Creativity and Mental Health

For me, creativity is a massive part of expressing my feelings when it comes to my mental health. Creating abstract representations of my disorders or how I feel allows me to release the negative thoughts and create something interesting in the process.

hope

Hope (2015) 

mha designs

Mental Health Awareness Designs (2014)

I draw, paint, write – anything and everything! It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world; I can sit in complete silence and not have one thought pass through my head for hours when I have a paintbrush in my hand.

Does anybody else have any methods to relieve stress and negative feelings?

Mental Health Art

Just under a year ago in June 2014, I created this series of art work. The six images were each designed to depict a different mental illness or the symptoms associated with it; and they also mock some of the negative stigma that go hand-in-hand with suffering from these disorders.

I designed the series in black and red because for me, they’re the two boldest colours that there are. The black represents the illness, isolation, secrets and negativity that we face from the rest of the world; whilst the areas of red represent the glimpse of hope, which no matter how small is brighter and more predominant than the illness.

We need to stop shaking our heads and silently being at war with the uneducated comments we hear; we need to stop making peace with the idea that mental health issues aren’t as high priority as physical illness, and instead – we need to actively stand strong and fight for better.

nknk

I hope you like them, to view the rest of my art portfolio, click here.

Private or Public?

I can completely understand why people who keep their blogs private. Some of the things I write and see on here are deeply personal, so why would we want the rest of the world to read it? Especially those blogs concerning mental health. There’s still a massive stigma attached to it and you don’t want to have to proof read and edit everything you write so that your language is acceptable for every person that could come across it.

It’s not about how many people follow your blog or how many people find what you write interesting; sometimes it’s just about having an outlet to scream and shout (and let it all out!). It’s so therapeutic to write all your feelings down – it takes them out of your head for a while which can be priceless and more useful than anything any doctor can ever offer you.

For me though, I have to say, people I know personally do see my blog. My mum reads it, my best friends read it, and occasionally I or people I know  share it with others that are struggling as well. Sometimes there’s just that need to sit down for five minutes and read that you’re not the only person in the world that is going through hell and if I can give someone that then I wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

I first and foremost encourage people to read through the comments when they come to my blog, rather than the actual posts I write, because reading the nice words you all leave me and the positive outcomes a lot of you have had, it gives a person hope and a sense of belonging. Which is at the end of the day what we all need.

Additionally, I think mental health awareness needs to be stronger and people need to understand the impacts that some of these illnesses and disorders have on our lives. I want people to know that it’s OK and not something to be ashamed of or something that they should hide away – therefore to me, hiding my blog away would be somewhat hypocritical of my views on the topic in my opinion. But that’s just me.

It does interest me though. I read a lot of your blogs every single day and I feel as though I know you. Some of you comment frequently to me and vice versa, some of us email – let’s face it I even have a few of you on WhatsApp. So to me, I do know you. But do people who actually physically know you read your blog? I would have thought it’s quite evenly split!

However you blog though, just make sure you keep doing so. Because I for one, love your posts and think you rock.

xxx

Diagnosis one year on

So I’ve just realised that it’s been a full year since my diagnosis of BPD and Cyclothymia a couple of days ago. It seems like forever ago because so much has happened – both positive and negative.

For me, the label of a diagnosis is priceless. It shouldn’t take a label to be heard, but it does. And in my experience, doctors are much more receptive now than they ever have been in the past. I don’t just get shoved on the first anti-depressant they can think of, and they no longer tell me ‘every girl your age has ups and downs’ (which by the way is the most infuriating thing anyone has ever said to me!). But now they pay attention, you can literally see them sit up straighter when they talk to me, and they discuss options rather that thinking there’s a miracle solution in one tiny little pill.

I’ve started this blog since the diagnosis as well which again has been completely priceless. When I press ‘publish’ on my screen I let all the thoughts I’ve written down go. I’ve also ‘met’ some incredible people who are genuinely every bit as nice as they initially seem. So many of you have helped me over this past year and hopefully occasionally I’ve been able to do the same for some of you.

The negative of the past year of course is the agoraphobia which reared its ugly head into my life 11 months ago now. That’s my hardest struggle at the moment and to be honest I barely notice the depression and other symptoms I face – because I’m so drained and consumed by the constant terror.

I can’t say it’s been a good year because it’s been far from it. It’s been one of the most emotionally draining where I’ve felt completely defeated, but I posted this picture the day I got diagnosed – and I’ll always stand by it.

maralyn

Stigma of mental illness

Mental illness and the issues surrounding it have been in the news a lot recently following the Germanwings plane crash. I’m not going to focus on it too much, but I think it’s worth reading this article by The Guardian – one individual, isolated, unpredictable and tragic event does not mean the world’s opinion on mental illness should change; and unfortunately some of the comments following recent articles about the incident would suggest it has.

Anybody that has been deemed fit to work should be able to do so no matter their illness, disability – or whatever else. Don’t quote this statistic because it’s entirely made up, but I’m guessing at least 99.999999999% of people with a history of mental illness don’t mass murder. If not more.

Every single day I get comments on my posts and numerous emails from people explaining their illnesses and asking for advice, coping mechanisms or just a general chat because let’s face it – living with this crap inside our heads is almost impossible. I have spoken to hundreds of people who suffer with some form of mental health problem – depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, BPD, OCD… and they all have as much of a right to be ‘normal’ as the next person. They all have as much of a right to work.

And yes, not every job has as much responsibility over so many people as does the job of a pilot, but realistically in every walk of life somebody who is deemed mentally ill (or not, in fact!) could end your life. All we can do is hope that we’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s no doubt a massive tragedy, and my thoughts go out to every single victim on and off that plane (and yes, this includes Lubitz’s family who must be mortified and inconsolable by learning the truth of what happened mid-grief) – but we’ve come to far and evolved too much to go back to thinking that the mentally ill are dangerous and unsuitable for work.

We’ve come too far to listen to idiotic, insensitive and downright wrong comments such as this one from Katie Hopkins yesterday; who as per usual is still purposely trying to gage a reaction to hold onto her ever-so fragile career.

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Stigma is not OK.

1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health illness. By my calculations of what Google deems the world population to be – that’s one billion, seven hundred and fifty million people who suffer around the world. One isolated case should not be enough to change your opinion.

lovelauren

This is what depression really looks like

This article, written by Laura Silver for Buzzfeed, is the perfect example on how we shouldn’t judge people by appearances. Just because you can’t see someone suffering, doesn’t mean that they’re not.

Be kind – and be wary that sometimes the person with the biggest smile in the room, is the one feeling most broken inside.

lom

Anna Popsky – found on Buzzfeed article: ‘This is What Depression Really Looks Like’

lovelauren

Day 29: If your mind was a house, what would the house look like?

31 Days of BPD
Please note that I also have Cyclothymia

myhouse

I’m aware that I’m brilliant on Paint, you don’t have to tell me…

Here’s my mind – as a house.

As soon as I saw this question I knew exactly what I was going to draw because I knew exactly what it would look like. It’s like my mind’s already thought about this metaphor at some point or another.

So the first two floors are cramped. It’s confusing and I feel trapped when I’m in them. It feels like there’s no way out and I’m beyond anxious – this is Depression.

When I climb the stairs further, I reach normality. I reach that haven of feeling just as everyone else. It’s simple here – so sometimes I choose to take a seat, but more often than not, I don’t, and I decide to keep climbing. My mind constantly searching for more.

This is when Hypomania kicks in. The party floor. The fantastic floor. It feels amazing. But noone is able to keep this state up for long. And so inevitably, I fall down the slide rapidly and hit rock bottom once again.

My brain needs to learn to just shutup and take a bloody seat.
lovelauren

Day 28: Do you consider yourself high-functioning or low-functioning?

31 Days of BPD

Some quick definitions first from BPD Central so we know what these terms mean:

Characteristics of lower-functioning,”conventional” BPs:

  1. They cope with pain mostly through self-destructive behaviors such as self-injury and suicidality. The term for this is”acting in.”
  2. They acknowledge they have problems and seek help from the mental health system, often desperately. Some are hospitalized for their own safety.
  3. They have a difficult time with daily functioning and may even be on government disability. This is called low functioning.
  4. If they have overlapping, or co-occurring, disorders, such as an eating disorder or substance abuse, the disorder is severe enough to require professional treatment.
  5. Family members’ greatest challenges include finding appropriate treatment, handling crises (especially suicide attempts), feelings of guilt, and the financial burden of treatment. Parents fear their child won’t be able to live independently.

Higher-functioning, invisible BPs:

  1. They strongly disavow having any problems, even tiny ones. Relationship difficulties, they say, are everyone else’s fault. If family members suggest they may have BPD, they almost always accuse the other person of having it instead.
  2. They refuse to seek help unless someone threatens to end the relationship. If they do go to counseling, they usually don’t intend to work on their own issues. In couple’s therapy, their goal is often to convince the therapist that they are being victimized.
  3. They cope with their pain by raging outward, blaming and accusing family members for real or imagined problems.
  4. They hide their low self-esteem behind a brash, confident pose that masks their inner turmoil. They usually function quite well at work and only display aggressive behavior toward those close to them. Family members say these people bring to mind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  5. If they also have other mental disorders, they’re ones that also allow for high functioning, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
  6. Family members’ greatest challenges include coping with verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse; trying to convince the BP to get treatment; worrying about the effects of BPD behaviors on their other children; quietly losing their confidence and self-esteem; and trying—and failing—to set limits. By far, the majority of Welcome to Oz (WTO) members have a borderline partner.

bed2b4

Based on these, I think I’m somewhere inbetween (that’s right, I’m sitting on the fence!).

Like someone with low-functioning BPD, I seek help. I know I need help and I’m desperate for it. I often struggle with daily tasks and the people that know me most are always trying to find appropriate treatment for me.

But like someone with high-functioning BPD, I rage outward and blame everyone else around me. I also put on a brave-face and pretend confidence around everyone else to fool them that I’m fine.

Is it possible to me middle-functioning BPD? Apparently I have just have the bad aspects of both – brilliant! But maybe that’s partly due to my Cyclothymia as well.

lovelauren

Day 27: Do you have any bad habits?

31 Days of BPD

Bad habits. Hhmm. Doesn’t everyone?

squi

I’m impulsive. But not in a good way. I’m impulsive in a destructive way and I’m too anxious to do anything impulsively fun.

I’m obsessive. A little bit. Sometimes.

My boyfriend would say my worst habit is walking out of the room half way through an argument or always wanting to get my own way.

Being lazy which then makes me more anxious because I have so much to do in such a short amount of time.

Inevitably always getting paint on everything. 

Eating rubbish and ordering takeaways even when I have food in the house and no money.

The list is most likely endless if you ask any of my friends – but I think I’m going to stop now – because this is coming way too easily to me. I wonder how easy it would be to name good habits?

lovelauren

A letter to my brain.

shi

I’m so fucking annoyed with you. Beyond annoyed. Furious. 

You’ve spent as many years as I can remember making everything harder for me. Making me scared beyond belief and making me sadder than I thought it was possible for a person to feel. You’ve made me feel ashamed, helpless, irritated, confused, paranoid and snappy for a large proportion of my life.

You’ve made my relationships harder with everyone around me, and you’ve made my relationship harder with myself.

It’s like you’re not apart of me. You’re cruel and twisted and awful, so you can’t have a connection to me – because I’m not cruel. How can I have something that cruel living inside of me?

Sometimes you give me the confidence to achieve anything. I could conquer the world. But you put ideas into my head that are too big. They’re beyond my knowledge, experience and they require all the money I have, but you convince me that I can do it. I can do it – I could say that a million times. I love you so much in that moment because everything’s fine. It’s better than fine, it’s amazing.

But then you dramatically and visciously tear down these ideas with belated rational thinking. And the world becomes even more fucked up than it was to start with.

You make me want to give up. You make me hate the life I lead because it’s too difficult. It’s too difficult being in my head. It’s painful and it’s exhausting – dealing with this shit all the time.

So you know what, brain – shut up. Be quiet. Leave me alone.

Let’s stop all this shit. Give me normal. A break from my reality. Make me brave enough to do what I want in life, give me confidence in my abilities, but also give me the strength to know my limits. Make me happy with what I’ve got – because I have a lot and I have no reason to be sad, and allow me to breathe freely for the first time in a long time.

I’m not asking you – I’m telling you. This shit ends now.

I’m sick of you. So stop making me sick.

l