So, if you’re lucky, you may not remember; but in July 2022, I broke my wrist in a number of places after falling down some stairs (you can read more about the accident here). And it’s been an incredibly long and rocky road since then with the original surgery on the Radius break failing, and then the second surgery to remove the hardware from it, and to add more to the Ulna break because it wasn’t healing. Now, well over one month since that second surgery, I’m still in so much pain on the Ulna break and an x-ray on the 16th January has showed that despite the pins they’ve put in, the break still hasn’t repaired – apparently it’s called a ‘non-union’ – and so I’m facing the prospect of a third surgery. This time, my incredible surgeon plans to remove the metal in there, add some wires, and do a bone graft from my hip into the break (which I think just sounds painful never mind how it might actually feel!). Needless to say, I cried a lot, and it is that which has inspired this blog post, where I’ve chosen my five favourite images from Pinterest that – for me – inspire bravery…
If you’ve read, I’m NOT Disordered for a little while, I will likely not surprise you when I say that my first recognition of bravery came with the abuse. What might surprise you though, is that the bravery wasn’t about me – it wasn’t about how bravely I fought him off me, it wasn’t about how brave I was when I finally reported it, it wasn’t about how I brave I was to try to carry on with life when that was happening to me. It was about him because bravery doesn’t have to be in a positive way. And he had that quality because he did something that could seriously jeopardise his entire life!
Something I actually don’t think that I’ve ever talked about on here before, is that my abuser has two children and was (I don’t know if he still is) married. And so, the fact that he had that family life and those people who should have been so important to him, and yet he still did what he did to me; well, surely that took some guts? I do believe/wonder though, whether it’s the kind of brave where it seems almost natural and you don’t recognise that it is that. Like, maybe it’s what the Police thought and that I wasn’t his first ‘victim’ and so he was sort of accustomed to doing it – accustomed to getting away with it. I mean, I can’t imagine someone being that manipulative and sly without any practice in doing/being so.
Recognising his bravery in taking actions that could end his career, destroy his family, and lead to a prison sentence was actually influential in many ways. Firstly, it led to my decision to finally report him to his employer (he was using his job as the opportunity to hurt me). I recognised that if he would really take such a risk and be so ambivalent to the importance of everyone and everything he was/could end up destroying; then what were the chances that he’d just stop doing it by himself? I mean, surely it meant he really had no motivation to do so. And if there was no hope of him taking the steps to end this, then I would have to. So, when his employer heard us yelling at each other and he stormed out of his office to shout at us, I finally told him what the member of staff he – and so many of his colleagues – thought so highly of, was doing behind his back. The person he really was. Of course (I don’t know why I was surprised at the time!) he labelled me a liar and it silenced me for a further two years, but the consequences to my allegation meant the abuse ended up stopping anyway.
Another influence my abuser’s dismissive attitude toward other parts of his life, was that it made me consider my priorities and the people/things that were important to me, and how my actions could affect them. It made me think about whether self-harming or making a suicide attempt was worthwhile when compared to the impact these actions were having on my entire life. It left me wondering whether the relief self-harm brought to me, and the peace a suicide attempt gave me, was more important. Now, of course if I considered those things these days the answer would be an enormous ‘no,’ but at that time – when my mental health was so unwell, I couldn’t see past or beyond the tunnel which led to me acting on my thoughts and feelings around hurting myself and committing suicide. I couldn’t even begin to entertain the notion that the tears my Mum was shedding and the upset my other family members and some of my friends were going through, should be enough to stop me from taking these actions.
Being incapable of recognising what my priorities really should be if my mental health were well and safe, meant that I engaged in self-harming behaviours for over three years (2009 – 2012), made two suicide attempts during that time, and was hospitalised in both medical and psychiatric wards numerous times. I know that for some, three years might not feel a huge amount of time, but when you’re the one in that situation and position…
I mean, it really felt like it was going on forever. And with that notion, came the hopelessness. The very sturdy belief that there was absolutely no chance that any of this would ever get any better. I fully believed that no matter what anyone did, no matter what the dose of medication, no matter which section I was detained under, no matter which hospital I was in… It wasn’t going to change what I genuinely believed to be my destiny – my purpose for being on this earth. I really was going to end up killing myself.
I don’t know where the small, negative turning point came from, but I developed the thought process that I might as well cooperate and engage with the mental health services and professionals because I thought it wouldn’t make a difference. And so, I (stupidly) thought that if it looked like at least I had tried to get help and support; it might make my suicide somewhat less painful for my loved ones.
This thought process continued and had a huge impact on the aftermath of my second suicide attempt, which left me on life support. When I came around from the coma and was told I’d be going to a specialist psychiatric hospital, I used the view of agreeing with professionals purely from the belief that whatever they did wouldn’t help; to influence my agreement to go to there without their back-up plan of being restrained and dragged all the way! I thought that if I went voluntarily, and the hospital was unsuccessful in helping make any difference to my mental health, people might find comfort in the knowledge that I’d tried to change things. That I’d wanted to get better. When really, my idea was that going over 100 miles away might give me a better chance of escaping and committing suicide.
Whilst I managed to escape two or three times during my two-and-a-half-year admission at the psychiatric hospital, the closest I came to succeeding with my suicide attempts when I got away, was this one time in October 2013, when I ended up on life support again but this time, it was for a number of days because my liver was starting to be affected. When I came round from the coma, I was transferred to the psychiatric intensive care unit and spent a few days feeling absolutely terrible. I was vomiting, feeling really drowsy and sleeping lots, put on a level of observations where it meant that a member of staff had to be with me 24/7 so that I was watched when I was getting a shower, and not allowed any of my own possessions. I was absolutely terrified because there were so many horror stories about this ward (not long before my discharge in 2014, on their ward a patient actually ended up killing another one!) and there was always a ton of screaming that could be heard from our ward on a completely different floor of the hospital!
For the first time, I felt actually regretful of my actions. I felt that it’d lacked in being at all worthwhile. That any of the relief I felt in the attempt and the hours between knowing that it had every chance of working and the hospital staff sedating me, hadn’t at all outweighed all of the consequences of it. On top of that thought process, the attempt also motivated the notion that I didn’t want this to be my life. I mean, the fact that I hurt myself and tried to commit suicide didn’t at all feel like a choice – I fully believed that if someone offered me an effective, safe alternative, I’d jump at the chance of being in a much more positive and healthier place in so far as my wellbeing and mental health.
For the first time though, I recognised that maybe I did have some power over these behaviours. I thought that if someone offered me an alternative and I would say yes, then surely that would mean that there was a chance for me to be the one to find the alternative. That if I let the staff help me with the therapy they provided and the medication they prescribed, I might be supported into being able to keep myself safe and develop a more happy and healthy outlook on life. And – after that suicide attempt – having now seen the hugely horrible consequences I might face if I were to make another attempt and it ‘fail,’ I felt a new determination for that to never happen again. I experienced a realisation that I had some control over that.
So, needless to say that the incident was a huge turning point for me and my mental health journey/recovery, and that gave me the energy and motivation to finally start fighting the unsafe thoughts and feelings and to really throw my all into engaging in the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) sessions that the hospital facilitated and cooperating with my enormous medication regime! I also found myself developing a more intense and devoted sense of passion to my blog (which I had started a few months before the escape and the suicide attempt).
When I’m NOT Disordered reached 100 readers, I remember being in the ward corridor and jumping up and down and screaming with one of the other inpatients who I was really close to. We were so loud that the staff came running because they thought that we were fighting! And I guess that somewhere from there and before this third attempt, I stopped holding it too highly in my mind and in my priorities.
Having started blogging before this attempt, meant that I ended up having the ability to look back at the posts in the run-up to the attempt and see if there were any signs I could have noticed and opportunities I could have taken to get help and support so as to completely avoid it even happening… Professionals refer to it as ‘warning signs’ and it’s something they should really encourage you to recognise, remember, and act on because ultimately, they can be lifesaving. Especially if the professionals are aware of them because it means that if you fail to reach out whilst experiencing them, they can/should initiate the help and support that you likely need, to avoid your mental health deteriorating and your safety being jeopardised.
One really helpful quality I feel like I’m NOT Disordered has nearly always had for me and my mental health, has been continuity and that even goes so far as the fact that it was useful looking back after that attempt and I actually still find that aspect of my blog just as positive and beneficial. See, when I was at my most poorly (mentally), an enormous precipitator of many of my crises was any sort of change in my life and it wasn’t even just big ones, small changes too! This issue is really unhelpful in mental health because it’s very rare that anything will stay the same in it. Like, the whole point of being admitted to hospitals and needing extra support sessions and things is because a person’s mental state can completely change and fluctuate (in good ways too, obviously) all the time. And this can be especially true for people with a diagnosis of a Personality Disorder (like me!).
Unfortunately – the reason I wrote ‘nearly always’ – a few horrible comments were left on some of my blog posts in the months after that third attempt and with my discharge starting to be discussed and planned out, I began considering the prospect of closing I’m NOT Disordered down completely. It was like I had the thought that blogging didn’t hold enough benefits for my mental health and general wellbeing and safety, to motivate me to fight against my fear of producing more content and having it trashed as well. Almost like being faced with the question: “is it worth it?” And it didn’t feel as though it was worthy of me going completely out of my way to be brave and ignore and dismiss the comments.
In the end, I couldn’t be more grateful for that month and a bit (September 12th 2014 – October 29th 2014) that I spent actively not blogging! I mean, initially; after I started blogging again, I was kind of regretful that I’d missed all that time when I could have spent it building my blog up and growing its connections. I completely resented those trolls and for their comments being so powerful that they knocked me back that much. Now, though, I appreciate that time away because it really cemented my passion by giving me the opportunity to see what life – and my mental health – was like without I’m NOT Disordered… And I didn’t like it!
Now, not to blow my own trumpet, but I actually feel like it took some real bravery to go back on my decision and change my mind. When I was poorly, I was determined to always be ‘right’ and to do it in a consecutive manner. So, throughout my recovery this was something I had to change; I had to recognise that a person can’t always get things right and there was no use being a perfectionist if doing so was exacerbating my mental illness (which it was). And coupled with my desire to always be right, was my sheer dislike for when people do posts on social media saying they’re quitting it and then they’re back on a few hours later. I didn’t want to be one of those people! And so, it took bravery and courage to go back on my word and I had to put a lot of focus on the fact that not only had I missed blogging, but I had also developed ideas around how I could make it into something big. Thinking about that meant it gave me the drive to just jump right back into the industry with a better attitude and bigger dreams.
In all honesty, it didn’t take too long from when I resumed blogging to the moment it became obvious that I had made the right decision to do so. I mean, it was literally a month or two later and I was being asked to attend an event and blog about it, and then I was invited to join in a research study for Birmingham University! I actually ended up feeling fortunate I had stopped blogging because it meant that the bravery I’d used to get back into things comforted me into knowing that I had the potential to cope with the further opportunities that were starting to arise from I’m NOT Disordered.
This was especially true and relevant when the media began taking notice of my mental health journey and the success of my blogging and I ended up featuring in the local newspaper, in Take A Break magazine, on the Chronicle and the Daily Mail’s websites, on BBC Radio 5, BBC Radio Midlands, Metro Radio, Channel 4 Dispatches, BBC national news, ITV local news, and MADE in Tyne and Wear (huge apologies to any media outlets I’ve missed out!). In fairness, I think that no matter whether you have pre-existing and well-established mental health problems, being on TV and appearing in any media, can be extremely intimidating, daunting, and incredibly challenging of your bravery, courage, and confidence. It meant that it was quickly so incredibly useful to have already built up a bit of a collection of those qualities.
To develop my bravery, I also found it really helpful to look at each opportunity – each interview and each media appearance – as a lesson for the next one. It meant I could look at the experiences that I might have deemed to be failures or mistakes, in a more positive and productive light that wouldn’t over-shadow the fact that their pure existence was often an achievement in itself. And I was incredibly aware that this was a thought process that I could have never created or utilised if my mental health was as poorly as it had been in previous years. If I made a ‘mistake’ then, I would’ve been self-harming to punish myself because I would’ve almost automatically deemed it to be completely my fault.
I think that viewing all the decisions I make in my blogging career as learning curves – even the decisions that worked out ‘well’ – has probably been one of a few fundamental contributors to the popularity of I’m NOT Disordered. I like to think that all these things that go on kind of… ‘behind-the-scenes,’ reflect in your content and on your general reputation as a blogger. And with my content being completely centred around mental health and my recovery journey, I’ve taken a lot of lessons to mean that I need to continue being open and honest. Which, in its self, is an added challenge for my bravery (or lack of). I mean, with the amount of online trolls and bullying, talking about mental health can be sort of risky. Like, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if I received a whole ton of hate after talking about things that make me really vulnerable and therefore a good/easy target.
Finally, after really establishing I’m NOT Disordered, I used the bravery I had gained to begin approaching organisations, charities, well-known individuals, brands, and companies etc. to pitch collaborations and request guest posts. A huge amount of my bravery with this came from my Mum’s philosophy that ‘shy bairns get nowt,’ because it bolstered me into concentrating on the fact that the absolute worst thing that could come from my pitch, would be for them to say ‘no.’ So, if I could cope with that in a healthy, safe, and productive way, why not put myself out there and work to achieve my goals instead of doing as a few bloggers do and expecting it to be handed to them on a silver platter. And the irony is; since I initiated a lot of collaborations, I’m at the stage in my blogging career now where all these people are approaching me now with their suggestions and ideas to work together! And the feeling that I’ve worked so incredibly hard to get to that point, makes it all so rewarding!
If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation, type your keywords into the Pinterest search function and be prepared to be overwhelmed by an incredible number of appropriate images that could help to bring you some encouragement and support.