Mental Health

Small ways to support someone with a mental illness

I totally appreciate it isn’t easy to support your loved ones when they are in mental distress. I have friends and family with mental illness and know I often feel flustered and unsure what to say or do for the best, even though I’ve experienced it myself.

My previous blog gives you some go to phrases to help, but now I want to focus on the small little actions that can really brighten someone’s day. They don’t have to cost a lot, or even involve a lot of effort, but they can make a huge difference.

  • Send them a message – not a tweet or a Facebook comment, an actual direct, personal message, even if it just says ‘thinking of you,’ it means so much more than a comment
  • Accept it if they don’t text back – it probably isn’t personal. They might just need some headspace or not have the words right now.
  • Send them a funny gif, video, joke, etc.
  • Give them a hug
  • Offer to go for a walk with them, or even to just sit inside and watch TV
  • Listen if they want to talk, try not to judge or dismiss
  • Cook for them
  • Paint their nails
  • Make them a self-care package (facemasks, chocolate, and cream, whatever they like! It doesn’t need to be expensive – Poundland sell all of these things)
  • Bring them chocolate!
  • Watch their favourite TV show with them
  • Play a board game
  • Have a long phone call
  • Send them motivational songs to listen to
  • Suggest a good book
  • Make them a hot drink
  • Offer to go to the doctor with them
  • Have a duvet day – blankets, pillows, pyjamas, popcorn, films
  • Read magazines together
  • Do some colouring together
  • Send them a card/postcard – via the post, not an online one!
  • Go window shopping
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Reminisce
  • Spend time with animals
  • Go to your favourite park/coffee shops/book store
  • Buy them a book/give them a copy of one you love
  • Send them a subscription box, (a BuddyBox is great for someone with low mood)
  • Bake them something, or just watch old episodes of Bake Off on Netflix!
  • Go to an arcade
  • Watch silly Youtube videos
  • Give them a compliment (ideally one not based on their appearance)
  • Do some crafts together
  • Have a picnic, even if it’s in your garden!
  • Try something new together – a class, knitting, whatever you feel like!
  • Watch a film you’ve wanted to see for ages
  • Cry together
  • Explore part of your local area
  • Get dressed up for no reason
  • Order a takeaway together
  • Send them flowers

 

If you have any suggestions of your own drop them in a comment!

Lorna

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borderline personality disorder · Mental Health · Personality Disorders

Valentines: How BPD impacts on my relationship

I’ve been in a stable relationship with my boyfriend Craig for 3 and a half years. We met via Tinder (cringe!) and quickly became a couple. I had already been diagnosed with BPD a few months before we met, and I told him about it early on. Not surprisingly, BPD has played a significant role in our relationship, and I wanted to highlight the good and bad ways it has manifested. Obviously, I’m not going to go too personal here, and I like to keep my relationship private. And I’m only really talking about my own behaviours, not those of my partner, as obviously I can’t speak for him.

THE GOOD

  • Passion: anyone who knows much about BPD knows it leads sufferers to feel emotions intensely. This can be positive within a relationship. I fell in love very quickly, and have always committed 100% to our relationship.
  • Compassion: having BPD means I have a ridiculous ability to experience empathy. When my partner has been through hard times I have literally felt the pain in my bones. I have been able to provide him with support and validation for his emotional experiences, even at times when I haven’t had solutions for his problems.
  • Perceptive: Partly due to my BPD, and partly my previous career as an assistant psychologist, I pride myself on being emotionally perspective. I am able to acknowledge themes in conversations/behaviours. Again, this adds to my ability to be in tune with my partner and his needs.
  • Intensity: Similar to passion, I feel all emotions intensely. This means during good times, I am able to commit and be present in the moment with my partner. Goofing around with him feels like heaven!
  • Safety: Being around my partner, who is by his nature very protective and loving, is one of the first times in my life I have felt safe. I feel I always have someone in my corner.

THE BAD

  • Fear of abandonment: I have this chronic feeling that I do not deserve my partner and that he could do better. This means I spend a lot of time expecting him to leave me and panicking about this. Obviously, this can be exhausting for him.
  • Seeking reassurance: due to my fears of abandonment, I often seek repeated reassurance from my partner, that he loves me and is committed to me, which again, can really grate. I also seek reassurance on my emotional reactions, as I struggle to identify if they are appropriate or a BPD response.
  • Overreacting: my intense experiences of emotions and fears about rejection mean I often overreact to small arguments or disagreements, whereby they feel like the end of the world. This can often leave my partner feeling he has to tread on eggshells to avoid an explosion.
  • Black and white: Black and white thinking in BPD is hard to manage. With my partner, I often feel he loves or, during arguments, hates me when really he experiences a whole spectrum of emotions towards me. I can be hard for him when to be painted in such a black and white manner and feel invalidating to his emotions when I suggest this.

 

But largely, our relationship works well, and the intensity and passion I feel mean the negatives are hugely outweighed by the positives. I am incredibly happy and fortunate to be with someone who understands my behaviours and their origins. I want to reassure any fellow BPD sufferers you absolutely can be in a steady, functional relationship with BPD.

Lorna

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Mental Health · Mental Health Stigma · Team Young Champions

Time to Talk Day: How One Conversation Saved my Life

On 25 April 2013, I had an argument with one of my housemates at university. She’d cut in front of me and gone in the bathroom as I was walking there and I jokingly said “you bitch.” She didn’t take this as a joke and got really mad at me, refusing to speak to me. No big deal, right? Small little thing, easily fixed? Wrong.

This small misunderstanding resulted in what I can really only describe as a total breakdown on my part. I literally locked myself away in my bedroom and didn’t leave for over 24 hours. I didn’t eat, drink, sleep or use the toilet. I just cried.

You see, I’d been feeling increasingly unwell over the months leading up to this event, although I kept pretending I was fine. Living with my friends had been hard, and we’d become more distant than I had expected due to the general stresses of living together. When we first moved in together, things had been great, we’d spent nights laughing, singing and talking about boys, but slowly things changed. We began spending less time together, instead being on campus smashing out assignments in the 24-hour library or in the city with friends. I found this hard, I’d made fewer friends than my housemates, as I’ve always been more comfortable with a much smaller group of close friends, and suddenly felt isolated.

As a result, I began avoiding going home too. I would go to the library late at night, pretending to be working on assignments, and head straight to bed when I got in. I began using the gym as a means to avoid going home too, getting up at 6.30am to go there before heading to campus, and going a second time to avoid heading home at the end of the day. I began isolating myself when I was at home, and spent most of my time alone in my room. I began avoiding the kitchen, our main communal area, as I hated having to make awkward chit chat, skipping meals altogether. I was struggling to sleep, spending nights awake, thoughts racing, unable to relax.

So by the time this incident took place, I was seriously unwell. I hardly spent time with anyone, instead spending most of my time sitting in my room with headphones in. I struggled to leave my room if I thought my housemates were in, as I felt crippling anxiety and paranoia that they hated me and wished I was dead.

It’s hardly surprising then that a friend being overtly upset with me caused me such distress. I spent the night panicked, unsure of how to continue living like this, how to get through my up-coming exams, and how to tell my mum how much I was struggling. I considered ending my life to have to avoid all of these things.

But then something else happened. The following morning, a friend from our original first-year house came over. I can’t remember exactly if I’d spoken to her, or if my housemates asked her to come, concerned about me. She came into my room, and I remember her handing me chocolate and asking when I last ate properly. I had no idea. Days had blurred so much over the past few months I really wasn’t sure. She asked me what had happened, and I explained, crying as if it was the end of the world. When I finished she looked at me, compassion in her eyes, and said: “you need to go home.” I was confused, why?! It was a fight, no big deal really. She told me she thought I wasn’t well, and needed to go home and get my head sorted. I laughed and said I had exams coming up and didn’t have time. She got firmer then. She reminded me that my health was more important, and even if I went through with my exams I could revise at home. She grabbed my suitcase off the wardrobe and began packing it.

And actually, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.

I’d be hiding how much I was struggling for years, certainly most of that year, and I needed someone to call me out. She backed me into a corner where I had no choice but to accept how unwell I was and to finally seek help. As harsh at it seems, I am so bloody thankful she did that. She drove me to the station, helped me buy a ticket and I headed home. Less than a week later I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and finally felt that I might actually be able to recover from all this.

Without that conversation, without my friend having the guts to start that conversation, I honestly believe I may have attempted to take my own life at university. I desperately feared letting my family back home down, and them thinking badly of me for ‘failing’ at university. I was the first person in my family to go, and I wanted people to be proud of me. I couldn’t see a way out, and was too scared to ask for help. I pushed my feelings away and kept denying any issues, even to myself. But my friend’s words were a wake-up call. How I was feeling wasn’t normal stress, and wasn’t just going to go away on its own. I needed help.

It wasn’t easy for her. I don’t doubt that. In hindsight, I’m sure my housemates and friends had suspected things weren’t right for a while and didn’t know what to do. But it only took one to say something for my entire life to change. Because of her words, I was able to recover. So, Emily, I want to publicly thank you for what you did that day nearly 6 years ago. Because I genuinely believe, and always will, that you saved my life. And I will always be eternally grateful for that.

So this Time to Talk Day, and beyond, please keep talking about mental health. Because breaking down those barriers and having the courage to speak really does change lives.

Lorna

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Mental Health · Personality Disorders

When the day breaks…

When I was 19, I suffered a breakdown whilst studying for my degree in psychology at the University of Bath. I’ll talk more about this in a future blog, but I want to share the story of something that happened 48 hours beforehand.

I went to a concert at the Thekla, a boat in Bristol harbour which acts as a music venue. I had gone to see an act called Ryan Keen, who I had seen previously as a support act for Ed Sheeran, pre-Sheeran’s superstar status.

I was really unwell at this point but in total denial. I was battling with paranoia, depression, anxiety and severe insomnia. I was struggling in my shared house and had begun skipping meals and over-exercising. I heard about the gig last minute and asked a friend if she wanted to go, hoping some normal social interaction might snap me out of it. It didn’t.

I have almost no recollection of the concert, and now know I was severely dissociated the whole time. I felt completely disconnected from my body and the world around me and was emotionally numb.

Just at the end of the concert, a song came on. Somehow, despite my daze, it’s words began to penetrate my bubble, and I was brought flooding back to reality. I felt a lump in my throat and an instant connection to the words.

6 months down the line, having suspended my degree and spiralled further into mental illness I had the following words etched onto my ribs…

Keep your eyes on the horizon

The changes come in waves

You’ll be alright

When the day breaks.

I rarely listen to this song now, but each time I do I feel overwhelmed with emotions I can’t quite articulate. I feel the despair and confusion I felt that night, and the hope those words gave me to bring me back.

If you are interested, the song is available here.

Lorna

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Mental Health

Review: 2girls0fucks – THE PILOT

Disclaimer:
Okay, so Anneli and Ida put out a second episode before I chance to finish this, and I can’t be arsed to write a whole new review – I was already halfway through this. So…I’m going to crack on with my review of the PILOT EPISODE of 2girls0fucks regardless. #SORRYNOTSORRY

Actual Review:

For those of you who don’t know, 2girls0fucks is a brand new podcast by the amazing Anneli Roberts and Ida Vaisanen, two incredible mental health campaigners. But, the podcast has nothing to do with mental health whatsoever. It’s just two friends talking shit and recording it. I love this in and of itself. It’s a great reminder that even those with mental health issues are completely normal, hilarious, slightly sinister people. We’re just like you too!

I was so fortunate to get a sneak-peak of this, and I still couldn’t write a review quick enough, because my dumb job got in the way. I may quit. That’s beside the point. The point is 2girls0fucks launched this week, and it is FUCKING HILARIOUS.

I kinda think Anneli and Ida are just my internal monologue that someone has recorded and sent to me for a joke. It’s brutal and bitchy, and all those amazing traits we all secretly love. I kept going back and forth as to who was more brutal, and each time I did the other came out with a cracking line. My favourites include “some of you are fucking idiots…most of you are shit at this game…mainstream as fuck.” I mean, how you can hate an audience you don’t even have yet is beyond me but it kinda just makes me want to make them like me and come up with the weirdest crush imaginable…JIMMY SAVILLE?! (I totally don’t fancy Jimmy Saville, obvs, but I’ll pretend too if it makes me one of the “good” players).

Another personal fave moment was Ida’s sassy response to this:
“We need to stop insulting people…”
“Why? Oh, you’re nice, Anneli is the nice one…”

Anyyyyy who. This show is properly dark and hilarious. The banter is on point, and the story of essentially stalking James Acaster will make you fear for the man’s life. I feel slightly creepy commenting on the relationship between Anneli and Ida, that’s their business. But please go and listen to this. It’s so hilarious. It made me laugh out loud so hard, and kinda makes me have a #weirdcrush on the two of them!

Please go check it out here – 2girls0fucks and remember…

pod

2girls0fucks – 5/5!

Lorna

anorexia · eating disorder · Mental Health

A dangerous game…

Deep within the valley’s of the Shropshire hills is a small nursing home. When I was 19 I began working there, initially as a cleaner before accepting a full-time contract as a carer when I suspended my degree. I worked there for my entire year off, whilst I was fully in the grips of depression, anxiety and anorexia.

Now aged 25, and with a psychology degree in hand, I have returned to this home, having left my job in forensic psychology. I had no real worries about returning to this home, I always enjoyed working there, and it meant I could work part-time and still have more money than I did when I was renting a house and working in the city.

What I hadn’t even considered was the triggering impact returning would have.

You see, hidden under a set of staff stairs within this home is a set of scales, used to weigh residents in wheelchairs. Care staff have to carefully monitor the weight of elderly residents to ensure they are well. I, however, used to use these scales, and these scales alone (my mum hid hers when she realised how unwell I was), to excess when I was unwell. During the course of a 12-hour shift, I would weigh myself up to 20 times a day. In fact, I couldn’t walk past them without going on them, to see if the number had gone down. I always remember watching it decrease day by day and feeling an overwhelming buzz knowing I was finally getting smaller.  I would weigh myself before and after my 30-minute lunch break hoping each time that skipping food had been effective.

Seeing these scales again took me by surprise. I had forgotten all about them. Forgotten the fear and excitement I felt each time I placed my feet on them, desperate to see a smaller number than last time. When I saw them I felt my heart skip. I felt so much connection to this inanimate object like it was an old friend. And this old friend was inviting me to play our favourite game.

Immediately I wanted to hop straight back on, despite not having weighed myself in years, and to see if I could make the number drop by the end of my shift.

“It’ll be okay”

“I can just check, see if I still can…”

“I won’t relapse…I’ll be in control this time…”

“It’s just fun…”

“I’ll be fine…”

But it won’t. All of these thoughts remind me just how quickly my anorexic brain can return, in full force, and try to convince me to go back to that hellish place. Anorexia tricks you into thinking she is harmless when she is anything but. She makes you feel like once you reach that ‘perfect’ weight you’ll be able to stop but you won’t.

Anorexia invited me to play a dangerous game and I nearly fell for it. But the love of some amazing people, online and off, reminded me of how hard I fought her, and why and I proudly avoided my old friend.

Associations are powerful things, and it amazed me how quickly such a mundane object has impacted my mental state. But it has also served as a reminder that recovery may never end; it remains something I work at daily, even when I don’t realise it, and I am damn proud to maintain it.

Lorna

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borderline personality disorder · Mental Health · Personality Disorders

How to validate someone’s feelings

Have you ever been told how you feel is wrong? Perhaps someone told you not to be “silly” when you felt anxious, or to “cheer up” when you were upset? It is the worst feeling in the world when all you want is someone to understand and instead they make you feel like an idiot for feeling the way you do.

When you have BPD, this invalidation can be particularly difficult to cope with. In fact, it’s likely what got you in this mess in the first place! BPD sufferers are likely to have experienced repeated invalidation in early life, and as a result never quite know if how they feel is ‘valid’ or ‘appropriate’ and spend loads of time second-guessing even the most legitimate emotional responses.

So I’ve compiled a list of things to say that don’t invalidate people’s feelings. Use these when the people in your life need support. If you don’t have advice, someones one of these statements can be more than enough to help someone feel better. The trick is even if you don’t agree with the person’s feelings, not to tell them how they feel is wrong. Because really our emotions can’t be wrong – it’s just how we feel!

So here goes:

  • I understand why you feel like that
  • That makes sense
  • I can see your feeling [sad, angry, hurt…]
  • That must have been [frightening, upsetting, difficult…]
  • I hear you…
  • I’m sorry that happened
  • I’m sorry that situation made you feel [sad, hurt, angry…]
  • I’m here for you
  • How can I help you with this?
  • You’re doing the best you can
  • It sounds like you’re…[lonely, sad, missing someone]
  • I believe you
  • You’re not alone
  • It wasn’t your fault
  • I’ve felt like that too
  • It’s normal to feel like that
  • Feeling [sad, hurt, mad…] is okay
  • Yeah, I get that
  • How frustrating/awful/difficult etc.
  • This must be hard for you
  • I think I’d feel the same in your situation
  • That does sound tough
  • I can see why that hurt you
  • No wonder you’re upset
  • Tell me more
  • So if I understand correctly…
  • That sucks
  • I don’t know what to say, but I feel your pain

And tonnes more.

These words have changed how I feel in some really dark times. I hope you find them helpful. Please comment with any others you find helpful too!

Lorna

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