Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

I remember back when I first started blogging about my struggle with mental illness I used a lot of metaphors to describe how I was feeling. The most frequent, and one that sticks in my mind even today was the mountain and the abyss. I thought of my struggle as like climbing a steep, sharp, craggy mountain, dark and imposing. It became symbolic of how I felt, desperately clawing my way up the sheer side, bloodied and battered, exhausted, desperate.

Below the mountain was a flat plain, cold and dark, lit only by a purple-red glow of the abyss. I was never alone, there were always others, faceless shadows, somber and silent. The abyss called to me, and like the others I was drawn to its edge. Silently standing there surrounded by shadows, all staring into its depths. For the abyss was the end, those who have been close to ‘the end’ know that it is very calm, almost peaceful, the decision has been made, all arguments rectified, only the final act left, to plunge oneself into the abyss for ever.

With great effort, I could turn my back on the abyss, from the desperate calm I could turn to face the mountain once again. All the fear and sadness within me was embodied in that mountain, the more I hurt inside the more the mountain grew, But I always felt that salvation lay at its summit. So I would gather what strength I had, and sometimes with the help of other shadows around me, I would start the climb, we would start the climb. And yet the abyss still called silently behind me, the offer of calm and serenity its drawing offer. I climb harder, slipping, scraping, desperation, mental blood, sweat and tears, although tears have never come to my eyes, I can no longer cry.

This was my metaphorical struggle with mental illness for a long time. Until one day, I realised that I was actually moving in the wrong direction. The mountain was my illness, the abyss the sanctuary. The more I poured out my anguish, the more I let myself be mentally ill, the more I let it rule my life, that was the brutal climb. The calm of the abyss, was not the final act, it was in fact the first act, to go into the abyss was to face an uncertain future. The calm feeling was not real, in fact in those moments, those days of resolution, the abyss was choice, to step into an uncertain future or turn and continue to fight against something that could not be beaten. I realised that I would never beat my illness, it is in me, it is there for as long as I breath. There is no route up that mountain, I was always destined to end up a crumpled heap at its feet.

I could however turn my back on it, knowing it was behind me, laughing, calling me pathetic, daring me to try fighting it again. Or I could walk silently across the plain to the edge of the abyss, and stare into the infinite darkness of the unknown, to take one step into the abyss would be and was, the taking of one step into living with the beast behind me, every step into the unknown was a stronger step, I did not know what would be in front of me, nobody does, but I knew with each step I could tame the beast behind me by being strong enough to accept it, and try my best to live with it. I have looked back at times, I have felt a draw to face the mountain again, but I look forward, no matter how bad I feel at times, I know that behind me lies more pain.

I still take steps, I stumble at times, but I move forward into the unknown. I do not know how many steps I have left to go, but I am learning to enjoy this journey. The mountain is still there, but I prefer acceptance to denial.

I hope you understand

Love and peace

David

Social isolation and the fear of being different.

Social isolation and the fear of being different.

Already I am finding myself falling behind with my daily blog posts, Since upping my Quetiapine I have found myself running out of day. As I have only just started on the high dose, and knowing that I flag in the afternoon, I am not that bothered just yet. ……..

The above was written on the first of the month, eight days ago. In the past few days I have wobbled my way through each day, pushing myself to do things, and yesterday I crashed. Not a bad crash, just an “I am scared of everything and nothing” crash. Today I feel a bit better, just very tired, it is surprising how tiring being anxious is, even though you rarely move.

The red flag should have gone up days ago when I realised I could not write, there was just too much in my head to concentrate on a blog post. I wonder if stopping drinking is having an effect, not that I was a big drinker, but I did drink most days. The one thing I have noticed is that I have become isolated. As I have a thing for social isolation anyway, not going for a drink, means not seeing people, which is both a good and a bad thing.

I like to talk, and I can bullshit with the best of them, but I am always conscious that people dislike me or what I say. Sober I find it hard to have conversations unless it is about topics I know. The problem is I do not follow any kind of sport, and the extent of my social circle is the golf club. Pop a couple of pints in me and I will talk about anything and everything, bullshit, lie and manipulate the truth. The extrovert leaps out and the part of me that is conscious of how I am being perceived gets shut out, though I can hear it in my head, desperately telling me to shut up.

Some might say the simple answer is to just go to the golf club and only have a soft drink, those are the people who don’t know how strong the addiction compulsion is. I would cave in, I know I would. I have been alcohol free for nearly two weeks, sad to say I actually feel proud of myself. Yes, I have fallen into the isolation trap, I wish I could face going outside beyond walking the dog, I miss my girlfriend like mad, but I need to get back in control.

Anyway, as my mind is flopping all over the place right now, I shall end this ramble. Who knows I might get around to writing something constructive later.

Is there a witty side to mental illness

Is there a witty side to mental illness

I have found a rather interesting site which provides a daily prompt for blog posts. If you are a blogger like myself, a ‘fits and starts’ type, it might be useful. The site is called The Daily Post , check it out and see what you think.

Anyway, I have decided to take up their challenge of both writing a post every day, and also writting a post ‘inspired’ by the daily prompt. The word today is witty. Now as I write mainly about my personal experience with mental illness, and occasionally my views on mental illness, trying to formulate a blog post around the word witty is interesting.

Here.  I have to be careful, putting witty and mental health could get me in trouble. Some people could take it that I am saying mental illness is funny, I am not, though I do laugh at myself. This I think is my first point, the ability to laugh at yourself. I do stupid things, I spend money when I know full well that I don’t really have it to spend. Until recently I drank (see my post ‘The trouble with alcohol and mental health’), and other things that made my life just that bit more difficult.

Now I used to get angry at myself for doing these things, fuelled the self loathing, gave myself more to mentally beat myself up, now I try to laugh them off. Logically I know what I have done and what the results of my actions will be, I now accept that it cannot be undone, so it is ‘counter productive?’ For me beat myself up. I try to say to myself “oh well, thats another fuck up” and move on. I do talk to myself a lot, often out loud when alone, I try to keep a positive mindset by joking with myself.

This leads nicely into my second point, what some call ‘military humour’, though I believe it is shared by many front line services. When you see a lot of bad things often the way to accept it, is to joke about it. Now I feel I am coming close to the line, but fuck it I will say it anyway, “why the hell can we not joke about mental health”. I know someone who had a heart attack last week, I seen him today laughing and joking about it. My own mum passed away as a result of cancer just a few months ago (another time) and right up until the end she kept her sense of humour.

Try to make light of mental health and run the risk of scorn and damnation. Is mental illness funny, no it is not, but neither are heart disease and cancer. Is the use of wit when explaining your condition wrong? This depends in my view, I am very open about my illness, I do take it very serious. However trying to explain my illness involves going into some rather heavy stuff, to those of casual acquaintance who enquire I simply say “oh I had a crap electrician wire my brain”, or “I am fit and healthy from the neck down”.

I think you get the picture, sometimes people enquire out of courtesy, they neither want, or, probably fully understand the clinical “I have <insert label here>”. My daughter read my last blog post and nearly cried, she hugged me tightly and said “daddy, it’s so sad”. Now compared to some of my past posts it was very matter of fact, at least that is what I thought. It got me thinking, do I write depressing posts?, and more so, is that the reason people read them, I really hope not.

I know that there is still a massive amount of stigma attached to mental illness, I actively support the education of the masses to the serious plight people face with mental health issues, but are we making a problem with a solution. As most mental illness involves some form of anxiety and/or depression, by stamping our feet so hard to get the masses to take us seriously do we not run a risk of further reinforcing  negative beliefs? Just a thought. Now I may have crossed the line with this post, and I do actively encourage debate (though just calling me a dumb asshole is neither constructive but possibly true….anyway) but I have said what I feel.

No person should take a characteristic of another and use it to cause them discomfort. That being said, within the confines of a social circle, you will often find banter, sarcastic wit and repartee the binding ingredient. I wonder if it is possible to use the power of social media to create such a place. I have just set up a Twitter group called The MHB Club which is open to anyone. There is a Facebook group called The MHB Club which you can ask to join.

So, before I get stoned (with metaphorical rocks not weed) please think, join the groups, spread the work, and let us use our wit to help each other, who knows it might actually work.

Love and peace to you all,

David

NB The picture for those that do not recognise it is the stoning scene from Monty Python, The life of Brian. If you have never seen it shame on you. Yes this is my.  Type of humour.

Isolation the curse of current humanity

Isolation the curse of current humanity

In my mind at the moment is the desire to say bollocks to all social media, and yet, hypocritically I am using social media to express my distaste. I am not saying social media is bad, this is a personal feeling and not one I intend to impose on others. At one time I was very active via social media promoting the injustice of the mental health problem faced not only in the UK but also across the world.

Did I give up? It is hard to say. Did I lose faith, what is faith? I think I just lost control, I became so self-absorbed in my own battle with mental illness that I lost touch with my focus on helping others. I am sure I have written before about how I desire to help others cope with the dark shadow that is mental illness. I am not doctor, I am just an ordinary man who has spent a lifetime destroying my life.

I am at that stage in my cycle where I need to be alone, and yet I can’t shake the feeling that what I am doing is wrong. These words I fire into the dark are futile I know. Who the hell would want to listen to advice from someone probably more fucked up than they are. I just wish I could find something to champion, some way of creating a unified group of people who would become the core of a progressive system to help others.

I find personal contact difficult, when ever I meet people, even those close to me, I feel like an outcast, yet social media gives me the opportunity to have a voice. Here you can spot my dilemma, I am lost in the social media world, maybe its my age. I therefore ask anyone who reads this to help me re-engage with the cyber community . I look for not only those who need help, but also those that have positive input.

If you do read this, I thank you, please share my ramblings in the hope that somewhere out there are like-minded individuals who desire to share their voice, their story, their ways of using social media in a productive manner… This whisper in the dark is, I hope the start of something greater.

Drawing strength from the past

Drawing strength from the past

 

I wrote the following blog post 12 months ago today, I am moved by what I wrote then and wish to add a little bit more……….

I find myself wondering if those that end up being committed to hospital because of their actions are actually in a better position that the rest of us? Imagine being able to turn yourself inside out and all the rage and frustration that we keep contained within was to just be allowed to be free. What it would be like to just sit in a corner and just stare for hours in silence, to scream at the top of your voice to vent. I wonder if on the inside they have calm because they can release?

We are expected to sit on a powder keg of emotion and yet present the world a normal exterior, to behave like drones. Right now I do not know what emotion is going with which problem I have, I have so many worries right now maybe they are all interrelated. All I know is that showing calm is now a separate entity to the one inside, I exist as two people and where one is cold and numb the other is crying softly in the corner of my mind. I am still very much broken and coming to realise that it is probably easier for me to crumble completely and rebuild than keep trying to patch myself up.

Am I a failure to want to press pause on life and step outside it for a while? So many people I know are battling their problems each and every day, what right do I have to cheat? Why should I just give up in the hope that by starting from scratch I can rebuild it right this time. It wouldn’t be the first time I have done so, build, destroy, rebuild, destroy, why will it be different this time? Maybe the fact that at least I have at last faced the fact that I am not well and rebuild with that in mind might help, maybe accepting that who I am is vastly different to who I was. Maybe I should sit at the table with my demons and have a meeting, see if we can come to some kind of arrangement that best suits us all.

I have moved in a direction to clear the way but I am sat surrounded by guilt and doubt wondering which way to proceed. I do not regret but I do suffer, I just know that the job is not finished yet and that I am not going to give up on life but I do need to clear away everything for a fresh start. I need to let the last bit of my old self crumble and restart. I long to find that moment of inner peace like that moment when meditating that for a second it all disappears and you are at one with yourself before you realise and smile but it goes because you have seen it. I want to be able to smile because I am smiling inside, be able to frown because I am frowning inside. I want to be able to know that what I feel is real and not the result of some other issue, to never have to lie and pretend I am someone else.

So where does it leave me? A coward for wanting to just let go and say to hell with it all and just rebuild. Or do I keep patching up each damaged bit as I put it right and hope that one fix does not create another problem? It seems such a soft option to just turn around and say look, I am not okay, I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand. Can I handle the looks of pity and being treated like a child? I can’t seem to find anymore words………………

It would be nice to sit here and continue this with many positive statements, to say that reading this has shown me how far I have come. The sad thing is that even after a year, reading this still brings a lot of pain. The most painful thing about reading this is that I seem to have lost the ability to express myself like I did back then. True, I have progressed, I have started my degree and other courses focusing on mental health. This knowledge has and continues to help me help myself. I understand myself better now, but I am still not far from the man who wrote the words above.

The scary part of learning about mental health and the ways in which it can be managed is that you have to reflect upon yourself. For several months now I have been to scared to blog, I feared that what I write would contain to much of my new insights, become a source of debate. I have learned so much about myself, so much so that I realise there is much I do not know. A year ago I was tormented by demons that I did not understand, I know now that the demons were me, and me alone.

I do, however, draw inspiration from what I wrote, the line “I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand.” is especially poignant. Through this very blog and Twitter I found a whole world of people who understood, people who even thanked me for writing what they themselves felt. The people close to me, my family and friends took time to understand, I have been moved on many occasions by the positive feedback that I have received. I still doubt myself, I worry too much that I will fail once again.

The time I feel has come though to stop hiding in the shadows. I once vowed that I would learn how to help myself and help others. That conviction stands! The road is still long and bumpy but I draw strength from the knowledge that once I had the power to share myself openly, to say the things I felt. I must find that power once more, this blog, my journal, my story.

Global community a review 12 months on

Global community a review 12 months on

I wrote the following post on the the 14th June 2015 and I do not think I can add much to it. In the past 12 months my Twitter family has grown massively and I feel so much pride and privilege in being a part of such a wonderful community. Mental health is a massive concern, it is interesting to see that in the past year it has become very prominent in the media. The sad fact still remains that those that suffer from mental health problems, from the mild to the severe are still not receiving the care and treatment that they should.

I have always been passionate about doing more than just talking about mental health, and to some extent I feel guilty that I have not spoken out more. I still pursue the dream of finding a way to offer help to those in need, even if it is just simple skills training and a support network. Despite my own problems, I will continue to work hard towards this end, in fact I have a renewed drive to do so.

All that is left to say is a massive thank you to all those who have supported me this past year, all my followers on Twitter (and the few who follow me on Facebook lol). The wonderful people who read this blog and take the time to comment and pass it on. You are all amazing and I often wonder where I would be without you.

Thank you

David

Finding support to help you is critical in facing your mental health problems. While the poor NHS is stretched to breaking point,it is up to us sufferers and those who care to help and encourage each other. It is amazing how much support I have got from messages from family, friends and colleges. But the truly amazing thing is the support I have from people I have never met from all corners of the globe. Social media has helped build me a brilliant support community and has given me the opportunity to support and encourage others in return. I feel truly honoured to be a part of this community and hope that it continues to grow, bringing others into the fold to offer them our support and for them to feel the great sense of value that comes from supporting others.

I am also grateful to all the wonderful charities and forums out there that provide help, support and information to sufferers. Without these, many of us would be much more alone and ill-informed. They campaign for us, increasing awareness of mental illness and most of all be there when we need them. Finally I would like to thank all those professional therapists, doctors and other medical professionals who are active on social media offering support and help in their own time. The biggest cause of stigma in mental health is the fear within sufferers to admit they have a problem, I have experienced no stigma since I have opened up about my problems. Some people have admitted they have no idea what it means or even that they can’t imagine how it feels but they have all shown support.

So I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to every one of you, and ask that you spread the word far and wide because on each of your friends lists you would be surprised have many people are suffering in silence. So tell them to find me @davesoapbox on Twitter, Davesoapbox on Facebook, tumblr and Pinterest and I will add them and let them see that there is a world full of understanding, empathy and compassion just waiting for them.

One year on

One year on

It is now 11:20 on the morning of the 18th of May 2016, I am writing this on a bus to London, a long journey but I must admit I enjoy it. I have time to think, to work, even to sleep, but it is not as long as the journey I have taken in the past twelve months. This time last year I was sat on the floor, facing a wall, staring at a picture of my daughter. I was in the office of a member of the local community mental health team, a man was trying to reach me. I was broken, when I spoke it was the language of hysteria. That day, I was no longer a person, I was not a father, son, lover, friend, human. I was a shell, it was not so much that I wanted to kill myself, I just could not face living.

I, today, accept my actions that day, and the days, weeks, months that followed. The guilt I have carried, the embarrassment and the shame, today, I lay them to rest. I know now that my actions that day, were the actions of self preservation, the last act of a desperate mind. I do not think that even now, a year later, I could describe how much mental damage I felt. I can only say that I knew nothing, felt nothing, I was no longer a person, I was a ghost.

I have always been able to lie, both verbally and physically. On that day there was no lies, I laid my soul out for all to see, and it was not a pretty sight. Today, I sit on the bus, wanting to write about how much I have achieved in the past year, wanting to share my fight back against mental illness. The sad truth is, I don’t think I can. There is still so much of me that is mending, others fragile, to fragile to even try to fix in fear of it breaking again. Few people will understand, unless they have been there. Looking healthy, happy and content, does not mean that I am, it means I have started to rebuild from the outside inwards.

My challenge now is how to move forward. I am training to be a therapist, yet I am still broken, who would accept help from someone who is possibly as damaged as they are?. I desperately want to strive forth into the world. Big and bold, look at me, I can help you, I want to help you. The desire is growing every day, I want it so very much, but there is a part of me that is holding me back. The part of me that fears the worst, the part of me that still sees the damage being repaired. It tells me “not yet, you are not strong enough”, “you will break yourself again, and next time you might not…….” (NB I can not even finish that sentence in writing).

Despite my conflict, I have found peace. I am mindful of the value of time, how much beauty and wonder I can find in a second. What started as a way to control my anxiety, has now become my happy place. Maybe it is because I have found this place that I am scared to move forward, what if I lose it. I have found ‘my plot’, I now need a way to bring the life that I want to me, to my ‘plot’. I can no longer afford to chase dreams, I must listen to that part of me that protects me. I must never forget what can happen if I become complacent. Every step I take from today will be towards the future that I have started to shape this past year. I will strive forth, I am ready, I think…………..