Music And Recovery

As cliche as this sounds, I can honestly say that I would not be alive if it weren’t for music. Music has got me through the good times, the bad times and everything in between. I will never forget getting up in my hotel room and listening to ‘I’m on top of the world’ by imagine dragons whilst getting dressed before my appearance on BBC Breakfast. I will never forget listening to Meatloaf in the car on the way to the airport before we flew to Rome. That’s the funny thing about songs they hold memories and that can be a double edged sword. Whenever I hear ‘moves like Jagger’ I am plunged head first into the memory of sitting in the lounge in a psychiatric hospital whilst a patient dances around the room. Hearing ‘cake by the ocean’ will always remind me of the cold,hard days spent in utter boredom in the secure unit. There are Ed Sheeran songs that remind me of ex partners and no matter how much I like Ed Sheeran, I cannot hear these songs without feeling like complete rubbish. Music can be therapy but there is also a danger of music being harmful to the mind so be careful.

So, music and recovery. I use music at the moment to get me through my feeds as I’m currently being treated for anorexia nervosa and am being fed through an NG tube. I have a specific playlist named ‘Feed’ which consists of:

  • I’m yours-Alyssa Bernal
  • Boom clap-Charli XCX
  • Recover-Chvches
  • Learn to live-Darius Rucker
  • Starman-David Bowie
  • Survivor-Destiny’s Child
  • On top of the world-Imagine Dragons
  • Cold in Ohio-Jamie Lawson
  • Living in the moment-Jason Mraz
  • Breathe in, breathe out, move on-Jimmy Buffet
  • Little me-Little Mix
  • Scare away the dark-Passenger
  • Superheroes-The Script
  • Let it go-Demi Lovato
  • Heroes-David Bowie
  • Chocolate-The 1975
  • Love my life-Robbie Williams

All of these songs I either find relaxing, recovery focused, feel good or they hold positive memories. I find feeds really distressing and I know a lot of recovery can be distressing, that’s why in DBT there’s a whole module called ‘distress tolerance’. For me, music is my distress tolerance. ‘Cold in Ohio’ always relaxes me whilst ‘living in the moment’ reminds me of mindfulness. ‘On top of the world’ is a proper feel good song and also reminds me of the positive memory when I went on BBC Breakfast. ‘Little me’ gives me the reminder that I want to make 4 year old me proud. Maybe I won’t be able to listen to these songs again once all of this is over but for now they are getting me through and that’s what recovery is about, getting through.

In My Shoes: Mental Illness

I am a part of BBC generation 2015 and I filmed a quick selfie video for their sister project, In My Shoes.

To view my BBC generation 2015 profile and to find out more about BBC generation 2015 check out:

In My Shoes can be found on Twitter: @InMyUK

Child Mental Health Services ‘Face Overhaul’: My Response

Today the BBC have published an article stating that the government will admit that mental health services for children and young people in England need a complete overhaul. Ministers are said to be proposing a five year plan to improve services but already that’s too little too late. CAMHS services go up to the age of 18, this means that all people aged 13-25 now have slipped through the net and will probably not get the help they need. Children and young people’s mental health services are a complete mess at the moment, suggesting a 5 year plan is a start but changes need to start happening now, not in 2020.

The BBC’s article lists some statistics on child mental health and the one that really struck me was that one in six 16-24 year olds has a common mental disorder. That’s a staggering number of young people but what’s more shocking is that this article implies that the 16-24 age bracket are a part of this ‘overhaul’ but the truth is that this will only improve mental health services to those under 18, the rest of those young people will be lost within the adult mental health services or simply not get the help that they need. Too often we cling on the words of these articles but I can already see flaws and dishonesty.

To tackle the problems ministers have come up with a list of measures, these include a comprehensive set of waiting time targets for services, the launch of an anti-stigma campaign, continued support into the early 20s, greater use of online tools and apps, care close to home and extra training for GPs and schools. This all sounds fantastic and could help change and save so many lives as long as these promises are stuck to. Saying and doing are two very different things. We have got ministers to listen, now the fight begins to get them to stick to their word.

BBC Breakfast Interview

This morning I spoke on BBC Breakfast with Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner to talk about the use of cells as a place of safety for people suffering from mental illness.

A home affairs committee report has called for a change in the law so that cells are no longer deemed a ‘place of safety’ under the Mental Health Act. I spoke out about my experience of the night I spent in a cell due to a mental health crisis. I was not violent, I had not done anything wrong, I was unwell. You would not leave a physically ill person in a cell and in the care of police officers so why would you leave someone with a mental health problem in this situation? Mental illnesses are health problems requiring health care.

I hope by continually speaking out and raising awareness then change will happen. If we are to end the use of cells then we need to improve care. More beds are needed, there’s a lack of funding, a lack of staffing. We need changes not only in crisis care but in the little bit before crisis care when people are saying “Look I’m really not okay, I need some help” and are often brushed off or sent home and told to have a cup of tea. If we are to succeed in ending the use of cells, we need major improvements in our failing health care system.


Waterloo Road: A False Portrayal Of Borderline Personality Disorder

I was watching Waterloo Road last night (10/12/2014) and it became apparent that there was a mental health storyline in the episode. I think it is great to have mental health storylines and characters who have a diagnosis of a mental illness on TV because it helps to start conversations and raise awareness but also these programmes have a lot of power. Thousands of people from all walks of life sit down to watch Waterloo Road, that gives the writers and directors a lot of power to help challenge stereotypes and stamp out stigma but last night I felt as though they abused this power leaving only negativity. It was very irresponsible and quite frankly damaging.

The storyline was that Mandy, a 22 year old, had escaped from the mental health unit and ended up at Waterloo Road’s community cafe. She seemed to cling on to Leo and would suddenly hit or headbutt people and repeat something along the lines of “Bullies get what’s coming to them”. Leo and Mandy went back to Leo’s house and Mandy suddenly smashed something out of nowhere and then trashed the whole room before hiding in the bathroom with a pair of scissors…it was implied that she was threatening Leo with them. Leo’s Dad found them and a police car arrived and that was the very abrupt end of the storyline. If Mandy had not told Leo that she had Borderline Personality Disorder then I would’ve had no idea that she had it because her behaviour did not reflect BPD, in fact I find it quite offensive. I once had the label of Borderline Personality Disorder stuck on me, although this changed to Avoidant Personality Disorder with borderline and obsessive compulsive traits. Not only do I have personal experience of the illness but I have been in hospital with other sufferers and also have a few friends that suffer from BPD.

On top of the fact that the storyline was factually incorrect and damaging to people who suffer from BPD, there was also no helpline at the end of the programme. There wasn’t a message saying “If you have been affected by anything in tonight’s programme….” etc. It is a shame because the BBC could’ve done great things with a Borderline Personality Disorder plot, it’s a very misunderstood illness with very little air time in the media. It could’ve been great but they skimmed over it, didn’t give it an appropriate and educational ending, no helplines were provided and her behaviour reflected a sterotypical/misunderstood mental health patient.

The True Picture Of Borderline Personality Disorder

I feel it is important to try and undo some of the negative, damaging work that has been done by Waterloo Road.

There are many different types of personality disorder, borderline is one of them. Borderline does not mean that someone is bordering on a personality disorder, it is the name of this particular personality disorder which is sometimes referred to as ’emotionally unstable personality disorder’.

Symptoms of BPD can include:

  • Emotions that are up and down. Sufferers may wake up in the morning feeling confident but that evening be feeling despair. Often sufferers experience feelings of anger and emptiness.
  • Overwhelming feelings of distress, worthlessness or anxiety.
  • Difficulty in managing feelings.
  • Difficulty in making and maintaining relationships.
  • An unstable sense of self, for example changing behaviour depending on who the sufferer is with.
  • Taking risks without thinking about the consequences.
  • Self harm, or thoughts of self harming.
  • Fear of abandonment or rejection.
  • Sometimes sufferers may experience delusions or hallucinations.

Often people diagnosed with BPD suffer with other mental health problems, such as, eating disorders, depression, anxiety or substance misuse.

Whilst BPD can be a very serious condition with 60-70% of sufferers attempting suicide at some point, there are treatments out there including dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), psychotherapy and therapeutic communties. Medication can also help.

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