The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘overwhelm’

Emotional Stress

emotional stress

Welcome to our third (and final) post in defining stress and really getting in and examining where our stress comes from.

Over the last two days we’ve discussed physical and mental stress and the types of things that influence them. On both days we’ve noticed a number of items on the lists that were a bit unexpected. I believe that today will be no different. There are many things that impact on our emotional stress. Emotions are fickle. They come and go with no rhyme or reason. Or at least we think there’s no rhyme or reason. The fact is, if we understand the mechanics of how our emotions work, we can often recognise the reason and therefore acknowledge where they originate. This of course makes them much easier to manage. So, keep an eye on our blog over the coming week for posts (that may be slightly technical) that will hopefully provide some insight for you.

So, let’s get down to our list. The formula we used yesterday and the day before seemed to work quite well, so following the same routine, we can deduce that emotional stress may be defined as anything that places pressure, strain or force on our emotions.

  • Illness/injury (ever been cranky after stubbing your toe or walking on Lego?)
  • Shock/accident
  • Life challenges (marriage, death, buying a house etc)
  • Work
  • Parenting
  • Beliefs
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Seeing other people emotional
  • Disagreements/fights with others
  • Injustice
  • Animals
  • Relationships (partners, ex’s, kids, friends, colleagues etc)
  • Finances
  • Trying to fit in
  • Keeping up with societies expectations
  • Time – too much or not enough
  • Success, procrastination
  • Pleasing others
  • Not having anything meaningful to do
  • Others’ perceptions/opinions
  • Not speaking your opinion/bottling up your emotions
  • Threats to your life (either real or perceived)
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
  • Criticisms/put downs
  • Bullying
  • Inability to do something (problem solving)
  • Emotions (one emotion can trigger another or escalate what you’re already feeling)
  • Confusion
  • Responsibility (too much or not enough)
  • Thinking, ruminating or dwelling on problems

There are so many more things that need to be on this list and as I type my brain isn’t providing them. So I’m putting the call out for additions. Comment below and I’ll add them to the list.

The thing with emotions is that it is very easy for them to become overwhelming. Events trigger the emotion, you start thinking and ruminating on the event, which triggers more emotion. It becomes an uncontrollable cycle very quickly, leaving you feeling confused, overwhelmed and out of control. Not a pleasant place to be.

Think about this though. Our brains are pre-programmed to feel emotion. It’s a built-in survival system. Fear tells us when our environment is unsafe and we need to remove ourselves. Shock tells us that something has happened that our brain cannot process, so it helps to shut down the system for a while. And overwhelm tells us that our brains are a bit full and it needs a break to recover and process the things inside.

And given the fact that our current lifestyles continuously place more expectations on us, our brains and bodies really need something that helps us to manage everything.

The bottom line is this. Emotions are normal. Everyone feels them. They serve a purpose. And denying their existence just creates extra pressure that our systems need to manage, placing even more stress on us.

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Suppressing your feelings

Emotions are tough. At least they can be. Unless of course you were raised in a family where you were encouraged to express your emotions in a healthy way and you were taught skills to manage them. And even then there are challenges. But at least you’ll know that your emotions are a normal part of the human experience. And you’ll know that it’s ok to feel them. So then that means you’ll allow them to be there. You’ll allow them to flow over you and through you. And you won’t feel the need to hide from them. You won’t feel the need to eat them away or drink them down or bury them with work or avoid them with exercise or get rid of them with any other method.

My method of choice has always been to eat them. I numbed them. Over and over. I protected myself. I protected my heart, my mind and my spirit. And have done since I was little.

And here’s the deal with that. At some point, that method of protection no longer works. It’s like you have small torches along the road that is your life, and through your experiences they each alight in turn, and illuminate the pathway that leads you to who you really are. And when that happens, your method of choice becomes something that holds you back and prevents you from living the life you are meant for.

litpathway

The process of navigating that pathway is full of obstacles and challenges designed to test you. I think I’ve sat enough ‘exams’ in the last little while to take me up and over Mount Everest! Each of them is certainly challenging. And when I am done and they are ‘graded’, they each set off a domino effect of lighting a series of torches that has me galloping down that pathway instead of simply walking.

As you reach each exam it feels like the little brother to Mount Everest. It feels like the biggest thing you’ll ever do. Until you get to the next one! But there are some things you can do to help illuminate the path and ease the way.

  1. Surround yourself with a trusted support team. Sometimes we feel lost, confused and full of turmoil. Speaking with coaches who are knowledgeable about the area you need can help to clarify the noise in your head.
  2. Take some time out to care for yourself. Feeling stretched and stressed is not fun! It can feel overwhelming and like you’re going to explode. Find some activities that you love and that will help to release the pressure valve. From running to meditation to gardening to boxing to cooking. The list of options is only limited by your imagination. If you’re unsure what will suit, try out some different things to see which work best.
  3. Writing is one of my biggest allies. It allows me to sort out the mess in my head and get clarity on which way to travel. But it doesn’t work for everyone, so you might like to tweak it a little. Try colouring in, using random words or symbols, creating collage, drawing or even poetry.
  4. Take time away from the issue. Completely distract yourself and do something different for a while.
  5. We can only ever possess knowledge that correlates to the extent of our prior experiences. And those can never cover the breadth of information out there on a particular topic. New, quality information from reputable sources can clarify and help light your path.
  6. Understand that these emotions are normal and they are ok. They are a signal that something isn’t sitting right. Something is out of sync. Give yourself the time you need to take a step back and look at it from a different perspective.

Even though sometimes it seems like you’re in complete darkness, understand that there is always a spark of light to see by that will direct you to your next step. Taking that one tiny step will ultimately lead you to the light.

 

Why I write …

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post and I feel bad for not posting more often. That said, there is a reason for it and I know that ultimately for my long-term vision, the delays now will translate to the freedom of expression that I yearn for later. I am hoping that this post will help clarify what is going on for me and where I am heading with my destiny.

I have been invited to participate in a blog hop by a lovely lady named Leanda. She writes over at Write to Heal. To find out more about her work please visit her site and check out the incredible work she does. I guess the easiest way to explain a blog hop is to say that it is a tool to assist bloggers and writers to link and network with each other. Readers are also given a chance to learn more about the blogger/writer and what makes them tick. The topic I have been challenged with is “why I write” …

What am I working on?

I work as a counsellor and have been doing so for 10 years. My current job has provided me with the opportunity to transform from a new counsellor with raw talent to a professional clinician. Part of my job is to write and develop group workshops. I have recently launched a range of half-day workshops to help people with a variety of issues that are relevant for our client base. The response to these has been nothing short of amazing and the outcomes have been powerful.

I am also studying a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. I’ve been performing practicum requirements in a placement workplace whilst simultaneously attending classes on campus, learning about neuroscience (what happens inside the brain when it is impacted by issues such as trauma, addictions and mental health) and how this translates into the day-to-day practice of psychology. This has given me invaluable information in how to utilise my skills with clients.

In the little spare time I have, I am also working on my first book; a small how-to, easy to understand guide on how people can prevent others’ issues impacting on them.

When I look at how much I have been doing at work and what I’ve been doing at university, and when I consider that the university campus is a 4 hour round trip each week, I wonder how I have remained sane. But, both work and study are providing me with some exceptional skills that I can use in my professional life after graduation. I have a clear vision of where I want to be and as much as I want to make it happen now, I have discovered that for the moment, I need to prioritise self-care above the vision, because ultimately to reach the vision I need to get through the qualifications.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I try to impart knowledge of psychology and the mind. Much of the information out there in this niche seems to be quite technical and can be difficult to understand for people who have no experience with it. I pride myself on my ability to write for people who have no understanding in how the mind works and how changing small things can help them transform their lives in big ways.

Why do I write what I do?

I want to educate, inform, inspire and lead people to live their best lives. I want people to love who they are, to accept and embrace themselves fully and unconditionally. And if I am to support others in their journey, I need to be able to practice what I preach. So I also use my writing as a way to process the stuff in my head and get clarity in my own mind of the direction I am heading and the future awaiting me.

How does my writing process work?

I began writing originally as a way to vent and process the turmoil in my head. I used it as an act of self-care. It has undergone a transformation over the past twelve months or so; from a personal method of self-care to a professional means of communication to impart knowledge and education.

The process is much the same whichever goal I have (personal or professional). An idea will spark in my mind. I’ll often let it simmer for a while, formulating a vision for the final product. When I sit down to write I simply allow my fingers to do what they do. I find that if I just go with the flow and allow my instinct to lead; my writing is strong and powerful. When the words naturally taper off I go back to edit for spelling, grammar and sentence structure, sometimes leaving it a while before doing so to get a fresh perspective.

 

The final part of this blog hop is to introduce you all to three people who will be hopping right behind me and taking their turn in sharing why they write.

 

Glenda Bishop Healthy StoriesGlenda Bishop helps people to live a healthier life by inspiring them to eat better, become stronger, and live a calmer and more content life. She is a Registered Nutritionist, neuroscientist, and personal trainer, who is particularly interested in how your physical health strengthens your mental wellbeing. After becoming frustrated by the mixed health messages that abound across the internet, Glenda founded Healthy Stories to create a place where the science of health meets real life. At Healthy Stories you will find tips for healthy eating and living, delicious healthy recipes, and practical ways to improve your wellbeing.

 

 

Kate MooreKate Moore is passionate about life. She coaches others in work, life and health to master and love what they do, live intentionally, design the life they want, build a healthy lifestyle and feel at their best. You can find Kate over at Lift Coaching where she blogs about all things life, love, health, work, motivation, mastery, passion, values, gratitude and inspiration related. Kate takes a very practical and action-driven approach to … well, everything and loves helping others get ‘unstuck’ by identifying their personal strengths and using real life skills and tools to change habits and behaviour, and get people where they want to go. You can also find Kate on Facebook where she shares daily quotes, interesting reads, recipes, workouts and lots of other bits of pieces to brighten your day.

 

Emma Fahy Davis is a journo who turned to blogging as a way of exorcising the words in her head while taking a break from the media to raise her five daughters. She blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about the chaos that comes with having a big family, her experiences with mental illness and living with the legacy of addiction, and about the challenges of parenting a chronically ill child. In between refereeing sibling squabbles and moonlighting as a taxi driver to a relentless army of small people, she can be found hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

Who cares for the carers?

People with mental illness usually have a support team around them. Psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, social workers, general practitioners. People in mental health organisations such as the Richmond Fellowship (this link is QLD but you can google other states). People handing out medications and people providing emotional support. For the most part, these people do fabulous work in paving the way to wellness.

mental health stigma

But there is a whole other population that often gets overlooked. The family and friends. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. The carers. They are often excluded from treatment due to “confidentiality”. How do carers help monitor medications if they don’t have accurate information about which prescriptions to fill or how many tablets are needed? How do they help regulate moods if they aren’t up to speed on which strategies have been used in therapy? And that also means they are unable to provide feedback to give the professional team a full picture of what is happening for their loved one. While I can’t speak for all carers, I know that the ones I have spoken to genuinely want to help support the road to wellness. And they want to respect personal space and privacy.

During periods of illness, carers are often confronted with some pretty tough stuff. Major mood swings. Irrational demands. Thought processes that aren’t based in reality. An inability to reason. Violence; to self and others. Hospital visits. Self-harm. Suicide attempts. Manipulation. Sometimes even homicidal tendencies. And they are often in the middle of the fray, caught up in the maelstrom of chaos.

carer head chaos

Chaos

Watching the people they love most in the world go through these experiences is heartbreaking. You watch your spouse with depression stay in bed day after day, week after week. You know that they are in pain and you try everything you know to help them. Encouragement, tough love, praise, cajoling, bringing friends in. You try talking to the doctors but you don’t get anywhere because they can’t talk back. You take over the running of the household, managing the children, cooking, cleaning. And you listen to your husband or wife talk about their inner pain and how much better off you and the children would be without him or her in it. You feel helpless and scared. What if they kill themselves? You wonder what else you can do to help. You don’t always understand why they can’t get themselves out of bed and rejoin the family. You feel lonely because the partner you knew isn’t there anymore. You feel alone because you don’t have your best friend to bounce things off. And you feel hopeless and helpless because the professional team won’t talk to you and tell you what you can do to help. Not to mention feeling guilty, fearful, resentful (of the illness), and a whole host of other emotions.

If you are a carer and can relate to this, please understand. You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people with mental illness, and each of them very likely has a group of family and friends around them, feeling exactly the same way you do. That is a lot of people feeling like you.

Exhausted. Stressed. Alone. Afraid. Confused. Helpless. Guilty. Isolated.

That is a lot of stress to deal with. And when you feel it for long periods of time, it is really important that you take care of yourself. Some very simple strategies can make a big difference in how you well you bounce back from the stresses and ultimately in the quality of your life.

When you’re looking at specific strategies there is one thing to keep in mind. Given the amount of stress most carers experience, sometimes thinking about doing extra can be overwhelming. So keep things really simple and you’ll be able to incorporate some of them into your normal routine. Try these:thought training

  • Take 3-5 long, slow deep breaths. Try to focus on slowing your breaths down and smoothing them out. This will get some oxygen into your brain and help you think more clearly.
  • Pamper yourself. Take a bath, paint your nails, get a massage. This helps you relax your muscles and allows those stress hormones to dissipate.
  • Surround yourself with nature. Visit a garden, sit under a tree, get your hands dirty with soil. This will help ground you and release the stress.
  • Slow your brain down. Meditate, do yoga, or simply sit on your own for a while and breathe.
  • Do something you absolutely love.
  • Laugh.
  • Connect with other people. Often speaking with other carers can help you realise you aren’t in this on your own and give you a chance to pick some brains about strategies that others have used successfully.
  • Talk to someone. Sometimes seeing a professional can help you sort out the jumble in your head and give you some direction.

carer serenity scene

Australia has a network of carers organisations in each state that provide support for carers. They offer a variety of services, including access to support groups, workshops and counselling. They can also link you in with other services you may need. You can find details on each state’s organisation here, or call 1800 242 636 from anywhere in Australia. Some other countries also have carers organisations, including the UK and USA. Other support organisations in Australia include ARAFMI and COPMI (for the kids).

 

Dementia

When people think about dementia they usually (accurately) think about memory loss, forgetfulness and not recognising others, particularly family members. What most people aren’t aware of is that dementia is classified on the DSM. If you remember from our very first post in this focus month on mental health, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is a system for classifying different mental illnesses. So, this means that dementia is a mental health issue.

dementia stats

Dementia can be a complex and confusing illness. Most people know of two illnesses, Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and use the two titles interchangeably. However, they are different. The simplest way of thinking about it is that Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. This website from a Gold Coast Psychologist shows a youtube video on the essential differences.

So what actually is Dementia? According to this site, dementia is:

“a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.”

That covers a pretty wide scope!

The early warning signs of the disease are:dementia warning signs

  • Progressive and frequent memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Personality change
  • Apathy and withdrawal
  • Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks

But, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean it is dementia. They could be caused by a number of things, including other neurological disorders and brain tumours. So it is very important to get a proper medical assessment from a qualified professional.

Some of the symptoms common to people who are further along in the illness are:

  • Wandering
  • Random noises
  • Irritability
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Incontinence (both with bladder and bowel), sometimes including smearing of faeces
  • Depression
  • Hoarding (collecting random items or objects, including those that most would consider useless)
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Anxiety or aggression
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations, paranoia and delusions
  • Inappropriate or offensive behaviours
  • Sundowning (becoming restless, particularly in the evening)

dementia journeys

Each of these may cover a variety of symptoms under one particular category. One of the most important things to remember is that every person with a type of dementia is different. One person with the disease may show a completely different set of behaviours to the next person. There are specific strategies that can be used to manage category and the Alzheimer’s Australia website has fact sheets on them.

dementia differences

To describe specific behavioural disturbances, strategies to deal with them and how best to treat the dementias would not only take forever, but would also be very complex and long. I was sent an article that covers a lot of that information so thought I would share it with you. It is an academic article with an American focus and is quite technical and lengthy, but it gives really good information. If you would like anything in the article clarified, please seek the advice from either a dementia specialist or a doctor skilled in the illness.

If you have a loved one experiencing these kinds of disturbances it can be very tough to cope with. Often, as one of the closest people to the person with the disease, the behaviour can easily be directed toward you. When you face constant aggression or the need to settle anxiety, or even managing frequent wandering, it can send your emotions into turmoil and your energy levels spiraling downwards. You can feel guilty, overwhelmed, like you aren’t coping, and you can blame yourself for being unable to control the behaviour. All of these emotions are a natural response to the situation. I work with family carers on a daily basis and often see the impacts of caring for someone with dementia. It is very important that you seek support. In Australia there is a network of carers organisations around the country that offer free counselling services along with more practical assistance. You can find contact details for them on our resources page. If you are in a different country, you may also find assistance from a similar organisation. I am aware that the UK and USA have carers organisations. You can probably find them using google. If searching in the USA, try using the term “caregiver”. There are also often dementia specific organisations that offer support and information.

dementia caring

dementia tips for carers

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

We all have our little idiosyncrasies. Those behavioural quirks that to most people seem weird. Perhaps it’s that the pegs need to be OCD alphabeticalcolour coded when you hang the washing on the line. Or maybe it’s that you need to line up your pens in a certain order. Or even the toilet roll being in the “over” position.

To most people these habits are simply that; habits. Habits that we chuckle at affectionately.

For some people these habits, and many more like them, can be a problem. Hand washing, cleaning, locking doors, sorting/hanging clothes, quoting specific sayings (whether aloud or silently), collecting things, counting floor tiles or cracks in the footpath, going in and out of doorways. All of these, and more, have been noted as common in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an anxiety disorder. The person with OCD will experience severe anxiety. They will become obsessed with specific thoughts (e.g., my house will burn down) and to relieve the anxiety the thoughts produce, will carry out certain compulsions (behaviours), such as checking and re-checking that they have turned off the stove and any other appliance that may catch alight. So, the person will become obsessed with the idea of their house burning down, anxious about the possibility and feel the compulsion to check and re-check the stove and other appliances to prevent it.

One of the main characteristics of OCD is that the person with the disorder will recognise that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational. They are aimed at reducing the anxiety or preventing some dreaded event (e.g., house burning down). The thoughts or habits must interfere with daily life and must last for long periods of time (an hour or more per day).

OCD cycle

How do you think you’d feel if you were plagued with thoughts that your baby girl is at risk if you don’t check and re-check that you’ve locked the front door? You check it at least 50 times before you can relax. And then you start thinking about all the other dangers she could get into. Maybe it’s combing the sandpit repeatedly to make sure there is nothing that could cut her fragile skin. Or maybe it’s the germs she could pick up if she crawled around on the floor, so you wash and re-wash everything in sight before you let her down to play. And then you follow her around so she doesn’t pick anything up to suck on it.

Can you imagine it?

OCD battle

You know that the thoughts are silly and not based in reality. And yet you can’t seem to control it. How would you feel? Hopefully some of the recent posts we have shared from a few of our readers will give you an inkling. If you experience similar obsessions or compulsions that interfere with your life, please consider seeking professional support from a psychologist or counsellor. Tomorrow we will share the experiences of someone who lives with OCD. In the meantime, if you would like more, technical information please try these sites. They cover definitions, symptoms and common treatments.

http://psychcentral.com/disorders/ocd/

http://eqip.psychology.org.au/conditions/OCD/

Depression – Andrew Solomon

We have had some amazing feedback so far with our focus this month on Mental Health. One of our followers posted a link of a TED talk she resonated with after reading our most recent post. This was the one from Debbie, our guest blogger from Sad Mum Happy Mum, explaining what it was like for her living with depression.

The follower that shared this like noted that it felt really weird for her to have Andrew Solomon, the guy giving this talk, explain his experience with depression. The weirdness came from hearing words out of his mouth that mirrored exactly her own words, especially when she was unable to articulate it herself. I bet that is a strange feeling!

Have a look at this talk for yourselves. It is a little lengthy at a little under  30 minutes, but it’s also engaging and the time seems to fly. At least it did for me.

How does it resonate with you? Does it mirror your experiences? Or does your depression look a little different? Let us know your thoughts below. 🙂

To FACT or not to FACT

depression drowning breathing

Depression is one of the more well-known mental illnesses. 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives will experience it. That is 20% of the Australian population. Huge numbers! I could sit here tonight and give you the facts about the illness.

I could tell you that while there is no definite cause of depression, there are a number of factors that influence its development. Life events (work or family stress, abusive relationships or unemployment, for example), family history, personality, medical illnesses, substance abuse, or changes in the hormone levels in your brain, for example.

I could also tell you that there are several types of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, where you tend to feel depressed during the winter months when there is less daylight), major depression (which can include bouts of psychosis, melancholy and also includes ante or postnatal depression), bipolar (which alternates cycles of depression and mania – more on this when we cover bipolar disorder), cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar) or dysthymic disorder (a milder form of major depression).depression stigma

Or, if I didn’t cover these facts, I may describe the types of things people with depression actually experience. A loss of interest in normal, usual daily activities, withdrawing from social contacts, sleeping for most of the day, no longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy, or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, thoughts of worthlessness, life not being worth living, inability to concentrate, tiredness, unhappiness, indecisiveness, change in appetites, sexual drive or weight, churning gut or muscle pains. All these are common experiences.

I might also talk about some of the treatments for depression. For example, various drugs may be prescribed to help rebalance the hormones in your brain (you would need to be aware of the side effects of some of these medications and talk with your doctor about them to find one that really works for you). Or there might be some options if you were to work with a counsellor or psychologist, both of whom could teach you some specific strategies to help you change your thoughts and behaviours. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is commonly used effectively for depression, as is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and mindfulness based therapies. Other things that may help are lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, relaxation training and social support (through family, friends, support groups etc).

depression no escapeOr I might be inclined to let you know that to receive effective help the best person to start with is your doctor, who can then refer you to a psychologist or counsellor. You could also see a social worker, alternative health therapist or even a psychiatrist or mental health nurse, each of whom can offer different types of support.

I might even be inclined to link you in with the Beyond Blue website so you can get more detail on depression and where you can go to get help. They even have an online discussion forum. http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression

But I don’t want to give you “just the facts”.

Depression is so much more than mere facts. There is no way that anyone could understand what it is like to live with it just by reading “the facts”. Sure it describes the basic things, but they can never describe the individual experiences.

“The FACTS” could never describe how it FEELS to experience the helplessness, the fatigue, the lack of interest in participating in your own life. “The FACTS” could never give you an accurate idea of what it is like to feel like you don’t belong on the earth. They could never show you the frustration you feel when you can’t concentrate on your work or study. And the facts could certainly never show you what it’s like to not be able to play with the children you love so dearly because you just can’t summon the energy. Not to mention the sorrow at watching those same children being sad because they can’t understand that mummy or daddy just can’t spend time with them.

depression cycle sleep pretend

There are so many other things that the FACTS just cannot show you. There is no way that you could ever understand what it is like to live with depression unless you were actually in the middle of it. Only then could you understand how, no matter how HARD you try, you just can’t get yourself moving in the morning. Only then could you understand how the “black dog” sits at your door all day every day and impacts on every part of your life. Only then could you truly GET that living with depression is like being in a battlefield every moment of every day, where you are constantly fighting your way out from underneath an overpowering, suffocating cloud of blackness.

depression lying bastart

And I think that if the people who lived with this insidious illness would want you to understand anything, it’s that one of the most basic things they really need from others is compassion. Saying (or implying) “get over it” does nothing more than lead them deeper into the hole. They need you to stick by them and support them through their daily struggle. To let them know that it’s ok to take a break from fighting the good fight sometimes and to retreat, allowing their heart and soul to heal a little. And to let them know that some days, simply getting out of bed and having a shower is enough of an achievement.

depression things not to say

And I am sure that they would love to know that they are enough. Just as they are, even with this illness.

depression love and care

The Realities of BPD

Following the focus this week on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Tegan Churchill has kindly put together her own experiences living with this illness. She explains how it has impacted on her life and now how she copes with a young family. Very brave and resilient woman!

——————————————-

 I remember the first time I knew that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was on the cards. I was sitting in the waiting room of my small town doctor, my chart on my lap because there was no computer system yet. Curiosity got the better of me and I flicked through the pages. Nestled in the back was a letter from the psychologist I was seeing at the time, in bold letters were the words Borderline Personality Disorder. I was confused, on the borderline of what? I committed the term to memory so that I could look it up on the internet when I got home.

I didn’t like what I saw, the checklist of symptoms read like a list of ‘how to suck at life’. I knew that I ticked most of those boxes and I was ashamed. I was 15 at the time but a definite diagnosis was not made until I was 18. Doctors decided that I had, had enough time to grow into my personality and this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life.

I sought out support in online forums, losing myself in an online world. All around me my life was falling to pieces. I dropped out of university, I was living with my grandmother and spending most of my days in bed. My GP told me that I was a 9 year old trapped in an adult’s body. I was horrified at the time, unable to process the comment. Looking back now, it’s true.

BPD

I was on a destructive path. A suicide attempt lead to my mother moving with me to a larger center with more mental health services. It didn’t matter, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was reckless and failed to see the consequences. After ending up in jail for 2 months, my mother moved back to our hometown. I stayed in the city and moved into single’s accommodation for women. I had everything I wanted; I lived in a large town where nobody knew me.

I didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. They were all consuming, every emotion felt like a thousand knives were piercing my skin. I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me. I was like a stubborn child. The professionals who were supposed to help me wrote me off as an attention seeker. Therapy was stopped after another suicide attempt and I found myself floating through a system that seemed hell bent on keeping me unwell.

Having Borderline makes making and maintaining relationships difficult. I find myself going between loving a person more than anything and hating them with everything in my being. I often turn people off without a second thought to repair the relationship. I find myself in screaming matches with people who I love, feeling a rage that is so all consuming that I worry that my veins will burst through my skin. I turn into the hulk and it takes me days to calm down.

For years I turned to self-harm to help fight the feelings. I self-harmed to make me feel and to stop feeling too much. Each time I cut it had to be deeper than the last time. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to destroy myself, to punish myself for the perceived wrongs that I had committed.

bpd 3rd deg burns

Now I have a child to consider. He is counting on me to be there, and he is the reason that I looked into better therapy. I let my moods and my coping skills get a lot worse again before I admitted I needed help. I had put on a mask, hidden behind a wall and didn’t let my feelings out anymore. I was afraid that I would lose my son. The mask was so good that my current psychologist was skeptical that I had Borderline at all.

I have recently completed a course of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and found it immensely helpful. It was a relief to have someone take me seriously, who saw that I was someone worthy of treatment and had the time to spend working on my issues.

I’m a different person to when I first received the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I still struggle to express my feelings, and to interpret others’ intentions but I am making progress. I still catch myself wandering down the destructive path, but I know that I have so much more to live for. I still feel like I’m walking around with no skin, taking in every slight, every glance, every word but I am getting better at processing the thoughts.

Borderline may be something that I will always struggle with but I am happy that I am filling my toolbox so the good days begin to outweigh the bad.

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tegan churchillBlurb: Tegan can be found at http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude.

Personality and Disorders – Part 2

BPD by numbersIn the search for people to write posts on their lived experiences with mental illness, one of the ladies who agreed to share her story is Tegan. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and describes the experience as feeling her emotions without her skin on. If you’ve ever had a wound on your arm where the skin has been torn off, you’ll know how tender, raw and painful it feels. Now imagine all of your emotions without their skin. You get hit with everything at once. It’s really intense, and you don’t have any skills to deal with it. You get so many emotions that you can’t even decipher or make sense of them.

So how do you cope?

I would imagine that your survival instincts (remember that Neanderthal man who Sam talked about in the anxiety posts) would kick in. Your brain would narrow your focus to one simple thing. Survival. All those emotions at once would be really overwhelming. You’d probably panic. And then do anything that you could possibly think of to stop it all. You’d feel so overwhelmed and panicked that you’d choose the first thing to enter your head, whatever that may be.

BPD 2

As I mentioned in the last post, it is very common for people with personality disorders to have had a history of trauma or abuse. So it is very likely that you would feel really crappy about yourself. You might even hate yourself so much that you feel like you need to be punished. So the strategies you’re likely to turn to will be things like hurting yourself. It could be with food or it could be with alcohol. Or even with drugs, cigarettes or razor blades (burning or cutting yourself). Anything to relieve the pain you feel inside. Even suicide.need help dont want it

And when people try to help, you reject their advances because you feel like you need to push them away before they abandon you (which is what you feel you deserve). And this confirms your belief so you push people away even more, by using any means necessary. You argue with people, yell, scream, insult, push, shove, steal. And so on.

And then you feel even worse about yourself because you know that kind of behaviour isn’t what you should be doing. So you increase your efforts to punish yourself. You would be unlikely to recognise much good in your life. You might meet someone and marry, but because of how you feel about yourself, the relationship is likely to be full of arguments and bad feelings. Parenting would also be a huge challenge. As would your work relationships.

symptoms of BPD

If you’re lucky though, you will reach a point, like Tegan, where you acknowledge that you can no longer live that way. And so, after many false starts, you begin a very long, slow journey to make changes in your life. You seek professional support from a psychiatrist and psychologist skilled in working with BPD.

Stay tuned to hear from two very brave women, Tegan and Kaye, about what it is like to really live with BPD.

BPD

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