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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What Hyperemesis Gravidarum meant for me

This week, I spoke to my lovely friend Becki about her experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. For those of you who don’t know, around 10,000 women in the UK suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) every year. It is often dismissed as normal morning sickness in pregnancy, but in reality can leave the women who experience it with PTSD, a torn oesophagus, burst blood vessels and eroded tooth enamel. 



What did you know about HG before you were pregnant?

I can remember reading a news article online about the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from it when she was pregnant with Princess Charlotte and feeling sympathy for her, but not really understanding exactly what it was. It was initially described by the media as “extreme morning sickness” which I’ve come to learn is not the case at all. I knew next to nothing and I didn’t think I’d ever need to educate myself. My friend Roo has also suffered with it, but I had no idea to what extent it affected her- it was pure ignorance. 

 What treatments were you offered through your pregnancy to combat HG? Did they work?

When I was finally diagnosed in September 17, I was initially prescribed cyclizine and ondansetron-both anti-emetics. I was advised to take them in tandem with each other, but the ondansetron soon ran out. It’s the more expensive for the NHS to prescribe. Unfortunately for me, cyclizine didn’t do the trick on its own. I continued to take it, but it wasn’t effective and I ended up back in hospital a few times, quite poorly.  People did make suggestions for foods that helped them. There were some foods that helped for a time, but my body seemed to tire of them really quickly and I’d end up not even able to think about them, let alone eat them, without throwing up. 
In the end, rest and putting my body and it’s needs first was the only thing that kept me going. It meant missing out on a lot of stuff and sacrificing things but I needed to be selfish.

What strategies or coping mechanisms did you employ to deal with your HG?

Hypnobirthing techniques and mindfulness breathing really helped, especially when I felt completely overwhelmed emotionally.  Baths helped too. Washing my hair always made me feel better again after feeling really lousy. Having a risk assessment and plan in place at work, as well as a few key people I trusted who I could warn if I was having a bad day and they’d keep an eye out for me. 

 What was your HG like at its best and worse?

At my best- I could manage a nice meal and a day out and go to bed and sleep without being sick. Our anniversary weekend away was one such time.
 
When it was bad- I remember kneeling on my bathroom floor at 3am, after being sick for the 7th time that night, crying and apologising to my husband for the umpteenth time, and just wishing I hadn’t gotten pregnant. 

At its worst – We thought we were losing our baby, and could do nothing about it. 
 

 

How did HG affect your mental health?

It made me feel so guilty. All the time. Guilty that I was possibly and inadvertently harming my baby, that they were suffering (they weren’t), guilty for putting my husband through it, guilty for bailing on parties and birthdays and events, guilty for being angry at people who just didn’t understand and made flippant comments, guilty for wishing I wasn’t pregnant, when I knew full well I had friends who were struggling to conceive. I felt guilty for myself, that I wasn’t having the pregnancy I had envisioned and I felt like I’d cheated myself somehow. 
 

 What do you wish people knew about HG?

That it isn’t “bad morning sickness” or even morning sickness at all. It’s a genetic and hereditary condition that affects around 1% of pregnancies and has an 84% chance of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies. It’s so debilitating that some days getting out of bed is hard; keeping water and food down is hard. I lost weight in pregnancy because I struggled to keep things down- that was a huge worry. Some women report being sick of 50 times a day. 

Personally, I wish people knew how lonely HG is. It’s so lonely sitting on the floor of your bathroom crying because you’re in pain from the stomach muscles used to be sick, or your teeth ache and throat hurts from the acidic vomit. It’s hard but I promise you, it does go. Within minutes of her being born, my nausea lifted and I honestly felt instantly better. 
 

How can family and friends best support you if you have HG?

  • Be there. My husband was a complete and utter rock. He was up with me every day and  night no matter how many times I was sick; he rubbed my back, held my hair, let me cry and didn’t judge or make me feel like I was doing a bad job. He helped educate those around us who just didn’t know and ensured I was supported at work. Having a support network was one of the most fundamental blocks we needed during our pregnancy and we are really grateful for that.
  •  Be accommodating. If someone you know has it, expect them to cancel on you. Don’t make them feel guilty about it. But also, don’t stop inviting them! There are good days where I could go out and I honestly lived for them. 
  • Educate yourself on the facts surrounding HG. My family were brilliant at doing that and so knew triggers and anxiety points and how to avoid them. My Dad and husband in particular loved the phase I went through where only a certain fast food chain’s greasy burgers and strawberry milkshake would stay down!
  • Avoid strong perfume or cologne- my poor Husband had to retire his expensive bottle because I couldn’t stand the smell. It still remains a trigger for me. 
  • When you go to the loo, run some toilet cleaner or bleach round the bowl and floor. Not for your benefit, but for the poor girl that can’t face cleaning it but knows she’ll have her head in it later! 
  • Remind them they’re doing an incredible job. Pregnancy is tough full stop. HG in pregnancy is horrible. 

What was the most helpful and unhelpful thing people said and did in regards to your pregnancy?

The most helpful thing was along the lines of  “Yeah. This is really really crap and it suck that you have to go through this. I’m sorry”. To have acknowledgement from someone that actually yeah it wasn’t great and glamorous (!) was so affirming and refreshing. It didn’t make it go away and it didn’t make me physically better, but it made me feel less lonely. 
The least helpful comments included “It’ll all be worth it in the end”, “maybe it’s all in your head?” “It’s just bad morning sickness- mine stopped at X weeks”, “I hear ginger helps”, “Try eating certain foods or doing certain exercise, maybe

that’ll help”, “it’ll soon be over and you’ll miss being pregnant”, “maybe you won’t have it with the next baby”… I could go on!

What advice (if any) would you give to someone who has (or thinks they have) HG?

Tell your health practitioners- your doctor, midwife, consultant whoever. There is much more advice and info out there now, so if you think you have it, find out about HG and take that info with you. Not all maternity health care professionals are fully up to date or even aware of the symptoms. You CAN take anti emetics safely in pregnancy. If you need them, ask for them! 

Ketones are NOT a lone accurate indicator of dehydration in HG. Make sure that if you aren’t well for a long period of time, you get yourself checked and if necessary, admitted to hospital and on an IV drip.

**I’m not a medical professional, but at times I had to really push to be listened to**

There’s so much support out there. Pregnancy sickness support UK is an incredible charity that helped me through and continues to help others. It’s partnering with specialists throughout the world to develop more research all the time. Their helpline is a lifeline for when you are really struggling, because these are real women who have experienced it and they can give you practical advice, as well as a shoulder to cry on when you feel really lonely. 

Embrace every craving. Seriously. You may only like it for a short period! One day I chowed down on an entire bag of iced gems. They revisited me a few hours later, but I really enjoyed being nostalgic for a time! 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

 My blog, “Dear Luna: Love letters to my Daughter” talks quite openly about my experience in pregnancy and HG and the various times I was hospitalised.

Would you like to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or had experience with it yourself? Let us know in the comments below

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Mental Health Monday: Coping with a relapse…

It’s not always plain sailing…

Our mental health, much like our physical health, can be up and down. You can be fine one week, and  find yourself in a bottomless pit the next. Whether you’ve largely recovered or you’re gradually on the road to recovery, it’s important to remember that relapses are normal.

You won’t always feel as great as you do on your best days and you won’t always feel as bad as you do on the worst days. It can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, helterskeltering to the bottom or being chucked up in the air in a fit of happiness!

What do you do when you are relapsing?

1. Remember that just like having any kind of physical relapse, this is normal! You will have bad days (probably for a long time) but they’ll get fewer and fewer as time goes on and as your brain repairs itself.

2. Take some time out – self care is even more important when you’re going through a relapse. One of the easiest ways to keep yourself going is to pamper yourself a bit, make sure you look after yourself, force yourself to get out of bed and have a shower, but do take it easy. If you need to rest, then rest. You know what you need, so listen to your body and give it a break!

3. If it lasts longer than a few days, seek help. Sometimes relapses do need some medical attention and you might need support when you’re dealing with them – don’t be afraid to reach out if things get too hard. If you don’t feel like you can talk to the people around you, you are always more than welcome to reach out to one of us for a non-judgemental rant and rave, but we still advise speaking to your GP if you’re struggling!

4. Remind yourself that you are not a bad mother… When depression strikes, you can feel like the whole world is against you and that you’re completely worthless. It can take a long time to realise that those thoughts are the depression talking – you’re a perfectly capable mother, and you should never ever criticise yourself for having a relapse. You wouldn’t criticise someone for suffering with cancer, so why criticise yourself for suffering mentally?

5. Focus on the good days, they’re what will get you through the bad ones. When those bad days do come and plague you, it’s important not to dwell on them for too long or to overanalyse the way you felt when you were at your worst. You’ll have days that are equally on the opposite side of the scale that are amazing, and focusing on those days will help you pull through in the long run!

Is there anything else that you do when you suffer with a relapse in your mental health? Let us know!

Mix It Up Linky

Mental Health Monday: Postnatal anxiety and me.

As a new mum, I thought that the anxiety of leaving your child, leaving the house with your child etc. was normal. What I didn’t realise was that not wanting to be alone with your child and having the constant fear that you would do something wrong and having your child taken away from you was not normal. This is how I felt 90% of the time and it completely ruined the bond I so badly wanted with my daughter. 90% of the time I’d be at somebody’s house, or out of the house with people around because I was scared of being alone with my daughter. Scared that something would happen and nobody would be around to help me. Or if I did something different to the mums at baby group, I would panic that I was doing it wrong and my daughter was going to taken into care because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I started to see this as abnormal when my daughter was around 4 or 5 months old. I saw other mums staying at home alone with their children and taking a different approach to parenting and wondered why they seemed okay with it but not me. I mean, this was normal right? Hmm… not so much. I went to see my GP who suggested I saw a therapist. So I agreed, reluctantly at first, to go to the first session and I was so bloody nervous. The anxiety had kicked in 100 times worse. What if I say something and they think I’m an unfit mother? What if I go there and they think Evie is unsafe with me? I could go on…Surprisingly, they were incredibly understanding and instead of judging, they listened. They listened to me ramble on about my worries, my fears and my goals. I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety which, once explained to me, made perfect sense. I didn’t feel any less anxious after that session, but my thoughts were out there. Thoughts I hadn’t even told my partner about because I was scared of sounding crazy or stupid but I finally knew that I wasn’t either of those things.

I continued on with a therapist but this time, with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy). Each week I would have a different thing to do e.g. messy play at home for 15 minutes, watching a TV show with Evie at home on my own etc. Slowly, I started to create that bond with her that I had been so desperate for and could cope with being alone with her. Don’t get me wrong, the anxiety still creeps about and springs up on me when I least expect it but the bond between me and Evie now is amazing. She genuinely is my best friend and I love spending mummy & daughter time with her! I wish I had known that postnatal anxiety was a thing sooner. You hear a lot about postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis during pregnancy but never the anxiety part. (Not in my pregnancy anyway). So please make sure you are familiar with the symptoms!

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/perinatal-anxiety/#.WuegOKXTWJ0

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth/symptoms-of-postnatal-anxiety-and-depression

Five years later…

“Suicide does end the chances of life getting worse. But it does eliminate the chances of it ever getting better”

It’s that time of year again. Maybe sometime, I’ll shut up about it. But all the time I know that I might be helping someone else by talking about my experiences, I’ll share them.

  • In April 2011, I started to notice severe symptoms of depression within myself, after 5 years of battling with self harm.
  • December 2012, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and given 6 months of Sertraline.
  • May 15th 2013, my mental illness took over and I decided to act on my negative feelings in attempt to end everything, as a result I was hospitalised.
  • A minimum of six disastrous months on several antidepressants that did nothing for me.
  • March 26th 2016, I was diagnosed with PND, GAD and PTSD following a traumatic labour.
  • June 2016, it was suggested that I could have BPD
  • 1 year of mirtazapine and a 4 stone weight gain.
  • January 29th 2018, I was diagnosed with Cyclothymic disorder (a milder, yet more chronic form of Bipolar Disorder) and Borderline Personality Disorder.

To me May 15th 2013 was like a semi colon (;) , representing where my story could have ended, but instead continued.

Five years on is such a bitter sweet feeling. Not only am I proud, when I think about how far I’ve come. But I am pained when I think that it’s taken me 5 years to get close to the help that I need and deserve.

The contrast between wanting to die and not being able to – with wanting to be alive and almost dying numerous times due to things that are out of your control is terrifying. It really reiterates how quickly your life can go full circle in such a short space of time.

I remember, sitting there in hospital wishing that I’d have died. Wishing so much that I could have just let go. I was convinced that I’d never get better. That I’d never feel better. That I’d never get a correct diagnosis. That i’d never get the help that I needed. I was in the bottom of a pit. There wasn’t a way out.

I have received my correct diagnosis and had many other mental health struggles since my most serious suicide attempt. I’d go as far to say that life since has been harder than I ever imagined. My pain hadn’t peaked on that night, I didn’t realise the depths of despair I’d get to – but my resilience and strength has just kept growing. Of course my mental health relapses due to the cyclical nature of my diagnoses. But, even when I feel like the worst person in the world with nowhere to go- I look at my baby and know that I at least got something right. Her smiles brighten my day and her laugh brings tears of joy to my eyes. Most days, just getting out of bed hurts and exhausts me so much I can barely carry on. but I constantly WORK so HARD to just keep going.

Anyone can go through a mental health issues or illnesses, it’s a hell of an ordeal. Recovery can be lifelong. Most days are a challenge, but there’s always days worth fighting for. This is anything but a cry out for attention, I just want anyone going through the same to know they’re not alone. Your experiences make you, who you are. You owe it to yourself to live for another day and give yourself another chance.

“Keep strong little fighter, soon it’ll be brighter.”

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(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.