Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are a frightening experience and involve feeling faint, heart palpitations, nausea and breathlessness. These symptoms can become so strong that a person feels like they are going to lose control or even that they are having a heart attack and are going to die.

Panic attacks can be triggered by stressful situations, such as taking an exam or a packed tube train but they can happen for no apparent reason at all.

Talking about them can help, there are breathing exercises that can help calm a person down or using distractions like ‘I Spy’ on a busy commute or listening to music. Talking therapies and medication can also be very effective in managing panic attacks.

Section 3

I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?

Mindfulness: A Way To Manage Waiting Room Anxiety

I know how tough waiting rooms can be, how the seconds feel like hours as you wait to be weighed at the eating disorder clinic or you wait for your psychologist to call you in for your session and especially when you’re at your GP after realising there is a problem. I’ve spent many years sat in waiting rooms and I still find it anxiety provoking and difficult but I’ve come up with a technique to help me to stay in the moment and I wanted to share it with you.

Firstly: The ABC game. Find something in the room beginning with A, B, C, D all the way through to Z. No cheating, no skipping letters. Yes X is difficult but look on posters and you might find it.

Secondly: If you are still waiting after finding your A-Z then try colours. Find something red, yellow, orange, blue, pink and so on.

Distract your mind with these mindful games whilst you try to sit with a relaxed and open posture.

Shared Rooms In Psychiatric Wards Do Not Work

One of my biggest worries when I am being admitted to hospital for my mental illness is that I will have to share a room. It’s not fair on the other patients and it’s not fair on me because when I am unwell I try to harm myself or take my own life in whichever way seems possible. It isn’t fair that other unwell people have to see that and neither is it fair that they have to witness me being restrained and injected. Shared rooms make patient’s dignity and confidentially difficult to maintain. I was unwell at the time and it didn’t bother me at that moment but looking back now I am upset that someone saw me in that state, that someone saw my buttocks and staff holding me down whilst a nurse administered an injection. I would’ve rather that stayed private.

People are not admitted to psychiatric wards for mild symptoms, everybody on the ward is very unwell and each patient needs their own space. If I need a good cry then I would like to have a wall between me and the other patients. If I need to talk to staff I would prefer it if I didn’t have to whisper and constantly worry that the other people in the room could hear what I was saying.

When myself and others are too unwell to stay at home and have to come into hospital then personal space is needed, calm and quiet is needed, confidentiality is needed. That patient needs to feel safe, supported and comfortable. Shared rooms don’t meet the requirements of the patient.

Mental Illness Steals Life

Looking through my Section papers makes me feel so much sadness. I can’t help being poorly and I know I would’ve never chose to be like this but I wish things were different. At 23 years of age I would love to be looking at certificates from higher education, or paperwork for a job or reading through a book I’ve written but instead I’m sat here reading words that doctors have written about me. Words I don’t want to believe and papers I wish were never a part of my life. I wish I could rip them up and the memories could be torn up with them. I wish I didn’t feel unnecessary shame for what’s written but I just feel so wrong for this society, a disappointment and a let down.

Reading these words are so difficult. I want to cross my name out and pretend it isn’t me:

“Claire Greaves is known to the CMHT with a diagnosis of personality disorder NOS and eating disorder. She was attending the DBT group today and expressed suicidal ideation later attempting suicide. She is unable to guarantee her safety and refuses an informal admission to the ward. She has been non-compliant with prescribed medication telling her family it was contaminated. She requires a period of treatment in hospital”

“Claire attended DBT session today but her behaviour was withdrawn and she expressed high anxiety with active attempts to harm herself. It is reported that she has refused to take medication prescribed for her mental disorder and her diet has been poor. She describes having low mood with persecutory and command auditory hallucinations to kill herself.”

I feel like I’ve barely lived since July. Time and life are just flying by whilst I stare at walls and battle to not hurt myself. My life has become a timetable of medication. A life contained within four walls. I miss the outside world, sometimes it feels like a punishment to be so contained for so long. I wanted to be successful and live a life that helped others but right now I need to accept that I am poorly but that’s easier said than done.

I wish mental illness would stop stealing the precious time we have on this earth, I wish it would hand my life back to me.

 

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.

There’s Nowhere For Me To Go

I haven’t been well lately, my mood has crashed completely, the flashbacks are overwhelming and anorexia has been screaming at me. The past five weeks have been a downhill spiral of self harm, suicidal thoughts and no energy to do anything. Unfortunately it is also summer meaning that my psychologist, dietitian and psychiatrist have taken big chunks of leave.

Last Monday I can barely remember, according to my friend I was extremely withdrawn and not well and she took me to hospital to be assessed. We phoned the psychiatric ward at 6:15 pm and I was not assessed until 4.30 am. Waiting so long in an acute mental health crisis was really not helpful. Hospital was meant to help but the entire stay was horrific and stressful. Some of the staff were incredibly rude to everyone. My friend was crying and they opened the door and said, “Off you go!” and left her crying on the curb outside.

I ended up with the wrong medication most of the time and when I went to correct them it didn’t sort anything out. I actually had to explain to a qualified nurse the difference between tramadol and trazodone. I was given one out of my seven tablets at nighttime and when I explained the nurse didn’t return with the right dose and so that was a pretty sleepless night.

I was put in a two bedded room and I accepted that was the only bed even though I struggle hugely with sharing. The staff assured me that as soon as a single room became available it would be mine. The next morning I was put in the four bedded room when single bedrooms were available. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were deliberately trying to wind me up but I just left it because the staff had caused so much stress by that point that I simply gave up.

One patient threatened to kill me with their bare hands and strangle me. It was extremely distressing for me but the staff didn’t seem to care. I came into hospital to get better and feel safe and I felt anything but.

The last straw was when I tried to use the skills we are taught in DBT to distract myself from hurting myself. I asked the occupational therapist if I could do something and her response was, “Usually people with low mood don’t want to do anything.” Her comment put me in a place of guilt, shame and wanting to give up on DBT.

I decided the ward was too stressful and was making me worse and so I asked for leave until ward round and they allowed it. I got home and sat in a chair and cried for hours. Home wasn’t the right place. If I broke my leg then my mum and dad couldn’t x-ray it, diagnose it and put it in a cast. Neither can they fix my broken mind. I silently struggled until ward round and then explained the situation to which they had no solutions and I decided discharge was the only option.

I am now at home with no energy or motivation to do anything, very poorly with depression, battling with self harm and suicidal thoughts, hating myself and struggling with my eating disorder. Home is not the right place for me at the moment but hospital is too stressful which leaves me with nowhere to go…how can that be right?