Category Archives: Mental Illness

Boundaries and Recovery

I had a revelation this morning as I was waking up, that wonderful place between sleep and wake, I love it there, I seem to get a lot of insight when I am listening.

I had been dreaming about an old boyfriend, and saw his disrespect for me, something that for me at the time was perfectly normal. In the dream, we had arranged to meet up after a party where we both were and all of a sudden some friends of his had turned up and he said sorry I am going with them……..not would you like to come nothing, I was  just dropped.  Somehow I just accepted it, just like I had accepted it most of my life.  Even though I was so angry inside I did not have the words to say how I felt and this is not ok, and I realised in that moment, this is where my addictions come in.  It was a real moment for me.  I would stuff the anger with booze, food and then become passive aggressive and as a child this is when I would self harm, I had no words to say this is not ok for me, they were buried way deep inside and for some reason they still are to a large extent.

I am realising this behaviour is a huge part of my depression and my mental ill health, I had no way of really understanding how to deal with this. No words. My parents were pretty unreliable, my father was busy working and often away and anytime I challenged my mother on her lateness, which was most of the time, she would always put it back onto me, saying something like ‘I am here now, what is your problem’ and I would be left with it.  Now I see the problem is she never called to say she was late, she just turned up and that was supposed to be ok, now I am seeing it is not ok, but all this time I have thought it was me and I have chosen so many people to replicate the same thing.

I am begining to realise the extent of my co-dependency, it is definately at the root of my addictions.  I am only now getting to see my part in things, my part is not putting up with it, setting boundaries and if necessary walking away.  I realise that, as I said to a friend of mine, we teach people how to treat us, if we respect ourselves then they will, it has taken me years to really understand these words and for them to go from my head to my heart.

I am finally learning a language that I lost.  I would blame others for treating me like shit, I had no idea I let them.  And likewise, others would blame me for treating them like shit and I would take it on, they would blame me for treading over their boundaries, I did not know they were there, they never told me.  I feel I have had a great epiphany this morning and I want to share it with you, I think the world is going to become a much easier place for me as I am learning that maybe, just maybe all that shit was not mine, I could have said not thanks, please take it elsewhere, this public convenience is actually closed.

On Turning 50 – Recovery and beyond

It is a very odd stage in life, and for me one that has taken me a long, long time to come to terms with, a year to be precise. I am not totally there yet, but it is getting easier. When I told friends last year that I really could not cope with it, that I was grief stricken, mostly they did not get it, comments like ‘Oh Penny don’t worry 50 is the new 40 and on they went, it did not help, it just made me feel even lonelier. The year has been really difficult and I think that maybe that is because I am not where I had hoped and dreamed I would be, which is what I am really struggling with, facing that has been such a hard thing to face, but also so liberating, now I can do something about it.

I have to face the fact that I will not have any more children, the fact that I have one is a miracle, and I am truely grateful.  I had a fantasy of a wonderful husband, a lovely home and all that and I have to face the fact that I am responsible for screwing that up, because I did not think I was worth it, something else was driving my bus and it has taken me a decade to find it. I have lost most things, including my mind at one stage, mainly due to my mental health and addictions. I am faced with the fact that I still live on welfare and that no matter how hard I try, some days are still hard to cope with, just because.

I feel like I went to sleep at 36 and woke up at 50, wondering what the hell happened and that I have lost so much of my life and I don’t know how or why.  I am sure that for many women this is not what they want to hear but for me it is part of my recovery process. I also know that when I hear of other women who struggle with this it helps me so much so maybe me sharing this will also help others, who knows.  I do know that it always helps me to write my truth.

I turned 51 a few weeks ago and I still feel the loss, the transition is something that I have not been able to take graciously.  Some people say that women over 47 are invisible, no longer attractive, I choose to ignore such negativity, thank goodness.  I do remember hearing older women talking about things when I was much younger, such as you feel so much grumpier, no longer attractive and I could not understand what the hell they were talking about.  Now I kind of get it.

Something inside me, a kind of urgency is now however helping me to decide what I really want in my life, understanding no is a full sentance and that actually, I am the person who is responsible for my happiness, nothing new I know, but there is something really different when you begin to truely realise that you are the person who leads your life. Such a relief.

Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder………….what’s worse? Introduction

This is another one of those moments when I feel like I am about to take a huge leap of faith, and am about to share yet another part of who I really am.  What will you do?

Will you laugh? Will you leave me? Will you understand? I have to be brave and not worry about what you think if you don’t get it, and hope that someone out there will really get it, and will understand.  My friend Matt called it ‘Finding Your Tribe’ and I guess that is what is so cool about being true to who I really am, I will continue to find my tribe.

At last, I have had my diagnosis!!! In one way it is such a relief and another it leaves me with great sadness that it has taken so long and caused me and others so much pain.

I have been into two re-habs, assessed by a Psychiatrist, and still, no-one knew what was really wrong with me.  I was told in the last re-hab that I did not have any signs of Borderline………….and thank God one of the support workers suggested I did not leave without connecting to my local Community Mental Health Team…………….although it has to be said, they have taken almost two years to get their act together due to lack of funds, staff cuts and all the other chaos that is around the mental health support at the moment.

I was offered this label as a possible reason for my problems way back in around 2000, when I had researched and saw that I was possibly bi-polar as my mood swings were so up and down and no matter how sober I was, my head was playing havoc and I was really mentally unwell.  That was one of the worst things about getting sober, the lack of booze to sooth my mind was leaving an even bigger issue, my mind was not right, only I had no idea until I put all the substances down.

So, in April 2010, I come out of re-hab, no money for follow up and on a waiting list so long that it took months to see a psychologist.  In the meantime, I was seen by a psychiatrist who did not understand addiction and offered me Lituium, just in case I had bi-polar or borderline, while I wait to see someone…………….no thanks.  Then, I finally see someone, the failed attempt at a form which I found ardeous and far too painful to complete and not enough time to go over the questions it all seemed horrendous and unsupported, then, she left as her job had been cut, and I was left high and dry, in the midst of an emotional turmoil which I found so hard to manage. It is because of this that I have such gratitude to my friend who pays for me to see a therapist, because without her, I actually do not know where I would be.

Now, months and months later, I am finally called in, told they would like to assess me, I get 9 out of 9 of the questions right and I am now on a course called STEPS, designed in America to help people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, or as they like to call it now Emotional Intensity Disorder.  I will be blogging as I go through this, it feels like my world as I knew it is not going to be the same.  What I thought was normal I am being told is part of my illness, that to me is very odd indeed, because it is who I am I thought!

One of the symptoms is the use of at least two of the following potentially self-damaging behaviours, eg: sex, spending, substance misuse, including alcohol, binge eating and reckless driving………….It makes me wonder just how many people have this and don’t even know it.

It stems from childhood, and whilst this is not to blame my parents, hard as that is cos I really feel like it and somedays I actually really do blame them, I am not there yet with that.  It stems from the level of abandonment trauma in childhood and this sets up a pattern of real or imagined experiences as we get older.  I know it has with me.  For example, I think everyone is going to leave me and never ever come back, it is agony and I find the world a very painful place to be.  It also stops me expressing myself sometimes fully because of fear of abandonment and rejection, all this has a devastating effect on my life and those around me and I am going to do my best to learn all I can.

I hope to hear from anyone who has anything to add to this and look forward to learning all about myself.  I have always found the world a very difficult place to exist, I battle on a daily basis and I hope that I will learn some tools to help me. I am a bit worried that it might be a bit of a plaster job but lets hope that emotions are encouraged to be expressed!!

Domestic Abuse discussed on Loose Women 27/1/11

Should domestic violence cases just focus on the physical? On the show today the ladies are discussing domestic violence.

“Following a ruling yesterday by the country’s most senior judges, you will now not have to be physically attacked to be recognised as a victim of domestic violence. The Supreme Court has widened the definition of abusive relationships after ruling in favour of a woman who left her husband because he shouted at her and she was too scared to confront him. So her local council now has a duty to provide housing for her. This means there is now a legal precedent that domestic violence can now include psychological or emotional abuse”.

If you have been affected by domestic violence in any way and would like further information, please call one or both of the numbers below:

The Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327

Refuge: 0808 2000 247

This discussion today was brilliant, all the women on the panel were so informative and Sherrie and Colleen were particularly insightful about the long-term effects of emotional/psychological abuse from childhood and the long lasting effects it can have on us as adults.

Coleen Nolan described how when she was growing up there was always shouting and it has taken her a long long time to stop flinching everytime her partner is angry.  Sherrie Hewson describes in great detail the effects that her abusive relationship had on her.  “In the end you do believe it is your fault and because you do you don’t tell people” It erodes the soul, as I have mentioned in previous writings on the subject.

People need help, families need help, these behaviours are passed on from one generation to another and it takes recognising you have a problem to get help. If you think it is normal, it is hard to know it is not, if that makes sense.  I am grateful on a daily basis that I am begining to heal from the effects it has all had on my and my son’s life.

One of the other things that was said on the show was that if women don’t ask for help it is very hard for a friend to interfere, it is, and when friends of mine were telling me it was abuse I had not idea what they were talking about. One thing Iwould say though, I am very glad they told me, it showed me they cared and I look back now and I am very grateful to the ones who did.

If you do have a friend in need, please tell her what you see, she may think it is normal to be treated like this. I know it is hard, but it so helped me, even though I did not like it at the time and I thought that my friends did not know him, how lovely he is really. It sowed a seed and I am beginging to see what they meant.

The other very important thing is that emotional/domestic abuse is also between parents and children, this is called child abuse and the child so often then grows up expecting to be treated like this, we have to stop the cycle.

This is a very timely debate as due to Government cuts my Domestic Abuse outreach worker has had to stop seeing me, and because they can now only see very urgent cases, those who are actually in the relationship and in physical danger here and now. The follow up has to be done by phone.  What is happening out there?  I have been seeing her for 3 years to help with the impact of the emotional abuse I suffered, it is slowly getting better and I am slowly begining to see the light, some days are better than others.  The waiting list at the NHS therapy services is a good 5 months on average and then they are not trained in specific Domestic Abuse psychology. It takes a long long time to un-pick the patterns of a life-time and when you do get to see somone you are very often only offered six sessions!  I hope that awareness is continued to be raised.

If you need help or know someone who does need help call

Women’s Aid Same number as above 0808 2000 247

4 Years Sober – One Day At A Time

It has been a huge milestone for me to reach this goal, the first time I achieved four years sobriety was in 2002, it wasn’t long before it all went horribly wrong and I decided that just one drink would be ok, it took me almost four years to get myself together enough to stop again.

During that time, my life fell into free fall and it was literally a living hell.  I look back on that time as the time when I almost lost my mental health and was on the brink of emotional death. I looked at myself in the mirror and I no longer recognised the person looking back at me, I was almost gone.  We were in a living nightmare with family issues and I just could not cope, my support system had been wiped from under my feet and I fell into the abyss.

One thing I had not really been aware of until this time were the underlying addictions that were waiting to raise their ugly heads, food, love and destructive relationsips, co-dependency and a childhood trauma buried so deep it took this time to really bring it to it’s head, I had not known just how bad it was until now.  I had talked about it and talked about it, but I had not really felt it or seen it in it’s full flow until now.  Having a relationship with someone who was so unavailable, so unwell showed me that there was something very very wrong with me.  Most people would have walked away and not put up with it, I did not know what they were talking about, to me it felt like home.  I also had to face myself and my behaviours from my youth which took me to a place I could not understand.

I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t and and everytime I made an excuse, began to think that all the people in recovery were boring and on the dilusion went, until one day, New Year’s Eve, 5 Years ago, I set myself up, asked some friends to bring champagne over and they only brought one bottle, I was the only one who had 3 glasses and their faces were horrified as I had tried to stop drinking for a good six months before then, it was that moment, when I could not stop, I would have necked a whole crate if there was one, I realised I had a real problem and I had to stop.  Thank God, one day at a time, I have.

The last four years have been full of distress, anguish and realisations that I am not just an Alcohlolic, I am an Addict, I can be addicted to anything to help me escape my feelings.  I am now learning to challenge them, to speak my truth and what is brilliant is that I am now getting people around me who are willing to be available for me, and that has made all the difference.

There are still plenty of things to sort through but instead of stuffing my feelings and building one resentment on top of the other, I speak it out and I am heard and mostly understood, which is very very new for me.

I have to deal with the underlying trauma of my childhood which still rears it’s ugly head, I still think that everyone is going to leave me, no matter what which is a very lonely place to be, but it is getting better.  When I share my pain, with safe people, I can often see the insanity of it, and eventually it becomes healing.  For some people in recovery, they do not have this extra burden, but for those of us that do, there is hope, with the right support and love we have a chance.  It feels to me like I am waking from a dream, and my feelings are coming to life, there is an untold amount of grief to face and with that will come a new life, I have amends to make, and I will.  I am finally able to face my pain because I am not being judged for it, not being shamed for it, not rejected for it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me over the last few years.     

Happy New Year, Love Penny

The Freedom Programme – Free from Domestic Abuse

I wanted to talk about my last few weeks, spent learning more and more about Domestic Abuse.  I have had experience of both physical and emotional/psychological abuse from childhood and guess what………I took it into my adult life and chose partners who would replicate my younger experiences.  It has taken me so long to make the connection and finally to get the help from a Domestic Abuse Outreach worker who very lovingly and slowly introduced me to what was normal and what was, infact, abuse, my normal.

It does not have to be physical abuse, it can be slow, emotional torture that can erode the soul, bit by tiny bit until you do not know who you are or what day it is or what is right or what is wrong, leaving you with no self esteem and rocking in the corner, that was almost me…….the scars of emotional abuse cut so deeply and erode the soul, this too is abuse, it is emotional abuse and it needs to stop.   Trouble is long after they have left, you are left with all their shit going round and round in your head, unable to break out of it, it becomes a living hell.

It has felt a bit like, actually a lot like re-programming and sometimes I still don’t get it, I have to have examples shown to me, little mini examples show again and again to really begin to get to grips with what is actually normal behaviour.  I have blamed myself, gone back again and again, believed whoever it was that it was all my fault and almost lost my mind.  It is programming and the earlier it happens, the more normal it feels.

The Freedom Programme is set out to slowly take you through the differences in all  aspects of Living with the Dominator is a book about The Freedom Programme that you can get on the website above, it is really insightful. Pat Craven has taken years of experience working in this field and turned it into a programme to help both men and women to break free from years of a cycle of abuse. Unfortunately I have acquired some of the really unpleasant characteristics and have had to have a good hard look at myself as well as looking at the men I have chosen, my relationship with my father, mother and step-mother to mention but a few.  I have been in therapy on and off for years, have had varying different support and still this stuff is so ingrained in my psyche, however, something is shifting.  In the book they also show you examples of what a good partner would do, a kind loving partner, not an unkind one, to me it has really helped me to see things differently and the patterns I have expected to just carry on.

I hope you will get something from it and if you do, please leave a message or e-mail me privately at penny@pennysnowball.com I look forward to hearing from you.

The rest of this video documentary series can be found at http://www.youtube.com/addicts4addicts

If you need support or advice the following details are very helpful.

South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Outreach Service 01483-577392 Mon-Fri

www.womensaid.org.uk and www.hiddenhurt.co.uk

The following books are apparently very good, I have not read any of them but they are available on Amazon or can be ordered in the local library if they do not have them.

Mothering through Domestic Violence; Talking to mum-ages 5-9yrs

Talking about Domestic Abuse – 9+ and When Dad hurts Mom.

I do hope something will help if you need it, I am so grateful for the day I approached the stand during Domestic Abuse week and said ‘can someone please tell me what normal is’.

Emergence-Where are you?


I was looking for various images this morning and came across this one and somehow it raised the question for me……….where am I on this journey of emerging?  I once said to a good friend ‘I am so sick of being a catterpillar I will be a butterfly, it is only a matter of time.  This came to me as I was looking through and I thought……so where am I?  I think I am begining to come out of the crysalis, not yet emerging, but restless and really begining to find the container a bit too tight and I am begining to realise that maybe, just maybe there is more to life that I have imagined.  My thoughts, my expectations and my programming have kept me a prisoner, things are changing and I am really begining to question things in a very different way.  Where are you?  Would love to hear any thoughts on this.  Just a random thought for the day, but one I am glad I shared. Where are you on the scale of breaking free from the chains of your past, whatever that may be for you.

Fear To Faith

The last few nights I have been lying awake worried about money, as I am not working at the moment due to my repeated breakdowns and  living on welfare and housing benefit, which I am very grateful for. Fortunately I also have some help from a friend and a brother, but it is rapidly disappearing and I panic.  Bills have gone up, petrol has increased and the cost of food has gone through the roof, without their support it would be impossible for me to survive. I have realised that this level of stress contributes to my depression and before I know it I am crippled with fear.

Coupled with this I am still waiting to see the Psychologist, it has been well over 2 months now.  I went to the doctors to ask about things and to see what could be done and was told that the waiting lists at the moment are very long.  For her to put me forward to the Horizon Center where people have long term therapy for abuse and trauma the list is about 6 months and for the CMHT it is similar.  For anyone to see a counsellor it can be up to 5 months and then it may just be 12 sessions……………in the meantime I am encouraged to take the antidepressants and wait.  Apparently they help with anxiety, which they are a bit it has to be said. If I also increase the dose they help more with the depression.  As a writer I am loathed to do this as I don’t want to feel so monged out I don’t feel anything anymore.

I woke up this morning and realised that the reverse of FEAR is FAITH, that it is vital for me to get back into a positve way of thinking, all will be well, it has been before and it will be again.  I am asking for help.  I am writing, I am in the process of organising a documentary to discuss the gaps in the support system and see what suggestions there are.  We are now shooting in 6 weeks due to various factors and I am applying for funding.

I get good days and bad days, and some days are better than others.  Because a friend is helping me I have been able to see a therapist privately who has reduced her rate so she can support me until I get to see the CMHT team, thank goodness I am because without this I would be in a real state. The cost of this is over £200.00 per month and it is rapidly eating into the support and again leads to my worry that I will not be able to stay with the therapist for very much longer.

I went for an assessment at RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling) it took them over a month to be able to see me for an assessment,due to their lack of funding. When I did get one they said I would have to wait another 4 months before I could see a therapist and then, they would only be able to offer me 12 sessions to see if they could help me because they were not sure they were equipt to deal with all my issues.  I was so shocked by this, they wondered if I would need to be hospitalised again if they triggered too much………where does it end?

How am I going to get well? In the meantime, I wait.  The treatment center I have recently left said they could not even begin to deal with the trauma I have had, all they could possibly aim to do was to help me to be more contained.  I find it all really difficult to take in and so hard to hold myself somedays.  The lack of funding for people like me who need long term care is just not there.  I am hoping and praying that the funds will come and I, along with many others will begin to get the continued help we need.

In the meantime, I will practise moving from fear to faith and trust God knows what is going on. Thanks for listening.

Penny

Vanessa Feltz and her Gastric Band on Loose Women

Thank you Vanessa for your honesty about how you feel about being over-weight, you have helped hundreds of women by being you.  On Loose Women today Vanessa Feltz openly admitted she had to resort to having a gastric band fitted because she just could not loose the weight. That awful feeling of feeling so unattractive she described beautifully and the feeling of not being able to wear what you liked to wear because your choices were now limited, all the above I understand, I have been there, I blew up from a size 10 to a size 20 in a matter of a year, I felt like someone else.  I was under so much stress and I ate to give me energy and I became so obese some of my friends did not recognise me, it was one of the loneliest times in my life.

I have battled with my weight all my life and was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2008 officially.  I had tried everything and for me it has come down to no sugar, no white flour, no caffeine, and an eating plan which consists of 3 meals a day and ensure that I have equal portions of protein, carb and veg and fruit with every meal, plus exercise 3 times a week.  I found it excruciating at first and could not do it without support because I ate on my feelings.  So what happens when the eating stops, the feelings come up, and they have to be dealt with.

There are places to get help for people with eating disorders and fellowships that don’t cost money, but like everything there are waiting lists, therapists cost approx £50.00 and hour which is out of a lot of peoples price ranges.  Vanessa did touch on the fact that she could afford this when asked by Sherrie what about others who don’t have the funds for a gastric band.  This is becoming more and more of a problem, most things cost and not everyone has it.  I guess there is also a priority for those who do have money, how much do you spend on food and how much will you give up to get well.

Compulsive overeating is a disease, one that is not discussed enough and can even be described as an addiction, if you suffer from this problem and would like to discuss it further please do get in touch, send me a comment or a message to penny@pennysnowball.com and I will help in any way I can.

Thanks again Vanessa and I wish you well with your treatment.

Penny

Eating Disorders and Mental Health-Radio 1 Summer Surgery

A huge thank you to Aled at Radio 1 for his Summer Surgery he is covering subjects such as Eating Disorders, Alcohol and Drugs, Panic Attacks and his approach is really good.

It is so refreshing to hear Eating Disorders being discussed in such an informative way, rarely is the connection with Mental Health made .It is a problem not just about weight, far bigger than that.

Thank you Aled for raising the awareness, how good to hear a man talking with such empathy.-