I AM IN RECOVERY

Recovery, recovery, recovery. I got told last week by my therapist that I am in recovery! I am so lucky to have a great support system including my best friend – who I found through the mental health community on twitter! Without the support I received, I would have never been able to get into recovery. Some things have been hard, some have been easy. I thought I’d write a post on this explaining what was hard, what was easy and what I am feeling at this moment about being in recovery and of course, the future!

I am being honest, I have been from the day I started this blog. It’s not been easy, this journey over the last few years has been hard, I’ve had CBT twice, got rushed to A&E and relapsed twice, but most importantly, I’ve learned a lot. Learning about relapse prevention, things to do when I am feeling like I did before I got rushed to A&E. I have also learned that it’s okay to feel low, it’s okay to have a bad day once in a while,  it’s just about managing those bad days, doing things you enjoy.  I’ve gotten back into reading and pursuing a new hobby which is drawing.  It’s turning out to be hard but very fun and relaxing to do!  The following things have been the most important and most significant things I have learned through my journey.

Self-care

This seems like a fairly obvious thing to do, but when you are in the lowest of lows, you truly forget what self-care is and how to actually do it. During my years of battling my mental health, I fell out of love with a lot of things that I used to do. Reading and writing were the two biggest things. I used to love doing both, they were a go-to thing for me to do every night. I have learned to take time out of every day to focus on self-care. I have also learned many other methods such as journaling and drawing. Self-care helps me so much, it’s the best thing I’ve learned.

I am not alone

I have always felt alone and I still do from time to time. I don’t know why I feel alone, maybe it’s my depression but I truly don’t know. I have learned that I am far from alone. I pushed people away at my lowest points and I am still feeling guilty for doing that. I lost a lot of friends. I found the mental health community on twitter about two years ago now. It has changed my life, I have made so many friends for life and have met amazing people through the community. It truly has saved my life.

You are not your illness

When I got told I have depression and anxiety when I first sought help. It truly scared me, I didn’t know what the true meaning of depression and anxiety was. I thought my life was over, I thought I couldn’t get better, but it was far from over and I could get better. I remember being told by my GP that “your diagnosis doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you who you are, it’s just a word” I always try to remember that. I have it written on my phone in my notes so I can always access it. Since then, I have been diagnosed with BDD, social anxiety and panic disorder. However, I don’t believe I have social anxiety or panic disorder anymore.

 

I am so grateful of the help and support I have received the past few years, my journey still isn’t over but I am feeling very good about the future and what I have planned; concerts (obviously!!) and even more writing and reading. Thank you to all the people who have read my blog since I first started it. It means a lot and the comments have motivated me to get where I am today. Thank you.

Loving My Body More

For years, i have struggled with my body image. Last year I got diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder. As I’m writing this, it’s been a bad day body image wise and the beautiful weather the last few days doesn’t help! Even though I’ve learned to love my body throughout my time in therapy, I still have the odd bad day, but that is totally okay! With it being a bad day, I had an idea to write a post about this topic, as when I first got diagnosed what I did first was google and read many articles, websites and watch many youtube videos on how to love your body, so I thought this would be a good post to write and it may help others which would be amazing.

I remember first struggling with my body image in my school years. I have always seen myself as ugly, weirdly shaped and just not attractive at all. This manifested in many self-damaging behaviors, including self-harm. I had CBT last year, throughout that I learned a fair few things about BDD and my relationship with my body. I learned that how I view my body wasn’t correct and was a distorted view.

In all honesty, when I got told I had BDD, I felt low, it got me feeling so low I had more horrible, intrusive thoughts than ever. But I spoke about it with my doctor and my therapist, after I got a better understanding of it, I was feeling a lot better about it and was confident that CBT would help it – it’s one of the best things for BDD, that and medication, which at the time, I was on both… talk about great timing, eh?! I knew it was going to be a long long road to recovery, and to this day I am still on that road.

The first thing I did on this road to learning to love my body more is to try and limit myself to how many times I can look in the mirror and how long for each time. I was going to completely stop but that wouldn’t be helpful I thought because stopping something I have done for a long time can have negative effects, which I could do without! Atidepressants also kick started me in beating BDD. I heard it was the best thing for me to do, medication and therapy, it helped me in terms of giving me that push in the right direction and is also helping me manage my mental illness’.

I’ve always worn oversized, long clothes to hide my body, so this was the second thing I was aiming to do. Luckily, as I was in therapy and at the time we were focusing on my body views and such, I was getting ready to jet off to sunny, beautiful Tenerife for a week! What a perfect opportunity to fight my safety blanket of covering my body with clothes, because obviously wearing clothes that are big obviously isn’t the best in blistering weather. It went well, I think it was easier because everybody was wearing the same sort of clothes, so my brain thought nobody would notice me, which it was right.. For once. When I landed back onto beautiful british soil, it was sunny (surprisingly) so I carried on what I was doing and looking back, I think this was the thing that had the most impact on me. I can now wear shorts without feeling that anxious (as i am writing this, it’s snowing so no shorts for a while…)

CBT has proved vital in my quest to improve my body image, and obviously there are going to be bad days but with the techniques, i’ve learnt, hopefully, it wont get as bad as it did before CBT, but it’s looking likely that I am going back to 1 to 1 therapy so maybe I will go over the techniques!  If you are reading this and struggle with your body image, please don’t forget that it can and will get better. It may seem like it is never going to happen but just hang in there and keep trying to fight it. There is loads of support out there, such as the bdd foundation (https://bddfoundation.org/) which has tons of resources for people who struggle or for people who want to help other people.

 

 

(so sorry for my recent absence from blogging, I’m working so much in my job and I’ve just had no time to blog, same with reading, hoping to get more posts out in the upcoming weeks x)

Going Back To Therapy

I honestly thought I would never be going back to therapy. When I first found out I was going back to therapy, I felt like a failure, in all honesty. I cried when I went home after that appointment with crisis team where they told me to go back to therapy. All the thoughts in my head were amplified so much after the appointment, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was a failure. I felt like I let everyone down. I was doing so well before this stupid relapse (i have written a post on the relapse, you can read it here). I actually had hope and I had plans for the future. Well, hasn’t it gone to shit?

That’s made me very iffy about starting CBT again, I hope it helps, I really do. I am clutching at straws trying to find something that helps, things are really hard at the moment, I’ve decided that I well and truly hate my brain. My first appointment is on Thursday and I’m not sure if it’s an assessment or an actual therapy session. It just says you have an therapy appointment on the letter. I don’t know why but I need to know what kind of appointment I’m going into or my anxiety goes crazy, it happens all the time like I plan ahead every time I go out so I know what I am doing, it makes me feel such at ease.

After a week of thinking about it, I got a letter for my first appointment. The psych said he was going to put in an urgent referral so I guess he did.. with it being so fast. I started to think better and feel better about going to therapy. Healing is not linear, relapse does not erase your success and your speed doesn’t matter, forward is forward. I am being a bit hypocritical now, because I do this all the time but, don’t compare yourself to others; everyone’s recovery is different, some people may recover faster or slower. It doesn’t matter, what matters is you and your recovery.

I have read over my CBT posts, every single one and it’s helped calm my nerves. I don’t think I am going to write about each session as I guess it’s going to be simillar to my other sessions so there would be no point of writing about the sessions. I may do a monthly update though.

 

CBT: Final Session

I got discharged after this session, my therapist thinks I am ready and to be honest, I felt ready but I did feel a bit lost a few hours after being discharged, but I am feeling more motivated every day!

We filled out the usual questionnaire, and for the first time in 7 months, I got two number 0’s one on agitated and one on thoughts, which incidents I’ve not had any feelings of agitation like usually and no thoughts and urges really!

This session we filled out the maintaining progress log, it has things which I should do if I feel like I’m getting out of control again, and it has things to remind me of how well I’ve done recently, for example, the “what have I learned” section includes “exposure therapy has helped a lot” “Big I Little I – BDD method” “tools to manage my moods and urges”

Also, it includes triggers of mine so I can see what situation will be a trigger and mentally prepare for that situation. I really like this log as it just shows me how much I’ve learnt and gives me tips and information which is vital, especially if I feel like I am losing control.

It’s been twenty-one sessions of CBT. I honestly thought I’d be in it for years, I had no faith or motivation from my first session, but look at me now! I’d like to thank all my blogging friends for helping me on this journey throughout therapy, couldn’t have done it without you guys, you are all amazing.

If you’re just starting therapy or waiting for therapy and not feeling motivated, I know exactly how you feel, but if you put in the effort into it then there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 

 

 

CBT: Twentieth Session

This is my first session since being back from holiday, I thought I’d update you with how the holiday was, as it would make this post longer because my session this week wasn’t that in-depth.

The holiday was amazing! The first day or so wasn’t. My anxiety was the worst it has been in weeks. However, I just did many techniques I’ve learnt throughout CBT and I was back to enjoying my holiday! I challenged BDD by wearing shorts every single day on holiday and it was amazing!

This session just consisted of talking about my holiday and talking about what I want to get out of therapy. My therapist thinks I have improved drastically and she said she didn’t think I would have improved as good as I have done in the time I’ve been in CBT.

I’ve stopped SH, I’ve challenged my social anxiety and challenged my negative core beliefs which I thought were true and right, but turns out by challenging them I have learnt they are not true at all! I am so happy with how far I’ve come and high-intensity CBT has honestly changed my life.

My therapist showed me a “maintaining progress log” which we will fill out in the upcoming sessions as basically my own blueprint for my own therapy when I finish CBT. It will help with relapse prevention and if I need to phone anyone or have more therapy then that’ll also be on there. This is the first time since starting therapy that I actually feel that I am getting more ready to finish therapy. It’s not so scary for me anymore.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking back to January. I was in the darkest place, I was honestly worried about my own safety and I had almost no one to speak to about my mental health, 6 months later and I have so many supportive friends and I’m close to finishing CBT. I thought this would never happen, but it has.

Things do get better. Even if they seem near impossible to get better, they can and will.

 

 

CBT: Nineteenth Session

Before I go into writing this post fully, this is my last post for a week as I am off to sunny Tenerife for a weeks holiday!

This week, I started an annoying nervous habit of sniffing up, it’s not hayfever or a cold, it’s just an annoying habit which I want to stop! My therapist said it’s more than likely related to my MH. The only way to challenge it is habit reversal, she also said because I’m so conscious about it, I could be doing it more so I need to learn to not be so conscious about it and it may stop – easier said than done, but I can do it!

As my therapist knew I was going on holiday, this session was all about that, basically talking about it and asking me how I felt about going. I am scared of going on holiday as I’m going to be the furthest away from home I’ve ever been, the furthest away from my safe place. Also, because it’s going to obviously be hot, I will be wearing shorts which will be very uncomfortable for me due to my body dysmorphia, but my therapist put it simply like this “everyone else will be wearing shorts, nobody will notice you” which is very true!

I mentioned that I am still doing my exposure therapy, but obviously, my therapist doesn’t want me to do it on holiday. I’m just scared of having no one to talk to in person about my MH if I struggle on my holiday.

I hope I can enjoy my holiday, I fly tomorrow and a part of me is excited but a part of me is very scared. I hope it turns out well and I have a good week to chill out and just have a break from working on my mental health and relax.

Sorry that this post is short, the session wasn’t such CBT based as some of the sessions are just talking and not much on CBT techniques!

CBT: Seventeenth Session

// T W // Self Harm 

 

Before I go into detail on this post, I would like to just say that I am certainly not bragging about having CBT, some people think I am. It’s like they think I like having therapy. Fun fact – I hate going therapy, I hate telling my therapist what I feel, I would never brag about doing something I fucking hate, I’m never going to stop blogging, it helps me and I’ve been told it helps others have an insight of therapy when they are worried about starting it. Nobody will stop me.

This session was really good, I should have been 6 weeks clean from self-harm on the day of the session but I self-harmed. However, I’m not letting it rule me, It’s one time in 6 weeks, I am so proud of myself for doing so, here’s to longer next time!

I asked my therapist about the assessment she mentioned as my mood swings are getting awful, really awful. But, because I’m in the IAPT system, I’ve got to see my GP first.. and she’s on annual leave, just my luck eh!

She asked me what I wanted to focus on, as all I am doing lately is exposure therapy for my social anxiety, which is actually going surprisingly well! I said I want to focus on BDD and on my mood and having things to get all my anger out, as I tend to snap at my friends and I hate myself for it.

 

Facing BDD is like facing social anxiety, it’s basically exposure therapy but without doing stuff to hide your body. For me, my exposure therapy includes wearing shorts and short sleeves, as I always wear jeans as my legs are a big part of my BDD and I always wear hoodies to hide my stomach and arms. I don’t quite feel ready for it at the moment, but my therapist says that’s okay! I need to still focus on my exposure therapy for my social anxiety as that needs to be a regular thing for me for the time being!

Hopefully, after I’m home from my holiday I’ll be able to see my doctor and get the reason for my horrific mood swings because I really need to get to the bottom of these as they are horrible and I can’t manage them at the moment.

Liam

CBT: Sixteenth Session

I have had a fairly good week coming up to this session, things were going to plan, I did exposure therapy once and went out fishing every day, however.. my mood swings have been really bad, like I feel so depressed but half an hour later I’m on some sort of high and enjoying everything? It’s so tiring and frustrating… I know it’s not normal but I don’t know what’s causing it which is even more frustrating!

I also worry about losing my friends and being lonely. I told my therapist all of this, the session didn’t turn out to be like CBT but it was basically a talking session where I just spoke about what I was feeling, sometimes you need sessions like this, it really helps a lot!

My therapist mentioned that the mood swings can be caused by me working on my mental health as doing so can make you really happy or really depressed very often, I didn’t really think about it like that, but she is a therapist and I’m not smart haha!

We went to exposure therapy, she mentioned that I really need to try my hardest doing it more than once, but I am. It’s extremely hard and she knows that and said don’t get down about not being able to do it, easier said than done! I am hoping and praying I’ll do it more than once before my next session.

My therapist mentioned an assessment but didn’t say anything more about it. Truthfully, I want to ask for one as I know something isn’t wrong and I’m pretty sure it’s not to do with my mental illness’ I’ve been diagnosed with. That is just so scary for me, it may seem such a small thing to ask for but I’m honestly so scared of doing it, I hope I am able to ask, I really want to ask. Ugh, why are these things so hard?!

I hope my next session goes well, I’m not feeling confident about CBT at the moment, I’m not sure but all that confidence and hopefulness has just emptied out of me and I can’t find the reason why.

Liam

CBT: Fourteenth Session #MHAW17

This session we talked about me needing to go out more by myself, I’ve started going out more, with friends and my family but I only feel safe going out with them. I’m slowly going out by myself, to places like Starbucks but it’s such a challenge and I don’t stay there for long which is the problem. I need to stay there longer, like exposure therapy basically!

Behavioural Experiment

My therapist mentioned this, she wants me to go out 3 times within the next week, by myself and I must not go home if I have a panic attack. I must ride it out whilst still being out and away from my safe zone which is my home. Which will be really hard, but I can do it! I need to keep motivated! again, like exposure therapy!

Worrying and overthinking

I mentioned this to my therapist today as lately, especially the last few months, it seems to be getting worse when mostly everything seems to be getting better, which is annoying! I told her everything, that I never really go out by myself due to the fear of having a panic attack and having people laugh at me, we spoke about that and I told her it happened when I was in school and college, but not since. That is always playing on my mind though, I worry about what people think when they look at me, worry about what they might say if I am midst panic attack. She asked me a good question, it was “what do you think you look like when you have a panic attack? I basically said a mess, I feel really hot when panicking so probably red in the face, breathing all over the place and sometimes crying. She then asked me to stand up in front of the mirror. This was weird as I hate looking at myself in the mirror because of my BDD. Anyway, I did it. It was so worth it. She made me breathe really fast, which triggers a panic attack. She then asked me “do you look any different” and apart from a bit sweaty no I didn’t! This has changed everything for me. For ages, I thought I look so weird and horrible when I have a panic attack, apart from the crying and the sweatiness! – the room was so hot it’s unreal!

Safety Mechanisms

We spoke about what I do when I’m out to make me feel more at ease/safe. I said my fidget spinner, headphones, my phone and my fidget cube. She doesn’t mind me using these for now as I am getting close to being able to go out by myself a lot more, but soon I will need to try to go out without these, which will be a challenge but I am 100% up for it!

 

Therapy is going great lately, as you can tell by the blog posts probably! It is going so well and I feel like my mental health is the best it’s been this year, what a change! 2 months ago I wasn’t doing so well, but now I am doing so well! It does get better!

Liam

CBT: Thirteenth Session

I was really calm before this session, mainly due to the fact I had propranolol (it helped me so much, I was the calmest I had ever been in months, it was absolutely amazing)

After having a pretty good week, meeting a really good friend, challenging my anxiety and going two weeks without any sort of SH, I came into this session really confident, happy and calm.

As usual, like every session, I filled out the GAD-7 PHQ-9 questionnaire. Scores keep slowly coming down! Woooop! This session was mainly filled with body confidence, getting higher self-esteem and things related to this.

We spoke about being on propanolol, I explained how good I felt after having it yesterday, and my therapist said that since I am now on something to take away the physical symptoms of anxiety, now I can challenge in mentally and start beating it and controlling it, which I am so excited to do!

My therapist explained this “Big I, Little I” technique used in CBT. It is a really good technique! You draw a big I and write positive things about yourself, may it be your body, your personality etc. It is something used for BDD at times and just self-esteem improving and such!

We managed to come up with all of this in the session! I am surprised as I felt like I had nothing positive to say about myself, but with just talking about myself to my therapist, we came up with so much! It’s my goal to fill the Big I in before my next session!

(excuse my horrible handwriting and the horrible picture quality!)

I’m trying to be as positive as I can, as I feel like positivity is key when you’re fighting your mental illness’ So, positive positive positive for the next few weeks!!!

Liam