Managing Strong Emotions & Impulsivity

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One of the main Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) behaviour I struggle with the most is intrusive thoughts and impulsive acts. I have worked on it in therapy but it is still a major issue I currently face when it comes to relationships and how I relate to others.

My impulsive thought and behaviour is triggered by criticism – by that I mean the tone of voice (someone being rude to me/shouting at me), rejection and being ignored in one way or another.

When I am triggered, I automatically end up in a crisis. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’d either start crying, get angry, hurt myself or just freeze and not move for hours. Depending on who the person at the receiving end is, I could also blurt out stuff I don’t necessarily mean.

“I hate you”

“I am fat”

“I am disgusting”

“Everybody hates me”

“I should die”

“Why can’t I just be dead?”

“I am never eating again”

“I hate myself”

These actions is driven by anger. If someone is critical towards me, I feel attacked and feel like they don’t care about me. Saying and doing impulsive actions is a way for me to tell the person that they’ve hurt me. As I was being bullied at school, I bottled up my emotions and now it all seems to be coming out in impulsive and destructive ways. I feel emotions too strongly, can’t control it and lash out.

“Control” is another big word in situations like this. I’ve realised that, I lash out because I feel “out of control”. But what is it that I am losing control over? I don’t know. But there is something there, deep down.

After I do and say those things, I am left feeling deflated. Having not spoken for hours, my voice hardly comes out. It is also embarrassing. Acting out and then suddenly acting normal again? That is hard to do. It takes me a while to return back to my normal self.

In therapy, I learnt how to handle situations like this. Keeping a thought record and using the DBT skill STOPP! is really helpful.

Stop!

Say it to yourself, in your head, as soon as you notice your mind and/or your body is reacting to a trigger. Taking a step back helps to put in the space between the stimulus (the trigger, whatever we are reacting to) and our response. The earlier you use STOPP, the easier and more effective it will be.

Take a Breath

Breathing deeper and slower will calm down and reduce the physical reaction of emotion/adrenaline. Focusing on our breathing means we are not so focused on the thoughts and feelings of the distress, so that our minds can start to clear and we can think more logically and rationally.

Observe

We can notice the thoughts going through our mind, we can also notice what we feel in our body, and we can notice the urge to react in an impulsive way. We can notice the vicious cycle of anxiety, sadness or anger (etc). Noticing helps us to defuse from those thoughts and feelings and therefore reduce their power and control. Are you feeling hot? Sweaty? What is your hands doing? Are you feeling tearful? Just notice.

Put things into Perspective

Challenge your thoughts before you act. Thinking differently. When we step back emotionally from a situation, and start to see the bigger picture, it reduces those distressing beliefs. We can do this by asking ourselves questions. Is it worth it? How would I feel after acting on the thought?

Practise what works

Rather than reacting impulsively with unhelpful consequences, we can CHOOSE a more helpful and positive response. I like to walk away, get out of the situation, because staying will not calm me down. Getting away and doing something else can make me calm down.

 

World Mental Health Day 2016: BPD and ME

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As it is World Mental Health Day, I want to speak out about one of my recent diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

People often have a negative view about BPD and that is why I am reluctant to speak about it publicly. Why? Because it shows how I’m not as perfect as I want to be or as much I want people to think I am. My eating disorder doesn’t make me perfect, but at least I can control my weight and make it perfect for me. Whereas BPD makes people think I’m evil and a horrible person because it’s out of my control and brings out the worst in me.

I wish people would understand me but they don’t. There is always an explanation for the way I behave. It’s not because I’m a bad person even though it may seem like it. I promise the things I do does not come from bad intentions. It comes from a need to feel like I belong.

I’ve always found it hard to make and keep friends. BPD makes close friendships difficult. No one seems to stay for long in my life and I often become a burden for people because I am vulnerable, fragile, difficult and too dependent. I expect too much from people. I want to feel needed, I want to feel wanted and I want to feel like I matter. I want someone to be spontaneous and take me places, because I never had that as a child. I want to feel safe and cared for, because I never felt that as a child. I want to be treated as a first choice, because I’ve never been someone’s first choice.

I never felt like I fitted in as a child. I always felt left out. People hurt me. I was always on my own. I was my own best friend and own worst enemy. That is why whenever I get close to someone now; I fear abandonment and rejection which leads to me losing people because they get scared and back away as I try so hard to keep them. I would do anything for someone I love not to leave me. In the past – it has ended up with threats, multiple suicide attempts, threats of suicide and self-harm, in an attempt to blackmail people not to leave me. It’s not a selfish part of me, but a desperate cry for help. I have so much love and care to give – that’s all I want. I want to feel worthy for once.

If I make plans with friends and for some reason they cancel, it triggers me into thinking they hate me and they have probably found someone else they would rather hang out with. I get upset and mad. I don’t think about their reason, I automatically think it’s about me. The reason is always me. That is why I need constant reassurance from people that they still like me and care about me.

And only recently, I realised this part of my personality not only affects my personal relationships, but also affects my professional relationships and how I relate to people in the workplace. If I don’t somehow feel like I belong in a team, I feel unimportant which makes me feel worthless. If I don’t get praised at work and get criticism, I feel like it’s the end of the world and everyone hates me and get paranoid that I will lose my job. It comes hand in hand with perfectionism. I must do all I can to feel accepted because I never felt accepted as a child.

So, the cause of BPD is often deep rooted . Trying to keep up with constant feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness is exhausting, but with an intense form of Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT), it has made me understand why I do the things I do. I found out that my BPD is connected to my anorexia. With my DIT therapist, I found links to why I behave the way I do and it really makes sense.

Living with BPD is so hard – you will not understand how hard it is unless you have it yourself. The behaviours are only a reaction of what we fear the most – that have already happened to us before. For me, not feeling like I got enough love as a child, being used, being bullied, feeling left out – are all combination of things why it is hard for me to form healthy and stable relationships in adulthood.

However, as I recover, I am realising I have behaved inappropriately towards people which ruined a lot of friendships. I did those things because I was in a bad place and let my illness control me. I am not denying responsibility at all. I am at fault. I know I hurt people with my words and impulsive actions and I hate myself for that. I wish I could turn back time and start again. But, whats done is done and I can only work on it and improve myself for the better.

I am not a bad person, I promise. All I want is to feel is loved for once in my life. People think I only care about myself but that is not true. It may seem like I think the whole world revolves around me but it is far from that – it is a little girl, who hasn’t properly grown up, so desperate to give love as well as receive love. I am fun, funny, silly and caring – I just had a difficult childhood that has left me in this mental state, but I am still a human being.

If a friend or a loved one struggles with BPD, I just need you to know that they are not a bad person. They are just scared. Please please don’t leave them if you really love and care about them. It hurts. It hurts so badly when someone you love abandons you. Help that person. Be there for them. And if it gets too much and you decide to leave them, please don’t be harsh to them – try not to end things in a bad way. Reassure them that things will get better and that they are not alone. It will make every bit of difference.

 

3 Positive Songs For 3 Negative Feelings

I believe that music can save lives. It certainly saved my life many times in the past. Whilst I was growing up, these were three songs that significantly helped me through some of the hardest times in my life (with a story behind them). 

DESPAIR

Miley Cyrus – The Climb

This song has had quite a big significance in my life. I was at school (Year 11) when it came out. It was a time where I just had enough of school and I just couldn’t wait to leave. I always had a dream my entire schooling life that I would one day escape this misery and become this successful person, to prove the bullies wrong. However, I never believed in myself back then. I thought I’ll never reach that end goal and always put myself down at every chance I got. Getting told I will never be successful didn’t help either. This song gave me some sort of hope. The lyrics really resonated with me and I actually listened to it. When I listen back to this song now, I remember all the times I felt like I won’t get very far, and then realise where I am now. It is such a great feeling.

Whenever you feel like you can’t do something or won’t ever get very far in life, do not stop trying. Don’t give up. There is no rush. You will get there one day. Keep doing everything you can to get there and one day, you’ll be living in that dream.

“I can almost see it. That dream I’m dreaming but there’s a voice inside my head saying you’ll never reach it…My faith is shaking but I got to keep trying. Got to keep my head held high…”

FEAR

Hilary Duff – Fly

Again, a trip down memory lane, school days. I was a big Hilary Duff fan , who wasn’t? She was a prominent figure in the charts back then. Fly came out in 2004. So, I was 12 years old! It is no secret that I had suffered with crippling anxiety ever since primary school and all throughout secondary school. I always loved singing and dancing but always struggled with the confidence to go and perform in public. I always wanted to join a band or join my school choir but we had to audition to get in at my school. I kept putting it off because I felt scared and nervous.

This song gave me huge amount of encouragement to just do it. Nothing was stopping me but myself. So, I did it. I auditioned for some sort school gospel thing but I didn’t get into that. However, I eventually joined my school rock band. Music was my passion back then and I had no reason not to pursue what I enjoyed the most. Even now, whenever I feel like my anxiety is stopping me from doing something, I listen to this song for a bit of encouragement and it really works. Even if you bite the bullet and fail, at least you know you tried and that’s the most important thing.

“Fly, open up the part of you that wants to hide away. You can shine.
Forget about the reasons why you can in life and start to try…

…and when you’re down and feel alone, just want to run away. Trust yourself and don’t give up, you know you better than anyone else”

FEELING DIFFERENT

Sugababes – Ugly

One of the reasons why I was bullied at school was because I was different and also short for my age. It was easy for people to pick on me because I was small and I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself. Just a disclaimer, my anorexia wasn’t caused by bad body image. It wasn’t a superficial reason but being different played a part.

In school, I was basically an emo/goth/punk, whatever you want to call it. In a girls school, 97% Muslim/Asian, that was like I was from a whole different planet. I didn’t fit in or had any similar interests to anyone. I was an outsider – the odd-one-out. Back then, I was ashamed of being different. I hated the fact that I was short and I hated that no one around me liked the same things as me.

This song really helped me realise that everyone is the same but different. Individuality and being different is what makes us interesting, and we should never be ashamed of ourselves. It also helped me realise that looks can only get you so far, and people should only judge you for your personality. You can be good looking but an awful, horrible person. For me, looks is an important part of my life, but everyday, I work on myself and on my personality, trying to improve and be the best version of myself.

“There was a time when I felt like I cared. That I was shorter than everyone there. People made me feel like life was unfair….

Everybody talks bad about somebody and never realises how it affects somebody. And you bet it won’t be forgotten. Envy is the only thing it could be.”

Do you have a certain song that helped you through tough times or a certain emotion? Let me know in the comments!

Why Am I So Open About My Mental Illness?

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A lot of people tell me that I am “brave” for being so open about my mental health problems. But one of the reasons why I am open is because I don’t want “brave” to be a connotation for opening up mental illness anymore. I want people to talk about their issues without being scared of people’s reaction.

I share my story to the world because I want people to realise that anyone can have a mental illness, even those who report on the issue, like myself. I am a journalist and sometimes it does frustrate me that the media portray mental health to be a crime. Of course, there are those who commit serious crime driven by their mental state but not everyone who suffers is like that. There are people who are controlled by their mental illness everyday, but they can be seen as normal, living their daily lives whilst being broken inside. They have their strengths and achievements like any other person.

For the past 11 years, I have struggled with clinical depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and most recently Borderline Personality Disorder. But I am not my illnesses. I used to label myself as my illnesses. I felt like that is all I am and all I’ll ever be. But I realised that is not what I am. I am a person who has a degree and a brilliant job that I love. I am actually successful despite my struggles and I am proud of that. But, whilst trying to live a normal life, I am in treatment and often in hospital. However, my mental illness makes me no less of a person than anyone else.

My issues makes me a very sensitive person. I break easily. Many people can brush off any constructive criticism they get, at work, in their personal lives…But I can’t. I take it personally. I get upset, angry and automatically label myself as a failure. My illness drives me to be perfect at all times. The things I do to be perfect is actually laughable when you think about it. If someone shouts at me, I tell them I won’t eat and I won’t. If someone gives me constructive criticism, my blood boils. I automatically say I will starve myself until I reverse that criticism. I want to punish myself for not being perfect.

My anxiety can also make me delay a lot of things but explaining that to people is difficult because they don’t understand why it is hard for me. I can do it, but it’ll take time. Sometimes I won’t be able to do it because perhaps my confidence is low that day. Everyday is a challenge for me and I need people around me to know that and understand. I need support and I need people to know that sufferers aren’t bad people.

I live with the voice of anorexia and perfectionism every single day, drilling things into my head, trying to put me down, make me change out of hundreds of outfits because the voice says I look fat. Or take all my make-up off many times, only to do it all over again because the voice tells me I look ugly, or pull my hair out in frustration because it is not going the way I want it too, which can end up me burning myself with my hair straighteners and curling tongs because IT’S NOT PERFECT.

Do you now realise how hard it is to suffer but also trying to live a normal life? I don’t know how I would cope if I didn’t talk about it. This is my story, my journey. I am a person and I don’t want to be labelled as bad or stuck up, because I am not. I work hard with a voice every day in my head trying to put me down, and the voice usually wins.

This post is published on The Huffington Post UK

Social Anxiety No Longer Controls Me

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As I am writing this now, I couldn’t be more confident. I never thought I’d arrive at this stage because all my life, I suffered with crippling social anxiety. To overcome it, was something I’d always wished for but never thought I’d be able to. I am surprised that recently, people tell me that I seem bubbly and perky. That was never me in the past.

When someone finds out I suffer with depression and anxiety, they find it hard to believe because I apparently always seem cheerful and have a smile on my face despite my daily struggles. Smiling makes you appear more confident and I am glad people perceive me that way.

I know what it is like to feel invisible. To feel ashamed and embarrassed in public. To feel like every word that comes out of your mouth will be scrutinised and judged. To have that stomach churning feeling before going outside. Before, I had to mentally and physically prepare myself before going out. I used to feel sick at the thought of people looking at me. I always looked down when walking, hoping no one talks to me or sees my “ugly” face.

The purpose of this piece is make people aware that it won’t be like this forever because right now, I can safely say that I have overcome social anxiety.

The key to becoming more confident is simple. Just do it. The amount of times I pushed myself into scary situations and felt it went terribly – well it did go terribly and I have embarrassed myself numerous of times but did it kill me? No. I have been rejected and I still do get rejected. Yes, it does get me down but I learnt not to dwell on the mistakes. I learnt not to overthink. Instead, I learnt to keep trying, despite the knock backs and failures. The more mistakes I made, the more rejections I received, it only made me stronger. It made me try again and that has resulted in me not being scared anymore and in turn, it made me confident in myself.

Now, I do and say the most silliest and bravest things, which I could never have done previously. I walk with my head held high. I smile. I wear tiaras and flowers on my hair for God’s sake! I obviously stand out and I always get complimented on my style. That boosts my confidence. Looking good definitely plays a part in appearing more confident. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up and feel like hiding away but then, I wear my best outfit and rock it, and I automatically feel on top of the world. I like being silly, I like laughing and having fun and I like not being scared to just talk. I have a voice, why should I be afraid to use it? I ruined so many opportunities in the past because of my lack in confidence, so now I am on mission to face everything head on.

I don’t know if it is the amount of CBT I had or if it is my medication that’s helping, but honestly, I just feel like a new person (not taking into account my anorexia). I must be honest though – sometimes my confidence can be detrimental. I can almost appear too confident and become hypomanic as a result of my personality disorder. However, I am more in control of this now and aware of when it gets to that point.

No matter how anxious you feel, please know that it won’t be this way forever. The answer to overcoming anxiety is to just keep putting yourself into scary situations, face that fear, make mistakes and go back and keep doing it until ‘fear’ no longer means anything to you.

This post is published on The Huffington Post UK.

We are only hurting, we are not criminals

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There have always been misconceptions of mental health sufferers as being scary, violent and “crazy”.  Of course, that is what the stereotype of mental illness is. No wonder why people are so afraid to get help.  If you have met the people I have met in psychiatric hospitals, you’d see that they are not even near that. They are often gentle, friendly and amazingly intelligent people.

Yes, my illness can make me do certain things I shouldn’t be doing, such as impulsively and uncontrollably messaging and calling someone when angry or going on a massive spending spree and buying anything and everything that takes my fancy, without thinking of the financial consequences.

But why should someone who is struggling, deeply hurting inside, someone who desperately needs understanding, love and care, spend time detained in custody in a cell with drug addicts and real violent criminals? How is that going to help a person who just suffers with depression and a personality disorder, perhaps due to traumatic experiences in the past, get better? How can someone’s behaviour, out of their control, land them in a police cell? In fact, it could make them even worse.

Mental health patients need help, not a criminal offense or a warning, because their behaviour is never intended to hurt others but rather themselves. They need to see friendly psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses who will understand why they do the things they do. They will have tools that can help them to get better. They need supportive family and friends. They don’t need the police to scare them. In fact, someone suffering with a mental health disorder is often always scared, is always battling in what they think will be a life sentence, why would anyone want to make that worse? Mentally ill patients are often prisoners inside themselves, desperately trying to find a way out.

Whenever someone is in a crisis, police is not what we need. Seeing a police officer immediately confirms to us that we are a bad person. We already feel like that anyway. I am not a bad person. I am sure you are not a bad person either. Having a mental health problem does not mean you a bad person. I am not a criminal. We are not a criminal.

Keeping mental health patients locked up in a police cell could possibly be one of the reasons why some police stations are incredibly busy and overcrowded. Instead of locking them up, who are often very innocent, driven by their illness and need psychological help, why not catch real criminals who are the ones who deserve to be locked up.

Mental illness is not a crime. Suffering is not a crime. We are not criminals. We just need people to understand and help us get better.

This post was published on The Huffington Post UK

Battling an Eating Disorder in the Workplace

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I am sitting at my desk in the newsroom, watching my colleagues working, preparing for their next report. They seem to be full of energy and not a care in the world about whether they should eat or not or how they look like. Why can’t I be like them? I ask myself. I am sat twiddling my thumbs with tears streaming down my face, trying to work but keep thinking about food, if I look fat and debating in my head how much exercise I will need to do if I eat today. Taking regular toilet breaks to check myself in the mirror – if my hair and make-up is perfect and if my outfit makes me look big. I cannot look normal or average. I must look amazing outside because I do not feel amazing inside.

I have my dream job; I am good at what I do, people praise me for coming this far and tell me to be proud of myself. But how can I be proud when my eating disorder is stopping me from achieving my full potential in the workplace? I realised that not eating does not help me as much as I thought it did. Yes, I can complete a task and make it perfect, but it is only done in punishment and in the end, I am still left miserable.

I am 22 years old and at the age of 21, I landed my dream job as a news journalist, working for the BBC. I suffer from anorexia nervosa and have done so for many years. I thought it was isolating enough in school and university but suffering in the workplace, or rather the shame of admitting it to bosses and colleagues, is tougher and scarier than I had ever imagined. Why? Because I don’t want to be seen as not capable of working. I worked so hard to get to where I am and I do not want my eating disorder to take it away from me.

Work equals success, success equals perfection and perfection equals “good enough”. At work, being perfect is what I strive to be. Everything I do has to be immaculate and one bit of criticism I get, I turn to anorexia. I cannot and will not be a failure. My eating disorder has got me this far. I achieved so much with it. I went to university, graduated and I got my dream job, all with my eating disorder. What makes work any different?

But anorexia destroys my confidence. It makes me isolate myself. The more I isolate myself, the less noticeable I become. Sometimes, it is scary to even do the simplest things. Anorexia wants me to be perfect and says I don’t deserve to eat until I complete a certain task and make it as perfect as I can. I tend to take on a lot of work, despite burning out in the end. Why can’t I say no? Because I want to be seen as someone who is perfect and strong. Working a 10-hour shift on an empty stomach is no fun. It leads me to isolate myself even more.

I have to be pure and empty at work. Or at least that’s what anorexia tells me. People think of me as an inspiration and I cannot ruin that by feeding myself or get seen eating by colleagues. I’ll get fat and then what will happen? No one will praise me. No one will think of me as capable. People will think I don’t deserve to be where I am just because I eat. I have to be different and special.

At first, I did not tell anyone about my eating disorder. Transitioning from education into employment seemed like a fresh start for me and I wanted my anorexia to be kept a secret. Pretty soon, I realised this was impossible. Working as a journalist includes shift work. The times are irregular, so my eating will be irregular too. For someone with anorexia, this is quite dangerous. I tend to starve myself throughout my long shifts, mainly because I cannot bare to eat in public and inevitably it does takes a toll on my health. I often feel dizzy, weak, lose concentration and faint.

I know I need to eat so I do make myself go to the canteen to get something small to eat. I stand there, staring at all the options but fail to get anything. I cannot get myself to eat at work, especially on my own. Too many calories, too much fat and I then I realise, I don’t deserve to eat at all. Sometimes it gets too much that I break down in tears and hide away. Anorexia is very controlling and the pressure to be perfect at work is all too consuming that my health is put at risk.

This is why I could not struggle alone anymore so I slowly started opening up. Luckily, I have understanding colleagues who go out of their way to help me eat and make sure I am okay. Even just a chat about my struggles makes all the difference and I feel less alone. I did not expect the level of support my colleagues gave me. I feared rejection and discrimination but the colleagues I have told understood the illness and the impact it could have on my work and knowing this was a relief for me.

I am receiving psychiatric care at a specialist eating disorders unit and have regular appointments there. Getting time off from work has not been a problem as of yet due to the flexibility of my job. My treatment team have also been very helpful, providing a written letter to my employers explaining why I may need time off.

Having an eating disorder at work can be very isolating; this is why talking about it is very important. Even telling one colleague who you can trust can be helpful. If they don’t understand, educate them about it. It will make a difference. Some organisations have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), where you can seek counselling for any issues you are facing in or outside of work and it is 100% confidential. My work provides this and it is comforting to know they are there whenever I need to use the service.

If you are worried about a colleague who you may suspect has an eating disorder, I would suggest speaking to them privately but do not jump to conclusions. Let them tell you in their own time but do let them know that you are there for them if they ever need to talk. Sometimes, it is nice to know someone is there, willing to listen.

It is useful for employers to find ways they can best help staff struggling with an eating disorder, allowing time off for therapy and medical appointments. Holding staff events and talks about eating disorders and mental health to let them know what support there is available at work, will be so beneficial for individuals struggling. Even taking some time to privately talk to them once in a while to see how they are coping can make a huge difference. Having an eating disorder does not mean the individual is not capable of holding down a full time job. We are still humans and an illness does not have to stop us from living a normal life.

This post was published on The Huffington Post and Beat for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016.