You know the thing I hate most about my mental health? The irrationality. When you’re sitting and crying and someone is asking you to help them understand but you just can’t, because you don’t understand it yourself.
It’s my birthday today. It’s the one day of the year that I can pretty much guarantee year on year that I will be depressed. I’ve tried to understand this birthday related depression over the years, I really really have, but I just don’t.
I will sit and cry. I will sob. I will be filled with urges to self harm and/or thoughts of suicidal idealisation. I’ll go off my food. I will happily stay in bed all day. I will get irrationally angry when people wish me happy birthday. Yet I don’t have a good reason why.
I know when I was younger, not sure how much younger but long before my first suicide attempt, possibly before my self harm started, I would try to comfort myself when the depression was bad. My choice of comfort was the knowledge that it would all end in death. I could take control of that in my life, decide when I die and free myself from it all. I could make things better. I know the old argument of ‘death isn’t better, it is nothing’, but to me nothing was a whole lot more attractive than the hell I was living and that I believed I had been living for oh so long. At some point, probably a birthday when I had seen another year pass by, I told myself that I wouldn’t live to my 16th birthday. I would kill myself before then I promised myself. When it got bad I would comfort myself with that promise, that it would all be over soon and the end was in sight.
My 16th came and went and I lived on. I think it was then that I stepped up plans. Four or five months after my 16th, on a day when I didn’t feel depressed, actually felt quite happy, I had my first suicide attempt. People don’t seem to believe that I wasn’t depressed that day but I honestly wasn’t. When you’ve been depressed for so long and you know that even good days are short lived, you can make that kind of decision on a good day and that is what I chose to do. I wanted to leave this world happy rather than depressed. Suffice to say I stayed in this world, although I am told it was very close, my closest to success to date. I was devastated and started planning my next attempt. Things did not get better for me for a long long while. Years of self-harm and two more suicide attempts that required a trip to A&E followed, along with so many antidepressants that I forget now which ones I have tried.
I’m 14 years on from that suicide attempt now, 19 years on from when I first knew that I was depressed. Life has changed a lot in those years. I haven’t self harmed in 7 months, at least not in terms of cutting, I’m currently unmedicated, I have completed a BSc, MSc and written my PhD thesis, I am a wife in a relationship that is 11 years old, I am a homeowner and I am 23 weeks pregnant with my first child. I really am in a good place in life right now. I have learnt so much more about my mental health and how to cope with it. My anger is in check most of the time and I look after myself as well as others.
So why is it, on my birthday, even though things are going well I am suddenly swamped with thoughts that I would be better off dead, lovely images in my head of all the ways I can achieve that death and urges to self harm that are so strong I have to physically stop what I am doing, grit my teeth and move myself away from whatever I am near? Crying all day, too scared to see people and petrified of my husband going to the shops because I do not feel safe being left alone?
When life is going well why does my birthday still trigger these feelings? The only thing I can think is that it is at least partly due to the aspect of a birthday in that ‘another year has gone by’. When I remember that another year has gone I remember that so many have gone already, I have survived through so many, and although not all of those years were dominated by mental illness they have all been tainted by it. Every year I struggle. Every year there are instances where I watch as my mental health wears me down, scares me and makes me think that this is the year I will lose to it. Every year there are times where I watch as my mental health causes me to lash out and hurt those around me. Every year there is another event that I will forever remember because I am so ashamed of my own actions.
Yes every year I get through all of those things. Every year is a year where I have survived my mental health, where I have tried to rebuild the bridges that my mental health caused me to damage, where I have achieved things I am so proud of. And maybe if that was it I would be ok. Maybe I could look at all the bad that has gone, weigh it against the good, hold my head up high saying ‘I’m a survivor’ and celebrate my success at being where I am. But it’s not.
I think I get the depressed feelings and urge to self harm and thoughts of suicide on my birthday now for the same reason I did when I made that stupid promise to myself. I feel like I have been living hell for oh so long. I didn’t know how long it could last then, I had only been ill for a few years and already it seemed like it was too much to cope with. Now, well now I have lived with my mental illness for so much longer. Nearly two decades. I really do think if that was it I could be ok with today though. But that isn’t all there is.
Back then, when I made that promise to myself, there was an out. There was a way to end it all. I haven’t had a suicide attempt in nearly 8 years and I’m not sure I will ever again have a pre-meditated one (I can’t speak for what happens in a impulsive moment – that will forever remain a danger for me). I really seem to have moved to the point where I no longer see planning to end my life as an option. ‘Hurrah!’ I hear you say, that is great progress right? But on days like today it is deeply depressing. I know that an imminent death is not an option, but I also know that medication is not an option (been told so by my psychiatrist), I also know (through having done enough of it) that CBT and other talk therapy is also not something that will make me better. This is it, this is me. I will continue year on year to fight my mental health, I will hurt those around me, I will be ashamed by my own actions, this is the rest of my life. There will be good things too, amazing things, but I will not stop having urges to self harm, I will not shake the self hate and disgust I so often feel, I will not stop having intrusive thoughts of suicide. And that thought, it is exhausting, it is depressing, it is soul crushing.
Fighting for so many years already and knowing I won’t stop for the rest of my life is just too much to think about and yet birthdays remind me of this.
The real kicker is that yesterday I was ok. Tomorrow I will be ok. It is just today. It is only day that I stop and see the long road behind and the even longer (hopefully) road ahead and just cannot walk any further. As quickly as it came these feelings came this morning they will be gone tomorrow. It’s so irrational. How do you explain that what has you sobbing and scared today won’t affect you tomorrow? My husband wanted so much to do fun things on my birthday to make me feel better but all of it is wasted on this day. Celebrations on other days can be appreciated but nothing seems to be able to penetrate my mind today. If I wasn’t pregnant I would have spent today in bed, taking my diazepam and not eating, ignoring the world until tomorrow. It really is like a 24 hour mind bug and that is surprisingly hard to explain to people.
Talking with a friend today. We brought up my CBT.
To be really honest I don’t know if it is helping. Currently we are working on a diary of what I do each day and a thought diary. If I get bad thought I write down the situation, write down how I am feeling, wrote down the logical thing to do about the situation, writing down what I did and finally how I feel now.
Is any one else doing CBT? Does this sound like what you do? When I am bad but not bad bad I can fill this out completely. I usually am able to see what I should logically do, but aren’t able to do it. and the feelings following that are much the same as the feelings preceding it. When I am really really bad I can’t complete it. I get to the what I should logically do and the page gets filled with swear words, horrible, horrible things before descending into scribbles, things being thrown and potentially some form of self harm.
My friend mentioned free-writing. This is something I did when I was much younger, before I even knew what free-writing was. It was pretty much the same. On the bad but not awful days I could do it and sometimes it even helped me work things out. On the bad times the free-writing would just descend until my thoughts got more and more violent, more and more graphic.
I was looking for a fan fiction on my hard drive the other day and I can across one of my computer free writings. I have to admit it triggered and scared me. There is a part of myself that is so full of hate and loathing directed at myself that I am scared to even acknowledge its presence. It’s always there at the back of my head, I hear the comments, I get flashes of the thoughts but for the most part it stays at the back. When free-writing it seems to come loose.
In a way I know I’ll never get past it unless I face it but it truly scares me. I think I might try and dig out some more of my free-writing tomorrow and see if there has been a time it helped or if it has always been like this. I am so tired of being scared of my own head, of my potential actions.
Just wondering how CBT works for others, and if others with extreme anger issues have found a way to make free-writing work for them.
And if you had any burning questions you wanted to me ask me anon http://www.ask.fm/Danscrazycatlady
I had wanted to post some bits about the garden, about the knitting, about a recent trip to Finland but I’m in the pit again.
Since coming back from my holiday on Monday the urge to self harm, hurt and fade away have been strong. Surprisingly I didn’t get the urges whilst away, maybe it’s habitual – hell I know it is at least somewhat habitual, maybe it’s being back in the environment, back in the real world.
When I was diagnosed as rapid cycling bipoar I would call what is happing here ‘cycling’. If someone asked, although that tends to be rare, I would say I was cycling. Now that the diagnosis has been changed to borderline personality disorder I don’t know what to call it.
I am everything and nothing right now. I am giddy and happy and horny. I’m dancing, singing and making plans. Big plans. Let’s take on this thing, and this thing, and I’ll finish my chapter this week and start on another and do lab work, and do the garden, and get ready for camp, and tidy the house and take care of the cats. Why don’t I cook a dinner from scratch. I should take up writing again. Read more. Go out more, need to go out more. Just come on let’s rock this.
But I am confused and distant and lost. I go to the sink and just want to crawl into the cupboard beneath it and hide. I shower and end up on the floor sobbing, hoping that no-one hears. I feel like my insides are being ripped in two and I don’t know why. I want to hide. I’m scared to leave my bed in case I hurt myself. I think over and over and over again of the ways I could hurt, the ways I could make it all go away. And I don’t want those thoughts, but can’t seem to stop them.
I feel like I have lost my place in life. Like I have screwed it all up and there is no putting it back together. Like if someone clicked their fingers and I was gone everything would be better, for me and everyone else. I feel like a ghost. Like I shouldn’t be here. Like I’m not here. Like I no longer belong. I don’t want to be close to anyone, I just want to be alone, to hide away alone.
I feel like I am part of everything. I call it my ‘spiritual feeling’. Deep inside I feel it all. I see the season changing, I see the land around me and I ‘feel’ it all. I feel like I am a part of nature and nature is a part of me. Like I can feel the pulse of the land, see the beauty and the cruelty of nature. I see it all. See the pain and joy of life, those who have touched my life. I see the lack of reason in it all, nature is indiscriminate.
It doesn’t sound possible. To feel elation, depression, isolation and inclusion all in the same day, let alone in the same hour. But that is where I am. In such a ‘mixed state’, to borrow a bipolar term, that I don’t know what is happening.
I’m not sleeping now, but I’m not really working. I’m tired but I won’t sleep. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I won’t. And I don’t know why I won’t, just that I am unlikely to go to bed tonight. I have so much potential but am useless, I’m part of everything and nothing. I don’t know how to move forward with this. I don’t know how to deal with this, how much longer I can deal with this. Had the old realisation today of how long this has been. Minimum of 18 years of feeling this way, of dealing with this, trying to treat this and trying to heal. I have spent longer living with mental illness than without.
I keep trying to make things ok but I must be doing something wrong to still be dealing with this shit. Fingers crossed for some non-mental health related posts soon.
Just to conform to society: Trigger warning, this post deals in detail with self harm, various forms and motivations. If this is an issue you are sensitive to, keep on walking, it’s not for you.
Hi my name is Dans and I am not well.
I think sometimes I need a tattoo that says ‘your name is Dans, you have less than perfect mental health’. Hell even there I struggle to say I am mentally ill. I have mental health issues. I’m sick. I’m down right crazy.
I don’t know how but I manage to forget. You may say that’s good. Don’t be defined by your limitations, don’t be constrained by the labels put on you. But I’m not talking forget for a moment, or even a day. I forget for a long while. Forget that I need to be fighting. Forget that I need to take it easy. Forget how far I can fall. And fall I do.
Most importantly I forget that this illness that I have is forever. I may get better for a while. I may have good hours, good days, good weeks, good months and hell even good years but it is forever. It will come back, and even in the good I need to be keeping an eye on it, be wary of it.
I had some really good years recently. They weren’t without depression, without outbursts of anger, without tears and hopelessness, without urges to self harm and thoughts of running away and suicide. But they were really good years. I started and finished a very intense masters degree. I started a PhD and published papers, I bought a house with my boyfriend who became my fiancé and then my husband. I learnt many many new crafts, including the gardening, knitting and spinning. I accomplished many things. I made new friends. And I forgot. I took on more, I worked myself hard, and I stopped keeping an eye on it all.
The last 6 months have been a slow downwards spiral, it likely started before that, but that is the time I remember. The urges to self harm to deal with things grew. They started small as they always do. Start by pushing myself harder, staying up later, not allowing myself to do things I enjoy, not sleeping, not eating, not drinking, isolating myself, restricting circulation. Then came the less subtle, the fist clenching until the nails dug in, the picking, the hitting, the pinching, the scratching, the biting. And then it happened. Despite all of those things I could tell myself I was still self harm free. I mean they don’t really count, they don’t leave marks, they are socially acceptable. But last week I cut. 4 years free of breaking my skin with a blade, gone. And to make it worse I didn’t just cut, I carved. Probably the least socially acceptable of all. Even makes the therapists pull the ‘wtf’ face.
I had finally gotten to the stage where the words on my body were pretty much unreadable and now I have two new ones. One which it just won’t be possible to keep hidden in these summer months. I’m now 4 days ‘clean’, hoping we can go another 4 years, hell maybe even longer. Maybe this time I’ll remember to take better care of myself. Maybe as this new one is in such an obvious place I will be reminded more often of what can happen when I forget that I am ill, and that I always will be.
Since cutting, deciding twice to quit the phd, and then twice to keep going with it, I have been doing better. I started back on the phd work this week but tonight the stress all built again. I guess a day of caffine pills wasn’t my best idea. I swear I’m just not able to look after myself sometimes, not able to make ‘good’ decisions. I can’t go to bed. I know I’ll just get mad at my husband, there is no reason to get mad with him, he has been so wonderful, but the anger building inside will spill over and he doesn’t deserve that. I can’t focus on the phd work as the concentration seems to be shot and I just feel stupid and I don’t need another word added to my collection. So I thought I would come here instead.
Talking can help, but often there just isn’t anyone to talk to. I talk to my husband but there is only so much he can take on, and he does need to sleep at times. I used to talk to my friends more, but my shit is difficult to understand and after a while I found it just made it harder to talk to them directly. I’ve tried Samaritans but it didn’t work for me. If I remember rightly I just ended up frustrated, even more depressed because hell if Samaritans doesn’t work for me how fucked up am I? I have a CPN I see once a week now, but that is just half an hour and can’t really talk to her at half 1 in the morning. But this, typing on a screen, something that may or may not be read by people I know or complete strangers. This helps.
So believe it or not that was an introduction to where I am at the moment. What I wanted to talk about was self harm. If depression is an awkward subject and talking about personality disorders highly uncomfortable then self harm is downright taboo. Even when talking on forums for people suffering from mental illness self harm can be awkward.
For some, suicide is more understandable. You feel suicidal, which means you are struggling with life and think dying is an option, let’s help you deal with your issues, see the joy in life and want to live again.
But self harm? You’re struggling so you hurt yourself? What is the point in that? Are you trying to kill yourself? Are you trying to get attention? Just huh?
I can’t count the number of times someone has sat across a room or a screen from me and equated self harm to a desire to die. And I can’t even begin to put into focus how infuriating it is.
I do not self harm because I want to die, or am trying to die.
I self harm because I am trying to live.
It is a coping mechanism, an unhealthy one: yes, a socially unacceptable one: yes, a dangerous one: sometimes, but it is a method of staying alive. I self harm because I am struggling and everything else I have been trying hasn’t worked. I am often having suicidal thoughts when I self harm, but the harming is not me acting on the thoughts, it’s me trying to avoid the thoughts becoming reality. It is very much worth noting that since cutting things improved, I was able to socialise, eat and drink normally, enjoy things, concentrate on the work and the suicidal thoughts went away. It did help. I’m not saying that if you’re feeling stressed at work go and cut yourself, but I am saying that if it is some scars and being able to function or me being in hospital I’ll take the scars
I have 3 different forms of cutting they seem to fulfill 3 different needs for me, and I do have ways to stave off all three.
The most common for me is the focused cutting. Just one area, just one stroke, will only leave one scar. It’s light and gentle and repetitive. When I was younger I used to tell myself that I was keeping the area open for when I finally decided to slit my wrists. But that was BS, and I’d have known that if I had probed the thought any further. The more you cut over the same area the more scar tissue you develop, that would make it harder to slit my wrists there. Over the many many years that I have thought about I have realised what it is about for me. It’s about the repetition and the calming. It calms me down completely. I can sit for a good hour cutting the same spot just lightly, go off into almost a trance. Big downside of it is once I sat there for too long, nicked something and had to go to A&E for stitches. Waste of NHS resources number one, probably down on my record as a suicide attempt, which it wasn’t, and I had to get a friend to take me and I hate it when my inability to deal with things affects others. My alternatives? Picking, I have several scars where I have picked the same area over an over again. Again not great as it’s still harming. Knitting, something not too complicated but not simple either, requires focus and repetition. Any other very repetitive task. I used to sort out my husband’s ccg cards, sort files on the computer.
The rarest cutting for me is the complete and utter anger. Often I throw things instead, or very rarely the anger gets that bad. Either way, in all the years I’ve been cutting it’s only ever happened maybe 3 times tops. It’s the wild rage slashing, pretty much no two strokes parallel to each other. Even I feel highly uncomfortable about it. That kind of rage really does scare me. Been about 10 years since that has happened thankfully, I hope it never does again, that I have learnt to deal with my anger better. What do I do to stave it off, well as I said it’s rare. I think the throwing things that are likely to smash is my way of dealing, and thankfully it has also been years since I felt the need to do that.
The last, and the one that has left the most scars, is probably the one that makes people the most uncomfortable. It’s the carving as I call it. My therapist says I am too hard on myself, so does my CPN and pretty much anyone involved in my mental health. Hard on myself plus anger issues has culminated in a part of me that loathes myself, and I mean really loathes. It’s a part of me that sees no good in anything I do, no usefulness to my existence and will not be argues with. It’s a vindictive side of me. One that lashes out with thoughts and words. And just to be sure that even when I am feeling happy and seeing the good in life I remember what a shit I am, that side of me carves the words into my skin, reminding me just what I think of myself, what I truly am. Or at least I used to think of it that way. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I have evolved in my cutting, but this time around carving the words have made me feel a little less like I need to remind myself of them. Or maybe it’s the same. The word is on my skin now so instead of screaming it at myself in my head, my head can quiet as it’s on the skin for me to not be able to forget and for the rest of the world to see. Maybe that is why I can think better, clearer, after I have carved. The dull pain remains, reminding me subconsciously of the word, the feelings behind the word and my brain can get on with functioning and dealing with my shit again. I used to try writing out how I felt, but that often got very graphic and frankly quite disturbing, having my mind only focus on one word stops things from getting too dark. It’s very rare that I have carved more than one word at a time, in fact I’m not sure I ever have. It gives the hateful thoughts an outlet before they build. Writing on myself in pen is probably the best thing I have to avoid this type of cutting. It’s what I did tonight before coming here. And now that I have remembered the strategy it is probably something I’ll be doing a fair bit until this phd is over.
I feel better for having said my piece. For giving my explanation. I have a whole load of resent for the way that society views self harm. For the fact that as long as it’s not something people have to see, self harm can be acceptable, but the moment it become visual people have issue. But I accept that unless you have been there it is hard to understand. I’m not gonna re-read and proof read this. There are likely typos, grammatical errors and bits that just plain don’t make sense. But I feel better now, I’ve worked through the frustration and some of the anxiety I felt when I opened this page. It has helped me, and if anyone actually reads it and it helps them understand me a bit better, understand self harm a bit better or makes them feel slightly less alone, then all the better.