Why do I volunteer?

I had my first voluntary job when I was 15. I worked in a local charity shop. I would be there every weekend and I did this for about 7 months. This was until my GCSE exams hit.

Then during the summer I volunteered and helped out with a care company. When I started sixth form I got a paid job but I still wanted to volunteer. I just struggled to find any voluntary work.

In the following summer I completed the NCS programme, and my love for volunteering grew massively. I did my social action project where I helped the homeless. After the programme I volunteered on the programme. I then started volunteering with girlguiding, I also did volunteer work with a mental health campaign within NCS, I volunteered in helping with lessons in school, I also volunteered with a local charity.

I was hooked.

I couldn’t stop volunteering, and the more I did the more I found time to do.

After having my mental illness being at the centre of my mind for the last few years volunteering was a welcome distraction.

It also gave me self-worth, and confidence.

Since coming to uni I have started working with a local guiding unit, and have started doing work with Time2change. I still wish to do more.

Volunteering gives me a purpose, it gives me happiness, and I’d be lost without it.

National Citizen Service (NCS)

The summer of 2014 was a tough one, but it was one that changed my life.

I always hated the summer holidays. I’m the kind of person who likes a routine, so when summer came I always struggled. This summer holiday was particularly tough as I was deeply struggling with my mental health at the time.

I had just completed my first year of 6th form. However, I hadn’t really as I had deliberately failed my exams as I couldn’t deal with the pressure, and I had just floated in and out of classrooms the whole year. This was all due to a massive decline in my mental health. However, at least a school I knew I could be safe. I was dreading being left alone during the summer with nothing to do. But the summer had to come at some point.

So it did.

During the first couple of weeks I got myself into bad habits and self-destructive behaviours. But one day I was scrolling through facebook and saw a friends post. There were pictures of him having a great time and enjoying himself. I was curious as to what he was doing. Then found out. He had gone away on the NCS programme.

So I did some research and signed up for the programme. I don’t know what came over me to do that but I’m glad it did. As it was nearing the end of the summer I wasn’t expecting to hear from them. However, two days later I got a phone call asking if I wanted to go on programme… that started in a two days time!

I said yes. Then everything changed.

I rung up my mum and she helped me get stuff together for the residential. I rushed around for a couple of days and got everything together and then before I knew it I was on the coach to the middle of wales.

I didn’t know anyone before I go there, but by the evening it was like we’d known each other for ages. After three days of being there I turned round to a member of staff and said “I want to come back, I’m going to work for you”.

I went home that weekend and didn’t stop talking to grandparents about my week, then it started again on Monday in a different place for our second residential. It was amazing.

I had my rough days whilst being residential, my mental health problems did cause my to have moments of self-doubt and tears, however, I came out of the residential programme a new person.

Once I had finished the programme and graduated, I went back as a volunteer in the autumn programme. And then cam back in the spring as a paid team leader, and have done every programme since.

Even as a member of staff I still feel myself growing and encountering new challenges each time, whether these are personal or challenges with young people, they have all helped me grow.

From this programme I have gone on to work with the cabinet office, BBC radio, and the press. I have also become a volunteer for different charities. Everything I do now is thanks to the NCS programme.

In summer 2014 I was in a very low place, NCS saved my life, and gave me a new one.

Thank you!

 

10 Tips for University (first semester)

I’ve decided to put together a list of 10 things that either I found helpful or that I wish I had known before I came here.

1- Budget !! Sit down with a parent or adult or someone who knows what they’re talking about. I started the year with know budget at all and now I have no money. My Dad came up and saw me and sat down to come up with a budget and I feel so much better now.

2-Plan. Plan whatever you need to. Depending on how stressed I’m feeling depends on how much I want to plan, sometimes I just need to plan a specific day, sometimes i need to do the week.It could be only specific things like meals, or essays (definitely plan these). But a plan for me always makes me less stressed. There’s so much going on in your first semester that it should put your mind at ease to be organised.

3-Confidence. Fake it. If you’re not naturally confident (most people aren’t) then fake it. In the first week you may have to push yourself out of your comfort zone slightly just to get to know people. But believe me when I say that its worth it.

4-Cry and threaten to leave. Okay, sounds weird I know. But everyone in my flat has done. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones. It is bound to happen. You’ll get homesick. You’ll wonder why you ever came. If you’re like me you’ll wonder why you came so far away. You’ll call your family and say you’re moving. But you’ll most likely stay, because of various reasons. It’s important that you do this though if you need to and not try to stop yourself from crying. Make sure you talk to someone.

5-Go home (if you can/need to). It is okay to go home. Someone told me not to come home in the first term as I wont want to stay. However, I’ve been home or near home a few times and it has helped. In fact it made me want to go back to uni. But definitely don’t be ashamed if you need to go home.It’s nothing to be afraid of. Just try not to in the first week as people are getting to know each other then.

6- Set goals. This can be something small like writing the intro to an essay, or could be something like get through to the end of the week. Setting goals when you feel like you’ve lost motivation helps. My advice would be small achievable goals as then you’ll feel better about yourself for completing them.

7-Do the work. After all you’re paying to be there to learn. So do it. And do it when it is set. I was always terrible in sixth form for leaving work until the last minute but I am learning that I can’t do that here. The best thing to do is to start it when its set, plan, read, and write it. Do several drafts.

8-Join societies. They have so many different types of societies to join and you’ll find this at your fresher fayre. I recommend you try to join at least two. However, you don’t want to join too many and then not have time for it. So try something new, or do what you enjoy but try to do something. This will help you make friends all over the uni and not just in your year. Also if there isn’t the society you want then you could find out how to set you your own.

9-Talk to your flatmates. Communication with the people you live with is important. Imagine being at home and no one talking to each other, its horrible. These people are effectively your “family” for the next year, so it’s important you get along as best you can. set up rotas for cleaning, eat together, let one another know when you’re going out. Also, resolve any problems/arguments as quickly as possible.

10-Enjoy yourself!!

University

A few months ago I didn’t think I would be in university.

This may sound odd, as I have always wanted to go. I took an extra year in sixth form to resit exams in order to go. Yet I was so ill that I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day let alone make it to university.

But here I am. I’ve made it.

When applying for university I had one criteria that I had to hit and that was that it had to be far away. I wanted to go up north, I had spent my whole childhood in the south west and I wanted a fresh start.

I applied for four universities at least 4 hours away and got offers from all. I ended up accepting the one the furthest away, this was due to the course content.

And now, I’m here.

During the month or so before uni I was excited to go, so excited.

But the week before I was suddenly filled with dread. I was panicky about going so far away (I know) and that no one would like, I wouldn’t understand things, and that the university would be horrible. I know these are usual worries, but no matter how many times I heard “you’re all in the same boat” I never felt better. My mental illness made these worries ten times worse, and I really didn’t want to go anymore.

When I arrived it was crazy, we were so busy unpacking things that I forgot about my worries. My flatmates seemed lovely, and they were, still are. The first week was one that was just all over the place, but after a few weeks I know feel pretty settled.

I’m getting there, and I’m so glad I’m here.

I made it to university.

Abbie xx

I Have a Disordered Personality…

…Or do I?

When I was diagnosed with a personality disorder earlier on this year there was a strange sense of relief.

I finally knew what was going on with me. I also knew that depression didn’t explain some of my symptoms. Borderline Personality Disorder, or as its been reclassified as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder has a wide variety of symptoms.

The symptoms include eating problems, impulsiveness, self-harm, mild psychosis, and hectic unstable relationships. All of these I experience at least 3 times a week. However, the strongest of them all is intrusive thoughts and mood swings. These happen several times a day.

These intrusive thoughts can range from, “you’re ugly” , “you should kill yourself”, “punch that person”, or my favourite “you’ve got a broken personality, you should just kill yourself”, these thoughts like to cover all bases. The worst of these however, are not the ones about myself, they are the ones that are about others or what others are thinking. Thoughts like “he hates you”, “you acted so stupid, she probably thinks you’re an idiot”, “why did you say that ? you probably upset her”. These ones in particular lead me to have horrific anxiety and this just adds to my likelihood of mood swings.

Moving onto the swings, these can happen every hour or half an hour. They happen regularly and are intense. One thing about BPD is that the emotions we feel are extremely intense, if I’m happy then I am “bouncing off the wall” happy, if I’m angry I’m “punch a wall and scream” angry, sad then it’s “lets jump off a bridge”. There is no balance, it’s all extreme, weirdly enough though most of these feelings always result into the same thing and that is suicidal feelings.

Now anyone reading this probably thinks with these intrusive thoughts that I’m a danger, but even though I have the thought to punch that person I’m not going to, or even if I have that thought to shout at someone I’m not going to. Chances are I’m not going to hurt anyone else, just myself.

I have too much guilt to hurt another. There are different types of “borderlines” and I’d be described as “quiet borderline” due to the way I act inwards rather than outwards. I have impulsive actions to hurt myself and to do self-destructive things, but I have never been sectioned. I have tried my best to stay in society, I have been close to, but I haven’t yet.

There’s a positive to having such intense emotions, and thats because if we are doing something we are passionate about we give it our all. When I do volunteering or my job working with young people, I put all my heart into it.

We love strong, feel intensely, and live on another level.

I do not have a disordered personality, I have a loving one.

Love,

Abbie

 

My Love/Hate with Mental Health (TW)

It seems right for one of my first blogs to be about mental health as it is a massive part of my life.

I want to take you back to 2010, so 6 years ago. This was when I was in year 9 in secondary school. My first two years of secondary school were pretty great to be honest, I had finally found a group of friends and felt quite settled. Yet in my third year things began to become difficult.

For some reason I began to feel withdrawn from things in school, this meant that I was loosing friends and everything I had worked for began to seem pointless. I started lying to friends in a desperate search to keep them, making up reasons as to why I was withdrawn, rather than just telling them the truth. This eventually backfired and they realised I was lying and I had to work hard to build these relationships up again.

I spent the beginning of year  10 in hospital, I was in there due to a chronic illness I have called hydrocephalus. I don’t remember much of year 10 other than near the end, I had spent an extremely long time trying to organise a concert that got cancelled and left me feeling worthless and like everything I did was pointless.

However, it was at the beginning on year 11 when things began to get really difficult, not only was I feeling so low, I was also questioning my sexuality which didn’t help. I came out to my best friend over text whilst sat at her kitchen table. I sent the text and just burst out in tears, I can’t quite tell if it was relief or panic that I felt. She obviously didn’t mind and came over and gave me a massive hug.

I was glad that I came out to her, and through doing so I managed to come out to a few others. But I was feeling more disheartened when I realised that my mood wasn’t changing. I thought the reason I felt so low was because I thought I was a lesbian, plan and simple, and because I was keeping it from my friends. But this mood just didn’t shift.

One day I accidentally came out to someone who I didn’t want to and then this person told everyone. The rumours spread like wildfire and I couldn’t bear it. I went home that evening and didn’t want to come in the next day. I spent the morning crying into my best-friends arms. But luckily it was later on that day that I realised that no one had a problem with it and everyone was really accepting, they all just had a issue with the girl who spread it round in the first place.

I still couldn’t stop the way I was feeling though and began to think that this feeling was not about my sexuality at all. I opened up to a few great teachers and one of them referred me to the counselling service within school. However, I did not find it useful as the whole time she just focused on my sexuality. Nearing the end of our sessions together I mentioned wanting to take my own life, she told me she’d have to report it. She didn’t. I didn’t dare to mention to her about my self harm. Which meant I did not get anymore help on this matter.

Once these sessions had stopped I began confiding in teachers again, two of which I have been close with ever since. One was my R.E teacher and the other my old D.T teacher. They both helped me a hell of a lot. My R.E teacher left early that year as he was on paternity leave. So my D.T teacher helped get my through my GCSE exams, and I passed all of them. I cannot thank her enough for her support.

The extended summer break had been extremely difficult, I struggled not having a structure or anything to do. I felt like I lacked purpose. During this period things escalated quickly. I was self-harming, purging, starving, binging, and overdosing. At the same time everyone in my life was oblivious to this. I was even purging at my summer work experience placement. Yet the whole time was still sure that everything was normal, the way I was acting was fine.

I wasn’t originally sure if I wanted to stay at my secondary school for sixth form because of everything that happened in year 11 but I did.

So when I started sixth form I was relieved to get back into a structure, but things were definitely not better. I started to feel like a zombie.

Within I first month of being in sixth form I took an attempt on my life in the form of an overdose. However, I did not tell anyone, until I woke up the next day. I told my mum, there was shouting, crying, and hugs. She rung the doctors, who said I would just have to come in to see them. I then went to school at lunch time like nothing had happened.

I was referred to CAMHS.

If any of you reading this have experienced CAMHS then you may know how hard it can be. I was with CAMHS for a total of 9 months in which I feel like nothing was really resolved. I got a diagnosis of “low mood”, and on my last session I said I wanted to die and was discharged.

After my discharge I was becoming more and more withdrawn, however, I would have these surges of hyperactivity during the day. How could I be diagnosed with low mood?

I went to my GP and she said it was puberty and hormones.

As exams were nearing it was becoming more and more obvious that I was not going to pass them. My teachers all spoke to me about their concern for me and wanted me withdrawn from my exams for my own sake and for me to start a fresh the following year.

I still sat them, and failed all of them.

I came back for my second year of sixth form and resat the year. It was tough knowing that all my friends would finish before me. But I made friends with someone who was in the same boat as me and she’s now one of my best friends.

Year 13 started off okay but I struggled to settle, there were a lot of changes going on in the school. All I wanted to do was volunteer and be active in things but I struggled to commit with my ever rapid changing mood.

Then one of the teachers I had always confided in was suspended and I blamed myself. This meant that I didn’t feel I had someone I could be open with and became more and more closed off. It looked like there was going to be a repeat of my first year.

I went to my doctor and she referred me to talking therapies. I went once, the women gave me 15 minutes, she forgot I was coming. Some weird determination in me though got me through the year, with the help of my amazing head of sixth form and the amazing D.T teacher (who didn’t even teach me anymore). I was a deputy head girl that year, peer mentor, and began working for NCS.

With everything I was doing it looked like I was doing well, however, I was still self-harming and doing all the things I had done previously.

I passed my exams that year. I then moved onto my final year of sixth form.

At the start of this year I was met with UCAS deadlines, coursework, and my volunteer commitments. Also a massive decline in my mental health. Throughout all of the time I struggled with my mental health I was always able to go to school and attend lessons. Except this time. I began skipping lessons, and just not paying any attention in class. This is also when anxiety became extremely prominent in my life.

I struggled on for a while. Until around February when everything was getting far too much and I confided in my friend. She took me to the doctors and I was given my first ever SSRI medication. I never normally have problems with side effects, but this gave me some really bad ones.

After a week of taking them I felt the lowest ever, I was fairly open with my teachers, all of them showing growing concern. But I kept up with them for a while.

I kept taking them until I had enough, I wasn’t feeling better. I went back to the doctor and was referred to Talking therapies, they said I was too severe to get help from them, then I was referred to PCLS and was told to just keep taking medication. Eventually I was sent to CMHT, and after two appointments I got a diagnosis.

I was given the diagnosis of BPD/EUPD and it was a diagnosis that I felt actually fitted. I was so grateful. I was so glad to know what was going on with me. I was offered temporary help as I was going to uni. My cpn was lovely and kind.

I am now at university in Liverpool, where things are rocky, but I’m getting there.

Why Blogging?

Blogging is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

So here it is. A blog.

Blogs have been a key part of my mental health journey. Unfortunately some have ended up doing more damage than good, however, the majority have been extremely helpful. For me it was important to hear other people’s stories so I didn’t feel so alone.

So I have decided that I am going to try and blog. I want to create somewhere where I can be honest, but also where I can help others.

My aim is to aid people’s recovery, give advice, and try to inspire others.

I hope I am successful in this

Thanks,

Abbie xxx