Tag Archives: Mental Health

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.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2012 – It’s Not All About The Food!

A reporter friend of mine, Sara-Jayne Kirk has done two great interviews this Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  One with ED Specialist Ann White and another with Gregory Szanto, the Founder of The Sussex Eating Disorders Clinic in Eastbourne.  Both of these interviews give such insight into the depth of the problems for those suffering from Eating Disorders. They also highlight very clearly, that Eating Disorders have very little to do with the actual food and much more to do with emotions.

As well as being helpful and empathetic with the sufferes, these interviews also highlight the gaping whole in the NHS provision for people with this problem, which I know personally only too well. I hope you will find them useful and please do pass this blog on to anyone who you think might benefit.

For some people this is their only addiction. For others, like me, it was found buried under the carnage of alcoholism, drug addiction, sex and love addiction, not to mention all the other ways I had  learnt to avoid my feellings.  Franetic activity, workaholism, never ever being able to be alone and all to try and fill a huge emptiness in my soul. It is also on the check list for those with Borderline Personality disorder, along with other addictions, such as alcoholism and sex.

A friend of mine told me recently that it is to do with ‘mother love’, lack of love, lack of connection, lack of attunement or rejection or abandonment.  For me, this has always made perfect sense, and this is not a blame game, it is fact for me…………and it is for many other people I know.

Fortunately, I eventually had treatment for my compulsive overeating, binging, bulimia and undereating, I have a food plan, do not eat white flour or sugar and have lost a lot of the weight I put on over a very short period of time. But it never ever goes away and I have to watch myself every single day.

If I feel upset, rejected or unloved, it is the very first place I can go………….and sometimes without even knowing it.  I diluded myself the other week when I brought a very small bar of dark chocolate from the ‘Free From’ range. I had barely got through the door, promised myself that I would have it with a cup of tea, but it was gone before the kettle had boiled.  I know why, and it scared me. I felt so rejected by someone and there it was! Thank God it was just that one bar.

In 2008, I hated what I had become, I felt utterly miserable and hated life.  Slowly I am recovering.  I ate on feelings, and still have to watch it, as I have already said, when it is really bad it can still catch me out.  I would always eat on feelings that I could not express, but now, what is different is I have people and places to go where I can express them and someone bothers to listen without telling me I am crazy or making it all up for attention.

For that I am truely grateful.

Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder…what’s worse? Week 4

I would like to start this week’s entry by thanking the people who have taken the time to contact me personally and share their experiences and to encourage me to keep going.  Thank you so much for your kindness and support, it helps me not feel so alone.

This week our lesson was Communicating………….when you are in a really chaotic place! Well, at the moment, this is not going to be possible for me, something else for the tool kit!  I have been really struggling with this course to be honest.  I find it very hard to be so detatched from my emotions to be logical about them. I also find it very hard that we are so rushed, there is little time for exploration of how we actually feel and that the facilitators are so target focused that we are basically ticking boxes to say how we feel, and barely have time to talk about it. This taps right back into the reason I am actually on the course in the first place…….my feelings not being heard and validated!  They do try, I have to give them that, but there are at least 5 out of 9 of us who really need some extra support.  Fortunately for me, my friend pays for my private therapist, without that I would be in a very, very different and very scary place.

I have challenged my Psychologist about this problem within this model of treatment for those with Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder, neither descriptions are particularly palitable, only to be told that this provision is cheap and that the funding is not really available for therapists to support us whilst we are going through what can really only be described some days as a living hell.

Distancing, communicating and expression are not on my radar when it comes to me feeling like my whole world is falling apart, I just need a hug to be honest.  All this head stuff is really counterproductive in so many ways, when it is on its own. I spoke to someone on Friday who very beautifully put it that it is my little girl who is stuck and needs support, love and nurturing to come out….that is what they call my illness! When I share my pain and am dismissed, invalidated, because someone is rushed or doesn’t know how to help, I feel shut down and it is excruciatingly painful for me.

I had a really good example of how this effects my life and I have realised a lot from it…………this week I had arranged to meet a friend at 1pm……….she was still not at mine by 1.20pm and I was really in a bad state, I had to hold onto the sofa and was sweating so badly, I felt so totally disorientated for a good 20 minutes. The pain in my head was almost unbearable. I  eventually calmed down and called her and was pretty passive aggressive, which is not helpful.  When she arrived at 1.45 I said that I really understand that she has lots to do etc but please would she call me to let me know she is going to be late………….I got the most beautiful supportive response, ‘If that is important to you Penny I will do my very best, I know I am a bad time keeper etc etc!!!  This is the difference, someone who takes responsibility and who I matter to.  It was a huge risk for me, I was scared I would loose the relationship, that she would shout at me and tell me to shut up and what is my problem, she is here now……….totally invalidating my feelings and that would be it.  I had that my whole childhood.  My mother was always late and I would wait for her for hourse, sitting on the stair, no phone call nothing.  When she arrived I would say I have been waiting for you for so long and was really upset, the response………….I am here now, what’s your problem!  That is why I am so ill, terrified of speaking my truth and splitting off.

One thing I have learnt, it takes two people to heal and I am so grateful that I have that support around me today, because it has taken a long long time.

Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder………….what’s worse? Week 2

It has taken me almost a week to process the information from the session on Tuesday.  We discussed Filters, which somehow put so much into context for me.  I have talked about it, thought about it, made a video talking about it and yet, the understanding still seems to come and go.  When it comes back, it feels like I have learnt it all over for the very first time.  In summary, filters are our view of the world, based on our childhood and earliest experiences, that is what the world is.  It seems to be that the level of negative experience in early childhood has a far more reaching impact on our lives than I first knew.

The last week has felt like a great big metal ball on a chain swing, rather like they use in demolition of buildings, has come along and smashed down a great big thick brick wall inside my head, from the inside out.  I am on the inside of the wall, in the corner wondering what the hell is going to happen next.  I feel more vulnerable than  I have been in a very very long time. I am having to put one foot very slowly in front of the other and my response to things is very very slow………………for the first time ever……….I just don’t know. I really do not know and it is scary and exciting all at once.  It feels like I have just woken up to be told that everything I have ever known is not at all as it is, that actually it is anything and that my view of the world is all it is, my view, and that where that has come from is why it is my view!

Really realising that all my reactions are down to childhood abandonment and very early levels of trauma is a huge amount to take in.  I am grateful for this opportunity to do the STEEPS programme,  and I am begining to see what the great teachers talk about when they say, change the way you think and you will change your life…………..!!

The video below is one I made on this subject, it really does take time to get to grips with all of this stuff

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!!

Post Natal Depression and the 4children charity

Thank goodness, it is finally being talked about openly and making news headlines, the real numbers behind post natal depression.

According to the 4 children charity ‘suffering in silence’ research paper, the number of women who don’t realise they have it is 29%; the number who are too scared to tell anyone is 33% and the number who don’t think their symptoms are serious enough is 60%…..wow!

I didn’t know what was wrong with me 26 years ago when I had my son, all I knew was that I thought everyone was going to steal him away, that people would climb up drain pipes or wysteria and break into my house to steal him and I did not tell anyone, because I thought it was real.

It has taken me 26 years to really break my silence because I felt so bad about what I did.  I actually took my son away from his father, lied to him and everyone else because I thought he was going to steal him, so I left the country to get away so no-one would come and get him.

I wish to God I had told someone how I was feeling and the chances are, I may have got help, but how can you when you believe what you are thinking is real?  One of my friends said she thought I was depressed when she visited me,  because I had not got dressed for days and was just with my baby and not doing anything else really, not for a good few months.  I had shut down and put on a really good act whenever the health visitor came to see me.

Looking back now, I know it started in the hospital because I could not have my baby out of my sight and I thought the midwives were going to take him away from me.  Then it came to being at my friends house, shutting all the windows upstairs, convinced that ‘they’ were coming to get him, were going to climb up the drain pipes outside the bedroom window or the wysteria and no matter what she said, I had to have the windows shut.

I have since been told that this was a form of psychosis, and it has taken me years of therapy, years of searching for the truth to put the pieces of my shattered mind together, it has been a living hell. I am currently writing my autobiography which you can find excerpts of at http://www.ifsbutsandmaybes.com

I urge anyone who thinks they may have post natal depression to seek help before it is too late.  I lost almost everything because of the state of my mind and I used alcohol to shut my head up. I am now in recovery from alcohol dependency, and have been told that it is quite common for women to use alcohol with post natal depression, which is a relief in many ways.  I hope by speaking out and joining the desire to raise awareness that things will change around the stigma of such a crippling illness.  Thank you to the 4children charity for bringing this to light

Help the Homeless

They say that most people are only two pay checks away from being homeless, maybe it would have been good to mentioned that when the Estate Agent looked down her nose at me after I said I was on Housing Benefit!

I did not have a deposit,so therefore my choices were limited to what the housing benefit either had or would pay for and believe me there was nothing around that was habitable. I could only rent a place for one now my son was old enough to leave home, the devastation of this was too much for me. I could not help but wonder what the hell had happened to the young girl, the me who brought her own flat in Fulham and if it had gone the other way would have been mortage free by now! I slowly began to collapse emotionally, not able to pack, unable to function and looking at places that were so disgusting, cold, damp, dark and stark reminders of how far down the social strata I had gone.

This all began  two years ago today when I was given notice to quit a home I had lived in for 9 years.  I was living on welfare, my mental health was at an all time low and I was struggling to pay the bills.  My son and I were selling what we could on e-bay to cover the basic costs of things and I remember one day, he was offered an opportunity in London and we just managed to get him there by me selling a watch and a friend giving us some money.

After two weeks of him being on work experience, sleeping on a friends floor and barely able to afford the train fare to make the most of this internship he was offered, which was unpaid, I had no money to buy milk and sugar for him when he arrived home.  As I sat there counting the coppers I had found around the house to go and buy some milk, a friend rang, saying she felt she needed to ring me, I told her what the problem was and she said get over here and I will help you.  Fortunately I still had enough petrol in my car to get to her house.  She handed me an envelope with £200.00 pounds in it and that helped us through the next few weeks and helped my son get back to London to work for another week to help get him into the career he was desperate to follow.

A few months before this time, a friend had suggested I saw her husband for accupuncture, it was not long before he said my body was so damp and asked if I living in a damp house? I was.  The windows were rotten, the heating was costing me a fortune which I did not have, it was impossible to get warm and it was quite possibly, according to him, a contributing factor to my depression. I had been suffering from mental health issues for a long time and they were getting worse and worse, mainly due to the facts I was now having to face, but the housing environment was not helping, clearly. I had also been signed off sick, long term after a rather ardeous interview at the benefits office to prove I was unfit to work on mental health ground. It never ceases to amaze me that people still think that benefits are handed out on a silver plate!

After the accupuncture assessment my friend and her husband both suggested I got the environmental health people in, which I did. She could not find damp, which is interesting, but she said the landlord would have to fix the windows and the electricity if the council were to continue to pay the rent…………….wow!  So, we were given 2 months notice. Not long before this I had been noticing running noises up in the atic, so we got the pest control man in…………we had rats, and lots of them, it was disgusting.

You sometimes have to crack eggs to make an omlette and that is exactly what was going on in our lives.  For the next two months we had nowhere to live. It was terrifying and it looked pretty bleak. Housing Benefit will only give a deposit up to their amount that they pay, and as there were no properties around for that amount that were habitable, it left me in a very difficult place, until a very dear friend offered to help, two weeks before our deadline.

It was like all my prayers were answered at once, and believe me, I had been praying day and night for God to intervene. She helped with my son’s move to London, she helped me with my deposit and helps with the difference between what housing benefit pay per month as there is always a short fall. It is incredible what the love of a good friend can do to change your life and I am grateful everyday to have her.

When it comes to living on welfare and housing benefit, what people maybe don’t realise is that housing benefit is paid every two weeks and that is it spread over 13 months for some reason, so there is always a deficiet each month.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful to have it but it is not the walk in the park and the easy option for the majority of people who receive it as people make out. In my humble opinion, there needs to be an easier way to pay it because it leaves people in debt all the time and most landlords do not want to be renting to people on benefits, possibly for this very reason

I had one of those Pretty Woman moments when I walked into the estate, suddenly my life had changed and I had choice, and guess what, a wonderful home appeared, somewhere that I have driven past for years thinking it is the most beautiful house I have ever seen and I would love to live there, I am.  The landlords don’t see people on welfare as less than them, they see me as people who need some help and support, what a total relief.

I really believe that it is the class system, the snobbish attitude that is really causing so many of the problems around homelessness. I was spoken to like a piece of shit by the people at the benefits office, the housing office even forgot to put my claim across,as I switched from boroughs, which almost lost me the house, thank God I checked it and I managed to get a friend to guarantee my rent for a year should I default. All that before I could get somewhere to live.

I do hope that anyone reading this will pass it on to anyone they know who maybe could do with a re-think and if you know an estate agent, let them know!! There was only one that helped me in Guildford, and I will always be grateful to them and to my landlords who are so human and believe that everyone deserves a chance. I feel so blessed to have met them and that I was given a break. I felt so shit about myself because of what our life had become, and it is all now helping me to grow and to feel human again, we all need love and support.

I have made a video about that time, including my struggles with domestic abuse, which you can find at http://www.youtube.com/addicts4addicts

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

In Search of My Mental Health

I am so excited…….it has been a really emotional week, one way and another.  In the midst of it all, it has all started to come together. The hope of a documentary with two Addictions Therapists talking about service provision, or rather lack of it, for people like me with no private health care and little funds to pay a therapist, has finally come to fruition.

I have got a production company on board and we are shooting on 13th August, it will be on this website asap after that. We are not commissioned, we are all doing it for free because we believe it is a very important thing to be doing.

It is my  passion to use my journey, (battling with Mental Health, Addictions, Eating Disorders and Co-Dependency, to name but a few of the Addictions I have), to highlight the gaps in the provision available to people like me, and just what a huge impact that has on mine and others lives.

The jury is still out on my diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder/Bi-polar, the Psychiatrist has now passed me over to a Psychologist and hopefully I will get to see her before the end of August.  Thank God I am not as unwell as I was even a few weeks ago, this waiting and having to go over what is going on, over and over again really does my head in……!

I once saw a huge bill-board on the way out of Waterloo Station which said, ‘If Britain was a person it would be sectioned……’ I do truely wonder if it is not the people but what we are expected to tolerate that compounds the state of our minds, it certainly feels like that to me.

The series is entitled In Search of My Mental Health.  I will keep you posted.