Going To Cygnet

This time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Coventry to go to the new cygnet hospital. It’s been a long wait, I’ve been in a general hospital since December.

I don’t really know what the plan will be as I can’t really remember the assessment and haven’t been able to visit the hospital beforehand. I feel very nervous and scared about it all if I’m totally honest. I have many fears about it, especially worrying I’ll be the fattest there.

I don’t know if I’ll be allowed my phone/iPad/internet so I might not be able to post for a while but I wish all my readers the best.

This is not a goodbye but a see you soon.

Claire x

“You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned”

Yoda’s wise words “you must unlearn what you have learned” resonate a lot with me when it comes to recovery both with my personality disorder and eating disorder. I have to unlearn a lot of behaviours and thought processes that I have learnt.

I need to learn how to eat normally again. I’ve forgotten what an average healthy diet looks like and I need to learn this not only in my head, but my body needs to learn to tolerate a normal intake too. I need to learn how to just simply eat without compensatory behaviours afterwards. I need to learn portion sizes and be able to treat myself without feeling unbearably guilty or it turning into a binge. I need to learn how to deal with emotions and the total pain and anguish I experience without using self destructive behaviours.

I have been unwell for a long time and I have learnt to live my life this way, now in order to reach recovery and live a more stable life I need to unlearn these thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that enable me to cope with the world around me. Recovery isn’t just about learning, it’s about unlearning too.

I Need You to Know That I Have a Personality Disorder

I need you to know that I have a personality disorder, it is the diagnosis that I don’t speak about publicly and rarely talk about to anybody because I’m scared that telling you what I have will make you think I am a bad person. I desperately need you to understand what life with a personality disorder is like. It isn’t an excuse for the way I behave, it’s an explanation.

My personality disorder makes any kind of relationship difficult. No one seems to stay long in my life and I often find that I am ‘too much’ for people as I am vulnerable and dependent. I feel inadequate a lot of the time. I struggle to fit in and often my efforts lead to me embarrassing myself. I have powerful relationships and a lot of love to give but they are full of terror and fear. I fear abandonment and rejection so much that it normally leads to the relationship breaking down. Being close to me is a challenge and I find myself constantly asking for reassurance in relationships but in the end the mistrust and need for reassurance pushes the other person away. The slightest change in a relationship feels unbearable. I find it hard to believe peoples’ excuses for not seeing me and I take it as rejection. I often end up attacking those who are close to me ensuring the very abandonment I fear. I can’t control myself. I’m like a tornado destroying everything in my path. Personality disorders are destructive. Never think that I don’t care about others, my struggles with relationships make me think I should be alone forever and stay away from everybody. Self-hatred is always with me and the hurt I’ve caused plays on repeat. I’ve lost so many people because of my personality disorder and it’s agonising.

I struggle with my identity, I don’t really know who I am, and neither do I understand myself. Things can change dramatically one moment to the next. In two minutes I can go from being full of hope to completely hopeless. I can be motivated to change the world one minute and the next not have the motivation to wash myself. I am impulsive which leads to me spending money I don’t have and getting into a financial situation that I need help to get out of. I struggle with bursts of anger that take over me and often lead to me self-harming. I struggle with suicidal tendencies but no wonder death is appealing, my world is very confusing and painful. The mood swings, paranoia and delusions on top of the confusion and anxiety in relationships is exhausting. I’m terrified of the future, what if I’m always like this? Will I ever be able to have normal relationships and get married and have a family? Will that ever be a reality for me?

I can explain my personality disorder to you but I can’t make you understand it. I just hope that somehow this piece of writing helps you to understand how complicated life with a personality can be and I hope that the people in my life that read this can give me their time and patience to remain in my life.

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.

Mental Illness Isn’t Fashionable

It has been fantastic that in recent years celebrities have started to be open and speak about their battles with mental illness. It means that many people feel it easier to speak about their own battles and it reduces stigma and makes conversations easier. I think society is beginning to realise that people can’t look like they have a mental illness, it is an illness of the mind and ANYONE can have a mental illness. Although there is a downside to this because some people are starting to see mental illness as glamourous. The other day someone with bipolar was told, “oh is it because you want to be like Stephen Fry?” and I have heard people say things such as , “Oh bipolar is becoming quite fashionable isn’t it?” Nobody wants a mental illness, I’m sure many people look up to and admire Stephen Fry for his talents and wisdom not for his mental illness. Bipolar is becoming heard of, spoken about, understood-that is not it becoming ‘fashionable’.

It worries me that there are people who strive for a mental illness diagnosis, who want the label, it shows a huge misunderstanding. Having a mental illness is horrible and no matter how much you want one (?!) it doesn’t work like that. You can’t choose to be mentally unwell. I want to be fashionable and my mental illness stops me. My thoughts tear me apart sometimes, I hate these illnesses that I have. I hate that life can be going amazingly and I can be achieving highly but my illness is still horrific. I hate the constant fear that I’m going to become too unwell and lose all of the things around me. I want to be fashionable, I want to wear the latest clothes in Topshop and for people to see me as more than okay, I don’t want looks of sorrow and sympathy or to live under layers and layers of clothes in order to keep my underweight body warm.

Do you think depression is fashionable? There is nothing beautiful about the scars on my arms that will stay with me through life, or the side effects of my antidepressants. There was nothing fashionable about all those months I spent home alone or the state of my bedroom after months of unmedicated clinical depression. I have never been to a nightclub, or on a girls holiday. I’ve missed out on the ‘cool kid’ stuff.

Do you think personality disorders are fashionable? There is nothing fashionable about losing all relationships and opportunities, about living in a constant state of conflict and confusion. I know people who have ended up alone, living in homeless accommodation.

Do you think being on a psychiatric ward is glamourous? There is nothing vogue about being watched whilst you pee and your family coming to visit you on a ward full of very unwell people. It isn’t some awesome sleepover, it is lonely, boring and the lack of privacy will get to you eventually.

It is great that we are talking about mental health more and more. It is great that so many people are trying to raise awareness and understanding. Mental illness being in the spotlight does not make it fashionable, something to strive for or something that people should want. People are unwell because they are unwell, not because they want to be fashionable. The aim is to stamp out stigma and stereotypes, not to change them.