Having A Mental Health Problem Doesn’t Make You A Bad Person

I often feel quite ashamed of my mental illness. It’s like by being so unwell for so many years I am less of a person than my peers who have degrees, careers, children, marriages and so on. I always feel embarrassed because I feel my life shouldn’t be like this, I shouldn’t be like this.

My mental illness has put me in situations that have made me feel shame, that have made me feel like a bad person. Claiming benefits made me feel awful, selfish, worthless. I felt like the scum of the earth but I was too poorly to work and needed money to survive. I never ever wanted to be in a position where I had to claim benefits. The night I spent in a police cell made me feel like a bad person. As nice as the police were to me, I was treated like a criminal. I had my belongings and shoes taken off of me, I was strip searched and then put in a cell for many hours. I felt like a criminal. I felt like the whole of society was looking down on me.

I feel extremely guilty for the pain I have put other people through. I have dragged family and friends through this nightmare with me. My dad hasn’t slept properly in 18 months, my mum has cried at her severely anorexic daughter. It’s not nice for me but it’s not nice for those around me who have to witness all this too.

I do feel like a bad person. I do hate myself. But I shouldn’t, having a mental illness does not make me a bad person or any less of a person. It just makes me ill. This is something I never chose to happen to me. My asthma doesn’t make me a bad person, yes it can inconvenience people when I’m having an attack but nobody thinks I’m an awful person because of it. I know there is a difference between physical illnesses and mental illnesses because mental illnesses can impact and influence someone’s behaviour. I feel like a terrible person for some of the text messages I have sent when I’ve been unwell, or for getting angry at my parents for what seems like no apparent reason. I feel like a terrible person when someone makes the effort to spend time with me and I can’t stay awake or I can barely utter a word. I hate myself when I can’t follow your conversation but what I need to learn is that it isn’t my fault.

Having a mental health problem doesn’t make you a bad personal, neither does it make you any less of a person. You are unwell and you had no choice over that. Don’t feel like you are a bad person over an illness that happened to you.

What’s It Like To Be Restrained?

Being distressed is horrible, those feelings of utter desperation, sadness, anger, fear, guilt…the list goes on. All those emotions and thoughts that form a ball of intolerable distress. So you can imagine how horrible a distressed person is feeling but imagine on top of that being restrained so that they can’t move their limbs or go to a different room. They are stuck. From personal experience I can tell you that it’s truly horrible.

I understand why restraint is necessary. Restraining is used to prevent harm either to the individual or to other people. I have always been restrained to stop me from hurting myself or absconding.

Frustration comes to mind when I think about restraint. Frustration mixed with terror, anger and shame. I’ll share with you a recent experience of being restrained. I had attempted to pull my NG tube out and it was half out by the time the staff noticed. They both grabbed me, one on each wrist and with a tight grip. I couldn’t move my arms. At that point I didn’t particularly care as the NG was already too far out to put back in but it still wasn’t nice to be held down. They held my arms for what seemed like ages and I needed to use the bathroom. I was escorted one on each arm to the toilets. After I had used the toilet I wanted to look in the mirror to body check and I admit this often takes me some time. The staff I was with thought I had spent long enough in front of the mirror so went to hold me and escort me out and back to my room. I hadn’t finished and it the distressed state I was in, I felt I needed to finish. So to stop them from walking me out and away from the mirror, I put myself down to the floor and sat cross legged with a person still on each arm. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I hated that people were holding me and touching me. I was angry at them because they were stopping me from doing what I felt needed to be done. I was also deeply ashamed, there is little more shameful than being restrained. Having the control over your body completely taken away. Being held down so that you cannot move. Being injected with a medication you don’t want and surrounded by staff. Being watched whilst in such a vulnerable position is horrible. I understand that it’s necessary…in fact it’s probably saved my life a good few times in the past but that doesn’t take away how traumatic and horrible it is to be restrained.

Radical Acceptance: Making The Best Out of The Situation I am In

Radical acceptance is a DBT skill and it’s all about accepting the situation you are in and making the best of it. It’s a skill to use when the situation can’t be changed, for example after someone binge eats they cannot change that they have binged and the best thing to do is to radically accept you have binged and to use skills to cope with the binge rather than using more negative behaviours to cope such as purging or self harm.

Right now I am in a situation I do not like. I am frustrated that my choices have been taken away from me now that I am sectioned and it gets to me that I can’t do what I want to do like going for a walk or going to bed when I want to instead of having to wait for the medication round to get to me. It’s frustrating that I don’t have freedom and I find it suffocating that I have two staff members within arms reach of me at all times. I long to have five minutes alone, to use the toilet in peace, for some privacy when visitors arrive. It gets a bit much sometimes but I can’t change this. This is the situation I am in and I will be in until I go to a specialist unit in May. I have to radically accept that this is my life right now and make the best of the situation that I can. None of this is going to go away. I wish I had choices, freedom, privacy and alone time but I don’t so I’m radically accepting that this is how it is. When my visitors come we can still have a nice time without privacy. When they feed me I have to accept that this is how it is and I have no choice in it. Whilst this situation feels suffocating I have two people next to me that I can talk to about anything and everything and I should embrace that and use them. Things aren’t great right now, I hate the situation I am in but right now I cannot change it, I just have to make the most of it.

“No, You Don’t Look Ill”

“No, you don’t look ill” were the words just said to me whilst I was sat stark naked in the bath. I’m so full of anger and confusion right now. I don’t know who or what to believe. If I don’t look ill then why am I on a general ward? Why do I have an NG tube? Why do I have to use a wheelchair? Nothing makes sense anymore and I wish I could press the ‘stop’ button on all of this. I don’t even know the point of this post, I just wanted to share how I was feeling and get it out of my system somehow. To be told I don’t look ill when I have anorexia and still have weight to gain has just thrown me head first into utter termoil and I don’t know what to do.

Footsteps Outside My Door

It’s that time of day when my feed is normally due. The nurse is doing her medication rounds and I don’t know when she is coming to me. I am on edge. Distracted. Distant. Every time I hear footsteps outside my door I am thrown into panic and my heart races. I don’t want to do this. I’m so uncomfortable in my body as I am let alone with more calories being pumped into me. I need the control back, I wish they would give me some. I have no choice, I can drink the ensure, or have it put down my NG tube willingly or I can be restrained whilst the thick, calorific liquid is pumped into me…but I don’t want it. I don’t want it at all. I’ve had enough today and I feel that as an adult I should be able to control what goes into my body. I’m just so scared. I want to be left alone.

Feeling Fat

I have no idea what I look like. People tell me that what I see isn’t what everyone else sees but it’s so hard to believe that when I can see with my own eyes and physically feel the fat on me.

I hide under my blankets and dressing gown so that people can’t see how fat I am. I feel as though everyone is judging me and that they must be thinking she’s too fat to have a feeding tube. She doesn’t have anorexia. Everytime my feed is due I get in a state of panic and anger…why are people feeding me when I’m this big, the nurse giving the feed must think I’m a joke. I’m not thin enough to struggle this much with food.

When I look in the mirror I find my reflection disgusting. I don’t see a clinically obese person staring back at me but I see thick thighs, a double chin and sticking out belly. Physically I can feel the fat on me, I get physical feelings like a warm, tingly feeling in my fat places.

I’m told that I feel fat instead of feeling an emotion but I find this rather difficult to believe. The feeling is just so real to me. How can you disagree with something you see and feel?

Being Tube Fed

Right now I’m laying in a hospital bed with an NG tube up my nose. I have no choice in it, it isn’t just an NG tube but an NG bridle meaning it’s tied to the bone at the back of my nose so I can’t pull it out. I have no choice but to be fed, I’m on a Section 3.

Five┬átimes a day the nurse comes in with a bottle of feed and syringes it down my tube whilst two people hold my arms. I feel out of control, as though recovery and weight gain are being forced upon me…which I guess they are.

I dread feed time, the moment I see the bottle my heart races. Watching her pour the gloopy, milky liquid into the cup engulfs me with panic. Then seeing that liquid being sucked up the syringe makes me nauseous. I want to runaway, I want everything to stop. Then the syringe gets attached to my NG tube and the thick liquid glides through the syringe, through the tube and into my stomach. I can’t feel it. I can’t taste it. It makes me want to tear my skin off. It makes me want to be sick. I hold in my tears throughout the whole process.

Afterwards I feel so uncomfortable, I can feel the rolls of fat on my belly and my double chin, my thighs thick as tree trunks. I fear the weight gain and I have no choice but to sit there and go through it. There’s nothing I can do about it and that’s what scares me most. I’m not in control.

Update

Okay so it’s been a while, I spent 8 months in a secure unit with my weight dropping and my mental health declining, then in December an eating disorder nurse from my home team came to see me at 8am in the morning. I remember being woken at 7am and having a shower on a chair because my legs would not stand and then being whisked off to the relaxation room to see her.

The nurse wanted to admit me to a general hospital for refeeding but I refused as it was so close to Christmas and I just wanted to be where I felt settled for the festive period. That night I was driven back to my home county and admitted to a general ward. I felt like I was living in a nightmare. I had an NG tube inserted and was started on a feed straight away, drips were in my arms and blood tests taken.

A month later, here I am, still in the same bed, still being fed through a tube and struggling enormously. I feel fatter with each day, the sips of ensure are getting harder and not easier. The plan from here is to go to an eating disorder unit in London which I’m super scared about. I don’t know any more. This battle is hard.

Body Image: Hating Myself

My only respite at the moment is sleep. For those few precious hours each night I don’t have to be intensely uncomfortable in my own skin. I can be in my dream away from the itching, bubbling sensations I get in my body. I’m really struggling with body image at the moment to the point where I constantly envision myself tearing my skin off my body. Peeling off my thick thighs and flabby belly. I’m at war with myself.

Getting dressed each day is horrible, trying to find clothes that don’t cling to my skin. I pull clothes that have no shape on to hide my body but nothing quite hides me enough to give me any ounce of confidence to face the day. Worse than getting dressed is showering or bathing…having to completely take my clothes off is nauseating, not to mention the mirror opposite the shower. I have my shower scolding hot so that I can get the relief of a steamed up mirror and then on my way out I can do my best to pretend my body doesn’t exist.

When I sit down my thighs distract me, every reflective surface, every mirror, every shop window stops me in my tracks and brings in thoughts of disgust and utter hatred for the vessel my soul resides in. I want to hide under a blanket constantly, that way I can cover up my repulsive self. I fell out of love with me a long time ago.

I want to go back to ballet but I’m afraid there will be an actual elephant in the room and that elephant will be me. I’m not sure I could handle seeing myself in a leotard and pretty pink tights, I feel far too ugly for that. I want to see family and friends. I miss them an awful lot but I don’t want them to see me. I’m terrified they’ll see what I see, I don’t want anyone to see that. What if they comment on my appearance? I’m not sure I could cope with that. I wish I had an invisibility cloak, then I could go out and about without any worries.

I feel trapped… Trapped in my skin, trapped inside buildings, trapped inside myself and trapped in a body I absolutely despise and then comes the urges to attack myself. I declare war on myself. I self-harm and create scars as ugly as I feel, I go to sleep wishing I don’t wake up so that I never have to see my reflection again or feel how my body makes me feel.

Anorexia Anger

Anger is not something that many people associate with me and a lot of the time anger is not an emotion that I feel and if I do, I do not feel it intensely. However there is this type of anger that comes along with anorexia, it’s different to any anger I have ever felt before and so I have appropriately named it ‘anorexia anger’.

The other day I experienced ‘anorexia anger’ and the only way that made it bearable was to write it down and know that when the feelings had passed, I would be able to share it and hopefully help another person through the horrific way I was feeling. I was sat in group therapy and we were given a box of raisins for mindful eating, we were expected to eat three of them. I have never managed to eat the food in mindful eating but I thought I might be able to do it, raisins are small, easy to eat and feel safe in my mind.

We had to mindfully look at the box and I saw the smiling face on the cartoon raisin and it made me angry, it’s stupid smile patronising me whilst I was sat in an eating disorder group and expected to eat. I turned the box around holding it through my sleeve, too scared to even touch the packaging when I noticed two words, two words which had the power to destroy my whole day. ‘Sunflower Oil’. I wanted to throw the box partly out of fear and partly out of anger but I sat there and breathed trying to gain control over my ‘anorexia anger’.

We were asked to open the box and I didn’t, I couldn’t. I sat there frozen, full of fear and anxiety along with self-hatred and disappointment. I had missed the step of opening the box and I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to eat them. Had the staff noticed I wasn’t doing it? Were they going to say anything? I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t okay. I’m meant to be strong, I meant to be inspiring forgoodnessake. The anger overwhelmed me, it rose up from the tips of my toes, up my calves, through my stomach and upwards on my cheeks. I wanted to scream, shout and throw things but I couldn’t. Look normal. Look calm. Breathe.

I sat hunched up, quiet, snappy. I didn’t want to be in the room. I was so flipping angry and I didn’t know what to do with the anger. I speed walked home, stomping my feet to the beat of the music, I could feel the tears I was holding back bouncing in my eyes. I speed walked past my street, I was too angry to go home, too angry for the quietness of my house. I walked more and more until the anger had calmed slightly.

I walked in the front door, threw my boots off and opened the cupboard. “DON’T BINGE, DON’T BINGE, THE GRANOLA IS MAKING YOU FAT” my mind screamed at me as I internally screamed “SHUT UP” back at it. I got the box of granola out, I’d only had one bowl. I weighed it, worked out the calories and binned the lot. I wasn’t allowed it anymore. Other things had a lick, or an almost bite and then got binned. I was so angry at food, I was angry at my eating disorder. I was angry at everyone because they didn’t understand that this isn’t a choice, this is my prison. My nightmare that I can’t wake up from.

The anger had nowhere to go, I wanted to hurt myself, to purge, I wanted to do whatever I could to get it out of my system. This unbearable feeling that felt completely out of control and totally terrified me. The feeling that had the power to destroy me. That turned me into a monster and made me want to smash and throw everything. The terrifying and out of character ‘anorexia anger’. It did disappear, I went out and met a friend and continued my day and it went. ‘Anorexia anger’ is the worst feeling I ever feel but this proved to me that it isn’t forever, it does disappear and it doesn’t have to lead to destructive behaviours.