Saturday, 26 December 2020

AFTERMATH & MENTAL HEALTH

"The world breaks everyone and afterward, many are strong at the broken places."

Ernest Hemingway

With Christmas becoming extra special this year for lots of people seeing it as a huge cheer-up through the lockdown and coronavirus pandemic, it’s sort of been inevitable that more people will experience a ‘Christmas Come-down!’ Realising this, I thought I would blog some tips for making it through that time, and then my thinking sort of snowballed into me thinking about aftermaths in general. And aftermaths can be so connected to a person’s mental health that it feels worth talking about the entirety of them…

aftermath

[ˈɑːftəmaθˈɑːftəmɑːθ]

NOUN

The consequences or after-effects of a significant unpleasant event.

 

SELF-HARM

If I’ve labelled the aftermath of self-harm difficult or bad in any way, I’ve sometimes found people surprised by this because they’ve assumed that if I’m self-harming it’s to help myself in some way and so surely, I should consider the aftermath of it to actually be pleasant. And that if I didn’t think of it as enjoyable, why would I continue to self-harm? My response to this is an attempt to get across the desperation that a person usually feels when they self-harm. Especially where it isn’t the first time…

You can become so desperate to escape the motivations to hurt yourself that you don’t stop for even a moment to consider how awful any previous aftermaths have been. And it isn’t really about denial and blocking out those memories, it’s just that… Well, personally, I have the mindset that no matter what the aftermath, it’ll be worth that very short, momentary feeling of relief that I experience immediately after self-harming. So, it’s not as though all those memories about unhelpful responses in the aftermath of self-harm aren’t in my head; just that in the grand scheme of things, they mean nothing. Honestly, in the past, there’ve been times when a professional’s response to my self-harm has left me saying ‘I’m never going back to that A&E!’ or ‘I’ll never speak to the Crisis Team again!’ Yet, those instances don’t change my decision to self-harm.

I would say, though, that the aftermath can sometimes vary depending on my rationale for self-harming. I mean, where the influence has been the hallucinations (auditory or visual); I think that there’s still so little understanding of them with professionals that it usually means I’ll not receive very kind or empathetic care. Or not as much as I receive where the trigger has been related to the abuse and particular memories of it.

The aftermath of self-harm isn’t all about the response you receive from professionals though (but I do find that the hardest aspect), it can also be regarding any medical treatment required. When I started self-harming, it would be just enough to draw blood and I actually managed to pass them as cat scratches a few times! Since my relapse earlier this year when the pharmacy made an error with my antipsychotic medication until I came through it almost four months ago, I have made such deep wounds that I’ve now severed branches of the Radial Nerve. When the Plastic Surgeon said that he couldn’t repair it, I struggled with thoughts of regret. I mean, how could someone not have those feelings when they’ve done something that helped them for a matter of minutes, and yet are now be dealing with big consequences of it for the rest of their life? The Crisis Team reassured me though; they told me that as long as I’ve learnt something from what has happened – from what I did – then I shouldn’t regret it. I should see it instead, as a lesson.

Sadly, I also found that when my self-harm required more urgent, surgical medical treatment, I actually received a better response from professionals. I say ‘sadly’ because you shouldn’t need surgery for your self-harm to warrant you fair, kind treatment and responses. I guess that there’s still an attitude out there within A&E and medical hospitals in general that patients who’ve self-harmed are a waste of the Nurses’ and Doctor’s time. That it isn’t fair you should take up some of their time for something ‘self-inflicted’ when there are people dying for reasons which are out of the person’s control.

Tip:

If you’re struggling to explain how you’re feeling and why you’ve done what you have, try writing it down for professionals.

 

A SUICIDE ATTEMPT

A suicide attempt can have many of the same elements as an aftermath of self-harm; there’s a piece of medical treatment, the different responses from professionals depending upon the reasons for the attempt, and the misunderstanding around how you must be feeling and what is going through your head…

I think the main influence on the type of aftermath you have to a suicide attempt, is how you’ve been drawn to the attention of the professionals. Have you done something and changed your mind, so you’ve gone for help by yourself? Have you been found? Have you left a note? Were you in a public area? All of these things can shape the professional’s judgement on the seriousness of your attempt, and this will impact the aftermath you experience in so far as the response you receive. I found that on the occasion when I’d gone for help voluntarily after having done something and feeling regret for it, I would be treated with less effort to develop an understanding. However, on the few instances when I’ve only ended up in a medical hospital because I’ve come to the attention of the Police (by going AWOL from the psychiatric ward), staff have responded to me and my attempt with more seriousness and with a greater effort to understand why I’d done it.

I guess a huge component to the response and attitude of professionals in a suicide attempt aftermath is the ‘attention-seeking’ mindset. For some professionals, they see any and all attempts in that light, for others it can depend upon the situation, and for the rest, they might never consider an attempt in that way. When the professionals were attempting to make a diagnosis for me, they stumbled over this thought process that I was doing these things purely for attention. I think it took a very serious attempt that landed me on life support in Intensive Care for them to wake up and see that I actually really needed help and support and that without it, there was a very high possibility that I would end up killing myself. Personally, I don’t think it should have taken my suicide attempt aftermath including a life support machine for professionals to see just how poorly I was and how serious I was about wanting to be dead. It shouldn’t have taken that for them to sit up and realise that their attitude was not going to save my life, and I wasn’t going to save it myself.

The medical treatment to a suicide attempt is another aspect of the aftermath and another thing that, like with self-harm, didn’t change whether I did it or not… The thing with my mental health was that my response to the hallucination’s commands to kill myself meant an overdose. I always took the same medication as I had learnt what the medical aftermath entailed; but knowing that, didn’t change whether or not I would do it. I mean, there was one time when my veins had become so damaged from the treatments that, out of desperation, the Doctors put in an IO (basically, they drilled into my shin bone!). But after the strange-ness of the drilling, I had some excruciating pain that was so bad I vomited and it turned out my bones were too dense to take the treatment at the rate it had to be administered. That agony and the feeling of someone drilling into a bone… well, you’d think it would leave someone – anyone, saying ‘I’m never going through that again’ but about a week later, I had. I hope that maybe this will illustrate just how overwhelmed and consumed I was by the hallucinations and the suicidal thoughts and feelings.

There were other slightly traumatic aftermaths of suicide attempts too – there was one occasion that I was restrained under the Mental Capacity Act and sedated with Ketamine. All I remember was that I was in complete white-ness, and every so often a black platform would appear and I’d have to jump over it or onto it and then I’d be falling upside down. When I came round, I had a tube in my neck administering the antidote medication and staff sat on chairs either side of my hospital bed. Apparently, I’d gotten quite violent in the time I was hallucinating. I was sick afterwards and had a horrible taste in my mouth. And I remember coming out of the hospital and thinking ‘I don’t ever want to go through that again.’ But my Community Psychiatrist knew that realistically, it could end up repeating and she put an Advanced Statement in place which is basically like a psychiatric version of a DNR – you make decisions on how you’d like to be treat when you’re no longer well enough to make them yourself. In it, she wrote that if I needed medical treatment then I should always be treated against my wishes but that they should never use Ketamine again!

What I want people to know:

Suicide not only takes away the possibility of preventing things from getting worse, but it also stops the opportunity of things improving.

 

ABUSE

Having been told that the deterioration in my mental health has been a direct result of the abuse I experienced when I was 15 and until 16, I think I was immediately aware that this was a personal thing… That even though there wasn’t a single person I knew who had been abused (though obviously they might have and haven’t spoken up) I was aware that not everyone responded the way I had. Not everyone would go on to self-harm or attempt suicide. And even the hallucinations… whilst my hallucinations are caused by the imbalance that my antipsychotic medication fixes, they too were influenced by the abuse. Professionals explained that since I had dissociated during the abuse (I recall a lot of it as though I’m on the ceiling looking down at it happening to someone else) my brain has held onto that coping mechanism and behaviour and escalated it into visual and auditory hallucinations.

The awareness that the impact the abuse has had isn’t a set rule everyone who experiences abuse goes through, has definitely supported feelings of loneliness. Which was something I was already struggling with while the abuse was happening, because there were so many reasons why I felt that I couldn’t report it there and then; and each reason felt like another piece of evidence in support of me feeling completely alone in what I was going through. I did desperately try to show the people who were around me at the time what was happening to me, but everyone was fairly convinced of my abuser’s reputation that he was someone important who should be respected and appreciated. And when the Police told me that his colleagues had all said ‘we wondered if it was happening’ I felt even more alone – and angry – that they’d suspected something and hadn’t done a damn thing about it! It made me think that no one wanted to help me.

This sense of loneliness continued throughout my life and I think it’s only been the past few years that I’ve really started to recover from that and begin to recognize and appreciate all of the amazingly supportive people I’m surrounded by. There are people who have been there this entire time, but it’s taken me so long to recognize and respect them. Which makes me feel like a such a terrible person. Fortunately, all of these people are so fantastic and understanding that they can appreciate why my gratitude has been so delayed.

Though, I’ve come to realize that loneliness can sometimes be… powerful and meaningful. Firstly, the realisation that a lot of people are abused and that so many of those people are struggling with their mental health in many ways I did, has been so devastating. Some might think I’ve been fairly naïve and ignorant to not have thought about others experiencing abuse, and do you know what? I think I’d agree. I did live a very naïve childhood (though I wouldn’t change that for the world!) but there were also very little stories in the media about abuse. It wasn’t talked about as much as it is now. And then I think I probably did go through a period of denial – of convincing myself I was alone in this trauma. Then I met a lady in the psychiatric hospital who told me about her own experiences of abuse, and it empowered me to report my own. I felt that doing so, would be reassuring of the fact that I’d done everything in my power to prevent it from happening to someone else. I mean, at the time, my abuser was still interacting with children and I worried that he’d have become a bit… arrogant; in thinking that because he’d ‘got away with’ what he’d done to me, he could do it again without suffering any punishment of consequences.

The second positive to the loneliness has been that I’ve been eager to relieve it and since I’ve felt that I had no one to rely on at the time, I’ve had to learn to brave an emotion like that and to come up with my own ways to improve things for myself. Maybe – in a way – it’s made me stronger and more resilient.

What I want you to do:

If you suspect it – report it! A person with the power to stop abuse but doesn’t, is just as worthy of blame.

 

BEING SECTIONED

This might not be a very common event to discuss its aftermath – especially with inpatient mental health beds decreasing in many areas in the UK, and mental health services being so underfunded. Those factors – and many more that can be personal to individuals – have meant hospitalising through sectioning is being avoided at all costs.

I think that even though I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act for two and a half years and many other short-term occasions, new guidelines came out that stated people with my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder shouldn’t be sectioned or admitted to psychiatric hospital because it was believed to be unhelpful. And perhaps my experiences of aftermaths of these admission and sectioning are evidence that it wasn’t completely beneficial for me – but I believe that just because people have the same diagnosis, treatment should be on an individual basis and not a blanket ban. I say this because there were a few occasions – and in particular the two-and-a-half-year admission, that being sectioned really did save my life.

There were also times however, when it exacerbated how I was feeling and there’d be incidents on the wards that were really upsetting… I mean, I’ve seen bodies being wheeled from the hospital after an inpatient murdered another one, and I’ve seen numerous people who I’d come to know, hurt themselves. One memory in particular that’s always stuck with me was when I was on the toilet in the en-suite bathroom and a psychotic patient let herself in and started screaming that her baby was in my toilet… whilst I was on it! I think some people might find that slightly amusing, but I try to remember that she was very poorly. Another incident that has stuck with me was when I heard a funny noise coming from an inpatients bedroom and when I looked through the window in her door, I saw she had a ligature around her neck and her face was going blue. I screamed for the staff and in the meantime – out of desperation – I attempted to kick down her door!

After the immediate aftermath of being sectioned, there’s a longer-term aspect too, which is something you might experience no matter how long you were detained for. Losing your freedom and the power to say ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do, can be really difficult to accept. And it means that it can be very hard to be appreciative of the professionals’ decision to section you because it might feel more like a punishment than their desperate attempt to help and support your mental health and ensure your safety. This has all sort of been illustrated this year with the lockdown and social distancing guidelines, so more people will have a better idea of what it means to feel you have lost your rights and that you’re being punished for something that wasn’t your fault. This feeling and the thoughts surrounding it can really motivate a change in attitude toward all professionals. Like, once you’ve had a bad experience with being sectioned, if it was to happen again you would either lie your way through an assessment to avoid it happening again, or you’d just completely refuse to engage and co-operate. I don’t think either response will ultimately be helpful.

Losing – or at least being limited to using – the power and ability to say ‘no’ for two and a half years, was actually really triggering of memories of the abuse. I mean, I don’t need to go into details, but a lot of things happened where I wanted to scream ‘NO!’ yet I felt that my mouth was clamped shut and the word just wouldn’t form. So, having professionals tell me that I was no longer entitled or allowed to say ‘no’ to where I slept, where I ate, when I used the bathroom, when I was allowed to shave or have my glass makeup foundation, which medications I took…?! I mean, for anyone – whether they’ve been abused or not; what would that do to a person’s mindset and confidence? I felt that even when my section was lifted, I either had to earn back permission to say ‘no’ or I had to get used to, and accept, forever feeling reluctant to say it. And becoming afraid to say ‘no’ is probably a big reason why I take on so many collaborations and so much ‘work.’                                                                                                                                                                                                        

TIP:

When sectioned, concentrate on yourself and getting yourself better. Do all that you can to work toward discharge as soon as is appropriate.

 

THERAPY

This might be a bit of a controversial one… I think there’ll be some people who would argue that therapy should always be a positive event and the definition of ‘aftermath’ is the time period after a negative one. However, as someone who has had two and a half years of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and numerous sessions with Psychologists, I definitely think that some of the therapy work and appointments can be tiring and saddening.

The very first therapy appointment I remember having, was actually Art Therapy whilst a psychiatric inpatient. It was Christmastime and I chose to draw a Snowman and had to listen to the Therapist explain why the fact I drew each ball of snow a different size had some deep, dark meaning and it wasn’t just because that’s how you build a blooming snowman! I ended up walking out of the art studio in frustration. It was sort of disappointing for me then, because I’m quite a creative person in general and I think I’d been fairly hopeful that a Therapy that involved that quality, had more chance of helping me than just sitting and talking.

The next Therapy I can recall was Schema Therapy with the most amazing Psychologist! It was shortly after an admission to a psychiatric hospital out of my local area suggested I have DBT and my Mum and I had no clue what that was. Finding out DBT was actually the recommended treatment for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), gave my Mum motivation to question our local mental health services as to why it’d never been mentioned or tried. So, I think my initial appointment with the Psychologist was to begin DBT but she felt that Schema Therapy should be completed first. Learning that I have different ‘Schemas’ – different parts to me – and being able to label them was so enlightening and when we put it into a document (all these parts and the qualities and behaviours I would exhibit depending on which Schema was the most prominent) ended up being so helpful for medical hospitalisations for self-harm or a suicide attempt. It reassured me to know that people would be able to recognize that I might not be speaking or acting as ‘Aimee.’

So, that poor and then positive experience, sort of set my expectations when I was admitted to the specialist psychiatric hospital with the understanding that I would go through intensive DBT sessions – both group and individual. I think that the positive Therapy experience encouraged me to ‘give it a go’ but the negative, made me sceptical that it would actually help. I developed the mindset that if it didn’t ‘work’ then at least I could say I had tried. And ultimately, on DBT as a whole, I’d say ‘thank goodness I tried’; but after some sessions I’d come out of the room saying, ‘I’m not doing that again!’

Initially, learning that distraction and self-soothing could help me at times when I was convinced the only thing that could help me was self-harm or suicide, made me feel so stupid and pathetic. I was actually nervous to admit that these – in my opinion – simple coping skills, were beneficial because I worried people would think that I mustn’t have been ‘that suicidal’ and not struggling ‘that much.’ I thought that having this belief would leave people thinking of me as weak for not making that tiniest bit of extra effort that would mean I’d keep myself safe. That sort of aftermath; not knowing what to do with what you’re being taught and the things you are realising, is probably really common. And whilst confusion and uncertainty aren’t great feelings, I experienced worse ones as the DBT sessions progressed and then when the hospital hired a Trauma Therapist.

I mean, be honest; Trauma Therapy just sounds so awful and as though it’d be almost painful… And it was – the few appointments I had with him, were definitely both of those things and so many more! The Therapist explained to me that in this sort of Therapy, a lot of the benefits it can bring are when you almost mentally relive the trauma with your Therapist because it not only builds a trusting relationship between the two of you, but it also allows you the chance to feel all of those feelings again but in a safe space and in a secure and guarded way. This totally makes sense, but I think that it isn’t ‘right’ for everyone. And that’s not to say someone’s ‘trauma’ is worse than another person’s; just that they are different. Different people. Different traumas. And so, the response and treatment for them should also differ and be unique and tailored to the individual.

What I want you to know:

The saying ‘it gets worse before it gets better’ is a pretty fair summary of therapy!

 

LOSS

I’ve experienced three losses the past two years… I mean, there was my cat; Dolly two years ago and then this year I’ve lost one of my best-friend’s to suicide and then my LEAPS mentor; Dave to Cancer\an infection.

Firstly, the aftermath of Dolly’s death. It was so incredibly hard because I felt responsible for it because I was her Mum, and I was meant to keep her safe. But you know how lots of people say that having to decide whether to put their pet put to sleep was the hardest decision? I wouldn’t say that at all. I mean, it obviously wasn’t a nice decision to have to make, but it was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever made because I knew it was right for her. The Vet had said that there was one more treatment they could try but that it could cause her pain and stress and then it might not even work… So, you see, I knew what was best and whilst it was such a sad decision, I loved her so much that I didn’t want to see her in any sort of pain.

After she passed, I remember talking to a neighbour a few days later and I was saying that I was so angry at myself and she said, ‘you should really be on acceptance by now!’ I was thinking, ‘don’t tell me how to grieve!’ I’d already been aware of the ‘five stages of grief’ that she’d been referring to, but I’d always have the belief that those stages don’t mean a thing. I mean, they might be feelings you have, but you don’t have to have them in that order or have them last for the same amount of time or even have them separately! There should be no rule for grieving and with that, no judgement for the process someone goes through.

An additional aspect to losing Dolly which I’ve still never experienced with any other loss, was that I’d had my lionhead, lop-eared bunny; Pixie for over a year and she and Dolly had been best friends. So, Dolly’s death was also hard on her. And I know there’ll be people thinking that sounds silly, but I honestly don’t care… I know my pets – and Pixie in particular – the best and the fact she began following me around the house and constantly jumping into my lap for cuddles (something she likes to do but doesn’t do as often as she was then) really cements my conviction that she was grieving too. I think she’d also have been able to sense my own sadness and the fact that there was a presence missing from our home. I’m starting to cry now at the thought that Pixie went through that… And how she seemed to be feeling was a big reason why I got Emmy, my little Calico rescue cat, so soon after losing Dolly (within a week). I try to look at Pixie’s grieving as comforting though; to know that I wasn’t alone. Obviously, my Mum and some of my friends were upset for me, but it wasn’t the same because Pixie and I had lived with Dolly. It was almost like we were ‘in it together.’ And another thing was that it really cemented our bond and it make even more special.

The next loss: of one of my best friends to suicide was a few months ago. Being in psychiatric hospitals and blogging about mental health has meant I’ve inevitably gotten to know people who’ve ended up taking their own life so I kind of worried that I’d become hardened or immune to it. That maybe it didn’t mean as much as it would to someone who’d never lost a loved one like this. Losing her though, really reassured me that this wasn’t the case; it wasn’t any easier or less upsetting. I wasn’t emotionless.

Unfortunately, we had fallen out not long before her death so, because of that, I struggled with thoughts that I wasn’t really entitled to be grieving. I was very conscious that she had family and other best friends who would be feeling a whole lot worse than me and so I was reluctant to talk about it online because I thought people might hold that same belief. And feeling unable to talk about it was really hard for me because – whilst I still have some things that’re completely private – I think I’m such an honest and open person. I also thought that sharing loss through suicide is so important to raise awareness of mental health and the impact suicide can have. And being unable to talk about in that way left me feeling fairly alone and kind of useless because using I’m NOT Disordered as a platform to help others in some way, really gives me a sense of purpose. Feeling that sadness about not blogging led to worries that I was being selfish. I mean, her death shouldn’t become about me. I shouldn’t ‘moan’ that I can’t do something that’ll help me when her children have no mum and her family have lost their loved one… Like, what was my struggle compared with theirs? Was it worthy of being talked about?

Losing my mentor, Dave was different again. I was able to blog about his passing, so I felt more supported and writing about his death – being able to say all the things that were going through my head – was really therapeutic. It also helped me to have the opportunity to think about him and encourage happy memories of my time with him to come to the front of my mind.

Dave’s death was also very unfamiliar in terms of who he was and what he’d meant to my life. I mean, I saw him as a mentor in my ‘work’ and ‘career’ and I had never lost someone like that before so my thoughts and feelings felt different to those around other losses and that made experiencing them all the more scary.

What you should NEVER do:

Criticise someone for how they cope through their grief.

 

PHYSICAL ILLNESS

I feel like this is definitely something I’m experienced in! Just because I have seizures quite a lot and sometimes, I’m in random places when they happen so I’ve had a few injuries from them.

My most recent one has been to the AC Joint which is the joint at the end of your collarbone. Initially, I ‘separated’ it which was referred to as a dislocation but rather than having to push it back in position, I had to wear a special sling thing that slowly pulled it back into place. Not long after that happened, I then properly dislocated it and actually had to have it put back in position at hospital. From that, the pain got worse than it’d been from the original injury and I saw an Orthopaedic Surgeon who said that she suspected my Auxiliary Nerve had been trapped when they’d put the shoulder back in. She suggested I do three months of physiotherapy and if there was no improvement then they’d consider some tests and maybe even surgery.

And this isn’t the only perspective surgery in the New Year… last Boxing Day I tore my EPL tendon in my thumb and the repair hasn’t held, and then during my mental health relapse I self-harmed and cut some branches of my Radial Nerve to the extent where the Surgeons are doubtful they can repair it. Having so many physical things go on was having a hugely detrimental impact on my mental health because the pain of them was always so overwhelming and really debilitating in terms of the function and mobility of the injured parts. And it’s the littlest of things that really get to me like not being able to take my washing out of the machine, and only being able to write for five or ten minutes…

The biggest, most difficult aspect with the nerve damage though, is that it’s my choice whether or not to have the surgery. It’d mean a nerve graft (they’d take a nerve from somewhere else in my body and put it into my hand) and that would result in wherever they take the nerve from going numb too. They’ve also told me to consider that they could make things worse by opening it up and even if they were successful, it might not actually work! So, there’s a lot to think about in making the decision. Part of me thinks ‘why risk the chance that it’ll become worse when I’m already struggling to cope with how it is now?’ And then the other part is thinking ‘surely how much I’ve struggled should be motivation to take the opportunity out of desperation for the possibility of some relief?’

I think that these days. it’s not unheard of for people to say that their physical health also has an impact on their mental health. But it’s definitely something I’ve come to learn over the years. Before I’d say I came into recovery from my mental illness (2014), I didn’t really recognize or just couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was exacerbating my mental health struggles. There were obviously times when the cause was blatantly clear; like if the hallucinations had gotten worse or if something triggering of the abuse has happened. Other times, though, there’d be things that had happened but that at the time, I’d sort of pushed them to one side. Then those things would build up and I’d explode! And physical illnesses or injuries were one of those things that got disregarded and their importance ignored. Usually because at the time, I thought I’d be unable to cope with them and since the abuse, one of my most common coping skills was avoidance!

Tip:

Allow yourself the time to recover and practice self-soothing to promote this.

 

A ‘FAILURE’

I’m a bit of a perfectionist – so I don’t appreciate ‘failures’ or ‘mistakes.’ Even more though, I’m a control freak so to think that I’ve ‘failed’ is something I take really to heart!

I guess that it’s been because of the abuse… Firstly, having someone commit a crime against you, can be so infuriating because often you’ll be wondering what you’d done to deserve it. Then also, it can be difficult to accept that something someone else has done, can have such a hugely detrimental impact on your life. I mean, sometimes I viewed this as soul destroying in having the belief that I was the one struggling and it hadn’t even been my fault! And then I’d see it as motivation to think ‘why should he be the one that’s doing ok?!’

And I guess this has influenced my attitude around perfection in that his failure to take any blame or responsibility for what he has done has left me passionate about taking responsibility myself for the littlest of things… So, I put so much effort into making sure that particular things are perfect because otherwise, I feel that I shoulder responsibility for any imperfection. That every failure is my fault.

Then, secondly, the control element to me… I guess that’s a more obvious one; the abuse was so far out of my hands that I had no control over how big of an impact it would have on my life in the long-term as well as short-term. It meant that since then, I’ve (sometimes literally) fought for control over situations. I don’t ever want to have something happen to me that I didn’t want, deserve, or ask for. And I think this is why being sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act isn’t always helpful for me because it means such a complete loss of control over so many important aspects of your life.

Obviously being a perfectionist and thoroughly enjoying control, doesn’t mean I escape experiencing ‘failures!’ I think that with self-harm and suicide attempts, it’s incredibly… ‘easy?’ To be left in the aftermath feeling like you’ve failed in some way. You’ve failed how well you were doing. Or you’ve failed your family and friends and loved ones… I mean, they’re the fails I’ve probably felt that I’ve experienced the most often around my mental health.

Another aspect of my life that has meant I’ve felt that I’ve failed has been having my pets. Having responsibility for another life – whether it’s a human or animal(!) – is scary and the amount you love them makes you very aware of blaming yourself for anything negative that happens to them. When my mental health was at its most poorly, I didn’t take responsibility for anyone – including myself; and I think that made self-harming and making suicide attempts less complicated because I didn’t feel that anyone relied on me… Of course, I could have considered the impact these things were having on my friends and family, but I honestly believed they would be better without me.

Now though, I have my cat; Emmy, and bunny; Pixie. I love having responsibility over these two little lives and our home together but that also means that when something goes ‘wrong’ with them, I see myself as fully to blame. A few months ago, Pixie was poorly and even though the Vet said that how early I caught her illness really illustrated how good of an owner I am, I blamed myself and was convinced I’d done something wrong for her to have gotten poorly in the first place. She was kept in Intensive Care for the weekend and when the Vet called to explain her diagnosis (Gut Stasis – a potentially life-threatening illness where part of the gut stops working properly) my first question was “was there something I’ve done wrong to cause it?” Of course I was assured that it was nothing to do with me (she’s a Lionhead so they believe it had been a hairball and rabbits can’t vomit like how a cat just hocks them up!).

I’ve also experienced failures with I’m NOT Disordered, which might sound strange because of how many readers I have and how much I enjoy blogging. But you can’t publish as many posts as I have and not felt that at least one of them was a complete failure! I think I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I’ve actually not received any negative feedback about my blog – that’s obviously not to say people haven’t thought it! Just that it’s never been said to me. Anyway, there’ve been a few blog posts where I’ve honestly felt a little deflated after seeing them have little to no popularity… Over the years though, I’ve learnt that whilst it’s important to regard how others will respond to my content, the most important thing to keep in mind is how I feel about it. Does it benefit me? Am I happy with it? Do I feel proud of it? Because really, that’s all that matters.

What I want you to know:

It’s not a ‘failure’ if you’ve learnt something from it