also made Vlogmas a bit different this year in vlogging every day but publishing the clips into one long video on Christmas Eve so that I didn’t have to worry them every day too.
The fifteenth part was about my 29th Birthday and – oddly enough – how it was making me think about having children! This year, it’s my 30th and it’s going to be quite sad and difficult if my locality is still under certain restrictions that stop me from having the giant party I wanted! I know it’s a bit of a milestone Birthday at the best of times but considering professionals (mainly psychiatric) believed I wouldn’t make it to my 19th Birthday; it feels like a huge achievement too!
The sixteenth bit was my favourite photos from 2019; so here are my five favourites from 2020:
1. My trip to Liverpool
2. Collaborating with Kerry Daynes
3. British Transport Police suicide awareness training
4. My God-Children
5. Everything Disordered’s book cover
The seventeenth part was about St Oswald’s Hospice and the voluntary position I’d just gotten with them as a Digital Volunteer. Unfortunately, with the UK lockdown and the pandemic, I was only able to have one face-to-face training session and one visit to the offices in the Hospice. However, the Digital team have been fantastic in adapting to the restrictions in a way that meant I could still play a role in the organisation. So, I took the rest of my mandatory (and some extra) training online and then I’ve been sent tasks through my Hospice email. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve been able to do so far – even putting together the bunting for an event! I particularly loved being asked to edit the current PowerPoint that is playing on a loop on the TV screens throughout the Hospice. And it’s been so lovely to be given such positive, kind feedback for my work and the assignments I’ve completed.
The eighteenth point was the ‘top lesson’ I’d learnt in 2019. This past year, I think the best lesson I’ve learnt is around my medication and accepting that I really need it right now. Learning that has meant I’ve also adopted the attitude that you should never be ashamed to say that you take psychiatric medication. You shouldn’t be judged for it or discriminated against in anyway, because actually; it’s very brave. Firstly, you’ll have had to tell someone you need help in order to be prescribed it, and secondly, every single day that you take your medication you’re making the conscious decision to live. To survive. Depression, anxiety, hallucinations, obsessions (and more) be damned!
The nineteenth part was about my home and my realisation that this isn’t actually my forever home – mainly because it only has one bedroom and at some point in my life, I’d like children. I think that when I moved in here and labelled it my forever home, I was in recovery but I was still unable to really see beyond a year in terms of my life. When I moved in, I couldn’t picture myself reaching the age I am now! I think a part of me still believed I would end up taking my own life. Now that I feel my recovery and happiness is so much more powerful, robust, and genuine; I fully believe that I have the rest of my life to live and that will probably mean – eventually – adding children to my little family. One thing I mentioned last year was that having a new home will depend upon me being able to afford it and that will most likely only be when I’m well enough to work. My current plan, is to give my mental health a few more months of stability and review things then.
In my final point, I talked about travelling during 2020! Which is really ironic since so many people have had their holidays and plans to travel cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic and lockdown regulations! I think that at this point, no one can really make any predications for 2021 because everything has been so uncertain since the beginning of it all. I would love to start travelling again for events and meetings though and I’ve actually come to find that I’m missing London the most! At one point, I was spending so much time there that I planned to move and then I was round the corner from a terrorist attack and decided to stay put! But I’ve still enjoyed travelling down because I think I’m a City girl! I’m not really passionate about the countryside or the coast so if I were to move, I’d want to still have easy connections to a city as I do now.
So, that’s everything I talked about in my review of 2019. One big thing that will be happening this year (hopefully April 20th) will be the release of my book; Everything Disordered. Originally, it was planned to be a complete jumble of content and resources. Now, it’s become more about being a practical guide to blogging. I’ve benefited so much from I’m NOT Disordered that it feels only right that I publicise that and promote that others try blogging!
Happy New Year!