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?
I bet they never wonder what it’s like? The people who are lucky enough to say that depression isn’t an illness, the people who think a little fresh air will fix an organ with chemical problems. How I wish I was one of those people, how I wish I could turn a blind eye and never experience the agony of the torturous illness that breathes alongside me, the shadow that owns me.
I wish I could erase the scars that cover my arms, those big, fat scars that make me as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside.
I wish I could shred the legal paperwork that’s stuck in my mind from all the detentions I’ve had under the mental health act.
I wish I could full my bones with density and claw anorexia out of my mind. I wish I didn’t know every affect of starvation on the human body and I wish even more that I didn’t know that from personal experience.
I wish I knew how to cope like everyone else seems to. Why is my go to always ligature? Why do I look at every object and see it as a weapon to use on myself?
I have thought about my death more than my birth. I have thought about killing those baby feet my mother loved more times than the Earth has existed.
I wanted to be someone in this world, to stand on my own feet and help others. I wanted a house and children and a dog called Toast but then my innocence was stolen, I lost my baby and I’m waiting to get a bed in a mental health supported home.
All those dreams, all those hopes, all that energy and enthusiasm was drained out of me and all that remains is hopelessness, heart break and darkness.
And next time they ask me what I do, I’ll tell them that I breathe and that my heart beats and that I’m surprised I’m still doing that.
It’s like the world has lost all colour, everything seems black and white. The orange in the Autumn leaves has faded to a dirty grey, the grass is no longer green. Did I even notice the grass? Did I even notice the ground I was walking on? It’s claustrophobic, like the whole world has collapsed onto me and I can feel it’s weight restricting me, laying heavy on me and making any motion difficult. The ten fingers I write with no longer have anything to say. Even breathing feels like too much hard work.
There’s no enjoyment anymore. I can’t concentrate on anything and when I do the pleasure is no longer there. Sometimes I do things like allow myself a chocolate whilst my mind acknowledges that it might be the last time. Every activity feels like the last time because surviving is so difficult. Living feels so unbearable.
I don’t feel like me anymore, I wonder if I even look like me. I feel a million miles away from the Claire I was a few months ago and I’m certain nobody would recognise me anymore. The make up bag has stayed zipped up, showers rarely happen and clothes are no longer about style, they’re just about hiding the body that I detest strongly.
My lips are often sealed shut. I cannot relax my face and my lips stay together as though my mind is telling them to shut tight so that they don’t tell anyone how bad things are. My glasses remain unworn as I no longer notice what is around me. My mouth is dry and my stomach is empty. My smile has ended up in lost property somewhere in this world.
Emptiness. Darkness. Closeness. Heaviness. In pain and yet numbed. Quiet yet so loud. That’s what it’s like to feel suicidal.
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.
- 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.
When I was in hospital I was flicking through a newspaper and I came across the headline, “Prozac Kids Go Violent” in which The Sun reports that 15-25 year olds on the medication were at greater risk of being convincted of murder, robbery or assault. However the lead researcher at Oxford University says it is too early to blame dangerous behaviour on the medication which suggests that this is The Sun having another stab at mental illness and unnecessarily adding to the stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness.
I will say this time and time again: People who have a mental health problem are more likely to be the victim of crime than they are to be the perpetrator!
I am on prozac and I am under the age of 25 and I know many others who are on prozac. Prozac has not made me violent, neither have I murdered anyone, or robbed anywhere or assaulted anyone….none of these things have entered my mind. Prozac helps me by lifting the heaviness and darkness so that I am able to function to some degree. A functional me writes blog posts and speaks out about mental illness in order to reduce stigma and raise awareness and understanding.
Without prozac I would never have walked up a mountain to raise money for a charity and I wouldn’t have been able to travel to Manchester and appear on live TV. Without prozac I wouldn’t have been able to write a letter to a stranger on the subject of hope and happiness and have it published in ‘Dear Stranger’ which raises money for Mind, the mental health charity.
A Swedish study found that there was no link between prozac and violence in the over 25s and I am certain there is no link between the anti-depressant and violence in the under 25s either. The risk that lays with prozac and under 25s is that it can increase the risk of suicidal feelings in younger people but this is usually whilst starting the medication and side effects tend to disappear after a period of taking the medication.
I recently wrote a piece about eating disorders for Health Check Wales. Here is the article:
My battle with mental illness began at such a young age that I don’t really know what it’s like not to have one. But I can understand how it must be difficult for someone to understand it if their lives have not yet been touched by it. I’ve seen the stares, heard the comments and read the hate I’ve been sent over the internet. Being unwell is hard enough on its own without the added ignorance and stigma. I became fearful and anxious around food when I was five years old. After seeing a family member become unwell I thought that I would become poorly if I ate food too. As I grew older food became more of an issue. First it was about fear, then it was about perfectionism and control. I was seven years old and banging my head against the school toilet walls for getting a question wrong. By the end of primary school not eating had become my identity. Other children in my class were good at PE or art or maths. I was known for eating “like a bird” and I finally felt like I had a something that I could do. Secondary school complicated life even more. I was bullied, I didn’t feel welcome in any of the friendship groups that I tried to hang around with. I felt geeky, ugly and hated myself. I saw the bigger girls wearing gym knickers in PE and I was scared that I’d get big and be laughed at in my gym knickers too. I began to walk for hours before school, I’d barely eat anything and anything that was eaten would be thrown up. I was self-harming several times a day and overdosing at the back of class – and yet my school didn’t get me help. At this point I didn’t even know that I had a mental illness. Once I left school life became more difficult because with each sad event that happened in my life anorexia and depression seemed to grip their hands tighter and tighter around my neck. I became withdrawn and isolated myself from everyone. It’s scary how mental illness can blend seven whole years into one big blur of hospital admissions, detentions under the Mental Health Act, numbers, scales and suicide attempts. Growing up I wanted to be a nurse or a dancer, battling severe mental illness was not a part of the plan. Often eating disorders are on a spectrum and it is recognised that symptoms change. Someone who meets the criteria for anorexia may months or years down the line meet the criteria for bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. I have certainly experienced many different symptoms with my eating disorder. My primary diagnosis is anorexia. Many months of my life have been spent surviving – or dying – on very little food. I would eat so little food that my body couldn’t keep itself warm. I’d spend my day in the bath or leaning against a radiator. The cold that an eating disorder brings is different from the cold of a winter’s day. It is unbearable, painful and numbing. I’d see the number on the scale drop and the outfit options in the wardrobe became minimal as nothing would stay on my tiny frame, and yet the reflection in the mirror never changed. The girl I saw in front of me didn’t seem to be shrinking, and therefore any weight I lost did not feel like enough. I’m not sure it would ever have been enough. I was slipping towards death, not happiness, perfection or body satisfaction. Then comes the bingeing and purging. The uncontrollable binges that extreme hunger brings. I’d sit on the kitchen floor and eat and eat and eat. I’d work my way around the room, from the fridge to the cupboards, and sometimes, once the food had all gone, I’d eat icing and drink vinegar. I’d try to make myself sick but nothing took away the feelings of guilt and self-disgust, anger and fear that would be left behind for the coming weeks. I hate bingeing and purging and I hate the way I feel I have no control over it. I’ve tried to stop it by attempting to end my life in the past – that’s how desperate and horrific it has made me feel. I also struggled with abusing laxatives and diet pills. I would take far more than the recommended amount but the more I took, the more I felt I needed. I knew exactly the time to take my laxatives so that it would have an effect at night when my family were asleep. Every night spent in agony in the bathroom, sweating and biting onto a towel with pain. It was horrible. One night I took 20 times the recommended dose and I genuinely thought I was going to die. I was in so much pain that it made me sick. My body was weak and I was lying on the bathroom floor, convinced it was the end. I was admitted to hospital the next day and laxatives have not been a part of my life since. I’m still in treatment now and I still really struggle with my mental health. I’m on medication for depression and the other symptoms that affect me and I’m in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for my eating disorder, which has helped me cope with the distress that an eating disorder can bring, as well as recognising when decisions are fuelled by emotions. Eating is still a challenge. Regular eating is not something I’ve ever really done and I struggle to eat regularly every day but I’m better than I was. Depression and mental illness still take over my life and there are days when the suicidal thoughts are a whisper in my head, but there are still days where the suicidal thoughts are loud and repetitive and I struggle to find a reason to carry on with my life. My hospital admissions are getting shorter and the length between them is getting longer and I see that as a positive sign. I recognise I’ve got a long way to come but I am already on the journey and I never thought that I would be where I am now. While I would never wish mental illness on myself or anyone else I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me. I’ve learnt that everything happens for a reason and the best days of my life have happened as a direct result of the worst days of my life. I spent a night in a police cell when there were no hospital beds available. I was law-abiding, not violent and very shy. That night was terrifying and traumatising and made me feel a lot of shame, but without that night I would never have appeared on national radio and news, live TV and newspapers like I have. I would never have started my blog or found my love for writing again. Without anorexia I would never have met my best friend in treatment, my recovery buddy, who I have shared many happy memories with at the beach, or at a restaurant winning against our eating disorders. I would never have been to London to speak at conferences and meetings. The help and treatment I receive from South East Wales Eating Disorder Service has been life-changing, and without their help I wouldn’t have achieved these things either.
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?