#HelloMyNameIsBipolar

 

#MyNameIs a healthcare professional with mental health issues. #MyNameIs mental illness.

My new campaign is all about healthcare professionals who experience mental health issues. To kick off the campaign I have asked other health care professionals to write about their experiences as guest posts.

 

#Myname is Bipolar Disorder

I am a student children’s nurse

My Favourite animal is a cat

I live in England

I am currently a second-year student at university and along with the daily struggle of assignments and placement, I struggle a lot with my mental health.

Studying affects my mental health greatly, the constant stress of the assignments while working full time on placement and trying to juggle a social life sometimes proves impossible, but I always get through it, and am always proud of myself for doing so.

Motivation is something that gets me through the most of it, because I can’t imagine myself doing another career and that’s mostly the kick that I need to get me through the ups and downs and everything in between.

My tutor and my lecturers are also a massive motivation for me. I am extremely lucky in that my tutor is one of the most supportive people I have at university and she is always someone that I will go to first if I’m not feeling well or if I am having any issues. I’m really comfortable talking to her and she always will put me at ease and into perspective and make me see things might not actually be as bad as I think they are, which is almost impossible when my brain is erratic and going 100mph.

The mentors I’ve had while on placement have also been extremely helpful to do all they can to help me pass the placement, especially if I have time off they’re very understanding.

The course does affect my mental health, however this makes me more determined to complete the course, so I can have a career doing what I’m passionate about, because I don’t want to do anything else. I find it really difficult working full time on my placements, doing my assignments and still trying to have a social life. Tiredness and lack of sleep are also massive triggers for my bipolar and can leave me feeling very unwell. I have to manage my time effectively and tailor my shifts accordingly to what I can do, to keep me feeling as well as I can, and placement are always accommodating when this is the case.

For me personally, being a student nurse does not stop me seeking health for my mental illness, however sometimes I can be in denial about how I’m feeling and not notice it, because I feel like so much is expected of you. Most of the time though it makes me more inclined to seek help,

 

because I know if I’m not feeling my best then how am I supposed to look after someone else?

 I know if I get help sooner when I recognise a change in my mental health, then the sooner this can be managed, and it gives me reassurance that things might not actually be as bad as they seem and that I am strong enough to get through it.

Mental health is becoming more prominent and more talked about in society and there is now slightly more help available, especially in university. I feel like I am receiving all the help and support I need from everyone around me to succeed in the course, which is a good, positive motivation.

The advice I would give to any future healthcare professionals with a mental health condition is to not be afraid to ask for help. It’s so easy to brush it under the carpet because you think you need to adhere to being the perfect nurse, however it’s much more important to look after yourself so you can do your job to the best of your ability and care for the people that need it.

“It’s not a failure to ask for help or take time out, and you can then effectively manage your illness, to be able to do what you love.”

I hope you all enjoyed this insightful post. If anyone reading this needs support below are some helplines and websites. Thank you for reading and a massive thank you to contributors of this series.

Look after yourself,

Love Abz

 

Signposting (UK)

The Mix (up to 25)-020 7009 2500

Samaritans-116123

Papyrus-0800 068 41 41

 

 

#MyNameIsBorderlinePersonalityDisorder

#MyNameIs a healthcare professional with mental health issues. #MyNameIs mental illness.

My new campaign is all about healthcare professionals who experience mental health issues. To kick off the campaign I have asked other health care professionals to write about their experiences as guest posts.

“#MyNameIsBorderlinePersonalityDisorder

I am a Student Doctor.

My favourite animals are rabbits.

I live in England.

I believe most people would have the impression that living with a mental health condition is made more bearable by being a healthcare professional, after all you should have a good understanding of mental health and this makes it easier to cope, right?

In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

 Being a student doctor, or in fact a student of any healthcare profession, is wildly different to being a ‘normal student’. The timetable is far more intense: I have teaching or hospital placement, all day, every day, and this can impact so many areas of your wellbeing, even for someone without a pre-existing mental health condition!

I have lived with Borderline Personality Disorder since I was around 14, although this wasn’t my formal diagnosis until 18. I am now 21 years old.

Over the years I have identified what helps keep me well, and what can send me into a mental health crisis, and the challenge of being a student doctor is lots of the structure I find helpful to keep my BPD in check, just isn’t possible.

For example,

I rely on making sure I get enough sleep each night, eating 3 meals a day, and allowing myself time-out to relax when I need it.

These might sound like simple activities that everyone can do, but the reality is with structured teaching up to 12 hours a day, commuting to and from placement hospitals many miles away and not having a moment to pop to the bathroom (let alone an hour for lunch!), means that in practice, basic self-care often gets left by the wayside.

Beyond the practicalities, the psychological strain that being a student doctor places on you can’t be overlooked. There is no question that I adore my degree and I cannot wait to qualify as a doctor; however, watching patients and their loved ones suffer and sometimes finding that there is nothing more than can be done for them is like nothing else.

I wish I could say that being in a healthcare profession would mean that when you reach out for support, you are met with kindness, understanding and the absence of judgement. And whilst this is occasionally the case, the progress that has been made in many professions around reducing mental health stigma has not been reflected fully within the medical community.

It is an assumption that we should be able to ‘just cope’, despite the fact that we are actually more vulnerable to mental ill health than the general population, that prevents individuals from reaching out when they need help. It is the fear that after all you have done to get to the point you are at in your training or career, someone will decide you aren’t cut out for it simply because of your mental health difficulties. Whilst clearly there has to be guidelines due to the nature of healthcare based roles, there is a distinct difference between identifying possible issues around Fitness to Practise and supporting those with disabling mental health conditions with reasonable adjustments, and using the presence of any mental ill health as grounds to undermine a person’s ability.

Unfortunately, the times I have tried to access support within my medical school, I have been met with ignorance and repeated suggestions that I should take a Leave of Absence, despite my continued efforts and above satisfactory academic achievement. However, support and guidance on a wider university level, for example a specialist mentor from the disability service to help with the difficulties I have around concentration, organisation and communication, has been invaluable.

To any other struggling medical students, I would say this:

your health must always be your priority.

The pressure and competition are immense; the fear that you will fall behind or are somehow inadequate is very real and I understand that entirely. But before anything else, you need (and deserve!) to be well. Not just for you, but for all your patients today and every day for the rest of your career. Finally, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Because, sadly, there will undoubtedly be individuals ready to doubt you and question your capacity in your role, and the way I have found the strength to continue through my training despite this is with the encouragement from friends and family who remind me every day all I have overcome to be the student doctor I am today!”

 

 

I hope you all enjoyed this insightful post. If anyone reading this needs support below are some helplines and websites. Thank you for reading and a massive thank you to contributors of this series.

Look after yourself,

Love Abz

 

Signposting (UK)

The Mix (up to 25)-020 7009 2500

Samaritans-116123

Papyrus-0800 068 41 41

 

#MyNameIsDepressionAndAnxiety

#MyNameIs a healthcare professional with mental health issues. #MyNameIs mental illness.

I am working on a new campaign around healthcare professionals who have mental health issues. To kick off the campaign a group of healthcare professionals have helped create a series of blog posts for me called the “#HelloMyNameIs Mental Illness” series.

Below is the first post in the series, I hope you enjoy it.

“ #MyNameIs Depression and Anxiety.

I am a Mental health Nurse.

My Favourite Animal is a Giraffe

I live in England

It was my dream to become a mental health nurse and be able to support others, just like others had supported me. I started struggling with my mental health when I was 15 and the past 6 years have been a complete roller-coaster. I have been through some of the darkest and worst times which I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through. At times I felt like I wanted to get up fighting, as I felt like it was a never ending battle. However, it’s not all that bad. I have learnt so much about myself, shown myself that I can be stronger than I ever knew, and I have found hope.

Aged 18 I started university, studying mental health nursing, and I can honestly say it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me a purpose, a reason to keep going every day and enabled me to look forward to the future. I’m not going to lie and say it was plain sailing because that is simply not true, and along the way there were some difficult time; but I got through them and came out the other side.

I disclosed my mental health difficulties straight away to my tutor, and I am so glad that I did. The perks of doing mental health nursing was that all my lecturers were mental health nurses, and I couldn’t have felt more supported. My tutor was amazing over the 3 years, checking-in with me regularly and being supportive when I was having a ‘wobble’ and I cannot be more thankful because I wouldn’t have got through those 3 years without her support.

However, disclosing my mental health difficulties meant that I had to face the dreaded occupational health. I’m not going to lie, it was awful. Being referred to a doctor what has the power to decide whether I was well enough to do the course and could have potentially made the decision that I was unable to continue with uni. The day of the appointment came and I managed to blag my way through it and give the ‘right’ answers.

 “No I haven’t self-harmed recently”

“My mood is about a 6/7 out of 10”

“Sleeping and eating is fine”

Blaa blaa blaa same old same old.

Throughout my 3 years at uni I can’t fault the amount of support I got, and I am so grateful for that. My tutor was amazing. I had weekly mentoring (which helps you keep on top of your academic work and minimise the impact of your mental health difficulties on your studying), and my unis well-being service were really good and I had someone who I saw weekly and could email for support between sessions. I know people hear horror stories about the lack of support at university, but for me I felt more supported during my 3 years at uni than I did prior to that.

During my 3 years we spent half the time in university and half time on placement. The workload and stress could therefore be very high at times, and having 6 different placements over the course did mean a lot of change and a lot of anxiety; and I probably did struggle more with that than people who didn’t struggle with their mental health, however, I got through it because I was really well supported.

In terms of disclosing my mental health difficulties with my mentors on placement- this varied over the course; due to both how comfortable I felt with that mentor, the placement area, and how I was doing at the time. I had a couple of very difficult experiences where my mentors were less than supportive when I did disclose, however, I also had really positive experiences to where my mentors were really supportive.

During my 4th placement (second year) I had quite a wobble, where I felt really low and anxious and was self-harming a lot and just wasn’t really coping. Between me and my tutor we made the decision that I needed to take some time out of placement (although it wasn’t really a choice because if I hadn’t agreed the decision would have been taken away from me). I ended up having 5 weeks off placement, during which time my meds were changed, which felt like the end of the world. However, during this time uni were really supportive and I was able to return and complete my placement and made up the hours that I missed.

Although at the time I didn’t wasn’t to have to take time out , looking back I know it was definitely the right decision and I wasn’t at the time well enough to look after other people and needed that time to look after myself.

Finishing my final year was very overwhelming. Someone had said to me that the 3 years of uni were like climbing a mountain and that completing each placement or assignment was like reaching the base camps on the way up; and now I had reaching the top. Reflecting on what a dark place I had once been in, thinking that the only way out was to hurt myself and end my life because I couldn’t carry on- and now my dream of becoming a mental health nurse had come true.

I was lucky enough to be offered a job on a ward where I had been on placement, so already knew the ward and the team, which made the transition easier. When on placement on this ward I didn’t disclose my mental health difficulties because at the time I was doing relatively okay, therefore I didn’t feel I needed to, however, since qualifying I have told my manager, supervisor, and some of my colleagues, and I couldn’t feel more supported. The thought of losing my support network at uni always scared me, however, I feel so lucky to be able to say I feel equally supported in work, and know that if I need someone they’ll be there.

I have now been qualified for 6 months, am working full time in a job that I absolutely love, in the most supportive and best team I could wish for. Things aren’t perfect and I think depression and anxiety will always be a part of my life and always in the background even when I’m doing okay. I still have my ups and downs and some days feel a real struggle. However right now, I am probably the most well and content that I have been since I started initially struggling 6 years ago, haven’t self harmed in over a year and am able to say I am proud of myself for how far I have come.

When things are difficult, remember that

‘This too shall pass’

Although when you’re struggling it feels like the worst thing in the world,

 ‘you grow through what you go through’.

You don’t have to keep your mental health a secret and there is support out there – and if I was to give one piece of advice, it would be to reach out and use it, because in order to look after other people you need to look after yourself x”

 

I hope you all enjoyed this insightful post. If anyone reading this needs support below are some helplines and websites. Thank you for reading and a massive thank you to contributors of this series.

Look after yourself,

Love Abz

 

Signposting (UK)

Samaritans – 116 123                                                                                                                        The Mix (up to age 25)-0808 808 4994                                                                                                CALM-0800 58 58 58                                                                                                                              Papyrus- 0800 068 41 41

 

Dear Grandad

Dear Grandad,

I didn’t think I would be writing this letter, but I don’t think anyone ever thinks they’ll have to.
I miss you.
I’m heartbroken you’re gone.
This is much harder than I thought it would be.
I’m sorry that as I got older I saw you less. I’m sorry that you didn’t know me as well as you used to because I didn’t tell you as much.
You are one of the kindest men. You made me feel safe.
I remember when I was younger and me and my sister had to leave home for a while because of domestic abuse and you took us in and looked after us because dad couldn’t at the time.
I remember you taking me and Georgia to the science museum and to the zoo.
You’d always walk to the drive to give us a hug and wave us off.
I’m sorry that I only saw you once after you’re terminal diagnosis. I promised you I’d see you again and I broke that promise and I’m so sorry.
I didn’t realise how hard this was going to be and I wish this never happened.
I just wish I could hug you again.
I love you so much
I will see you again soon. xxx

Dear Recovery

Dear Recovery,

I have tried to contact you several times.

The first time I tried you pretended to not even exist.
The second time you told me that I didn’t need you.

The third time you told me you couldn’t help, and the last time you made me think you were in but then I realised it was just voicemail.

But I think I may have finally got through to you.

I mean, it’s obviously going to take a while for us to build a relationship back up. I mean you have been quite horrible to me in the past.

But I think together we might be able to do this.

I know you’re not the conventional type.

You’re not the type who likes to fix me and leave me.

You probably want to stay around forever, and I hope so considering you’ve ignored me for so long.

But I’m glad we are talking again.

And I really think we’ve got a shot at it this time.

Love

Abbie

“I am not a failure…”

Dear Abbie,

Right now, in this moment, you feel like failure.

You feel like you’re unsuccessful, like you don’t do enough. Well I can assure you, you are not any of those things.

Yes, life has taken an unexpected turn recently.

You’ve ended up having to take time out of study.

You’re not very well.

But remember all the good things.

Remember your mentor telling you that you’ll make an amazing nurse.

Remember you course lead telling you that you are inspirational.

Remember your friend telling you that they are proud of you.

Remember your family telling you that they love you.

You have given to others more time and love than you have given yourself the last few years.

It’s time to be nice to you.

“You cannot pour from an empty cup”

You are not a failure,

You are just giving yourself the time you deserve to be the best you can be.

Love,

Me

#ASKTWICE

You’re just about to enter a classroom…

The teacher asks if everyone is okay.

They all respond “yes” (you’re not)

 

You’re walking down the road and I see a someone I went to school with…

They say “alright?”

You respond “alright?” (you don’t know what else to say)

 

Your best friend drops me a message…

They say “are you okay?”

You say “I’m fine.”

They say “are you actually fine?”

I say “no” … (a conversation begins)

 

It’s very common for us as people to not answer truthfully when someone says “are you okay?” because we are worried, worried we are going to take up too much time, or worried that people don’t really care.

We are so prone to just throwing the question back at someone rather than answering it ourselves, or just saying “I’m fine” as to not cause a fuss. This isn’t only common with people with mental health issues, it’s common with everyone, and it can be dangerous.

Those with mental health issues, however, may feel like even more of a burden when it comes to talking about how they’re feeling, due to the stigma attached,  so they’re inclined to say they’re fine. They may not feel people are interested or care and that it is the socially acceptable thing to do to say that they’re okay.

This needs to change.

A conversation can save a life, and it often starts with a question.

If you don’t think something is quite right, then ASK TWICE.

Follow Time to change on social media to keep up with the campaign, also the hashtag #AskTwice

My Battle with Self-harm

It came out Wednesday that over a quarter of 14 year old girls admit to self-harming. Boys are obviously doing it too but there wasn’t a statistic realised on this. It is a problem that effects so many young people and we are gradually beginning to talk about it more but still not enough. I just wanted to write something brief on my battle with self-harm. 

I started self harming when I was 15/16, I don’t really know why, other than the fact that too much was going on in my head and that was the release. It became a regular thing and this carried on until I was about 19 as a regular occurrence. People tried to stop me but it didn’t help.

When I was in the self-harm cycle nobody could say anything that was going to stop me. It was an addiction. To start with it was something that made me feel “better” but eventually it became something that was being used as a punishment.

Although self-harm stopped being  a regular thing for me when I turned 19 I have had moments since.

I’ve had times where sometimes I’d do what I used to do, but also I’d fine myself harming myself in ways that weren’t so obvious.

It’s an ongoing battle, and it’s a battle only I can fight but I can have support around me.

Coming out, and again, and again

So as it’s lesbian day of visibility I want to tell you how I came out as gay, or how I didn’t.

I always think I ‘fancied’ girls more than boys. But I obviously didn’t really no much about lesbians when I was younger.

When I was in year 8 I became best friends with a girl who told me she was bisexual and I was amazed at how open she could be and how she didn’t seem to worry about it.

I knew that I was probably gay at this age but didn’t want to say anything.

When I was in year 9 I was desperate for a relationship. So I dated a boy In the year below for three weeks. The furthest we got was holding hands.

I then also dated one of my best friends (male) who also later came out as gay. Again nothing more than hand holding.

When I got into year ten I discovered stonewall and ran assemblys on homophobia, still not having come out as I didn’t want anyone to think I was gay.

I also went away on stonewalls young volunteer programme but still wasn’t out to anyone.

It was in year 11 though where everything changed. Within a few weeks of starting this year I was outed. And within a day everyone in my year knew except my twin and I felt like my world had fallen apart.

This was meant to be something I decided no one else. Yet one person managed to ruin it for me. Or so I thought.

The next day I went into school I was terrifed. A lot of people were talking about it but only one person actually asked if it was true.

My best friend (who I came out to a few months prior) was supported and I just cried to her for a good few hours.

The rest of my year group were also supportive and anybody who wasn’t very popular with everybody else.

But at this point my sister still didn’t know.

It was about a month later when I told her. She was fine. I told her how rubbish the whole thing was making me feel.

I spoke to a teacher about it. And then the following week I came out to my dad.

The next step was my mum. I left coming out to her for months as i thought my stepdad was homophobic.

Eventually I came out to my mum via letter. I think this upset her as she felt like I couldn’t talk to her. But really she was fine with it and so was my stepdad.

My step family found out through subtle things on Facebook .

The next significant thing was my gran. I went to pride when I was in year 12 and my dad told my gran where I was going and told her that I was gay when I didn’t say he could tell her.

My dad didn’t see the problem but I felt like where I was at the beginning, it was being taken out of my hands.

My gran was fine with it.

My nanny and Gramps found out via the news, which probably wasn’t the best way. We don’t really talk about it but they haven’t disowned me either so that’s fine.

My grandad still doesn’t know.

It is a constant thing though. People do tend to assume your straight unless otherwise stated.

When I was in Liverpool I made it clear I was gay yet still ended up dating a guy. Although I have no sexual interest in him and see him as a friend. And I still call myself gay.

Since I stated uni in Bristol however, ive kept it quiet. I’ve just joked around and spoke about “how fit guys are” etc as it feels easier.

I’m not ashamed of who I am but sometimes it just doesn’t feel right to say anything.

I have found though that I have received less stigma for being gay than I have for being mentally ill.

To think at one point they would have been considered the same thing.

Anyway, happy lesbian day of visibility !

Love,

Abbie xx

(Just going off to watch something with Sue Perkins in)

The day I opened up

I was about 16 when I had my first proper planned (ish) conversation about my mental health. I waited behind after a lesson and decided I was going to talk to my teacher about how I was feeling.

The first thing I said to my teacher was “what’s the point of life sir ?”. As a philosophy teacher, this question probably didn’t seem that absurd to him. But he soon realised that this wasn’t curiousity that had caused me to ask this.

He asked me why I was asking this. I told him how I was feeling. How it felt like I was floating. How I could go through a day and not really engage in anything and not remember what had gone on. How I felt so incredibly anxious. I also hinted at the way I felt suicidal and that I was hurting myself .

I felt like I couldn’t be entirely open with him as I was terrified. I really didn’t want my parents to find out but I knew that there was a chance my mum would be told.

It was his responsibility to pass on what I told him and he did but my mum wasn’t contacted.

After this first conversation the next conversation about my mental health was easier and they continued to get easier the more I hand.

It is also a little bit difficult for me as every conversation is different but I feel so much more comfortable talking about mental health now.

My top tips for if you wanted to open up about your mental health would be:

1. Plan the conversation. If you can plan a bit of the conversation in your head it can make it easier.

2. Pick a date. If this person is likely to busy or if you need to make an appointment to talk to them it is always helpful to pick a date. This can stop the disappointment of the person not being available.

3. Deep breaths. Try breathing deeply or some other breathing exercises to try and keep calm whilst discussing this as it can be difficult.

And finally

4. Don’t Rush. If you aren’t ready to talk about it then don’t worry. There is no rush. You can talk about it whenever and wherever.

Hope everyone had a great Time to talk day.

Love

Abbie xx