Firstly, you may or may not have noticed that I’ve been away from the blog for a little while. Since I last posted I have applied to jobs, I became a waitress in a busy and demanding pub, I quit the waitress job, had a short skiing break and finally arrived at another job interview (for tomorrow..AHH!). I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been busy.
I finally came to the realisation that to stop the pressure building up around my ‘comeback’ post, I just had to start writing, here and now, no more excuses! So here we are, I’m ripping the plaster off and writing a post. Its not going to be the most interesting, I’m not sure if it even has a point, but I’m glad I finally got around to writing it.
I have learnt many things about blog writing and about myself since January, when I started. The moment my daily views and followers started to increase, it became harder and harder to decide what to write about and it took longer and longer to finish the post. I felt put off, and very self aware while writing. What lesson did I learn? Similarly to the general rule about how frequently you should step on the scale; don’t look at the statistics more than once a week.
One of my most productivity deflating characteristics is what I would describe as “cascading” ideas. It might be a dyslexic thing, a borderline thing or maybe even a Annabel thing. I have about 20 half finished or half started ideas on a single word document. By the time I’ve started working on one idea, another seemingly brilliant one pops into my head allowing me to abandon the first. Discipline and acknowledging the fact that not all my ideas are pure gold dust, essentially not allowing myself to get carried away down a tangent will hopefully improve my productivity and reduce the amount of time it takes to write a post.
I hope that changing jobs to one that’s a little less time heavy will allow me to focus more on my campaigning and writing, as it is something that I really enjoy.
Please stick with me, in spite of my little hiatus! I appreciate your support.
Hello everyone! As you may have read a couple of posts ago, I emailed my MP Theresa May about the Mental Health Taskforce. I received a reply from her office and thought I would share the message with you.
“Dear Ms Swatman,
Thank you for contacting Theresa about the independent Mental Health Taskforce. She appreciates your concerns about mental health services.
I hope that you will be pleased to learn that the Prime Minister has recently announced a new approach to mental health based on recommendations from the Taskforce. Thousands of people with mental health conditions will be supported to find or return to work, meaning they have the opportunity to get on in life. The Government plans to deliver true equality between mental and physical health for the first time. An extra £1 billion a year is being provided by this Government for mental health care to make sure that it gets the attention it needs. This will support one million more people with mental health problems to access high quality care that they are not getting today.
Action will be taken to treat potentially debilitating mental health conditions early on through improved access to care. The Prime Minister has also met with business leaders to highlight the need for a shift in attitude to people with mental health conditions in the workplace and to agree new workplace standards. The Government is implementing the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards. This means 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety will start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. Patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks. Please be assured that the Government has a vision of a 7-day mental health service where people will get the care they need, when they need it, and will help to prevent mental illness developing in the first place.
Thank you very much again for taking the time to contact Theresa about this important issue.
I think it is so incredibly promising to hear that the government is making steps to improve the quality of mental health care in the UK in order to bring it up the the physical health standards. Although the aims for waiting times are really great, I believe we can be and we should be more ambitious. With all mental health conditions, a 6 week wait for treatment, although shorter than the waiting times many people are currently experiencing, is a long time. People don’t seek help the moment they suspect something is wrong. Usually, there is a period of pushing everything under the carpet. Many people I know and have talked to didn’t go to the doctor until they were desperate. When your mind is in absolute crisis, waiting 6 weeks before treatment could feel like torture.
Finally I am encouraged by the generally improving attitude in the UK about mental illness, and the greater understanding around what is needed and what can be done. However, through personal experience I know that if you walk into the emergency department and tell them that you are suicidal or in crisis, it feels as if there is nothing that they are able to do, or even that there is nothing that they are willing to do. As a society we should be more ambitious.
Thank you for reading, please ask your own MP about what they are planning to do to help people struggling with mental illness in their constituency.
Have a quick google; the types of people you’ll meet in university halls. Every single one of these lists will include a reference to the mysterious housemate that is spotted in person as infrequently as a major astrological event. They could be called The Ghost, The Loner, literally anything under the sun. What’s more, this language is replicated and encouraged within the halls of residence itself. People love to gossip and wander about the girl or boy who never leaves their room, label them weird.
It is only natural to stop trying to include someone you barely know if they keep turning you down, but consider this;
They really want to join you for that drink or a movie, they imagined the same picture perfect university experience as you. It is likely that they are afflicted with social anxiety.
I was ‘The Invisible One’ in my second halls of residence. To begin with, when I met the other flats in the hallway I would receive casual invites to join them whenever I wanted. No matter how much I wanted to meet them and develop relationships that would make my university experience more enjoyable, I didn’t feel able to do so. I would become increasingly anxious even just thinking about knocking on their door. As the semester and year moved on, they understandably stopped asking. Why should they bother if I clearly didn’t want to join them? My anxiety got worse, and eventually I had to build myself up to even step out of my door, just incase I bumped into somebody.
I was in the unusual situation of moving into my studio flat late, so not only did I live entirely on my own, but by the time I moved in everyone else had already met and established friendships. If I wasn’t a person who suffered from varying degrees of social anxiety then it would have been okay. I would have put in the little extra effort required due to my unusual circumstances. However, I couldn’t. There were many times I wished that someone in my block would have an experience of anxiety, personally or through friends and family. I wished that they would have kept inviting me for just one week longer.
My message to anyone at university and living in halls is if you hear about the notorious flat 12B resident who never leaves, take a moment when nobody else is in the hall to knock on the door and talk to them one-to-one. Worst result for you, turns out they are happy in their own company and want to focus on studying. Best result, you have helped a interesting and valuable person integrate into university and massively increased the chance that when you knock on their door again to invite them out, they will be able to say yes. So please, ask one more time than feels comfortable to you, I guarantee they will appreciate it.
I have just read the Mental Health Taskforce published February this year in the UK. If you live in the UK, and care about the quality of mental health services then I urge you to take a look at the Taskforce and email your MP urging them to make mental health a priority.
To Theresa May,
My name is Annabel Swatman and I have a mental health condition called borderline personality disorder. I was displaying symptoms of my condition years before I was eventually diagnosed at age 18. As a 18 year old girl I had high hopes and expectations for my future; I was heading to university to study, with plans to graduate in 3 years and continue on to medical school. Instead, I have spent the past 3 years in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, dropped out of university and with it dropped my plans for an academic future.
I have learnt through my involvement with the mental health services that there is simply not enough support available for people like me, and the support that is available is not as good as it needs to be. For example; after a crisis I experienced while studying in Newcastle, my GP referred me to the local CMHT (community mental health team). 3 months later, after no contact from CMHT and after struggling to cope on my own, I booked another appointment to see my GP and was informed that as I was no longer in crisis the wait for an appointment would be long, and when I eventually got an appointment there was no guarantee that they would offer any therapy, treatment, or support. I was devastated.
When I first came to the attention of the mental health services I was 18 and had made an attempt on my life. The hospital mistakenly referred me to the CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) who were unable to offer me support or treatment as I was 18 years old. This caused a delay to my access of a suitable assessment and to treatment. With the crisis team in my area unavailable for long periods of time over the christmas holidays and no understanding of my then undiagnosed condition or support for how to cope with it, I was left stranded with only a very stressed and concerned family to helplessly watch their daughter disappear. Inevitably, my condition worsened and I made a second attempt on my life. At this time the NHS were unable to offer me the treatment I so clearly needed, and felt content with giving me a list of numbers to call in a crisis. I am extremely lucky that my family were able to get me treatment in the private sector. Without the treatment my family were forced to pay for, I am not sure where I would be today.
The shockingly long amount of time it took for the mental health services to take notice and offer help, meant that I went so deep into my mental illness, it took months to climb out. I had to put my life on hold, which has had a knock on effect with all aspects of my life. If I had been assessed the first time I was taken to the emergency department for suicidal behaviour, and received the preventative treatment then and there, I believe I would be graduating from university this year with good prospects for the future. My parents wouldn’t have had to spend their own money in order to get the treatment their daughter needed. I would not have spent 6 months of my life as a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
I am asking for you to help transform the mental health services, for your constituents who up until now have been putting up with a lesser standard of health care, simply because their illness is mental rather than physical.
I have just read the Mental Health Taskforce, as I am sure you have too.
The Taskforce has so many brilliant recommendations that people in power can use transform the mental health services, that you can use to transform the mental health services in your constituency, for people like me.
I want good mental health support to be a local priority. As my MP, you have a role to play in ensuring the Taskforce recommendations become a reality in our area. I am asking you to:
• Write to the Prime Minister. Ask how he will be implementing the Mental Health Taskforce recommendations for Government, and what governance arrangements will be put in place to support the delivery of this strategy.
• Help raise awareness in Parliament by asking questions about the recommendations, or lead a Westminster Hall debate.
• Speak with our local NHS and CCG leaders. Ask how they will be implementing the recommendations on a local level.
• Read Mind’s Parliamentary briefing on the key recommendations of the Taskforce.
I hope that this is just the starting point, and that mental health in your constituency is a priority, as physical health has always been.
I look forward to hearing your plans for supporting the Taskforce recommendations.
With best wishes,
10 Changes the Taskforce wants to see happen by 2020
If you don’t have time to read the whole document right now, here’s a handy summary taken from Mind;
One million extra people provided with support for their mental health problem.
10 per cent fewer people take their own lives and everyone in a mental health crisis gets the right care, at the right time, in the right place, seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
People’s mental health and physical health are treated equally – including people with severe mental health problems, pregnant women and new mums, and children and young people.
All children and young people get the right mental health support, when and where they need it.
Clear access and waiting time standards for mental health are in place so you know when you will get treatment.
More people have access to the right talking therapy.
Fewer people are sent miles away from home for mental health care – ultimately no one will have to travel for quality care.
People who fall out of work due to their mental health are provided with personalised, effective and voluntary support to help them back to work.
People who have had the worst experiences of accessing good quality mental health care, particularly people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, get the help they need.
Public attitudes to mental health have improved by a further 5 per cent.
Mind and mental health advocates here in the UK aren’t asking for much, and they have provided the government MPs with guidelines, recommendations and resources to help them achieve these goals. (If you’re interested you can take a look at the Mind parliamentary briefing here).
On the Mind website, there is an option to send your MP an email like I did asking them to prioritise mental health. I used the template offered but wanted to add my own personal story as well.
Eating disorders and disordered eating are some of the many co-morbid diseases with BPD. According to this website about BPD approximately 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa are also suffering from the symptoms of BPD.
I have used the term disordered eating to refer to unhealthy eating patterns, beliefs and emotions around food that have not resulted in a diagnosis.
I have been unhappy about my body and my overall appearance for as long as I can remember. From the age of 5 I thought I was fat and ugly. I used to sit in the bath as a 8 or 9 year old girl, pinch the fat and skin from around my stomach and my thighs, and imagine slicing it off with a sharp knife.Although I was wildly uncomfortable with my appearance and by body, I didn’t make the connection between food, hunger, and weight fluctuation until a little later. In secondary school I knew that I needed to ‘simply’ exercise more and eat less, but I was too embarrassed to try in P.E. or jog outside. The thought of people seeing me exercise filled me with fear. I imagined that people would look at me and think ‘haha look at the fatty run’. To get around this, I used to exercise in my room in the evening. Jumping jacks and sit-ups, never too intensively and not usually for more than a hour.
I wasn’t ever more than a little chubby, but I felt absolutely huge, and thought that this was the worst thing in the world to be. I believed that if I lost weight everything in my life would fall into place; that I would find making friends easier, that my teachers would take me more seriously, that my family wouldn’t think of me as a joke. I didn’t realise at the time that my thinking was massively distorted. My weight started fluctuating, I never lost that much and it never stayed off for long. I started skipping lunch and going to the gym, obsessing about food 24/7. I tried cutting out dairy and wheat, dairy lasting the longest (which is surprising because I love cheese).
In the Summer after GCSEs I travelled to Tanzania to get some work experience in a hospital there. I felt a surge in my confidence, I was around people that had never met me before and I was doing great. I started smoking, and convinced myself that the food was disgusting. I would fill my plate with, at most half of what everyone else was eating, and then pick at it until they were finished. It was hot and we were often hungover in the morning. I felt light headed and almost fainted more than a few times during the day. Im not sure whether I actually lost weight while I was there, but I had learned how to restrict my diet, and got the ‘taste’ for hunger pangs.
My new food philosophy didn’t last, I was eating normally again soon after arriving home. The difference was that now, when I would hate myself after eating something bad, or when looking in the mirror, I was able to think back to when I wasn’t being ‘a pig’ and when I felt great about myself. My diets and behaviour didn’t really escalate into disordered eating until after the summer holidays. I was starting sixth form at a new school, it wasn’t long before I started trying to restrict my food intake again. I got myself stuck into a cycle where I would try not to eat for as long as I could, mess up, binge or eat the food that I had been withholding from myself, purge, then feel so crap about myself it would all start again. I started keeping a food journal and documenting everything that I had eaten that day. It started out with fairly healthy goals, such as 1500 cals or less. I wasn’t able to weigh myself but I used clothes to measure my progress. I began reducing the calories that I was allowed, and spent every evening doing the maths of how long it would take for me to lose so many pounds if I ate so much each day. I would throw up my dinner so that I was able to keep my calories under the more and more restrictive allowance. I believe that by doing this I lost a little weight, but nothing excessive.
Half-way through year 12 I went on a ski trip, which was fairly out of character because I didn’t know how to ski and only one of my close friends was also going. It was another one of those situations where you could get away without eating very much and exercising all day. My eating patterns aroused the suspicion of the 3 girls I was sharing a room with. I can see how my odd behaviour would annoy them to no end. I look back on this trip fondly, as its where I learnt to ski and I had fun with my friends.
For the next half of the year I had moments where I was losing weight to my satisfaction. I was managing to reach my weight and clothes goals, and getting away with eating under 400 calories each day, sometimes nothing. I was binging less frequently and going to the gym fairly regularly. The only time I really purged was when I had to eat with people, or something that I didn’t feel comfortable eating. I knew that it was wrong to do, that it was rude and antisocial, especially as people started noticing. I would start to get incredibly anxious about even the thought of food, and would write mantras and phrases in my diary reprimanding myself for giving in to food. I would use my friends and my social life to get away without eating, by not eating much while out I could lie to my parents at home.
I remember at one point during the summer between year 12 and year 13 when my aunt and my mum confronted me about my bulimic behaviour. My mum said something along the lines of ‘you’re not bulimic are you, you know better than that’ and frequently (unsubtly) checked my knuckles for scars. My aunt said something like ‘you’re not spreading pesto on toast and then throwing up are you?’, I said no. I got more secretive and better at hiding my behaviour, they never brought it up again. I was stuck in a cycle of feeling happy about my progress and hating my body. Comments from family members about my body or my weight were never welcome, even if positive. I began to hate other people who talked about diet or food or weight or bodies, especially while eating. My heart would pound and my face would blush if someone said a food I was supposed to eat was ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’. I managed to lose a little for year 13 leavers ball, but not enough.
When I moved to university I had the freedom to eat whatever I wanted. I began to lose weight by eating tiny portions or not at all, but quickly began purging again. I was getting more and more unwell, staying up late at night to binge and purge. It got to the point that everything I ate had to be purged. I was too scared to do a food shop so I ended up eating the weirdest things, such as raw oats.
Since then I have been through stages that last anything from a week to months. My weight doesn’t often move above or below two numbers, no matter what my behaviour is. The common denominator for all my eating habits is poor body image. I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to not want to lose weight. In a way I am lucky that I cannot stick to the same routine for more than 2 weeks, this way I never get really unwell due to diet. My battle with body image and self esteem, and to be honest, weight goes on.
If you think you, or another person is showing signs of disordered eating, please speak up in a calm and understanding manner. It is incredibly important not to be judgemental, and not to ambush the person. You could send them retreating further into their developing illness, and make it harder for them to end the damaging cycle before it takes over their lives. People with disordered eating need support and help, and in particular they need to be taken seriously. It is often a sign of other underlying problems, and problems that they could face in the future. Just because someone struggling with food is not underweight, or even if they are overweight, doesn’t make their problems any less serious.
Sorry for the delay with this post, I’ve been busy learning to ski bumps and haven’t had a moment to type! I’ve also been struggling with what this post should be. I don’t want to only write ‘my story’ as that could become a little self-gratifying, and its not really a joy to write most of the time. I’ll get back to it, but its the kind of story you have to be in the right frame of mind to write.
I was standing on the button lift pondering anxiety this morning. For some reason, no matter how fast I progress on skis, no matter what terrain I learn to ski with minimal fear, I find myself getting really worked up about that button lift. It could be because it’s always the first thing we do on skis in the morning, but I wouldn’t be too happy about the suggestion of using it at the end of the day either. I decided that for some not too rational reason this lift was making me anxious, and decided to write my next post about anxiety.
I have a fair bit of experience with anxiety, that feeling when your thoughts outrun your head and even your inner monologue ceases to make any sense. I’ve had times when I’ve been willing by body to calm down, because I’m certain people around me can see the fear, and will wonder what’s wrong with me. If you don’t believe you’ve experienced anxiety, I assure you that you’re wrong. Its the uncomfortable feeling where your body is certain that you’re in danger and acts appropriately, the nerves you feel before a test, the fear of going to tell someone you’re sorry. My anxiety is no different to this, it’s certainly not stronger or any more persistent. Maybe its a bit easier to set off than the average person but that’s hard to judge. I am lucky that I don’t live with persistent unchanging anxiety, Its caused more by the situation.
Luckily for the moment, the most I have to worry about is that dammed button lift, and I can deal with that. My previous living arrangement was prime for festering anxiety, with people fearful of me and treating me like a stick of charged dynamite, people lying to me and going behind my back to talk about me, about ‘the problem’. It was horrible, and probably, hopefully the closest I’ll ever come to persistent unchanging anxiety.
To help me cope my doctor prescribed me Diazepam. I had asked for Lorazepam as this is what I had used before, but I wasn’t too sure about the difference and I didn’t want to appear like I was looking for drugs. In my experience, Lorazepam is a very instant release, you take it and you sit, and then 10 mins later you magically realise that you feel fabulous! You don’t immediately attribute it to the pill. Diazepam wasn’t such an instant release, but it definitely lasted longer which was useful in my situation. These drugs are helpful for when you are too exhausted to use your meditative and mindful coping strategies, but in my experience they become counterproductive if you begin to rely on them to get through the day.
For the time being, anxiety is not a problem for me. When you surround yourself with people who understand and care, it’s easier to forgive yourself for being you. When your friends understand, they wont moan and roll their eyes when you ask for excessive details about the event you’re going to, who will be there and what the ‘plan’ is, half the anxiety is gone because there’s no fear of judgement or frustration. Everyone needs a little more support sometimes, even for the small things such as going to the shops, it’s always real to the person experiencing it and therefore should never be mocked.
I feel like I could end every one of my posts about my experiences with a statement of how grateful I am to the people around me, I will try not to because It will get a little repetitive, but it is true. I am lucky to have such a supportive network of people around me.
Thank you for reading and wish me luck for the button lift tomorrow morning! I will try to post the next segment of ‘my story’ on the 2nd Feb so keep an eye out.
This post will be a little different from my main posts on BPD and coping mechanisms.
I arrived in Switzerland yesterday, visiting my mum. Skiing is a passion of mine, and I am determined to get better as the season moves on. I also feel that being so far away from everything, with such beautiful views and with adrenaline seeking activities occurring daily, it is so much easier to forget about the unimportant things and focus on your mental and physical health. I find that it is easier to put your problems into perspective when you’re in a place of beauty.
Ive been thinking a lot about what i want to do with my life since I’ve dropped out of Newcastle University, and I’m moving towards the idea of applying to join the police force. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be involved with a job that directly effects people and leaves room to build respect and I feel that being a police woman would satisfy these needs. I am yet to explore the rules of police and mental health but i am looking forward to asking my uncle and his girlfriend about this as they are both extremely happy working in the police force.
I have had a fabulous day skiing, and feel duly refreshed. I recommend anyone who is able to ‘escape’ to the alps as a form of therapy.
I originally wrote this random post after a few beers, unsurprisingly there were more than a few mistakes so I have just edited it now. All that has changed is that it now might make some sense and I am no longer calling my uncles girlfriend and my good friend a man (a mixture of wording ‘partner’ and ‘policemen’ insinuated that they were a gay male couple, unfortunately this is not the case, sorry!)
Hello! My name is Annabel, AKA BorderlineBella. Thank you so much for visiting my new blog. As my name suggests, I have Borderline Personality Disorder which will be the main focus of this blog. I hope to document my everyday experiences and coping mechanisms, and review the different forms of treatment I have embarked on.
The reason I have started a blog now is that I have experienced discrimination at Newcastle University, leading to my withdrawal and my new goal of raising awareness and reducing stigma for this diagnosis.
I enjoy meditation, smoothies, reading (Margaret Atwood is my favourite) and skiing. On an average day you could find me snuggled up on the sofa, drinking strong black coffee from my favourite Star Wars mug. Im incredibly introverted and dyslexic so I apologise in advance for any awkward and misspelt posts!
You might enjoy reading this blog if you or someone you love are new to the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, or if you are a veteran and also looking to reduce stigma! There will be a little bit for everyone.
I will begin with documenting my experience of discrimination at Newcastle University, keep you up to date with the complaint procedure, and the context around me feeling forced to withdraw from studying there. I feel that my story is one that needs to be heard, as in my experience there is an extreme lack of compassion for people with mental illness at university.
I am embarking on a new journey in my life, leaving university and trying to find my place in the world. I will try to keep it light hearted and fun, I hope you will come on the journey with me!