#4 of 20. BREAKTHROUGH!

Good morning! I have lots of good stuff to publish today…and I am actually in a half decent mood, (which considering my recent mental health crisis is pretty epic!)

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I did some sharpie doodling this morning whilst chatting on and off to lovely humans (via the online social beauty that is Facebook messenger).

I sent a very important email to a very important mental health charity, telling them I will be doing the very important speech to the very important audience, after all. I REFUSE to let my mental health dictate my life (though I will have a good rest first, between now and then so I’m all recouped and ready to fly).

So where am I at- on day 4 of my attempt to get myself out of my current mental health breakdown?….I am here……(below). I have broken through, wherever it is that people in the midst of mental health crisis break through to, to mark that the worst bit is over and the better bits are to come……

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To say I’m ‘relieved’ doesn’t do it justice….but hopefully this doodle does it justice….

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There are lots of positive things to be positive about today…so I decided to make a list….

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Another FAB thing I am realising, is that I’m doing OK without my old friends, the team of NHS crisis, and the community based MH team (CMHT)…also without the therapist. I need to stand on my own feet for a bit and feel pride that I can regain my footing after some mental health slippery-ness. I’m proud of me for managing to do this….maybe sarpies, artsy paper and determination was all I needed….and maybe (for not at least) this is a sufficient substitute for NHS talking therapy and telephone-based support from people I’ve never met.

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I am dead excited about the charity speech, and dead excited about my BOOT THE BLUES hike.

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The good news is IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO DONATE! YOU LOVELY PEOPLE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD!!!….ANY CURRENCY, ANY PERSON- YOU CAN ALL DONATE ON MY JUSTGIVING PAGE…
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/imani-summer

ALL DOSH GOES TO TYNESIDE AND NORTHUMBERLAND MIND (FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH IN THE NORTH-EAST OF ENGLAND).

IF YOU DONATE, I WILL OFFICIALLY LOVE YOU :) xxx (but, on reflection, maybe not quite as much as my husband and children) :D

I nearly backed out, as last week doing this hike seemed impossible, but my spirits are soaring and my strength is returning. And I will SMASH THE SHIT OUT OF THIS HIKE and be so proud when it all comes together and all the money is totted up, and I will feel totes proud for my AMAZING :P organisational and volunteering skills!

Woop!

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On day 4-it’s all GOOD. :)

See you tomorrow for more sharpie mental health crisis recovery shenanigans blows kiss

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summerSHINES©

 

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REAL LIFE?

Has anyone seen real life? I think I must have mislaid it down the back of the sofa or something, because I can’t for the life of me locate real life. Real life has become unreal chaos.

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I am busy.

Not at all centred.

Floaty. Overwhelmed. Confused.

I haven’t been normal since Wednesday, or maybe, if I’m accurate, I’ve never been normal since 1981 [when I was born], but I have felt especially abnormal since Wednesday.

I haven’t yet regained a sense of who I am since Wednesday-wait, what? Surely I should know who I am. I’m summerSHINES, yeah? the blogger person? the mum person? the wife person? the volunteer person? Yeah I suppose I am those things, but I don’t feel like me.

I have BPD. BPD me has something called ‘identity diffusion’. It’s a symptom of trauma-shit that happened long ago when my personality was (literally) in it’s infancy and still forming. My personality developed weirdly, in that I don’t have a consistent core sense of self. Who I think I am is fluid and mercurial and changeable. I can’t be quantified or measured, and good luck tracking my moods and behaviours on an ongoing basis. They are not constant. Your measuring stick needs to be very long and very flexible….basically very much not like a stick, because a one size measures all stick is just not sufficient.

A lot of my summer starts to shine writing is about my personality and learning to cope with my trauma history. But I hope those repetitive themes don’t make for repetitive writing. My writing is as unpredictable as my feelings. Sometimes I write and write. Other times I can’t write one meaningful sentence. Sometimes life is all great. Sometimes life is all wrong.

I wrote a crisis post a couple of days ago, because a mini-ish crisis was escalating. At that point I didn’t know whether the crisis would stay mini-ish, or if it’d get big and dangerous-ish…..It stayed mini-ish I’m relieved to say, because I took action to reduce my level of threat. My crisis was building due to a very clear trigger, so I removed the trigger, and now my mini-ish crisis is fading to me being ok again (though I haven’t arrived at ‘Destination OK’ just yet).

The trigger was being asked to say a few words about trauma and my experiences at a charity launch. I said yes immediately because I was flattered to be asked. I have literally thought of very little else though since I agreed to doing this and my anxiety levels went suddenly skyward on Sunday.

Cue panic attack and afternoon/evening of uncontrollable crying.

This on the surface ‘over-reaction’, (though not really an over-reaction when you see it in context), was at the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd. I fully intended to keep the talk as un-emotive as possible so I could get through it without crying on the night, but even that precaution wasn’t enough to remove the emotional sting out of the perceived difficulty of me doing the said speech.

I did something hard. I alerted the lady that I didn’t feel I was up to delivering the talk.

I cannot tell you how bad that made me feel. How much I felt guilt and a sense of failure and disappointment. How embarrassed I felt at feeling I was letting the charity down. crumpled face

BUT, I know I have made the right decision for myself as a survivor.

I KNOW me doing that speech is too much for me, at this stage in my recovery (which is not especially “recovered”).

I KNOW the chances of having some kind of panic attack or public emotional episode are far too high for comfort.

I KNOW it would have taken a huge amount from me emotionally.

I KNOW I did the right thing.

I also know though that doing the right thing can feel immensely difficult, but that doesn’t mean that doing the right thing shouldn’t be done, just because it’s hard.

I had to swallow my pride, face letting the charity down, and face that they may feel disappointed with me.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that although I am extremely confident in sharing about my trauma history when sat behind a keyboard, that making eye contact with a room full of professionals and saying it out loud to a sea of faces is very different and just not realistic for me right now at this point in my recovery journey.

It has made me realise that many of my prior goals (that involved speaking to a crowd) are just unrealistic. It is a personal psychological cost that is too much to expend. The future is unknown, but for now, it was just too much.

I used to fancy myself as one day doing a TED talk, speaking to groups of school kids about mental health and grooming and abuse, running training courses for large groups of professionals.  Now I have looked down the barrel of a gun and actually imagined the white knuckle nerves of steel emotionally draining REALITY of doing this, I realise the epic fear involved. I realise how nerve wracking that’d be. I realise how triggering it is. I realise it is something that right now is beyond me, so I will quit pressuring myself to achieve over-ambitious goals such as this.

I will stick to what I am good at. I will write. I will attend meetings. I will network. I will speak to only small groups (less than 10). Anymore exposure than that is bad for my PTSD, and anything that causes my PTSD symptoms to flare up is just NOT worth doing, however much I am attracted to the abstract idea of doing it.

I have learned valuable lessons from this. I know my limitations. I also know that I should not be in so much of a hurry to say yes immediately to daunting offers which I know will challenge me.

Saying yes to something, then backing out, is far worse than not saying yes to begin with and expressing any uncertainty that might be there. “Take a step back summerSHINES, and have a fucking word with yourself” (is my blunt advice to myself).

I am off for a meeting with the charity in a little while to discuss this face-to-face. They are a victim charity. They have been understanding. PHEW. I have sent my speech and someone will read it out for me. I will still be contributing, but on my own terms.

Survivors like mehave to learn it is OK to say no to things and not feel shame attached to that. This is something I need to work on.

Hopefully now I’ve made this decision and suggested I meet with the charity to chat it over, no great harm will be done, and I can still assist them, just in a way that is psychologically safe for me as a survivor.

I hope my sense of unreality will not persist. I hope for the chaos to die down and the calm to remerge slowly but surely.

I hope that I will find a sense of myself again. I hope my feet will soon touch the ground. I hope I will have the mental capacity freed up now for me to work on my other volunteering projects which need my urgent attention.

I need to write my piece about westminster for the NHS mental health trust bulletin. I need to write my piece about another UK charity I was networking with at Westminster “Young Minds”. I need to apply for a Time to Change training day. I need to plan for my NHS meeting on Friday. I need to spend some time on my fundraising event planning. And I need to go to the launch, sans public speaking, and network my shiny arse off. That all takes energy.

I think I need a sandwich……or cake.

LOTS OF CAKE!

summerSHINES ©

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Post-Traumatic SPARKLE

Everyone has heard of PTSD. But not everyone had heard of PTSS (most probably because I literally just made it up!).

On my email signature I describe myself as a ‘mental health blogger of post-traumatic sparkle’ @summerstartstoshine etc, and ”PTSS’ is the new phenomenon that I totally just made up, which is essentially a fancier and sparklier way of describing post-traumatic growth.

PTSS is post-traumatic-sparkle syndrome :)

I think I have this. I invented it 😉

I’m a person who believes in post-traumatic GROWTH, as well as post-traumatic stress.

Since the box of horrors opened in my subconscious mind, making my traumatic memories conscious and very much out there, I have suffered one hell of a lot of post-traumatic STRESS. I have experienced many other mental health-ish things beginning with the letter ‘S’ besides stress.

Suicide (ideation, preoccupation, attempts.)

Self-harm (to relieve tension enough to deal with the above.)

Silence and shunning (when I accused my perpetrators of their crimes and they responded with rejection.)

All of those things are awful things for anyone to deal with and cope with, but a relatively new thing to come out of my trauma is something which is really quite fabulous is……S.P.A.R.K.L.E.

People who are early on in their post-traumatic healing will most probably get annoyed at me for saying there is anything at all sparkly or growth oriented about living with the psychological and physical effects of a traumatic history, but please reserve judgement till you’ve the post.

I hear you. I know what trauma does to you. I know all of the awfulness of it first hand. I am not a trauma victim who hasn’t suffered, believe me. I would NEVER minimise trauma. And a couple of years ago I would have scoffed at the concept of post-traumatic sparkling, because I was so poorly back then, literally fighting for my life.

I nearly died and that wasn’t at all sparkly.

I have HATED my trauma history and everything about it almost as much as I hate the abhorrent people who did this to me.

I have lived trauma. I am shaped by it. I have hated and despised my past and have wanted to die because of it. In truth, some days, I still wish I could.

Wishing I could die is my NORMAL. But I made my no suicide attempt pact with my hubby, and I promise to stick to that always.

So my basic choice is, what the hell do I do with a life where I don’t really want to be here at all; chronically, strongly, and all the time? How do I tolerate living with a near constant death wish?

Well…..my answer is, I create meaning from it and purpose. I make lemonade from these sour face-pulling life lemons. I taste the lemon, but instead of spitting it out, I think these are the most perfectly awesomely designed ingredients to make the most zingiest most refreshing and most delicately and beautifully tasting lemonade EVER.

I want to create something GREAT out of something miserable.

I want to turn the evilest black to the purest and most innocent white.

In order for me to do that, I am having to learn to sparkle in whatever way I can. I am having to create something, when once there was nothing. There is no handbook for this. I’m carving out my own niche.

I have learned it is OK to shine, and the only people who have a vested interest in preventing me doing that are those who perpetrated those dreadful acts in the first place.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how survivors (including myself) often look towards others for permission to shine, because we are so used to having our inner light dimmed by very unshiny people. But the people who try and do that are, I believe, only doing it because they are stuck in their own darkness, so the only way they can feel any better about that is by dragging everyone else down to the murky depths with them.

Why do we need to be granted permission from others to shine? We are adults and can make our own decisions, right?

I’m having to make some important decisions myself lately about my future and how I choose to move forward. At every decision point I will aim to choose the sparkly way-(the PTSS way).

It really matters to me that I use my trauma and I own it.

I have assimilated trauma into my identity, but not in a victim way. I prefer to try and focus my attention on the positive aspects of my trauma history (on my better days when that is possible.)  I prefer to marvel at my own strength, rather than dwell on the extent I’m broken. I aim to live with a strong sense of survivor pride instilled into my character. I tell my story, because I am proud at what I was able to survive, and because I believe everyone should find their voice, if they want to find it and know it is there.

My intention is not to tell people my story so they say POOR YOU. I want them instead to say BRAVE YOU! I want people to know just how much a human is capable of tolerating without breaking. I want people to not take for granted the gift of safety. I want parents to know how precious their children are and what a privilege it is to care for and raise a child. I want people who are survivors to not feel limited by their history. I want it to be OK to share your truth without fear that people will back off if they know what happened and what exactly you endured.

I am gutted I was a victim, but I am proud of how much of a resilient survivor I am. I am proud of all of you too!

Please believe me when I say it IS possible to sparkle after trauma. It IS possible to use your pain and transform it into personal contributions you can make that benefit both individuals and wider society.

My trauma is what made me. Like hell am I gonna let it break me.

Without my traumatic history and motivation to help other survivors I wouldn’t be making the contributions to benefit others that I’m making now. Without my trauma I wouldn’t have the same drive and persistence and inner motivation. Without my own trauma experience, I wouldn’t know how on earth to support others going through similar difficulties. I’d have no mission- no purpose that means quite as much as this does.

Of course I wish what happened hadn’t happened. Of course! But it has happened. And I will make good from it.

I suggest to all survivors that we try and retain hope and faith that we can come back from what happened to us, stronger and fighting. If not now, eventually.

I give that message to myself too, hoping I remember this on my low days when everything gets on top of me and I find it almost impossible to believe the words I’m typing now.

I’m healing, but I’m not healed yet.

I’m broken, but my repair WILL happen.

I’m ok today. Tomorrow is a mystery. My personal hell is behind me.

I’ll be alright. That stuff is over now.

It is time for summer to shine.

Here are some happy summery images I found on tumblr… 😊

SummerSHINES ©

 

 

 

EAGLE OR PIGEON?

This is a blog about post-traumatic SHINE. Post-traumatic shine is my word for post-traumatic growth….Post-traumatic growth is actually “a thing”…. It is a proven thing that psychologists have written about in psychological texts for a considerable length of time. One day, when I’m less busy, I’ll research it myself and write a decent post on it-afterall, it is the underlying concept that this blog is based on. The post will be called…”What the psychologists said” or something else equally scholarly.

I am a psychology graduate twice over, but now an essentially normal person. A stay at home mum, a blogger. I don’t have access to university libraries any longer…though I wish I did.

You just have to take my word on it for now though when I say “POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH” is an actual bona fide psychologically-proven thing.

Much is written about post-traumatic STRESS, in the context of PTSD, and I agree PTSD very much exists, as I experience it and write about it a lot…but post-traumatic growth by contrast is somewhat neglected in the media or popular self-help psycho babble books.

It is far easier to notice distress than triumph. It is far more salient to spot suffering than strength. It is far more compelling to notice those who have their whole lives ruined by something, than those who have shit beginnings then go on to achieve things of epic amazingness (which they were unlikely to have had the drive to pursue without the sculpting of trauma leaving it’s imprints on their psyche).

The trouble is, once someone has a psychiatric label around their neck (or two or three), people are inclined to stop perceiving you as a graceful eagle and far MORE likely to perceive you as a useless waddling dirty pigeon.

And quite frankly, as someone with BPD and PTSD who is now functioning better and doing better and feeling better and achieving better than I ever have since I was gifted with these labels, I really wish people would STOP perceiving me as a useless scruffy pigeon tied with chains to the ground, when I am really a graceful, soon to be high-flying eagle, soaring into the sky with ease and skilfully hovering there.

“I’m not a pigeon. I’m an eagle. DEAL WITH IT”, I wanna say to any doubters.

Before you leave angry comments, I am NOT saying people with mental illness are pigeons [!!!] It’s a simplistic metaphor for the purposes of this blog post to differentiate between those who are currently struggling, compared with those who are currently or soon-to-be soaring, after a period of psychiatric illness/breakdown/trauma.

Stop trying to keep me chained to the ground when I know I’m taking flight and flying higher and higher as time unfolds.

Stop limiting me with your post-traumatic stress notions please people, when my personal belief is in post-traumatic growth.

When I write, I write about the whole picture. I write when I’m having a fed up moany moment. I write when I’m having a triumphant, fabulous moment, and I write when I feel floaty, numb and completely dissociated from my surroundings. I write when I’m sad, happy, up, down, turning around and doing the hokey cokey, because that’s what [BLOGGING] is all about.

If I’m having a pigeon ‘moment’ and I write about a struggle scenario (a snap-shot of time), that does not make me a pigeon. You are treating a verb as a noun.

Sometimes I pigeon (verb- “to pigeon”)

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But I am not “a pigeon” (noun- a type of street dwelling crumb eating essentially useless and greedy bird). (Again, I am NOT saying people with mental health conditions are greedy, eat crumbs off the street and are utterly useless. IT’S A CLUMSY METAPHOR! OK]

The way I feel, certain people (a handful), are still seeing me as the pigeon I once was, and not revising their perception to include the potential of me taking flight and becoming a post-traumatic shining high-flying eagle.

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Pigeons CAN become eagles. Just like eagles can become pigeons, given the right cocktail of adverse life experiences.

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Maybe it takes a while for people to notice the survivor bird in front of them, which is changing and morphing from one type into the other. OR maybe people like the concept you will always stay a pigeon, because that makes them feel better about how they’re struggling themselves.

Two pigeons can become friends-united by their mutual struggles, but the discord begins when one bird becomes more eagle-like and strong, and the other does not. Sometimes people who are pals with another pigeon have a vested interest in that pigeon pal staying a pigeon so they can be pigeon pals living on pigeon street. But what if one of those pigeons quite fancies life as an eagle, with other eagle types, flying high where eagles meet?

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Nice pigeons are happy when their pigeon pals start hanging out where eagles meet, favouring that over pigeon street. Occasionally though you will meet a grumpy pigeon who wants you to keep them company on pigeon street forever. They don’t want any growing or wing spreading to happen on your part. They want you to remain a struggler.

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I rebel against that. I won’t stay a struggler forever, just so the pigeons aren’t lonely. Sometimes I will pigeon (a verb-to pigeon) but I am not a pigeon (noun) anymore.

I am an eagle committed to enhancing my personal strength and personal development and post-traumatic shine.  I will learn to fly and I won’t let my wings be clipped or chains to be attached round my ankles keeping me down to forage for psychological crumbs on pigeon street, when I know I am destined to fly where eagles meet!

Most people are happy about this post-traumatic change in me. I appreciate those that are.  Those that aren’t can ‘waddle on’ as far as I’m concerned.

I will spend time with the believers, the dreamers, the doers…and enjoy life where eagles meet. Fuck pigeon street. I hung out there way too long.

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This is my time to shine- to post-traumatically grow, and I won’t let any grumpy pigeons clip my eagle’s survivor wings.

summerSHINES©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSEUDO-KIND

This is an offloading therapeutic post. About how [some] people react to me.

You’ll notice from the blog address that this blog started out as SUMMER STARTS TO SHINE….it was then pointed out I was progressing really well and already post-traumatically shining, so it was changed to the very positive summerSHINES.

Judging on some recent feedback, maybe some might suggest a change of my blog name and purpose to the far less catchy option of SUMMER STARTS TO MAKE SUSTAINABLE PROGRESS AND NOT SHINE TOO BRIGHTLY.

I’ll level with you blog readers, I am sick to the back teeth of being doubted, sick to the back teeth of people worrying about me, or ‘for me’…sick to the back teeth of the ‘cotton wool wrapping up in’ supressing effect of the fortunately occasional but nonetheless irritating comments I get.

They are occasional comments, not all the time by any means- they get unleashed from people’s mouths and it usually shocks me. It arrives unpredictably and falls on, not deaf ears, but ears that hear the words and the logic behind them but have just grown weary of hearing the shine-limiting messages that some like to transmit.

People’s perception of what kindness is varies quite a bit. We are all individuals. We don’t have the same ideas. We don’t have the same brains, that process information and plan and make decisions and judgements and form opinions in the exact same way. We don’t have the same values or morals or consistent ‘anything’.

There is no universal factory setting when it comes to humans. We are all different.

But some people are even more different than the other ‘different people’.

Some people stand out. Some are shiners and some are solid. There is nothing wrong with people who are solid, dependable and consistent…but I am a shiny person who likes the buzz of pursuit.

We don’t all have the same aspiration levels.

We don’t all have the same determination.

We don’t all have the same motivation.

We don’t all have the same self-discipline.

We don’t all apply the same effort, and we also don’t have the same talents, skills and ability levels.

It is NOT a level playing field where we all apply the same rules of goal-seeking behaviour.

Some people have lots of goals.

Some people have none.

Some people pursue goals half heartedly and in a token gesture ‘hands up I tried…but I’m gonna stop because it’s got way too difficult’ kinda way.

I am not one of those half-hearted people.

A wonderful meme was shared and I was tagged in today…I had to share it here as it’s just a perfect antidote to the negativity I’ve been exposed to, not just recently, but in my life to date.

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I believe people use kindness in different ways, and kindness can sometimes contain a different darker element to it, which makes kindness not always the universally wonderful thing it is pedalled out to be. The darker side of kindness is…it can be used as a justification for saying upsetting things to someone then not feeling any guilt whatsoever for saying them…because they were kindly meant. All is excused. Any pain created is forgotten by the person who said it and caused the reaction. It was kind. I am kind. Aren’t I a great kind human. End of.

To what extent does the perpetrator of the kindness begin to feel uneasy?

Do they ever?

Do they feel uneasy if they’ve made you cry?

If you cry, it’s because they’ve ‘touched a nerve’…made you realise something you didn’t want to know…some wisdom that is “right” and you are crying in recognition of their rightness.

What if you’re not crying for that reason?

What if you know that the thing that person said was bollocks?

What do you do then?

They think they are crying because they have helped you and you can’t accept ‘kindly ‘help.

Kindness reassures them your tears are ok.

Do people ever wonder if their kindness was mis-judged do you think? Do people ever realise (when that kindness is unpacked and dissected) that maybe what they said wasn’t so kind? Maybe the thing that looked like kindness and is justifed as such, actually wasn’t kindness on the underneath layers? Do they ever realise perhaps their kindness was not so kind? not so helpful? not so innocent? not so pure in it’s intent?

And most importantly of all, do you think people ever click that you’ve sussed them out? That you’ve spotted the unkindness beneath the veneer of kindness?

Kindness can sometimes be a cloak that benevolent intentions can be very easily hidden behind.

NOT GUILTY YOUR HONOUR. I WAS BEING KIND.

……………Bollocks.

To balance out the argument I need to point out that usually kindness IS actually well meant…I think I’ve been on this earth long enough to be able to discern the difference between the emotion behind an action or a word or a behaviour being actually sincerely and genuinely kind, or ‘pseudo-kind’ passed off as real kind.

I know real kind when it happens. I also know pseudo-kind.

I don’t just listen to people’s words. I feel the energy behind them. I detect dissonance between objective message content and intent and meaning. I do that skilfully. That is why I am confident in my reactions. I have intuition to guide me and the messages come out loud.

I know when someone says words that have a particular meaning, yet sense a very different energy.

What is described as kindness can be cruelty, just like jokes and teasing and what appears to be very light hearted ribbing can thinly veil frustration and aggression. But we can’t react to the actual true energy and intent behind the joke, because we’re doing the funny game. Just like people play the kind game, when they are really not that kind.

I don’t like games people play.

I see though them.

I know what real kindness is. I have had lots of the real stuff this week, and you know how I know it was real…because I felt it.

This week people have brought me to tears with real kindness.

I dust myself off when I encounter the pseudo-kind of kindness. I shower off the toxicity.

Summer won’t let anyone smudge her shine.

That’s why she puts herself in the public ring.

She isn’t ashamed to shine, and she won’t let anyone make her feel there is anything amiss with that or her.

That’s how I react to the pseudo-kind.

They are just not my kind of kind.

summerSHINES……..

andstillmanagestotickalltheboxesofmakingsustainableprogress!

PS. Found the best quote ever on the inside of a running shoe box posted on Instagram

“Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.”

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