Why Alcohol Doesn’t Go Well With Mental Health Problems

Ketchup goes well with chips. Rhubarb goes well with custard. But do you know what doesn’t go well with mental health problems? Alcohol, and this is a lesson I have learnt fairly recently. 

You see there is something I have been leaving out of my most recent blogs, partly because I didn’t think it was a big deal and partly because I thought it was an issue that would resolve itself fairly quickly, but it turns out that that is not the case. Basically, over the past month I have become dependant on alcohol to get through life with my mental health problems and it is causing a lot of issues. 

It all started five weeks ago on a jolly evening out in a rather sunny April, when I was at a concert by my favourite singer. The concert was brilliant, the music exceptional, but In between each song my favourite singer would pause to talk to the audience and on one of these occasions she stated how much she wanted a drink to help her to relax on stage. Obviously I have known about alcohol before this moment in my life, but as soon as she said about how it would relax her, my anxious brain got all excited and I decided to try drinking myself to see if I could relax too. Cut to today, five weeks later and I have not been able to have a day sober since.

Naturally, I have been trying to stop drinking for multiple reasons. For one thing I know that it is not good to spend your entire life totally off your rocker on vodka, but I can’t help it and it is now that I am realising how silly it was to start drinking in the first place. Obviously I never intended to get addicted to it but come on, we all know I have a rather addictive personality (actually I don’t think I have a personality at all, just a thick blob of addictive in its place) so maybe I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t and now I am left to try and deal with this extra problem on top of all the others and that is why I am writing this blog, to tell people out there with mental health problems that alcohol is not going to be a solution to your issues, rather it will add another issue to the pot. 

It is like making a cake. When you have mental health problems you have all the ingredients of insanity swirling around inside you, anxiety eggs, depressed flour, paranoid sugar and melancholy vanilla extract. Then comes alcohol which you think will wash all of those ingredients away and leave you free of all problems and to be fair, temporarily it does. When I drink alcohol, my anxiety goes way down, I laugh rather than cry and suicidal urges become a thing of the past. For once I am happy, dare I say merry to the point of feeling pure joy. If you could see all the things I have done in the past month you would be shocked at how much I have “achieved” under the spell of alcohol, from touching a door handle to eating out in public and for this reason you may think that alcohol therefore goes well with mental health problems. It takes the pain away so surely it is a great combination? Wrong. Instead, as I have learnt, alcohol only masks the problem by placing a big old blanket on top of all of your mental health ingredients so that you can’t see them, but underneath that blanket things are getting worse. The more you drink the more the mental health problems blend together, the closer they get to the oven and then BOOM! Before you know it you have sobered up and instead of finding your problems gone you find that whilst they were covered up things have got a whole lot worse and you are suddenly left not just with all these nasty ingredients to deal with but a giant three tiered cake covered in icing and cherries, and that is where I am now. 

I think alcohol is very sneaky that way and to be honest I wish I had never started drinking in the first place. It was just so easy to get addicted to it. When you are anxious and depressed all the time and then find a magic potion that takes all that away, why wouldn’t you drink it and then keep going? Even if the relief from your problems is temporary and the potion is actually creating more and more problems, wouldn’t you keep drinking it? Now I am sure some of you out there are reading this and are saying “no Katie, no I wouldn’t” in which case I have to congratulate you for being far more sensible than me! 

Like I said I am trying to give up alcohol right now and I have managed two days sprinkled in amongst the five weeks of drinking, but it is far harder than I ever imagined to go without alcohol, even though I have only been using it as a solution to my problems for five weeks. I don’t think one can become an alcoholic in that time but you can certainly become pretty damn addicted and that is why my team have referred me to alcohol services to try and nip this problem in the bud before it gets any bigger. Alcohol certainly hasn’t solved my problems, it has just added to them and that is why I wanted to write my blog about this today because I fear that other people out there are likely to fall into the same trap as I have, the trap of seeing alcohol as a quick fix to all the nastiness in your head and therefore becoming reliant on it for life, which seems good in the short term but in the long term will only create bigger problems and lead to more addictions and issues than you ever imagined. 

I can’t offer any advice to people like me who have already fallen into this trap, because like I said, I am still in it but what I wanted to do in this blog was to warn about the fact that mental health problems do not go well with alcohol and alcohol is certainly not a solution to your demons, it is instead a new one of them poised and ready to make itself at home with the rest of the insanity family. 

So that is my confession for the week, a jolly one I am sure you will agree! Still, at least in the past five weeks I have learnt something and hopefully in writing this blog maybe I can use that lesson to benefit someone else out there who was maybe on the brink of turning to alcohol but now realises that it is really not a good idea…I can only hope! In the meantime I m going to try and give up alcohol myself before services have to get involved, but considering how hard I have been finding that, who knows how well that is going to go.

Take care everyone x 

NoVodka

Advertisements

A Message To Parents Of People With Mental Health Problems

In life, people like to blame people for things that happen, regardless of whether or not it was the person’s fault. If there is nobody to blame, things that happen are random and don’t make sense, so really we blame people to make the world tidy. When I was younger I lost my banana scented gel pen (it was a tough time in my life but I think I am just about getting over it), and in my head it was incomprehensible that the pen was just lost. I didn’t think at all about the fact its loss was probably the result of many little events, dropping it somewhere, someone spotting it and tidying it away, a gust of wind blowing it off a table under a chair, that was too much to think about, so instead who did I blame? My cuddly monkey, a culprit who made a lot more sense than some complex chain of events I couldn’t figure out. It was the perfect story, my cuddly monkey was clearly having jungle withdrawal symptoms living with me in Bristol, in my eyes he had heard the call of the wild and hankered after the scent of his favourite food in his homeland. I assumed he must not like the invisible bananas and cups of tea I provided (let it be known I did pretend to feed him and in my eyes this thievery was not an act of desperation out of hunger, I am not a monster who starves cuddly monkeys thank you very much), and that the taking of my pen was for nostalgic scent purposes. Obviously, my monkey did not really steal my banana pen (I am 99% sure he didn’t anyway…), and it was silly to jump to that conclusion before the idea that the pen was just lost, but like I said, people like to blame people to make the world simple. 

Unfortunately, this desire to blame often happens when someone gets diagnosed with mental health problems. After the initial surprise has worn off and people have time to really think, they always look for someone to blame. They start wondering why someone is ill, what could have caused it, and often, especially in young adults or children, the conclusion will be that it must have been something to do with the parents. Even professionals say it sometimes. My mum used to work in a school and one day a nurse came in to talk about how to spot eating disorders in pupils. One of the possible causes for eating disorders listed in her presentation was “Troubled upbringing/home life”, which naturally upset my mum and had her worrying more than usual that the past decade of madness in our household has been because she failed as a parent. To her and to all parents I therefore want to say this:

If your child has been diagnosed with mental health problems, that does not mean that it is all your fault or that you have done anything wrong. 

Your child does not have anorexia simply because you tried a lot of different diets when they were growing up. Your child does not have OCD rituals around washing because you insisted they washed their hands before meals. Your child is not depressed because you didn’t hug them enough and they don’t cut their bodies just because you didn’t give lessons in self acceptance over breakfast. Maybe you did all of those things, maybe you did none of them, but either way they are not the reason your child is ill. Many people with eating disorders grew up in houses that promoted a healthy relationship with food just as many people without eating disorders grew up in houses with parents who ran weight loss classes at the local leisure centre. The complexities of mental health problems are not as simple as A causes B, they are often frighteningly random, they don’t make sense enough to have someone to blame at all, and sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. 

Like all illnesses, mental health problems do not discriminate. Depression doesn’t go door to door and interview the parents to see how well they have brought their child up before it attacks. If depression is going to happen, it will just charge in and make itself known, it will not peer through a window, notice that you have a lovely home with a matching three piece suite and freshly plumped cushions and walk away to find someone whose mum didn’t cut the crust off their sandwiches. 

Now I will admit, upbringing can have an impact on a child’s development and mental health, if you locked your child in a basement and beat them with a wet slipper every morning, that may have played a part in their low self esteem, but generally things are not that clear cut and the reasons are so numerous and so bound up in random life nonsense anyway that you can never pin point a cause. You can list a thousand reasons why I have mental health problems, a history of mental illness in the family, certain events, loss of loved ones, broken hearts, a desire to control a world whose unpredictability frightened me, being the geek with glasses, you can say anything and even then you could not grasp the reason why, because all of those potential influences are glued together with a million invisible things that nobody will ever know or understand. It is rare that an illness can be pinned down to one thing, just as you can’t entirely blame a cancer on the fact someone smokes, when it comes to any illness, it is too complicated to be anyone’s fault. If someone watches a man on a bus stop raise his arm and stop the bus they could conclude that the stopping of the bus was caused by the arm lifting into the air. Okay it may look like that on the surface and make sense as a neat tidy story, but it takes no account whatsoever of all the other knots in that chain of events stopping the bus. For example the driver had his eyes open to see the arm, his brain recognising it as a symbol for “stop” (and hopefully not “Heil Hitler”), someone else having already pressed the button, a foot had to go on the brakes and various cogs and things in the mechanics of the bus played a part too. Blaming someone for causing a mental health problem is like blaming that man for stopping the bus without thinking of all the other things that come into play. 

If you are a parent and your offspring has mental health problems, I beg you, please do not blame yourself and assume you must have done a bad job in raising the baby you dreamed would grow up to have a perfect life, that is unlike the one you see in reality. In life, shit just happens and there is very little you can do about it. Your role as a parent is not to stop the bad things from happening, to wrap them in cotton wool so that the monsters don’t get in. Monsters do not give two hoots about cotton wool. Don’t blame yourself for things that were not your fault and that you cannot change (for even if you could blame someone, talking about whose fault something is will never resolve the situation), instead do what you can with what you have. Love and support your child even when those monsters get in and help them fight those assholes until they flee the house rather than checking the locks and wondering how the hell they got in in the first place. Nobody can raise someone to not have mental health problems and that is  not a necessary requirement of a parent. Mental illnesses suck, but nobody can stop them, your only job is to offer love and support regardless of what is going on. That is what a good parent is, so relax, if you are doing that, then you are doing everything. 

Take care everyone x

Parents

Anorexia And The Fear Of Being A Healthy Weight

When people hear that I have anorexia and am scared of gaining weight or scared to maintain a healthy weight, they always assume that this is because I am scared of getting (or eventually being), “fat”. In actual fact, this is not because I fear getting or being thought of as fat or large at all, and funnily enough being fat is probably one of the things I worry about the least when it comes to anorexia. 

The majority of my friends are a healthy weight, (by which I mean a healthy BMI which is of course not a foolproof way to measure anyone’s health due to all the many variables at play, but for now it is the best we have). Some of them have always been a healthy weight and have never had an eating disorder, but there are others I have met in treatment during times in which they were very underweight, that have since regained to a healthy place in their quest for recovery. Sometimes I was in hospital with them for the entire weight restoration process, but never at any point did I ever look at them gaining back the weight they never should have lost and think that they are “fat” once their BMI has returned to a healthy range. On the contrary, without exception, I always think people look more beautiful and fabulous than ever before when they have gained the weight. It is like seeing a shrivelled up flower come back to life again and bloom brightly coloured petals all over the place, and in seeing this surely I shouldn’t fear being a healthy weight myself? After all, who would want to look like a shrivelled up flower when you could look like a fresh one at the peak of its colour? I know I certainly don’t, so why do I fear being a healthy weight? 

When it comes down to it, it is all to do with the way I feel on the inside and the way in which people perceive me. Inside, I feel broken, scared, weak, sad and very much shrivelled in every sense of the word. When I am underweight people treat me as if they know all of these things. They don’t ask me what I am doing with my life or how I am because they know I am too unwell to be doing anything in life, which saves me having to tell them these things and acknowledge the catastrophe that is my current situation myself. When I am healthy however, they assume that my mind is naturally in the same corresponding state, and when that isn’t the case, it can be incredibly frustrating, confusing and dysphoric. 

To explain it in another way, I would like you to imagine that I am a penguin (and if you know me well enough that will not be too much of a stretch. Literally all you need to do is add a beak and the ability to eat raw fish, I mastered waddling before I could talk.) 

Inside I know I am a penguin, and I feel like a penguin. I know that I like sliding across sheets of ice on my tummy, I know that I can swim faster than an olympic athlete, I know I can catch fish with ease, I have fully accepted the fact that no matter how hard I flap I will never be able to fly and I know that in terms of career, my goals are to waddle around various agencies to pursue my dream of becoming an extra in the children television show “Pingu” or to model on the front of the wrapper of a chocolate biscuit that is named after me. When I am underweight, everyone else around me can see that I am a penguin. Fellow penguins nod to me in the street to acknowledge our solidarity in species, when I go to a pub the bar keeper knows I will want ice in my drink without me having to ask and friends compliment me on the elegance of my waddle and ask how I achieve such shine on my beak. If they hear about an audition for an actor to play Pingu’s second cousin twice removed, they call me right away and offer to give me a lift, but when I am a healthy weight, they see that audition sheet and don’t even think of me. 

When I am a healthy weight, nobody can see that I am a penguin, instead, they see a meerkat and treat me accordingly. When I nod at my fellow penguins knowing that I am one of them they look at each other aghast as to what this fluffy stranger is trying to say. People keep putting me in sand pits so that I will feel more at home, they buy me air conditioning systems to install in my desert home because they know how hot it is in my country of origin, I am offered jackal repellent to help me avoid predators and passers by ask me for help comparing different offers they have received on their car insurance. Nobody is unpleasant or horrible, but still I hate it and want to scream at them because inside I know that I am a penguin. Jackals don’t hunt me in the arctic! I hate sand because it gets stuck in my flippers, I am cold enough as it is without air conditioning units in my igloo and I know nothing about car insurance! When I am a healthy weight there is such a disconnect between the meerkat people see and talk to on the outside and the broken, cold little penguin on the inside that it almost feels like being two different people or that people can’t really see me at all. I feel I have to try and act like a meerkat to live up to their expectations yet I don’t know how. When I am underweight, people see the penguin I know and feel that I am, I don’t have to pretend, I am instantly understood and treated as the waddling little creature I am. 

That is why I fear being a healthy weight, and from what I gather from friends with eating disorders that is also why they fear it too. It is nothing about fearing being fat or looking unattractive, it is fearing being seen and treated as something or someone that is totally different to the person you know you are in your heart, it is fearing being put in a sand pit that burns your flippers rather than being taken ice skating for a pleasant afternoon of sliding on your tummy. 

I realise this whole thing is a really difficult thing to understand (and as you can probably tell, a difficult thing to explain what with all this talk about penguins and meerkats), but I hope I have helped it make some sense. I have anorexia, but I am not scared of being fat, I am scared of people thinking that I am “ok” when inside I feel anything but. 

Take care everyone x 

Meerkat

Suicide And Shame

Cabbages, sprouts, kale, broccoli, cauliflower. 

Apologies for that rather random start to a blog post, but to be perfectly honest I had no idea how to start this entry after last week’s post and after a suicide attempt it is so difficult to find the words to comprehend the world, that it seemed as fitting a way as any to start this blog by listing my top five favourite members of the Brassica oleracea plant species. 

So yeah…Hi everyone, I am back and I must say a little at a loss as to what to say. First off though I really must take this opportunity to thank you all for your support after last week’s post because I really was very worried about posting it and you were all so kind and lovely about it that it made me feel all of the warm fuzzy feelings inside (as warm as fresh bread out of the oven and as fuzzy as one of those little dogs that looks like a ball of fluff with legs, to be specific.)

Secondly, I guess I should address the elephant in the room (no not that trunked creature in the corner, Frank, he does not deserve to be addressed. He has been very badly behaved stealing cookies this morning…that is why I put him in the corner), aka the fact that last week I attempted suicide. Now I am not going to go into the details of how it happened because I do not think that is helpful and the last thing I would want to do is trigger anyone, but what I wanted to write about was the feelings that came after the attempt because all in all this experience has taught me some very interesting lessons that I think might be of use to some other people out there. 

You see, something that surprised me after this whole incident occurred is the level of shame that I felt after this whole suicide extravaganza. When I woke up in hospital and realised that all of my efforts had been in vain I felt terrible, not just physically, but mentally in terms of what I had put my family through and that is something that I doubt many people expect to feel. When you are all caught up in the moment of a suicide attempt, you cannot think about anything else. There is no logic, no rational thought, all you can think about is the big black hole swallowing you up, the level of intense pain and the desperate need to make it stop. As selfish as it may sound, you cannot think about family or friends, not because you do not care about or love them more than anything in the world, but because the pain is so loud that it drowns thoughts of anything and anyone else out. It gets to the point where the black hole is so dark that you wouldn’t notice whether or not someone turned the lights out in the room you were in because everything is already pitch black and you cannot see your hand in front of your face. The world is a blur, colours turn greyer than they are in the first ten minutes of the Wizard of Oz and sound or voices in the real world become the incoherent bumbling of voices underwater. When you wake up however and it hits you as to what has happened and you see the faces of your family there and hear their worried voices clearly for the first time, that is when the shame kicks in, and that shame only got worse as I heard the phone calls and read the texts of worried family members trying to reach out to me and my parents. It is that shame  that I wanted to raise awareness of in this post initially, because I wanted to warn anyone else who is suicidal out there of how much people care about you even when you don’t believe it possible and don’t care about yourself. 

Then again, at the same time, whilst I want to rase awareness of the shame that comes after one attempts to take one’s own life, I want to remind anyone out there that suicide attempts are in essence nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t get me wrong, they are nothing to be proud of either which is one reason as to why I nearly didn’t write about this event on my blog, but after reading your comments I have learnt that the shame that comes with suicide, though real, is not justified. That isn’t to say you can’t feel ashamed, for who am I to tell people what they should or should not feel (as if that would make a difference to those feelings that tend to creep up on you unannounced anyway). Still, feeling ashamed about a suicide attempt is very much like a person with kidney stones feeling ashamed that they have little pebbles lodged in one of their vital organs. Suicide attempts are, like physical health problems, a sign of illness and I truly believe that nobody who seriously attempts suicide ever does it by choice, rather they do it because they are driven to it through that level of pain they feel, just as a mother in labour may beg for pain relief and slap her partner across the head without really meaning it. 

Suicide is not a choice, it is a consequence of severe mental pain and it is being reminded of that by all your lovely comments last week that I wanted to spread the message of today to other people who may be out there suffering with the shame of suicide. If this is you, please know that I am so sincerely sorry that you are hurting and I do not condone your actions in any way, but I want you to know that if you’re struggling with the shame of what you have done, it is no way unusual, neither were these actions your fault. Instead they were the actions of a mental illness that is driving you crazy and in these circumstances rather than shame, the key thing is to reach out and ask for help and support to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. I will admit, getting that help and support is a struggle (as someone who has been desperately asking for help from people for months, trust me, I know getting the help you need is no easy task) but it is that which you must do. Suicide may not be a choice but seeking help when you are struggling often is and if there is one message I want to get across in this post it is that if you are ashamed after a suicide attempt, please give yourself a break but more importantly seek help. 

Other than that, today I can honestly say I do not know what words of comfort I can offer to you all but I wanted to thank you from the  bottom of my heart for the words of comfort you have given to me. My dear readers, you really are so important to me and, as it turns out, vital to my survival in this game of mental health. Hopefully next week I will manage to talk about something a little more jolly or at least a little less depressing. In the meantime…

Take care everyone x 

Elephant