The Difference Between Thoughts and Plans

*Trigger Warning: this post talks about suicide, suicidal thoughts and suicidal plans.*

Thoughts…Plans…Suicide…

Whenever someone with depression or a mental illness that can prompt depression-like symptoms is in a counselling or therapy appointment, one of the most common questions asked by the therapist is: “have you made any plans to end your life?”  It’s a scary question and one that we don’t like to contemplate.  Whether we’ve had those thoughts or not, the notion that we might end our lives can be terrifying.

For friends and family members, it’s almost a taboo topic.  No one likes to hear that their loved one is having thoughts about their own death.  If you hear that someone close to you is considering ending their life, it might prompt you to reevaluate yourself, asking why you’re not enough to keep them here.

Regardless of who is talking about it – the therapist, the one suffering, the friend or the family member – suicide is never a pleasant topic.  That said, it is one that is integral to many mental health conditions and it’s important that we break down the stigmas attached.  So here, I’m going to tell you a few things about suicide that might help.

“Plans To End My Life”

For the majority of people, hearing someone talk about suicide immediately makes them think that person is planning to end their life.  Certainly, this might be a possibility and it seems to be the part of suicide that we hear the most about.  True, we hear about people who have committed suicide but whenever we hear about people who think of suicide, we hear about those who are making plans.

In many respects, it’s almost become something of a horror story.  Someone struggling with mental health mentions suicidal thoughts and next thing we know they’re being sectioned for their own safety.  OK, these things don’t quite go down like that, but it’s one of the impressions of suicide that I’ve heard.

But did you know that there is a difference between plans and thoughts?  It’s something that people forget but it’s a very important differentiation to note.

Suicidal Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, suicidal thoughts are far more common than you might believe.  According to mind.org.uk anyone can have them, regardless of their background or situation in life.  Yet it might surprise you to know it’s not quite as concerning as it’s made out to be.

Many of us who struggle with suicidal thoughts don’t actually have any intention of following through on them.  We have thoughts about how we would do it, we have thoughts about what the world would be like if we did do it but they aren’t plans.  They are abstract thoughts.  Think of them as the fleeting thoughts, the ones that aren’t too important, but surface every now and again.  A lot of the time, they’re not very intense and we’re not likely to act on them.  They are more like musings than actual proper, seriously considered thoughts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not making light of suicidal thoughts.  If someone is having them then it is vital they consult a medical professional to determine whether there is an underlying problem.  What I am saying is that we, as friends and family members, should not freak out if someone we love comes to us and tells us they are having suicidal thoughts.  The best thing to do is to be understanding, to be calm and empathetic.

Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that we will necessarily act on them but they must be taken seriously nonetheless!

What You Need To Know

As with all aspects of mental health, suicidal thoughts vary from person to person.  Some experience them strongly, some don’t.  For some, they last a long time, for others they are fleeting.  As for reasons, some people have clear ones why they would be thinking of it, others might not know.  It is a complicated thing.  The best things you can do are:

No one likes admitting to having suicidal thoughts and it can be scary for both sides.  Yet it can be part and parcel of having depression, bipolar, BPD and other mental illnesses.  A counsellor once told me this:

“Suicidal thoughts aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  It means your mind is looking for a way out of your current situation.  All we have to do is provide it with an alternative.”

So what do you say?  Shall we work together to find an alternative for the ones we love?

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Crossing the Borders

The Borders of Borderline

Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t seem to get much coverage, does it?  It’s pushed over the borders of what’s talked about and what’s not, left in the dark.  Why?  Possibly because there are still a lot of things that people don’t really know about it.  It’s one of the reasons we did our Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Week back in August.  Well, this won’t be like all those times it’s not talked about because today I’m talking about the borders of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Saturday 03/11/2018

So, on Saturday I had quite a good day.  In the morning, I had a bit of a lazy day with Cheryl (the Little One was at her dad’s as it was his weekend with her) and we took advantage of that to relax a bit.  In the afternoon we went out to the shops to pick up a few things for the firework display at Cheryl’s mum’s that evening and then we went to pick up the kids (as their dad didn’t want to go to the fireworks with us) and we went off to Grandma’s for the bonfire and fireworks in the garden.

It was a lovely evening, with Cheryl and her sisters and their husbands, the kids, their cousins and, of course, Grandma.  Oh and the cat lurking somewhere about and the fish!  We ate hotdogs and soup and snacks, watched amazing fireworks from both Grandma’s garden and the garden a few doors down, as is the nature of fireworks.  Then the anxiety started up, the noise levels got a bit too much and I decided I needed to go home.  As if that wasn’t enough, I ended up with a bit of a squiffly stomach, which didn’t really help.  Anyway, we took the Little One back to her dad’s as it was late and she was getting tired, then I headed home and Cheryl went back to Grandma’s for that bit longer.

Truth be told, it was a lovely evening.  That night, however, things went pear-shaped.  Due to some mistake somewhere – with the chemist or the doctor or maybe I lost them – I didn’t have enough of my Quetiapine to see me through this week.  Normally I take them before bed and they help me sleep.  Well, I didn’t have them, so couldn’t take them.

And all hell broke loose.

Sunday 04/11/2018

I had two hours sleep.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t switch off.  I ended up binge watching Daredevil on Netflix, playing a little bit of a game on my tablet, tossing and turning, the works.  (There’s a blue-light filter on my tablet so it wasn’t that!)  It was only at around 5am that I was finally able to get some shut-eye.  Needless to say, it didn’t set me up for a great day the next day…

So Sunday…Sunday Sunday Sunday.  Depression, anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder.  Lucky me, right?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  On waking up at 7am-ish (don’t ask me why, I have no idea why) I was bright, I couldn’t sit still, I was bouncing ever so slightly on the bed (like the same way you’d jig your leg or be tapping your fingers, but I was sat on the bed at the time).  Then the mood crashed.  I lost all energy and motivation.  It was all I could do to get myself out of bed.

This was how my day went.  Up then down.  Up then down.  And again and again, over and over, mood cycling almost half-hourly.  It’s the part people don’t really talk about.  They talk about the lows of depression, the highs of anxiety…but what about the mood cycles?  Really, it was something like this:

You may have laughed at that and, if I’m honest, I smiled at it.  Yet how true is it?

The Reality of Crossing Those Borders

For those of us struggling with BPD, it’s a reality.  One minute we’re fine, the next we’re not.  The highs, the lows, the depths, the summits.  Crossing the borders between fine and not, between “happy” and “depressed” is so easy.  It’s sudden.  Unpredictable.

Horrible.

Do you know what makes it worse?  When you’re high and riding that feeling it can be quite euphoric.  I felt as though I could conquer the world; it was my oyster ready for the taking.  Nothing could stop me, anything I put my mind to could be achieved.  Then only moments later I was at the depths of despair, where everything was pointless, meaningless and I was hopeless.

Imagine that for a second if you can: going from that euphoric high to that crushing low.  If anything, it makes it so much worse because that drop is suddenly so much further.  Going from a reasonable day into a depressive spiral is one thing but going from that unlimited high down into that depth?  It really does make it so much worse.

So that was my Sunday.  How was yours?

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Left Behind – The Battle Behind the Choice

Simply Put: I Left

OK, so this latest post in my journey is difficult for me to write.  It talks about why I made the decision to leave behind a big part of my life.  A lot of people don’t know this, perhaps a lot of people don’t understand it, but here it is: the battle behind why I left my church.

Over the past nineteen months that Pushing Back the Shadows has been going, I’ve talked about my faith only a few times.  Not because I’m embarrassed about it – quite the opposite, really – I just don’t agree with using this mental health platform to push my religious beliefs onto anyone else.  If they happen to coincide with what I’m writing about, I’ll add them in, but only then.  It’s because of my faith that you’ve had posts such as The Mustard Seed – the fifth part of the Inside My Head series – and Why I’m a Christian But Have a Problem With Religion.  Now we come to this one.

To clarify, before you read what I have to say, this does not reflect everyone in that church.  Nor does it reflect my views on the church as a whole, the Salvation Army (as that’s the church involved), any kind of problem with other churches or other faiths and denominations.  It is what it is.

So what happened?

My Life In the Church

OK, let’s jump back to the beginning for a moment.  I’ll catch you up, don’t worry.  I was brought up in the church.  My parents are Salvation Army ministers and, as such, I’d go every Sunday, attend the Sunday School, you know how it goes.  I also became a member of the church, first as a Junior Soldier (the young people’s commitment) and, later on, a senior solider.  We also moved a lot, which was par for the course, and it led to many fantastic experiences such as living in Prague in the Czech Republic.  That’s definitely something I wouldn’t change for the world!

Don’t laugh…it was for an article and the photographer got me to pose! 🙂

Eventually, as these things happen, I was old enough to go to uni and my parents were moving onto their next posting.  Needless to say, I stayed behind, going to the local Salvation Army church.  That’s where our little journey begins.

Despite a few problems early on – being the pastor’s kid can present those kinds of challenges, as some people will dislike you simply because of who your parents are, others will think you know everything about the inner workings for the same reason and there are a few other reasons too – I settled into the part that I was to play.  A member of the brass band and the songsters (church choir, in a nutshell) as well as the worship team and youth team.  Later, I became deputy bandmaster for the brass band.  I took on the leadership of the worship team.  Also, I started leading my own groups in the Sunday School.

So what, you ask, went wrong?

My Mental Breakdown

Fast forward to around August 2016, when I had my breakdown with depression and anxiety.  I was under extreme pressure at work due to the number of calls I’d take working for the bank, how I was only a temporary worker and able to be let go at any given time (something that seemed held over our heads when it suited) and pressured into being at work and not being off sick.  We know how work turned out for me, but what about my church life?

I was under a lot of pressure there too.  Being a member of the different groups in the church was alright, I could cope with the responsibilities, but the leadership I was under became an issue.  Doing my best, then being told that I was doing things wrong but being given no guidance on how I was meant to do it…it led to problems.  Especially as my depression and anxiety started creeping up, I started to feel as though I couldn’t take a step without getting it wrong.  Quite rapidly – and rather shockingly – my church life, which had been a rock and a constant in my life for nearly a decade, was becoming very similar to that terrible workplace.

Having depression and anxiety is crippling and I’m unashamed to admit it got the better of me.  Exhausted, drained of almost all energy, I found that I was having to make choices.  Did I go to things like band practice, church, social gatherings or did I conserve my energy to get myself out the door for work, my only source of income and supporting myself?  I think we both know which I picked.  Unfortunately, not everyone saw it that way.  Apparently I was choosing to let my depression and anxiety beat me, choosing to let it keep me inside.  While that was right on a fundamental level, the truth was much more complicated than that.

One By One…

Aside from that one comment, at first everyone was supportive.  They tried to keep in touch, reminded me that I was missed, telling me that I was remembered in thoughts and prayers.  Then, as it became more apparent that my condition wasn’t improving at the pace they might have liked, they started to drop off the radar.  Encouraging messages and phone calls became fewer.  Visits that were barely in existence from the beginning also became fewer, bordering on the non-existent.

Add into this some of the people that I’d supported in that church, through difficult times, sometimes without getting anything in return, started disappearing off the radar as well…you can imagine how it must have felt.  All the while, the subtle voice of my Dark Passenger was whispering in my ear, telling me I didn’t matter.

After months of this – visits that never happened, messages that never came, people who were fair weather friends – I left.

The Battle Behind the Decision

I’ll be honest, people don’t understand this decision.  People tell me I didn’t give the church enough credit for what they did, that there were plenty of people trying to support me and that I ungratefully rejected it.  My take is that it was too little, too late.  Yes, there were those who were brilliant (and one who still is) but ultimately they let me down.  When they needed me, they were quick enough to come running.  When I needed them?  That was a different story.

The decision nearly tore me in two.  Part of me wanted to stay because of how long I’d been attending, how much I’d invested in it and the few people there who I still thought of as friend.  The other part…was still reeling from the hurt of what had happened.  Being abandoned in my time of need, being told I was choosing not to be there and being told I was rejecting offers of help…you can imagine.

Ultimately, I decided it was time to leave that part of my life behind me.  Trying to maintain it was only causing more hurt, the reminders of what had happened acting like mental scars.  For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my recovery, I decided I had to leave the toxic part of my life behind me.

It was the only way.

What Came Next…

After making that decision, things have looked up.  I’ve joined a new church which is amazing.  There are two people in particular who are possibly the loveliest people that you could ever meet, who make sure they stay in touch and who are always on hand if you’ve got a problem.  It’s a beautiful little community of people and, more than that, it’s family.

I bear no ill will against the Salvation Army, for I still attend whenever I visit my parents and maintain a few friendships in the Army outside of that particular church.  As for the people of that church, I don’t hate them.  The only thing I feel, when I feel anything at all, is sadness.  Sadness that they didn’t realise what they were doing.  That even those who struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses didn’t know what to do to help me…or perhaps didn’t care enough to try.  Perhaps I’ll never know.

For the sake of my own mental health, though, I had to leave.

And that is the story of how I left my church.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Give Up The Ghost

Haunted by the Past

Do you ever feel you’re haunted? That cold feeling running through your stomach and the hairs standing up all over you? That feeling of fear and dread that almost paralyses you? Some people don’t believe in ghosts. The idea that there is anything after death is just inconceivable to some. I personally believe there is more after this life than an empty nothingness, but that’s a conversation for another day. The ghosts I’m talking about today are when ghosts from your past come up to haunt you and set off feelings of anxiety and depression. I have my ghosts as I’m sure you do too. We all do. But how do you give up the ghost and move forwards? Because when it comes to your mental health how can you ever hope for recovery when even the mention of the name of one of your ghosts sends you back into the darkness? A song I love by Ella Henderson describes it perfectly:

I keep going to the river to pray
‘Cause I need something that can wash out the pain
And at most
I’m sleeping all these demons away
But your ghost, the ghost of you
It keeps me awake

Facing Down the Monster

It’s hard. Believe me. I face down one of my ghosts several times every week in the shape of my ex-husband. He’s a big contributor to the scars you don’t see that make up my complete lack of self-esteem.  I also have to wrestle with anxiety every time he has visitation with the children, it goes into overdrive if I see his behaviour slipping into the patterns that caused our relationship to become so toxic. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed very well at keeping it under control, but one thing I’ve noticed that is I am getting better at it. Where I used to lose my speech when dealing with him in difficult circumstances, with no small amount of effort I am pushing it back. I can talk and actually take positive control of the conversation. In doing so I am slowly starting to give up the ghost of that relationship that has at times haunted my life.

My mum even commented after a recent event where anxiety over the children had spiralled, instead of crumbling (with a little coaxing and some excellent advice from one of the wisest people I know) I pushed down the feelings and dealt with the problem head on. For once, fear did not rule me. Okay, it took it out of me to do that, but the important thing is I did it. In doing so, I was that bit closer to exorcising that demon.

Give Up the Ghost, No More Haunting

I am very clear on one thing, it is NOT easy to do this. It takes time, perseverance and patience to give up the ghost of those who have played a part in damaging your mental health. Because, to get like this, to have my self esteem so damaged, there are individuals who can share some of the blame. One thing I have realised though is that by letting these spectres from my past haunt me, they still have a hold over me and why on earth should they have the power to do that? They more than likely don’t give a second thought to the harm they’ve inflicted to others, such people rarely do. So let them go. Delete them from your Facebook friends, get rid of the pictures you may have. Give up the ghost. Stop letting them de-rail your recovery. They have no right to do that.

 

 

 

They don’t give the harm they do to you a second thought, so why should you waste any of your thoughts on them?

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

 

 

 

 

Episode 55 – Until That Moment

That One Moment In Time

No, this isn’t about Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time, but there is definitely something to be learnt from that phrase.  We are a people that are quick to criticise, quick to judge and seldom provide the support that we should to those in need.  Let’s find out what we need to know!

Useful Links:
Aspects of Choice

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a Patron - Until That MomentDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.