Self harming – Where I’m at, healthier coping mechanisms and hope!

Mental Health

I’ve been in a constant turmoil against self harming. A behaviour I began engaging in years ago.

4 years ago, my Teacher voiced her concerns regarding myself and my behaviours. She checked my arms daily for evidence of self harm. As did my Mum, Therapist and everybody involved in my care. I felt hopeless and embarrassed and I wished for nothing more than to disappear. I shrugged things off at first, I denied allegations that I had engaged in hurting myself and often lied about how my injuries occurred. I hated lying, but lies become bigger lies and the truth eventually unfolds.

I now feel hopeful and motivated for a future free from self harm, whilst assisting those who struggle with the same.

The mental torment I endured left me feeling agitated and drained. My mindset encouraged destructive coping mechanisms to handle the things I struggled to express verbally, and to tolerate the torment occurring frequently inside my mind. I felt an epitome of sadness. The minds works in often surreal ways, and I believe that the negativity and hurt we face can only strengthen us for a brighter future.

“There can’t be a rainbow without a little rain”.

It’s essential to take things day by day. Accept the stage you’re at, regardless of how agonising, and reach out for support. Understand that you’re not a failure for slipping into old habits, and you can never be defined by your struggles. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or become flooded with urges, don’t be afraid to reach out.

Thankfully, after years of therapy with various teams and specialists, and many self help guides (some helpful, some questionable) I am well on my way with stopping self harming for good. I cannot remember the last time I hurt myself intentionally, and I’m proud of my progress. I’m doing well! It’s not an overnight process, healing takes time and lots of gruelling perseverance. But my episodes are occurring less frequently and I’m determined to replace my self harming behaviours for those that promote self care and land me closer to happiness.

“Laura, if you carry on this way you’ll have lifelong scars. Is that what you want?” Of course not. But when I feel compelled to hurt myself, future prospects are the last thing on my mind.

I may have lifelong scars, but I’m working on bettering myself with the strength I am constantly developing to override every destructive urge I face. I am not my thoughts, my experiences cannot define me.

Although I remain encouraged by those who speak up about their issues -past and present- I am also well aware of the stigma surrounding self harm. Unfortunately, the subject is still broadly misunderstood and this can make reaching out for support increasingly more difficult. People believe you can “just stop” hurting yourself, when the process becomes addictive and difficult to stop. Habituation has to occur, negative behaviours need to be replaced for positive ones. The behaviour enlisted as a coping mechanism and a way to release negative thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than a form of attention seeking.

I’ve touched upon self harm in precious blog posts, which can be reached here

The truth is, lots of people who self harm feel compelled to hide themselves away due to the fear of being judged, the worries over being questioned and ridiculed. This shouldn’t be the case, and we should be working towards a more accepting and understanding society. People cope in different ways, and although it can be upsetting to see, it’s important to stem away from judgement.

We cannot be certain of what a person is going through. Choose kindness. Instead of staring, share a smile. Instead of assuming, consider asking the person how they’re feeling. It takes a considerate level of strength to show your scars in public, believe me. I used to feel compelled to hide my scars away, but I’ve come to realise that my scars do not define me. They symbolise the battles I’ve won.

I believe that distractions are the key to refraining from self harming, but I cannot speak for everybody. I also appreciate that techniques may not always work as they often require focus and patience, which can be difficult to obtain with racing, loud thoughts. I’ve been in situations countless times where distractions have felt impossible to comprehend. I’ve lacked the concentration to settle with a book and recommended distractions often failed to work in my favour.

Self harming behaviours cannot be mended solely by holding ice or by the encouragement to paint our nails. The root of the problem must be dealt with in order for people to make sufficient progress.

Our minds can easily manipulate us into believing that harming ourselves is the only way out.

Honestly? Things WILL get better. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

To access support/guidance:

If you’re struggling with self harming, please seek support. In my experience, this can be reached through accessing your GP and asking for a referral to local services, such as The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) or CAMHS.

MIND: 0300 123 3393 or text: 86463

The Samaritans: 116 123

Being discharged from The CMHT, my experience and my next steps!

Mental Health

For three years I’ve engaged with The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team). I’ve worked routinely with four different professionals within the service, ranging from care coordinators to psychiatric nurses. All of who have played a crucial role in the pathway to my recovery journey, and I am incredibly thankful for that.

I HAVE NOW BEEN DISCHARGED!

Healing is an art. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes love.

Fortunately, its been agreed that I can reengage with the team at any given point should I feel the need to access further support, or should my mindset (or harmful behaviours) decline. It’s always reassuring to have a safety net, but I aim to work tirelessly to guide myself to health and happiness.

I was transferred to the local service in 2016, after prolonged periods of battling suicidal thoughts and depressive episodes. In October 2015, my Teacher suspected I may be suffering from Depression, she detected symptoms in me that she once battled herself. And although I remained in denial, I began antidepressant medication shortly afterwards following a discussion with her and mum. This lead to me consulting in my ED psychiatrist and later on being prescribed and regularly checked for deterioration. I knew my mindset was decreasing when I voluntarily took myself to the GP for an emergency appointment after becoming increasingly terrified about my safety and well-being (I’ve always been fearful of Doctors) only to be handed a leaflet and the phone number of the Crisis team. This was after a day spent in College hysterically breaking down as I worried my Teachers and scared myself in the process. I was also engaging in self harming behaviours and I felt truly unhappy and unlike my typical bubbly self. Everything began feeling dark and gloomy and any form of happiness flooded me with guilt. I was seen on a weekly basis to maintain my safety, aswell as having an “outlet” for my struggles.

I began feeling paralysed and every day was a constant dread, where my highlight of the day was going to bed to escape my thoughts. (Until I met the Goats!) I felt guilty for being sad and guilty and undeserving of any form of happiness. I truly felt trapped and I saw no light, nor did I have any motivation to head towards it.

Prior to beginning my engagement with the service, I couldn’t leave the house and I implemented self harming episodes towards my body. I struggled increasingly with suicidal thoughts and plans of hurting myself and wishing I wasn’t here constantly flooded my mind, I often encountered voices issuing me with loud, patronising demands to which I felt obliged to follow. I wasn’t allowed to be left alone because I often felt worryingly impulsive and I struggled to control my physical and mental actions. (I currently write this as I sit alone in my Uni room, which is super special because I’m trusted and I’m doing better now, yay!)

Without forgetting to mention that I am the longest self-harm free I have been in 5 whole years!!! *insert happy dance*

For further information on self harming, please visit my other blog post here

My care consisted of talking therapies, psychological methods and lots (and lots!) of tears, aswell as the odd argument when I felt misunderstood. Oops! Some methods worked wonders for me which seemed laughable at the time, others issued no joy. Admittedly, it’s been a super tough ride and the most challenging battle, but I can’t help but be proud of the place I’m at now, and of myself for persevering. And I truly hope my place in services is offered to somebody in need of it to get them on the road to recovery, and happiness.

Understandably, everybody has unique and personal experiences with services and therefore different perceptions on the help they are able to provide. As somebody who has been involved with different services for 5 years, I can certainly say that more help and interventions need to be delivered to prevent people from reaching a crisis point. More help and advice should be offered to keep people safe and more efforts should be put into mental aspects, and not just physical ones. I desperately want to see an improvement in services across the board, peoples lives are on the line and enough is currently not being done to help those in need.

MY NEXT STEPS

Now that I’ve come to terms with my Autism diagnosis, and have ploughed my way to a better place Depression-wise, I will now be working with a Senior Dietician to help me to amend my eating habits, both physically and mentally. I’ve always held a disordered relationship with food and my body, but as my Anorexia progressed, the relationship I held with it worsened. I will continue to be seen routinely by my GP and Nurse, who work to monitor my physical aspects (weight, height and bloods).

Admittedly, I am terrified of changing my eating habits around since Anorexia has become such a comfort blanket for me throughout the years. I’m fearful of weight gain and I have never been a healthy weight, although it is necessary and vital for countless reasons! And I have many scary foods and rules to conquer, aswell as reestablishing a better view of food and challenging my current thoughts. My Teacher and I recently discussed the importance of challenging scary things in life, as they often bring us happiness and fulfilment, and I believe there is never a “right time” to change. I’m keeping my motivations at the forefront of my mind, surrounding myself with happiness and reminding myself, with the constant help of family members and friends, of why I must keep going.

If you’re struggling with your Mental Health or know of anybody who is, PLEASE seek help and encourage others to do so, too. You’re loved and important, and you’re deserving of health and happiness!

A journey: How to be open about Mental Health

Mental Health

Today, I wanted to talk about how I’ve grown more comfortable with speaking up about Mental Health.

I’d like to view myself as a Mental Health advocate, the topic has become a passion of mine and something I enjoy speaking about and assisting others with. The conversation is important, always, not just when it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. When I am further along my recovery journey, I’d love to be more actively involved with charities and fundraising to keep the conversation going and to help improve the support services and helplines available.

Aswell as speaking up about my own issues and expressing myself with writing, I love raising awareness and speaking out about issues I see raised online. Such as diet fads, body shaming and common stereotypes. Ie: Needing to look a specific way in order to be unwell.

I’ve recently been receiving wonderful messages applauding me for my ability to speak up. Expressing how I’m an inspiration which was surreal – thank you! And in continuing my journey I can only hope to encourage others to do the same, to be open and less afraid, whilst growing in confidence myself.

Truthfully, I haven’t always been open. It’s taken me many years to speak up, to become comfortable, to find my voice and to raise awareness for myself and others. Funnily enough, when I first began treatment for my mental illnesses I struggled immensely to have an open conversation about mental health, my feelings and my thoughts. I’ve encountered many appointments filled with awkward and uncomfortable silences, staring at the floor and anxiously skin picking as professionals have been at a standstill with myself and my needs as I habituated to saying I was okay when I felt the complete opposite – willingly hiding my feelings in a bid to save others from upset, but costing myself more torment.

But now I believe that we should express the things on our minds. Whether it be verbally or in writing. The worry about burdening others may always stand, but allowing our deepest thoughts to linger won’t get us anywhere. Liberating our bad thoughts can only allow us to make room for brighter ones.

I turned to social media.

As somebody who struggles to express themselves verbally, I began writing on social media as an outlet for both positive and negative thoughts, it seemed easier and far less intimidating and I’ve always been better at expressing myself with words. I grew to understand that my words were helpful to others battling the same, giving them somebody to relate to, which only encouraged me to speak more and in a greater depth.

There’s lots of stigma surrounding sharing mental health online. Its often viewed as attention seeking. But it isn’t. And if it’s a way that works for you, don’t allow the opinions of others to prevent you from doing something you’re happy with. If expressing yourself online helps, do it! Let your health and happiness be your biggest priority in life.

I set up a recovery account. A place to express my thoughts (positive and negative) and to meet other brave, likeminded people enduring the same. I began feeling less alone, less alienated and more understood. Similar to a diary. The more I used it, the less daunting it seemed. And as time passed me by, I felt better able to share more about myself and my personal journey (so far).

I wanted to express my bad days, to highlight the realities of mental illness recovery, to demonstrate that relapses arent signs of weakness and the concept of “sunshine and rainbows” unfortunately not being applied here. Recovery isn’t linear. Climbing hurdles and facing obstacles in our journeys is okay, normal and expected. It no longer felt like I was attention seeking, it began feeling like I was making a difference, which I love.

I wanted to help people, whilst helping myself. And I believe the encouraging words I issue others with has enlightened me into the benefits of positivity and self care.

I’ve also found that helping others improves my feelings of low self worth. It’s as though I’ve found a purpose in helping others which makes me insanely happy!

Finding people with similar experiences and stories inspired me massively, and it’s still something that continues to do just that. As I see people recover from their illnesses, taking positive steps and being brave. The online community has not only issued me with knowledge and confidence, but with friends who I feel absolutely filled with gratitude to have on my side.

Advice for speaking up

🌸Cliche, but true… Don’t be afraid. Easier said than done, I know. But I can guarantee you that you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And, respectively, I imagine whoever you tell will appreciate you being open to enable them to support you.

🌸Remember WHY you’re speaking up. Keep in mind the reasons why you want to get better (because you deserve to!) and a list of positives and recovery motivations to keep you going.

🌸If you find communication difficult, write it down. Unfortunately, nobody can support you if they remain unaware of your struggles. I promise it isn’t silly, professionals will have seen so many situations before and they’re trained to know people and their personal battles, strengths and weaknesses.

🌸DONT WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE! You don’t have to wait to “get worse” because your worst is now. And you deserve help regardless of the thoughts in your mind.

Be brave and don’t be afraid to share your story!

Lots of love & hugs

Laur xx

Suicidal thoughts: Stigma, encouragement and helplines!!

Mental Health

Hi everyone!

Today, I wanted to talk about an (unfortunately) common topic – Suicidal thoughts.

It’s a personal subject I tend not to delve too much into unless I’m having a conversation with my Nurse or Therapist as it’s quite a sensitive subject that admittedly frightens me the majority of the time. But I believe the more we talk about things (regardless of how difficult) the easier they will become. And the more likely it’ll be that others will do the same.

We shouldn’t stand with the obligation to hide away our struggles and our feelings of low mood. It’s okay not to feel 100% all the time, and it’s Human! We should be encouraging each other to speak up and to reach out for support during our darkest days.

The thing about social media in particular is that we quickly document the achievements and happiest moments in our lives whilst avoiding the conversation of the times things haven’t been so great. But that isn’t real life, and it isn’t healthy to believe everybody is happy and radiating positivity 100% of the time.

I began struggling with suicidal thoughts at the age of 18. I never documented plans to take my life, as in some cases but not all. For me, it’s mostly stemmed from my anorexia, low mood and body dysmorphia. Alongside other underlying factors. I’ve struggled to like myself and to accept myself for who I am, past my insecurities and doubtful feelings. There wasn’t a sole cause and maybe there never is. It’s been a challenge of acknowledging the thoughts, becoming fearful of them but reaching out for help when I’ve been in a crisis. It’s been sleepless nights and days with multiple panic attacks as I’ve fought back every single terrifying urge in an attempt to keep myself safe.

I’ve worked with many teams and medical professionals from across the board, who’ve helped me to develop coping strategies during my bad days. I’m aware it can vary from person to person, though, and certain techniques may not be effective for some. Although I do still struggle with suicidal thoughts, I have noticed that they’re becoming less frequent. Thankfully!

People may be confused as to why this was. Why I began struggling, why I was suicidal. I was young, I had a roof over my head, I was surrounded with my family and friends and I was privileged enough to be in education. Which, I hope, highlights that anybody can be suicidal. There isn’t one cause – mental health never discriminates. And although somebody’s life can look picture perfect from an outsider’s perspective, it may be the complete opposite behind closed doors (in an individuals’ mind)

It’s important not to stigmatise those suffering because they have certain elements or people in their lives. Or because they appear to be a certain way. Mental illnesses aren’t based on what you have, or what others can see, but on what you feel about yourself on the inside. Enforcing unnecessary stigma may prevent people from reaching out for crucial support as they begin to think they shouldn’t struggle, when in fact, anybody can struggle and lots of people do! Please treat them with respect, love, understanding and kindness.

I believe people encounter suicidal thoughts for a series of reasons – it isn’t always a tendency to end your life, but quite commonly in a bid to end the pain and torment rushing through your mind leaving you feeling desperate and exhausted, feeling as though people would be better off without you or as though you don’t deserve to be around. And they can occur from any age, stemming from masses of life events including mental illness, trauma and bullying (to name a few)

Feeling suicidal can be an extremely daunting, isolating and confusing time. It may feel like the only way out. But I do want to clarify that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about! Oh, and to offer big hugs for anybody in need of them. You’re capable, brave and you’ve got this!

Helplines (talking, text or email) are available for those struggling to cope with suicidal thoughts/urges, and those worried about another person who may be in danger.

THE SAMARITANS

116 123: A 24 hour helpline!

https://www.samaritans.org

A&E

999: Available 24 hours if you’re struggling to keep yourself safe, or know of anybody who is. Or you can go to your local hospital.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

MIND

0800 123 3393:

Or TEXT: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings/#.XEuYYqSnyEc

Please take care of yourselves and seek support if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one. There is never a wrong time. You deserve to heal. I cannot express how difficult reaching out is, but how relieving it is once it’s out in the open.

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx

Battling Depression – an ongoing journey towards happiness

Mental Health

I wanted to write this for those in need of some helpful words to hear, some reasons to carry on and a reminder of the positives in life when everything seems so dull and hopeless.

What is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act… Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

 

My struggles with Depression coincide with the suicidal and depressive thoughts I feel regularly. I’m not depression recovered, no. But each day I’m trying my hardest to steadily manoeuvre from the shell of a person I once was, the unrecognisable girl sat uncomfortably in the deepest, darkest depths of depression and sadness. The girl lacking motivation who saw no way out, no hope, no future. Nothing. But. Darkness. Constant feelings of failure and inadequacy painfully ruling my mind as I tirelessly battle to get to the next day despite the voice in my head telling me otherwise.

Once you’re trapped inside that dark space, it becomes very difficult to find a way out. Especially when you’re renowned for being the bright and bubbly character full of laughter, admitting you’re not okay is all that more difficult. Seemingly impossible, in fact. You become a victim of your own mind, you can’t just cheer up, the battle is against yourself and everything you believe. It’s as though you’re trapped in a pit screaming for help, but nobody is around to hear your calls of desperation. Finding any form of light begins to feel impossible; feelings aren’t facts – the best way out is always through.

Just because somebody may seem okay on the outside, it doesn’t mean they’re very well on the inside. Remember: it’s the mentality that counts, not the person’s physicality.

Healing takes time. Healing isn’t linear. There have been times I’ve struggled to leave the comfort of my bed. Times I’ve breathtakingly expressed suicidal thoughts and harmful urges towards myself and acted on destructive behaviours. I’ve cried and I’ve fought, I’ve shouted in anger and hidden myself away from The World, yet here I am. And although I’ve truly despised every moment of the times I’ve no longer wanted to be around, I’m somewhat thankful to them for enabling me to find my inner strength and for encouraging me to better myself and beat my demons.

In the recent years, it’s safe to say I’ve battled many things. All of which include things I never imagined myself to encounter. If anything, I want this to give hope to others that things will be okay – a common phase often thrown around but not so often believed. Things will be okay, and if we fight our hardest and hold onto the belief that happiness is in the distance, things will only get progressively better.

Something that’s continuing to help me keep going (aswell as the support I receive) is prioritising my own happiness, meaning I take more time to add things into my life that fill me with joy and positivity as opposed to dwelling on my thoughts lying in my bed. Sometimes, happiness seems like nothing but a distant memory and I haven’t always believed that I’m deserving of anything but misery, but spending my time volunteering with animals, making more time for my friends and my family instead of being my own worst enemy is working wonders regarding my mental wellbeing. Just going outside for a small walk is a huge improvement for me considering where I was a few years ago. Happiness comes in different forms for different people. It’s about finding something that makes your heart happy and your soul shine, with the aims of blocking out anything preventing you from feeling brighter.

Depression can’t just be cured with the click of a finger or an hour spent in talking therapy. It’ll drag you back under if you let it. Different techniques work for different people. We’re all individuals with personal treatment needs. It isn’t a matter of laughing and being cured just like that. But each day is a step towards bigger and better things, each day when you begin to find yourself again you become stronger and realise than you can, regardless of the voice saying you can’t or you shouldn’t.

“Rome is built on ruins and it quite breathtaking, what makes you think you can’t be too?”

Lastly: you’re NOT alone, you’re valid and important deserving of love, peace and contentment. Please seek help if you’re struggling. Nobody should suffer alone of in silence.

“The mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”

Be The Goat – Finding happiness amongst my animal friends

Mental Health

BonnieStan.jpg

The wind is blowing, the sun is shining and contentment is flowing through my veins. On a day like today, I am thankful to be alive. And, sometimes, taking a moment to appreciate the beauty around us really works wonders. I can breathe, I can learn, I can hug and love and those are all factors I tend to ignore commonly when I remain trapped within the deepest, darkest depths of my mind. The Brain is a complex organ with the ability to do and control many things such as retaining information like a sponge. Though, when you become stuck there it becomes very tricky to find a way out.

Struggling with mental illnesses for numerous years has been a definite, continuous, struggle. But today, on one of my brighter days, I am reminded of the importance of pushing through the darkest days. Because those rare moments of happiness are worth every negative thought and behaviour I endure. I’m thankful for my struggles for enabling me to appreciate the simplest things in life which often get taken for granted: the joy of leaving the house and hearing the birds chirping, witnessing flowers blooming as Summer starts to approach us.

Little moments of positivity remind me that better days are to come, I must keep pushing, I am stronger than I believe.

With mental illness, I often forget who I really am past my diagnosis’. It’s easy to perceive myself as a label as opposed to a person. Defining myself by numbers such as the sizing of my clothes is something I do daily or by my own reflection in the mirror which isn’t the easiest to see. Destructive thoughts often cloud my mind and erupt my logical thoughts, I treat myself with hatred rather than compassion and turn a blind eye to all forms of self-care and love. I still cry over meals, worry over my weight and calories, spend time wishing I was anybody but Me.

But nobody said recovery would be easy and healing isn’t linear, emphasising the normality of slip ups along the pursuit of freedom.

Recovery is like learning to walk. You pick yourself up many times but continue to fall despite every effort to stay up. But we never let falling keep us on the ground or stop us in our tracks. There are always stumbles along the way before any goal is met but determination and perseverance is the key.

One day, I will be able to walk again.

I’m an animal lover, a friend, a hard-working student with dreams and aspirations which I would much prefer to be defined by. In fact, my animal friends have (and continue to) assist me in achieving great things such as overcoming small challenges and tackling tiny victories. They never judge me for my struggles or use them against me in any way, nor do they care about my appearance. Being surrounded with animals and comforting myself with their hugs provides me with a feeling I fail to gain elsewhere, they allow me to feel at home and safe and being around them lifts the heavy weight of mental illnesses off my shoulders. My anxieties become vacant when I am with them, it’s magical! Cliché but true.

Animals make all the bad things go away. And I believe that when you’re kind to an animal, they will certainly be kind in return.

Animals make my soul shine and my happiness radiate. It’s like somebody flicks a switch when I’m in their presence, I change from being anxious and low in mood to being confident and happy. I feel empowered when I am with them, no longer alone, like I can conquer the darkest thoughts in my mind and the struggles in front of me. For them. They help me to believe that I am capable of anything I set my mind to, as long as I continue to Be The Goat.

The healing powers of animals amazes me each day, increasingly. I’m known for my passion and admiration for Goats, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. Goats were there during a time I felt completely and utterly alone, remaining isolated in my own little miserable bubble. It’s their friendship that saved me, knowing they valued me as much as I valued them. They continue to give me a purpose. Their constant love and affection warms my heart and aids in lifting my Depressive symptoms and seeing their hearty appetites fills me with relief during times of guilt due to my Anorexia and an important reminder that food is fuel, nothing that should be avoided or restricted, but something that should be valued for the energy it provides.

I am forever hearing wonderful stories about people in their journeys and how animals have assisted them in regaining health and happiness, from both physical and mental illnesses. Because when there is an animal, there is always a friend. Infinite love and copious amounts of compassion. Animals have been the friends I’ve needed when I’ve failed to be a friend to myself. Animal therapy is on the rise and I am confident others will only grow to appreciate animals for more than their cute factor, but for their healing and therapeutic properties too. Never underestimate the powers of being surrounded with Goats and their loving, cheeky personalities that could brighten the darkest day. The joy from feeding a Lamb her bottle or saving a Duckling’s life – they are much more significant than countless appointments I’ve had and they hold greater significance than the diagnosis’ under my name or the needles prodded in my arms.

My mental illness is a part of my life, but it isn’t my whole life. Whilst battling my mind, I have still achieved things which I ought to be proud of myself for and if anything, my illnesses push me to do better and lead me to believe that I am capable of achieving the things I wish to. But I have my animal friends to thank endlessly for providing me with a motivation and a purpose, a strive, a spring in my step and gratitude in my heart.