Being in recovery 

“Why are you having a bad day, you’re in recovery?”. If only I could explain it fully. Lapses are hard and so are relapses, yes there is a difference. A relapse is where you “fall” right now and in my case become a server high risk which has often resulted in inpatient stays. A lapse of when something happens oneself or maybe twice. Recovery means what it says. It’s not recovered, it’s recovering. It’s a process. I still don’t know personally if “recovered” exists or whether I will always be in recovery.

Recovery does not mean everything is okay. It doesnt mean I’m ok, you’re okay, someone you know is all better again, it’s not like fixing a broken bone or having stitches and the wound being healed in a week. It’s an on going process where personally, every day I have a routine of things to do, like reading “just for today”, writing emotions and thoughts down, writing a gratitude list and using distractions such as walking, reading, writing, cross stitching etc to help me on bad days and I constantly have to use my DBT (Dialectual Behavioural Therapy) on a day to day basis. It includes mindfulness, pros and cons, self soothing, self validation, radical accotenace, surfing the wave, identify triggers and creating a behaviour chain analysis. All of this helps em to stay safe and keep on the road to recovery. But because I’m in recovery doesn’t mean I am always okay and I know many of you can relate to this. I’ve also done all those things and still lapses and relapsesed and ended back inpatient. It’s a tough fight. The days that are good feel amazing, the bad days can feel like the world is ending and no one can do anything about it.

I still have flashbacks. I still have nightmares. I still have urges and negative thoughts and cravings for substances I’ve been physically addicted too and in some way are still mentally addicted too. I have lapsed, many times. I get anxious still. I still have panic attacks here and there. I still cry a lot some days. Some days all I want to do is sleep. Dragging myself out of bed in the mornings can some days take hours. It can take 1-6 hours to get to sleep at night and with the nightmares on top it leads to sleep deprivation. Sometimes my appetite goes and I can’t eat. These days are horrible.

Other days, I manage to get up, to wash and do my hair and make up and go out relatively okay. I get things done. I’m productive, I sleep well and the flash and are manageable. I’m not so anxious. Thoughts, urges etc are not as strong. I don’t cry at all. I can sleep well.  These days feel wonderful.

It’s a journey, it’s a ride (just not always a fun one). But please don’t judge me or others. And if you do, them no offence, but you aren’t someone I need in my life. It’s a long road but it’s going to be worth it. So to those that are struggling, remember you can keep hope alive, nothing lasts forever, like the happiness doesn’t, neither does the sadness.

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Is recovery harder than a relapse?

A few months back I began being in recovery. At first there were many lapses and now I’m doing a lot bette, despite hearing bad days about my best friend completeing suicide and not knowing whether I I have a secure job yet amongst other things. It’s been hard. It’s been harder than hard and exhausting. But I am doing it.

I will state a slight trigger warning here. 

I’ve been thinking about my relapses. I don’t think it what that they were as such hard, but feeling the way I felt was and being in the situations I ended up in were, such as A&E, hospital wards, inpatient, sections, being on 1:1 Observations and not being able to self destruct as badly as I wanted too, being found in public drunk and bleeding. But when I was in relapses, it was easy because I had the thought or an urge and I didn’t even think twice about whether to act on it or not. I went and did what the urge or thought what straight away. Whether it was drinking, overdosing, lighting or self harming, I just did it, I didn’t fight. The hard part was, I didn’t fight because I couldn’t see the point in being alive. The easy part is I gave up so I was no longer fighting. 

Now I’m in recovery again, I still do experience nasty thoughts at times and urges. This isn’t just going to go away, hence recovery meaning what it means. But now when I have them, I do think twice. And I have to fight each time, sometimes harder than others. Yes I want to hurt myself but no I don’t want to mess up because I’m planning things in life again like working, university and nice things like going to the Harry Potter studios and helping my sister move house. I want these things and if I acted on any thought or urge, I am more than likely to delay things or more likely to continue teaching the pathways in my brain that it’s okay to do this things which would or could lead to a relapse. But sometimes I still feel the way I did in a relapse with the same thoughts and emotions and urges. But now I have to think twice, I have to think twice for the life I want and my future. I have to think and be selfish for me. Not do this for anyone else any more, but to do it for me. 

So while being in relapse is hard, to me recovery most of time can be harder. You are fighting the battle not giving in and that is hard work, it takes time, a lot of effort, a lot of self care, a lot of DBT for me, anyway, a lot of positive self talk, especially in that very moment where I can slip and lose everything in seconds.

Am I glad to be in recovery? Yes. Is it harder? For me in most ways yes. I’m fighting the demons that still come alive, instead of giving up and not trying. But I am trying, I intend on continuing. I can’t ever say t myself or anyone else I won’t have a lapse or relapse again, but for today I am trying. Every day I try. I continue to fight for the better life that I want and not the hospital life I have had.

Finding reasons to keep alive.

Harsh reality hits when a good friend completes suicide. Especially after you’ve lost three others to suicide and four others to other health problems. It’s a harsh hit, a harsh reality, a harsh lesson. But I haven’t harmed myself in two weeks and two days since Sophie took her life. Why? Because I had been fucking up so badly the two weeks before resulting in police welfare checks and hospital trips. And I can’t help but question, I was doing that while Sohpie took her life. And she never wanted me to harm myself at all, and she wouldn’t want me to harm myself now because she’s gone. That wasn’t her intention and that goes to all if you that knew her to. She’ll want us to be safe. She’d hate it if we hurt ourselves in anyway because she’s gone. I know the path isn’t that easy but it’s true. 

I’m six months sober. I am six months into sobriety. My longest ever was five months so I’ve beaten it. I can’t deny there aren’t days where I want to drink, where I want to self harm and even days where I don’t feel suicidal but I’m trying really hard right now. I’m of using on skills and distractions, especially distractions with meaning and value to them. And although this one is very hard, I’m also trying to focus on what’s ahead. Work, soon I shall hopefully be a support worker. I’ve got the job, everything is going through and I used to love being a support worker and helping people live their lives as independtly as they can but supporting their needs at the same time. And soon I’ll be applying for university again for next September. I’m on the lines of nursing, social work, psychology and counselling or a health and social care degree. But it’s a focus. I. Trying to remind myself of the things to come because life has felt pointless a lot. Getting up each day. Cleaning. Doing the pets, watching Netflix eating, washing and sleeping but that can and will hopefully change.

Life can be SO hard. With or without mental health problems but all you can do is try your damn best.

To my dear Sophie.

Sophie was a very good friend. It’s nearly been a week since she killed herself. Raw words but the truth. I’ve been wanting to write this but I knew it was going to be so hard. I met Sophie on my private recovery Instagram account a long time ago. She supported me through some of the hardest times and I hope I supported her too, or I tried too. 

Sophie was an inpatient in a hospital in roehampton when she took her life. Grieving has so many emotions attached and everyone goes through it differently. When I first found out, I didn’t believe it. Or rather I didn’t want too. And severel minutes later it hit and I was laid on my kitchen floor in absolute tears and hyperventilating after spending the night in hospital to come home and find she had gone, that she had died. The emotions? Sadness. Scared. Confused. Anger, with myself, with the ward she was on and honestly a little towards Sophie. How could she do this? Now I know it’s not that easy. I’ve tried to take my life more times than I can count on my hands. And when I’ve been at the point, I don’t want to live, I don’t care about myself but I care about others and believe they’d be better if with out me. And then I think, what was Sophie thinking? Could I have done more? Didn’t I do enough? How did this happen while she was in hospital? And the sad truth is, it does happen. It’s only been a few years since I was on a PD unit and lost my best friend Josie there and witnessed it. But this shouldn’t be hallelening. Josie was high risk, so was Sophie and they’ve both been let down while inpatient, never mind the other friends I’ve lost when they’ve had community support. And I’m left thinking, if I’ve lost two people to suicide who were inpatient and more who were outpatient, how many other people are dying through suicide that I don’t know who are also in the system? And that’s when Google hit me with statistics and shocking news.

Sophie was a kind and loving girl. She had a heart of gold and was beautiful inside and outside. Admittedly, she always talked to fast that I was always asking her to repeat what she had said because she was so fast I couldn’t hear her, but I loved that about her. She supported so many others while going through many dark times herself. She had just been to,d she had gotten funding for a PD unit, like the one I was at, which would have been a long term therapy unit. She was happy about it. But days later, her pain was too much and she took her life. 

People ask what can I do to help. You can’t. They can’t. She’s gone and she’s not coming back. Just like the if the people I love who have gone. And it isn’t fair. It’s damn well not fair that she was in the care of professionals and this stil, happened. She deserved life and the support she desperately needed and I honestly believe it was never put in place quick enough. Sophie was loved, she still is. She will always be remembered for the amazing person she was and the lives she touched. My heart breaks as I write this because it’s real. This is real. She’s gone and no matter how hard I hope, pray or beg, she isn’t coming back. Her life was precious like everyone’s is. 

People ask me why I do media volunteer work and this is why. Because change NEEDS to happen. These horrific incidents can not continue to happen. Funding shouldn’t be stopping people from getting the help they need. Waiting lists are too long, years too long. Specialists services aren’t in every county meaning people struggling with mental health disorders can’t a,ways get the treatment and therapy they need. And it is often a case where people are left too long, that they become so unwell, that hospital is the only option and sometimes that’s too late too. 

And this doesn’t just go to people with mental health problems. We all have bad days. I’m sure we’ve all had days where we’ve thought were better of dead. So to everyone, with or without mental health problems – don’t be afraid to talk. Because stigma needs to be broken. Better health care needs to be put in place. Ask someone over for a coffee on a bad day. Go for a walk. Go shopping or out for lunch or just listen and be a shoulder to cry on. We all need help and support at times. Suffering in silence is damaging. 

So Sophie, this one is for you. For your pretty face, cute accent, the way you spoke to fast, the positive impact you had on me and SO many others and if anything good can at least come out of this, I hope that it makes people see and realise that the struggle is real and help is needed. Better help that people are getting because change needs to happen to stop this from happening because you deserved to breathe, to live and to have a beautiful life and I’m so sorry that isn’t going to happen.
“The question is where are you now, how did you go so far somehow, the sound of your laugh and the tone of your voice, your beautiful soul that broke away from noise, the ups and the downs, the tears and the laughter,  talking so fast it was such a disaster, endless photos and phone calls to hold on forever, I always said we’d get through this fight together, tonight I will pray for your soul that’s in heaven, wishing that time could bring us both back together, wanting to hold your hand so tightly, that I could hold on forever to help you keep fighting”. – jlw

In memory of Sophie. Always and forever.

I self harm. I’m still me. And if you self harm, you are stil you.

I’ve been seeing the same GP every week or every few weeks for eight years. He says that he couldn’t do what I do to myself. He says my self harming isn’t just self harm, but it’s me dissecting myself. I remember when I began self harming at 9 years old, it was a few scratches and I think it would bad. But when I hit about 15 it become increasingly worse. By 18 I was risking my life with how deep I would cut. By 19 I began needing surgery for myself. I never noticed it getting worse as such, I noticed that each time I did it, I just needed a little more than last time because it wasn’t helping as much, like my body had become ammune to the pain I was causing myself and before you know it, I’m in A&E every day, sometimes up to 3 times a day needing stitched and staples and being referred for surgery.

It’s become a way I deal with emotion. Sometimes it’s a form of punishment. Most of the time I self harm its because when I hurt myself, the physical pain I feel, stops my emotions and my thoughts and for those few moments, I’m free of how low I feel and how suicidal I am. But I have BPD, don’t I? So it’s just attention seeking isn’t it? No. It’s not actually. And this drives me mad because I don’t think I could go to the lengths I go to just to seek attention. And I don’t think I would seek attention, especially in that way. For me, self harm was something I’ve always tried so hard to hide. Long sleeves. No shorts. Not doing PE. Avoiding having someone practice dressing changes on my arm in first aid training. Never going swimming. Siting in my home, constant in clothing where my family couldn’t see what I had done to myself. I couldn’t let anyone see, because that would mean people thinking I am crazy. I couldn’t let them see because I don’t want them to know I’m struggling so badly. I can’t let them see because I can’t hurt them too. It became a life of hiding it until it became so out of control, it came out.

I would like to point out that I personally believe that tethered can be two people, one who self harms severely like myself and one who does it superficially. Just because one does it “worse” doesn’t mean the other is struggling less. They both deserve the same help and support because something is bothering both of those prod so badly that they are hurting themselves, their own skin and their own bodies. I think one of the reasons I’ve been inpatient so much for self harm is simply because of the high risk I am at to myself due to how severely I self harm. Not because I’m struggling more than others who superficially self harm. I wanted to point that out.

Self harm has been in my life for 14 years. That’s over half of my life. I can’t just stop. I’m trying to reduce the frequency of it and I know I need to work on not doing it severely but right now it’s one step at a time and one day at a time. To me, this has become an addiction. I wish I could just stop, but when you have those intense urges to hurt yourself, it won’t leave your mind and you feel so low, it’s hard to fight. Especially when you are so impulsive like myself and others with BPD. Know that I would stop for those around me, but this is an addiction. It’s not just going to stop and go away. I’m working hard to live a life without it but it’s going to take time, a lot of time.

Why am I talking about self harm? Because some of the things I hear people say shock me. I can’t believe we’re living in a society where people judge also harshly and make rude remarks. Do I want everyone to know I self harm and have done for a long time? Not really. I don’t want to be know as that girl on Facebook who blogs and self harms. But I want to share this to help others know they are not alone, to break stigma, to tell you all that you ARE worth more than the pain you sometimes put yourself through. That together we can relate and be there and not be judged. Self harming doesn’t change who wer are, who I am, who you are. We’re still us. I’m still me. And you are still you.

Just know you are NOT alone and that it is okay to ask for help when you need it.

1 in 4 people

Can you imagine having racing thoughts so bad, urges to hurt yourself so much, hallucinating so badly and feeling like you are going to explode with such a bang that you can not take it and you throw yourself at a wall, you bang your head until its bleeding and then you hear panic alarms going off and you have several people restraining you from all directions trying to get you away from the wall but you fight even more because them crowding is making your mind race more. They manage to get you away from it but your screaming and crying and kicking and trying to get out of the restraint because you haven’t hurt yourself enough. The suicidal thoughts are tripping in your head and your hands lead to your hair until you are grabbing chunks of hair at and then you have people holding your hands and wrists, someone behind you with restraint pillow holding you at your back, people holding your legs down but it’s making you more frustrated and more agitated. In fact in is triggering flashbacks. “Stop please”, you begin to scream as the tears run down your face. “I want to go now, I can’t do this” you say as you beg them to allow you to harm yourself. You are hurting me, you want to say because it’s reminding you of how someone has hurt you before but you can’t say it because you know you deserved it all, in fact were to blame for it. If you are lucky, an hour will pass and the staff will finally be loosening their hands on you, gradually letting go until your sat on the floor with them all watching you, in silence, apart from you have tears running down your face like streams and a sharp sob comes out whilst your sat around hair you’ve pulled out from your own head and there is blood all over and running down your face and you have a pounding headache. You want more. You don’t have the energy. They IM’d you. They injected you and you’re beginning to feel tired but you’re scared because you don’t want to sleep because of the nightmares but you can’t fight it. It’s too strong and you’re too weak.

That has been me. It may have been you too. It still may us in the future. Or it may be you, yes you who is thinking I can’t imagine that because there are 1 in 4 people who will struggle with mental health and like cancer, you don’t know when it will hit of how it will hit or if it will. But it can and when it does, it can hit hard.

I’ve been inpatient sixteen times now, my longest stay being nearly three years. Some people don’t and possibly never will understand why I couldn’t just “snap” out of it. I’ve had it said to me that I should pretend I am okay for a few weeks and lie my way out. Let me tell those people this; you can’t pretend to be okay when you are impulsive and so low that getting through every ten minutes means you need to hurt yourself and that the thought of being alive makes you want to die. Imagine you had your worst meal placed in front of you which always make you to be sick and left physically ill for days. Would you still eat it and just pretend it’s nice? Imagine someone brought you a top you absolutely hated; would you ever actually wear it? Imagine all these things but 100 x worse. Having intense urges to harm yourself so severely you’ll need surgery (because yes that has happened and more than once) and feeling so suicidal, that life isn’t worth it, that it feels dark all of the time and you never feel happy, have hope or can smile for anything, that you repeatedly try to take your life. You can not pretend when you don’t even understand everything that is going on yourself, especially with how you feel and the urges and thoughts you have.

Recovery is hard. Sometimes I question, do I want recovery? And I think no. No I do no. Because I  want the things I have relied on for so many years like self harm, because I know it’s helped. But then is this the life I really want? Too be in hospital everyday if not more, being in general hospitals on drips for treatment for overdoses or in a theatre having someone removed from my arm or a skin graft? Spending several years of my life as an inpatient? No. I don’t wan that. But I do want the behaviours. Its conflicting and confusing. I have to take it day by day, sometimes ten minutes by ten minutes. I don’t know whether I am going to make it through and that I will never end up back inpatient. I don’t know. I know all I can do is try my best but I also know sometimes that isn’t enough. I just know that right now all I can do is try.

And the same goes to you. Just try. Work as hard as you can. Blips are going to happen. Lapses will happen. Relapses will happen. God, don’t I know it. But I believe recovery is possible (more for you than me, but that’s something I need to work on) and I know everyone one of you deserve recovery in order to live a better life.

The best friend I lost to suicide in rehab (trigger warning)

A few years back I was admitted to The Priory onto a women’s BPD ward for DBT. It was a new service. I was the first patient to be admitted. The second patient was Josie. Me and Josie spent most of our time together for the first 5ish days until new patients were admitted but continued to grow closer to each other. We spent time talking, we went to each other when we were struggling. We supported each other. We went to the gym daily together. We did jigsaw puzzles together all the time. We went to art together. We walked in the garden together. Sneaked into each others rooms and watched DVDs together. I knew I had met an amazing friend but I didn’t know what was going to happen in the months to come. This is hard for me to talk about. This might be hard for others to read and take in. But this is the truth of Best Friend.

Josie began to struggle. Her main diagnosis was BPD but like many others, she was diagnosed with other disorders including Anorexia. Going to the gym became something that she had to do. When one day, it had gone half an hour past the time we were meant to go and Josie couldn’t manage that we were going to get less time in the gym. That was the first day I recognised things began to go downhill. From standing at the door of the ward waiting, Josie ended up in the garden screaming, punching walls and kicking over flower pots. Staff were out with her but she stormed inside. Staff allowed her space but when they went to check on here, the panic alarm went off. She’d tried to kill herself by ligating. This was the first time Josie had done this on the ward and it also wasn’t the last.

Weeks went by and things for my girl got worse. There were many more suicide attempts. Once I went to find her and knocked on her bedroom door. No answer, opened it to see she wasn’t there but she was no where else. I asked staff, they looked on the ward but I went back to her room and thought to look underneath her bed. There she was. She’d ligated again. So while I got what she had around her neck, off, I was shouting staff and one member came and while she kept trying to get her panic alarm to work, I was taking Josie’s pulse. Finally her alarm worked and Josie was left with staff. Another time another patient and myself went to Josie in her room, to open her door and find her hanging from her bathroom door and going purple in the face. We screamed and staff dealt with it, again.

However, the last time she did it, there was no going back for her. I was in a 121 with a nurse when the panic alarm went of and the staff member checked what ward it was on and it was ours. She had to leave. I left the room and went to the communal area. It was Josie. I wouldn’t have even been able to count the amount of staff which were there. It was hearing what they were saying. We knew they’d started CPR and a nurse walked past on the phone to 999. Soon enough, staff decided to take us of the ward into a room on the corridor. I however, ran to Josie’s bedroom. I wanted to get to her, to be with her, to just hold her hand. Three or so staff restrained me as I got to Josie’s bedroom door and saw her lifeless and pulled me away and took me to the room everyone else was going too.

And then half an hour later, we were allowed back on the ward and Josie had been taken to hospital. It was a weird afternoon. We pushed all the sofa’s and chairs together in a circle and all just spoke to each other and had management there. We were allowed extra cigarettes (we had five cigarette breaks a day). The atmosphere was different, but not in a a good way. I self harmed. The ward went on to lock down and any patient’s who had leave were not allowed out. We all had to remain on the ward until things got better.

The problem was, they just got worse. Two days later we were sat down all together with all the staff on our ward that day and management. It was about 3pm on the 21st April. We were then told by our consultant that at 1pm that day, it was decided to turn the life support of and Josie had gone. She had died.

The months after were madness. And there still isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about her. I loved her then and I love her now. She went her own way. She didn’t care what people thought. She listened to the music she liked and dressed how she wanted too. She loved art and had a passion for it and I was always amazed at what she could create.

Until this day. I have a pretty box where I still put letters in when I write to her. Yes, she is gone but I still write to her. In that box, I also have a photo of her, a flower she made, a bracelet she made me, her Aladdin DVD, a rose from a bunch of red roses I laid in memory of her and a heart from a helium balloon I let free for her. She is my star. My guiding star and she will always remain my best friend.

Once upon a time I met your friendly face and the beautiful soul that laid within beneath you skin,
I loved hearing you laugh and watching you while you grinned,
Your hair was so long and I miss plaiting in for you,
I wish everyday that you stayed and didn’t have to go,

It led to heartbreak and feeling so low,
We got so close and I needed to begin to let you go,
Someone I loved and always will do,
Please remember that you were never alone,

The weeks go by and the years go past,
But no matter what ever happens, in my memory you will last,
Someone so strong, unique and kind,
Never did you deserve to leave life behind,

I look at the stars and hope for you now,
I think of your family and hope they are well,
I will never forget you or what you brought to my life,
And I promise you now, I will never say goodbye.

-JLW