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
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
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.