MENTAL HEALTH (OF THE ENTIRE WORLD etc)

Hello peeps of the world.

Today is October 10th- WORLD mental health day.

The world is a BIG place with many humans in it, and many of those humans (probably far more I’d suspect than the usually cited 1 in 4) will have lived experience of mental ill health, ergo, they have experience, because they have lived out those illnesses in their life.

I have lived experience of mental ill health, but not the usual story of depression and anxiety.

I have a diagnosed personality disorder GASP

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I also have post-traumatic stress disorder

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And I am currently being evaluated by a new psychiatrist (the only mental health professionals permitted to make diagnostic decisions,) for a possible dissociative disorder.

Dissociative disorder….wait, what. What is that? I hear you say.

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A personality disorder? what does that mean?

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PTSD? But how can you have that, you haven’t been in a war have you??

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Those are the questions I would imagine you might be thinking, and I know this well, as this is how people usually react; with confused faces, puzzled faces, or quiet silences, indicating people are unsure what to say so are taking the (understandably) safest option and saying nothing.

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If you don’t have lived experience, or if you don’t know a close family member of friend who you have closely observed and tried to support during their illness, I guess it is absolutely understandable that you might be uncertain as to how to react.

People like me (the ones who are living with the mental illness) do understand that, and make allowances. I think in time we begin to assess (based on people’s reactions) whether we are disclosing and you are genuinely unsure as to how to respond sensitively and kindly and supportively, and those who genuinely act and think from a position and attitude of prejudice and stigma.

Both types of people exist, and people like me (the mental health illness sufferers) will inevitably bump into both types as we go about our daily lives.

It is sad that prejudice, stigma and negative attitudes towards mental ill health still exist, despite the efforts of many brave mentally unwell people to boldly speak out and attempt to overturn this societal bollocks.

I am not a fan of stigma, associated with many things. I have no issues with many ‘apparently controversial’ issues such as being openly transgender, same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia…the list goes on. I would say I am fairly open minded, but not everyone is, and mental illness is a sticky issue that still is responded to differently (by some), in comparison with their physical illness equivalents, which are usually viewed without stigma or blame or judgement. There is a widespread acceptance of physical illness, that just doesn’t apply (seemingly) with mental illness.

Maybe there is some stigma associated with physical illness, but it relates to things such as lifestyle choices. ie. smokers costing the national health service in the UK far more than non-smokers, because of smoking-related illnesses and deaths. It is the same with blaming people for being alcohol dependant, or obese, or wanting cosmetic surgery on the NHS. But all that aside, people are not usually blamed in any way for becoming physically unwell, and are usually granted sympathy and compassionate attention.

Take how illness in the workplace is responded to. A friend of mine observed a HUGE difference in how her boss reacted when she cited mental health reasons for why she needed to take a day off, as opposed to when she was physically poorly.

If someone is physically poorly we might send them a get well card or even flowers or fruit. But if we are in the midst of a depressive episode, or having panic attacks, or even worse, psychotic, it would be very unusual to get a card or gift or offer of help, (unless they are very close friends and extremely fabulous, in which case you would reward them with plentiful hugs!).

If people are supportive when we explain that we are psychologically poorly, cynical bystanders might well think that we are putting on mental health symptoms to get attention, but people don’t usually judge people who are physically unwell as doing it, on purpose, to get attention.

We all know about the poorly voice people learn to put on during telephone conversations, when we are faking physical illness. School kids learn the poorly voice! It starts young, but even though we know that many days taken off work poorly are sickies, rather than cases of genuine illness, but that is the way of the world, so no one bats an eyelid at your skiving.

People make the assumption that if you are complaining of mental health symptoms, that you must inevitably be making them up, as an excuse, for attention, or to get out of doing things you don’t want to do (such as going to work), but this is NOT TRUE.

People who cite mental health symptoms as reasons for non-attendance at work, or avoidance of social or childcare or other responsibilities are viewed as skivers and attention seekers. REALITY CHECK> Anyone who cites mental health as the reason they cannot do something is very fucking BRAVE to do that, because, whether conscious or unintended, we are actively opposing stigma, and doing our bit to make attitudes in society more open minded, by choosing to be honest with people that we are very much NOT OKAY, and that is ok!!

People do not FAKE mental illness. Mental illness is hard to admit to. Yes, sure, things are improving, and mental health charities and the work they do play a large role in improving things for current and future generations, but it is still VERY DIFFICULT to openly express that our mental health is bad, and that we are emotionally struggling to cope. Mental illness is not a socially acceptable excuse, therefore why would anyone pretend they are mentally unwell, when they are not? It would make no sense. All you would be doing is making things potentially very socially awkward for yourself, so if I could get one message out there to society it would be:-

WHEN WE SAY WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS, PLEASE BELIEVE US!

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I talk about mental illness on my blog, and have written quite a bit for mental health charities in the UK (Mind and Time to Change). You can find links to their websites here, as well as Heads Together, (which is another charity affiliated with Mind, led by our British royals, William, Kate and Harry).

MIND WEBSITE

TIME TO CHANGE WEBSITE

HEADS TOGETHER WEBSITE

All are great sources of information, written in plain English by people who live with mental illness, in our own words.

These charities also have YouTube channels too, where you can watch clips of real people taking about their personal experiences of mental illness (and not just the usual ones such as anxiety and depression- I mean the whole spectrum of different disorders out there that dominate the lives of people who suffer with these emotional challenges.)  I would thoroughly recommend you take a look at these as there are so many interesting clips to watch….. (links below)

MIND YOUTUBE CHANNEL

TIME TO CHANGE YOUTUBE CHANNEL

HEADS TOGETHER YOUTUBE CHANNEL

In terms of my volunteering plans, I got a very exciting email yesterday asking me to speak at some mental health awareness talks in my area next month. I am delighted to be asked (!) particularly as I would like to challenge attitudes and widen people’s understanding of personality disorders and PTSD, and what those labels mean for the people who live with them. This is a fab opportunity and I will do what I can, but I am not the only person striving to improve things. I know there are MANY mental health bloggers and mental health charity media volunteers out there, who are doing an amazing job of fighting stigma by talking honestly and openly about their mental health challenges. WELL DONE! You are growing flowers as you tap the keys….

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I am about to sit down and watch a short film of a close blogger friend being interviewed about her mental health. This is something which aired on regional news in the morning bulletin (and I recorded), so I am very much looking forward to watching that, and feeling the positivity of being part of a movement who are paving the way for greater acceptance and compassion, so that no one with a mental health problem has to live it alone.

Happy mental health day to you all! and if you are not happy today because of your mental health, I feel your pain, as I’m feeling it too.

It is ok to be not ok X

[And not just on world mental health day].

summerSHINES©

 

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SPOOKED

I got spooked. I made my blog private. Two days of wanting to be unseen and unexposed.

It isn’t often I get nervous about blogging. But honest blogging about my subjective experience of mental illness is like the discomfort of therapy, amplified.

In the therapy room chair I want to literally melt into the furniture. This week, it became that way with blogging, and with blogging, I am able to make choices as to whether my inner life becomes public fodder for people to pick at. There is a delete button, and there are privacy settings. There are no such privacy settings for psychological therapy.

I cannot ghost my location, as with Snapchat. I cannot become invisible, as I am sitting there in front of her, feeling scared and longing for privacy, but knowing I surrendered that privacy when I signed up for mental health treatment.

As a mental health blogger I compromise many things, and top of that list is privacy.

Blogging is about the unseen and the unsaid.

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The screen collapses and you are sat there, metaphorically naked. Literal nakedness is not permitted, as if therapy could get any more AWKWARD than doing it sans clothing.

I am public again. Blinking in the light. Maybe I miss the social media glare?

Maybe blogging is how I get my identity, and sharing so much is the mechanism by which I feel connected to other humans? Maybe you can’t wrestle the blogger out of the person?

This week I have done several things that are very important for my future. I didn’t want to blog about them. That wouldn’t be professional, and professional is who I want to be and what I aspire to be; so I’m trying to figure out how I can be authentic about my mental health, AND shape a positive future where I can make a successful impact in my chosen fields (which are mental health, and trauma, and the support of victims of abuse.)

Next week the local paper are doing a piece about my recent fundraising event and my mental health volunteering for local and national Mind. I have an important decision to make. Do I identify myself as a local mental health blogger? Or do I hide my blog away for a bit and pretend I’m a semi-normal person?

I’m a bit spooked to be honest.

I have permanently deleted Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Snapchat. All gone.

The blog was gone, now it’s back.

What to do?

This video below is about social media. I LOVE it- it’s so funny and so true. How can we possibly deal with people who turn their back on social media??

summerSHINES©

STARDUSTED CONFESSION

Confessions of a stardusted woman……

This came up on my Facebook feed today……

I read it, and I thought….is this true?

I think stardusted women, however irrepressible, can sometimes be stopped….we are all after all imperfect human beings capable of crumpling and falling to the floor in defeat, (sometimes many times), but a star dusted woman maybe just stands out from the pack in how quickly she gets back up again and how many time she can rise to her feet again after defeat.

This is another quote that came up on my Facebook and I thought YES, yes please…this is exactly what I want….. see below

Yes please, to the above.

Today, right now, I thought I’d have a made up face, with pristinely applied foundation, concealer, eye shadow, blush and mascara. I thought I’d be wearing a black dress, tights and heels. I thought I’d be adorned with shiny bling to suit the ambience of the swanky London hotel I was due to be doing my charity speech at. I thought I’d be making my way to the station to get my train tickets. I thought I’d be meeting my friends at Kings X station then checking into a hotel. I though I’d be meeting and shaking hands this evening with a room full of very important and very lovely people. I thought the spotlight would be on me and I’d be doing a good job of representing a mental health charity I feel immensely passionate about.

Instead, I’m here, at home, sat at my laptop with hair un-brushed, wearing my comfiest slouchiest “please don’t look at me I know I look shit today” clothes.

This stardusted woman has been defeated.

And why?

A miserable interaction of physical illness and mental illness :(

Yesterday was officially terrible.

I cried……pretty much ALL DAY. (A day is a long time, and even longer when you’re dehydrated from crying.) I had to keep sipping water, to both soothe my aching throat, and replace the liquid escaping through my tears.

I broke down big style. (Just as I did the night before last.)

I wonder if my media volunteering career is over, or maybe that I just desperately need a temporary break from the limelight? A hermit life is certainly very appealing to me to the moment. Greater privacy in general is also appealing.

Sometimes I don’t always want to share my vulnerability, and want it to be ok to be the non-coping person every once in a while with no shame and no-one especially noticing.

When I feel bad, it’s siamese twin is shame. Never can I seemingly detach shame and suffering.

I suffer- I feel bad for suffering- I suffer more etc etc.

It’s a cycle that’s difficult to beat. The strings linking one with the other are just too strong and too stringy.

I am tired of apologising for my weakness. People do tell me repeatedly that I don’t have to apologise for struggling, but I can’t budge the guilt. It sits there like the elephant in the room that is ginormous in it’s stage presence but something only my eyes can see.

No-one else gives me a hard time. Only me.

That internalised voice is loud and shrill.

It tells me…… YOU CAN’T DO IT, SO WHY EVEN TRY, YOU’LL JUST MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF.

It tells me THEY ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU, SO STOP KIDDING YOURSELF.

It tells me PUBCLICITY IS DANGEROUS, YOU ARE PUTTING YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY IN A POSITION OF THREAT BY DOING THIS. SHRINK INTO THR SHADOWS. IT’S SAFE THERE.

It tells me YOU ARE SHIT, AND THAT IS NOT OKAY.

That voice bullies me, but the voice is not mine. It’s his, Dad’s.

It’s also theirs, (the rest of the circle of abusers).

The unWelsh male voice choir lives inside my head.

Crying for a day and a night is NOT OK you weak and pathetic eejit, booms the inner chorus.

Cancel EVERYTHING, and don’t see ANYONE, is the instruction given out by the familiar bullies.

Listening to people tell you that you can’t do stuff, is almost as bad as you kidding yourself you can’t do stuff, at times when you know you can.

Maybe this blog should not be SUMMER STARTS TO SHINE, but more IT’S ACTUALLY QUITE FUCKING OKAY TO SHINE, SO DO SO FFS WITHOUT ALLOWING GUILT AND THE INNER BULLIES TO GET TO YOU! (But it is admittedly far less catchy as a title).

It is OK to shine.

It is equally OK to not shine, and just exist and rest and take a breather and plunge your fingers into the sand of your nearest beach and dig for some wisdom .

It is OK to have shone many times, but now be too burned out, too knackered, and too run down by the demands and ambitions you raggedly pursue to have a legitimate period of non-shininess.

The mental health guy on the phone yesterday said, “if you don’t do the speech, it is NOT life and death, the world will continue to turn, the evening will still happen, and the charity will understand you prioritising your health.”

He’s absolutely right there; I know what being near death feels like, and that is not how I’m feeling currently. Plus, the charity very much ARE understanding and have reassured me they understand.

But I’m embarrassed. I feel like a failure. I feel ‘less than’. I feel shame and guilt and regret and sadness and disappointment.

But why? It isn’t my fault I’m ill (mentally and physically). I didn’t turn the dial and programme in a mental health symptom flare up and catching of a virus into my electronic relapse diary. It just happened. Just as life happens.

Maybe the universe has decided this just isn’t my time to shine? and instead I should focus on and celebrate all my other shiny achievements already in the bag so far this year.

I need to think about the charity hike and the significant sum of money the event raised.

I need to think about the radio interviews, the telly interview, the contributions to victim support services, the campaigns I’ve worked on, the pieces of writing I’ve done aside from my blog that have gone into important policy-shaping documents, the successful networking and relationship building, the people I’ve met and the way they have been impressed with what they’ve saw, enough to want to work with me again and include me in further projects.

Today I very much care that I had to pull out of the speech. But I will not care forever.

My worth as a person does not depend on whether I am a speaker at a charity event.

The people who may have been a little disappointed in me backing out from the speech and thinking I perhaps should not have wasted the opportunity I was given, I’d like to see them do the speech in my place and feel the pressure I feel to be absolutely fucking fantastic all the bloody time.

I can’t maintain my fantastic. I am someone who is variable, with a wide margin of functioning, ranging from moments of sheer brilliance to sheer inept uselessness.

The rule books got thrown out when my personality was developing, so I guess I should forgive people who struggle to understand or keep up with this vacillations in performance and presentation.

Hypomanic me is capable of brilliance. Depressed traumatised childlike me can do fuck all but sit still in a room, curled up listening to the ticking clock, weeping.

People (understandably) cannot understand these two extremes, all merged into one supposedly whole person.

And then there’s my multiplicity; the dissociative identity aspect.

There is more than just one solitary summerSHINES blogger here in the personality mix.

Speak to me at different times and you will see, hear and feel the difference.

But for all my difficulties, my heart is firmly in the right place, the personal attribute I hold most dear is kindness, and none of this wretched illness has EVER been chosen.

This blog published by Time to Change (the UK stigma-busting arm of Mind) is my most liked piece of writing ever and got 1.5K likes. To read the comment thread and the full post (which links direct to this blog) go onto Facebook and search for Time to Change. (I think it is also on Twitter too.) or click HERE

Mental illness is NOT a choice, and me not doing the speech today is a choice I could not help but make.

My illness made the choice for me, and as I have never chosen this illness, I cannot be held accountable for the illness sometimes, inevitably, dictating that I should aim to do something, and then it get close and me not be well or able enough to actually go through with it.
So this is my confession……

I don’t feel OK. I refuse to hide that I’m not OK & that, my friends, is perfectly OK, OK?


summerSHINES©
 

#2 OF 20. CRISIS.

Well, I did do a little sharpie scribble to mark today, but words are necessary too. I have messages to communicate across the interweb that require words. That’s because they’re important ideas. Visualise bubble writing saying “THIS IS IMPORTANT”.

Right, let’s begin.

Yesterday was day 1 of this….

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Note**I scratched out mental-ness this morning and replaced it with a more dignified ‘distress’, as mentalness is not a word I usually use. It was just a word I used, on one day, to convey my state of mind, which was very much NOT GOOD yesterday.

In short, I had a bad afternoon. I reached a state of mental health crisis. My illness overtook me, and I took steps to act to hurt myself, badly and permanently, but was stopped by my husband who put an immediate end to my actions.

 He blocked what I was doing, so I couldn’t and didn’t do it. I didn’t like him in that moment, because I wanted him to let me hurt myself. Needless to say he didn’t hold that same opinion.

He didn’t approve of my reckless impulsive act. It wasn’t planned and premeditated. If it was I would have waited till I were alone, but I behaved impulsively in the moment, and was stopped in my tracks by someone who loves me and wanted to keep me safe.

To say the atmosphere has been tense since then is an understatement.

That is the cost.

Another cost is friends.

This is because of a basic disconnect between what people in mental health crisis want and what people in crisis sometimes get when we say what just happened.

Why did I share with people what just nearly happened? The answer is there is no thought process involved, no careful weighing up of pros and cons. When I am in crisis I behave mindlessly, NOT mindfully. I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. I have NO CLUE how long it will last. I have NO CLUE how the fuck I’ll survive. I have NO CLUE how much my crisis may spoil or potentially sabotage my friendships with people.

The thing is, people don’t choose mental health crisis, just like people don’t opt in to cancer, diabetes, seizures, physical disabilities or heart attacks.

There is no tick list that we sign saying ‘If you are happy to reach a state of mental health emergency at some point in the future, please tick the box’.

There is no crisis consent form.

There is no planning of a mental health crisis in the diary, for the most opportune time.

Many suicidal acts are impulsive, done during the most brutally painful of moments, usually after a VERY LONG period of extreme distress.

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I am four weeks into my relapse. It all began with the Recovery College issue, and since then I have spiralled and spiralled.

Yesterday was my GO STRAIGHT TO JAIL, DO NOT COLLECT 200 POUNDS moment.

(The jail is in my head. No-one can see it. So when people can’t see or touch something they have trouble imagining it exists).

Here are some mental health crisis reactions and FAQ’s (typically asked, in my experience).

What happened to make you do that?

What meds are you taking?

When did you last see your psychiatrist?

What about your kids? Think about them.

You are SO LUCKY to have what you have.

 This is my response…….

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Also this…..mental health crisis is usually little to do with medication. If a crisis is because your meds have changed, most crisis experiencers will volunteer this information to you. If we don’t, it is because we know crisis is most usually not about incorrect meds/dosing. Usually as well, psychiatric meds alterations are precipitated by a decline in emotional/mental functioning, naturally moving you towards greater likelihood of crisis. Meds don’t always automatically cause suicidality. That is a common misconception.

Another common false belief is that if you are on the right magic medication (s) then mental health crisis will never happen. People think if only someone can find the perfect medication for them then you will never contemplate suicidal actions ever, or self-harm, or reach mental health emergency where you actually act to hurt yourself. This is a fallacy. Medications DO help. They really do, for some people. But people mistake the symptom reliever (the pill) as the causal factor, rather than understanding that sometimes there is no pill that can reverse the desire and behavioural act to try to die.

I am stable on medication that helps a lot and takes the edge off my MH symptoms, but the illness is the problem, not the symptom reliever (the pill), and no pill can make it all ok. If there were magic pills that could do that, everyone would be on them, including all the doctors out there that prescribe them.

I am on good meds that work for me, but suicidality is a key feature of my illness. Self-harm is also extremely likely (a maladaptive but short-term effective way to cope with the distress), regression into dissociative identities is a symptom which I used to get,  then it went, but now has come back with a vengeance, and my most severe and traumatic flashbacks directly cause mental health crisis.

This crisis happened because I have had a dissociative breakdown and fragmented into many separate identities. Strangly enough I didn’t choose to have a mental health breakdown, and equally I can’t choose an un-breakdown. There is no mental health equivalent of a reverse vasectomy. Once you’ve felt the snip of breakdown, you can’t be the person you were before your breakdown. That’s why it’s called break DOWN, and not break back UP if you choose.

As for the care team thing, I rang for help three times in ever increasing states of desperation explaining how poorly I was and there was LITERALLY nobody to speak to there apart from the bemused receptionists. So I did try and get help first.

I don’t have a psychiatrist, because I was doing too well to need one, pre-breakdown. I have asked repeatedly for extra support from the community mental health team in the last few weeks, and the best they can offer is a psychiatrist appointment in a months time.

And as for the kid issue, a word of advice DON’T GO THERE. Please refrain from comments reminding me about my children. For one minute THINK.

Do you honestly believe I don’t consider them everyday?

Do you honestly believe I don’t care about them?

Do you believe that focusing on how wonderful they are is enough to ameliorate and cancel out a mental illness?

This is where the differences between perceptions of physical and mental illnesses travel in different directions.

To someone who has just had a seizure, you don’t say, ‘how could that have happened, what about your children?’

To someone who has broken their spine in an accident and is paralysed, people don’t say ‘how could you have let that happen when it will affect your kids so much’.

To someone who has had a tumour appear, you don’t say ‘but what about your kids, think of them’.

NO BLAME IS ATTACHED TO PHYSICAL ILLNESSES.

But when your illness is psychological, caused by trauma that wasn’t my fault, the onus is on me to not be ill and not show symptoms.

For me, and many other people with serious mental illness, the propensity to self-harm and to consider and plan suicide (suicidal ideation) is a SYMPTOM of our illness. A symptom we are BLAMED for, JUDGED for, SCORNED for, DESPISED for, RESENTED for.

If you don’t resent the cancer sufferer, then please apply that same respect to me- the sufferer of a trauma-generated mental illness.

I’m fairly sure if the boot were on the other foot and it were you fighting impulses to badly hurt yourself, you wouldn’t want comments about your kids, as though you’d opted to not give a shit about the human beings you’d created and love and nurture daily. I’m fairly sure you’d just want someone you reached out to, to empathise with your extreme suffering and wish you well in your recovery from this crisis. You wouldn’t want to be reminded that your illness made you nearly act in a way that might have caused significant harm to the people you most love.

Separate ME from my ILNESS please. Understand that my illness and me are not the same thing; just as we say someone HAS cancer, not someone IS cancer.

Keep me out of this please.

This is not about morality. This is about uncontrollable and un-chosen CRISIS. This is a symptom of a real (though invisible) illness. Mental health crisis is as uncontrollable as a heart attack, a seizure, an ever-growing tumour.

It’s time to STOP judging the person having the mental health crisis and respond in the same sympathetic way you would if someone has had a heart attack, a seizure or the spontaneous growth of a tumour.

Change the record. Drop your blame and leave it at someone else’s door-not mine.

I do my absolute best to fight this. I don’t announce everytime I succeed at not self-harming when I want to, or every day I survive without attempting suicide. There are no medals for bravery doled out. But fucking hell, if you disclose a day when your mental illness got the better of you and you couldn’t stop your crisis, prepare for guilt trips and platitudes and bullshit in response.

I have to make it clear that it is not all people who reacted in this way….only a handful, and the majority of people who responded when I disclosed what happened were very loving, caring, supportive, without a hint of judgement, or emotive shit that will make my mental state and symptoms even worse. For those people, I appreciate you. For the others, please just THINK.

I cannot be me authentically. I am too honest. It hurts to be this honest. I must hide. That is the recurring lesson. Hide everything unmentionable and you’ll be OK because then you’ll be conforming and the status quo will be preserved.

source

It isn’t OK to say, if your illness is a psychological rather than a physical one.

summerSHINES©

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SOUL BE YOUR PILOT

Who knows what invalidation means? This isn’t a SAT test. I am just not sure how aware people are of the term invalidation and what implication it has in relationships and potential conflict scenarios.

The dictionary definition of invalidation is this-

to nullify, negate, annul, abrogate-

to invalidate means to deprive of effective or continued existence. (nullify implies counteracting completely the force, effectiveness, or value of something.)

Invalidation is when you express an opinion and someone says your opinion is rubbish. Invalidation is when you state a fact, and that “fact” is argued with. Invalidation is when you say you feel something, and someone else decides you have no actual reason they can understand to feel that thing you’re feeling, so you should stop feeling it immediately and also quit telling anyone you’re feeling it.

In essence, invalidating someone is a posh term to describe the phenomena of trying to make someone shut up, without literally using the phrase “shut up”. Invalidation is there to shame the person into shutting up, because you are contesting their sheer validity as a human being capable of having any opinion about anything.

Invalidating someone is not the way to diffuse upset in the other person. Invalidation actually has the opposite effect. Rather than you and the other aggrieved party meeting somewhere in the middle- opinions, thoughts and feelings (usually negative ones) become polarised and even stronger, especially if you are someone particularly sensitive to the psychological impact of invalidation, as I am.

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People with Borderline PD (like me) are almost always born into invalidating environments, by care givers who repeatedly invalidate/nullify/negate/annul/abrogate us. I didn’t just make this psychological fact up. This is based on extensive research by Marsha Linehan, the founder of the best known treatment of BPD-Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. If you are repeatedly told your way of perceiving things is wrong, that your feelings are wrong, that your thoughts are wrong, that the conclusions you come to are wrong, then it is both very frustrating, and very damaging. We believe (often falsely) that the grown ups know it all, so we conclude we (the children) must be wrong.

Repeated invalidation makes it really hard to reliably and confidently use our instincts and perceptual abilities to decipher exactly what is happening in our environments and in our social relationships. We start to lose faith in ourselves. We start to think we must be mad, as we are thinking, feeling and perceiving things is ways alien to those around us, so we start to tune out of ourselves, ignore our natural intuitions, and instead use others as a guide for how we should be thinking, what we should be feeling, how we should be acting, what we should be saying, (or not saying). Rather than (as Sting said) letting our soul be our pilot, we let others be our pilots. We watch what they do, and we do it too. We assess what others are thinking, we think it too. We notice what others may be feeling, we try and feel it too, (or not feel it, if no one is feeling anything).

So reflecting on my recent conflict sitch with the recovery college, what I find surprising, especially given the context of the mental health framework that the recovery college sits within, is how much my valid complaints were invalidated by those in a position of overall responsibility for that organisation.

The manager of the recovery college has BPD, so I am surprised she wasn’t more validating as presumably she knows all about invalidation and the social and emotional destructiveness of it.  Not receiving an email acknowledgement so far about my apology is also pretty invalidating.

Invalidation really is something that I take issue with, and it a concept that once I first read about it, it immediately struck a chord or recognition.

The word ‘invalidation’ gave a name to something that I’d always found very frustrating and upsetting about members of my family, so even though I’m now an adult [well most of the time :D) it still bugs me.

This is what happened-it is my 4-step anatomy of me recent conflict….

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And this is what happens emotionally when we are invalidated….

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This leads to questions, and answers……

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An organisation who respond to feedback by invalidating the complainant don’t get my respect, esp. given the mental health framework of the consumers of that service being (I’d expect) predominantly NHS mental health service users, or ex-service users, with histories of diagnosed mental illnesses.

Invalidating does I suppose give the defenders what they want, as the complainant feels deterred and disrespected and responds by withdrawal, but does invalidating actually stop the feelings, thoughts, opinions, reactions from being experienced? Nope. Not one bit.

Invalidation is the equivalent of putting tape over someone’s mouth and saying (with fingers in ears) la la laaah we don’t want to hear your feedback, but the person with the taped up mouth will only ever resent those that taped her mouth up, and it is impossible for anything positive to be rebuilt.

If there is no meeting is the middle, there will only ever be two polarised parties, disagreeing and opposed, usually with considerable ill feeling to one another, on both sides.

It becomes enemy lines, rather than working together to improve things for mutual benefit. That’s sad, but I do get the defensiveness, especially when 15 year old Blood is my spokesperson! f you don’t know what the hell I’m on about here please see my earlier post titled “Right to Reply” for a full introduction to my rebellious alter, Blood)

When invalidation happens, from others, the only real solution (once you’ve thought it through and reflected on it and realised your views are valid and justifiable) is to implement some hardcore self-validation. Self-validation is accepting your own internal experience, your thoughts and feelings as real and acceptable and OK.

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Once we self-validate, we feel OK. It doesn’t mean the outer invalidation is any less annoying or difficult to stomach, but at least we can hold our heads up high and know we don’t require the approval of the people we are complaining to, to make us feel ok about complaining in the first place.

Self-validation rights the wrongs of invalidation.

Sometimes, when faced with the frustration of invalidation, it is the only thing left that we can do.

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summerSHINES©