*This post is part one to a series*

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – there’s a huge mental health awareness date (Time To Talk Day) taking place on my actual Birthday of February 1st, and since I have a really special piece of content already lined up to mark that date; I thought I’d post my Birthday blog post now. I kind of feel like it was a very grown-up decision to make – to prioritise a more career-appropriate post over my Birthday one! And I actually had a ton of ideas of angles for this blog post, but in tracking down the links for every blog post from all my previous Birthdays since creating I’m NOT Disordered, I decided to have a real look through each of them and pick out some bits and pieces that I wanted to reflect on…

MY 22ND BIRTHDAY | I’m NOT Disordered (

This post was the perfect example of my belief that there’s a difference between knowing something happened and actually remembering it. I mean, I knew I’d spent at least one of my Birthdays in the specialist psychiatric hospital, but I had literally no memory of what exactly happened that day, so it was nice – in a way – to read this post and be reminded that actually, it hadn’t been as horrific as I had come to assume it would have been! To be fair, if anything; it was better than I had thought it would have been when I had the thought in my head of: ‘oh yes, I was in hospital for my birthday that year!’

I’ve always said that the catalyst for beginning I’m NOT Disordered (less than one month before this Birthday post) was having a really productive and positive 1:1 with my Key Nurse and that it felt like I was finally setting foot on the road to recovery. And I think that this notion and instinct can be really supported by this Birthday post where I talked about having a really insightful Problem Solving 1:1 with the Activity Therapist. I blogged about how, in the session, we had talked through my eagerness to begin doing some creative activities; and in particular, I referenced finally doing some fashion drawings again because I’d enjoyed them and had always received good feedback from people about my work. Until High School! Where my Textiles teacher literally spent the entire few years of studying tearing down my confidence and leaving me feeling so uncertain on the standard of my work and genuinely reluctant to continue engaging in literally any creative activities!

I picked out this aspect of the 1:1 and the Birthday blog post because it’s something that I – and the staff – actually followed through with(!) when I enrolled in a Creative Writing course at the local College (and attended it escorted by the staff) and began doing fashion drawings again after the OT department bought me some instructive and helpful books. Whilst I don’t often engage in any drawings these days, that’s mostly because I’m so focused on the many other activities and commitments that I have and enjoy so much, and it’s no longer because I have any sort of crisis of confidence. And in fairness, I think that the battle and the need to begin drawing again, was more about the fight to regain some confidence than it was actually doing the drawing; so for me, this is a total WIN – and it’s one which I hadn’t really thought much about until this, so I’m feeling pretty grateful for this blog post already!                                                                                             

'Feelin' like it's my birthday,' | I'm NOT Disordered (

Even though I was still sectioned under section 3 of the 1983 Mental Health Act and technically a psychiatric hospital inpatient, your Psychiatrist can permit leave from hospital (and it’s actually  more complicated than you’d have thought – like, they have to document the radius/distance you can stay in, how many units of alcohol you can drink…) so I managed to spend my 23rd Birthday at my Mum’s.

There was actually a ton of parts that stood out for me in this post, but one of them was very predictably (in my opinion) when I talked about being given £20 from another inpatient and the Dialectical Behaviour Therapist (DBT) bringing cream cakes. And I said how in the past, I would’ve focused on what to spend the money on, but actually; the gesture of the cake meant so much to me too. I mean, I would willingly and voluntarily admit – as I did in this post – that I used to consider myself quite materialistic and often felt that I had the wrong priorities. After all these years of my mental illness though, I’ve come to learn that actually, it was a really unfair and inaccurate label that I – and others – used just because my mental health benefited from having my own things around me. I’ve now come to find the confidence that no one should be judged just because something helps one person and not another. The most important element should be that at least it’s helping them.

I mean, in all fairness, the majority of the time; people who utilise self-harm as a coping mechanism don’t actually want to self-harm – they just want to cope with whatever it is that’s challenging them and their mental health. For me, if someone said to me “if you eat a banana every day, you’ll be able to cope with everything” then I would do that! And so, the way I look at it is that if I can think of something healthy and safe that will help me, then I’m not going to be shy or ashamed to tell someone and/or do something to enable me to engage in that. To be honest, the one difficulty I sometimes still struggle with here, is the notion and worry that it’ll look as though I’m telling a professional how to do their job if I turn around and say “actually, it’ll help me if you do this, this, and this instead of what you’re suggesting/doing.” A way to get through that hesitation though, has been to consistently and constantly tell myself that if the professional is a genuinely caring and compassionate person, they’ll actually appreciate me voicing my thoughts on how they could help me more efficiently and effectively.

24 Lessons Learnt in 24 Years | I'm NOT Disordered (

Trying to isolate special and more important parts of this Birthday blog post was incredibly hard because I think that the angle, I used for creating it, meant almost everything in it, was meaningful in some way. However, the first bit that really stood out was number nine; where I wrote that your idea of recovery is typically formed by the expectations of others, and that what your recovery actually looks like is in your hands to mould, edit, and create.

I think that one of the hardest aspects to ‘recovery’ is finding some way to define it… I mean, professionals will very obviously encourage you to reach this point in your mental health journey, but, unfortunately, they seem to always get one thing wrong about it! Mental health recovery is almost always perceived or described as being linear, and that once you were on the right track, that was that! As though all of a sudden someone had raised a magic wand and there would be no more challenges or struggling or difficulties. And the thing which should be the real stickler – the thing which should leave you questioning a professional who might be exhibiting this wishful thinking – is the recognition that everyone has mental health (it’s just about whether it’s well or poorly). But knowing this, is the same as physical health really – in that you can’t say that nothing will ever go wrong again because it will always be there and therefore, so will the potential to become poorly again.

When I was finally discharged from the psychiatric hospital in the Winter of 2014, though, I hadn’t thought of all that and so I didn’t – not even for one minute – envision any sort of ‘relapse’ or the possibility that I would struggle and experience thoughts to self-harm again. The thing is… I get that perhaps some mental health professionals really want to motivate you to becoming safe and healthy and cooperating with medication, therapy, and any other sort of treatment and they probably realise that a lot of people might not be amenable to that if they knew ‘recovery’ might not last. I think it would be more than understandable to have someone say, “why would I try so hard and put all this effort and time into getting better if you can’t promise or guarantee that the improvements will even last that long?” And it isn’t necessarily about providing a person with the qualities, skills, and coping mechanisms to have a better control over whether their mental health deteriorates again; it’s also about ensuring that if a person was to have some sort of setback, it wouldn’t completely disappoint and destroy them.

With my initial motivation in setting up I’m NOT Disordered being that I felt I’d made a huge step forward on my recovery journey, when I had my first set-back after being discharged from the psychiatric hospital, I felt like a complete failure. I thought that I would be such a total disappointment to so many of my readers that for a while, I wasn’t overly keen to blog about it. I had the huge worry that if I did create content about it, it might take away a lot of hope that readers might have gained from seeing how poorly I had been to the fact I was discharged – almost like they have the mindset; ‘if she can get better from that, then maybe I can too?’

I finally, however. reached the conclusion that I should blog about it because it could be my real opportunity to help others not to have similar thoughts and feelings of failure and disappointment purely because professionals had led them to believe that recovery was linear. Having this mindset that my difficult experiences can be used to help others either avoid going through them too or reassure them they are not alone if they’ve already gone through them too; meant that I didn’t feel so negative and useless.      

The other part to number nine on this Birthday post was that your recovery is ‘the way you make it’ and that means that you can create your own recovery, your own definition, and your own meaning of it. I mean, firstly, no one is struggling with the exact same things – when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) the diagnostic criteria were to have at least five of nine possible symptoms, and I thought this was the perfect illustration of the fact that you can get two people with the exact same diagnosis but that doesn’t mean their mental health is in anyway similar. And even though I was diagnosed as having all nine symptoms – going into the BPD specialist psychiatric hospital – I still didn’t imagine that it would mean I was in a better position to know what everyone was going through because perhaps even those same symptoms were experienced differently when in a different combination of the four others. Also, we all had our own causes, trauma, motivations, and influences on our mental health and our safety levels and so, to me, that means we all still needed different things to get better. Yes, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was the recommended treatment for someone with BPD and yes, it taught us some skills that were very commonly thought of as helpful and useful, but then some of the other inpatients really need support for Eating Disorders or Stress Awareness or Trauma Therapy… I think this is a key piece of evidence to the argument that in mental health, one size definitely does not fit all.

With that in mind, for me, ‘recovery’ has meant improved safety levels and for me to be at a much lower risk in terms of self-harm or suicide attempts. Linked to this, I also see me being in recovery as going hand-in-hand with being in agreement and compliant with taking all of my psychiatric medication because I recognise that it helps with my symptoms – particularly those related to my more recent diagnosis of Psychosis. I think that another measurement of my ‘recovery’ is when I’m able to maintain any and all of my commitments – whether this means publishing a collaboration blog post before its deadline, keeping to my appointments with professionals, and being able to tick off a lot of tasks in my to-do list for my new voluntary job (a blog post on that will be up soon!). And viewing these aspects of my life as being defining characteristics of my recovery, has been so important in helping me to avoid having any unrealistic, perfectionist thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I found that if I expect myself to have absolutely no self-harm or if I hold myself to always being on top of my workload in order to feel good about my mental health and to think of myself as in recovery, I felt like a failure more often.

25 Reasons Why I'm Glad I Made It To My 25th Birthday!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (

This was probably one of my absolute favourite Birthday posts and that meant it was incredibly challenging to choose even just a couple of special bits from it! So, to manage that overwhelming recognition, I decided to be ruthless and just pick one of the twenty-five reasons why I was glad to have made it to my 25th Birthday, and I chose number five where I talked about the incredible feeling I have with the notion and belief that I truly have found my calling in life.

Like a lot of people, my dreams, and goals in terms of a career and working have changed based on various situations that my life has revolved around. The first thing I remember wanting to be was a Horse-Riding Instructor because I used to go to horse-riding lessons and not only did, I enjoy it, but I was also regularly praised for my riding capabilities and skills. I remember always getting this horse magazine and collecting all these plastic horses and my Mum bought me my own riding boots, helmet, and even a grooming kit for brushing my favourite horse; Happy!

At school, I felt that we were never made aware off Internships, Work Experience Placements, Access to Higher Education courses, Apprenticeships, online learning… It was like you had your GCSE’s, A Levels, University, and then a job. In fairness, there were people I knew who had clearly researched and looked into the alternative paths to the career/employment they were passionate about; but I honestly didn’t even think to. And failing to do that, coupled with the fact the abuse had been occurring for around six months, meant that I put a lot of stress and pressure on myself in revising for my GCSE exams because I had no clue that if I failed them, there were still alternate routes to further education and, ultimately, to employment.

To my complete surprise, I passed all my exams – with two even being a grade ‘B’! – and so I enrolled in the Sixth Form of a High School closer to home than that of my GCSE School. Upon having to choose my subjects to study at A Level, I found myself developing a new career goal... Initially, I had planned to take the subjects I was most interested in, but when the abuse had happened, I found myself envisioning being a Lawyer and helping other abuse survivors to get justice for what had been done to them. So, I opted to study Law, History, and Philosophy for two years, and then – towards the end of them – I applied for University and received a conditional offer (the condition being that I had to receive particular grades for each subject in order to secure the offer) to earn a Law degree at Newcastle University!

Unfortunately, on the date I had three exams with one immediately after another, and as a result of having had auditory hallucinations for ten days; I made my first suicide attempt and – I think understandably – I failed to get the grades required for University. As a result of that first attempt, I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act and found myself really struggling to maintain my safety to the point that I ended up being constantly in and out of both medical and psychiatric hospitals for the following three years. And whilst those years were incredibly full of difficult moments and real deteriorations in my safety levels and wellbeing and mental health in general, there were also some stable periods when I was feeling more positive and productive. During those occasions, I found myself trying to find some sort of education and career path that I felt more capable of managing than I thought I would if I still were to try to become a Lawyer.

So, at one point I attempted to enrol in a course at College around childcare, however on my DBS the Police used their ‘discretion’ to disclose that I’d run away from hospitals numerous times and required them to use their powers (section 136) under the 1983 Mental Health Act. Finding that out influenced the realisation that if I can’t look after myself then why should I be trusted to take care of someone’s child?! So, before the College had the time to respond to the DBS comments, I pulled out of the enrolment.

Then, in late 2011, I began seeing a Psychologist and the fact that I then ended up having my most stable period during those very poorly three years (2009 until 2012) didn’t feel like a coincidence. The recognition that a mental health professional could have a hugely positive impact and influence on my mental health when I’d only ever really known negativity and feelings of being dismissed by them; was what really spurred me on and led to me beginning to look into getting a Psychology degree at University to become some sort of Psychologist or Therapist. I really loved the idea of me playing the same life-saving role in someone else’s mental health journey as my Psychologist had in mine. So, I enrolled in a Higher Education Access Course, but I very quickly found myself really struggling with the learning level of the subjects I’d chosen – and this isn’t me saying that I think I’m stupid or something; it’s that I recognised I don’t do well with classroom settings and being in a really rigid learning regime. I mean, I thoroughly enjoy learning, but I’m definitely a kinaesthetic learner in that I need to actually do something in order to really learn about it. Plus, I’ve achieved some high marks and grades with the online learning courses I’ve completed so I’m not at all being too judgmental or lacking in confidence in terms of my intelligence.

I was admitted to the specialist psychiatric hospital in 2012 and I began working with the OT and Activity Therapists to pick back up with some old hobbies and really indulge in some of my creative qualities and passions. In doing so, the department bought me some fashion drawing books and when I started doing that again and saw my mental health really benefiting from it, I started looking at careers in the fashion industry and found myself drawn to Visual Merchandising roles. However, with my creativity coming to the forefront and me experiencing just how therapeutic such activities were, I think it’s actually quite predictable – or at the very least understandable – that I turned to writing/blogging when I started to feel that I was making progress in my mental health recovery.

I think that a really huge contributor to feeling as though I’d found a purpose – or ‘my calling in life’ as I called it in the Birthday blog post – with I’m NOT Disordered was when I talked through a really debilitating belief I had with the Psychologist on the ward. From the moment I made my very first suicide attempt in 2009, I became convinced that my purpose for being in this world was to kill myself in order to highlight the failures of the mental health professionals and other persons involved e.g. A&E Doctors and Police Officers etc. The Psychologist had me think through all the evidence that would contradict this being true and I actually wrote a blog post about it where I listed all the things we’d thought of – you can read it here. And so, eventually, I learnt to really move past this belief and recognise it to have been nothing more than a really negative thought that was really born from all that I had been through and the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing and not based on anything even remotely resembling reality or fact.

Finding purpose through all the positive feedback I receive and the messages detailing how helpful and influential my content has been for my blog’s readers, has truly been monumentally essential to my mental health recovery. As a result of I’m NOT Disordered’s popularity, I have also been granted numerous collaborations that have afforded me some really special one-off opportunities that I’m not only honoured to have been granted, but I also feel extreme sense of privilege and fortune to have even just been safe enough to experience them.

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