What I have learnt

I’m not recovered, I don’t even think recovery is a concept I believe in. However over the years that I have battled with mental illness, I have grown. I may not be ‘recovered’, but I’m certainly not where I was. I’ve learnt a lot in recent years and I wanted to briefly share what I have discovered….

We are responsible for our actions. We may not be able to control a situation and sometimes it’s easier to blame our behaviour on someone or something else, but regardless we are in control of our own actions. We always have a choice in what we do. But saying that, we are not always responsible for what happens to us as we are not in control of other people’s actions. If we go through life always making justifications – “I did it because x happened”- rather than accepting that we made a choice, we will never move forwards. We choose what we do and in doing so we must accept the consequences.

To move away from a place of self-hate we need accept and forgive. We need to allow the past to be the past and let go of the pain which keeps us trapped in disorders. But most importantly it’s essential to forgive ourselves. If we keep holding on to the anger of the pain, the idea that we are to blame or that we need to be punished, we will always stay trapped. And the truth is, we deserve to be forgiven, regardless of the underlying cause of our illness. We didn’t choose to become ill and the likelihood is that we weren’t responsible for whatever caused us to become ill- whether it be because of a life event, genetics, circumstances, or even a mistake- we have already suffered, we don’t need to cause ourselves more pain by holding on to an idea which isn’t correct. We are not purposefully causing harm to others, we are not bad people. Forgive yourself. There is no reason to keep on holding to the idea you are undeserving. Forgive yourself and leave the past in the past.

You have strength. We may believe we are weak for struggling, but the struggle in its self comes from having strength. If we weren’t battling, it wouldn’t be hard. No, the use of any maladaptive coping mechanism isn’t ideal, but you are still finding the strength to cope in some way. You are strong for surviving up until this point, even if there have been many bumps along the way. You have the strength to continue and you have the strength to change. To be ill is not a weakness.

No one is all bad or all good. Every person is capable of both good and bad. We all make mistakes and do things wrong, but these human traits do not make us bad people. Other people might do or say something which leaves us feeling a negative emotion, this doesn’t make them a bad person. A person can be good and do things wrong and often mistakes come from a place of caring enough to try.

Things will change. We are fluid, we are constantly changing without even meaning to. At times it might feel that this fight is endless, but times will come when it’s easier. You haven’t always been ill and even if you are suffering from a chronic illness, there will be times when it can be under control and managed. As you travel through life, the more you learn, the longer the periods of stability will be, until the point that you can live a healthy life. Although nothing ever stays the same, we have to choose to make changes in a positive manor and grab hold of the glimmers of hope. We get to decide if we keep making the same negative decisions or whether instead, we do something different. Life changes, nothing stays the same, allow yourself to adapt with time.

Sometimes all we can do is fake it until we make it. You might not like yourself. You might not want to live. You might want to lose weight. But if you focus on your positives, commit to life and limit disordered options, eventually these commitments will become as second nature as the disordered path of thinking you currently have. Don’t let an illness and maladaptive coping be the only option or commitment you make. You haven’t always been ill and therefore it’s possible not to be. If a bully is constantly telling the victim a certain message, the victim will believe it eventually even if it’s not true and the same is true with positives. It will take time and it doesn’t mean you have to avoid what you are feeling, but rather we should be kind to ourselves as we would be to others. Tell ourselves a truth we don’t believe and eventually we will. You are worthy. You are good. You can succeed.

There is no time line to life. Often illness leaves us feeling left behind and maybe it is true that you aren’t at the same point as others around you, but that’s ok. This is your life and your journey will take you different places. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, that you are unlovable, and that you might as well give up. It means that you should learn what you can from where you are right now to take forwards in life with you. Maybe you haven’t got a degree, maybe you aren’t in a relationship, but that’s ok, because you are learning lessons unique to you. You don’t have to do anything at a set time, opportunities are always available so long as you are alive.

No one knows what they are doing. It’s common for people to be afraid of growing up, getting older, the future, responsibilities, new events in life. In actual fact, everyone, even those who aren’t ill or have had a ‘normal’ life are afraid. Nobody knows what they are doing, but that doesn’t mean we can avoid moving forwards. There is no handbook to life, there is no guide telling us how to ‘adult’ and there is no one single correct way- we just do it, even if we don’t know what will happen, or what we are doing. If we keep our mind open and take it day by day, there is no reason to be afraid because we will survive. We have survived till now, we can survive the unknown.

Think before you act. Sometimes the intensity of a situation may impact on our ability to make rational decisions. If your initial idea after an event is to do something negative, to avoid the situation, to reinforce your negative core beliefs- don’t do anything. Don’t withdraw, don’t cancel an appointment, don’t harm yourself or whatever else, just keep going as you were before, or do nothing at all until your thoughts calm down and you can think clearly again. Emotional situations impact upon everyone’s cognitive ability, so sometimes it’s best to wait before doing anything in response. Take time to stop, to slow down, to breathe.

I could probably write a whole book on things I have learnt and what I believe others need to know. But then again, I don’t want to give away all the answers, because some things we need to work out for ourselves. And when the time is right, you will!

Exam results

At the beginning of exam seasons, a charity in Leeds called ‘Shout Out  Leeds’, published a blog I wrote on how your best is enough….so I though that as tomorrow and next Thursday are A-level and GCSE results days (respectively), I would share with you the link, as I feel the message is important regardless of where we are with out educational journeys.

Your Best is Good Enough.

However, I also wanted to  share a bit of my own story in this post, in the hopes it will ease any anxiety, guilt, disappointment or thoughts of failure which may accompany exam results- regardless of what grades you receive.

I sat my GCSE’s in the summer of 2009. I hadn’t been to school for coming up to a year, had spent 6 months in inpatient treatment and to make my stress that little bit worse, I was discharged from hospital the day before my first GCSE was due to be sat. I had more than enough reason to not get the grades I aimed to get, but when I opened my results I was filled with disappointment. they weren’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough- none of those thoughts were accurate, I had tried my best, whilst putting my health first and that WAS what mattered most.

I went on to 6th form and in true megan style, I was sectioned 6 weeks before my a- level exams were due to start. when exams came around and was decided I was to physically poorly to be able to do my exams and I was crushed. What was the point in recovery? everything I was working towards, my whole future was stripped from me in one swell scoop.

But, now I am 23. And this September I am planning on going to university, after returning to education last year and gaining the qualifications needed. Yes, most of my friends have their masters by now, however at 18, further study wasn’t what I needed. I needed time to experience life. Time to work out how to survive. Time to grow into myself.

At 18 I felt the world might as well end. Now at 23, I’m glad I wasn’t able to go to university 5 years ago, because although life hasn’t been easy or straight forwards, I’m now at a stage in my life where start to work towards my dreams once more and actually succeed.

You are not defined by exam results. Whether you didn’t get the grades you wanted or that you were unable to sit exams this summer, its going to be ok! You are more than a few letters on a piece of paper. Education will ALWAYS be an option that you can return to at any point. What is important thought is you health, your kindness, your resilience, you courage and your ability to grow.

So good luck for tomorrow ( or next Thursday) and whatever your results are, be proud of yourself.  You did the best you could in that moment and that’s all that matters. So regardless, treat yourself with some kindness and remember everything happens for a reason. Yu have options which extend much further that a few letters on a piece of paper.

 

 

Summer and Scars

For those with scars, summer can often cause a lot of torment. But I’m here to say- if you are hot in long sleeves, wear short sleeves, if you want to wear shorts with out tights, that’s also fine. Just because you have scars they do not needs to be hidden away, especially at the expense of your health in the summer heat!

 Lets talk about scars. Millions of people,even billions of people have scars. Some scars are from accidents, some are from surgeries, some scars occur after illness. However, regardless of the cause, scars are everywhere! Scar come in different sizes, shapes and even in different colours. Some scares are broad, some are long, some are barely noticeable, some are red, some are silver, some are round and some are raised. Some people have lots of scars, other have none. Scars are scars, all with unique tales to tell. They are now part of you, but they do not define you. They are a part of you that you should not be ashamed off. Scars aren’t ugly, they aren’t imperfections, they aren’t defects, they aren’t nasty or yucky. Scars don’t make you weak, they don’t make you attention seeking. They don’t make you anything other than the person you are, with a story to tell. And regardless of a body with or with out scars, you are still beautiful, because you are you!!!

People hide their scares for a whole range of reasons. And personally, I agree with the covering up of fresh, unhealed cuts, for infection control reasons more than anything, but also as to not trigger or upset others. However scars, I see no reason why we should be allowed to show them. A lot of people hide them through shame, or secrecy, or fear- but one thing I want to say is that if another person has a problem with your scars, that is THEIR problem and NOT yours! If they don’t like it or accept it, that’s not your fault and if people are rude, they probably aren’t worth having in your life anyway. If someone asks questions you can just say ‘I was poorly’, or ‘they are my story’, you aren’t obliged to tell anyone anything that you aren’t comfortable with sharing. However also don’t be afraid to talk about your illness/difficulties. If you feel ok doing so, sharing you experience spreads awareness, which is always a good thing. (Just make sure it’s an appropriate audience not young children).

And finally, my top tip is sun light is really good for the healing and fading of scars, however scar tissue is sensitive to sun light for remember sun cream. Alternatively, other options for encouraging scars to fade, oils (such as bio oil) an be massaged the scars, leading to smoother and lighter scars. Given time, the appearance of scars should lessen naturally.

So this summer, don’t hide away your scars on hot days. Accept yourself, and live your life. Be proud of the fact you have survived!!!

An introduction to Megan

A few years ago if you had asked me to describe myself, i would simply have said, ‘I’m a bad person,’ and shut down. My mind couldn’t move past mistakes I had made, silly things I had done wrong. I wasn’t perfect and I allowed bad things to happen and therefore, I was bad.

But the reality is, is that no one is a bad person or a good person. As humans we are capable of doing things which are bad and good with out those decisions or actions becoming an description of ourselves.

So, who am I?

  • I’m Megan, a 23 year old from Yorkshire.
  • I’m currently preparing to start university in order to train as a Children’s Nurse, and although my life long dream has been to study Medicine, I am still excited at the prospect of all Nursing will give me. I want to work in health care as I want to work in a role where I am constantly challenged, where no day is the same and everyday is an opportunity to learn and become the best I can be. I want to work in health care because I want to celebrate the small victories and the happy discharges, but I also want to give comfort to patients and their families on days where there is a deterioration or bad news is received. I want to work in health care so I can play a role in making people better, but also provide dignity in death.
  • I climb. My best friend and her now widow introduced me to the sport and now I can not get enough. Each week I push myself to do what I couldn’t, to improve. Most people find their thing pretty early on in life- dancing, playing instruments, sports, acting.art- but it took me 22 years to discover climbing and now I cant get enough of it.
  • I am creative, but not artistic. I am caring, but know when to be firm. I am giving towards others and also myself. I am a scientist, methodical and logical.
  • I like to think. I like to look at things from different angles to everyone else.I ask questions, which seem strange to others. I like to find answers, where maybe there isn’t one.
  • I am strong, weird,  loyal, passionate, flippant, committed, emphatic, daring, stubborn.

I am Megan and if I am truthful, I would choose to be me over anyone else. not because I’m better than other, not because I don’t have faults. But because I have fought to become this person I am today and i can finally say: ‘ I am not a bad person, I am a person who is still learning.’

And one last important point about me- I fight mental illness, but that is not who i am.