5 years ago…

5 year ago today (30th September – is actually the 1st October now as I publish, oops!)  I was rushed to the hospital after a very large overdose. I was done, couldn’t do it anymore, I didn’t want to live in pain for the rest of my life, I just wanted it all to be over. It was a large overdose and I had a lot of other medications in my system too as they were my regular meds. I don’t know how long it was between taking the meds and falling unconscious, but I don’t think it was long. Most of the rest is a complete blur, my family found me, I don’t know how soon after it happened but I was in a bad way. They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance as often ambulances there would take forever to turn up, so they carried me down the stairs and into the back of the car. My Dad ran every red light to get to the hospital as fast as possible, my mum was sat in the back slapping my face to try and keep me awake. All I remember is being slapped and me telling her a few times to ‘fuck off and let me die’ before slipping unconscious again. From here I don’t remember much more just a couple of brief flashes in and out of consciousness. My t-shirt being ripped open in A&E, a porter praying over me in the elevator, a catheter being inserted. They put a tube down my nose for activated charcoal but don’t remember that bit at all. I was unconscious in the ICU for quite a while before I finally came to late the next day I think and then I spent another full day in ICU before a night on a ward as well. Other than these few brief details I do not know what else occurred and I don’t bring it up with my family to ask about it. I don’t want them to have to remember it so vividly and live through it again in their mind.

It feels like that was a lifetime ago, that it was a different person. I’ve been in somewhat bad and suicidal places since, but nothing as severe as how suicidal I was before that attempt and haven’t had any plans since my attempt 5 years ago. Despite the continued pain and illness the past 5 years, I’m glad I survived and I don’t want to repeat that experience ever again. And yes there have been bad times since and lots of pain but I’ve had good times too, some happy times and time spent laughing. I like laughter and sarcasm and turning things into a joke, often this can actually help me cope. I have a great sense of humour and feel that if I didn’t have one, what would I have left? It’d be pretty god damn miserable if I couldn’t see the funny side to things and wasn’t able to laugh at myself and at things in life, which is how it has sometimes been in previous years.
I thought I may feel a bit weird or emotional today about it all, but actually I feel okay. I feel happy I’m still here and that luckily 5 years ago my attempt at taking my own life did not succeed.

Currently I feel very stable mental health wise to be honest. I did have a brief struggle earlier in the year with the whole failed ONS situation, but I’m doing much much better mentally now. Which was helped by changing back to my psychologist of 4 years after having a brief break where I had to see the headache psychologist after ONS surgery, which wasn’t right for me. I feel upbeat and positive, right now I feel like I’m fed up of being miserable as it doesn’t help. Which is a big achievement for me, especially given I’m actually very unwell at the moment. I’ve actually been in hospital the past 2 weeks. But despite the pain and being very sick I still feel positive, able to see the bright and funny side of things, to laugh and to joke. I’ve got an excellent team of doctors, I feel positive and optimistic about everything.  I will write more about it all soon, when everything is all sorted out. I’m in good spirits despite everything, which is pretty revolutionary for me.
However I really need to stop being in hospital on the 30th September. Three years out of the past 5 I have been,  last year was my ONS surgery – can you believe that was a year ago?! And now this year too, which is unrelated to my NDPH or my mental health.

 

P.S have majorly conquered my doctors appointment anxiety currently and am feeling very proud of myself about that.

 

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Decisions.

I hate making decisions, I always worry that I will make the wrong one and that will lead me down a completely different path in life. And then I worry whether or not that is down the right path and how sometimes a single decision can alter your life.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had never moved to Dubai, would I have got sick, would the things that have happened in the last 5 years still have happened if I hadn’t moved. It’s not really healthy to think like that though, to wonder what could have been if you had just made one different decision.

I’ve made some big decisions in the past 5 years, some pretty bad ones like self harming, and several overdoses, though I have made some good and healthy decisions too. Like dropping out of school (doesn’t sound good but it was the right thing for me at the time, so therefore is a good decision), and most recently, stopping my search for answers and an effective treatment, coming off all the meds that were just making things worse, learning acceptance and learning to try and move on with my life despite the pain, not letting myself be defined and held back by the pain anymore, having a more positive outlook on life, deciding to go back to school and getting myself a job, to name a few.

For a long time I dwelled on all the negatives in my life and the bad decisions I had made, I let myself be consumed by the negativity in my life and failed to see the positives in anything, which is easily done, if anything it’s the easier option. I’ve learnt not to let the flare ups drag me down deep into depression like they did so easily before. We all have bad days and that’s okay, that’s normal for people with chronic pain/illness. I still get them too, bad pain days, days where I feel a bit down, it’s hard but I try to focus on other things and not the pain, getting through each moment and taking it day by day. That makes the pain easier to cope with, I know I can get through the bad pain days because I’ve done it so many times before, and once you think of it like that the bad days get easier to cope with. Though sometimes the pain gets the best of me when it’s really severe and it becomes harder, harder to think straight, harder to remain positive when faced with severe pain, harder to distract myself and not think about the pain, so at that point I lie in bed and try my best to distract myself with nice things. And then that’s where hope comes in and hope is a powerful emotion to hold on to, I hope that tomorrow it will be easier, and the pain will decrease by the time I wake up in the morning. I know hope is so very hard to hold on to when you are in a lot of pain and it never seems to get easier and I know it’s hard to remain positive and that acceptance may seem impossible, but I promise you it isn’t and that if you let acceptance in things only get easier. And I promise you that acceptance will be one of the best decisions you ever make, not easy but worth it.

How a grazed arm can remind me of self harm.

I fell over the other day outside and my arm hit the paving slab step, I looked down to see that my arm was cut/grazed and bleeding. It wasn’t a big deal and it didn’t really hurt, well to be honest in the scheme of things it hardly hurt at all.

I self harmed in the form of cutting for years, I was addicted to how it made me feel, the pain relief it gave me from my headache, how because of that it made me feel happy. How every day I woke up and the best part of my day was taking a blade and slicing my skin time after time, watching the blood drip out of my cuts. I remember the feeling of relief I got, I remember feeling pain free for them few brief minutes I was cutting, I use to cut a minimum of five reasonably deep cuts, not deep enough for medical attention (well most of the time, I did get stitches three times and steri strips on multiple occassions) but not scratches either, I would do that at least once a day without a doubt. If I was having a particularly bad day I would do it twice or three times a day. I use to take my case with all my old fashion razor blades in and plasters and bandages to school, so I could always do it as and when I felt I needed to. No one ever knew I sometimes did it at school in the bathroom, and if they did I would have been asked to leave school and wouldn’t be allowed to come back. Cutting is how I got through my day with the pain for years, it wasn’t healthy and it certainly wasn’t a bright idea, but I was addicted and it was the only thing that helped.

I’ve been clean since October 2013, it’s the longest period I have ever been clean for since I started self-harming in 2010. I’m always reminded of it due to the intensive scaring on my arms, wrists and thighs, but most days now I don’t even think about it.
It took a graze on my arm to bring it to the front of my mind and remind me fully of how it use to feel when I cut. Just to make it clear, I haven’t relapsed, I don’t plan on relapsing and this is just me being reminded of how it use to make me feel.
When I fell over the other day and I saw the cut on my arm and that I was bleeding, it literally gave me a flash back to when I use to cut; it felt very similar other than the fact that I hadn’t actually physically caused the cut on purpose. But I was instantly transported back to when I use to sit in my empty bath with a razor blade, carving what is now hundreds of scars on my wrists and arms. That graze gave me a similar rush to cutting.

I know that I’m better without self harm, I know that it wasn’t good and it wasn’t a healthy coping mechanism and that I have better ways to cope now, though at the time it felt like the only thing I had. And I don’t plan on going back to that place where I was attached to a razor. Self harm hadn’t really crossed my mind properly for a while until I grazed my arm. Sure I’m reminded of the fact that I use to do it daily due to all my scars but I’m not often reminded of the feelings it use to make me feel and that is not really a good thing to be reminded of because of how addictive self harm is.

Achievements.

When suffering from chronic pain/illness it’s important that you recognise your achievements no matter how small. For a long time I believed that I had no achievements in the past 4 and a half years. My school counsellor would always tell me I had loads of achievements and listed off a reel of things, however I never saw this all I saw were my failures, one after another. Several of what I thought my failures were included:
– Not completing school and my A levels
– Only completing one A level when everyone else could do three or four
– Not being able to cope with school
– Trying to kill myself
– Dropping out of school
– Having to move back to England due to my mental health
To me these were huge failures and they dominated my mind for a long time. Now looking back I can see my achievements of that time and my most recent achievements. Some of these include:
– I got out of bed everyday and went to school no matter how I was feeling I turned up (I wasn’t very productive but I went to school everyday without fail)
– I completed my GCSE’s with all grades above a C
– I asked for help by going to see the school counsellor
– Completing one A level despite my circumstances
– I started working helping teach Taekwondo in Dubai for 6 months
– I handed over medication in April 2013 when I had the chance to hoard/take it all
– I came back to England for help
– I started therapy in England
– I stopped self harming
– I threw away a bunch of hoarded medication and chose to live instead
– I gained a new positive outlook
– I accepted the pain and chose to live despite it
– I applied and got into college starting in September
Some of these achievements are small and some life changing. It’s important to recognise both and no matter how small they are. They may be hard to see, it’s only now looking back that I can recognise my achievements, for a long time all I saw was a string of failures. Start with seeing something small as an achievement, like for example something as simple as getting out of bed on a really rough day. If you suffer from chronic pain/illness sometimes getting out of bed can be the hardest thing so really it’s not a small achievement if you get out of bed it’s actually a huge achievement even though you may not see it as that.

For a long time I was so focused on all my failures or rather what I thought were my failures that I couldn’t see any achievements. You may be the same but I guarantee you they are there, you just have to look a little closer.

The longest I’ve been clean.

So I got clean from self harm in October and I haven’t cut since. This isn’t the first time I’ve got clean from it, there have been several, I stop cutting for one reason or another, last a few months and then have a break down and relapse. But this time it has been the longest I have been without cutting, 9 months now, which I guess is pretty good. I don’t even feel the urge to cut anymore it’s not something I want to do anymore or feel compelled and addicted to do. Yeah, sometimes when I see a sharp object I always think what it would be like to cut myself with, I think that but I don’t want to do it or like I said feel compelled to cut with it anymore. It’s just merely my mind wondering, I’ve spoken to recovered self harmers before and one thing one of them said was that even now after being clean for years they always look at sharp objects and wonder what cutting with it would be like. I guess because we know what cutting is like and how it can make you feel we will always wonder. Don’t get me wrong, saying this doesn’t mean I want to start self harming again because I don’t and I don’t even feel the urge to when things start to head south. I’m quite proud of myself that I’ve been clean for 9 months, before that I spent the ‘best’ part of 4 years self harming so for me this is quite an achievement.

Things are moving forward in my life at the minute, I’ve got a college interview on Wednesday at the other college I applied to, probably will decline the offer if I get one but I’m going to the interview anyway as you never know. I might be applying for a job at a local supermarket for some part time weekends work starting in September, however whether I will get the job is a whole other story. The supermarket are expanding and taking on another 120 people, so there is 120 jobs going, so I’m going to apply and see where it goes.

And then I have some really exciting Tae Kwon Do news, I can’t share it all with you guys because it’s top secret, but my instructor wants me to take my instructors qualification, I took three lessons on my own last week whilst my instructor was on holiday and I did a really good job, my instructor heard from several people that they were really impressed with me and I was very mature when handling the very naughty children that I was teaching. Really excited about the fact that my instructor thinks I’m good enough to take my instructors, you have to understand it’s taken me a lot to get here. I started Tae Kwon Do when I was 8, I got my black belt when was 13, but I was an absolute nightmare to teach, I messed around, I didn’t do it properly and I certainly didn’t put any sort of effort into anything. It wasn’t just me I had a group of friends there who were exactly the same and we kind of fueled each other, but I’m the only one who stuck with it and is still training. But my instructor refers to me as one of the worst he has ever taught, I don’t mind because I train bloody hard now, do it properly and to the best of my ability; which is high, and if I do say so myself now pretty darn good. He uses me as an example of comparing me to how I use to be and then what I’m like now, basically I just grew up and grew to love the sport, so much I train five times a week. So it makes me extremely happy and excited that I’m now considered good enough to take my instructors and not to mention take my 2nd Dan (next level of black belt) in April. It gets a lot better but I have to refrain myself from telling anyone, so I guess you will just have to wait on that one!

Overcoming depression: Conclusion

So I’m feeling better than I was a week ago when I postponed my overcoming depression posts as I didn’t feel well enough to write about overcoming depression. I’ve pinpointed what was making me feel bad again and it has been resolved, so I’m back to feeling okay again. It was just a bump in the road, which there is bound to be when struggling with chronic pain and recovering from depression.

I feel like I can now say that I am coming through the other side of my depression, I feel like I can almost say I’m mostly recovered or that I have very mild depression now rather than severe depression with suicidal tendencies. I never thought it was possible to feel mostly okay when struggling with chronic pain. In the beginning back in 2010 when I was struck with my headache to begin with I felt okay, but that didn’t last long and after a month ish I started getting very depressed, since then as you know I’ve struggled with severe depression. I never thought I could get better from it, I thought that my depression and chronic pain were so closely linked and intertwined that if my headache never got better neither would my depression. Clearly I was wrong; it is possible to feel okay despite chronic pain, I know that now. I feel emotionally better than I have in years, yes I’m still in pain all the time, sometimes severe pain and at the times it is very severe I do feel miserable as hell. But each time I pick myself back up, I fight to come through the other side, to wait until the pain calms and gets more bearable and then I start to feel okay again. And when the pain gets bad I know I can get through it because well I’ve done it hundreds of times before.

I’ve been in such dark places in the past four and a half years, places where there was no light, where I thought it would never get any better because the pain was always there. I thought I was destined to spend the rest of my life in bed feeling miserable because I was always in pain. But now everything’s changed, I can see the light, I no longer believe that I am destined to live the rest of my life in bed. That actually I’m meant for much more than that, that I’ve gone through hell and back for a reason. I’m going to college in September to study a course that will get me an alternative qualification to A levels that I need to be able to get into university to study psychology. I want to become a psychologist. Doctors have never helped me, in my 4 and a half years I have been ill I have seen plenty of them, some of them were useless and I loathed, others were genuinely interested in helping me, however they tried everything they could and as it happens my headache just doesn’t respond to any treatment and there is nothing more doctors can do. Psychologists on the other hand have been the only people to have made any impact on me. My school counsellor who is one of my favourite people in the world and my current psychologist have made the most impact. My school counsellor never knew me before I got sick but I started working with her shortly after I got sick, I honestly don’t think I would be alive today if I didn’t have her and I owe her a hell of a lot, we are in different countries now but we still keep in contact a lot and I see her when we are in the same country and she is still always there for me, always at the other end of a text message or a ranty email I send her. She was the one who said I needed to come back to England to get better help, and without that I would never be where I am now.  My newest psychologist has helped me a lot also, I wouldn’t be feeling okay if I didn’t have her and she didn’t put me through acceptance and commitment therapy ACT. Which helped me accept my condition, and helped me climb out of the darkness I had been in for over 4 years and back into the light. One day I hope to help someone as much as they have helped me and I am determined to get there.

The other day I emailed my old GP who I saw when I lived in Dubai, and who originally thought I had POTS but advised me back in 2011 that I needed to go back to England to get it diagnosed and treated. She’s really nice and is in the handful of doctors that I like, she even visited me in hospital in 2012 after my overdose. I hadn’t spoken to her since before I left over a year ago now. So I emailed her and told her everything that has happened in the last year and how I’m feeling so much better emotionally now. She was really thankful for the email and said I am one in a handful of patients she has met that have really stood out to her, her words were that I am incredibly insightful, intelligent and mature and that I have a lot to offer the world that I have something special that a lot of people don’t have. Her email really made me smile and I hope she’s right.

I am destined for bigger things than lying in bed in pain, and I will work my ass off over the next few years to get there, despite the pain.

Overcoming depression: Part 2.

For a few months after, I was doing slightly better, still depressed but didn’t immediately want to kill myself. But then I slipped, I became more depressed and suicidal and also started self-harming again. I told the relevant people, school counsellor, psychologist and psychiatrist I was feeling bad again. Made an agreement with my school counsellor that if I were to start hoarding medication again and I didn’t tell her she would no longer be able to see me. Which was a big deal to me because I don’t think I would last long if I didn’t have her to support me, even now. My psychiatrist who never took me seriously even though I had attempted and nearly succeeded before put me on anti anxiety meds and a new anti depressant, which just made me more of a zombie than I already was. When I ran out I went back on my own for a refill, my mum usually dealt with all my meds and locked them away, so all I wanted off my psychiatrist was a repeat prescription that I could give to my mum and she could deal with. But instead my psychiatrist went into some drawer and pulled out a full bottle of the meds and gave them to me, he knew I was suicidal, he knew I’d attempted before and he tempted me with a full bottle of meds instead of a prescription. I seriously considered swallowing them all right there and then, or taking them home and hoarding them.

Instead remembering my promise to my school counsellor, I drove to school and handed them to her. She was proud of me, and then she called my mum up from where she was working at the time in the school library. She told me and my mum she thought I needed better psychiatric care than could be offered there, so I should go back to England and get some, maybe even inpatient care. This was now April 2013. Three days later I was on a plane back to England.

After getting back I saw my GP, had never seen her before as I had been moved to a different GP from my old one whilst I was away. She referred me to the local psychiatric team, they didn’t think inpatient care would be the best thing for me so instead they put me on the hospital at home program; which is basically where someone from a team of psychiatric nurse’s come to your house every day to talk to you. It was okay, not great but okay and the nurses were alright. But after a month you get moved onto the longer term program and get given a care coordinator.

My first care coordinator was rubbish, and my second and my third and final one. I just couldn’t click with them and I didn’t feel they understood on any level what I was going through. I wasn’t getting any sort of regular treatment, it was an hour every two weeks, which isn’t a lot for someone who is terribly depressed. That’s if they even turned up at all. My second one forgot me on what was meant to be our first session, I ditched him after two sessions and asked for someone different. My third wasn’t as bad as the first two but she didn’t turn up on multiple occasions leaving me without anyone to speak to for weeks.

Not happy with the treatment I was getting I searched google for someone private to see. I found a place who had lots of psychologists in different locations within the county I live in and a neighbouring county. And they also had psychologists who specialised in treating people with chronic pain. I contacted them with a brief snippet about me and my issues, they emailed straight back and we set up and appointment for the week after with a psychologist who practiced about half an hour from where I live and treated people mainly with chronic pain.

My first appointment went well, I clicked with her instantly, she was nice, I really liked her and felt like she understands what I have been going through. In our session we talked about everything, how I was feeling that week etc etc.

Despite finding a great psychologist I downward spiralled again, sinking into a pit of depression and not knowing or wanting to get out. This was at the start of this year. I just desperately wanted my life to be over, the pain in my head to be over, but I couldn’t see a life worth living if all it was going to be was more pain and the misery that comes with the pain. My psychologist has started me on acceptance and commitment therapy by this time and we were working through that and the exercises in the book. I got the idea but I didn’t get how to get there when I was feeling so dark because of the pain. I started hoarding medication again ready for the right time.

Then I’m not entirely sure what happened but something in me sort of clicked, the whole acceptance thing started to click. I decided I wanted to live, I wanted to accept that I am in pain and I probably will always be in pain, I wanted to try and move on with my life despite pain, I wanted to try and actually live a good life despite pain. I threw them all away, all of the medication I just got rid of, so I no longer had it, so I could no longer use it. And that was my first step towards acceptance. I then decided I needed to try and do something with my life despite the pain in my head, so I applied to go to college in September, and I got in.

To be continued…