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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I WISH YOU COULD…

I wish you could be exactly the person I wanted.

I wish you could be here right now.

I wish you could comb your fingers gently through my hair, and tease out the tangled mess in my brain and heart too whilst you’re at it.

I wish you could be here beside me, but not with reality putting the spoilers on it. Let me have my fantasy, just for tonight. Please.

This isn’t some sordid piece about sexual fantasies of some red hot fantasy lover. This is about my longing for a mother.

It isn’t ugly to want to be nurtured.

It shouldn’t be forbidden to express what we’re missing and to shine the torchlight into the huge void- the place where the empty space sucks in the joy.

Everyone has an empty space inside.

Some of us are accustomed to feeling emptier and spacier than others.

Or maybe sometimes in life we just feel fuller and more satisfied than at other times.

I am sick of the deep ache.

It hurts, that ache.

Does time really heal hurt of loss?…well I guess the answer is both yes and no (fence sitting is more than allowed in this case). Yes it gets easier, AND no it fucking doesn’t. Both truisms are totally true.

I have a special blogger friend who lost her mum to suicide. Her and me, we connect beautifully, not only bevause we are both shamazing writers 😂 but because we both match up in our very specific mother-shaped emptiness.

I feel for her and her for me.

We counselled each other at the weekend via Facebook messenger.

We were both feeling very childlike and tearful and low.

But while I can enpathise (as far as I can) with her feelings around her mum’s tragic suicide, her mum isn’t there but mine is still alive, and that is where the similarity ends.

Bereavement can be literal, brought about by physical death, or it can be just as real, representative of the permenent death or severing of a mother-daughter relationship.

Both types of losses hurt and ache in a way that time alone doesn’t heal. If time does heal, it must be at the pace of the slowest snail known to man/woman kind, because I haven’t felt any discernible difference in how much I miss my mum now compared to how much I missed her when we first became estranged.

It’s been so long now that I don’t count it in months, and have lost track of the number of years.

I cry less, and less loudly I suppose. There are less minutes overall spent weeping into tear-dampened crumpled pillows with melencholic mood congruent music blaring out of Spotify. But the hurt is still there- it just makes far less of a sound.

Tonight I hurt in the silence. And this kind of silent hurting and yearning is something I can’t help but throw myself into feet first. Of course I don’t want to hurt this much, and I don’t consciously intend to dwell on it, but I’d rather be honest about my loss than pretend I’m fine when I’m definitely not fucking fine.

I am soothed by the rhythmic ticking of a clock. I am all cocooned in this room-my loneliness and longing is contained within four plasterboard walls. Tonight the ticking clock is like a heart beat to me, reminding me of what I would have heard booming out in my mother’s womb- back then when we were connected and I was sustained by that cord of umbilical life.

In the womb, she breathed for me in those early weeks. I was fed by her. She helped me grow and develop from tiny seed to mini alien to pink newborn screechy creature wrapped in snow white terry toweling.

How can I possibly forget her?

How can any child forget their mother?

You may not like them, you may not even love them, but I dare you to be able to try and forget them- try it. I think you’ll find it’s impossible.

What have I got to replace her, or who have I got?

I no longer have contact with any human who has known me all thirty six years of my life.

No one who was there from the beginning is still present.

I am left just with me.

My therapist can’t be a substitute. That’s just FREAKY, and my therapist won’t be around much longer I would imagine.

She will go and continue to nurture other damaged people, for a living.

In my real/non-therapy life I have existed for 36 years, but the longest relationship I’ve sustained is not 36 years, but 20.

Twenty years is the length of time I have been with my husband. The initial sixteen years before that were lived in a climate of fear within my family unit, but no one is around from that era to even validate to me that it even ever happened.

But I know it happened. I know.

The past lives on in the present and future, without the people physically being present to kick or punch or administer chinese burns to in protest for the PTSD shit storm they created.

I have a small number of photographs and a whole internal photo album of memories and cine tapes that play in my mind, but I don’t have my mum anymore even though she is still alive.

I’m bitter about that, very bitter and very lost.

Is she sat quietly in her room tonight, looking out at the inky blackness of the dark skies, wondering about me? Her daughter?

When she hears a ticking clock, is it just a ticking clock to her? Or does she hear my heartbeat, just as I would wish to imagine I am hearing and feeling and imagining hers.

I’ll never know, will I.

SummerSHINES

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©

 

 

 

POST-CRISIS GRATEFUL

Whenever things build up to crisis point, people become all important. The power is, I suppose, all in the people.

A person or people can often be all it takes to push you to crisis point in the first place, (as just happened) but a person, or in my case the people (in plural) who step in as your helpers, showing they’re there for you, smoothing that path towards equilibrium again- those are the humans I feel grateful for.

People can hurt you, or heal you- such is their diversity. I don’t tolerate hurters and I value my helpers and healers more than I can say. I also value myself and my own ability to sit with difficult feelings and that is a skill that I’m strengthening all the time. 

I did a sharpie scribble last night after my crisis. I focused on what, or rather who I am grateful to. Even when things seem to be a stormy struggle I look for the helpers and the healers. I value their existence, and never ever do I fail to appreciate their impact.

I am blessed with amazing real-world friends. I am blessed with amazing virtual blog friends. I am blessed with my husband, and also blessed with my two children.  I am blessed too with my therapist, and my ex-CPN who has offered to support me next week while my therapist is away. So many people offering their kindness, not because it is ever asked for, but simply because they care and they want to.

Gratitude is a very powerful sensation for me. I experience it in a heart-bursting way. My chest expands, my head tingles, and I feel the happiest butterflies flutter round in my stomach. I often want to weep tears of gratitude, because of the sheer emotional release of it. I guess bursts of gratitude feel very much like positive emotional orgasms! I felt the orgasmic waves of gratitude this morning when I read messages from my friends, ones that they’d sent last night but I’d only just read. I felt it when I cuddled in close to my hubby in the bed we share this morning. I feel it when I look at the summery sky outside my window. I feel it when I get a sudden sense of the presence of my children, within the walls of our home, peacefully sleeping- safe and secure and LOVED. I feel orgasmic waves of gratitude when I feel the refreshing breeze billowing in through the wide open window, reminding me of the movement and the dynamic ever-changing nature of life and how it cycles up and down and all over, rarely remaining still or static, and certainly never dull.

Things can get crap, but they don’t stay crap.  Things can get great, but they don’t stay great. All of life is impermanent, unpredictable, and never remaining the same as the same old. There is no such thing as the ‘same old’.

I know I can deal with crisis. I know I’m not in crisis most of the time. I know how much more stable I am generally, but once particular triggers explode onto the scene, crisis is likely. Every explosion of negative emotion though is followed by an explosion of gratitude, and the gratitude explosions are fortunately far longer-lasting than their crisis counterparts.

I turn my face to the sun and feel grateful. The shadows cast by the humans who hurt barely register, as there is SO MUCH MORE to feel grateful about.

Thank you to those in my life who I’m grateful to have in it. You know who you are, because I tell you, just as you tell me. When gratitude is expressed two-way, it’s bloody awesome!  Two people seperately happy, and even happier when they share their appreciation for each other.

Today I am socially connected with people who care and I know I can count on in a  crisis, and that to me is everything. :)

I am post-crisis grateful to all of you- you know who you are :) 💖💖💖

SummerSHINES ©

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SHADES OF ILL

I woke this morning heavy hearted, and I’ve already idled away some unknown mindless length of time pondering why it is I feel so crap today. I think I’ve finally now worked it out.

I’m not sure if I’m ill or well (mentally/psychologically) and I’m trying to work out which of the two things I am-cause I have to be one or the other don’t I?….surely?

I have BPD. I’m black and white and cognitively inflexible bows

I see the world as either/or. I see myself as either/or. I see you as either/or.

Am I ill? Or am I well? That is my question. This is the issue I personally wrestle with huge amounts and can’t stop wrestling with.  If my therapist were here she’d say “summer- it doesn’t have to be that you’re either well or unwell. You can be shades and variants of both at different times.”

Visualise my inflexible mind exploding at this flexible suggestion. I’m cognitively inflexible, remember!

I’m black OR I’m white. I’m all OR I’m nothing. I’m ill OR I’m well, and there is n.o.t.h.i.n.g  inbetween.

The ‘am I ill or poorly issue’ is a recurring theme in my therapy. I’m sure my mental inflexibility must really annoy her (among other things), because no matter how many times she tells me life isn’t a discrete category of one thing or the other, my mind will just NOT compute this bonkers notion.

When she tells me that there doesn’t have to be a choice made, and that you can be both ill and well at the same time – all you need to do is visualise smoke and steam emanating from the vicinity of my NHS patient chair and that’s a fairly accurate image of how much this blows my tiny mind.

What the actual FUCK?! (is what I silently think). grimace

I will often physically shake my head when she says this flexible-ness, in an attempt to shake my cognitive inflexibility away, just as a wet dog would do shaking muddy water off it’s fur; but try as I might I just CAN’T be cognitively flexible. (Even me saying categorically that I CAN’T be cognitively flexible, is evidence of my categorical inflexibility 😛)

My identity is as black-and-white categorical and discrete as is everything else about me and how I perceive the world.

When I wake each morning I need to work out if I am ill today or well today. There is a logical and understandable reason for this…I have unstable mood, so tracking where I am on that mood continuum is a natural mechanism for keeping my otherwise emotionally chaotic life reasonably ordered and monitored, whether that is illusory control, or real discernible control. It makes sense I guess that I would become hyper vigilant in assessing my mood state regularly, given that I’ve already had such a long battle with my mental health. But my whole personality and self identity changes with every variation in my functioning and mood, and that is the BPD bit of it.

I am ill me, till I am well me, but I can never ever be ‘indifferent me.’ I just can’t do indifference, or vague watered down approximations of X shades of greyness. I am either ill or poorly. Job done. Truth. Yes?……no? Choose one of the other. You MUST choose.

‘Both is just not an option’ commands my brain.

The difficult to handle cognitive dissonance aspect (internal stress at incompatible ideas), rears it’s head when people react to me as if I am ill at times when I perceive myself as well, OR when people respond me me as a “normal person”, assuming I’m well, when inside I feel shite.

If people suppose I’m ill when I feel well I feel……….pissed off.

If people treat me as a well person when I actually truthfully feel ill, I feel……….. like a freakish fraud who is pretending to be what I’m not and not benefiting from any assistance at dealing with this BPD mood monster that lives inside me.

Why don’t they see how unwell I feel? I ask myself. Nine times out of ten though it’s my own responsibility, because I don’t like to tell them how I really feel because that feels too exposing and difficult for me to do. I seem to spend most of my life either concealing my illness and silently resenting that people are treating me as a normal person when I feel not normal (in other words not treating me differently because of my illness, which is on the face of it, good) OR getting frustrated that people can’t seemingly view me as a capable happy shiny person when I’m well, but instead seem to perceive me as a loose cannon who needs patronising mental health warnings and concerns over keeping myself well and looking after myself (kindness on their part granted, but fucking irritating from my perspective).

Do you follow? I’m as confused as you are believe me.

I’m rarely satisfied. But that may just be down to me and how I manage my illness and communicate it to people…… People can’t win with me I suppose, because I’m a continually fluctuating beast. My psychiatrist said to me on our last sesh that mental health services didn’t know how to respond to me in a way that I find consistently helpful because when I feel good I impatiently want them to forget that I’ve ever been ill and want them to trust that I’m now well and will be forever well (which is unrealistic) OR I want them to be there for me nurturing and caring and supporting the very moment I feel unwell to avoid me feeling vulnerable and emotionally uncontained (which is unrealistic because I’ve just been trying to convince them I’m well now and don’t need wrapping in cotton wool, so the professionals have backed off by this point). When she said this, it stung, because Dr Cautious actually had a point there, and it’s deeply threatening whenever people point out the truth.

I feel most of my life I’m either pandered to for my illness when I actually feel well, OR not pandered to when I actually feel unwell. My response was that I wanted them to be more flexible, and listen to me when I say I am well or unwell and respond accordingly. But really, maybe the onus should be more on me to be more flexible and communicate more effectively. Who is right? Who is wrong? Can the professionals and me both be right and wrong in different aspects?

BOOOOOM smoke billows from my cognitively inflexible brain

Is the difficulty actually not about them, and  instead in how I communicate about myself about my relative illness or wellness? squints in full concentration

Who the hell am I? Am I ill or poorly? And how can other humans know how best to treat me and perceive me when my swings from illness to wellness are so unpredictable and so continual and so bloody intense?

My psychiatrist used to see me a few months apart and the differences in how I [psych speak] “present” to her, are so vastly different that imagining I am the same patient must be a stretch for her. It’s the same with my therapist who I see weekly. How the fuck can she prepare for an appointment with me in advance?! She has no bloody idea what she’s in for! I could be rock bottom, I could be bouncy and vibrant with a flight of ideas, or I could be quiet and reflective. Sometimes I’m friendly. Sometimes I’m reserved. Sometimes I barely speak and mainly listen. Sometimes she can never shut me up. Sometimes I feel I don’t need her. Sometimes I want to cling on for dear life. I can also be both well and ill in one therapy session, just as I can be be both very ill and perfectly well within one sodding day. Sometimes only minutes apart. I can be capable and confident and smiley then weeping and crumbling and drowning half an hour later, but I don’t communicate those extremes to people as quite frankly, I’m ashamed of it.

I allow people to visibly see a small fraction of my mood swings. I conceal the rest until I’m alone. It is perfectly possible for me to attend a meeting all smiles and then cry the whole drive home at the sheer effort of hiding for that hour or two of the day that I’m honestly feeling really bloody awful. If I authentically was myself in all situations in all moments, I predict I would not socially survive. I would have no friends and would barely achieve anything (so I imagine anyway, so the fear of that possibility leads me to protect myself via altering my behaviours).

Mood swing concealment is an art I have become a seasoned expert at.

Minimisation is my super power. Even if I say to someone “I’m not feeling great today”, what I actually mean invariably is far worse than that. What I tend to actually feel on days I admit I’m ‘not great’ is closer to this…….

“Today I badly want to self harm to soothe the internal agony I’m feeling. Today I am pretty much questioning my entire existence on this planet, believing myself to be an inept useless piece of crap who I should destroy for the benefit of humanity. Today all I can foresee is my future as a stretch of everlasting endless psychological pain. I’ve wanted to die more or less since I was born, and today just trying and succeeding in not hurting myself is about as good as it gets. If I can get through the day not giving into those self-destructive urges then that’s about the best I can hope for. Fingers crossed I keep myself safe.”  

But I don’t say that! Because the mentally ill truth isn’t socially palatable, is it?

 If I actually said in response to the “how are you” question, “well, I’m actually battling suicidal urges today- how are you!” or “I’m very keen to self-harm today and using any technique I can to distract myself but hopefully I’ll manage to keep myself self-harm free and add another link to my no self-harm paper-chain,” I doubt anyone would ever speak to me again!

So sometimes I have to hide my illness and play down my symptoms, only to end up feeling horrible when I’m alone again feeling all the ill and crap stuff juxtaposed with the mental confusion of having been treated as a well person just a short time earlier, because I presented to them as a well person! My fault though isn’t it. Or society’s I suppose.

Note to self- It’s easier to blame society. Good plan summerSHINES ;)

It’s tough. I’m low. This sucks. I’m trying not to be down though because I’m too busy right now to be depressed. The timing is inconvenient. sigh If I could wave a magic wand I’d want to be allowed to be ill when I’m ill, and well when I’m well, and people take me as I am in real time. It’s hard for them though, and for me. I need to figure out how to manage my differing shades of illness and wellness.

If anyone had some wisdom to share on the ill/well continuum do please throw it at me in the comments section as I’m a bit bamboozled and confused as to what I do. If you have a mental health condition which fluctuates in severity, how do you manage this issue? Do you have seperate ill and poorly identities as I do? Do you communicate fully to people the extent of your downs as well as your ups? How do you react when people treat you as ‘well’ when you’re ill, or ‘ill’ when you actually feel well? Am I the only one wo struggles with this?

Wisdom appreciated, please!!

summerSHINES ©