Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Time to Change. It really is.

I've signed up for the Time to Change "Champion" programme. I truly believe that it's time to end mental heath stigmatisation. The fact that I've found/am finding this blog post so hard to write demonstrates beautifully that the stigmatisation is very much still alive and well. I'm really quite nervous about it. Have been for days.

I don't believe it for a moment but the term "superwoman" is used in relation to me fairly regularly. By others, I hasten to add. I'm in no way a superwoman, I just get on with things. Usually. It might come as a surprise to those people who have used that term that I have chronic and significant mental health problems, have had all my adult life - and probably most of my childhood but there's no real way of verifying that.

I have Borderline Personality Disorder. Won't bore you with too many of the symptoms, there's more information in the NHS link than I could tell you as I'm too close to it and can't see the wood for the trees.

In a nutshell, I get massively overwhelmed very easily (this is inconvenient as I work best under pressure) I have had great big long periods of debilitating depression (not for a while thankfully) and I struggle greatly with self image and my sense of self and self worth.

Now, no one can control the hand that life, nature, physiology deals them, but, to a degree, we can control how the effects influence us. For example, through 18 months of  psychological therapy, I've learned to sit on the sunny side of the bus, not the overcast side. I refuse to be a victim of my faulty wiring.

That's not to say that I don't have bad periods. It truth be told I'm currently navigating my way through one. Personally, I don't find talking to people about my feelings to help a great deal - I find it gives them weight and power. I prefer to talk about how I can counteract, improve and remove those feelings. There's generally an underlying reason for things now- that's how I know I'm not having a depressive episode. They come with no rhyme or reason. The things that might be causing my malaise may be tiny or massive, but one thing's for sure, they'll take a tremendous amount of effort to put right. As a result I sleep and feel exhausted, physically and mentally, a huge amount of the time.

A few years back I got myself into a bit of a pickle. I was so wrapped up in my self image and worth (lack thereof) that I inadvertently created an alter ego for myself - I called it "my brilliant self" when I was in talking therapy. It helped me to function initially in a bullying and oppressive work environment that was terribly harmful, looking back. But it also piled so much pressure on me that it ended up being one of the most destructive aspects of my life. Especially given that the pressure was to achieve and produce in an environment where those things would never have been noticed or appreciated, they just would have fuelled further expectation through negative reinforcement. It takes all sorts to make a world, of course, but people in relatively powerful positions need to be aware much more of the impact their behaviour has on other people - lots of sufferers of mental health issues are the masters of disguise. They can't help but internalise the negativity and it's harmful and painful.

In 2 years, I've gone from being unemployed and unemployable (mental health problems) to being a qualified, certified make up artist with my own business, successful, thank you. I have achieved my degree in Social Media and have a secondary career as a a consultant in the same, learned to ride a motorbike, bagged myself a fantastic personal life and have rebuilt my life totally. As a result of this
I'm aware that some may be confused by my claim to significant mental health requirements. I can assure you that they are true. I just refuse to let it limit me.

In my capacity as a Make Up Artist, sometimes it's super hard to put my face on, get out there, interact with my clients and do what I do best. That's the hard bit - getting there. The second I see my client it's all forgotten - doesn't exist. It's wonderful. And especially when we get to see the results - it's magical. Just difficult and frustrating that I have to go through that to get there. All the different people I meet, the creativity I get to employ and the focus a job gives me, they have magical healing properties. It just needs that kick to get me there. I can totally see how lots of Borderline people (overwhelmingly ladies) are addicted to substances. I've escaped that one, thank goodness.

I have read, talked, practised and medicated. A lot. I'm still on the highest dose of my medication. It's a relatively generic one now, and really I should be back on the hardcore stuff - I used to take the highest dose of that plus a second high dose specialist one - but I am desperately trying to resist changing back over. The side effects of the hardcore ones were pretty inconvenient and especially so when I have 2 careers to run. I also don't want to be in the bracket that those meds put me in.

I've wrestled for years about "coming out" about my mental health. I'm glad that being a Champion has encouraged me to write this post. I'm going to be canvassing a event shortly with Time to Change Wales information and paraphernalia. You may have seen the collective blog project about self image that 6 ladies and I wrote a few months back. I wrestled with the idea of bringing mental health into my post, but I just didn't feel able to do it. With hindsight I wish I had actually. it governs so many of my responses, thoughts and feelings - and not all negatively,believe it or not.

And just don't even get me started on accessing mental health services via the NHS.

Utterly appalling. That's all I'll say, for now!

Extraordinary, yes. Wonderwoman, no.