I’m Twenty

Today I turn twenty. Most people will celebrate their 21st birthday as the major milestone, but I’m partying today. Well when I say ‘Partying’… I’m drinking tea and feeling grateful. Partying.

To put it bluntly: I’m here. My teenage years are over and I made it. I got through. I did it. 

This may sound over dramatic, but there were times where it really was a close call. I was so ill that I was trying to end my life. It’s hard to look back, but I am proud of myself now, really bloomin’ proud. Ten year old me wouldn’t have been able to dream up all the things I am doing at the moment. I hit rock bottom, yes, but the only way to go from there is up. I live in fear that the lowest of low will return one day and I won’t be so lucky, but hitting the bottom of the pit turned out to be a catalyst for change.

I feel such relief. Relief that I wasn’t allowed to just die. I am so grateful to those who brushed the dirt from my face, inspired me and believed my life would change. They dreamed of what my life could be like when I couldn’t dream it for myself. They encouraged me no matter how many times I screamed at them to give up. I can’t thank these people enough. You saved me. 

I don’t think anyone could call me mentally well, but it’s not terminal. My illnesses aren’t going to kill me anymore- I can think, do things and meet people.

The day I am editing this (may the 12th) is international nursing day. So from the bottom of my heart thank you to those nurses who gave friendliness along with professionalism. For the hours I’ve had them by my side and for the hours I’ve cried on their shoulders. I’ve met nurses who are unshakable: They can handle any combination of crises and chaos. They are rushed off their feet on busy wards but still pop in to check that you are okay. The best nurses I know give more than just medication, they give genuine love and care to patients.

Mouse Does DBT: STOP Skill

The STOP skill is a way to slow down a crisis. When a trigger happens you can picture the stop sign:

S – Stop. Stop everything right now.

T – Take a step back. Get out of the situation or just give yourself a break.

O – Observe. Observe how you feel, what the situation really is and the sensations it’s giving you. What are other people doing and saying?

P – Proceed Mindfully. Think around the scenario from every angle. Before deciding on an action think of how you feel, how others feel and whether the action you want to do next will make things better or worse.

(Please note that Upside Down Chronicles has no training or therapeutic expertise, only experience. This series ‘Mouse Does DBT’ is to support people going through DBT themselves, or for those interested in the therapy. Please contact your GP if you need further support for mental health problems.)  

Mouse Does DBT: ‘What’ Skills

 It was explained to Mouse that mindfulness could be practiced in different ways- some of them are covered here in the ‘What’ skills. 

Observe

A white mouse holds a magnifier to their face 'observe' is written alongside. Copyright upside down Chronicles. Observing is about just noticing as thoughts and feelings come and go. One way to do this is to imagine that your mind is a conveyer-belt and you are passively watching your thoughts trundle by. You are paying attention to the thought as it goes; acknowledging its existence and letting it pass without judgement. You can also observe by noticing the rate of your breathing or by doing a body scan meditation to recognise any physical sensations you may have. You can also observe things external to yourself, like watching people in a cafe or admiring the tiny details in a beautiful view. It’s noting the facts of what is going on in as much detail as possible.

A cartoon image of a conveyer belt. A brown cardboard box is moving along on it. It is labelled 'mouse's thoughts'. Copyright upside down chronicles
Describe

A mouse holds a magnifying glass to the word describe. A question mark above his head. Copyright upside down Chronicles.Describing is all about focus and understanding. In the group session all the mice were each given a chocolate Minstrel. Using the describe skill they tried to find words for the shape, texture, taste, smell and colour of the chocolate. Doing her homework Mouse found that the easiest way to practice this skill was to describe her beauty regime as if she was filming a YouTube tutorial video. She described the products she used, how they felt on her fur, how she applied them and how they change the way she looks. As well as describing actions and objects you can use the same description exercise for thoughts and feelings. Putting words to something as abstract as feelings makes them seem less scary and more controllable.

Participate

A white cartoon mouse poses with one hand on his hip and one in the air in a Saturday night fever dance pose. Music notes around him and the word 'participate'. Copyright upside down Chronicles. Participating is about actively being in the moment. Focusing on the one task you are doing and then doing it with all your might. This could be: singing to the song you are listening to or not allowing yourself to slip into the background during social situations. By taking part in everything you do fully you can stay in the here and now.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that mindfulness is not about clearing your mind. Clearing your mind is actually not very mindful at all. Mindfulness is about acknowledging the moment you are in and accepting things for how they are. These ‘What’ skills are a way to focus and engage with the now. Practicing these skills is hard as you have to try and let the thoughts that interrupt your mindfulness exercise drift past on your brain conveyer belt without letting them pull you completely off task. Mouse’s conveyer belt seems to be being used to transport tonnes of manure around her mind. What skills will need some work.

(Please note that Upside Down Chronicles has no training or therapeutic expertise, only experience. This series ‘Mouse Does DBT’ is to support people going through DBT themselves, or for those interested in the therapy. Please contact your GP if you need further support for mental health problems.)  

 

Oh-See-Dee Irony… (a series of unfortunate paradoxes)

Through scrubbing my skin my hands become infected.

I was scrubbing at my hands in case they were infected.

I’m too scared to eat in case it makes me ill.

Then not eating makes me ill too.

I use hand gel to kill bacteria.

The gel cracks my skin and it’s infection prone.

I know my night meds make me feel better.

Yet when I take them I panic in case they kill me.

When the thing you use to stop freaking out gives you cause to freak out more; where do you turn?

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original image © UDC

And to think people think it is about being neat…

Please note: I am safe and okay. Just struggling a bit at the moment. I’m keen to keep the authenticity in this blog and after writing I decided to publish this in my ‘recovery notes’ area. Good news… crisis services (and services in general) are a lot better where I live now!

RECOVERY IS JUST A LOAD OF BALLS. METAPHORICALLY.

Seriously.

In French there is a saying: “le mieux est l’ennemi du bien”. Translation: The best is the enemy of the good. I can’t think of a phrase more truthful about mental health recovery. 

The best is doing everything. In my head this is running around; getting top notch A Levels, spontaneously producing poetry and blog posts, finding somewhere great to live, learning more languages, pointing my finger at the government on Twitter and… Being healthy I guess. But if I’m honest my ideal doesn’t specifically contain being recovered. It’s just a fact that in order to achieve these things I would have to be. I haven’t achieved this basic requirement but I’m still going for it full throttle. Day in, day out I’m turning up to the tracks wearing pizza boxes on my feet and hoping to be Usaine Bolt. I’m tripping and falling and generally being stupid because, the truth is, recovery is a load of balls!

No, really.

You have to, like everyone else, juggle like crazy to catch all the things life throws at you. You didn’t learn to juggle properly so, inevitably and without warning, you lose control. You drop everything and have to start again. 

The bit I need to get my head around is that no one learns to juggle with eight balls. They start with one and work their way up, dropping odd ones on the way but eventually getting into the rythmn of life. Of course you can stop juggling and put them all down: but that is your decision. You’re being strategic and stopping for a break before everything crashes down. After you’ve rested, eaten a few cheesy snacks and gulped a cup of tea you can start juggling again. Crisis averted. 

I apologise for the long analogy. But recovery is a load of balls and I have to learn to juggle one way or another. It’s just deciding what takes priority. By trying to get the best am I missing what would actually be really, really good for me? 

  

Brutal Murder in The Name of Cake

Today I was feeling rubbish. I was in my pyjamas sorting assorted stuff out; when a sinister friend surfaced from the storage boxes it had been skulking in. The set of portable scales that this time last year I was carrying around in my handbag like a soldier carries a bible. So I did to it what I intend to eventually do to my mental illness as a whole- brutally attack it with a hammer. My Dad filmed the occasion.

No apologies for the baggy jumper, lack of make up or PJs. It’s just one of those days.

The scales prior to the attack.

The scales prior to the attack.

From the Rubble I Can See the Stars

Today I’m in hibernation. My body says sleep and my legs say still and my head says no. 

Over the last few months it has felt like I have been mentally burgled.  Everything that I thought was nailed down in my life has been dragged away and burnt to embers, leaving me sitting with the scuff marks on the ground. 

The pursuit for housing seems to be going on forever and in the meantime I’m stuck in hospital. To understand all of the systems I am stumbling through I would need a degree. Everything seems to be set up for people with one disability or illness- any more and it turns into a clash of services and procedures.

Yesterday I had an unexpected blow. It broke me completely at first but if anything now I feel relieved. I say to myself “there is nothing to lose and everything to gain”. Again and again. Something will change. The only way from here is up. It’s stoked the fire for me to keep going. Well that’s the case at the moment anyway.