This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know.
As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me or my partner, please respect our privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Letter to the Person Living With BPD

I wrote this last year and shared it on my Australian BPD group. I came across it again today, and it seems like something that I should place here, as well. Although it's for 'the person with BPD', it may offer some small insight for those who don't have BPD as well.

To the person with BPD,

First of all, know you are not alone. There are men and women from all walks of life who can identify with those three letters, and though they may not always be people you would choose to have in your life, they are your allies and your kin. We walk these paths together; and as lonely as it can be, because of that we are never truly alone.

Know that when you research your condition, you will come across websites that call you evil; you will come across websites that claim you are narcissistic and lacking in empathy. Know that being diagnosed with BPD does not equate to these things. Being diagnosed BPD means many things, but know that it does not make you a bad person. No website calling all people with BPD 'evil', 'manipulative' or 'narcisstic', or calling for extreme avoidance of all those diagnosed, is professional or accurate.

Know that your future is not assured. BPD is, technically, incurable -- but it is not a life sentence. There is treatment available and life can get better. If you have done DBT and found it unhelpful, know that there is more than one option out there. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment for BPD, no matter what anyone tells you.

Know that your feelings, as strong as they are, will dissipate if you allow them to. Your anger will fade; your sorrow will ease. Nothing lasts forever, and your feelings are not the exception to the rule. You are the emotional equivalent of a third degree burn victim but you have the ability to graft yourself with thicker skin. You can get through this.

Know that you can learn to control your behaviour. What you do in impulse now, you can learn to contain. Your angry outbursts, your uncontrolled spending, even your self harm can all become more controlled and can even be overcome entirely. It will take time and it will take a great deal of hard work, but it can be done.

Know that the world is not as black and white as you'd like it to be, but you can learn to be okay with that. Know that your instinct to cast people or events into categories on the extremes can be worked with. You will learn, in time, that nobody is all good or all bad, and that is okay.

Know that you will learn to know yourself, gradually. Maybe you will start with your favourite colour, or you will choose an animal to love. Maybe you will discover that you like your eggs scrambled, or you dislike jelly.

Know that sometimes people will leave, but it doesn't mean that you are being abandoned. Life is full of change; people move on, or are taken from us suddenly. Not everyone was meant to be a permanent fixture in our lives; some people will stay for a heartbeat, others will fill our hearts for years. Know that you can learn to be okay with the changing landscapes of friendships and loved ones, despite the pain.

Know, most of all, that there is hope. BPD is not a negative reflection on your personality and life can get better.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Sunshine - 9/8/15

Some of you may remember the old Sanguine Saturday posts I used to make. I decided to reinvent these as Sunday Sunshine, but with likely most of the same content. A weekly look at gratitudes, achievements and the like is probably something I need at the moment.

I'm grateful for...

  • My heart family that is filled with wonderful people
  • Having a free Netflix account
  • Beach walks
  • Coke Zero
  • Having had a great night out with friends
  • Books
  • Dogs
  • Also giraffes, cats, guinea pigs, monkeys, dolphins, and other mammals. Also non mammals. Just animals in general, really.
  • Puns

Achievements:

  • I walked from the street all the way into college all by myself.
    I've been brushing my teeth every day I've gone into college.
  • I went out with friends -- this is a gratitude and an achievement because it was pretty scary, and there were some last minute changes that made my anxiety even worse.
  • I knocked off another unit of study last week, which leaves me with one and a half (a prac and some related assignments that shouldn't take long) to finish before my next cluster opens on August 25.
  • Even though I made a decision that didn't turn out very well, I was able to make better decisions in order to mitigate the negative effects.

Don't forget to challenge yourself by posting up some gratitudes and achievements of your own, and send me the link. I can't wait to see them!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Life (Or Something Like It)

No, I have not done my usual "blog and disappear". I'm still here. :)

Things have been busy here. I'm struggling to create a balance between study, home and social life. It's harder than I remember back when I was working -- but then again, it's more important to me to ensure my balance is healthy now than it was back then. I don't know how much I'm reclaiming of who I used to be. I think, instead, I'm butterflying into a new person. Hopefully, in time, I'll become a person with a better grasp of socialisation and emotion management, too.

As I ease back into blogging, there are likely to be format changes. I've changed a lot since I started this blog (thank goodness), and my goals have changed. Something that hasn't changed is that I still want to use this blog as a place to help myself process things, and I also want to keep using it to help others. I don't know what that will mean for the blog at the moment, so please just bare with me in the interim.

What's been on my mind in the last few weeks has included:

* Why am I struggling with my study?

I've felt like I've really struggled with the last few units I've done. I don't know whether it's that my headspace isn't right (my depression has flared up in the last little while, and with it extreme amounts of anxiety -- plus I've had two recent deaths to grieve), the units are just getting harder, my way of learning isn't as practical with these units, or I'm just plain too stupid for this course. Most likely it's a combination of factors. Still, no matter what it is, I have no intention of quitting. I can do this. I will do this.

Plan of Action:
  • Keep going.
  • Attend college 3-5 days each week as much as possible.
  • Get help from tutors, peers and friends where needed.
  • Monitor depression & anxiety - bring it up at next appointment with pdoc.
  • Remember to actually use my Valium.

* Rejection/Abandonment/Conflict

All three in one because they're very interconnected for me. We all know these things have long been something I struggle with. Conflict (that isn't actually conflict) still leaves me torn up inside for months. I'm trying so hard to get better with this, but the unresolved emotions at the heart of it all are still very much holding me back. It's so bad it's actually become a real quality of life issue, and I don't want it to continue. I don't know what else I can do other than to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting, so I will do those things and keep experimenting to find new things.

Plan of Action:
  • Experiment with new "tools" to handle conflict/rejection/abandonment (whether real or perceived)
  • Watch friends and peers amongst themselves. Be aware of how conflict is handled between others -- use it as evidence of how those people will handle conflict with me (eg, if when in conflict with J, E walks off for a break, then finds J an hour later and they talk it out & their friendship remains strong -- use this as evidence E will not end friendship over small conflict).
  • Keep on top of thought challenging -- "conflict is part of life, and most relationships don't fall apart based on conflict that is addressed", "I am allowed to be human, I am allowed to make mistakes".
  • ?

Those are the big ones I'm struggling with at the moment. As always, please feel free to throw suggestions at me for my own action plans. But... what about you? What's something going on in your life that you could develop an action plan for addressing? Feel free to blog and leave a link, or just answer in the comment section, and I'll see you tomorrow for some Sunday Sunshine.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

56 Weeks Later...

It's been another year. Things have changed a great deal for me. In some ways, my symptoms have lessened greatly. On the whole, I'm happier than I used to be.

But in other ways, new symptoms have come up. I'm happier at the cost of functionality, and in trying to bring that functionality back, I'm starting to lose some of that happiness. I feel like I'm on a neverending seesaw, but damned if I'm not still fighting. I will find a way to create some semblance of balance, even if I never get it perfect.



 

So, a bit of a recap/refresher/catch up on how life looks for me at the moment:

* I study now. At the very end of February my partner and I joined a course and began to study towards a diploma of counselling. I go into college most days. I don't always get a lot of work done, but that's okay. I'm making reasonable progress with my study so it's not an issue if I have a day where my concentration is shoddy or whatnot; and when I'm not studying, I'm making friends and expanding my social circle.

* On a related note, we're working towards making Missy a certified Assistance Dog (like a guide dog for the blind). I have a few details left on the paperwork -- I'm waiting for Dar to come home for that -- and then we'll wait and see what happens.

* The reason I need an Assistance Dog is that I have unfortunately become quite agoraphobic. I'm pretty well unable to leave the unit alone. If Missy or someone I trust is with me, I'm alright, but otherwise, there's just too much panic.

* My weight has remained reasonably steady for a while, except for some stress related loss which has since been regained. I'm not by any means underweight, but if I use logic and reasoning, I don't think I'm especially overweight at the moment either. I wish I could say that my eating is normal as well, but that would be a lie. Still, I make sure I eat at least one proper and reasonable meal (almost) every day.

* I rarely self harm. Suicidal ideation, passive suicidality, and the urge to self harm all remain a problem; but I've got a pretty good grip on not actioning these, for the most part. Unfortunately skin picking and occasional hair pulling is still very much an issue.

* I hug some people. I still like to be the one that initiates it, or be asked about being hugged, but I'm doing it, and sometimes I am initiating it (usually by asking), and all of that is massive.

* Even the things that are still really huge issues/problems (like my inability to deal with anger or perceived conflict, and my terror of abandonment) are being stretched and - I believe - will gradually lessen as I see for myself that being human and myself and imperfect is not going to end or irrevocably change my friendships for the worse.

 

And of course...

* I still read and write and craft and love zoos and take photographs. I still want to get my writing published (and I need to pull my finger out and actually do something about that). I'm still me, so much more than my diagnoses, so much more than the broken piece of a puzzle.

I think it's time to get back to blogging.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Healthy Eating Minefield

All those people who say healthy eating is easy need to get off their high horse. In my experience, healthy eating is complicated, and especially if you've ever struggled with disordered eating, and/or mental illness.

Healthy eating is a veritable minefield of wrong choices, mistakes and scary limitations. First, scientists can't even agree on what's healthy. We're constantly being told that yesterday's choices are no longer healthy. We're told it's as simple as "x calories in" = weight loss, but weight loss doesn't necessarily equal healthy.

I'm trying to do the right thing, by my body and by my mind, but it's so complicated. Am I doing it right when I eat salad for dinner? Maybe, but maybe I'm not including enough nutrition or maybe I'm not giving myself enough calories. Am I doing it right when I snack on fruit? Not, apparently, if you add peanut butter or nutella to that. Am I doing it right when I eat muesli for breakfast? Maybe.

The truth is, I'm so turned around right now, I have no idea whether I'm doing it "right" - whether the food I'm putting into my body is okay or not. I have no idea if I'm getting the right nutrients, the right calorie number, the right anything.

I know what I like and I know what I don't like. I know that it's winter and I want warm food, but the tasty-healthy options I know of aren't warm - they're cold things like salad or watermelon or neutral things like dried fruit and corn thins.

I also know I'm trying, and maybe that's good enough for now.

How about you? How do you go with healthy eating -- are you a natural or do you get as confused and mucked around as I do? Do you get upset when you make mistakes and choose options that aren't as healthy as you thought?

Friday, June 13, 2014

The need for ALL levels of recovery to be validated in their need for support

I want to address two things that are sort of connected. Something I've been running into in a few places lately, is this idea that those who are "further along the recovery path" should bend to those who are just beginning their journey, no matter what.

The thing about different places in the recovery journey, is that how we approach certain things affects others who are in different places. In a great many support communities, that means allowing people to express themselves however they like - 'whinge' comments and attention seeking are rife.

I believe those things have their place. I believe it's important for people to experiment with how to get the sort of attention and support they need -- but I don't think that should be at the expense of those who are a little further along the recovery road.

Whether we like it or not, those of us a little further on the recovery journey can find that really difficult to deal with. Being surrounded by people seeking short term solutions can really drag us down, and it can lead to the temptation to go back to using those short term solutions, instead of concentrating on the long term solultions that actually change things.

There's this idea that if, in a support-based community, we put up boundaries against that sort of behaviour, we are stepping on the people who need that communication style, and that because they're at an earlier stage of recovery, they have more right and need for support, because they are "sicker".

No. No, no, no, and I say again -- no. First of all, you can't determine whom of two people is "sicker" unless you know both extremely well and ideally hold a psychological degree. There's this idea that someone who has reasonable communication skills can't possibly be as sick as someone who struggles to understand concepts. This is not true. I might understand concepts quite well from a rational level - but that doesn't mean I'm capable of putting them in play in my life, or that I might not be affected in other ways.

This is connected to the idea that someone who is more visibly unwell is actually less unwell -- again, this is a myth/misconception. The truth is, you can't guage how well or unwell someone is by how they present. You just can't.

And you know what? Even if you could - by focusing on supporting those who are "most visibly unwell" at the cost of those who are less visibly unwell, you create an environment where the emphasis is on being as visibly unwell as you can, in order to receive support. You create an environment that says to everyone who needs support only deserves it if they are as visibly unwell as possible -- that's not an environment that encourages growth or healing, it's an environment that breeds dysfunction.

I'm all for there being a place to allow people to seek attention, coddle and other "short term" types of support - but there also needs to be room for there to be a place based around more indepth, growth based support, too.

And there needs to be more awareness that just because you may think I look less sick than your friend, it doesn't mean you are right -- and maybe it doesn't even matter. I deserve support every bit as much as anyone else, and that's not contingent on how well or unwell I am. What matters is that I am here, I am asking for it, and I deserve it because I am human.

How about you? How would you balance the need for differing levels of recovery to receive the support they require/deserve?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Physical Health With Mental Health Obstacles

We all know the old saying, that if you eat less calories than you expend, you will lose weight, but it's not always that easy. Metabolism, medications you may be on, previous attempts to lose weight, mindsets, thoughts and personal challenges all play a part in complicating the issue.

Today I want to talk about healthy weight loss, something that seems simple but is fraught with traps, tricks and complications, especially for those of us with a mental health condition.

Those of you who know me may be aware that a couple of years ago, I was well on the way to developing a mixture of anorexia and bulimia. I all but stopped eating, and I worked out excessively. Bumface helped me get a handle on it when we first got together, and for two years, my weight stayed relatively stable (give or take a few kg).

Alas, just before Christmas, I went on some antipsychotic medications, and since then, my weight has steadily increased. It got to a point where we decided enough was enough, and I signed up for the gym.

So here's where I'm at now:
  • I visit the gym at least three times a week, spending less than an hour there.
  • Weights no more often than every second day; cardio every time.
  • I haven't made huge changes to my eating (though I have minimised the junk), so I'm having 2 or 3* meals a day, of reasonable healthfulness. For example, today I had weetbix for breakfast, lite sweet & sour (made at home from a jar) chicken & veggies for lunch, and a ham & salad wrap (spinach wrap) will be dinner.
  • For the most part, I only drink no added sugar weak cordial (usually just to take my meds with), Coke Zero and water.
  • I'm going to be getting Bumface to do my measurements into a special notebook specifically for that purpose.

It's too soon to see big changes, especially as I know I'll be building muscle at the gym, but I think I'm on the right track.


*I'm currently spending between 12 and 14 hours in bed every day, so I think smaller meal numbers are reasonable, given my lack of energy (and no, they're not the reason I have a lack of energy).

What I want to know is what do you do to help yourself stay on track with healthy weight loss and/or just taking care of your body? How do you balance any tendency you have towards overdoing it, with the need to make sure you're doing 'enough'?