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Growing Up Black

Black Girl (Image source)

I grew up wondering if we as black loved each other. In fact, I doubted it. I realise now that this was mostly because of how I was raised. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some videos of Michael Jackson talking about the psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, Joseph. In these clips, the example he used was how Joseph used constantly to pick on him for the shape of his nose.

The abuse had such a psychological impact on him, that it led to years of surgery on his nose.

The response to these video clips, were incredibly open, honest and encouraging towards Michael, from hundreds of black people who, as little boys and girls, had grown up being taunted by their parents for their facial features, their weight, even their hair (I was shocked to read of parents referring to own children’s hair as “nappy hair”). I read Nina Simone’s autobiography in July, and her mother was her first bully, who criticised her dark skin and nappy hair. Nina’s mental health issue’s began with her upbringing. Like Michael Jackson, by the time she became a superstar it didn’t matter that the world loved her because the psychological damage was already done. 

My mother was a great encourager of my intelligence. She always used to call me a little professor because of my glasses, and when she found out in primary school that the teachers were refusing to give me harder books to read, she marched to the school and demanded for me to be intellectually challenged, just like she was doing for me at home! She would buy me as many books as she could get her hands on when she could afford it.

However, when it came to beauty, I felt taunted. She would call me fat and tell me to stop eating too much.

Even when I wasn’t eating. 

Everybody would say that my younger sister was the prettier one, so I guess that’s why I became a tomboy – I was rough, clumsy and forgetful. I hated dresses, but actually didn’t mind Barbie dolls, as long as I could cut their hair and give them jobs LOL.

When my parents split up, she would tell me that I looked like my father, which was devastating for me as a teenager, yet everybody I know sees my sister and my mum in my face and I’m now starting to agree.

Every time I got spot she would be the first to tell me.

Every time I put on weight she would be the first to tell me.

I recall the summer during the height of my eating disorder when I was purging and over exercising, at my lowest weight and my mother never said a thing.

She would however constantly compare me to my sister: why can’t you be more girly like her? Why can’t you be slimmer like her? When my sister fell down the same path, she threw compliments down the path like a paparazzi stream, knowing that my sister wasn’t eating properly either.

I don’t really know what to say about my father. His torture took years to recover from, to the point where even up to perhaps last year I was apologising to strangers before I’d even had a chance to disappoint them. And I finally stopped blaming myself for the abuse in my late-twenties, which unfortunately is a common poison in Black culture (victim blaming).

It took for me to read the words of Maya and Assata to learn not to walk with my head down, and to walk tall. Their grandmothers taught them not to be ashamed of who they are, and now from the grave I’m being taught the same. I walk the streets of London, with my hair scraped up and no makeup on my face and my head held high and for the first time in my life I feel beautiful.

I see out of the corner of my eye, people do double takes as I walk past (wooooo).

I don’t pay no mind – I just carry on walking.

I’m so thankful for this new generation of Black People, who love ourselves and love each other. It’s sad that some of us have skipped a generation for our education, but I’m just thankful that it’s THERE. Black love is real love.

When Assata was in her final prison, it was Grandmother who spoke these words to her:

““I love you,” my grandmother said. “We don’t want you to get used to that place, do you hear? Don’t you let yourself get used to it.” “No, grandmommy, I won’t.” Every day out in the street now, i remind myself that Black people in amerika are oppressed. It’s necessary that I do that. People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” – Assata: An Autobiography (2016) by Assata Shakur, Angela Davis

I can’t be angry at my mother – just like Joseph Jackson, as black immigrants they believed in the false narrative that  “being white” equates to success; my mother believed in white supremacist lies that told her that we had to conform to certain labels, and the older I get, the more I realise how many Black People are psychologically oppressed by that system as they forever try to conform. It got me thinking about mental health: black adults have every right to be angry for the persecution they have suffered at the hands of the white man or Black culture and they have a breakdown.

You will know from my previous posts, that Psychology has failed people of colour when it comes to mental health. For whatever reason – whether it be internalised racism, childhood abuse – we suffer a breakdown and go and see a Psychiatrist for help, but instead of being listened to, we get given a label that doesn’t apply to us because these labels don’t understand white supremacy, parental abuse in Black Culture, the Black community in general or even religion. The psychiatrist prescribes the medication anyway, which doesn’t work and as the years go by, the black patient’s condition deteriorates until they become the disregarded “crazy black bitch/dude on the street who’s always outside Sainsbury’s”.

 

Which is why I’ve now decided that I want to work with adults in Mental Health.

 

♥ We shouldn’t have to bring ourselves up – we deserve a proper childhood. 

♥ We deserve proper mental health care and deserve to be listened to. 

♥ We should be able to have access to psychiatrists who understand our culture. 

We need to know how to educate our children

XOXO

Posted in Blog

The Social and Cultural Construction of Psychology: The Cultural Definition of Normality

 

Some specific aspects of politics and economy play an important role in the shaping of psychology – as in any other aspect of our life – and sometimes pose ethical challenges for practitioners. That is the case of the so-called managed care, of growing importance in the last decades in countries like the United States. The name refers to a set of techniques intended to reduce the cost and improve the quality of health benefits – which in practice promotes short, routinised and cheap mental health treatments. Treatment goals are often limited to superficial improvements, and drugs are used as a quick solution instead of in-depth longer-term therapy.

Managed care sometimes brings ethical dilemmas to psychologists participating in the system, such as breaches of confidentiality or ‘gag’ rules that limit what therapists are permitted to say to their clients about treatment options.

Pills

This issue is not too different from the growing intrusion of drug companies in the field of mental health. Expensive effort to market their products lead people to hold falsely optimistic expectations, encouraging them to take medication for minor difficulties, promoting the idea that most psychological problems are caused by brain or bodily malfunctions, and fostering a medicalised view of mental health that may discourage people from investing effort and time in psychotherapy.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the object of a strong controversy in this regard. The DSM is the most commonly used compendium of diagnostic categories for mental problems. By categorising and naming psychological difficulties, the DSM has considerable benefits for clinical practice and research: it permits the accumulation and synthesis of knowledge and experience, and provides professionals with a common language. As Mary Wylie indicated in 1995, the DSM is the official lingua franca of the mental health establishment. It not only influences diagnostic and treatment decisions, but it has also important legal, educational, institutional and monetary implications.

But many argue that the DSM not only reflects the social prejudices of the predominantly White, male, etc., persons responsible for its writing and update, but also strong economic pressures – mostly from the pharmaceutic industry. Its critics argue that this is evident in the manual’s growing emphasis on possible biological and heritable aspects, in the fact that psychiatric conditions are defined by a list of symptoms that mimic the style of biomedical diagnostic categories, and even in the terms utilised (disease, symptom, patient, syndrome, relapse). With huge fortunes at the stake, some wonder whether this is not part of a movement to definitely medicalise mental health.

It is obvious that psychologists’ ideas of normality of abnormality – as reflected in the DSM and other diagnostic criteria – do influence their diagnosis, the goals that they set for their clients and the options of treatment. But there are enormous social, cultural and historical variations in what is considered as normal or abnormal. Cultural differences can easily mislead interpretations of behaviour, resulting in over- or under– diagnosis.

If you tell your practitioner that you hear a recently dead relative speaking to you, and that you also speak to that person, you are a serious candidate to be diagnosed with some mental illness. Unless, of course, you belong to one of the several cultures where deceased members of the family are expected to communicate with their living relatives shortly after they pass away – as a sort of late goodbye in their departure from this world. Hearing dead people speaking is no cause of alarm for them.

Does it mean that the Western concept of normality does not apply to other cultures? You should be able to answer this question by now.

The growing number of diagnostic categories in the successive editions of the DSM also reflects a worrisome reality – that more and more behaviours formerly regarded as eccentricities, sins, crimes or ordinary life worries are being regarded as diseases or ‘conditions’. Restless children like Elvis Presley, John Lennon or John Fitzgerald Kennedy would today be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – just to mention an example.

Crying Patient

The proliferation of diagnoses also contributes to what has been called ‘the diffusion of deficit’, or tendency to label everyday obstacles, shortcomings and disappointments as pathological – and diminishes our control on our own personal life, putting it under increasing scrutiny and regulation by socially sanctioned experts.

In some instances, the new diagnostic categories may be more related to social issues than to actual mental disorders. In 1993, Leslie Camhi published an interesting article where she argued that the diagnosis of kleptomania originated in parallel with the invention of large department stores. Shoppers of all social class stole – particularly women – but the authorities tended to consider lower- class women who stole as thieves, whereas upper-class women’s theft was rather explained as a mental illness – thus preserving their moral superiority.

Perhaps even more revealing is the proposal in 1851 by the American physician Samuel Cartwright, of the diagnostic category of drapetomania.

He argued that this was a mental illness in Black slaves that provoked an irresistible urge to run away from captivity. The treatment of slaves as equals by their masters was presented as the cause of this presumed illness, which could be cured with ‘proper medical advice’ and removing both big toes to make physical running impossible. But of course, drapetomania could be prevented if, following Dr. Cartwright’s advice, the devil was whipped out of the slave at the first sign of dissatisfaction.

Another well-known instance of socially tinted diagnosis proved that Sigmund Freud’s ideas were also the product of his era and social context. Dora was a teenager from Vienna who presented persistent cough and frequent headaches, and who complained of the sexual advances that a respectable adult friend of his father, Herr K., made on her. Analysing the case from his patriarchal perspective, Freud assumed that any girl would appreciate the attentions of a man in the position of Herr K. and concluded that Dora’s cough and headaches were hysterical symptoms of her disguised sexual desires for him. Dora then decided to quit therapy, which drove Freud to enrich his diagnosis with the additional labels of disagreeable, untruthful and vengeful. But shocking as the case is, we must not be surprised that mental health conceptions reflect not just the knowledge, but also the values of each era. As Jeanne Marecek and Rachel Hare-Mustin highlight, at the end of the 19th century many women were considered as afflicted by a mental disorder then called neurasthenia, a condition that combined aspects of what today might be labelled chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome and depression. One acclaimed treatment involved compulsory bed rest, the forced deprivation of mental stimulation, isolation from adult company and constant heavy feeding, leading to weight gains of 25 kilograms or more.

References

Camhi, L. (1993). Stealing Femininity: Department Store Kleptomania as Sexual Disorder. Differences 5(1), 26-50.
Cartwright, S. A. (1851). Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race. The New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, May, 691-715. Retrieved from Google Books: https://books.qooqle.co.uk/books?id=ofMcAAAAIAAJ&redir esc=v
Marecek, J., & Hare-Mustin, R. T. (2009). Clinical psychology: The politics of madness. In D. Fox, I. Prilleltensky, & S. Austin (Eds.), Critical psychology: An introduction (2nd ed., pp. 75-92). London: Sage.
Wylie, M. S. (1995). The power of DSM-IV: Diagnosing for dollars. Family Therapy Networker, 19(3), 22-32.

 

Copyright—Laureate Online Education © All rights reserved, 2000-2016. The Module, in all its parts—syllabus, guidelines, technical notes, images and any additional material—is copyrighted by Laureate Online Education B. V. Last update: 20 December 2016

 

Posted in Blog

A Time To Be Alive… Making It to Interpol

On Friday evening I went to see Interpol at Alexandra Palace. 

Apart from the fact that I could barely lift my arms, (I’m still suffering from muscle weakness in my upper body), you couldn’t tell that months ago I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. 

Interpol are one of my favourite bands of all time and back in June/ July, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive to see them. I’d bought the tickets to see them last year you see, before any of my major health issues had begun.

Yet on Friday, I danced like I didn’t have a care in the world 💜

Posted in Blog

Conceptual and Historical Paradigms in Psychology: A Critical Analysis

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is concerned with a variety of internal processes such as attention, perception, memory, learning, problem solving, language, thinking and reasoning. Obviously, these processes are not directly observable. Cognitive psychologists aim to understand them by observing the performance of people in various tasks – by observing their behaviour.

The most common analogy to describe early cognitive psychologists’ views was the comparison of the human mind with a computer. Both have a hardware – a series of permanent structures where information is processed or transformed – and a software, or the instructions that guide the functioning of the hardware. Basically, when a stimulus is presented to the system, it causes certain internal cognitive processes to occur, until the system produces the desired response or output. This view, known as the information processing approach, was very popular in the 1970s.

It was argued that the process was fundamentally affected by the stimulus input in what is often described as bottom-up processing, and that only one process could occur at any given moment in time – this is known as serial processing. But soon it was evident that task processing often involves top-down processing: the way our mind operates in the presence of a stimulus is strongly influenced by our knowledge and expectations. Read what it says on the screen: you will have no difficulty to identify the word, even when some ‘E’s have been replaced by 3s. Also, it soon became evident that, at least in some circumstances like when we perform a highly practiced task, our internal processes do not operate serially or one at a time, but in parallel. If you have a driving license, you may remember how at the beginning you had to think carefully one step after the other, whereas after a time you find yourself pressing the clutch, changing the gear and observing the mirror at the same time.

The accumulation of theories and research findings, but also the enormous technological and medical advances in past decades, have had an impact on cognitive psychology. Nowadays, we can differentiate at least four main approaches to human cognition:

  •       Cognitive psychology can now be defined in a more restrictive manner as the scientific approach to the understanding of human cognition by the use of behavioural science.
  •       Cognitive neuroscience involves using evidence from behaviour, but also of the human brain, to understand our cognition.
  •       Cognitive neuropsychology involves studying brain-damaged patients to gain an understanding of normal human cognition.
  • Computational cognitive science focuses on the development of computational models of our behaviour and mental functioning to improve our understanding of human cognition.

But just like psychoanalytic therapy derived from psychoanalysis, and behaviourist principles were applied to behavioural therapy, cognitive therapies are the therapeutic correlates of cognitive psychology – although rather loosely.

Cognitive therapy is an active approach where the therapist adopts a very directive role through a small number of strongly structured sessions.

Cognitive therapies focus on cognition – beliefs, attributions, expectancies – and on the mediating role that cognitions play between the events in our life and our reactions to them. Their therapeutic approach is based on the principle that, as erroneous or inadequate cognitions are at the base of psychological distress, behavioural change can be achieved by modifying the underlying cognitions.

There are several different cognitive therapies, however two of the most popular approaches are: Albert Ellis’ rational emotive behavior therapy, and Beck’s cognitive behavioural therapy.

Albert Ellis developed rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) in 1955.

Albert Ellis

REBT is based on the premise that our reactions to the events taking place in our lives are mediated by the beliefs that we hold. To illustrate this, Ellis replaced the behaviourist SR (stimulus-response) format by an ABC format in which:

A. Something happens.

B. You have a belief about the situation.

C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

For example:

A. Your discussion question does not receive any follow-on post from your classmates

B. You believe they don’t reply because ‘I am not good at expressing things, and that is not going to change’.

C. You feel depressed.

The goal of REBT is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. This is achieved by the therapist challenging the client’s irrational beliefs with questions such as:

Do you think you are the only one who is not good at expressing things?

Is not having follow-on posts such a terrible thing?

Just because you want something, why must you have it?

Where with different beliefs, your emotional response might be different:

A.  Your discussion question does not receive any follow-on post from your classmates.

B.  You believe they don’t reply because the topic of your post was ‘not interesting’.

C.   You feel motivated to do better next time.

Also, on the premise that emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unpleasant, REBT therapists help their clients develop unconditional self-acceptance, other- acceptance and life-acceptance.

The third big name in cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck presented his approach to the treatment of depression in 1967, and in the following decades he and his followers extended their approach to other emotional disorders.

Beck’s cognitive therapy also argues that sustained erroneous thoughts are at the root of many psychological disorders, but he proposes a different methodological approach to these erroneous thought and to their change.

According to Beck, we all possess a variety of beliefs about the world, others and ourselves, often learned through interactions with the world and with others during our childhood. Those beliefs may be central (such as ‘I am less intelligent than the others‘) or intermediate, in the form of attitudes and assumptions (such as ‘being less intelligent than the others is terrible‘).

People tend to selectively focus on the information that confirms their beliefs, rejecting or not considering information that contradicts them. Beliefs are therefore maintained even when they are inexact and dysfunctional. They can be activated by different life events in the form of automatic irrational thoughts, which affect the person’s emotions and behaviour.

Depressed Man

Beck summarises irrational thoughts in a number of categories or inferences, including amongst others:

  • Dichotomous or ‘all or nothing’ thought: ‘Either I am perfect or I am horrendous’.
  • Magnification of the negative and minimisation of the positive:

‘I didn’t get the mark that I expected, therefore I will never be able to succeed in this subject’ or ‘I got a distinction, but only because the assignment was very easy’.

  • Overgeneralisations: I didn’t feel comfortable in the meeting, which means that I am not good at making friends’.
  • Personalisation, or tendency to think that everything others say or think is related to you: The teacher didn’t smile to me this morning, I must have done something wrong’.
  • Mind reading, or believing that you know what the others are thinking: ‘He is thinking that I cannot complete the task’.

The first step in Beck’s cognitive therapy is to identify the client’s automatic beliefs and to dispute them with questions such as:

What is the evidence for and against this idea?

What is the worst scenario here?

Could you resist it?

What is the most probable and realistic outcome?

Once the client is conscious that their thoughts are irrational, they are invited to replace them with alternative rational thoughts, through guided exercises complemented with behavioural experiments and other cognitive and behavioural techniques. These may include training in social skills, problem-solving, relaxation, systematic desensitisation, psychodrama or role playing, amongst others.

 

Copyright—Laureate Online Education © All rights reserved, 2000-2016. The Module, in all its parts—syllabus, guidelines, technical notes, images and any additional material—is copyrighted by Laureate Online Education B. V. Last update: 20 December 2016
Image: ‘Noam Chomsky’ by John Soares, uploaded to Commons by Stevertigo, then modified by Verdy p. (This version was initially uploaded by Stevertigo.) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons
Image: ‘Albert Ellis’ Permission granted by the Albert Ellis Institute
Posted in Blog

Label #4: Mental

I was going to vlog yesterday, but then I watched Sinead O’Connor’s desperate video and became far too emotional.

 

And then I had a couple of seizures.

 

Sinead’s video resonated with me for two reasons:

  1. because you rarely hear celebrities speak so publicly about their pain, IN THE HOUR OF THEIR PAIN.    
  2. because her story is so aligned with mine. Both of us have been abandoned by our families, due to our health issues. My Epilepsy diagnosis, for my family was the last straw, because for years they had dealt ((or rather, avoided dealing) with my undiagnosed mental health issues.

I was diagnosed with depression in University, however it was clear that I was unhinged way before that.

For obvious reasons.      

But I had nobody to turn to.  

Nobody to talk to.

As soon as I was eighteen, I fell into the arms of the first guy who paid me attention, and my life became a tragedy of secrecy, sex, drugs, alcohol, depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and undiagnosed seizures.

While I was away at University, it was easy to keep my problems in a box away from my family, however after graduation, a Film and Literature degree with no work experience and therefore jobless, I was forced to move back home. I would secretly drink in my room, while sobbing, not understanding what was wrong with me – both physically or mentally.

No GP would listen to me.

I couldn’t talk to my family, so this was when I started to roam the internet, to sneak out and meet guys for rendevous’. Or on nights out with friends from University, I’d hook up with random guys and go back to theirs. For meaningless sex.

At some point the GP finally prescribed me anti depressants, but I still wasn’t talking to anybody.  I wasn’t offered the option by the GP, or my family. My mother had no idea, because of her religious stance – I couldn’t speak to her. My sister just expected me to stop. If I loved her enough I would stop. Because it was that simple. She didn’t want to talk about it.

Then each time I tried to talk to my mother, she would refer me to God, who would respond to my needs.  

 

Sinead is now alone. For being mentally ill.

I was once alone too.

Yes we are a burden, but we are sick; Sinead said this in her video and I’ve said this previously myself: you wouldn’t abandon us if we had cancer. My sister wouldn’t have told me that she didn’t want to “deal with me anymore” if I’d had cancer. My mother wouldn’t have told me that it was my “fault” that I’m sick, if I had cancer.

 

Sinead wouldn’t have been alone in a motel room, crying out for help to the world, instead of surrounded by her family, if she had cancer.

 

When are we going to get real about mental health?  

 

Why do people have to die, for us to talk about it? When Chester Bennington from Linkin Park died, we promised to change our ways, but now I’m ashamed to write that when Sinead’s video went out, people were mocking her.

 

Mocking her.

 

What the FUCK is wrong with you people?

 

Again I ask, if it was somebody sick from chemo, would you mock her? Or would you commend her on her bravery instead? Because I think that she’s fucking brave. There were days after my suicide attempt, when I wanted to do it again, when I didn’t want to live, when the seizures were crippling and the black dog was seductively calling me to the grave.   

 

I’m still on a waiting list to see a personality specialist.

I’ve been waiting over six months now.

 

Thankfully I finally have a healthy family that I have carefully selected myself. They keep me going in the interim.
I hope that Sinead’s family come to value her for the diamond that she is.    

Posted in Blog

My Survival

The key to my survival – Part One: my partner. 

For the first time in a while, I’m smiling, I’m dancing, I’m cooking (I love cooking), I’m reading, I’m listening to music and singing.

My partner’s been so patient with me, particularly while I’ve changed my mind AGAIN about my living arrangements. I’ve been so candid here on my blog, so I want to be more explicit on what happened during my psychotic episode which led me to want to live away from my partner.

I no longer felt safe around anybody, but particularly around the person I loved most in the world. I constantly felt paranoid and unsafe – everything he said triggered some kind of fear which now in the light of reason and medication, I can find no reason for.

All of this was because I was bullied in my job and when I eventually tried to stand up for myself, I was suspended. I had put EVERYTHING into this job and prioritised teaching over everything, including my health at times. When I was suspended, I felt like I had been left with nothing, because I knew I was going to lose my job and because of this, I tried to kill myself.  I put ALL of my value and self-worth in a vocation – a vocation I had grown up wanting to do and was more than qualified to do regardless of my colour, or where I grew up, even if I did have epilepsy.

They don’t work anyway right?

After my suicide attempt, the psychiatrist instructed me to stop taking the antidepressants I had overdosed on, because in his words: “They don’t work anyway right?” and in the midst of my brain fog, I agreed.

My GP thinks that the psychosis could’ve been caused by this; my epilepsy team think that the psychosis could’ve been caused by the postictal state from the grand mal seizure I had a week after my suicide attempt.

Whichever the medical cause, I will always know the people who caused this.

I wanted to die

On that night I took those pills, in that moment, I did really want to die and I really saw no other way out.

On that night, I’d also had an argument with my partner – in the weeks before we’d found the perfect home together, but with my career and now my relationship in the organ grinder, I felt that I had nothing left to live for. In my depressed state, I guess I overreacted about the argument, however this was a BIG argument.

I didn’t say much, in fact I think I’d already taken the pills when my partner came into the bedroom to get a quilt to sleep on the sofa. But then as I felt myself drifting off, I sent him a message, telling him what I’d done and he saved me.

And we’ve been through every step of hell together.

We even broke up more than once and then finally for good, which lasted an entire day. However, thankfully, as I’ll go on to mention in part two of this post, I had some friends to counsel me in my darkest time when I found it difficult to make sense of what was going on in my own head, because even when I have wanted to die, simultaneously I’ve never had somebody by my side cheerleading for me to live so loudly.

Genie Cheerleader.gif

Which is why I’ve decided that the home we found together, is where we are going to live together.

Things were never easy for me
Peace of mind was hard to find
And I needed a place where I could hide
Somewhere I could call mine

Genesis – No Son of Mine

And I think I’ve finally done it…

The key to my survival – Part Two: I mustn’t forget my friends. 

The friends who have stood by me in my sickness and my madness, who haven’t even batted an eyelid that I’ve changed my mind about my partner so many times – during my bad times, I must’ve told them some crazy things about him, only to find out a week later that it was all down to psychosis and they didn’t even mind, because they loved him so much and were just ecstatic that we were back together! Furthermore, the security of knowing that they know me well enough, to know when I’m not myself and when I am, brings me so much peace.

The love has been unreal!

I’ve also made some incredible new friends via social media, who again have been with me every step of the way. My job was making me feel intensely lonely – a loneliness I hadn’t felt since my teens and I did some reaching out, while some even did some to me which saved me. I’m still finding it an unrelenting feat to trust people, so the fact that these people have broken past my barriers speaks volumes.

Hugs

I’ll be forever thankful xoxo

The key to my survival – Part Three: My Amazing Three Uncles. 

I rarely see them. My mum completely cut off all communication with them when we were younger and to this day, I still don’t fully understand the reasons why because when we were younger, my uncles were the fathers my sister and I never had. When I moved to London and just before I stopped talking to my mum and sister, I reached out to my oldest Uncle and since then, even though I rarely see them (especially since I started Teacher Training), I talk to my three uncles via Whatsapp or on Facebook. My youngest uncle in particular surprised me because after my suicide attempt, concerned about my cryptic Facebook updates, he phoned me and has been a shoulder to cry on since. I’m a hard nut to crack and I really didn’t realise how much so until this whole experience, but he REALLY cracked me. I loved him so much more for that.

I’m not fully recovered yet – I’m not sure how long it will take, or if I’ll ever get there. All of these components: love, friendship, mentoring, support have all been empowering towards the healing of my mental health.

I know that I’m never going to be the same person that I was a year ago… I’m forever changed and that girl is forever gone. It’s sad because I never got a chance to say goodbye to her. However I’m looking forward to this new journey: moving into my new home, seeing where this new unplanned future takes me and learning to live every day as it comes.

Posted in Blog

You Left Me High and Dry

When you become sick, your sickness becomes your lover, your best friend, your brother, sister – your life.

It has to.

I have to get to know my epilepsy in order to learn to live with it, I’ve realised that now, so when I became sick my priorities had to change and there are people who will stick by you in that, and others who won’t be able to.

For some insane reason, even only knowing me for ten months (TODAY IS ACTUALLY OUR TEN MONTH ANNIVERSARY BABY!!!)

Anniversary GIF.gif

– at my worst for the majority of our relationship, my partner has chosen to stick by me. There are friends who have drawn closer to me, to hold me up as if they know I’m about to fall before I even know it… amazing!

And then there are the ones on the other hand, who just don’t get it.

When my oldest friend found out that I had epilepsy, I think she was so shocked because we didn’t know. We’d grown up together and yet we hadn’t known. And then she didn’t know what to say. It was made even more difficult with her living in a different country when I was diagnosed. We went from talking everyday to sporadically and my updates would just be… well depressing, while her’s would be vague.

I remember when she got annoyed at me once while I was still living at my mum’s and I moaned about another friend leaving me to go travelling (I’d already been – I just couldn’t afford to do it again) and she snapped back:

“Not everything is about you, you’re always complaining. Just do something about it.”

I couldn’t: I was sick, but hadn’t been diagnosed yet and most of my money was going to my mum.

But since then, I’d been trying to make an conscious effort to ask her about her life, so I would get annoyed at her for being vague!

I also recall when I needed relationship advice while with my ex: I didn’t know what to do, she was happy to talk it out for hours and by the end of the conversation I’d decided that I was going to end things. However, then I spoke to him we decided to work things out and when I told my friend, she became annoyed that we’d wasted all of that time talking for nothing.

Yet I’d spent years of my time talking it out with her about her relationship and never once thrown it in her face. Until now I guess.

 

Things have been tough this year, and she hasn’t stepped up to the plate. I’ve found her flippant to my agitations – particularly when I opened up to her about work.

After opening up to her about my suicide attempt and the reasons behind it, she sent me a peculiarly flippant text afterwards, which I found upsetting and she didn’t respond.

 

That was about three weeks ago now.

 

Then last weekend I really thought that things had ended for good with my partner and I – a million things were going through my mind: I have to look for a new place because I cannot stay here, I’ve got nowhere to go, I’ve got no job (I’ll explain this fully in a later post), no money. I was beginning to feel incredibly suicidal again. At that moment I sought help from the Crisis Team who managed to talk me down from the “ledge”, however the following day I sent her and another close friend a text to let them know about me and my partner and having to find a new place urgently.

 

She never replied. She still hasn’t.

 

Perhaps she never will.

 

Thankfully I have the people around that respond, who don’t think that I’m too much of a burden to bear.

 

I’m so sick and tired to saying sorry for being sick and tired.

 

I went to see my GP yesterday and it was revealed to me that I had a psychotic episode, triggered by the abrupt withdrawal of antidepressants after my suicide attempt. For some context, I started taking these antidepressants because of my job and at the time of my suicide attempt was on the highest dose; I stopped taking them after my overdose and then after my grand mal seizure, the Psychiatrist came to visit me at home and said to me:

 

“well if you don’t think they’re working, just stop taking them”.

 

The antidepressants I was taking were extremely strong, he knew this, and as a medical professional he would’ve known what would’ve happened when I abruptly stopped taking them, which is what did happen – I became a horrible, psychotic monster. I had no idea how to differentiate between reality and fiction, my home had become my prison, every single sound was amplified to maximum. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I was so thankful that I wrote down my experiences on a piece of paper to take to my GP.

 

In the midst of this, my friend hasn’t been there.

 

Who do I blame for this one? Epilepsy, or mental health?… Or teacher training?!

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