Making Decisions

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not the only person in the world who has difficulty with decision making. This is not an issue that is limited to those with mental health difficulties and it affects many people in different ways. 

Some people who have to make huge decisions which impact the lives of many struggle with smaller everyday decisions – as if all their decision-making power was ‘used up’ in the process of their every day work. 

Others have a long process which they follow when making important decisions. Some have to write out pros and cons, deliberate over the facts they are faced with and do their own further research to support that decision. 

There are so many different kinds of decisions that any one person might make, and different ways of posing that question to ourselves. Take something as simple and getting dressed. What do I want to wear? What do I think other people might want me to wear? What does the weather suggest I ought to wear? Of course, different situations would call for different decisions and the importance of those decisions. 

If you’re planning on lounging around the house all day you can quite literally wear whatever you want. That dress you bought for your friend’s wedding and have only worn once, or those really comfy trousers that have seen better days but are great for curling up on the couch. 

If you’re going to a job interview, obviously – the opinions of others are something you want to take into consideration. Even then there are a number of questions I know I would be posing to myself. Growing up, my Father instilled a sense of ‘neatness’ in my appearance and I don’t see me going to a job interview in anything less than black trousers, a shirt and a blazer. What if this interview was more relaxed though? What if the interviewer is hoping to see some of my personality shine through in my clothing choices? Making human connections is important in most interactions we have with others, especially when it comes to work – and employment with people who we will potentially be spending most of our working week with. 

Decisions that I struggle with most are based around food. Am I hungry? What am I craving? Do I have any food in the house that I can cook easily? Do I want anything that I can cook right now? Where do I want to eat? Is this healthy? Should I buy this bar of chocolate when I know I’m just going to eat the whole thing in one go even though it’s the biggest bar of chocolate I’ve ever seen in my life, and don’t get me started on Jelly Tots. I can count the number of times that I have sealed a packet of Jelly Tots back up to save for later. 

Later, I will probably question many decisions that I’ve made. Today has been a relatively good day, food wise. I had a veggie breakfast with my Dad in the City for lunch and re-heated some leftovers from the weekend that a friend helped me cook for dinner. I’ve even got some Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls cooking for ‘snacks’ through the rest of the week. (If you haven’t tried them yet, I implore you. They are scrumptious, I promise! 

Now, at this moment the chemicals in my brain are in a state of flux. My GP & I (or, just me) made the decision to increase what dose of medication I’m on. That was two weeks ago, and anyone who has been on anti-depressants knows that it can take 6-8 weeks for the new dosage or drug to come to a therapeutic level. Before that I’d been experiencing long periods of low mood, and honestly – that’s just not who I am. So it made sense, of course – but in the mean time I just have to keep managing with this constant fluctuation. 

As a Law student, that isn’t really an option. Trying to justify my decisions isn’t easy, and the one point I really wanted to make with this post is that when you have a health condition (like Borderline, or depression and any number of other things) you really start to question those bigger decision. 

There are not enough fingers and toes on my body to count the number of times I have asked myself what feels like it should be a simple question. 

Why am I studying Law?

Two years ago, when I decided to undertake a Law degree it felt like a decision made on a whim. On reflection, there was a lot of thought and discussion involved in the process and if it hadn’t been for those conversations with other people – I’d be studying Social Policy instead. 

Low self-esteem, lack a self-belief, the mess of chemicals in my head, the difficulty of the work I’m being asked to do, the complexity of the cases and the need to be able to focus and apply laws are all reasons that flitter through my head when I ask myself this question. Who am I kidding? I’m never going to be able to achieve this HUGE goal so why am I bothering? 

It hurts that I think this. It hurts that despite the advice and support that has been offered around me, that my thoughts gravitate toward this way of thinking. I know I’m smart enough to do the work, I understand it well, and even I can see that there are cases I can remember the details of. Hell, half my friends have joked that they’re getting themselves a ‘free education’ from all the facts that keep rolling off my tongue. 

So why do I feel like I haven’t made the right decisions? The difficulty I’m having to focus at the moment has impacted on a number of things. My ability to get to sleep, to go to lectures, to read for more than a paragraph and feel like I haven’t just been daydreaming about cats the entire time. Equally I’ve been having those kinds of dreams where I’m not sure if they really happened or not? Some things that happen are more obvious than others, but when you remember a news story and you can’t remember if you actually read it, or you read it in a dream – things can be complicated. Until earlier today, I had managed to convince myself that the next assignment we had been given was simply ‘Choose an area of law and explain it to me’, and have been having both awake, and ‘asleep’ thoughts about this. These are some of the only ways I’m really aware of the levels of anxiety I have, because it feels like all the other anxiety is just ‘normal’ for me now. 

I’m still looking for the right indicators that suggest I am right in standing by my decision to get a degree. Although a know, somewhere in the far reaches of my brain that this IS what I want, I am capable, and this wasn’t a bad decision – there is a haze of emotion that wants me to think otherwise. 

Worrying that all this ‘stuff’ going on at the moment is an elaborate form of self-sabotage is another thing that keeps me awake at night. 

It is my sincerest hope that by Christmas the chemicals in my brain will settle, that I will be able to get on with the work tasked to me and when the 17th January rolls around I’ll be ready and raring to go. 

M e d i c a t i o n & Motivation

It’s one of those buzz words, isn’t it?

It used to be something I struggled to accept, that I was ‘reliant’ on a particular drug to get me through life. My Dad didn’t like the idea of me taking anti-depressants, my ex told me I was going to rattle, an old boss said that he didn’t think I needed to be on them at all. Being on medication became another one of those things that I constantly questioned about ‘myself’ and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter if I needed to take something so that I could function well through life. 

What I know since being diagnosed with Borderline has changed some of my thinking about the drugs I was given in the past, (but it is probably best to save my thoughts about co-morbidity for another time!) but I still stand strongly beside my opinion that sometimes individuals can need a particular drug in order to maintain a ‘steady’ attitude to life. Without that every day can be a struggle. I’m still never sure whether I will wake up on ‘x’ morning and feel ready for whatever I might have planned that day, but I know with more certainty that it is likely I will.  

Recently, after a long(er than usual) bout of low mood and general disinterest in practically anything I managed to get myself off to visit my GP. (Who took one look at how long I’d been on the previous dosage and said ‘yeah, I think an increase is a good idea’. Is it??? Why?? Whatever.)  I’d already decided that maybe an increase in the dosage would help me to feel more like ‘me’ again, but I’d completely and utterly forgotten what it feels like when you do actually take up a new drug or increase it. 

The last four days have seen me unable to sleep until well past midnight, and yet surprisingly alert and awake the following day despite getting less sleep than I’m used to. It seems strange then that I’m also having moments where my eyes are not focussed on whatever I’m looking at, and I have to shake myself to be able to do what it is I want to accomplish. My dreams have been memorable (unusual!) and weird

Other than that, I’m feeling positive about the difference. Feeling like you’re ‘you’ again after a time of self-doubt is a relief. Over the last four or five weeks I have questioned my decision to go to University and study Law, wondering whether it would be better for me to get a ‘proper’ job or find something else to do that has immediate rewards. Distancing myself from friends hasn’t been helpful, or easy actually. 

As of right now, in this minute as I sit here typing away (in a new and improved? wordpress document creator that doesn’t like spaces after words) I should be studying. In particular I should be reading about the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. I have my Public Law textbook at the ready, and I’ve even written this down as a task in a ‘new’ web-based app I’ve found that combines Kanban with the Pomodoro technique. 

I frequently look for new and better ways to motivate myself. Whether that’s finding another budgeting, studying, tracking, mindfulness app or hunting down the next ‘perfect’ notebook for writing a journal but right now (possibly thanks to the increase in meds???) this desire to find better things to ‘use’ on a daily basis feels like it has increased tenfold. 

Is this procrastination?! I hear you ask. Well, yes probably it is. When I do manage to actually fight the part of my brain that wants to sit and think about sorting all the cat pictures and gifs on my phone, or re-writing my budget for the millionth time but THIS TIME in an app that will calculate how much I should be spending, or posting some more pictures onto Instagram, or coming up with new blog posts, or thinking up more tasks that don’t actually need to be done or questioning whether there’s any point in getting on with anything because I have a groceries delivery in two hours…

The truth is, that no matter how many study aids you use, or however many apps you have on your phone you have to be able to switch off from everything else and actually get on with it. Easier said than done, I’m sure you agree. 

My friends would tell me I need to stop telling myself what I ‘should’ be doing and go a little easier on myself. Take a deep breath, take a step back, turn off Fun! Hospital and read. Even if it is only for 25 minutes (you can do this). 

Corridors

You are familiar with this corridor.

You have been walking through it, past so many doors for all of your life.

There is a familiar route that you have been taking for a while now. It isn’t particularly easy to traverse but you have become so used to navigating the obstacles along this path that it has become comfortable.

There is a door at the end of this corridor. It is the same size as all the other doors, but this one is made of a heavy, rich wood that has been perfectly crafted, sanded, and set against its frame. You don’t need to touch it to see how smooth the surface is, but you do – because this is the door.

There’s a particular trick to the handle, a knack to wiggling it in just the right way so that it turns. If your hand isn’t in the right position you know you’re going to have to get a better grip and start the process all over again. Even when you feel the catch slip free you have to prepare yourself for the weight of that door.

You pull the handle, certain and steady until a slither of light begins to filter through the gap. The strain on your wrist feels like a string tied all the way from the tips of your fingers, through the middle of your arm and all the way up into your brain is being pulled. You pull, and you pull, because there is no other way to go but here – this is the right path. This is the path you have chosen and it is not like the others.

The handle feels like it might break off under the weight of the door you’re so desperate to open. Is the handle not fit for the door or is it something about this pathway that is wrong? There is no other way along this road and you know that because you’ve opened so many doors on this journey, you have seen so many, and have been through countless others but you haven’t seen this one before.

You steady your feet, you ground yourself, you grip the wrist holding the handle with your free hand and you lean back. The door opens. At first, at the same agonisingly slow pace, so that the light from the other side grows steadily until there’s enough room to put your foot between the door and the frame but just as you go to rebalance your weight the door swings open.

The shock, and the surprise you feel at how suddenly the door opens to you is enough to force you back a few steps and as the door opens fully you have expect that it will close again. You hear the gentle knock of the handle against solid wall and it stops as if held in place.

Something tells you that this door will remain open for some time, but you’re hesitant to step through. It took so long to get here, so much effort and energy to open this single door and now that it is open you wonder whether it is the door you wanted to open after all. Tentative steps carry you back to the doorframe, you don’t want to step over it just yet – just in case you change your mind. There are other doors that are open to you, other corridors you could have gone down besides this one, corridors you can still go down. This one called out to you because it was different, but that makes you worry. If this door was different, will all the others along this path be different too?

You notice that the frame of the door is exactly the same as all the others that have come before this one. This isn’t the first one you’ve taken time to study, you hope it won’t be the last but sometimes you’ve been going so fast the frame of the door never seemed important to you but you know at the heart of it that they are all the same.

A light ‘click’ echoes around the corridor behind you and before you have the chance to think, or speak, or do anything about it – the door swings closed from behind you. That familiar weight is there again, this time pressed against your back and there is no way to go but forward. You don’t push back, there’s no time to react and instead you take one, two, three steps into this new unknown.

As you were stood surveying the door frame you thought, like all the other corridors hidden behind each one of these doors that this one was just the same as all the others – but the light is blinding. It is so bright that you cannot see the walls, there is no clear path ahead of you, and even the door that you came through seems to fade into nothingness.

You close your eyes. At least here you can pretend that the things you see are not the things which surround you. You can conjure up all kinds of doors and corridors here, force yourself to believe that what you see is what will be there when you open your eyes. You can even make up little obstacles and challenges along the way, trick yourself into believing that this must be real because it’s just as complicated and difficult as it has always been. There is nothing new, or scary, frightening or unknown about this new pathway because you can see it.

Opening your eyes becomes your biggest fear. You can tell that it is still bright from the red behind your eyelids. If the light never goes away then how will you ever move from beyond this spot? You cannot stay here forever.

Can you?

You ask yourself again, whether you could stay here. With your eyes closed you can see whatever you want to see. You take a deep breath, and think about all the things that make you happy. You feel the corner of your mouth move as the muscles in your face tighten. That’s a thought that make you smile. You think about it again, and suddenly you are thinking about so many things, all at once and all at the same time – the smile on your face is huge now, you haven’t smiled like this for a long time it’s all too much and then…

You open your eyes.

Relaxing

I lost my step-father at the end of January. As soon as I found out about it, I knew that I needed to visit my Mum. That was the easy part of course.

Over the last two months, my Mum & I have been trying to sort through so much of their life together. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. It has been stressful, tiring, wearing, exhausting and mentally draining.

University needed to be placed on ‘pause’ and I had to depend on the support of friends back home to make sure things kept running smoothly whilst I was away.

However, I have been incredibly fortunate to have friends on this side of the world that offered to let me stay with them for about 2 weeks before returning home. The whole idea is that I let myself have a ‘holiday’ from what I’ve left behind so that I can prepare myself for the recovery that needs to take place once I get back into the UK.

The purpose of relaxing is not lost on me, but I actually think this is first time that I’ve been consciously aware of the fact that I am actually capable of it. Even after I started to ‘chill out’ I started to question what I was actually doing with my time. There was a sense that I ‘should’ be doing ‘something’, although it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing I can do from here that will fix anything that needs to be done once I get back to England.

So, I’ve been attempting to really relax, and it’s been liberating and also a little telling. There are still a lot of ‘thoughts’, I worry about this that and the other, what impact my actions and words have on the other people around me and what I’m thinking and feeling and most importantly why? In the end however, I did concede and ended up purchasing myself a Bullet Journal so that I could take some more control of my life. Perhaps it’s a step backwards, but I can say that since I bought it, and started using it to log my much smaller day-to-day chores and events I feel much better about the whole thing.

Being able to look back and see what I’ve done is useful, and to give myself smaller goals that will help settle the uneasy feeling in my head has actually worked! It’s simple stuff too, less planning months and months in advance and more accepting each day as it comes. I’ve set myself little goals, ‘have a shower first thing’ or ‘put laundry away’ or ‘mail postcards’. It’s definitely easy to forget that these seemingly ‘simple’ things were at one point or another really difficult to accomplish – but just ordering my life some how has given me a greater sense of purpose.

Weird, honestly – because I was already doing those things, but it felt increasingly like I had to open myself up to a new project or plan some huge ‘game plan’ for the future.

The truth is that I have decided on a few avenues to follow once I get back home, and there are definitely jobs that I will need to ‘get done’ when I get there. Not that I’ve written them down! I have a feeling that will happen on my return to England on the plane, maybe? It’s a long, overnight flight – but there will definitely be time to take some notes and make a few lists.

Mostly, I’m just glad that I’ve been able to take a deep breath and just ‘be’. It hasn’t been easy, and I still struggle to ignore that nagging doubt and the constant questioning but it’s all practice isn’t it?

[ONE]

frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 

I have a very vivid memory from only a few years ago which feels like a very good way to describe how jarring and immediate these feelings can be. A very good friend of mine was due to turn up at my home, this person had been there for me, and seen me in one of my darkest moments only recently. For the very first time in my life – I had let someone in. I let them in, and it was scary and so new and very unlike anything I’d done before. I dissociated like crazy the whole time, but as I came out of the other end of this ‘moment’ I realised how much better I felt having gone through a wave of personal torment with someone else at my side – perhaps in particular, this person.

Their arrival at my home was nothing new, and nothing out of the ordinary. We had plans as a group of friends – and I had spent much of the morning preparing myself mentally and physically for the rest of the day.

I remember hearing the knock at the door, I remember bouncing out of my room – and I remember wanting to stop as I was half-way down the stairs. Suddenly I was hit with the sense that I did not want to greet my friend. I remember opening the door, but I don’t remember clearly the way I greeted them, beside the fact that I was cold. I was unable to hug them meaningfully, unable to engage fully in conversation and I recall leaving them on their own in the living room until other people showed up to be hospitable.

The intense disinterest and frustration I found in so many moments I shared with that person was consistent over several months, and until I was diagnosed it was a mystery to me ‘what happened’. At the time, I could not correlate the meaningful support I had been given with the twisted way that I began to respond to them. Even then I spent a lot of time trying to ‘work myself out’ and this was a particularly difficult situation to think myself a way ‘out of’ without coming to the conclusion that actually, honestly, I was not the person I believed I was. I was cruel, and hateful, and quite frankly a bitch. Honestly, I think this made my behaviour toward that person worse, because being with them brought out this evil side of me that I was not prepared or happy to face. It couldn’t be true, and I had no crutch against that belief.

Two of the most difficult relationships because of this symptom are the ones that I now value the most. Our parents are sent to try us, and we to test them – I think. There are a million quotes about parenting, and for a long time I felt like I was going through a ‘typical’ teenage phase of hating my parents. Except for the fact that it never seemed to end. 

Trusting that the two people who brought me into the world would ‘want’ me has always been a ridiculous notion to grasp and to have acceptance of. For every parent who is there for their child come rain or shine, there is a parent who chooses to put their own needs first – for whatever reason. I knew that logically there was nothing stopping either one of my parents from disowning me, and over the many years with this disorder I know I have tried, time and time again to push those boundaries and find out whether they might break under the pressure.

Keeping anyone at arm’s length is an easy way to avoid what is essentially rejection. If I do not show excitement at the prospect of something, I cannot feel dismay when that thing never materialises. For me, it was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There were many times when my apparent disinterest in an activity or event communicated the idea that I did not want to go, and it would always be a double-edged sword for my Dad when it happened. Either I would realise after the event that I had not been invited to participate because of my ‘disinterest’, and be fuming with him, or he would simply choose not to do said—thing, and I would equally be in a state about it.

People talk about ‘Quiet Borderlines’ as those who internalise their anger. These things moments would become ‘moments’ that I would take in and absorb as something I had done to myself and therefore something that I had personally done to whoever it was I’d ‘wronged’. In the case of my Dad, it was my fault for showing disinterest and not only had I upset myself in the process, but I had ultimately upset him too. On reflection ‘upset’ is probably a very loose term, because the agony I forced myself to feel on his behalf was often comparable to a situation in which I had changed his life forever – not something simple as was the reality, like having missed out on the opportunity to spend time with him on the golf course, or by going out for something to eat, or spend time with family.

In all the vague memories I have, when opportunities have arisen to spend time with family or friends I know that there hasn’t been a single time when I had been angrily opposed to the notion. On reflection, I honestly believe that I wanted to participate fully in every opportunity – but I just didn’t have the strength to invest my feelings in it. I didn’t have the strength to deal with the uncertainty of what might, or might not happen. I have always had a volatile sense of self, and outbursts of anger when that ‘self’ I might have been sure of in whatever moment was thrown into question were hiding around every corner – especially so with family. In the end, the risk of hurting them and as a result hurting myself in the process was too great, and it was much better to safely reject them before any ‘real’ damage could be done.

It’s these decision that create a kind of spiral of self-doubt and continued efforts to avoid potential rejection or abandonment. As with so many spirals – once you’re on the helter skelter it’s pretty difficult to get off it again.

The things I have written about are typical of a ‘me’ that was unaware of an underlying disorder – and as always, I feel like it’s important to take some time to reflect on the impact of knowing what you’re up against, and how you can take steps to reduce the control these thoughts have on you.

Some people think that behaviours which you have had for a very long time, which feel ingrained or a part of you are impossible to change. I believe very strongly that there is very little about a person which cannot change given the right circumstances.

Like everyone else on the planet, I am constantly able to learn. I learn from my relationships, and reading, and occasionally from random conversations with complete strangers. I also like to challenge myself, at least emotionally and mentally – and perhaps that’s a part of my personal relationship with my ‘self’, but I constantly strive to be a better ‘me’ who understands things with more clarity.

It takes effort to let people in. Allowing someone to see a part of you that you fear will turn them away from you, or leave you vulnerable to being hurt isn’t easy for anyone. I know that recently I’ve adopted a kind of belief that if I have nothing to hide, then it is the fault of whoever chooses not to like a part of me if they disagree with that part of me. Equally, I am learning to agree to disagree. I am accepting that I can just be ‘me’, and I am finding out who ‘me’ actually is every day.

It is important to be cautious, and to be aware of the people who may or may not be befriending, and equally it seems important to let people in and allow them to see who you are for you. Trying to work out what kind of distance you’re supposed to keep people is the hard part. I have come to accept what kind of person I am when it comes to people though, and it’s a slow process – but I’m learning to love who I am, accept who I am, and become better IF I NEED TO.

Asking for Help

Recently someone opened up to me about their mental health difficulties after reading through some of my blog, and I found myself talking about being able to ask people for help.

I distinctly recall a time when ‘asking for help’ felt like an impossible feat. Suffering from the most crushing depressive moods was obviously unpleasant. It would always start quite simply, a wayward thought about something someone had said to me, or something I’d said – some kind of injustice that I felt helpless to correct; and from there on it felt a lot like I was on a downward slope.

It was best described as a spiral, starting with a single point that spun wildly out of control within minutes. Right now it’s difficult to reflect on what those initial thoughts were, or at least it would be impossible for me to sit here and tell you exactly what any one trigger was – but at the time I had no idea that there was anything anyone could do to help me. Help was never going to fix the things that I had done wrong, and ‘help’ was never going to stop me thinking about those things. There was nothing anyone could do to erase the thoughts and feelings and memories – why should they, and why would I want them to? All the mistakes we make, or think we’ve made build us as people and I do believe quite strongly that it’s these things that build resilience and strength, although I definitely recognise now that the things I once thought were never really true.

These ‘incidents’ happened with increasing frequency until one day I opened up to a friend about them. No, it wasn’t the sudden miracle cure I’d been looking for, and it wasn’t the start of some unique healing process that would happen on its own but I made the decision there and then to try to tell that friend – the next time I experienced these spiralling thoughts.

Yes, I can remember the night. No, I have no idea when it was – but I do know that I called my friend, in floods of tears and asked her very simply if she could ‘come and get me’. I know that I’m very privileged to have friends that are able to do just that, and if I’m honest I tried hard to ask her in a very calm tone whether or not she was busy before imposing myself.

My friend had a few lovely words to say, and then she was in her car on the way to pick me up.

Instantly, I felt relief. At the time, I believe there were probably too many overwhelming feelings to really work out how I felt about the whole thing other than the obvious fact that I was no longer in that spiral. Maybe just sharing my problem was enough, maybe knowing that I had friends who cared this deeply about me was enough to quell the disturbing and incorrect assumptions I’d been making about myself. Either way, it was the first time I reached out to someone when I thought I never could – but it definitely wasn’t the last.

There is a huge difference between the person who called her friend that night, and the person that I am today. Back then I didn’t know that I have a personality disorder, and I definitely didn’t know how to cope with those debilitating beliefs that felt so real. I had no idea that I could feel something so strongly, and believe it so firmly – and accept at the very same time that it was not true. How many times had I convinced myself that people who loved me actually didn’t?

I’m rambling again (when don’t I?).

It’s only really been in the last day or so since talking to someone about being able to ‘reach out for help’ that I’ve begun to think about the meaning of the phrase. It’s not about asking someone else to take away your pain, or expecting them to have an answer to all your problems, and I assure you it is certainly not about attention seeking!

Asking for help is about knowing that you are not alone. It is about breaking whatever cycle you fall into. It is definitely not easy, but we all know that nothing worth doing IS.

These days I have learned to recognise those ‘trigger thoughts’ when they rear their ugly heads, and most of the time I can dismiss them. If that doesn’t work, I know there are several people who are only a phone call, e-mail, text message or IM away who will make me feel better again. I tend to pose the issue to people differently, depending on who they are – but I know I only have to say the words ‘I’m really struggling today’, and it’s enough to put a stop to the thoughts.

Please remember, if you feel like you can’t talk to your friends or family about how you’re feeling there are support services out there, run by people who want to help. In the UK you can contact the Samaritans at any time of the day by phone or email for free.

 

It’s Christmas!

Here it is, obligatory ‘Happy Christmas’ post from me to you.

It’s currently ALMOST 1am, and I’m sat listening to Christmas songs whilst April puts the last finishing touches to Lilly-Mae’s doll house.

I love being surrounded by the kinds of people that don’t mind doing things for other, people who trust each other and don’t mind accepting help. Hannah’s worked so hard this year to get everything ‘just right’ and I think it’s important to remember that we all have people who can be there for us whether we like it or not and whether we find it easy to accept that help or not. It’s a lesson I think we all have to learn sometimes – and I do wonder if there generally two different types of people, those who struggle to accept help and people who expect it.

ANYWAY. I digress. As I so often do.

This was supposed to be an opportunity to reflect on the last year – as so many people do this time of year.

It’s not been a terribly easy year, but not for the usual reasons. Generally speaking I’ve felt much calmer about most things. ‘Stuff’ doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, whether that’s because of the medication or because I’ve had a change in the way I look at life I don’t know (and it’s likely I’ll never know!) but it’s nice to recognise a difference in myself so clearly.

Families for a lot of people are a complicated thing, but I tend to find that mine is quite simple. My Granny has two sisters, and we have this tradition of visiting them in the run up to Christmas. This year we’ve had a lot more to talk about than usual, which is nice – between university, getting a flat, and my Dad’s new job there’s plenty of good news for everyone. There was a point when I felt that my Dad didn’t want me to keep talking anymore, sometimes I’m not sure what people want to hear or whether they want to listen when I talk about my mental health – but all I know is that I’m pretty much open and honest about all aspects of it. It’s a common theme through most of this year, actually. I couldn’t say how many people have mentioned the fact that I’m open about having Borderline, and equally how many people have said things like ‘Well you don’t act at all like you have a— you know‘ as if somehow I need to be acting a certain way all the time.

Perhaps it all comes back to this idea that one person can make a difference. If I can make one person see people with personality disorders in a different way then I’ve done something that will benefit someone else somewhere along the line.

2018 is definitely going to be an exciting one! That’s for sure. There’s a lot of work to do between now and the middle of January. I’m still trying to work out quite how I balance uni work and painting but it looks like this Wednesday is going to be a fun one. I’m just generally looking forward to things again. Life is good. ^^;

Be good to yourselves, be kind to each other, forgive, take a moment to swallow your own pride and have respect for the pride of others too. Be open, open minded, honest and reliable! If you make a commitment, try and stick to it. If you can’t do something, don’t promise to do it!

Much love.

~Ollie. x

Prioritising

It’s a word I struggle with, definitely not because I don’t understand the concept! I find it quite easy to make decisions about what should come first and which is more important – but there are times when it feels that there’s something else that’s supposed to be going on there.

Okay, so I’m mostly thinking about the situation that I’m in at the moment.

Last week, after my last seminar on Friday of that week I had made my decision! With FOUR WEEKS of freedom, I was going to manage a schedule of uni work, socialising and video games alongside the usual eating/sleeping routine that comes to easily to me.

So, on Tuesday when I got a call to say that there was a flat to go and look at, my priorities were suddenly shifted dramatically. I cannot describe to you the excitement I felt at being offered a flat. It’s something for a whole different post about independence and living on my own and having my own space and trying to work out which colours I want to grace the walls with – but for right now I have two very ‘important’ conflicting priorities.

Christmas of course went out the window. Suddenly my world is confined to painting and decorating. At first I knew that I needed to tackle the issue head on. There was only one thing I needed to do and that was DECORATE. I needed to clean, scrub, sand, paint, plan. What do I need? What do I have? What can I live without for a while? Where should I get this where can I get that? Quite frankly my thoughts have been chasing me in circles all week and I’m only just beginning to feel like I know what the correct approach is.

I just want to focus on how I’ve felt this week.

As soon as I found out that I could move in, it’s been my one goal. As if there is nothing else standing in my way. Everything I did from now until the flat was ready to move in had to be something which moved me closer toward that end goal. It’s a lot to take in, moving is such big business and when you move in to your own place for the first time LET ME TELL YOU IF YOU DON’T KNOW, it’s more than a little overwhelming. I forgot how daunting it can be to tackle everything all at once, I’ve managed the bills before now – and even managed them for a house of several peoples. That’s nothing new, but I think somewhere along the way I forgot about all this ‘adult’ business and suddenly it feels big and imposing.

I told myself that before university started again, I had to be living there with everything ‘just so’, and with at least enough time to get settled in and comfortable!

Honestly, I’m not sure when I realised that this was an unreasonable and frankly ridiculous goal. Today has offered me a break from ‘the flat’, although I did pop by with my Dad & co this afternoon, just so that they could see it first hand and perhaps knowing that they’re all very keen to chip in and lend a hand makes me feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Again, I forget my own advise as I realise that writing about the thing causing me such stress has helped to realign priorities and re-evaluate their weight.

Yes, it would be great to be able to move in over the next two weeks and have everything shiny and new and exciting but actually there are more important things going on here.

After my ‘tiny’ meltdown last term, it’s safe to say that if there’s a way to reduce the chances of that, I want to grasp at them. I started making a habit of writing down the weekly tasks that we’re given in a notebook and then putting a corresponding amount of marbles in a glass to denote each task so that there is a visual representation of the work load. It’s not that I’d forgotten about it – it just became less important to me when my only goal was GET THIS ASSIGNMENT WRITTEN, but a clean start is always a good thing in my opinion and getting that list written out has definitely helped me to reevaluate my current priorities as well as deciding to get a blog post done!

There is NO WAY that I would be able to temper the excitement I have about moving home, but I’m sincerely hoping that instead of focussing fully on preparing the flat, I can find a balance between these two REALLY important things and work out a way to evenly spread my time between the two things. It’s definitely not something I’m good at – and it’s difficult sometimes to know if that’s just a product of who I am, or it’s something that’s controlled by the black and white thinking that comes with having borderline.

A lot of people that I’ve talked to about time management and organisation try to help by offering advice about breaking up your time, setting yourself small goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them. It’s safe to say I have NEVER accomplished anything by doing that. Seriously, I wish it was easier to do an hours work and then reward myself with 15 minutes of gaming time (or something similar) but I much prefer to work at something until I can’t stand it any more and then wait until the next time I feel like working. Sometimes that can be half an hour later, or after I’ve made myself something to eat and cuddled the cat, sometimes it’s not until the next day.

We all work in different ways, and I’m starting to think that this is just another one of those barriers that I’m going to have to face and overcome. Finding balance between two things, and forfeiting my own desires is NOT easy. No one ever said that it was, of course, but I know that if I want to succeed, I’m going to have to start now.

In conclusion; write stuff down, write stuff down, and write stuff down. It helps!

How University kicked my ass (and other things)

It feels like forever since I last thought about notjustdepression.com, and I’m really pleased to say that I DON’T feel guilty about it.

The decision to go back to university was not an easy one, and it really hasn’t been easy. Lately, a lot of people have been reminding me that I didn’t exactly pick the ‘easiest’ subject to work toward a degree in, but I’m definitely not regretting or second guessing my decision. Law has been fascinating. This year my modules are Legal Systems and Skills, Constitutional & Administrative Law, Contract Law and Tort Law.

It’s a pretty good feeling to be able to say in full confidence that I’m actually interested by all the topics (although there are days when some of the stuff feels like I’m being taught how to suck eggs. Here’s looking at all the lectures about being an ‘adult’.) My friends have been inundated with facts and interesting cases and the occasional (frequent) frustrating reminder about whatever thing I’ve learnt that week.

Coping with University Life has NOT been easy though. I never thought it would be, and I knew that there would come a point when things fell apart and they did, but you know what? I got through it!

About four weeks ago I started coming down with something. At first, I really had no idea. I knew that I was drained. My mental health took a rapid dive and I started struggling to get out of bed (even on days when I’d slept for HOURS and didn’t have lectures until later in the day). I realised about two days later that it probably had something to do with the cough I developed, the cough which evolved into a cold which made me feel gross, and achy and tired and uninterested. It took a lot of effort to come out of the other side, and with two deadlines on the horizon I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope, actually.

So, I thought about it rationally. Yes, it was important to attend all my lectures and seminars and get the work done for them – but if there was a toss up between seminar work and ASSIGNMENT work, there was a clear winner to be noticed here. Although I’m not proud of the (almost) two weeks that I spent either procrastinating or playing Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 – I am proud of the fact that I managed to suck it all up, take a deep breath, prioritise and get my assignments handed in ON TIME.

Right now, as of this minute, right here where I’m sat I feel good. Yes, that’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that I now have FOUR WEEKS of freedom, but I feel ready to tackle the problems I faced in my first term head on. This was always going to be a new experience, and a difficult one – but it was important right from the start to make sure that I appreciated that. There’s a big difference between knowing that things will be hard, and making allowances TO YOURSELF for that. I’m glad that I was able to be kind to me, and I’m grateful for the awesome people around me for helping with that.

I had friends (and my Dad!) on the other end of the phone to remind me that I can do this. Thank you to the friends who had to listen to me rant about the work load without reminding me that ‘Duh, you’re doing a Law degree, what did you expect?’ Frankly, I was telling myself that a lot anyway. I recognise that I have an awesome support network around me. (So thank you!!!)

This term has taught me a lot of things, and I know that there’s plenty more I need to work on for myself to be able to make the next 5 terms easier, and get the best out of myself and this degree. I’ve already made a pact with the Wellbeing Centre that I will drop in on them more often – and I hope that by doing that it might help me overcome this notion I have that other people need ‘the time/the help/the support’ more than I do.

 

Challenging Personality

One thing that has never failed to really upset me – is when people challenge a part of my personality.

It’s difficult enough when you’re growing up to work out just who you are, and when people challenge the tidbits of your personality that you feel sure about it’s incredibly frustrating, and demoralising.

I find that having a personality disorder sometimes means that parts of my personality are twisted and re-shaped. I know that it takes a lot to wind me up, but there are days when on top of all the outside influences that I cannot control, I’m prone to making steps to wind myself up.

I believe that I have a lot of patience with children, and having spent a lot of time working in a school for children with all kinds of special needs, a lot of people believe that must be true. This is something that I challenge every time I think about it. My therapist asked me to make a list of things I like about myself, which at the time felt like a mammoth task. For every one item on the list, I could think of about three reasons why it didn’t belong on there.

Second guessing myself is something I’ve been doing subconsciously for as long as I can remember. I was the kid in class who would only put their hand up if they KNEW the answer 100%. I had to be right, because to be wrong would be a reflection of who I am. I wanted to be the child who could ask questions and give answers without feeling the heavy weight of failure not in the eyes of my peers or my teacher – but me.

I don’t like to be wrong. One of the only times you can get me to shut up is when I’m challenged by an opposing opinion that I do not know enough about. I’m keen to learn, but pride keeps me from asking the questions to help do just that – which I’m not proud about. I believe in bettering myself, and will keep trying to find the strength to do things when it feels like my entire body is frozen to the spot but it’s only a reflection of the fear I feel.

One of the hardest questions I’ve been asked at a job interview is the age-old “How would your friends describe you?” I used to think that the never ending yo-yoing of my personality was down to being a Gemini, and whenever horoscopes come up there always seems to be a debate at hand, but for a long time I ‘believed’ in my star sign and gravitated toward people who also accepted this view of personalities.

It’s a great example actually, of how things used to seem. On the topic of horoscopes and star signs I was incredibly flexible. Remembering the ‘list’ of people in my head that I could admit to ‘being a Gemini’ around and the people with whom it would result in some kind of severance of our friendship because of.

I’m *pretty sure* that being a Gemini and having Borderline is a coincidence, I have a lot of traits from both of these things and I identify completely with both of them as labels, but they don’t define me.

No one can be defined by any single label, it’s just not possible. Even bread has a bazillion different forms and I don’t think any two bread loaves are the same! (It’s not even anecdotal evidence, so sue me. Anyway.)

In my mind, I believe I’m the only one who can truly challenge my personality. There have been plenty of times when someone has told me something about myself, whether it be positive or negative (and from whose perspective! “was that a compliment?” springs to mind), but when all is said and done it’s only me who can decide whether to believe in them or not. Which is both a good and bad thing at the same time, isn’t it? No amount of someone telling me that I need to stop being so loud is going to make me stop being loud, but equally no amount of people telling me that I’m a caring person is going to make me believe that it’s true.

Bettering myself is how I’ve coped with the world, and myself. I’ve been able to reflect on the things I have said and done, and looking back I know there are a lot of things that have changed because of that self-awareness. (The self-awareness that was only made aware to me by other people mentioning it.)

We *are* most often, only going to listen to the comments that we want to hear. The ones that don’t mess with the status-quo or threaten to destabilise our entire mental picture of ourselves, but it’s certainly important sometimes to consider the things we don’t quite understand about ourselves.

My personality is mine, and knowing that I have a weird ability to shape it is probably one of the more positive things about being a person with Borderline. Not that it’s possible to wake up tomorrow with a completely new, hip outlook on life, it will take time as it always does but knowing that it is completely possible is pleasing to me.