Depression: I have been suffering with depression on and off probably since I was 13, but it wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17. I first started taking anti-depressants when I was 17, and this was the only thing I mentioned to my doctor (that I was feeling a bit down!) at that point. Since 2002 (when I first took anti-depressants) I have taken them on and off, and tried various different kinds.
Self-harm: I started self-harming around 15 or 16. It sounds crazy, but I honestly cannot remember exactly when. I can remember silly details, like where I did it and with what, but no more. Therefore I have been self-harming for about 6 or 7 years. In this time I have mainly cut myself, but have also on occasions burnt myself, hit myself, broken bones, chewed all the skin away from the inside of my mouth, chewed the skin off my knuckles and overdosed on medicines (not to kill me, just as an extension of the self-harm).
Trichotillomania: Or Compulsive Hair Pulling. I did this for years without even realising that I had a problem with it. Then I was hospitalised (as I’ll detail below) and I realised that it wasn’t normal and that I do pull my hair out to an amazing degree. I mainly pull out my head hair, eyebrows, stray hairs on my face/arms, hairs on my legs (usually the short stubbly ones after I’ve shaved) and hairs on my stomach. I have also been diagnosed with dermatotillomania (compulsive skin picking). However, neither of these diagnoses are related to Body Dysmorphic Syndrome, in my case.
Bulimia: Food and I have had a complex relationship for as long as I can remember so I don’t exactly remember when I started having issues. I know that when I was around 16 I starting making myself sick after meals, but I didn’t binge on food so I didn’t (naively) think I had a problem. Then when I went to university (the first time round) I was determined to lose lots of weight so stopped eating. Then I ended up in hospital and the nurses caught me throwing food away, so they watched me eat and eventually figured out that I had a problem. If they hadn’t noticed it then I don’t think I ever would have mentioned it as I find it the hardest to admit to. These days I do binge and purge, though I try not to as often and the urge takes me. I apparently, have more of a non-purgative type of bulimia than I thought I had, i.e. I tend to binge and fast, or binge and exercise excessively.
Borderline Personality Disorder: I have had various medical viewpoints on this dating from 2004. Some say that it is my main diagnosis, some say that I only show borderline traits. However, I do self-harm, I do have mood swings, I can be self-destructive and I don’t like myself. But then again look at all the things I have written above and wonder if I am going to be the epitomy of self-confidence? BPD has been a barrier to me getting help in the past as a lot of mental health professionals will not work with people who show signs of personality disorders.
Anxiety: Has never been a full diagnosis of mine but I have suffered panic attacks and thought I was dying. I have not been able to use public transport, or sit in a doctor’s waiting room or amongst people in a pub for feeling anxious. Luckily it only surfaces every so often.
Paranoia: Again, this is mainly a side trait of mine that tends to appear when I am very stressed and depressed. I start to think people are following me, listening into my phone calls, talking about me, obsessing over where I go and what I do. I haven’t ever really mentioned it to anyone as 9 times out of 10 I can rationalise it and it no longer is a problem.
Bipolar Affective Disorder (Type 2): This diagnosis arrived and then disappeared as fast to make way for the BPD diagnosis. I was put on lamotrigine (a mood stabiliser) when the doctors thought I was bipolar, and then kept on them when it transpired that they thought it was more likely I had BPD. The drug worked, a lot, leading people to suspect I have what is written in my notes as “periods of bipolarity to her moods which did respond to lamotrigine however, was not serious enough to classfy as Bipolar Disorder as more likely to be put down to Borderline Personality Disorder, given her tendencies towards self-harm”.
OTC medicines/painkiller dependency: I diagnosed myself with this one and is largely covered by the ‘Who Am I?’ page.
My hospital admission:
I was admitted to a psychiatric unit in early 2004 after admitting to my parents that I was depressed and self-harming and having ended up in A&E because of my self-harm. I was in my first year of university at the time and things spiralled out of control, culminating in me being picked up by the police for walking around in my pyjamas in the snow, with blood dripping down my arms and a ropeburn round my neck from where I had tried to hang myself. They took me to A&E and I was admitted to hospital, voluntarily, for 4 weeks. It was a tough 4 weeks but also a turning point. I finally admitted a lot of things to myself and other people and began to get the help I needed. It was from being in hospital that I was referred to a psychologist and began to work through my issues. I also found though that once you have been in a mental hospital, people in the medical professions take you to be much more of a risk if you present in crisis than if your had always received your care as an out-patient.
It wasn’t a nice experience, but my psychiatrist was lovely, as were the majority of the nurses and they helped me through the time. It also brought my Mum and I closer together as before I was admitted she was scared of being around me for fear of upsetting me, or for what I might do to myself, so it strengthened that relationship. Luckily the university were great about it and let me go straight into my second year (which I eventually did twice anyway due to an ankle injury) and after that I continued with all the crap going on around me but mainly kept it to myself.
My second admission to a psych unit was in November 2007. I freaked out, ran away to the city where I was at uni for my under-grad degree and then came back to London. I was admitted voluntarily and on the whole it wasn’t a bad experience.
The third was in February 2008. I was sectioned, initially for 72 hours after being found in a hotel bathroom where the bath was overflowing and I was sitting in it with my wrists slashed open and having take a hell of a lot of tablets. It ws my third suicide attempt in 5 days after something really horrible happened. However, on the Monday (the day before I was to be discharged) I ran away from the unit and sat at the station sobbing on the phone to my boyfriend, who persuaded me to return. On my return the 72 hour section was changed to a 28 day section for my safety. I absconded again a few weeks later and went to stay with my brother, who lives in deepest darkest Kent, which to say I was in hospital in Newcastle was quite an achievement. I got escorted back up to the unit and sat, quite patiently waiting for my discharge.
The fourth was about a week after I was discharged from the 28 day section. I went very hypomanic, possibly even bordering on manic, and did some really crazy things. When I admitted this to my psychologist she suggested I needed to go into hospital and said she would speak to my psychiatrist, who agreed with her. I was in for a few days so they could ge my meds stable and get the hypomania under control.
My fifth was in July 2008. I was picked up by the police after being spotted by passing motorists standing on a bridge over a dual-carriageway in the pouring rain. When they picked me up I was actually on the hard shoulder and was contemplating throwing myself under a car. I was taken to A&E and kept in overnight as I was hypothermic and then admitted voluntarily to a psych unit. This then changed to being sectioned after I attempted suicide on the ward by tying a damp dish-cloth around my neck before going to sleep. I was found by a healthcare assistant and promptly ended up on a medical ward before being moved to a different unit nearer my parents.