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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

January Goals

Hello!

I hope you have had a positive start to the year and are happy and healthy. I’ve had a shaky start, hence the lack of posts, but I am back with lots of ideas for upcoming blog posts. 

Going back to Christmas time (when I last posted) I got through it the best I have done in so many years! I was able to celebrate the festivity and not be constantly distracted by mental illness. I haven’t been in crisis and that has been so relaxing in comparison to the last few years.

In December I mentioned how January is historically a very bad month. Although it has been very difficult and I am struggling with psychotic symptoms, I am managing. There is little paranoia which I am so glad about and I’m managing to branch out from my isolated bubble.

Generally I don’t think the whole ‘new year new me’ thing is that great but if it reminds people to reflect on themselves then it can’t be a bad thing. Instead of setting ‘New Years resolutions’, I set 4 January goals. These are:

  • See my care-coordinator every week. With no other professional support in a difficult month this has been important and I have achieved it so far. It’s helped me stay on track and feel better in general.
  • Start the search for a therapist. My psychologist left quite suddenly in December and I’ve been on the lookout for someone since. I made a huge amount of progress with her and haven’t wanted to stop that momentum. During the month I’ve met 2 new therapists but they haven’t seemed all that great. It has helped me realise what I need in a therapist (someone to challenge me safely, not just listen) and that I can actually cope without one.
  • Start yoga. This was to help combat physical pain, so far I’ve been to my first session which was great and I’m excited to be going weekly from now on.
  • Read a book. I have actually finished reading a book!!!!!!! In case you’re interested it was ‘Ths ABCs of LGBT+’ by Ashley Mardell. 

I will end this post with some good news…

I got a letter from Tavistock (NHS gender identity clinic for under 18s) and should have an appointment within 3-4 months! I’m so happy about it!

I hope everyone has a good week, I’ll see you soon in another post.

Liam 🙂

Check-in

I find checking in with myself is important. It keeps me connected and in touch with my mind and means I can notice issues so I can take action. Right now, although I’m not in crisis I’m at a low point and this is the stage checking in helps me the most.

I’m incredibly worried about the most vulnerable time of year coming up, and also that I’m without a psychologist or psychiatrist. I’m hoping it won’t be for long but I have to wait and I have no idea how long. It’s made me realise how lucky I am to have had a secure care team for so long which I am grateful for. I saw my psychologist for the last time earlier this week and her leaving has been quite sudden and badly timed. Pretty much all therapeutic input has come from her so now I’m left with near to nothing. Although, looking on the positive side I’ve learnt so so much with her help, about how dissociation works as a coping mechanism for my head and it’s relation to trauma. It means I have more coping mechanisms when I’m struggling like this.

January is the month I have severe psychotic episodes that have consistently got worse each year. I live with psychosis every day but these episodes take months to recover from and are centered around a strong delusion. 

As I deteriorate I isolate myself which I am doing now. I’m trying my best to have contact with people regularly and will hopefully find it easier with the return of college routine. I’m also making sure I am looking after myself physically, and managing that. 

I have many positive influences that will help me more. I am at college doing what I love, I have a stable routine, there are lots of changes of scene involved in my routine, I have learnt how to acknowledge emotions so will hopefully be less dissociated, and I have coping mechanisms to help this. I’m aware I sound really formal but that’s because I’m struggling to connect with the reality of how bad I feel. I will make it though. This check in has been helpful. Well done me!

Liam 🙂