A chance to start again…

This post follows on from my previous post ‘A Turning Point’ that was related to overcoming my private demons of vulnerability, resilience, and authenticity. I’d now like to share the ‘me’ that I guess, I once was. To share the things I haven’t, up till now, shared with many people at all, but that have certainly helped shaped me in to the person I have become. It may or may not provide you with some context as to why I wrote my last post. The jury’s out on that one, yet I still feel it’s an important topic to discuss, both for me and hopefully for others.

Please be warned this may not be an easy read. I may not be particularly succinct, and it might be overly long, and maybe even unnecessary in parts. But, this post comes from the heart. It’s why I am who I am today. I’m extremely proud of what I have overcome, from where I once was, and because of this I feel ready to share some of the harder parts of my life with you. I have chosen to leave out some areas and avoided certain details, yet some readers may still find it difficult.

**Please don’t read any further if you think you may find the subject of either depression or suicide particularly triggering for you** 

Where it all started: like many teenagers, I went through my ups and downs; I was not an easy teenager to live with by any stretch of the imagination. The relationship I had with mum was not always that great, and I often worried about her and what she too was going through, and what she had had to overcome when I was very young. I spent a fair amount of time with my maternal grandparents growing up. Some of my earliest, and fondest, memories are from around this time.

Life changing events… 

Things really began to change from about the age of 17. Sadly, my beautiful Nan died, and this really hit me hard. I worshipped her. To this day, 15 years later, I still miss her immensely. It was around this time that I found myself wanting to be alone. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to go to work, to a job I once thrived in and loved, and most importantly I did not show any interest in anyone else either, or in anything around me. I showed little to no emotion. Very different from the ‘oversensitive’ girl I once was. Now I see all these things as red flags, signals that something was happening to me. But I didn’t know anything about red flags back then, and I ended up doing things I was not proud of. You might say, I had very poor coping mechanisms. It became that awful circular self-destruct mode that everyone else could see, but me. So many people were trying to help me, and quite understandably, this resulted in them feeling frustrated when I would deny there was anything wrong. I wasn’t sure if there was something wrong. Maybe this was just who I was? That’s what I told myself, anyway.

After the boredom of numerous trials of various antidepressants, and at around the age of 21, I sought the professional help of a psychiatrist. I desperately wanted a diagnosis of something other than depression. Now, I think, I was almost looking for a reason to try and rationalise my behaviour and the reasons for causing so much hurt and upset, both to myself and those around me. I was almost certain that I would come away with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder – I genuinely believe that if you tell yourself something often enough, you will start to convince yourself of it. That wasn’t to be – it was still depression. Perhaps, I just needed or was looking for something to blame.

Deep down I could see and feel the damage I was doing, but I still couldn’t admit it to anyone else. However, it was beginning to take its toll on me. The thoughts never stopped, and I began to think the damage was irreparable. Internally, I felt overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and guilt. These are typical feelings I can now see for depression and other similar disorders. However, at the time, I couldn’t see any other way out. I wasn’t feeling any better.

~ An uncomfortable truth ~

Ultimately, everything spiralled, leading to me trying to take my own life. This was not a ‘cry for help’ type of attempted suicide, at that time I really did want to die. Not something I’ve ever really admitted before. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful. Shortly afterwards, I knew something had to change. I did end up eventually wanting to feel better, and I wanted a reason to live. I think the guilt and reality of what I had attempted to do, as well as the aftermath, was a real shock. I hurt so many people. Guilt in this instance turned out to be a good thing.

With the support of my family and friends I began to take positive steps forward. I started a new medication regime which I tolerated well, and actually took properly this time. I saw a counsellor to discuss things that I had never told anyone. I had a DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) workbook that I used effectively. I found healthier and far better ways to cope with my emotions, and things were getting better for me. Yet, I still felt something was missing; I still needed a purpose.

Fast forward, it was a huge decision to get married, and in particular to make the life-changing decision to have a child. A child I didn’t think I would ever have – it was not something I ever saw in my future. I was still extremely naive, and to be honest, a little selfish. I wanted to feel ’normal’ (whatever that is). I wanted my family to be proud of me. Properly proud. To see me settled, married, a mum.. I thought that all of these life-changing decisions would miraculously bring happiness – told you I was naive. Ultimately, I wanted to forget the past had ever happened.

 

Peggy was and always will be the best thing to ever happen to me. Nothing will ever come close to being a mother, to create life, to have that life with you and as part of you. She gave me that purpose I so desperately needed and craved. But it is so, so much more than that. Another of my better decisions was making this choice with Peter, my husband.

I don’t think it’s necessary or particularly relevant to discuss the nature of our relationship here or to pretend that it’s in any way perfect, or even traditional. But one thing I always knew was that whatever happened, he would always be a wonderful, hands-on, doting father, just as he always has been. I have so much to thank him for; I wasn’t a perfect wife, and he had to put up with everything that came with being married to me. Peter was there for me through many of these difficult times, (including postnatal depression and a molar pregnancy w/haemorrhage) and he encouraged the help I so desperately needed. He continues to inspire me as the most patient, loving and caring dad, and has always been so very good and understanding towards me. Support structures are essential, and I have to thank my family and brilliant friends for their patience and persistence in not giving up on me.

Needing answers… 

Years later, I would end up with so many questions. Was my Nan’s death the catalyst for my depression? Was this when it began? Was it something else? Looking back, it probably wasn’t. There were definite signs I was ‘going off the rails’ way before then. It’s something I’ve found myself trying to unpick over the years, ultimately looking for those elusive answers that never really came.

One thing I have learned though, is the importance and power of forgiveness. Giving yourself permission to forgive yourself, genuinely, and to move on. It becomes harmful if you don’t, just deepening any shame and guilt. How can we grow if we don’t practice introspection and reflect? It’s what we are always taught on our nursing course, after all, to be truly reflective practitioners. From this, I would also say, show yourself some of that empathy you show to others. With depression and poor mental health unfortunately being so prevalent in today’s society, try to use your experiences to your advantage, as an opportunity for additional insight into the lives of the many patients you will encounter and take care of.

And today? 

I’ve finally found out what works for me, and as a result, my mental health is the best it has been in a very, very long time. As a mum, a student nurse, and, well, a human being, I need the ability to feel, and to do so with the emotional agility required of me in these massively important roles.

I realise that I am only one person, but I don’t want to perpetuate the prejudice and stigma around mental health by keeping all this to myself. I am not ashamed of it. If it makes just one person believe they too can take steps forward, then it’s served its purpose. I no longer see it as a flaw in my character, but as an opportunity to hopefully inspire others that it is most definitely possible to recover, to change your life and go on to do whatever you want to do.

And please, if you’re finding yourself struggling with any of the things I’ve mentioned, know that you are not alone. It’s a bit of a cliche but you really are not alone. There is help, and there is hope. Talk to someone, if you can. Anyone. I’m always here, too. It’s also fine if you’re not ready, and no one is suggesting in any way that you discuss it as publicly as me, but if you’re feeling really depressed, or even suicidal please, please seek professional help. I’ve provided contact information at the end of the post for you to look at use if needed.

 

What’s next? Obviously, there are some important gaps in the post above, and I haven’t even mentioned how any of this applies to my nursing journey yet, or to my annoying social anxiety. If you want me to cover these, then I can. Let me know if there’s something in particular you’d like for me to share.

Thank you,

K x

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Help and support

Link to the DBT workbook that I found helpful: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation … Tolerance (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1572245131/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_4B2NCbB48575Q

For help around postnatal depression please visit: http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help/

To learn more about molar pregnancies please visit: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1576/toag.10.1.003.27370

For help and support around depression please visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/self-care/#.XJ9l9qSnwlQ

A Turning Point

As some of you may know, I’m now in the second half of a degree in Adult Nursing. It’s not been without its challenges, but it has been massively, massively rewarding. What some of you may not know is that I have wanted to start a blog stating how I feel, deep down, since beginning the course back in 2017. I’ve even been paying for blog hosting since 2018, but still, I’ve kept on pushing it back. I’ve been constantly inspired as well as encouraged by many other students to ’just do it’ to start a blog as they have done, but, I just couldn’t. However, this year has been a real turning point for me (which I will go on to discuss in subsequent posts). Now, I finally feel ready to face my own personal demons head-on, starting by publicly sharing this blog.

I think I’ve always known where a lot of my problems stem from, what they have stopped me from doing and how they’ve slowed down my progression. In this case, it was my annoying inner dialogue: ‘Who would want to read what I have to say?’, ‘so many people already write blogs, what if anything do I have to add?’ I also worry about my ability to write well. So, it’s my self-doubt/lack of confidence coming to the surface again, producing what I can only really describe as an almost crippling fear; the worry about what people might think of me. It always comes back to this. Always. By putting myself ‘out there’ I leave myself open to all kinds of criticism. For as long as I can remember I’ve put up barriers which have affected me both personally and professionally, and I feel now is the perfect time to begin addressing at least some of them.

Vulnerability: my greatest fear impacting almost every aspect of my life. When I think back to when I first came into nursing I felt sure that I’d be able to show my sensitive side with ease. However, sadly, in a way, I feel I’ve lost part of that ability, particularly as the course has progressed. As student nurses, we learn the importance of being emotionally resilient (professional detachment by another name) but I still feel it’s a rather ambiguous term, and one that in practice I can’t quite square in applying to the context of nursing. The Royal College of Nursing (2016) describe resilience as having the confidence and ability to overcome negative setbacks, have support networks for difficult situations, whilst withstanding events considered to be a crisis with calmness, and being honest about personal fears. I feel the issue is not just in being resilient, but it’s also in being open, allowing ourselves to explore our vulnerabilities, maintaining our authenticity.

For me, initially, being resilient meant I had to be harder, tougher, thicker-skinned and ultimately, stronger. So that’s what I have done. However, there is always that vulnerability that comes with caring for others, be that patients or their family, and of course even my own friends and family. So, I care, and I genuinely do care, a hell of a lot actually, but unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to show. On a personal level, I am aware I have often given the impression that I care a lot less than I do because again there’s that inner demon, provoking a huge fear of disapproval and rejection. In effect, sometimes it just hurts too much, hence the constant fear I find myself feeding into, rather than feeling. This is where humour is great, isn’t it?

Perhaps I really have totally misunderstood what it means to be resilient. Maybe it’s not about developing a hard shell that no one can break. Maybe it’s not skirting around those sensitive issues, cracking jokes or putting up those impenetrable walls. Perhaps it really is about embracing who we are intrinsically, recognising and not changing who we are to the point where we begin to question ourselves. I’m slowly learning that it’s perfectly OK not to love myself all of the time, to not do as well at certain things, to sometimes accept it is fine to lack confidence in certain areas, and more importantly, learning there is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting this.

By acknowledging these things and ultimately allowing myself to be a little more vulnerable, I can actually begin to work on them. I’ve realised that by hiding them, nothing will ever change, and I have been so frustrated in the past with running away from what I perceive to be ‘scary’. I’m tired of running. I’m fed up of pretending.

For me, being authentic is what’s going to help my resilience. Perhaps my true softness isn’t necessarily a weakness? Perhaps then, soft is strong… 

My next post will be based around my mental health, and hopefully, it will give some context as to why I felt the desire to write this as my first blog post. I want to get to a point where my posts will be of some help to others, but as of right now it just feels enough to get my thoughts together and written down.

I think the one thing I’d like to offer anyone who has felt similar to the way I have, is to try and face your fears, when you feel able; identifying and then acknowledging these fears is the first crucial step in eventually overcoming them. Talk about them, taking whatever time you need, in a way that feels least threatening. Who knows, you might find it quite liberating? I know I have.

Thank you for reading,

K x

 

 

 

References:

RCN Learning. (2016). Resilience. [online] Available at: http://mnd.rcnlearning.org.uk/resilience/ [Accessed 17th March 2019].