Back with a bump!

…no, with a literal bump. We’re having a baby! I’m currently 14 weeks gone, and feeling like a manatee already. I know there’s only one baby in there – we made the midwife check several times.

With this news, it seemed like perfect timing to open up this pretty-neglected blog of mine and start writing again. Having BPD is one thing… having BPD and being pregnant, oh boy. Plus, November is just around the corner, and for National Novel Writing Month I have decided to finally put my BPD story down on paper – because having a month to write 50,000 words is a good kick up the arse, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing here again. For months I was in a very solid (and boring) state of recovery. I’m kidding about the boring bit, it was nice to have some peace and stability for the first time in a long time – if ever, actually. Therapy has done me a lot of good, especially with having to put a lot of the work I did into practice since becoming pregnant. I am still on venlafaxine, but lamotrigine isn’t good for the baby; so at 7 weeks pregnant I came off it cold turkey. I’m going to save that story for a separate post, as I feel it’s very important that other mentally-ill expectant mums have a whole picture of what it might be like to withdraw off psychiatric medication. In short, it was a Pretty Rough Time.

Oh, PIP update: I STILL DON’T HAVE IT. They rejected my claim for a second time not long after my last blog entry, so I escalated it to go to a tribunal. Of course, the DWP wrote to the tribunal services and stated that they don’t believe my case should be looked at, but luckily for me the decision is out of their fat, greedy hands. I got a copy of all the correspondence between me and them since 2014, and the amount of hypocrisy is astounding. I don’t want to go into too much detail, as it is still confidential information, but there was one statement made that still resonates loudly;

“We are not questioning that Mrs Stephenson has the conditions stated, rather, we do not agree with her claim for benefit.”

So apparently, being disabled doesn’t actually qualify you for disability benefits according to the Department of Work and Pensions. If someone could tell me how exactly that makes sense, feel free to leave a comment.

I’ve been able to support myself somewhat with my freelance art work. I did stall for a few months due to a horrendous first trimester – morning sickness is no laughing matter – but I’m trying to pick it back up now I’m into my second trimester and feeling a bit more like myself again. It’s not much, but considering even without the pregnancy I couldn’t work thanks to the BPD, it’s better than nothing.

Does this mean that my blog is going to become a Mommy Blog? Urgh. No. But I think it could do no harm to tell the world what life is like when you’re expecting a baby and you suffer from mental illness. I’ve always been open and honest about my struggles, and I think that talking about being ill and pregnant – and eventually, being a mum – might do some good.


While I’m here, a friend of mine has recently started a blog about his mental health, particularly his struggles with anxiety and working in a high pressure environment. Go and give Freddie’s blog a read – Corporate Survivalist!

People in general need to talk more openly about men and mental health. Male suicide rates have been higher than women’s for quite some time, and given the tragic death of Chester Bennington only three months ago (something I will write about at a later date), the stigma needs to be addressed now more than ever. It could save lives.

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Not a stranger…

It’s been nearly two months since I last wrote on this blog. If I’m being honest, I thought a lot about deleting the whole thing, or at least not writing again. After my last post about my benefit being taken away from me, it hit me just how much of myself I have put out there on this blog for the world to see. And it frightened me. Wizard Psych had questioned why someone as guarded as me felt like they could open up to the world in this medium and I never really questioned it until I started feeling like I was recovering.

In the end, I decided against deleting. This blog is over two years old, and it documents a journey that built me into who I am right now. With the snoring dog right beside me for good measure. I reckon you could all do with an update of life since our last catch-up, so here we go.

I HAVE FINISHED THERAPY. Six months of hard work and a lot of hard conversations, and a satisfying conclusion to something I am so fucking grateful for. I want to write a longer post about the benefits of therapy another time, because I owe so much to it and I know that what I’ve taken from it will go a long way in the future. I’m still on my medication (both venlafaxine and lamotrigine, haven’t had to take diazepam since my benefits were taken off me.)

Oh yes. My PIP. I still haven’t got it back. I called last week and apparently my file is with a case manager. I couldn’t get any health records sent to me in time before I had to send it back to the DWP, but I did write a four page letter dissecting every part of the assessment that they got wrong. I also got two statements from former employers saying about the struggles that I faced during employment. Eventually I got sent back my psychiatric records dating back from 2009 – oh boy it’s a tome and a half. I haven’t read it yet aside from a skim through, and I haven’t sent it to them. I dread to think how much it would cost me to, especially when they stopped my benefit and thus my one source of income. If for any reason it goes to tribunal, then I’ll happily bring it with me and hope the clerk keeps a straight face as they hand it over to the judge. I’ll make another call next week, start getting persistent.

I’ve turned my art into somewhat of a long-term career goal. I’m building up a daily routine and taking pride in the direction of where my creativity is going. I finally feel pride in something, and I believe in myself with what I’m doing.

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A little something I made for a friend!

My advocacy work has stilled. Not because I don’t want to do it, but I feel that I spend so much energy on just trying to find the right opportunities to get my work out there – and honestly, I get very little back. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had, I’m glad I’ve met so many great people and I get to talk a lot about mental health and the stigma attached to it. The big problem that I’ve had (again, something that Wizard Psych spoke me through) is that since my BPD diagnosis, it feels like the disorder has become my identity. The fact is, you can have a mental illness and still be a fully formed person behind it. I’m under no illusion that there will be plenty of times in the future where the BPD is definitely more prominent, but there is more to me than my illness.

I do feel much stronger in talking to people about what BPD is; I also feel like I can tackle people’s discrimination without being too emotionally compromised. That takes a lot, and is understandably difficult for anyone to do. I’m also better at recognising triggers and walking away from negative situations – such as former friends online who are still trying to push my buttons after 18 months.

I feel like the me I should have been all along.

There was more that I wanted to write. There’s always more I want to write! I will start writing more frequently, now I’ve got this first post out of the way.

(also, I’ve deleted the Facebook page for this blog. I felt too vulnerable with it out there – if people want to read and keep updated, then they know where this blog is!)

Hope everyone’s been doing okay. Sorry I’ve been off the radar for so long, it’s a kind of habit of mine.

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Disregard that last blog entry…

TRIGGER WARNING for self-harm

So, it turns out that the Department of Work and Pensions in their infinite wisdom, have decided that I am no longer eligible for PIP based on an assessment that saw me score 0 on each component. That’s right, I scored nil points on EVERYTHING. And I can confidently say that the one person who made the decision has done nothing but lie, ignoring the evidence I provided myself along with what I wrote in the previous form and said in my face-to-face assessment at my home.

I got the letter on Friday morning. The day before, I’d had a positive appointment with Wizard Psych and things were looking really good in general. When I got the letter saying that my money had been stopped, I went into almost immediate meltdown. I texted Husband and begged him to come home, but I was freaking out far too much and could not bring myself back down to earth. I cut my wrists with a blunt knife, making no more than deep cat scratches and only serving to upset me even more as I sat and waited for Husband to come home. He’d made plans that would help in the short term and overall seemed positive despite the circumstances – but I felt defeated. As if I didn’t already feel like a parasite for not being able to contribute enough to our household, my one and only source of income had been taken away from me under the government’s desire to cripple the disabled folks of this country further.

For two days straight, I felt like I wanted to die. Eventually, those feelings subsided enough for me to be able to get my own plan together. I’m having to do all the running around for evidence that the DWP and Capita didn’t bother to do themselves as well as keep myself in a fighting mood rather than a flying one. Because god did I want to fly when that fucking envelope came through my door.

This update is only a short one, but I’ll be back once I have a better idea of what I’m doing. I’ve got letters to write – I’ve ordered more printer ink for that purpose, apparently handwritten letters don’t cut it in this situation – and emails to send, to my local MP for a start. As if I didn’t already have zero energy as it is, I’m now going into my energy overdraft for this bullshit.

Too ill for a job, too well to be disabled. Fucking bullshit.

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Still not disabled enough? Thanks Capita!

I haven’t had the Brown Envelope of Doom yet, but today is the day my PIP benefit is paid into the bank and it would appear I’m being paid around ¬£70 less than I’ve been getting over the past three years despite my illness being worse than it was when I was initially assessed. I’m on more medication, under a psychologist and a nurse, visited A&E a bunch of times and have a different diagnosis for fucks sake.

I’m fortunate to at least be still getting money, unlike so many other folks in the UK who are being so horribly let down by Capita and the DWP that are losing their money completely. I’m also looking at more sustainable ways to support myself through my art and other creative means – because, just like I said to the Woman From Capita, I have tried working a job like A Normal Person and apparently I just can’t do it like I’m supposed to. And of course, I have the support of Husband and my family, but it still makes me angry that someone has read what someone else has written about me and decided that somehow I am less entitled to this benefit. I claim no other benefits and would love to be able to support myself fully through employment. There are thousands of disabled people out there, physically and mentally that would love nothing more than to be able to get out of the house and go to work like everyone else does.

PIP is a piss-poor substitute for the former Disability Living Allowance that used to be awarded to those living with a disability. When you’re on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) you are entitled to help with your housing costs, free prescriptions, dental and eye care. Prescriptions aren’t cheap, especially with the cost being per item rather than prescription. You have to pay for prescriptions on PIP, despite the benefit being for those who might actually require more than a few medications and treatments. How does that even make sense? If you get PIP but not ESA, you can say goodbye to living independently, you won’t be able to afford it. Nobody asked to be disabled, and yet here we are.

There is a very big problem in the UK right now, and it is that our government is working against people with less visible illnesses such mental illnesses. George Freeman, aide to the PM and No. 10 policy unit head said this to the BBC just last month;

“These tweaks are actually about rolling back some bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety,” he said. “We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.”

This coming from a man who says he too has suffered from anxiety and depression his childhood. Benefits might cost the government money, but compassion is free you dick.

Nothing will really change for me when the Brown Envelope Of Doom finally arrives. But I’m angry all the same. And so I should be. People are being punished for not meeting the criteria that a government of able-minded and able-bodied politicians has come up with. We are supposed to jump their hoops all just to save them a bit of money. Oh, I’m sorry you find my mental illness inconvenient for your budget, it’s not like hard-working British pay taxes to a system that is supposed to be for those who need it. I guess it’s easy to forget that when the suits in charge are pissing that money away on things we didn’t ask for.

How has the DWP let you down? Is Capita worse than its predecessor ATOS? How does your disability affect you financially? Please comment on this post or send me a private message, I’m really interested in hearing stories from other folks on this fuckery.


Here’s the best kind of therapist you’ll ever see on the internet;

therapug

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Capita visit – take 2

As you’re all aware, my recent dealings with Capita haven’t exactly proven fruitful. Which has been a source of stress for both Husband and I, as is anything that’s out of our control. After the last disaster that was trying to get to the building where my appointment was back in November, I was sent (yet another) form to explain why I was late – and if it wasn’t good enough then I could kiss goodbye to the only benefit I claim. So I wrote about how the anxiety nearly had me vomiting me in the street along with the fact that their building is far too close to another building with a similar address.

This was deemed satisfactory enough to have someone actually come to my home to talk to me instead of having to make that journey into town again. And in this case, luck was on our side as the appointment day and time fell during a time where Husband could join me for the visit and not have to request (yet more) time off work.

So, Thursday last week rolled around. I got up early, showered, chucked some breakfast down my neck and waited anxiously for the door to knock. About half an hour before the visit was scheduled, Husband popped his head round the bedroom door – where I was sat playing FFXIV on the PC – to tell me that the visit was actually on Friday, the next day. It was written on the calendar and everything.

I am 27 this year, and an idiot.

FRIDAY rolled around, and anxiety was in full force. I also checked the calendar at least fifty times before the Woman From Capita arrived. She was really nice, and good with Lady – she told us that she had three dogs herself, ALWAYS TRUST SOMEONE WHO LIKES DOGS – which meant I could hold onto my pup for dear life during the interview.

When you’re having to explain to someone what it is about your illness that makes you ‘ill’, it never makes you feel good about yourself. Recounting psychotic episodes, hospital visits, medication, relationship and friendship breakdowns, plus the very visible scars… I kept going blank when she was asking me for details, especially when it came to the BPD episodes themselves. Luckily (for her, anyway) Husband was there to give her the gory details of how he has had to physically restrain me before giving me a diazepam and putting me to bed. I felt so bad for him, especially when I realised through talking to Woman From Capita just how much responsibility he carries in our relationship when I’m not well. I am so grateful for this man.

For the whole meeting, I don’t think I looked at her in the eye much. I still feel a great deal of shame for something I am trying to deal with, and learn to get under control so that there are no repeats of the worst things I did whilst ill. BPD is an ugly illness. She was really nice nonetheless, typing away and asking me all the things she needed to – including the obligatory questions about being able to walk so far, feed myself, go to the toilet unaided etc. As soon as she was done, she gave Lady a fuss and said goodbye before she left.

The anxiety stuck around for a little while. But we had lunch, painted some things together and went out to see our friends at FNM. Sadly my mood dropped before the night was over, so we came home and had an early night.

I just hope that everything goes okay and they don’t take that money from me. It’s definitely not enough to live on, I still have to pay for my prescriptions and rent, but it’s enough to help Husband with bills and the like. It makes me feel a little less on a parasite in our marriage.

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I painted my friend Rachel – had a lot of fun doing so!

I’m still trying to find my feet in the world, especially after leaving my job in October last year. But my art, making art for friends and being commissioned for my art has become a huge part of life recently. I mostly make tokens for Magic: the Gathering, but it’s allowing me to develop my personal skills and most importantly? It keeps me busy. It keeps my mind quiet, something that Wizard Psych has been desperate for me to try and stick with. It’s also boosting my confidence and giving me faith in myself as a person. I’ve always drawn and doodled my whole life, until Dad died and I gave it up. Having art back in my life… it feels good.

(Obligatory self promotion in my own blog – here’s my art Instagram if anyone is interested in that sort of thing!)


On another topic, I’m a shameless Evanescence fan and they’ve recently recorded a song that I loved over a decade ago when I was a different person altogether. I love this version as an adult as I loved the original when I was still a teenager.

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This is when It All Gets A Bit Dark

The skills that I’m learning in therapy have actually started to become easier to ingrain in my everyday life. So much so that I find myself being able to subconsciously deal with situations that would usually be very difficult and troublesome for me. Last week a friend snapped at me in a bad mood – normally, I’d assume that he hated me and that would be very upsetting. That didn’t happen. I didn’t think anything of it until he apologised to me for his reaction.

Wizard Psych is astounded that I’m making so much progress so quickly, and that meant we were ready to move onto the second part of my desired plan for therapy – digging back into the past and seeing what sort of shit I can actually put to rest so I can move on with life. So… we dug. I spoke. I cried. I spoke a lot about Mom. Wizard Psych noted a lot of things I told her about my mom, her behaviour and how she treated me while I was growing up. She pondered about Mom possibly having undiagnosed BPD as opposed to the bipolar disorder she was said to have in the 1980’s. I agreed wholeheartedly – I’ve written in great detail about Mom possibly being borderline at the beginning of my book about my pre- and post-diagnosis life.

Then, she pondered the BPD diagnosis in itself, my diagnosis. Do I have borderline personality disorder, or am I just a victim of significant trauma? I do fit the framework of the disorder, but does that mean I necessarily have the disorder? Wizard Psych said that I am responding to treatment so quickly, and adapting at a rate that she hasn’t seen before in BPD treatment. Of course she says this is positive! This means there is room for recovery. That I may not have this mental life sentence hanging over my head after all.

But… I’m not saying I want to have BPD. Not in the least bit. But the diagnosis has always made so much sense to me and those around me. I’ve had three years before starting therapy to get my head around what the condition is and what it means in the long term – and I had many more years before that of trying to control my symptoms myself. There’s no doubt that the trauma of losing Mom probably turned my unbalanced state of mind right up to 11, but since a very young age all I have known is trauma. In all honesty, we barely scratched the surface in the hour we spoke, and while I’m not a professional I feel that with further digging, Wizard Psych might find that there’s too much there to not point to a more complex diagnosis. Despite what some individuals on Tumblr might have you believe, BPD is a very complex diagnosis. It isn’t just ticking off lists and answering questionnaires, there are plenty of experts in both psychology and psychiatry who still don’t fully understand what BPD is and isn’t.

It’s not going to be fun, regardless. Or simple. I know I’m pretty good at talking about feelings, but not all that good at feeling feelings. It hurts too much. And in all honestly I’m afraid of what might come to the surface once we start looking deeper. But things don’t stay hidden forever, they never do.

Everything is still up in the air, as always. But I’m doing okay. I’ve still got miles to go regardless.

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Weight of a (very distant) world

The past few weeks have been hard. On January 18th I was told on Facebook that a dear friend I’d known online for over a decade had passed away after suffering an aneurysm. We never met in person as Tanya lived in America, but we started talking after meeting on a website back in 2006 – the same website I met my friend the Kiwi on, as well as dozens of other friends – and her friendship meant so much to me. She was always only a message away, and supported me through some very rough times as I left my teens. The fact that she’s gone and I never got to meet her in person… it’s really getting to me at the moment. There are so many friends I’ve made over the years that I’ve not met, what if I never get the chance to meet them at all?

I spent a good amount of time in bed last week, out of exhaustion and sadness. My sleep has gone awry (again) and despite making a lot of positive progress at my last therapy session, I almost feel like a fraud. Wizard Psych was very surprised to see me in our morning appointment though, after it was clear last time that we had hit a wall and I was seemingly ready to run and never look back. I guess it’s simple really – I want to have control over my emotions. I want to be able to feel sad and not be so devastated that I’m bedridden. I want to feel happy but not end up manic and doing a million things at once, eventually exhausting myself for the rest of the week. I don’t know if it’ll ever stop being so intense, but I want to manage it nonetheless. Being crippled by your feelings – not exactly something you can announce without looking like an angsty teenager.

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(FYI, I was an angsty teenager.)

The other thing messing with my head right now? The new US president is a Tango-faced lunatic with his tiny hands far too close to the red button. The last time I felt so hopeless about the state of the world was when the US invaded Iraq and war was started. Of course in recent years, the Tories got back into power here in the UK and the less said about Brexit… the world is a very shit place. And there remains a voice in the back of my head telling me it’s going to get worse, so why wait for the inevitable? I don’t want to still be here when the Doomsday Clock hits midnight… and that is a very real, tangible feeling that I’m dealing with. And it’s not something you can exactly hide from.

(I’m 26 now, I am too old to be an angsty teenager.)


Rest in peace Tanya, my life is better just for ever knowing you.
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