Going Under.

Going Under.

I was underground when the bombs dropped.

Alone.

My husband was out at work and called to say something was up. Up in the sky and on its way down I expect, that’s what happened anyway. He worked for the government, never told me what he did exactly. He came home from work one day and insisted we build some super advanced bunker beneath our house. Ridiculous really, I laughed and suggested he go on that stupid show about those people who prepare for the apocalypse.

I guess it wasn’t so stupid after all.

Anyway, the bunker was built with all this hi-tech equipment that set me on edge. My husband showed me how to work it all – just in case – and I didn’t pay that much attention. After all, what’re the chances of the world ending tomorrow? He spent the night filling the bunker with essentials, and some not-so-essentials, that annoyed me. He should have been spending the evening with me watching Eastenders on the sofa with a coffee.Last Eastenders I ever watched as it happens.

So I was on the phone and it cut out. Line went blank. It wasn’t so unusual, signal near our house is rubbish. That’s what you get for living in the country. But I was a bit freaked out. I followed his instructions, stupid as they sounded, and packed the Go-Bag he’d left beneath the bed. Flicked the news on while I packed, everything seemed normal but then I got another call.

My husband again.

He told me to go into the bunker and lock the door. I thought he was joking and laughed a profanity down the phone. You winding me up you ******? He wasn’t joking apparently, said he wouldn’t be home, he was needed at the office for containment. I should’ve told him I loved him, but I was doing this thing where I make everything a joke and wasn’t about to let my resolve crack.

Stupid.

I went to the bunker and locked myself in. It was a bit of an adventure until the bombs dropped. Three I reckon. BANG. BANG. BANG. I guess more of a boom? I don’t know, it was loud anyway. Break your ears loud. The kind of loud that crashes into your mind and sits there buzzing for hours… or days. Or forever. I can still hear that sound. I suppose I always will.

It took a while for my brain to start ticking over again after that. When it did I grabbed my phone from my pocket and dialled my husband’s number but there was nothing. No dialling tone. Nothing.  Just that slightly menacing silence that’s been my only company these ten years.

 

Part 2 next Monday! 

Enjoy it!

Enjoy it!

I know I’ve droned on at you this past month about balancing your workload, keeping in touch with people and keeping yourself safe while you’re at university… I suppose there’s one thing I haven’t spoken enough about – having fun!

Call me a killjoy but I don’t totally agree with that saying that university is the best time of your life. That being said I’m just a 90 year old in the body of a 22 year old. Inside, I’m just aching for a cuppa in front of the fire with a nice chocolate digestive. So ignore my opinion on this matter because, for you, university could be the best time of your life. You don’t have to work 9-5 every day, most of you will live with (or at least near to) your friends, and there’s an offer of a party nearly every night. Trust me – you’ll never get that again!

So do what you love. You’re studying a subject which you hopefully enjoy, and while the deadlines may be a drag (I’m drowning in them at the moment) at least you’re writing about things which you’re interested in. There’ll probably be a society at the university focused around something you love, why not join it? Give it a go and enjoy your favourite hobbies with people who are as enthusiastic about it as you are! If you want to party, go for it! Obviously make sure you keep yourself safe and don’t show up to lectures so hungover that you see two lecturers while there are only one, but letting your hair down is good for you.

So after a month of feeling like an old lady lecturing her grandchildren about the dangers of university allow me to say this:

  1. I’m not your mother.
  2. Enjoy yourself!
Falling Apart.

The idea of a relapse is terrifying. I’m certain I’m not the only one with this fear rattling around in my head constantly, so the first thing I want to say is that if you’re worrying about this right now – you’re not the only one.

I sometimes have something called a Pseudo Fit. It looks like an Epileptic fit, but it’s actually just my brain shutting down after being overloaded by emotion or information. I’ll tell you a bit about those in another post. But for now, the important thing for you to know is that after months without, I had two last week.

The only thing I could think about was relapsing. I was convinced that I would have to drop out of university again, give up writing and confine myself to the cocoon of my double duvet for the rest of my life. But that wouldn’t have helped. I’ve done this before, and it only spurred on the Personality Disorder living in my brain, to develop into full-scale craziness. By giving in to the fear of relapse I allowed the BPD to gain control.

So that leads on to the second thing I want to tell you…

You are stronger than you think! Instead of giving in to that fear, live your life. Enjoy all the little moments: the colour of the leaves in Autumn, the sound of a bird singing, the warmth of a hot bath. Appreciate all your achievements, however small: managing to get out of bed, managing to write a page of notes, managing to make yourself dinner. All of these things help to keep the relapse at bay because you’re not giving in when things are too difficult – instead you’re working harder and taking more notice. In doing this, you’re maintaining control.

There’s another thing too. Taking a breath is important! If you’re finding it too hard to do something, don’t do it. Keeping yourself safe is the most important thing and if slowing your life down a little is what you need to do in order to accomplish this, it’s more than worth it. I’m not saying stop doing the things you normally would, I’m simply saying to do a little less if that’s what you need to do.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem and you think you’re on your way to a relapse, it’s important to speak to your doctor, CPN, or care coordinator. They’ll help you to manage your brain’s misbehaviour and stay on track. If you reach crisis point, call your local crisis team or try Samaritans. Stay safe! Together we can do this. There’s some more useful information about Early Warning Signs here.

 

 

What if you’re not unwell? Would you like to know what this fear is like?

It’s like living your life on a tightrope. You know what it was like before you got to where you are now. The world was a darker place, frightening and dangerous. Even leaving the house was terrifying and you felt like a prisoner in your own brain. The idea of falling off the tightrope and going back to that place is paralysing, it grips you and prevents you from living your life. You grasp at the tiny glimmers of hope that lie in your coping mechanisms, but you can’t quite catch them. You’re losing control. Slowly but surely, your illness is reaching icy fingers into your brain and colonising it for its own dark intentions. You are crippled by fear.

Marmite.

Marmite.

Why are cats so lovable?

They scag our clothes getting themselves comfortable, sometimes they scag our furniture too! They meow constantly for our attention. They steal our food if we leave it unattended. They spend most of their time sleeping. But we love them anyway.

Or, at least, I do.

There’s the scientific thing about their purring at a rate which is calming to humans, and the fact that they’re supposed to be quite intelligent – you’d certainly think so when watching the plots Marmite used to steal food right off my plate. But to me, I think the most prevalent reason for our loving cats is their companionship.

When I was off work due to ill health, Marmite would sit with me for hours purring on my lap and pressing buttons on my keyboard as I typed. She would nuzzle my hand while I held coffee and spill it all over me, and nuzzle my phone as I tried to type messages or play games. They say that you either love or hate Marmite, and unless you weren’t a cat person I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t love her.

If you’ve read last month’s series on The Pet Feud you’ll know a little about my cat, and her interactions with my dog. I used a bit of creative license while writing the series, as obviously I couldn’t ask them what their opinions of each other really were. While they really did dislike each other at first, my dog clearly wanted Marmite as a playmate; and although Marmite did get irritated with the dog’s constantly following her, I think she saw her as a lovable rogue.

You’ll notice this isn’t my usual Monday story post and there’s a reason for that. Marmite was in an accident on Sunday night. She’d gone a little senile at 16 years of age, and seemed to enjoy standing in the middle of the road – Queen of the World – expecting cars to stop for her I suppose, or maybe not seeing them at all. But on Sunday night someone didn’t see her and didn’t stop for her. She was brought to the hospital and we were able to say goodbye, with her nuzzling my hand (very gently) until the very end.

So I’m sorry for not providing what I usually would but I wanted to post an ending to the Pet Feud series with a message about how much we love cats in memory of my beautiful friend, Marmite.

Checking In.

Checking In.

When you’re at uni, especially if you’re a fresher, it can be easy to end up in the bubble of uni life. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to remember that there is a life outside of uni! The best thing I can recommend if you’re feeling a little bubbly is to check in with people.

Check in with your hometown.

Keeping in contact with those back home is important – if not for your sanity, then for the sanity of your family! Every now and then try to drop them a text or give them a call to let them know how things are going and catch up on what’s happening in their lives. As well as bursting the bubble of uni a bit, it has the added bonus of offering a bit of home comfort.

Check in with your classmates.

If you get a bit of homesickness, stress or anxiety being away from home for the first time, you won’t be the only one. Why not speak to some of your uni friends and see how they’re doing? Or tell them how you’re feeling? Most will understand.

Check in with staff.

You’ll have a personal tutor, module tutors andirons you need them there’s normally some sort of extra support staff within the university. Your health and wellbeing are as important as your work, so if you’re struggling tell someone! You can normally arrange a meeting over email quite easily.

Check in with yourself.

Possibly most important is checking in with yourself. How are you doing? How’s your balance of work and play? Do you need more sleep and are you eating enough? Are you managing your money? It can be tempting to ignore this stuff but it’s much better in the long run if you don’t.

So what am I saying? Don’t just go with the flow, make sure you’re checking in with people and managing all aspects of your life!

Don’t be cool, be you.

Don’t be cool, be you.

At university it can be tempting to adopt a new persona to slot you in with the most exciting friends. To go to parties you hate, pretend you know more than you do about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, suddenly fall in love with Ryan Gosling’s movies or build a passion for saving stranded puppies.

Before you close this thinking that I’m a loser… Oh wait! I don’t need to pretend. I may not have done these exact things, but when I first went to uni I definitely crafted a version of myself especially for the making of friends.

We want to be sexier, more mysterious, richer, cooler, funnier,  smarter (but not too smart). It’s human nature that we want to fit in and make friend so, and when you’re joining a uni and know nobody it really is easy to blend in with people you meet. I did this until I was a shadow of myself and almost forgot who I was in the first place.

I’m doing it differently this time. You may have already realised this but I’ll say it anyway, the best friends you’ll make are those who want to be friends with the real you. I joined a board game society, creative writing society and answer questions in seminars. You don’t need to hide what you’re good at or spend time doing things you don’t really enjoy in order to make lasting friendships!

This time around I’m not pretending to like things, dumbing myself down or acting differently than I would at home and it’s been much more enjoyable than my first attempt.

So don’t be cool, just be yourself!

Living the hard life.

Living the hard life.

This is not an appealing thought, I know, just hear (read) me out.

I’e had two years off because of my mental illness and I could have spent the time lounging around at home, watching my benefits roll in… It would have been easier that’s for sure, leaving the house is really difficult for me sometimes. It feels like an army of negative thoughts and potential problems are standing on the threshold of my driveway, waiting to pounce the second I leave the safety of my home.

But this is not how I spent my two years off. Even at the worst of times when I didn’t want to be alive, I still lived under the firm belief that if I was going to be alive then I may as well live. Truly live. Hiding in my house and accumulating money which I could only spend on online shopping and ice-cream wouldn’t have been living my life – it would have been surviving  but that’s it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some God of mental health who was able to go skydiving and walk into crowds of people without feeling nervous. There were days when I couldn’t go far from home and a trip to the local Tesco was an achievement. There were days when I couldn’t face walking and had to drive to friends’ houses in the safety of my car, only venturing out for the distance of their driveway. There were days when I couldn’t face leaving at all, sometimes even the idea of moving from my bed was too much. So don’t think I’m encouraging you to live a perfectly normal life without taking mental health into consideration, I certainly wasn’t able to do that for a long time. I’m encouraging you to push yourself, just a little bit.

If you really can’t get out of bed, that’s fine, why not bring a book or a movie or even some work into bed with you? Or maybe you’re feeling strong enough to limit your time in bed? I’ll spend an extra few hours here, but then I’ll try to pop downstairs for a bit. Maybe I have to spend today in bed, but I won’t let myself do that tomorrow. 

If you’re unable to leave the house then at least make sure you take a trip into the garden, it get’s stuffy spending the whole day inside and it’s not going to make you feel any better. If you’re feeling super brave why not try to take a walk (or drive) to the shops and reward yourself when you get there? If that’s too much you could try driving to a friend’s house or taking a very short walk. Even stepping out of your front door is a brave step!

I did two years of this, so I know it’s hard. Just take where you’re at today and try to push yourself one step further. One tiny, baby step. Reward yourself afterwards: a glass of wine, a bag of sweets, a chocolate bar or some time out to watch your favourite programme. It’ll prepare you for continuing life once you’re feeling a little better; I’m restarting my life now and couldn’t manage it if I hadn’t used those years to train my body into the habit of bravery!

 

Some tips for everyday life with a mental illness.