I am Thriving

Hey!

A week or 2 ago it was mental health awareness week. I like to think I played my part by going to the Walking Out of Darkness event and sharing it on social media. I still wear the top I got from there, in fact I’m wearing it right now. Last year I did a blog post on spreading awareness which outlined lots of different ways you can spread awareness, mostly using social media. I’m proud of myself to still be blogging a year on from then, and hope to be making a similar post with even more insight a year on from now.

So, mental health week came and went, but the phrase they focused on is still on my mind. Am I surviving or thriving? I was lucky enough to hear directly from the CEO of the mental health foundation that only 1 in 5 of us answer thriving.

Determining whether you are surviving or thriving depends on your personal view. Many things are taken into consideration, like how you are doing in comparison to your past, your overall emotional wellbeing, what limits you feel you have and how far in accepting yourself you are. However, I think the question in itself is very subjective, so to objectify it, let’s look at the definitions of the word.

  • Surviving – continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.
  • Thriving – prosperous and growing; flourishing.

I’m going to throw it out there, I see myself as thriving. Or more specifically, surviving whilst thriving. That may not be what some expect, I battle mental illness every day and I do have a lot of bad days, however there are some more things I think are more important…

  1. I have come so far in just a year. In fact, I make significant progress as a person every month
  2. I’m not in crisis. Especially when it comes to psychosis, this is amazing and is a marked improvement in my mental health
  3. Despite my own depression and suicidal urges I still experience, I know I do not want to die
  4. I feel content with myself. There are always things I’m going to want to change, however if I stayed like this forever I would be content
  5. I’m doing the things I love as my work
  6. I set monthly goals and am meeting them. Achieving things always make me feel awesome, no matter how small those goals
  7. My support system is strong
  8. I have a positive and hopeful attitude towards my life and my future

Thank you very much for reading, see you tomorrow

Liam 🙂

Independence

For all of my teenage years so far I have been within the depths of severe mental illness. This means that now, at aged 17, I am not very independent and rely on my mum or others for way too many things. Now that I’m getting better and have started college and come out of crisis, I am desperate to gain some of that independence I never got to have. This is important to me because then I can be grown up and self sufficient and won’t need to depend on others, because it limits me and also the people I depend on.

I am going to track my indendence regularly in my recovery book, however I want to write something on my blog to reflect on it and make me more accountable, just like I did with the January goals. Maybe I will do an update in a couple of months time, we will see.

I’ve created 3 areas I’m going to work on and have imagined what 10/10 would look like. Then I am acknowledging where I am on that scale, and setting the goal to reach the next step on the ladder of independence.

Transport- This looks like getting my driving licence, feeling comfortable travelling on public transport alone – including buses and trains on both long and short journeys. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 3 because I’m learning to drive and can use a bus or train with a friend and without adults. My next step is to use a bus or train by myself on a short journey.

Self care- This looks like being able to cook myself a few different hot meals, achieveing a basic level of hygiene at all times and taking my medication by myself 100% of the time. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 6 because I can take my medication by myself and keep up hygiene, as well as cooking 1 hot meal for my family. My next step is to cook another hot meal and eat it myself.

Emotional- This looks like keeping myself safe at all times, being able to pick myself up after a struggle and reach out for help when I need it. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 7 because I can distract myself and cope with problems, as well as ask for help from professionals when I recognise signs of a psychotic episode. My next step is to always keep myself safe because sometimes I head bang or pull out my hair, and I need to cope with those urges like I do with everything else.

Thank you for reading and see you tomorrow.

Liam 🙂

Yoga

I started yoga in January of this year to try and improve my back pain and keep myself active in some kind of way. Initially I was afraid my mental health would effect my ability to do things like it seems to do with every single thing I attempt. Also, there’s the question of being accepted as a transgender person, I wondered if people would ‘work out’ my biological sex.

My experience wasn’t pariticularly life changing in the first few weeks. I got frustrated my body couldn’t do what other people’s could and the ‘mindfulness’ periods at the beginning and end of the session were a breeding ground for voices. Everyone viewed me as male and didn’t question it but they started to try to work out why my younger brother was so much further along male puberty than I am. Also, I couldn’t see or feel any differences in my physical health, even regarding pain.

It took time to get used to listening to the voices, but then for whatever reason they stopped interrupting my mind so the relaxing periods became pleasant. I’ve stopped noticing how often I’m in pain, which hints that it’s getting better. And I can feel my body getting stronger and progressing each week which is something I can be proud of.

I hope I carry on for a long time and can reflect back on a year of yoga. It’s the best type of physical exercise I can do without tempting anorexia back into my life and maybe that will help me keep moving forwards. It isn’t just something I know helps my health, but I also enjoy it there and appreciate the woman who runs it. She is always reminding us of the link between physical and mental health, the effects of stress and the balance of what yoga you attempt to do or not do. Yoga really is for everyone, from wheelchair users to Olympic sports people to your average lazy person. I’ve learnt that I mustn’t compare myself to others because everyone’s body’s are different, and all you need to do to prevent injuries is listen to your body. That simple fact is so important.

See you tomorrow

Liam 🙂

Small Steps

Hey!

I’ve been reflecting on this past year and how I have taken a lot of small steps that have added up to be huge leaps forward, and I am now a significantly different person than I was even a few months ago. A lot of this is up to my mental illness and how my recovery has become more and more stable, to the point that one of my small steps is coming off one of my medications I’ve been on for over a year! The changes being made are small but very challenging for me.

The medication in question is an antipsychotic and mood stabiliser that helps to reduce my psychotic symptoms of visual hallucinations, paranoia and the intensity of hearing voices, as well as managing my anxiety and obsessive behaviours to some extent. The dose was reduced by 25mg, a small fraction of the full dose but had a quick effect. I had several panic attacks for the first 2 weeks, but it calmed down after that. The voices got gradually worse but haven’t got any worse recently. I’m managing and they aren’t controlling me at this point so the decision has been made to put it down another 25mg. I’m going to be tracking my symptoms but I’m feeling really hopeful and positive about this change.

Another big change that has happened recently is I am now independent in taking my medication myself. One of the reasons for this is that I have stayed out of crisis for so long, making me more trusted not to overdose during a bad moment. Along with this, my alarm I set helps me remember and means I consistently take it on time! 

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow.

Liam 🙂

Being New to CAMHS

Ah CAMHS, reminiscing over CAMHS causes mild panic, disgust and some level gratitude for keeping me alive. Being new to CAMHS is like being sucked up by a whirlwind and waiting for them to plop you down somewhere whilst you get smashed in the face with new people and professionals and diagnoses. Many people detest it, however make up your own mind, don’t listen to everyone else. Whilst I was with CAMHS I found it very helpful and vital in my recovery. Looking back I can see the flaws and things I would have done differently if I was a professional, however I am not. And I am still thankful of them.

People get admitted to CAMHS for all different types of illnesses. And also for no illnesses at all. CAMHS help people who are: depressed, anxious, transgender, autistic, have ADHD, have a learning disability, have an eating disorder, have psychosis or schizophrenia, have bipolar disorder, have a personality disorder, have PTSD, dissociative disorders and more. 

I was thinking of structuring this post addressing the new CAMHS go-er and some things you need to remember, and then some CAMHS vocab, because it’s a very strange world.

  1. Be honest. You need to be honest to get help, and they will listen.
  2. Trust them as much as you can, they do want to help
  3. They will not force you to tell them anything, however if you’re in danger please please speak out because they can help
  4. Do not stand for a bad therapist. If you feel victimised or discriminated against by any of the staff you need to speak out because you deserve better than that.
  5. It doesn’t matter that there’s trying to help you if you don’t help yourself.
  6. Your parents don’t need to know everything that goes on in sessions, except that when you are in danger they need to be involved in keeping you safe. However, if your parents are the ones struggling to come to terms with it, tell CAMHS. They are used to helping the parents as well as the child, they can explain things and are often listened to because they are professionals.
  7. Whatever illness, disorder, diagnosis or label you are given, that is not all there is to you. 

Vocab:

  • CAMHS – Child and adolescent mental health service
  • Crisis – When you are high risk and need extra support to get through each day. Often someone will visit your house or call every day if you are on the crisis list and you can also access 24 hour phone support.
  • Crisis team – The team of therapists who come and visit children and teens in crisis. They are involved temporarily during a time of high risk.
  • Psychiatrist – A highly qualified professional in medicine who deals with the medical side of treatment. This involves prescribing medication and giving diagnoses.
  • Psychologist – A highly qualified professional in psychology who help treat different mental illnesses or emotional difficulties with therapy.
  • Section – When you are forced by the mental health act to be in hospital for a certain amount of time 
  • Therapist – Someone who specialises in helping people with certain conditions, illnesses and difficulties. Specific types include occupational therapists, play therapists and psychotherapists. 

I hope that is helpful and informative as well as interesting. 

See you next time,

Liam 🙂

Realisations in Psychotherapy 

I have felt and been vulnerable throughout my life, and the most meaningful results of this have always been negative. I have been punished and faced scary consequences and had to look at my pain head on. The vulnerability is hard and makes me feel unsafe.

I’m trying to rewrite that link. Dissociation has kept me ‘safe’ from feeling vulnerable. Going into therapy and not really connecting to the words I was saying, like explaining my suicide plan with a smile on my face as if I was talking about my favourite film. 

My current psychologist I am seeing privately. I see her once or twice and month and am lucky and privileged enough to have a mum who will and is able to pay for it. She does psychotherapy which is a lot of thinking and reflecting. In comparison to other therapies like CBT and DBT, it is without structure. I cannot learn how to do it correctly and perfectly. I have to go through my days and think and reflect constantly, with the hope that things will start to pull together.

When I had my first appointment with her, it was apparent I have been programmed by professionals and CAMHS to talk about my ‘illness’ using medical terms like ‘childhood trauma’ and ‘psychosis’ and ‘dissociation’. She talks about how me using those words I am separating myself from their meaning. She wants me to talk about my experiences, not medical conditions. 

I have found it hard. I have disagreed with her. These words I have used summarise best what I struggle with. Hearing voices, visual hallucinations, paranoid thoughts and obsessions, delusions fuelled by mania. Those are my experiences, but even then that’s not enough. I feel like she prods and pokes me for 50 mins to make me really look at myself. Look at myself to see who I am, without the labels professionals have stuck on me. But there is conflict in my head, to an extent I identify with those labels and I don’t understand why that is a bad thing.

What is wrong with naming my abnormal struggles. The complexity is so hard to explain with words, it having a name helps so much. Gives a meaning to what I’ve gone through. 

I tried to rewrite my introduction to her. I started off good she said, when I talked about me and what I enjoy and want to do with my life. Where things started to go wrong, what was at the route of all that. She said that was going back to medical conditions. I don’t know how to make it better. I can’t learn to do this right, I have to actually do it right. There is no perfecting in psychotherapy. Only making genuine and slow progress.

Thank you for reading this very open blog post. Posting this is making me feel vulnerable, but I think that’s exactly what I need to challenge. See you next time.

Liam 🙂

What am I doing here?

Hello!

It’s time for some reflecting on this blog that I titled His Adventures in Wonderland nearly 1½ years ago. I started this blog with a few things in mind…

  • I’d talk about mental illness and being transgender
  • I’d write about my own experiences constructively 
  • I’d spread awareness, break stigma and help those around me with less talked about mental illnesses by offering genuine advice I’ve worked out over the years

I think it’s fair enough to start a blog with others as the main thing in mind, but I’ve kept going because of myself. This blog is loved by me and I enjoy posting lots of different types of posts, not just advice to benefit those around me. My posts help me too. 16 months and 49 posts down the line, I am still here and able to reflect on what I’m doing here. Have a colourful spider diagram listing some of the things I gain from blogging!

Thank you for reading, whether this is a one off post, you are a recent follower or have been doing so for a while. See you in my next post!
Liam 🙂