Thursday, 11 March 2021

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO PINTEREST & MENTAL HEALTH | PART ONE

“Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

This post has actually become something it wasn’t going to be when I first thought of it and started planning it! Initially, I thought that it would just be a ton of images created on Canva, but in creating the images, I began thinking a lot about what they mean, how important they can be, and how they can impact mental health…

GOALS:

I think that being able to find an image that you can turn into something you’d like to strive to achieve or aim for, is a big reason for utilising a site like Pinterest.

The first time I can remember having a ‘goal’ in life wasn’t around studying for exams at School and wanting to pass them, it was about the abuse. And yes, it was the obvious goal of wanting it to stop. On the first instance, I think I was 100% sure that it wasn’t going to happen again; that belief wasn’t the reason I didn’t scream or why I didn’t report it. It was the reason why I didn’t feel the need to even hope for that or to set a goal for there to be no more instances. I think it was maybe the third or fourth time when I stepped out of the denial I’d been using as a coping mechanism and realised this was something, I was going to have to aim to find a way to end it.

I had so many reasons why I wasn’t reporting it to anyone (mainly his threats and my belief that I wouldn’t be believed) so I turned to my behaviours. To changing my attitude so dramatically that I believed at least one person would turn around and wonder why I was acting this way. I hadn’t put much thought into it, but I just knew that if I were specifically asked by absolutely anyone, I would tell the truth. Of course, that changed and when my Mum checked I was ok, I lied. I guess that by that time, I’d come up with all sorts of worries that weren’t all about whether I was believed but also, whether I would be judged for it – whether someone would deem me deserving of it or even that they’d think I was the cause of it.

I finally achieved my goal of ending the abuse on April 20th, 2007 (hence the date of publication for my new book: Everything Disordered). I honestly think it was a case of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. I’d pushed down my screams for six months and no longer had the energy to do that. So, I screamed! He chased me through his place of work and when his employer overheard me screaming: “think of your wife and children,” I knew it was over.

Of course, when my abuser’s employer called me a ‘manipulative liar’ and had me banned from the building, I was silenced again. To be honest, I think that these years after the abuse have been more challenging than the six-month period in which it actually happened! Purely because the next goal I had for at least three years, between the end of the abuse and now, was to end my life.

For the two years immediately after the abuse, I wouldn’t label myself as suicidal, but I did engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage the memories of the abuse and the intense anger I held towards my abuser. Obviously, none of these methods proved to be efficient and finally, after two years, I reported the abuse and made my first suicide attempt. In my eyes, it was the result of the auditory hallucinations I had started to experience, but the professionals explained that the hallucinations were actually caused by my dissociating during the abuse. Being told that it all came back to the abuse, was really hard to deal with because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had disagreed with the Police and after his arrest they deemed there was not enough evidence to warrant prosecuting my abuser. It meant that even though I knew the cause of my mental health deterioration, I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t go back and make changes to prevent it all…

So, my mental illness was diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) after my third admission to a psychiatric hospital and I spent the following years aiming for the ability to kill myself. I was told that between 2009 and 2012, I engaged in something that could have killed me in over 60 instances, and I finally ended up almost achieving my goal when a suicide attempt left me on life support in Intensive Care. After the coma, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and about a year into my admission – when I set up, I’m NOT Disordered, I found my goal turning upside down and it became about recovery.

The following one and a half years in hospital were probably one of a few instances in my life where I’ve felt that I’ve put in as much time and energy as I have! I’d spend years attempting suicide and self-harming, so I guess it would understandable and obvious that it would take a lot of effort to ‘undo’ all of that and end up in a much happier, healthier and safer frame of mind. I think the biggest aids in helping me to achieve this goal, were the thought of life out of hospital – having my own home and my own cat – and the excitement around my blog’s potential and the opportunities it could afford me.

I think that having positive and healthy goals can be so beneficial for your mental health because they can give you reason to get out of bed at a time when you may not want to. They’re like motivation and something which could drive you through a difficult time or a period where you’re struggling with your mental health. It’s about having a goal that you’re so focused on and determined to achieve, that it gives you reason to stay safe or to ask for help and support when you need it. There’s also an element of your passion for the goal and your thoughts around how you’ll feel when you achieve it, making any challenges along the way, completely worth the effort in overcoming them.

Now, when I think about my current goals… (some people might be surprised that there’s nothing there about self-harm or taking my medication, but I don’t want to put it there and have people think it’s something I’m struggling to make happen)

ü  To succeed at my new staff role with St Oswald’s Hospice

ü  To reach one million readers on I’m NOT Disordered

ü  To finish the new website for LEAPS (in collaboration with Elev8 Web Design)

And finally, to decorate and furnish my current home in a more personal, and long-term way. It is this goal, which has influenced the following images of my absolute aesthetical goals for a home:

 

For more of my favourite bedroom pins: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/aimeswilson/bedroom/

For more of my favourite bathroom pins: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/aimeswilson/bathroom/

For more of my favourite office pins: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/aimeswilson/office/

For more of my favourite home pins: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/aimeswilson/home/

BODY IMAGE:

I didn’t want this post to be solely concentrated on the positive aspects of Pinterest for your mental health, so I thought I’d include the difficult and challenging qualities too…

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of content which is readily available in the digital world about the promotion of eating disorders, particularly Anorexia. I think I first became aware of this very potentially harmful content, when I was struggling with many of the symptoms of Anorexia. I was fifteen and with the abuse starting, I lost my appetite – I would be too nervous for the day to eat breakfast, lunch would be in the building the abuse took place, and by teatime I’d feel sick from what’d happened to me during the day. Then I began to wonder whether being underweight would dissuade my abuser from hurting me. Whether it would make him less attracted to me and therefore deter him from everything he was doing to me. As though that’s how it worked!

At the time, the diagnostic criteria of having an absence of a particular number of menstrual cycles was the one symptom that prevented me from being given the diagnosis. On one hand, this was good news, but on the other hand, it meant that because of that one aspect of the Disorder, I was unable to access specialist recovery services. So, I turned to the internet for help and support.

At least that’s how it started out; with the belief that maybe I’d find advice and tips from people recovered from the Disorder who are able to share what has helped them. I thought that would mean so much more than if I had been referred to services and assigned staff with no lived experience of the topic, they’re advising others about. Unfortunately, in my search for helpful content, I came across the exact opposite. There was pages and pages of blog posts and photos with the premiss of encouraging others to engage in Eating Disorder behaviours. Instead of tips on recovery, people were sharing advice on how to hide their Disorder from others, different methods of purging, and deeming images of others at an unhealthy weight as ‘inspiration.’

Body image isn’t always about your weight and clothes size though; when I was in the specialist psychiatric hospital for two and a half years, I remember a girl being admitted and she literally had no self-harm wounds or scars to her arms. At the time, this was completely unheard of on the ward and I think it actually upset a lot of people because it was almost like a reminder that the rest of us would never again have arms like that. Those moments when self-harming felt like the only way to cope, would leave permanent reminders. I guess there was some jealousy there too…After seeing her arms, I for one, began wishing that I had never started self-harming.

Similarly, to the eating disorder content, self-harm can be encouraged and promoted… I met a number of other inpatients who would encourage one another to self-harm. There was one occasion where one girl had snuck a blade onto the ward and each inpatient was passing it to one another knowing full well what the other person was going to do with it. I was so disgusted with that – and not just because we were all locked out of our rooms whilst a mass search of the entire ward took place with all the staff! I felt that regardless of the very rare occasions when I thought self-harm was helpful for my mental health in the short-term, I would never advise or recommend that someone use it as a coping mechanism. I would never tell a person a specific method of self-harm or provide them with an instrument to use for it!

The thing that makes this relevant to a blog post centred around Pinterest, is those girls who promoted self-harm would also recommend online content to one another that really validated their actions… And it made me wonder; how much of their attitude had been influenced or even caused, by seeing those digital posts? I mean, usually people in general see content online as somewhat trend driven. You know? I mean seeing something written or an image published online often encourages the belief that for it to have earnt a place there, it must be expressing something popular. So why would you ignore it? There’s so many people who are unconfident and can become quickly – and somewhat easily – influenced and I believe you shouldn’t publish something online without taking that into account.

I guess there can be an argument about responsibility and whether the person publishing content that encourages difficult behaviours around body image, should be to ‘blame’ if their posts have a harmful impact on their audience. Or do we believe that a person is ‘choosing’ how to respond to the content and is therefore responsible for whatever they say or do in that response?