A year to the day
[TW] One year ago to the very day, it was my first day after discharge from my local acute psychiatric ward where I had been an inpatient for seven months, detained under the Mental Health Act. The admission was only meant to be a week long but within the first 48 hours I made an attempt on my life and ended up in a coma. Things changed after that.
Thinking back to that time now, in some ways I feel like it happened in a different lifetime and to someone else. But in others, I feel strangely connected to it. I can still remember how much anguish and pain I felt on a daily basis, and how I ended up acting desperately in an effort to get away from that. However, I want to focus on what it is that has happened over the past twelve months to make me feel like I am somewhere else now.
Firstly, I have managed to massively decrease my self harm in the past year. Compared to where it was at, things are so much better now. I still have strong urges to engage in this behaviour on occasions, it would be improper of me to pretend otherwise but the urges are now remaining as urges and I have not acted on them in a long time.
Secondly, and in order to ride out the urges, I have had to learn to see my thoughts as thoughts and my emotions as responses to stimuli rather than being triggers for action themselves. I have had to practise sitting with my feelings and repeatedly take the risk of believing that they will pass. This hasn’t been easy and many times I have felt like giving in and just resorting to a maladaptive coping strategy that I know would make me feel better. However, that links to another thing that has changed - I have been able to take a step back and realise that these old coping mechanisms don’t work in the long term. If they did, I wouldn’t still need to be using them. Again, this is an important realisation but not one that can suddenly change my life on its own. I have to remind myself time and time again that whilst it’s understandable that I have developed the strategies to manage that I have, they don’t fix anything in reality. This is hard work!
A further aspect that has changed in my life is my ability to be more open with people. I mean this in a variety of ways. I have learnt that people can only react to what they are presented with so me putting on a mask of ‘functioning, coping Jo’ is going to invite people to respond as if I were those things. In order to get cut some slack or even receive some support and understanding, I need to be truthfully representing how things are. That doesn’t mean I explicitly tell people every five minutes how I am feeling (that would be one constant job with EUPD!) but it does mean that I try and leave the mask behind when and where I can and let people in just that little bit more. It is also important that I am true to my self. Why should I have to lie all the time? In addition, I have grown in confidence in my ability to tell people when I think they are acting out of order or say ‘no’ when I need to. I guess it comes down to trusting more - in myself and other people; knowing that relationships won’t likely break down just because I disagree with someone or put my own needs first and understanding that people pleasing doesn’t help me. Naturally, this links in with self-care - another area I am actively seeking to expand day on day that just didn’t exist at all a year ago. After all, if I am not helping myself then how can I ever expect to get a grip on this condition?
There are more things that have changed in the past year for me, too many to mention here but even on first glance I can see that things are different from how they were when I was back on that acute ward. I have worked and continue to work, incredibly hard to make this progress but I also owe a lot to the people I have met along the way in the last 12 months. Professionals, patients, new friends, old friends, many people have contributed to my experience in their own way and I am grateful for this. One year to the day today is a marker but it is not the end, I know I have to keep on fighting, practising skills, learning to trust. However, today I can do something one year ago I could not. I can look to one year ahead and wonder what life will be like then, with a genuine degree of hope and positivity. I really think it can be different for the better.