Going to A&E in a mental health crisis – my experience

Trigger warning: Before you read, be aware that there are detailed descriptions of mental illness and mentions of self harm in this, so if you feel you’ll be negatively affected, don’t read.

I’ve had to go to the emergency department multiple times, in periods of acute illness. For the first few times, it was because of suicide attempts, but recently I’ve had to go because I couldn’t keep myself safe and neither could my parents.

The most recent time was about a month ago. I had self harmed and was experiencing what I can only describe as a lot of fucking pain. Every thought in my head hurt, and being alive hurt even more. I literally couldn’t take a second without hitting myself, scratching myself or any other form of self harm you can think of. I wasn’t crying – I couldn’t. I became nothing and everything all at once. I wouldn’t let anyone touch me and I could barely speak. I was horribly agitated and my mind was clouded by delusions and paranoia. That evening, I went to A&E with my mum.

Generally, I get seen by one of the triage nurses quite fast, which by A&E waiting time standards, is an hour or less. It’s usually about half an hour but, of course, it depends on how busy the department is at the time. Waiting isn’t the hard part. When in the triage room, either me or my mum had to explain everything, which is hard to hear at the best of times. This increased my agitation and I was given a bed/ room in the department quite quickly. Only twice have I been admitted to a general ward in the hospital, and last month was one of those times. Before this, though, I am usually seen by a doctor and the on-site adult psych team. Of course, because I’m under 18, they can’t make any real decisions and I have to stay overnight until the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) liaison nurse comes to assess me. This is the worst, because you’re in an unfamiliar environment, with babies crying more often than not. It’s rare to get a good night’s sleep and relatively easy to harm yourself.

In the morning, the nurse will come to assess your state. Last month, I was still very unwell and she mentioned the possibility of hospital, although she was very hesitant and made it clear that beds are very hard to be found, so it was unlikely for me to be admitted. I don’t really know if hospitalisation would have helped, and luckily I never have been. I stayed for the night again, and she came to see me the next day. By then, I’d calmed down slightly, which was reassuring.

I went home soon afterwards, and had a follow up appointment from my psychiatrist within a week. She wasn’t much help – she took me off my medication and I wasn’t receiving any counselling (and still am not). I find my therapist too blunt and not very helpful at all, and she increases my agitation and anger problems, so I stopped going to see her. Therefore, I don’t completely blame CAMHS for the lack of therapy, but I am bitter about practically being left to fend for myself in a period of intense illness. Since then, my self harm and suicidal thoughts/behaviours have just worsened and I am at a loss for places to look for help.

I guess I’m just trying to function until August/September, when my DBT will start. However, that’s a long way away and I’m uncertain about how the next few months are going to work.

Sorry for the overall depressing post – I’ll update soon with a post about some songs I listen to when in different moods, and my overall relationship with music.

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Expressing feelings through art, literature and music

For a long time, there has been some sort of relationship between the arts and mental distress. Many famous writers and painters have suffered from mental illnesses in their time, and the link is common. The question I find myself asking is: does the disorder cause the creativity or does the creativity cause the disorder? I don’t think there’s a straight answer to this, and I don’t think it’s a very good question to ask at all. In my opinion, if someone happens to be an emotionally sensitive person, for whatever reason, they are almost bound to have more mental struggle. However, with sensitivity can come great artwork, as it captures rawness and reality. I’m trying to keep that as vague as I can though, because I am very aware that not everyone with a mental illness enjoys art, and not everyone who enjoys art has a mental illness.

Here is a list of famous artists (including music and writing) who are said to have suffered from mental illness:

  1. Vincent Van Gogh. As most people know, Van Gogh was said to have suffered from various mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder with psychosis. He committed suicide at the age of 37, in 1890.
  2. Ludwig Van Beethoven. Similarly to Van Gogh, Beethoven is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder. He was also an extreme alcoholic, and died from liver disease.
  3. Sylvia Plath. Plath’s depression is very common knowledge, as she reflects on it in her book The Bell Jar, and many of her poems, the most famous being Lady Lazarus. She attempted suicide in 1953 and succeeded in a second attempt in 1963.
  4. Michelangelo. He was said to have had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  5. Elton John. The famous musician suffered from bulimia, which went untreated for 16 years until he sought help.
  6. Virginia Woolf. The famous author also had bipolar disorder, leading to her suicide at the age of 59.

As you might be able to tell, I could go on for a while. Personally, I’m terrible at art, but (obviously) love writing, and also play a lot of music. Many people I know or have been friends with have experienced mental illness, and the majority of them are extremely talented in some section of the arts.

This is not to say that only artists can have mental illness, as I said before. There are a lot of famous scientists and mathematicians with speculated mental disorders, such as John Nash (see the book/film A Beautiful Mind), Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

“Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I’ve a call.” An extract from Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath.

Blogging with an illness

Any sort of illness, either physical or mental, can be hard to speak up about. It’s hard to spread your message without a fear of judgement, stigma and disapproval. Of course, this is hard with a physical illness, but in this case I have to say that people with mental disorders have it worse. The stigma around us is unreal, and our illness is in our heads, and affects our thought processes.

Every time I press publish on here, I’m filled with worry and regret. I worry about it not getting any readers. I worry about it getting too many readers, and me feeling too exposed. I can’t help but feel that I’m being watched by a scrutinising, callous public and that by doing this, I’m revealing myself and it won’t end well. It’s probably a good thing to face my fears of rejection, but it wouldn’t be healing if I actually did get rejected. This blog is mostly healing, but there is so much stress attached to it, like most things in life.

I’m not going to stop writing, nor am I going to become more vague in my posts. I really think I should do this, however hard I’m fighting myself to stop. Even though it triggers unnecessary anger and stress, I really really like writing. It feels validating somehow.

Goodnight x

Things to do if you’re off school because of mental illness

This post will be beneficial for me as well as for everyone else (hopefully), so I’m really looking forward to writing this and coming up with ideas.

At the moment, my day consists of waking up at midday and doing nothing for the whole day, with maybe an occasional cycle ride or trip to the shops. Some of this is because of my mental state, but I’ll admit that there are some times where I feel up to going and doing something but I just can’t get myself to do it/ think of anything to do. Also, if anyone has anything they want to add, leave a comment or email me, and I can add to this post with your name and contribution!

If you’re feeling affected by your illness:

1. Watch a TV show. It’s best to keep your mind occupied on something external 🙂

2. Take a bath or shower if you can!

See more on ways to lift your mood in my post on coping mechanisms.

If you’re at a loss for things to do:

• Make a plan for each day when you wake up. This way, you can plan your day around your mood and it allows for flexibility.

• On your plan, something which would be good to regularly include is exercise. Whichever form appeals to you, even if it’s a dance session in your bedroom. If you’re not at school, you’re probably not moving about as much as you would, and it really improves your mental health in both the long term and short term!

• Start a diary. This’ll be a great way to vent and track your progress/ find the reasons or triggers for relapses. Remember that it’s hard to stick to something if you have an illness such as depression, bipolar, ADHD and pretty much everything else, so don’t blame yourself if you can’t stick to it and make regular entries. I made a diary a while ago and did it religiously for a while, but haven’t updated it for a week – I know that when I feel better it’s going to be there waiting, and I don’t feel obligated to force myself to write if it won’t help. Look after yourselves ❤

• Engage yourself in music if that’s something you like. Remember you have a lot of free time which could be a huge opportunity to write, practice and explore your instrument!

• Tidy and redecorate your room. It can be nice to have a change of scene, and it’ll leave you feeling more relaxed without clutter around you, if you’re anything like me.

• Remember that even though you’re not in school, everything’s a learning experience. If you can, immerse yourself in books and nature and follow things you’re passionate about. You’re not in school and you have complete freedom to follow anything you’d like!

Ideas from others

  • Tom, @thewiff28 on Instagram: “Work out/ have a project so that you can busy yourself with little tasks/cook/clean/write some music.”
  • Lalou, @laaalou._ on Instagram: “Spend at least an hour a week developing an art project; any type of art. Do something that you look forward to every day (that makes you happy).”

I’ll probably continually add to this post as I think of things, and as I said earlier, I’ll add your ideas too with your name and social media (if you’d like).

To add an idea, go to the ‘Contact Me’ section of my website and I’ll get back to you.

Have an amazing day xx

Dissociation

It’s 1am and I can’t sleep, so I thought this’d be a good thing to write about as it’s been preying on my mind. In this, I won’t be talking about dissociative identity disorder as much, as I draw most of my blog ideas from personal experience and I wouldn’t be able to write about it. For more information on it click here.

Dissociation, in psychiatry, is feeling separated from your physical and/or emotional being. There are different types of dissociation, the two most talked about being derealisation and depersonalisation. Derealisation is a state in which you feel as if the world around you is not real, and depersonalisation is when you feel that you are not real, or that you are watching yourself through a screen. As you can imagine, the two often happen together.

Personally, I have both of these and it’s at its worst when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. For example, if I’m in a busy place such as a high street with lots of noise, I can dissociate. For me, it is like watching your life through a TV screen. The world becomes blurred and foggy, and I struggle to concentrate. Sometimes, I become convinced that I’m not real and will take dangerous risks, such as walking across busy roads without really noticing the dozens of cars, partly because I don’t notice them and partly because I believe I couldn’t be in danger if I’m not real. That’s when it starts to get dangerous for me, really. But mostly, it’s zoning out in a stressful environment, which can be anything from school to a FaceTime call, and then forgetting hours at a time and feeling completely cut off from reality.

I haven’t really talked to any therapist in depth about it. They’ve all said it’s a coping technique I’ve developed over the years to numb emotional pain, and now I can’t get rid of it, but no one’s actually told me ways to get rid of it. Maybe it’s better this way, and my completely emotional self would just be too much for myself and everyone around me. I don’t know, and I have no way of knowing until I sort it out. On my post about coping mechanisms, I did include a couple of techniques to ease dissociation which I do use occasionally, but sometimes I’m not aware I’m doing it – I’m just convinced I’m not real, and my mind can’t make the link in the fragile state it’s in. Obviously it passes, since I’m able to write about it right now with a lot of depth.

Anyway, this post has been quite deep and very therapeutic, maybe because it’s almost 2am now and I’m tired and emotional. Have a good day ❤

My experience day by day

This post will probably be quite hard to write, as I’ll talk about things very personal to me. However, I will still write it because I partly need to do it for myself and I partly want to do it for other people. I hope you enjoy 🙂

Right now, my day isn’t filled with very much, which is probably a bad thing – I have a lot of time to think about myself and overthink everything. I also have a problem with even recalling feeling an emotion after I’ve felt it, such as being dangerously low for a couple of hours and then suddenly switching to happy again and going “Wtf there was no problem I’m so great I Love Life” and I genuinely believe it, forgetting everything I’ve felt for the whole afternoon. I’ve come to realise this through my mood journal and because of this it’s going to make it quite hard to actually give an accurate description of what my day is like, although I’ll try my best based on my mood journal, what others tell me and the bits I do remember.

When I wake up, I never know how I’m going to feel. I can’t even say what my mood is the majority of the time, because it’s so unpredictable. It can range from feeling numb and spaced out (dissociation), feeling euphoric, being intensely angry, being really low or just nothing at all, if I’m lucky. These emotions will probably change once or twice during the day, but I have days when I’m all of them at the same time (sounds impossible but trust me) or switching rapidly. On top of all that, each emotion is felt intensely and painfully, making them really hard to deal with. As you can imagine, this is really fucking exhausting and generally leads to me withdrawing completely. My psychiatrist calls this severe emotional dysregulation, but hasn’t really explained further. I guess it doesn’t really need explaining as I’ve done it quite well. This is mostly the reason why I’m not in school anymore, because if you add social interaction on top of that it’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve been referred to dialectical behavioural therapy, but won’t start that for a few months.

My diagnosis used to be major depression, but it’s recently changed. To what, I’m not sure of exactly, but emotional dysregulation is a part of it. I think now my depression’s lifted, all my underlying problems are being revealed. It’s a bit like picking up a huge rock, only to see the hundreds of bugs crawling underneath it. Except in this case I think it’s just one or two massive beetles. In the DBT service they’ll clarify whether or not it’s emerging borderline personality disorder, which is good.

Apart from that, life’s pretty good and I do have a lot to be grateful for. I have a nice house with a garden, an amazing family and a supportive network around me (although not at the moment to be honest). I also have an adorable golden retriever who’s actually the love of my life, no argument.

Have a good day!

Having a family member with a mental illness

Hey, I’ll probably update regularly because I’m off school because of my mental illness, so I have a lot of free time.

My family has a history of mental illness – exactly what, I can’t say for sure. My grandpa on my mums side shot himself a year ago, after a lifetime of uncontrollable anger and abuse towards his loved ones. It’s hard to think about. My mum thinks he either had depression or bipolar disorder, but it’s difficult to say. My mum then acquired PTSD from her childhood as well as depression. Whether she would’ve developed depression if her childhood had been stable is hard to know, but I’d like to think that she wouldn’t have.

I think genes are obviously a contributing factor, as you can see from my family, but environmental factors are definitely equally as important. My situation was nowhere near as bad as my mums, but throughout my childhood I had to deal with my younger sister having a complicated physical illness and all the attention being on her whilst trying to make sense of my mums difficult mood swings. I also had a unhealthy, slightly unstable relationship with my best friend throughout primary school, often coming home in tears. On top of being an extremely emotional child, I think it all got to me a bit too much.

My sister was very unwell when she was born, and had to spend a lot of time in hospital. I was two and a half, and probably didn’t know anything apart from the fact that my mummy had gone. That was all I really knew in my subconscious I think, because I had a strong dislike for my sister until I was about 10 or 11 and grew up a bit. When she was five, and I was seven, she had a huge operation, which I won’t go into details of. All I’ll say is it allows her to live a normal life with little complication, which is amazing. However, she was ill for years afterwards, and I didn’t receive the emotional attention I really needed.

I am saying all this purely to try and make sense of where my problems are rooted, not to try and gain sympathy or anything. I know there are so many people who’ve had it worse, and that my childhood was relatively happy.

In the next post I think I’ll talk about my symptoms and day to day experiences. Have a good day x

Coping Strategies for different situations

Here are some of the strategies I’ve written down at the back of my journal to help me through difficult times. Some of them I’ve taken from Mind’s website, but I’ve added quite a few myself as well as a couple of extra sections. Hope you all like it! If anyone has suggestions, contact me and I’ll add it with your name ❤

If you feel angry, frustrated or restless:

  1. Rip up a newspaper
  2. Punch a pillow (generic but it helps, trust me)
  3. Smash ice cubes into a bathtub
  4. Go for a walk, run or any form of exercise
  5. Listen to upbeat/angry music
  6. Snap a ruler in half – Lalou, @laaalou._ on Instagram
  7. Go boxing – Lalou
  8. Try and read – Lalou

If you feel depressed, sad or lonely:

  1. Wrap up in a blanket and watch a comedy
  2. Write your feelings on paper and tear the paper up
  3. Listen to uplifting music
  4. Exercise
  5. Spend time with a pet 🙂
  6. Phone a friend – Lalou
  7. Read inspirational quotes or stories – Lalou
  8. Read a good book – Lalou

If you feel anxious, panicky or tense:

  1. Make a hot drink and drink it slowly, noticing the taste, smell, the shape of the mug and its weight in your hand
  2. Take 10 deep breaths, counting each one out loud
  3. Take a warm bath or shower
  4. Massage your hands with a nice smelling cream

If you feel spaced out or dissociative:

  1. Chew on a piece of ginger or chilli, or something else with a sharp taste
  2. Clap your hands, noticing the stinging sensation
  3. Drink a glass of ice-cold water
  4. Imagine a safe place
  5. Drink coffee or a hot drink – Lalou

If you feel like self harming:

  1. Rub ice over your skin
  2. Stick tape or a plaster to your skin and peel it off
  3. Take a hot/cold bath
  4. Have something to eat and drink
  5. Tell someone! (see the links at the bottom of the page for extra help)
  6. Sleep on it, and think about how good you’ll feel tomorrow – Lalou

If you feel hypomanic or manic:

  1. Try to sit in a dark room with little stimulus, wrapped up in blankets
  2. Take a nap, if possible
  3. Create a tight schedule to prevent impulsive decisions
  4. Exercise, e.g. go for a run, cycle or go to the gym
  5. Do breathing exercises (click here)
  6. Take any meds you may have been prescribed for this situation

If you feel paranoid or mistrustful:

  1. Take time to question your suspicions thoroughly. For example:
    1. Would people around you agree?
    2. Is there any evidence against your beliefs?
    3. Are your worries based on events that could be viewed in different ways?
    4. Is it possible you could have exaggerated the threat?
  2. Talk to a trusted family member, friend or use a counselling tool or helpline (links will be down below)
  3. Use calming techniques seen in the above sections
  4. If you feel you can, try and remove precautionary measures and see how it goes

If you feel suicidal:

  1. Reward yourself for every 5 minute chunk you get through without harming yourself
  2. Remove all sharp items or potentially dangerous items from your reach, or ask someone you trust to do it for you
  3. Talk to and spend time with people if you do not live alone, and it is beneficial to do so
  4. Call any of the listed helplines below
  5. Make a list of reasons not to die today, and why you didn’t die any other day, no matter how small the reasons may be
  6. If you think you’re in immediate danger from yourself, go to your local accident and emergency department.

Helplines and helpful websites:

Samaritans (116 123). A 24-hour service for people of all ages.

Childline (0800 1111). A 24-hour service for under 18s. The Childline website also has an online 1 to 1 counselling chat.

Papyrus (0800 068 41 41). Papyrus is a suicide prevention service for anyone under 35. It is not 24-hour so click on the link on its name to check the opening times!

There are many more links covering a range of issues on the NHS website here.

I hope everyone has had an amazing day 🙂

How It Started

I’m still not sure how to really write this kind of thing, but hopefully I’ll get the hang of it soon. I’ll write about myself, coping mechanisms I use, and other things I find interesting really. To be honest, this is one of my coping mechanisms – talking and writing about things can make a world of difference.

Right now, I’m 15. I’ve been quite ill since I was 12, in mid 2014, but it got really bad at the end of 2015 up until now, the beginning of 2017 (wow). Everyone always asks me what set me off, and the answer has always been the same – I have no idea. It wasn’t a direct response to an event in my life, it just happened to me, like it happens to so many people. Anyway, I didn’t tell anyone for about a year, until my supportive parents saw my self harming and took me to a doctor. Afterwards, I had a string of extremely unhelpful therapists, until finally I found one who I clicked with, and she was absolutely amazing. By this point, I had been seen by a psychiatrist and been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and put on Prozac, which was a massive factor in my eventual recovery.

SSRIs are weird, because there’s very mixed medical opinions about them and I don’t know if they even help me past the placebo effect. I’m currently coming off them, which is both scary and liberating at the same time. Through all this, I’d been covered by my medical insurance, but after 6 months (!) they declared me chronic, and I was referred to CAMHS, the UK Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. I appreciate how lucky I was to have private insurance and relatively quick treatment, because the waiting lists for CAMHS are horrendous, due to their lack of resources and funding. However, CAMHS is another area in which you could say I was lucky, because I was referred to the service as an urgent case and it came through within a month or so. So I’ve been seeing CAMHS ever since. I’ll probably cover different areas and stuff I haven’t even tried to go into here in other blogs, because I think I’ve piled all this on quite quickly. Stay online for my next update!