Mental Health Monday: Being a high functioning mother with BPD

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So, I’ve always been pretty open about having BPD (borderline personality disorder) and how challenging it has been, but one thing I haven’t expressed is how hard it is functioning with BPD.

BPD symptoms vary from person to person, but the ones I suffer the most with are:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Impulsive behaviours
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Emotional mood swings
  • Feeling out of touch with reality

On top of typical BPD characteristics:

  • Poor financial control
  • Depressive episodes
  • Episodes of psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts

Living with a combination of those daily is beyond difficult, mainly because it’s like a really sh*t mix and match, will Monday be emotional mood swings with suicidal thoughts? Will Tuesday be chronic feelings of emptiness with poor financial control to comfort this? Who knows? It’s anyone’s guess.

Since being diagnosed I have come to live with the condition and gradually am starting to have a good level of control over it (far better control than I had in September when I had a triple suicide attempt – which I am not and will not be ashamed of). You see, by writing about it and talking about it, gradually we will end this ridiculous stigma we have developed on mental health, and my favourite stigma of all – the high functioning stigma.

People find it hard to believe that I work full time, I care for my son and provide for us both. I get up every morning, get ready, do my hair and make up and do an 8 hour shift at work. I’ve never really considered myself “high functioning” but the reality is that I am. Some people act shocked when they discover that I have a personality disorder, because it’s as if they expect me to be at home, or at a mental hospital, but there are tons of high functioning people with chronic illnesses, high functioning people with poor mental health, and even high functioning addicts.

It’s the classic “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but with this comes the backlash, the people who think you’re faking it and attention seeking just because I have the sheer audacity to get dressed, leave the house and go to work. I’m still suffering, I just manage it differently to how others might.

You see, I benefit from being high functioning. Even at my lowest points I benefit from having structure and routine so, for me, being high functioning actually helps build my mental health up.

I want to leave this on a harsh reality to some people, a sweet note for mentally ill people. Other people’s mental health is none of your business, whether they’re high functioning or low functioning… it is literally none of your business. You do you, and let them do them.

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Reviewing 2018

Recently it’s safe to say  my life has been a whirlwind, after all…I wouldn’t be me if my life was drama free, and as 2018 approaches an end I’ve looked back at everything this year has thrown at me. Friendships, Relationships, Illness, Drama the list is endless.

Lets start with the friendships. I’ve lost some, I’ve made some. I’ve wrecked some, I’ve earned some but the loyalty of my friends this year has kept me sane. The ones that have stayed awake messaging me till late at night, the ones that helped me find me when I couldn’t. The ones who still messaged me while on holiday because they knew I was at a low point, or the one who drove 80 miles to pick me up for the weekend, how about the ones who visited me in hospital. They have helped me more than ever this year, and for them. I am eternally grateful.

Relationships? Pffft, after nearly a year of being single I’ve discovered so much and learned so much about myself, and the most important thing I have discovered is I do not need a man to define me. I never have and never will need a man to complete me. It’s safe to say I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly with men this year and looking back I don’t know why I allowed myself to pay any of them the slightest bit of attention. Not to mention getting hooked on a guy for the best part of 6 months, who really wasn’t phased by my existence *insert eye roll here* Maybe 2019 will hold a relationship for me, but I can honestly say I am not phased in the slightest whether it does or doesn’t. It has taken the best part of a year but I have finally come to acknowledge that I am better off without a relationship, and when the time comes, it will be with someone I deserve.

Illness…Well 2018 has seen it’s fair share. My step-father has become terminally Ill with heart failure and kidney failure. I was diagnosed with BPD alongside having endometriosis and PCOS, with the double suicide attempt back in September, this year has been insane. poor Oliver has endured measles, tonsilitis and hand-foot and mouth ( but he does go to nursery so he was bound to catch them at some point) so 2018 has been a bit of a weird one for Illness, and my recent surgery showed me that no matter what this life throws at me I can overcome it.

Drama, Ah, the thing that makes me well…me. I am the biggest drama queen ( which I will admit with no shame at all) Drama follows me where ago, and 99% of the time I don’t look for it, it comes looking for me. 2018 kept up with tradition with drama surrounding me everywhere I looked. Fortunately I feel I’m at a stage in my life where I can laugh about it, and nothing really surprises me anymore. 2018 started with me splitting with my fiance and the father of my son, with court hearings, surgery and drama filled events continuing the year. Hopefully 2019 can be ” Drama free ” but, I don’t think that would be very me. It’s not that I enjoy the drama, it’s just there. Like a shadow- very dramatic description.

Last but not least, Mummykind. When I had the idea for Mummykind I never in my wildest dreams expected it to blow up the way it did, within a year we have worked with brands, expanded with new mums joining the team and our little ones have got bigger by the day and my love and pride for Mummykind grows daily.

So 2018 has been…well s**t to say the least, but it’s also allowed me to learn a lot, from not liking Sushi to discovering I have a determined personality. I’ve learned that Oliver is the most magical boy, and every day he warms my heart with his adorable personality ( also learned he has an incredible talent to make me want to rip my hair out in record breaking time and is far too sassy for my liking sometimes) but all this aside, I’m excited for 2019 – however I will not be doing a “new year, new me” I plan on being the same Sassy, drama filled Amy you all know and love after all…that’s why you all read my posts…right?

Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

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Mental Health Monday: It’s okay not to be okay

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So we all have times where we’re not ourselves, and if you suffer from mental health issues then you’ll know what I mean when I say sometimes it’s okay not to be ok. It has come out in recent news that Demi Lovato was hospitalized due to a relapse in her mental health, and it truly baffles me as to why people felt it was okay to criticize her for this? Mental health isn’t something you can take a tablet to fix it takes years, sometimes lifetimes to be in a good place…and that’s okay because everyone copes in different ways.

I have had my fair share of experiences with mental illness;  Anxiety, depression, paranoia, post-partum psychosis and BPD to name a few. My experiences are completely different from those of my friends and family members that have experienced these conditions, so to people who don’t have any experience with poor mental health (and I mean this in the nicest way), what might have worked for your Aunt Becky’s hairdresser’s niece isn’t going to work for me. You see, this post isn’t just aimed at mums – as humans we are not expected to hold it together every minute of every day, nobody is expecting you to be perfect and that’s okay.

One thing that really grinds my gears on mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Why are people so ashamed and afraid to talk openly about how they are feeling? Having a broken mind is no different to having a broken arm – both take time and care to heal. Of course, in this day and age you still find people saying, “Oh get a grip”, “Mental health isn’t a real illness” or my personal favourite… “Stop attention seeking.” These are always the people that have had no experience of mental illness and I’m super glad life has been peachy keen for them, and I honestly hope they never do experience it.

When I think back to the time my mental health was at it’s worst, I reflect back and look at how far I’ve come. I would be lying if I said I’m completely cured… I still have a hell of a long way to go, but when I look back and remember sitting on the edge of a bridge over the M20, I tell myself it’s okay. I’m only human and some days I’m going to be a mess, some days I’m going to feel worthless but until anyone has walked in my shoes who the hell are they to judge me?

Recently, I discovered a young person quite close to me was suffering with depression and self harming, it broke my heart that they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. When I asked them why they didn’t talk to anyone they replied, “people will think I’m a freak, I have seen how people at school get treated for being like this and I don’t want that,” and I was left speechless. Why do we live in a world where people, even more so young people, can’t talk about their mental well-being in fear of being bullied for it? Why do they feel they can’t discuss it openly or freely without fear of being judged?

So my darlings, don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or what you are going through, you are NEVER alone and you will get through this. You are worth so much more than you feel you are and it’s okay not to be okay.

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Mental Health Monday: my BPD story

BPD: the world through my eyes

I guess it all started when I was 13 and my mum took me to the doctors, I remember sat feeling the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life “ There’s something wrong with her, she has this insane temper…now I know they have mood swings at this age but this is something else” my mum said to the doctor, I couldn’t bare to look either of them in the eye, long and short of it is I was referred to the child and adolescent mental health team, who to be quite frank didn’t really do much just started me on fluoxetine and at the ripe age of 13 my journey with anti-depressants began.
At 15 the journey took an unexpected turn as I found myself on the phone to Samaritans as I had lost all hope and was prepared to hang myself that evening. I still remember that conversation word for word, and I’m eternally grateful for Samaritans. “ It’s just anxiety and depression, try not to worry lets try you on a different anti-depressant” the child and adolescent mental health team said, and the journey changed to citalopram and I was introduced to zopiclone- a strong sleeping tablet
I must have stayed on citalopram up until I was 19 because I was taken off it when I found out I was pregnant. Now it’s no secret that after I had my baby boy I suffered from postpartum psychosis, and shortly after I was referred to the community mental health team which brings us to now.
It’s extremely rare for me to find a psychiatrist who I can open to and be completely honest with. I poured my heart out to this doctor, You see, I’ve always had a fear of being abandoned and unwanted, it’s not that I crave attention it’s that like most people I crave the feeling of being loved but in the same breath I push people away because in my eyes it’s easier to push them away myself than let them close to me and than have them pull away from me.
Then next he asked about the self harm. Since I was 13 I have abused my body. I’ve picked at my skin, taken multiple overdoses as well as attempting to end my life off of a bridge, I told the doctor everything and he looked at me concerned and just returned to writing it all down.
“Would you say you have tendencies to be impulsive Amy?” he asked. Now this bit was almost a comical moment as I had a flash back to every reckless, impulsive thing I’ve done to date. I smirked almost with tears rolling down my face… “Well it’s been said… yeah,”  I chuckled. “ I just have these intense mood swings. I can go from feeling on top of the world, and like I actually have control of my life but the slightest thing can happen and I’ll crumble, I can’t cope with it and that mood will last anything from a few hours to a few days.” At this point I started sobbing uncontrollably.
You see, I never wanted to be like this. To be constantly paranoid and overthink every possible thing,  to read every text message over and over again until I’ve convinced myself that the person who sent it is annoyed at me…and god forbid someone doesn’t text me back within 3 hours because I will convince myself they don’t like me. The temper that comes with it is like a firecracker, I have such a short fuse and when I lose my temper I have no control over what I say and I will willingly cut ties without even thinking. The self doubt is there every day, every damn day I tell myself I can’t and won’t achieve things…it’s like a little niggling voice at the back of my head, almost like a little mouse nibbling away day by day.”So Amy, I think there is a bit more than depression here. From what you’ve told me and looking at your history I think you have something called BPD, formerly known as EUPD…have you heard of it?”…it was almost a relief to know everything I had been through was an underlying condition.

This post might seem a bit doom and gloom, but that is BPDin my eyes, It’s a constant challenge. I’m on a waiting list for counselling but like all NHS services, the mental health team are under strain. I was told BPD treatment is 50:50, 50% medication and 50% talking therapy. My new tablets have been the most helpful to date, and on the whole I have good control over my BPD. So to anyone newly diagnosed, know it gets better and know BPD does not define you.

(Mental Health Monday): Maternal Mental Health awareness week…The night that changed my life

In light of the fact that this week is maternal mental health awareness week, I wanted to do a post about something a bit personal. I’ve previously blogged about how I had postpartum psychosis,  however I didn’t really talk about the thing that changed it all for me, and that was probably the lowest point of the journey for me but equally it was also the start of me getting help. This was the night I was sectioned after trying to take my own life.

It was the 12th of April 2017 and my little boy was 3 months old, I had already been diagnosed with postnatal depression at this point, but I could feel myself getting worse. After an argument at home I almost had an out of body experience, I don’t remember having control of my emotions and took myself on what I thought would be a walk to calm myself down, from then I guess I went into auto pilot…my phone was ringing but I kept ignoring it, after all…I knew my boy was safe at home with his dad and family. My mind was doing over-time making me feel useless – I had all these thoughts rushing through my head and I remember thinking “you’re just a burden on everyone at this point, people like you don’t deserve to be happy”. I snapped out of my auto pilot and found myself stood at a motorway overbridge, I got my phone out to call someone and it had died. I found myself sat on the edge drowning in my thoughts and at this point the adrenaline was starting to kick in. I was ready to go, then I felt from behind me a pull, and two random strangers driving past had got out and pulled me back, one man’s girlfriend had called the police who arrived shortly afterwards but I still remember trying to push them off me because I wanted to jump. The police arrived just as I was pushing the men off me, and used quite strong force to pull me back. At the time I couldn’t understand why they were shouting at me…but looking back, it was the only way they could get through to me.

“people like you don’t deserve to be happy”…
Actually, yes I do deserve happiness, and it took me a long time (and the shock of what I almost did) to realise that
I was placed in the back of the police car where the officers were comforting, they introduced themselves and asked what got me to this state but I couldn’t bring myself to talk. One of the officers rang the crisis team and got their input and shortly after that call I heard something that completely changed my life;
“Amy, it is the 12th of April 2017, the time is currently 20:30 and I am sectioning you under the Mental Health Act of 1983”.

I immediately let out a wail. I thought I would never see my boy again. They assured me all this means is that they would be taking me to a mental health hospital and a place of safety. They rang and asked for an ambulance escort but was told there was a long wait and was told providing I wasn’t going to harm myself there would be no need for an ambulance escort, and at this point I was exhausted so just nodded and said I wouldn’t attempt anything.

The journey there felt like the longest journey of my life, the officers tried to make small talk and shine light on the situation, but I felt numb… I was in no mood for small talk. The officer who wasn’t driving rang my mum and told her what had happened and I felt like I had let my entire family down.
When I arrived at the hospital I was greeted by a team of people, who discussed my situation and said they all just wanted to help. After discussing everything with them, they said I could go home providing I spent a few hours there. For the next 2 weeks I had daily visits from the crisis team, I was heavily sedated for a fortnight for my own wellbeing and, gradually, from then, I have overcome so much with my mental health. I later went on to be diagnosed with BPD/EUPD.  I used to be embarrassed about the night I was sectioned, but now I am open about my experience and not at all ashamed. So, if me blogging about this gives some people knowledge, if it gives some people an insight and helps to end this stigma that we currently have on mental health then that’s even better.
Finally, to the two men who stopped what they were doing that evening and saved my life I am eternally grateful, and I can only apologise for what you witnessed that night.