#HelloMyNameIsAbbie & I have EUPD

“Hello, my name is Abbie. I am a student nurse and I suffer from mental health conditions, and that’s OKAY!”

This is a sentence that I’m trying to accept. On a good day I will accept it, on a bad day I probably won’t. But I am getting there.

Before I started I was obviously seen by occupational health and was stable enough I was cleared. But just because this happened it didn’t mean my mental illness was cured, although in my head I just wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist.

Since I started my nursing degree I was obsessed with being “normal”. I didn’t tell anyone that I am gay, I didn’t tell anyone that I have an eating disorder, and I definitely didn’t tell anyone that I have EUPD. I really stigmatised myself around these topics.

It’s been the last few months though that things have started to really rear their ugly head and I have had no option but to be honest, because if I didn’t I don’t know what might have happened. Hiding is just so exhausting.

I was really scared before I started my most recent placement, this was due to how badly I was treated on my last one, well I think that’s why.

When I started my placement I was really enthusiastic and was really involved and embraced it massively, it felt great. But as my mental health started to decline I realised this wasn’t maintainable, it was just tiring.

My mentor caught on that I wasn’t who I was at the start, and then one day just as we were leaving, I told her everything. I told her that I was struggling and that I had seen a Dr and was feeling suicidal and told her some of my history. She was really supportive and gradually as time has gone on I’ve become more and more open with her.

She helped me tell uni about what was going on so they now know. She also knows that I have a personality and eating disorder, which were things I never thought I’d be comfortable sharing within my professional life, but here we are.

I was so scared for such a long time about people knowing at uni that I had built it up to be something absolutely massive, and it really isn’t.

It’s not “normal” but It’s not an issue. In fact, it’s benefited me having experience of this, I see lots of mums with different mental health issues, some with EUPD and others with different issues, but it has meant that I have a lot of empathy towards them.

Because I have finally managed to be open people can actually support me. I’ve probably had a better response about the whole situation by telling them then if something were to have happened and they ended up finding out.

It really hasn’t been easy, quite frankly it’s been terrifying. But I’m getting there when it comes to accepting the fact that this isn’t going to go away and I’m just going to have to get on with it and be a nurse with a mental health issue.

I’m not in the best of places at the moment but at least I am not having to hide that now. I also have fantastic support from my uni and couldn’t ask for a more understanding bunch of lecturers.

I will get there eventually with accepting myself, and one day I’ll feel okay with saying that I am a nurse and have a mental health condition.

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)

Uni so far…

So since I started this nursing course I have been all over the place. I’m not going to say that it’s all been caused by uni but life has been harder because I am at uni.

I started in September last year studying children’s nursing and I was really excited but I did find it so different and so much more difficult to what I was studying last year.

I also didn’t disclose anything to any of my lecturers about having BPD or any of my issues as I was worried I would have to leave the course. In fact, I still spend a lot of time worrying about this.

The stress is quite high around passing exams and assignments. I really worry about it and I worry to the point where I feel like I can’t write anything at all.

I also feel like I don’t have any close friends like I had last year, and I really miss that. A lot of my friends don’t know much about me. They don’t even know I’m gay. I just never felt that comfortable.

I feel like there’s quite a lot of stigma around female nurses being gay and about having mental health issues and working in the NHS.

However, this might just be me self-stigmatising. I feel like I can’t have these “issues” and be a nurse so I hide them away. Which in turn puts a lot of stress on me.

It’s hypocritical of myself, as I wouldn’t tell a patient to bottle it up. I would tell them to talk about it. I would also tell other members of staff to as well, but I still can’t.

In my first placement I really struggled as I worked with some really difficult people. And after that I really wanted to give up.

I do want to keep going on with this course but sometimes I just feel like it would be easier to give up. I don’t feel clever or smart enough for it, but I feel like I can be a nurse.

Abbie X

What’s been going on ?

It’s been 2 months since I last wrote a blog post, I’m sorry.

Things haven’t been great to be honest. I don’t know how to explain things very well but I want to try. I guess I’ve relapsed on several things but I can’t say I’ve relapsed from recovery because I don’t know that I’m recovered.

It was in the new year where things started to go downhill again. I was supposed to start placement on the 1st of January and I did but within a week I got physically unwell and was “signed off” for three weeks. In this period, I had a lot of thinking time to myself and felt useless and stressed out.

When I finally went back to placement I was really far behind. I didn’t feel very supported by the staff there and found it extremely difficult. I was also told that I didn’t seem very enthusiastic and this just made me feel worse. But actually, I was just very under-confident and anxious.

During the days when I was at uni I did have a lecturer who would ask me if things were okay but I feel very pressured into not saying how I’m feeling as I don’t want to have to leave my course. Truth is, I just don’t think I’m very well at the moment.

I’m spending a lot of time stigmatising myself, because when I had the flu at the beginning of the year I didn’t really think twice about taking the time off. Yet I wouldn’t dare do it now for a mental illness.

I’m currently feeling quite depressed, anxious, struggling with my mood, and also eating. It’s all a great big mess and I haven’t felt this bad since when I was sixth form.

My days are kind of just disappearing. Before I used to dissociate by accident without realising. But at the moment I am kind of trying to do it deliberately in order to not have to feel anxious all day. It seems like I can’t win either way though.

And food, well that’s always been the enemy but even more so at the moment. My thoughts are consumed by what I should and shouldn’t be eating and what I should do to get rid of calories etc.

I’m all over the place. It’s affecting my life massively as I find myself arguing with everyone, have a short temper, and just feeling so bad about myself. I hate the way I don’t feel I’m in control at the moment.

I’m inviting bad people back into my life because I want to be loved. I can think semi-rationally about that right now, but in about an hours’ time I will probably think that’s a great idea. I’m struggling to think straight and clearly.

I feel disgusted by myself. I want help but by the time I feel ready to ask for it I don’t believe that I need it anymore. I don’t feel as supported as I have done in the past and I don’t feel I can be as honest as I want to be because I don’t want to hurt them.

I don’t know what will happen. I’ll probably get out this dark patch and wonder what on earth I was thinking, but I don’t know.

I don’t really feel alive, and I spend a lot of time questioning the point in things. It’s really difficult. The thoughts I was having before are back.

But I know that if I reached out to friends I would get some support. I just can’t.

The hardest part is, I guess I look okay. I mean I go to uni, I *kinda* do my work. But I guess I’m just trying to hide it because I don’t want people to think I’m struggling.

Anyway, that’s enough.

Abbie x

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

Day 16-Favourite Lush Products

Hi, I’ve decided to do a blog every day for advent (well at least try to). These blogs are going to be about various things, some about mental health but also some about other topics. I haven’t planned them yet, so they may be (most definitely will be) rough around the edges.  Some may contain trigger warnings; I will say this before the start of the post.

Day 16-Favourite Lush Products

Today I needed something quick to write about, so I decided to write about some of my favourite Lush Products

The Comforter

I’ve had this product in both a shower gel and also a showder.

Their showder is effectively a powder bath bomb which you then use to wash your body.

You get it wet and it turns into something like a body scrub.

The smell of the comforter is like candy floss. It’s perfect for people with a sweet tooth (but don’t eat it).

Yuzu and coco

I’ve had yuzu and coco in a body wash, although you can buy it in bubbleroon. On the label it says it smells of chocolate orange, but to me it smells of chocolate and coconut. Either way it’s awesome. The colour is a little weird but don’t let it put you off.

Intergalactic

Intergalactic is a bath bomb. It smells minty and is really refreshing smell, and it contains popping candy so you can hear it popping.But that’s not the best thing about this.

The best thing about this bath bomb is the colour. It starts off being multicoloured and then changes to a dark blue and glittery bath. It looks like a clear nights sky.

Mask of magnaminty

This is by far my favourite face masks. I can suffer with really bad breakouts and this deals with them quickly.

It has tea tree oil in it and smells super minty.

It’s a really nice mask to use after a long day when you’re trying to relax.

Spa Treatment

I had my first lush spa treatment this year and it was amazing. I had “the comforter”.

But I’m going to write about this in a separate post.

Sorry if this seemed pretty rushed tonight, I wanted to get a post up but I’m babysitting so I didn’t have much time.

I hope you enjoyed it regardless.

Love Abbie xx

Day 15- My Body (TW)

Hi, I’ve decided to do a blog every day for advent (well at least try to). These blogs are going to be about various things, some about mental health but also some about other topics. I haven’t planned them yet, so they may be (most definitely will be) rough around the edges. Some may contain trigger warnings; I will say this before the start of the post.

TW (body image, BPD, eating disorder)

I wrote this on a train, I am not a poet so I’m sorry if this isn’t any good.

Day 15- Body (a poem)

My body belongs to ME

it is a vessel; in which I am contained.

Yet, this container is damaged,

it’s been beaten and battered.

You see, If I was a dog, I’d have been taken away.

I’m not a dog though, and so I must stay.

Yet, like a dog, my body continues to love me unconditionally.

I have been hurt beyond belief, I have hurt it beyond belief,

not just physically,

some of this damage, you cannot see.

But it’s not all bleak, and my body and me we are not weak.

For I am not broken, I am a fighter.

I have fought and battled many a day,

We have fought and battled many a day.

But I still can’t find the courage to say,

“I love you body…
I’ll be okay”

WE’LL BE OKAY

Day 14- Vegan Food Products

Hi, I’ve decided to do a blog every day for advent (well at least try to). These blogs are going to be about various things, some about mental health but also some about other topics. I haven’t planned them yet, so they may be (most definitely will be) rough around the edges.  Some may contain trigger warnings; I will say this before the start of the post.

Day 14- My Favourite Vegan Food Products

This post is going to be a list of some of my favourite vegan food products. Some are accidently vegan and some are just made vegan.

Oreos

Some of you may not know that Oreos are vegan, but they are, exciting times! If you want to be creative with them, you could make cookie dough Oreo brownies. You just need to make the cookie do vegan by using oil and vegan spread, and you can just use a brownie packet mix made with either lemonade, coke, or just using oil. Super junk food vegan style.

Party Rings

Childhood favourites, and they’re vegan. Do you remember sticking them on the end of your finger? And then biting into your finger by accident when trying to eat them? Well if you’re vegan you can still experience this. Even though you know it’s only a bit of icing on a biscuit, it’s a nostalgia thing, right?

Wheaty Chorizo

This came in a vegan subscription box, and it was the last thing to be eaten in there as I thought it was going to be gross. I was wrong. This is however, one of those things you should only eat if you’re okay eating things that taste so much like meat. They are yummy.

Skittles

I have a massive sweet tooth so I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat chewy sweets. But skittles are still on the cards. Yay

Tesco Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

These are one of those things again that you probably wouldn’t like if you don’t like things that are too realistic to meat. These say vegetarian on the packet but they are vegan and so good. My stepdad is a massive meat eater but he ate these and didn’t realise they weren’t meat.

Linda McCartney “pork and Apple” Sausage rolls

I only found these the other day and they are as good as the ones above but feel a little fancier. Plus, the apple flavour makes them even better.

Ben and Jerrys

Obviously when I say Ben and Jerrys I mean the dairy free stuff. It’s just as good as the other stuff, but unfortunately slightly more expensive, so definitely just a treat.

Lemon Drizzle Nakd Bars

All of the Nakd bars are vegan, but my favourite one is the lemon drizzle one. It tastes like a lemon and coconut cake.

I understand that the food I just mentioned is mainly snacking stuff, so I will write post at some point of some actually meals. I just wanted to point out that we can still have the treats as a Vegan.

Love Abbie xx

Day 13- The Steiner Experience

Hi, I’ve decided to do a blog every day for advent (well at least try to). These blogs are going to be about various things, some about mental health but also some about other topics. I haven’t planned them yet, so they may be (most definitely will be) rough around the edges.  Some may contain trigger warnings; I will say this before the start of the post.

Day 13- Working in a Steiner School

At the beginning of the year I arranged to do some volunteering at a Steiner school that one of my old teachers now works at. I did this for 4 weeks near the end of June. It was very much an eye opening experience for me that I thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted to just do a basic post about my experience.

The Atmosphere

I didn’t really know anything about the school before I did this. But from the minute I walked in the building I realised that it wouldn’t be anywhere the near the same as I school I went to, or anything like any local comprehensives.

As I was sat in the reception it just felt so different. The school had this atmosphere that was just so positive. The staff looked so relaxed, and the children seems so happy.

Classes

The classes are split into year groups like normal schooling but the class names are a year above like American schooling. For example, class 6 would be year 7. The students have one main teacher and then separate subject teachers. Their main teacher will work with them from year 1 up until year 11, and their classmates will stay the same (except if people leave).

A School Day

The day started off for me with the children coming in and shaking the class teachers hand and then waiting for the other children to arrive. After this has happened the children then say their daily verse, do their movement (sort of like yoga), and then will play the recorder, sing, or learn a tongue twister.

After this the class went out to play a game. These games were brilliant; they were all about team work.

Once they had got their brains energised by the morning activities they then started their main lesson. Their main lesson is a two-hour lesson that happens daily that is about a certain topic, they will do this topic for a number of weeks, in the younger classes this may be something like animals, in the older classes this could be the body.

In these classes they will write poems about their topic, or might read books on it.

The other lessons they have are art, form-drawing, literacy/numeracy, R.E (older classes), eurythmy, music, games, hand-work, mandarin, and Spanish. Some of these are taught by their class teacher, and some are taught by specialist teachers.

My Opinion

It was really interesting to see such a different view on education. I learnt a lot from the people who were working there.

Whilst I was there I was treated like a member of staff but even more than that as I felt so at home there. I was trusted to teach some classes and I have never felt more honoured: somebody who knew me visited one day but didn’t realise it was me as they thought it was an experienced teacher.

I absolutely loved how happy the kids seemed there, I loved how involved the parents are, and I loved how the child was view holistically and not as an exam machine.

Steiner teaching is something I would really like to revisit if I had the chance. It was an experience I will never forget.

Love Abbie xx

Day 12- A Year ( and a bit) With TTC

Hi, I’ve decided to do a blog every day for advent (well at least try to). These blogs are going to be about various things, some about mental health but also some about other topics. I haven’t planned them yet, so they may be (most definitely will be) rough around the edges.  Some may contain trigger warnings; I will say this before the start of the post.

Day 12- A Year (and a bit) with TTC

Just over a year ago I became a young champion with Time to Change. Through this I have been given some wonderful experiences and have meet some even more wonderful and lovely people.

Initial Training

At the initial training was where we all met. It was a weekend long training session, and was full on but amazing. It was the first time I had been with so many people who knew what it felt like to be me and have experience of having a mental illness. Here I met all the other fabulous young champions as well.

Testimony Training

Testimony training was more intimate, there was around ten of us. It was here that I got to meet Rachel properly, who has now become a good friend of mine. Here we shared our personal stories and experiences of mental illness. It was a tough and emotional day but it was amazing to see the strength of everybody in that room, including staff who shared their stories. (Joss=Inspirational/Amazing)

My First Testimony Delivery and DoH

The first testimony I delivered was at a school in Leytonstone. I went with Joss. It was quite intimate, there was probably only about 15 people in the room, but I was terrified. It was the first time I had ever properly shared my story, but the teenagers who were in that room were so polite and listened to me, I was so honoured to have their attention.

I didn’t realise that my story would have so much of an impact but one of the teachers was crying and some of the students came up to me at the end and spoke to me. It’s an experience I will never forget.

This day wasn’t just that visit though. In the afternoon was asked to go to the Department of Health to talk about what it was like to be a Young Champion. There I got to meet the lovely and inspirational Sue Baker.

It was such an amazing experience to be able to speak about my experiences in front of people who I believed to be much more important than me.

My Second Testimony

For my second testimony delivery was with Tanne. I went to an all-girls private school just outside the centre of Bristol. This was in front of about 40 girls. I found it easier this time to deliver it as I had done it before. But I did feel the pressure as I wanted the girls to look up to me. I really hope they did.

Testimony Deliveries (going it alone)        

After these two testimony deliveries I ended up doing two whilst I was at steiner school doing some volunteering and one whilst I was working on NCS.

Whilst I was at the school one of the teachers asked me to deliver my story, he already knew it as he worked at my previous school, but he wanted me to share it with two of his classes. These classes we year 7 and year 8. He thought it be of benefit for them to hear it.

Straight after the first one I delivered to the year 8s I had a boy come up to me at the end and say thank you, as his uncle had taken his own life, and he was glad to hear somebody talking about the topic of mental health.

After the second one that I deliver to the year 7s I had one girl come up to me and speak about her anxiety and how she wanted some help, so I spoke to her about it.

I had these reactions straight after I had done it, but for the following three weeks I had more reactions.

I had the mother of the boy who spoke to me come up and thank me in the playground. I then had a mother of one of the other boys come up to me, hug me, and cry because her soon was so touched by my story and she wanted to thank me for sharing.

I also had a mother come up to me and tell me that it really impacted her daughter and she was glad that she now had insight and another mother emailed the head teacher saying that I had made her daughter feel like she was no longer weird and that she would be okay.

I was so shocked with the response I had but in a good way. I’m so glad I managed to have an impact in this school.

I delivered another testimony on the second phase of NCS to a group of 30 16/17 year olds and the reaction I got from them was very similar. I also had a few of them saying they were shocked and didn’t expect me to have any issues. They had previously spent a week and half with me, so I think it surprised them as I must of seemed “normal”, I tried to tell them there is no such thing.

Reading Uni Conference

Another event I took part in was a young people mental health conference at the university of Reading. I went here with Jacob, Mary, and Jack. Here we delivered our own stories of our experiences. My main focus was on the teachers who helped me- you can read a blog about them on here. This was an amazing experience.

Bristol Uni WMHD

With my new regional co-ordinator I help facilitate a stall at Bristol Unis world mental health day event. There I spoke to members of the public about mental health, Time to Change, and what they could do support a friend. It was a lovely positive day, surrounded by wonderful people.

 

What’s next?

Over this year I have met some wonderful people who I can now call my friends, Rachel, Jodie, James, Peter, Mary, Jacob, Jack and many others.

I’m currently planning to write a book, with the help of Jodie and Rachel.

But I also hope to just do lots more testimonies in schools as I like the idea I can positively impact people’s lives directly.

Thank you all for a wonderful year (and a bit) and I look forward to what we get up to in 2018.

Love Abbie xx