Accepting The Label

This is genuinely one of the most difficult things I have ever written about because it’s the one label that I rip from my skin and pretend it isn’t there. I really struggle to accept it as my diagnosis because of the stigma and shame surrounding it. I have Personality Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) and it is incredibly difficult to live with.

I’ve not accepted the diagnosis before and always told myself that my diagnosis was wrong but reading through my Section papers made me realise that actually it is a problem and that realisation is heart-breaking. I guess I’m scared of who I am. I’ve never really talked about it before but some of the symptoms that come along with my personality disorder include:

  • Avoidance of everything that is uncomfortable. I avoid the scales at my eating disorder appointments, I avoid awkward or difficult conversations, confrontations, subjects I don’t want to talk about, social situations and so on.
  • Believing I am inadequate and worthless.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Relationship difficulties. I have an intense fear of abandonment from those who are around me and I have intense positive emotions about them but this often leaves the other person feeling under pressure and strain and then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy as real abandonment often happens.
  • Confusion over what happened, what was said and who was at fault.
  • Finding it difficult to trust others. I am always suspicious that people are trying to hurt me.
  • I feel that as relationships cause problems, I am better off alone.
  • Anxiety.
  • Acting impulsively, for example spending lots of money that I don’t have.
  • I have a lot of issues around anger.
  • Auditory hallucinations. I hear voices from time to time.
  • Self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
  • I feel dependent on other’s approvals and struggle if I do not get this.
  • I’m easily influenced by other people.
  • I’m very sensitive to any type of criticism.
  • A need for order and control.
  • Catastrophising hugely when small things go wrong.

I think my difficulty with accepting the diagnosis is that I feel I cannot control the personality disorder and I often feel like a bad person for the way I handle difficult situations. I fear that people will see me as a bad person if they know my diagnosis. I hate the term ‘Personality Disorder’ too, it’s like with an Eating Disorder the flaw is with eating, with a Mood Disorder the flaw is with the mood but with a Personality Disorder it is a flaw in personality, of who I am and who I was made to be. I want to be a good person but stigma and shame makes me feel as though this diagnosis makes me a bad person. I mean who would want to hang around with someone sensitive and dependent on others, someone with trust issues and relationship difficulties? It makes me fear that I will be alone forever or that I’ll hurt those I love by accident. Having a personality disorder makes me want to run away from myself but that’s not possible. I fear enduring another 50, 60 or even 70 years like this. That seems unbearable. I’m scared of who I am and what is wrong with me and I’m terrified that I may never be alright.

Sectioned: A Spoken Word Piece

Last August I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spend two months in hospital. When I was discharged I decided that I wanted to do something with my life and turn a negative into a positive and so I began working with Fixers. Around the same time I noticed a lot of pro-ana and pro-mental illness posts appearing all over social networking and one comment that really stuck out to me was someone saying that they wanted to be sectioned so that they could have a hug whenever their sad. I was also shocked by the amount of comments about mental illness being fashionable and people likening the psychiatric ward to a big sleepover but that is not the reality.

I wrote a spoken word piece and used my photography along with Fixer’s filming and editing to create a piece to explain what being sectioned is like from a patient’s perspective whilst also targeting the groups in social media that aspire to be unwell. Being sectioned often feels like something I should keep secret and be ashamed of  so that’s exactly why I decided to shout about it publicly. There should be no stigma.

Feel free to share this video and spread it’s message.

The Secret Side of Eating Disorders

Here’s my latest piece on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-greaves-/the-secret-side-of-eating-disorders_b_7428768.html It was probably one of the hardest and scariest posts I have ever written but the silence on binge eating needs to be broken. If any of my readers are struggling with binge eating then I hope you find some comfort or something of use in this article. You are not alone, I promise you that.

Mental Health Awareness Week: What I’d Like You To Be Aware Of

  1. I’d like you to be aware that my brain is poorly, this is not my choice.
  2. I’d like you to be aware that my mental illness has been traumatic and terrifying.
  3. I’d like you to be aware that I don’t hate food, I love food, but anorexia will not let me eat it.
  4.  I’d like you to be aware that I speak about my experiences because I hope it will make a difference to someone else. I do not do it for sympathy.
  5. I’d like you to be aware that I am so ashamed of the binge eating.
  6. I’d like you to be aware that my medication makes me drowsy, numb and slows me down. I am unable to function if I do not take it but taking my medication makes it difficult to function too.
  7. I’d like you to be aware that I often hide behind my smile and convince people I am fine when the truth is that I am still very poorly.
  8. I’d like you to be aware that sometimes I speak on national TV and end up crying afterwards because I don’t feel like I was good enough. I feel utterly worthless.
  9. I’d like you to be aware that I have huge aspirations that I am determined to achieve but my illness slows me down.
  10. I’d like you to be aware that nighttime is often the worst. I lay there in the dark struggling to sleep whilst horrible and disturbing images bombard my mind. When I eventually sleep my dreams are often not kind.
  11. I’d like you to be aware that I do not feel comfortable in my own skin, no matter how much I try to convince you I do.
  12. I’d like you to be aware that I take a lot of medication in order to be able to function on some kind of level.
  13. I’d like you to be aware that I spend a lot of my week in hospital appointments or group therapy and whilst I am incredibly grateful that I am able to have the support I do, each appointment overwhelms me with dread and anxiety.
  14. I’d like you to be aware that the night in the police cell was not my fault, nor the police’s. It was simply that there was not a hospital bed to go to.
  15. I’d like you to be aware that there have been very good days and very bad days this year and that gives me hope, I hope it gives you hope too because nothing in life is permanent.
  16. I’d like you to be aware that it upsets me when I’m ignored at my poorly times and clung on to during my success by the same people, there is nothing that makes me feel more alone than that.
  17. I’d like you to be aware that the things that are simple to you are often very challenging to me and whilst I may not bring your attention to this, some days exhaust me mentally.
  18. I’d like you to be aware that I hate waking up because breakfast terrifies me.
  19. I’d like you to be aware that when the voices in my head are bad and my mood is low then walking over a bridge or catching a train become incredibly difficult.
  20. I’d like you to be aware that sometimes I am childish, this is partly me hiding my distress and partly because my mental illness stole my childhood.
  21. I’d like you to be aware that I often feel like I haven’t done good enough and therefore rarely feel a sense of achievement.
  22. I’d like you to be aware that when I’m very poorly I struggle to remember anything or think straight or form sentences. Please realise that this is my illness and not me.
  23. I’d like you to be aware that getting dressed each day with body dysmorphia is such a challenge and often ends up with my bedroom covered in clothes and me in a heap sobbing.
  24. I’d like you to be aware that I have an addictive personality, I get addicted to anything and anyone and this often leaves me feeling hurt and in debt.
  25. I’d like you to be aware that when I tried to take my life it wasn’t because I didn’t love you, it was because I felt that everyone would be 100 times better off with out me. My illness blurred my thoughts.
  26. I’d like you to be aware that whilst I have come a long way with recovery, I still have an incredibly long way to go.
  27. I’d like you to be aware that sometimes I don’t want to talk, sometimes I just want to be around people who distract me from what is going on.
  28. I’d like you to be aware that I am a sociable person and I love being around people however my illness often locks me away in my house and leads me to cancelling any plans I have.
  29. I’d like you to be aware that I do not hide my scars because I accept them. I cannot wear long sleeves for the next 70 years. I wish I didn’t have them but I accept that I do and I wish you would too.
  30. I’d like you to be aware that having a mental illness is hard but it’s even more difficult when people don’t understand it and harder still when people don’t want to understand it.

How Are You? Honestly! : Submissions

Mental Health Awareness Week is just around the corner and there is just 3 days left to send your submissions in to the ‘How are you? Honestly! campaign.

To get involved send your honest answers to the question ‘How are you? Honestly!’ to mentalillnesstalk@gmail.com by the 13th May. Answers must be 200 words or less.

Check the campaign out on Twitter: @HowAreUHonestly and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/howareyouhonestly?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Happy Writing!

A Letter to David Cameron

Dear David Cameron,

I have a message for you now that you have been re-elected as prime minister.

I know that you are only a human being just like I am and I hope that my words might reach you and make a difference. A huge part of your focus is on money and the economy and I understand how important this is, the recession was devastating. However, there is something much more important than money and that is human suffering. We are so fortunate to live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and whilst not all human suffering is preventable, a lot of suffering is or it can at least be eased.

Making life harder for the less fortunate isn’t fair. You are lucky enough to never know what it’s like to take your life because of the stress of losing your beloved home over the bedroom tax. You have probably never been a young person who is desperate to work but stuck on job seeker’s allowance and unable to afford an outfit for job interviews because JSA barely covers the rent. You don’t realise how scary it is to hear threats of housing benefit being taken away from 18-24 year olds when there are already young people sleeping on the streets and living in tents. These aren’t ‘scumbags’, they are talented young people who give people goosebumps when they sing or aspire to be support workers and help others.

This brings me on to your manifesto and what you said about mental health. You said that you would increase funding for mental health and I really hope that you stick to your word. Having good quality mental health care should not be a luxury. The brain is an organ and it should be treated on par with physical health. Mental health services can barely function on the funding that they currently had. Funding is essential.

You said that you would enforce new access and waiting times for mental health services and I really hope that you stick to your word here. Early intervention is key because the longer an illness goes on, the lengthier the recovery. Some non-urgent cases are waiting up to two years for treatment and by the time they get seen they have then become an urgent case. The difficulty in accessing services means that people are having to fight to get help at a point where they are exhausted and can barely get out of bed. That is a flawed system.

You said that you will ensure proper provision of health and community-based places of safety for those experiencing a mental health crisis. I cannot stress how important this is. At the age of 19 I was put in a police cell during a mental health crisis. I was very quiet and shy and suffering with anorexia and depression. I wanted to die and I needed to be somewhere safe and peaceful, instead I was put in custody on a Friday night. I have come close to being put in a cell again because of a similar situation where all the hospitals and Section 136 suites were full and there was nowhere left to go. When someone is poorly and a law-abiding citizen, ending up in a cell should not be a fear or worry. That night will stay with me forever, your government let me down.

You said that you would review how to best support those with long-term but treatable conditions back into work and that people who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need to get them back into work. If these people refuse a recommended treatment then you will review whether benefits should be reduced. This is unfair. I would say that the majority of people, including me, do not want to be too unwell to work and really work hard on recovery because being ill is not pleasant. I want to work, I want to make a huge difference to society and I will. I am determined. Supporting those with mental health problems in work is so important and I really hope that this happens. However, threatening to cut benefits if people refuse a treatment is not okay. It isn’t that black and white. Someone may refuse a treatment because they are too poorly to accept the help. If you are feeling hopeless, suicidal and being absolutely crushed by depression and you decline a treatment then that is okay, it may take medication and time for the person to feel able to accept a therapy. If you are struggling with anxiety and socially isolated then group therapy may be incredibly scary to you. If you force treatments upon people by threatening their income then you are wasting money. If someone doesn’t want to be in a treatment then they won’t work with it and it won’t help them, someone who is ready to accept that treatment will probably be sat on a waiting list behind all the people who have been forced there through threatening to cut benefits. You cannot use money to threaten and blackmail people. Benefits barely get people by as it is. If you are threatening someone’s benefits then you are threatening their home, their car, their dependents, their food, their prescriptions. Imagine that you are feeling deeply suicidal and that happens? How would you feel Mr Cameron if someone took their life because of your policies? If someone lost their mother or daughter or sister and it was your parties fault? Please don’t let that be the case. Please don’t put yourself in that position.

Finally, you say that you will support those with mental health problems who are claiming out-of-work benefits. Please make sure you are supporting those with mental health problems and not using them to support your party or the economy. People will respect you more if you show compassion, care and understanding.

Good luck with the next 5 years and if you ever want to learn more about mental health then my kettle is always on.

Best Wishes,

Claire Greaves