Category: mental illness

21/09/2022: Hurt

*Trigger warnings: disordered eating, dissociation, self-harm, suicide, suicidal ideation*

I’ve been told I need to try and write things down, and despite scribbling away in my notebook, I’m getting nowhere. My mind falls into the abyss, and I’m somewhere between Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ and Linkin Park’s ‘Crawling’. If you haven’t heard these emotive songs before, it’s as if the words have been taken from my soul to anguish the void inside. I can’t describe how I’m feeling, other than numb. It’s as if my life is being sucked through the void like a deep, black hole. I feel distant and I can’t ground myself. I’m trying, but I’m lacking that ‘human’ sensation that I feel alien to this world. Trying to hold onto what’s real and what’s not is a true test of my character, my strength, and my ability to conquer my mental health.

I feel like I’ve messed up. I’ve crashed and yet, I feel as though I am floating between this life and another. I have never felt this way before, yet I’ve been to that dark place with the shadows which lurk between the trees, on the sides of the roads and in the corner of my eye, just trying to catch me out and destroy everything I possibly have to hold onto.

Everything was beautiful. At least I can remember that.

Finishing university didn’t come without its consequences. I lost all matter of support I had available, that I suppose it was inevitable there’d be something just waiting to cascade through my life.

I’d felt it for some time, but I hadn’t quite expected just how drastically the situation would change. I’d already reached out for support, even though I wasn’t quite getting through to the right people. My referral to IAPT led to them saying they couldn’t take me on due to my disorder eating relapse, and they would contact my GP regarding a referral to CMHT. All I was asking was for someone to listen, yet they couldn’t offer anything.

Then, whilst trying to figure out whether my referral to CMHT had actually gone through, there I was in crisis.

I should have felt my happiest. It was my graduation day. A day to acknowledge all the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears I’d put into completing my degree. I was, momentarily, happy. I felt more anxiety than anything, but there were moments of pride and celebration. I just didn’t expect the whirlpool to swallow me up so soon after the ceremony, which lead to me feeling lost, confused, angry, and hurt.

There are things in life which we need to deal with alone, and then there are things in life which we need to discuss with others. I had been processing some thoughts by myself without acknowledging the impact it was having around me. I barely noticed the changes, but when you’re left feeling as though you’re the worst person in the world for trying to process things on your own, I guess you only have yourself to blame?

The next few days became much of blur. I found it easier to dissociate than stay grounded, which only lead to more turmoil. The more I gave myself the permission to dissociate, the more I become ‘stuck’ in this other world. Trying to feel things only led to relapsing in self-harm behaviours, which I’d been managing well for a good couple of years. Yet, this seems to be my only go-to coping mechanism, when I feel I no longer want to feel a part of anything anymore, other than the pain and empty shell I often feel trapped in. Over time, I tried to keep fighting through the heartache. Yet, there was still so much to work through. My mind was battling an overload of information from one thing to the next, with so many changes happening in my life that I just needed, and wanted it all to stop.

Stop. Even just for a second, so I could catch my breath. Except I couldn’t. I was already drowning.

It didn’t matter how many conversations I forced myself through, I disengaged to the point of not remembering. I just wanted to forget, for everything to settle, and be the way I had, by this point, briefly remembered it to be. Beautiful.

Too sensitive to carry on, my cry out for support led to phone calls back and forth from the services which should have been able to help me. It was always too much. The strength needed to reach out is so challenging, that the energy used weakens you further, especially with every knock-back.

I tried to hold on, and I tried to listen. I just couldn’t connect, yet I would do my best to present myself to others in a positive light, so that others couldn’t see just what was lurking over me. My shadows ripping out my insides, whilst I’m trying to hold it together with a weak and loosening grip.

Just over a week ago, I took myself to the hospital. I’d put myself in the position I’ve seen so many others placed in. Yet, nothing could eradicate the fear I had inside, as I explained what I’d done, and what I was fearful of. I did not feel safe. I felt frightened because my mind only had one thing circling around, and that was I didn’t want to be here anymore. My thoughts were turning into actions, and whilst I’ve visited the dark place before, this time it felt, oddly, more real. I questioned how could I begin to feel real when suddenly braced with the hollowing fear of death? I’m too scared to die, yet it’s all I’ve wanted for years.

I find myself pausing here. Is it all I’ve wanted? Since I can remember, I would want to run away from home and disappear. I remember packing a little yellow plastic Polly Pocket suitcase with red sliding closures and threatening to run away. I made it to the end of the driveway, hidden behind the cars, or hiding in the outside alcove just underneath the dining room window. I must’ve been sat there for only 10 minutes before going back inside, and it felt like a lifetime. I can’t remember why I did this, but I remember the feeling. I must’ve been about 8 or 9 years old. By my teens, I daren’t go there. School made things hellish for me, and on a number of occasions, I would threaten my teachers that I would not return home because they’d be reaching out to my parents with a cause for concern. A duty of care they would have to ensure I was safe on the school grounds and getting home. As I got older, the impulses only get stronger. The thoughts linger in waiting to just probe when they’re not welcome. They’re never welcome, but they always pay me a visit. In 2011, I remember lying down beside the river. I’d brought a bottle of whiskey, and I thought I’d drown my sorrows then naturally fall in and drown. If it wasn’t for the heckles of young men walking by ‘Don’t do it!’, I probably would have. That’s not to say they prevented it, but they made me feel uneasy that I was in too much of public space to go through with it.

Here we are 11 years later, and in that time I’ve ‘managed’ suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The ideation is so clear. I know what I would do, I just don’t have that ‘end date’ yet. I suppose I’ll go on the best before, and take it day by day. Humour aside, I understand that this is the reality. This is my reality of being trapped in a loop. Any challenging situation and my mind automatically switches to the ultimate End Game. It doesn’t even give me a chance to process. So, of course, when I do try to process things, either by myself or with others, there’s something eating me up alive inside.

As it stands, I’m now waiting to be seen by CMHT, and I am able to contact the crisis team. I feel as though I’ve been interrogated with questions about why? this?, and that? I’ve felt ashamed, embarrassed and hurt. I’ve felt blame and I’ve felt like I’ve been a burden. I’ve caused pain, anxiety, worry, and hurt. I feel as though I’ve been destructive not only physically and emotionally to myself, but emotionally to others. And for that, I hate myself.

You know, people think it’s so easy to switch out of, and they’ll say ‘think of who you’ll leave behind’ or ‘think of the mess you’ll leave’ and even ‘how do you think this makes me/us/them feel?’ and yet, you can’t switch out of if it. You become so afraid of everything, that there’s just a darkness and only one way out.

The light doesn’t shine through. Not for some time. The ignorance and stigma of mental health in today’s society has not changed. We may talk about it more, but the huge lack of understanding holds so many of us back from receiving the support we really need. With so many budget cuts being made, mental health is last on the list. We’re not the priority, if anything happens, we’re one less thing to worry about. That’s the stigma, right there. It’s no wonder reaching out is so damn hard.

I have needed to write this over a few days. There’s been things I’ve written that I would not have even considered writing about, but I feel as though there is importance in this. It’s enabled me to reflect back on some of the times when I dealt with similar situations in a different way, and where the work lies.

The road to recovery isn’t linear, and I know that I’ve got some way to go before things are ‘back to normal’, but I can say that since starting this post, I have begun to feel again, and that void is closing up. I’m just having to tread carefully. I want to fulfil my full potential. Work on my dreams and focus on my goals. I want to be the best version of me; and even if it comes with these flaws, well, then I guess that’s one thing I’ll have to learn to accept and ensure that I can and will keep myself safe in times of crisis. Why? Because it’s a bloody scary place to be.

My Shadow. (C) Erica Terry-Rose 2019

If you have been affected by any of the content within this post, please reach out. Here are some available phone lines to call, or reach out via text or web chat:

  • Samaritans. Samaritans available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 (free from any phone), or email jo@samaritans.org.
  • Shout. Text SHOUT to 85258 for text conversation. Shout offers a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (open 24/7).
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). CALM has a number you can call 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk, or you can access their CALM webchat service.
  • SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).

Alternatively, call 111 or speak with your GP, and in any case of an emergency, please call 999.

If you’ve read this blog and you like what I’m doing, please consider supporting me by donating a ‘coffee’, a donation to contribute to my work, time and materials which go into making this wonderful site. I’ll be adding guest posts and reviewing resources for mental health and chronic illness, so you can read before you buy. By donating, you also have the amazing opportunity to be featured on my Ko-Fi Page of Gratitude, where you can advertise your own website or blog. Don’t have a blog? No problem, I’ll add in your name, because I want you to know how appreciated you are!

Your support will go towards materials to help me make not only this space bigger and better. Thank you!

27th August 2022: Wait till I’m alright

I have hit the erase button more times than I can count just to find the words to write here.

I suppose, sometimes we have those days where we can’t quite express how we feel, yet we know we should at least try. How are we supposed to know what’s what if we sit with the heavy weight of emptiness and loss? Sometimes we just need a little bit of time to check out with others and check in with ourselves. That’s how it’s felt for me recently. I’ve been distant from others, intentionally.

There have been so many opportunities for reflection; where my thoughts have entangled in hopes, dreams and reality. I’ve been holding onto hopes and dreams for so long, that I often lose sight of what’s in front of me. I find myself drifting into a realm of make-believe, my mind wandering endlessly into ‘what ifs’ and fantasies. I confuse myself about what’s real and what’s not, and my heart aches with the feelings that come and go.

“Life is not linear, it is organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances the help create for us”.

Ken Robinson

I’m always going to be a work-in-progress. I have my flaws. Sometimes life challenges us that little bit more when we feel powerful enough to face adversity. People believe in me; much greater than I believe in myself. I’d hoped that by completing my degree, I’d feel somewhat whole, or at least present with myself. Instead, I feel detached, longing for a place to feel worthy and valued. I feel isolated and powerless, haunted by suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Of course, the reality is that I am valued and worthy, but my inner critic overpowers the positives and throws me into the deep end of depression. The attempt to survive is fixed to trauma and as I fight my way through the darkness, despite the unhealthy coping mechanisms I’m so severely latched onto, I desperately seek a glimmer of hope.

The reality drifts away, whilst my mind holds onto hope as a way of enabling me to break what feels like an endless cycle of perfectionistic self-torture. I’ve been beating myself up for far too long, and it’s unnecessary. I’m finding little breakthroughs which push me that little closer to happiness. I’ve righted my wrongs, and I’ve forced myself to get up and fight. Letting the setbacks knock me down, only shows me that I’m not ready for some of the roles I’m so passionate about fulfilling. I tell myself that’s okay and instead, I work on my potential, and learn from others. I find the strength to believe in myself and see what others see so much in me. Over the past few weeks, people have been so incredibly kind, and comments such as, ‘very inspiring’, ‘amazing work practice’, ‘incredible’ and ‘gratitude for sharing life experiences’ empower me to thrive. I feel validated in supporting others, which in turn, helps validate who I am and how I react to setbacks, whilst learning to accept myself.

I am slowly untangling the thoughts and feelings and finding myself again. It’s not been easy, but allowing myself to feel the emotions has only given me the strength to persevere and be brave. Admitting I need long-term support has been one step in the right direction, and following an IAPT assessment ending in a referral to CMHT, I wait patiently for an assessment, which will no doubt only end in rejection. The system is as broken as I am. Still, hold onto that glimmer of hope.

Focus on the positives. There’s so much to be proud about, and so much to look forward to:
– A surprise holiday in October (I still don’t know where we’re going!)
– A big holiday to America next year (This is insane and I still can’t quite believe it).
– Theatre shows and concerts (Still planned from pre-pandemic).
– Graduation (A time to celebrate a huge achievement!)
– Returning to university after accepting an MSc, starting in September.
– Being challenged within my job and embracing the reward of helping others.

So, despite my setbacks and torturous mind, I’ll end with a quote from the inspiring and wise Jung:

” I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become”.

Carl Jung
Image: OCD Doodles on Instagram at @ocddoodles

If you’ve read this blog and you like what I’m doing, please consider supporting me by donating a ‘coffee’, a donation to contribute to my work, time and materials which go into making this wonderful site. I’ll be adding guest posts and reviewing resources for mental health and chronic illness, so you can read before you buy. By donating, you also have the amazing opportunity to be featured on my Ko-Fi Page of Gratitude, where you can advertise your own website or blog. Don’t have a blog? No problem, I’ll add in your name, because I want you to know how appreciated you are!

Your support will go towards materials to help me make not only this space bigger and better. Thank you!