Tag Archives: Depression

What low self esteem is really like

Lots of people have low self esteem, it’s a modern epidemic. I have chronically low self esteem, it’s a really bitchy bullying voice who loves to put me down at every given opportunity. If I’m generally up and happy, feeling safe and secure I am usually able to shut the voice up, or at least turn down the volume. But if I’m feeling edgy and vulnerable, a little bit low and anxious, the voice roars at me. I know lots of other people feel that way too.

How does it feel to have low self esteem? Or how does it feel for me with low self esteem? Everyone is different but there will be common threads.

I feel unworthy, worthless. Like a waste of space and a waste of a life. I speak at times with a little voice because my voice isn’t worth being heard, especially not by the vastly superior human who has spoken to me.

When a close friend doesn’t invite me out, or keeps secrets from me, it’s because I am nothing and worth nothing and they are simply tolerating my friendship because they have better friends, friends who are funnier, better company, more intelligent, attractive and they just hands down prefer them to me.

If I work hard on a project but the recognition for my hard work goes to someone else, this makes me feel like my work isn’t worth being recognised and that everything I do is pointless. I am diligent, I work hard and I work long hours, I don’t earn very much despite my long hours, but I usually love my work. It’s nice occasionally to get a pat on the back.

I look in the mirror and all I see are faults. I hate myself and everything about me. Comments and suggestions made by other people in an effort to encourage me just make me feel even more horrid. My Dad asking how my diet is going when he sees me eating something, anything, doesn’t matter if it’s lettuce or dust it just makes me feel like crap. My husband (who means well) complimenting me on my hair colour by saying he likes how it looks patchy and not all the same colour. Patchy should never be used as a compliment.

I hide behind a scruffy, shambolic image because it’s easier to be like this and not compete with the beautiful people. The people with the good jobs and the perfect hair, the people who are better than me. All the people.

And this. Writing this whiny little post about how pathetic I am makes me feel pretty shoddy too. But someone once said that writing was therapy. Low self esteem sucks big time. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, to feel so low and worthless at times that escaping this life seems the only option. But it’s not an option, I need to break the cycle because it’s not fair on me and it’s really not fair on my son.

low self esteem

Mental Health: My post-therapy panic attack

Today has been a very bad day. Regular readers will know I’m currently having an intensive series of therapy sessions to deal with my anxiety and depression. My session today did not go well.

My therapist has identified that I have a very critical inner voice who tells me what I am worthless, that I am nothing, that I am ugly and that I am unlovable. (To clarify, I’m not “hearing voices”, it is my inner dialogue, something we all have, the little person inside us who narrates our life). I believe all the awful, bullying things this voice is saying to me. It tells me the truth that others are too afraid to say, or says the things people are thinking before they say it to my face. In short, I am horrid.

Today therapy was rough. The therapy session itself went well. We explored a few things, noted I was making some progress in some areas, chatted about this voice who says hateful things. I left feeling ok. Then somewhere on the way home I started crying, then I started having a panic attack. My mind ran at 300mph, I couldn’t do anything to help myself or stop myself. I was in the middle of the street 15 minutes from home and I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were streaming with tears and my nose was running, I must’ve looked an absolute sight.

I stood swaying on the pavement, not knowing what to do or where to turn, I glanced up and a blue car was driving up the road, without thinking I stepped towards the road and into its path. I just wanted it all to stop and the only thing I could think of was the peace of death. At the last second I stepped back off the pavement and clung to a lamppost. I have no idea how I got home.

By the time I got home from therapy I had calmed down a bit. The panic was going, but that was replaced with tears. I sobbed bitterly, painfully for two hours. A couple of friends chatted to me online and helped me calm down. Today has shaken me, really shaken me, I’ve not felt this bad in 18 months. I’m frightened that I’m going to slide back down that snake again after spending so long climbing the ladders. What I want to do is curl up and sleep and cry. What I have to do is work and look after my family.

It’s been so long since my last panic attack, it’s scary how they completely take over you and how they leave you feeling drained and worthless. This afternoon my friend reminded me to breathe, how stupid is it to have to be told to breathe? She was right though. Breathe. Keep breathing.

Mental Health: My post therapy panic attack

Read more of my mental health posts here.

I will write hard and clear about what hurts

Sometimes I sit at this laptop and write words, sentences, paragraphs, essays about my pain. My physical pain less so, but my emotional, mental pain is often eased by writing those words down so that someone, anyone will read them and hear me and understand my pain and suffering.

I feel very selfish writing that about MY pain and MY suffering, but my mental health makes me selfish in that respect. I am in almost every other aspect of my life selfless, but my illness makes me selfish for wanting to be heard.

When I write about MY pain I am writing MY story. Everyone has a story, ten people trapped in a room together will share a story, commonalities, but their individual accounts will differ. It doesn’t mean that the other nine people are wrong and I am right. This is MY truth. Their version is their truth and I’m fine with that.

When I sit at my laptop, sometimes choking on my tears, or chewing my lip raw with anxiety, I tell my story, I spew out my pain, my shame, my demons onto the screen knowing that someone somewhere will relate and they will often reach out, and together, even for a few minutes we know we are not alone feeling these feelings and thinking those thoughts.

I have no doubt that since writing this blog nearly two years ago I have scared some old friends off, I’m too candid for them or they are scared of my darkness. Equally I know for a fact that I have made far more friends for being open and being me than I have lost.

Sometimes what I write can be raw and emotional, or too near the knuckle for some, but that’s how it is inside me, in fact some of my writing only hints at the darkness inside because I am mindful of who may read this now and in the future and that my words are a record, but a record of MY truth alone.

I will continue to write as Hemmingway suggested, I will “write hard and clear about what hurts” because I will not be ashamed of what I feel, I will not hide away in the shadows because my mental illness is somehow shameful to others. I speak for me and I will not be forced to be ashamed of myself. I have enough demons of my own to slay without being stigmatised by others.

Do not start with me, you will not win.

write hard and clear about what hurts

Mental Health: Man hands on misery to man

I’m not great right now and I’m blaming therapy. I’ve been merrily plodding on for months and months now. I’ve had the odd bad day dragging me down but not for long. My strategy of locking all my demons away has been working terrifically, so as long as I don’t actually think about anything other than the things I’m doing that day I’m ok. Sometimes the misery can overwhelm me though.

Then last week I started therapy. After some mental health assessments I’ve been prescribed some CBT and some intensive counselling which is great news, but it does mean I have to put my misery and my demons in their best party dresses and take them out for a spin every week for the next three months.

My therapy will focus on sorting out my self esteem (minuscule) and getting my critical voice to be a bit nicer to me. Fine. But what that means is I’m now looking at WHY my self esteem is so tiny and WHY my critical voice is such a massive bitch and why I’m such a misery. I know the reasons why and it really really hurts to delve back there and pick at those open wounds.

If you want a clue as to why I’m a messy mess of messy issues. A pretty good starting point can be found in Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This Be The Verse. I had a perfectly nice, normal, average childhood. Regrettably I wasn’t a high achiever so it was devoid of praise, with fairly critical parents, compounded by my abject failure to match up to my high achieving younger sibling.

I love my parents and I know they love me, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a disappointment, a failure on all fronts. Even now their every interaction with me is peppered with criticism, or perceived criticism about me. How I look, how I act, how I dress. They criticise my husband and child; my life, everything really. Occasionally they tell me they’re pleased or proud of something and it’s so rare I figure they must be lying or have made a mistake. I do love them though, but I’m determined not to be like that with the small boy.

I know the first few weeks of therapy will be the hardest. Opening up to someone and showing them the darkness within. Talking about the things that hurt the most without having the strategies I need to cope with this new avalanche of pain will knock me for six. I’m really, really upset I’m feeling this way again and I’m frightened that it’ll drag me down again. That it’ll pull me under and overwhelm me and I just can’t go back there. Part of me wants to slam the door shut and run far away from it all. Part of me, most of me knows this is all for the best, in the long term at least.

So please bear with me, I’m struggling right now. I hurt a lot and I’m really, really hating on myself, but you know this isn’t really me. I’m not really like this. I’m just frightened of being swept away on the tide and never finding my way back again.

Man hands on misery to man

Read more of my mental health posts here.

Forgiveness – I need to find a way to forgive myself

Yesterday I was for no apparent reason having a bad day. I woke up feeling teary and couldn’t shake the grim feeling of my own inadequacy as a human being. I made breakfast but put it uneaten in the bin and just cracked on with some work for the morning, trying to focus on other tasks thinking that would help, it did for a bit but the gloom overtook me and I needed to get out for some air.

I went for a walk to one of the local parks. My friend has a cafe there so I went to drink coffee and try and shake my dark mood. That worked for a while and he made me laugh which was great, but as I walked home the gloom returned and I started crying. I got home and curled up in bed for half an hour, the blackness had taken hold now and a truly felt dead inside. I indulged myself for a bit, sometimes if I let it take hold it passes naturally, but yesterday it didn’t.

The boys came home so I threw a smile on my face even though tears were running down my cheeks, fooling no one. The boys gave me cuddles but knew I needed some space for a while so they left me to ruminate. I chatted online to a couple of friends, friends who I go to when I have a dark day. They spoke sense and helped a lot. One of them said to me “You might feel crap today but it’ll feel better as soon as you forgive yourself. xx”

Forgive myself. Forgive myself? What do I need to forgive myself for?

This morning I’ve started a new round of therapy. The therapist was talking about how my critical voice bullies me. She’s right of course, the voice which tells me how ugly and terrible I am and all the other awful things it says is just me bullying me. If anyone spoke to someone I love the way my critical voice talks to me I’d struggle not to slap them silly. So why do I let me talk to me like that? I guess the next few weeks of therapy will tell me.

Walking home my mind wandered back to my friend saying I needed to forgive myself. It’s just him saying I need to be nicer to me, to stop the bullying and the guilt for everything, for every sin I have committed, real and imagined. I’m no angel but I am a good person, full of love and good humour, I try to do no harm.

I’ve always blamed myself for everything, I have massive amounts of guilt hanging over me from my childhood, guilt about not being the person my parents wanted me to be, for failing to be the kind of successful they would approve of, failing to have more than one child, failing to be the daughter they wanted, failing to please them, just failing.

My failure, my consistent failure to live up to other people’s expectations leaves me with a weight of guilt to carry with me. And he’s right. I do need to forgive myself. I’m not sure how, but I do.

Forgiveness

Mental Health Update: Opening up old wounds

After languishing for an epic 19 months on the psychological services waiting list, my day finally arrived. I was called up for an appointment with a psychiatric nurse who was going to assess me, I’d still have to wait months and months to receive any treatment, but it was a very slow step in hopefully the right direction.

With anxiety being my middle name, I sat in the waiting room struggling to breathe, tears pricking my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I struggled to stay calm, or calm enough to articulate myself properly. I just wanted to make myself heard and after 19 months I felt I needed to be heard.

Over those 19 months I’d been left to cope on my own, leaning on a select bunch of close friends for support when I needed it, retreating into myself when I had to, and trying to manage my behaviour and change the way I coped with things to make them less harmful and more positive.

I have struggled to curtail my go to solution, which was to drink copious amounts of alcohol, I’ve started to try and eat better and take some exercise when I felt able to, I’ve largely stopped self harming, and when I feel myself dropping down into depression, or swirling into anxiety, I’ve reached out to friends to help centre me. These are all quite positive steps. Steps I’ve learned to take myself having had no support from my GP or local mental health services during that time.

It’s not all been good though. In order to cope on a daily basis I’ve returned to old habits, swallowing down my feelings, burying them away so I can’t think about them and I can’t acknowledge them. I had no outlet for them, no one qualified to help me deal with them, process them, accept them and move on. So they have been locked away, with a few extra shards of pain added over the years for good measure.

My appointment was the first part of a two session long psychiatric assessment process. The nurse (who was lovely) had a big file of paperwork to go though, but allowed me to talk at my own pace about what my problems were, asking some questions and wanting more detail on certain points.

I had a big snotty cry for a good hour, which was basically the whole of my psychiatric assessment. Thoughts and feelings which I’d locked away and kept hidden from myself for so long were suddenly naked and exposed to the light, highlighting my shame and self hatred. Today I touched on pain I’d not acknowledged, or allowed myself to acknowledge for years.

I know I need to open myself and my problems up to the light, but it is so incredibly painful and I wonder if some of it will do more harm than good. I’m writing this 12 hours after my appointment, I feel drained and a bit confused. When I got home I hastily shoved everything back in the box and buried it all deep down again, I just can’t let it escape, not yet, not without someone there to catch me.

I’ve got the second part of my psychiatric assessment next week, I’ll open that box again and I’ll cry my little heart out. I know it will be months and months before I can access some help. But until then I’ll carry on as I have been doing, because despite everything I’m actually doing ok.

psychiatric assessment

Prioritising Me

I’ve been pretty good lately, my mood has been stable, there have even been moments of actual joy, happiness and hope. I know, get me! I feel more in love with my family every day and they bring me so much happiness and light, but with light there is always dark.

Today my anxiety peaked. It’s been a really busy month so far with Christmas preparations, doing my usual freelance work, blogging (Blogmas anyone?) and I’ve got a part time job in a small, independent and extra lovely toy shop. The downside of all this busyness is I’m not getting much time for me, my head needs a bit of breathing space sometimes, I need quiet, I need time just to recharge and refresh myself, this hasn’t been happening.

December has been full of lovely things to do as a family and as well as numerous nice trips out I’m busy literally every evening. My days are full, my nights are too and I’m dying for a few hours to myself where I’m not working or prepping something or getting ready to go out. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for being busy, I’m not.

My anxiety kicked off today at a really stupid moment. Sat in a room full of bloggers, some of whom I know pretty well, the low level anxiety I had that morning suddenly ramped up and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t speak, move or make eye contact with anyone, so I picked up my phone and made myself look really busy. I wasn’t, but it was better than sitting there staring into space hoping the chair would swallow me up,

It worked temporarily and then I was given a craft task, so I got on with that, focussed on the small details I needed to complete what I was doing. Folding, cutting, sticking, curling, sewing, all of that, it pulled me out of myself a bit, gave me a focus and all was ok.

Session over, I got the bus home. The anxiety started tightening in my chest again, a voice in my head telling me I’m bad, useless, a terrible, really terrible person, I’m not, I just need the world to shut the hell up for a bit. So I turned my personal Twitter off my phone and I won’t switch it back on until I can breathe again.

I love Twitter, it’s often been my lifeline, but now, tonight, tomorrow probably I need a break. The social noise needs to stop and I need to look after myself, nip this in the bud, it can be done, I know it can. I can’t stop the busyness, but I can turn off some of the social noise for a while and I can snatch moments of quiet here and there. Most importantly I can be kind to myself, something usually way down on my list of priorities.

So I’m sorry friends if I let you down this week, I will try my best to be everything you normally expect of me, and be the places you want me to be. But right now I’m prioritising my mental health, because I absolutely refuse to ruin another Christmas for my family. I hope you’ll understand. It’s not you. It’s me. Sorry.

How I Minimised My Cigarette Burn Scars

When I’ve struggled with my mental health, I’ve self harmed. I’ve burnt myself with cigarettes and I have the scars to prove it. Read on to find out how I Minimised my Cigarette Burn Scars.

During the depths of my depression last year I self harmed. I’ve always found ways to hurt myself, but these were probably my first acts of visible violence against myself. I’m not proud of my actions, but I’m not ashamed of my scars either, they tell a story about me.

When you have a blog you can see what search terms people use to find it, most days someone somewhere taps “cigarette burn scars” into Google and lands up on my blog. Hi there if that’s you, welcome, you’re not alone. I’ve burnt and cut myself, the scars will never disappear, but they have faded. I suspect that’s what you want to know.

I burnt myself and am I scarred forever? Yes, probably, but do read on.

It depends entirely on how you burnt yourself in the first place. I used to rest a lit cigarette on my arm until it bubbled up. Thankfully I never ground it into my flesh. I guess if you’ve done that your scars will be worse.

My scars (pictured below) are about a year old now. I can still see them, I know what they are, I know what they represent. I have very mixed feelings about them. It’s worse for me in the summer when I’m wearing t-shirts and my scars are always on display. They’re less obvious now, they probably look a bit like blemishes. Winter and long sleeves are easier, the reminders of my struggles with depression and anxiety are less evident.

Cigarette burn scars

Like me, if you’ve burnt yourself with a cigarette then it can take up to two years for the scar to fade as much as it ever will. If you’ve just burnt yourself then it’s advisable to treat it immediately as you would with any burn; which is apply ice or run under cold water for at least 15 minutes. If it looks bad or infected then please see a Doctor.

Once you’ve burnt yourself there are a few things you can do to help the healing process. What you use depends on your skin type. Some products will work better than others for you. Vitamin E oils and capsules applied to the scar regularly can help reduce the scarring. Bio Oil can help too and Aloe Vera is renowned for its healing properties. If the scarring is bad then microdermabrasion could be an option, but you’ll probably have to pay for that yourself.

I doubt my scars will fade any more than they have done, so I need to learn to live with them, they’ll serve as a reminder to me of how far I’ve come. Your scars are your own. Like me you might have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. Remember they do tell the story of you; of your pain and how you’ve survived and continue to survive.

Note: I am not a doctor. This does not constitute medical advice. This is just my experience of having and trying to minimise cigarette burn scars.

 

How I Minimised My Cigarette Burn Scars

Joy the store – bipolar is no laughing matter

I’m not a bandwagon jumper, a waver of placards or a maker of petitions. I believe in equality and justice and just plain respect for other people. I am just one person and I know I can’t change the world, but likewise, I know the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing.

On Sunday morning I saw a tweet about Joy the store, so being a nosy type I had a look. Basically they were selling a greetings card which said “don’t get mad…take lithium”. There followed the usual Twitter storm which I followed on and off all day.

Joy the store

 

joy the store

The card did make me tut and shake my head, I thought we were getting beyond this kind of thing, I thought maybe companies had learned a bit of a lesson after the ASDA mental patient Halloween costume from last year, but it appears not. It’s sad, misguided and ultimately disappointing that this card was produced in the first place, but what I find most disappointing is the response from Joy the store.

As you can see from the tweets above their response is pretty flippant and jokey, and their apology (below) is really very poor.

joy the storeMental health is serious, it touches most of us directly or indirectly. Bipolar, schizophrenia, dementia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, whatever the diagnosis, whatever the condition, it’s not a laughing matter. People wouldn’t joke about cancer, there are no big laughs about ebola. Why so flippant about bipolar Joy the store?

Before you think it, I’m not po-faced or humourless, honestly at times I see great humour and irony in my illness; but that’s a humour for me to find and enjoy, it’s different to being stigmatised and mocked. I thought we’d moved on from pointing and laughing at “mental people”. Don’t point and laugh, because honestly in the blink of an eye it could be you, or you child, or your parent or friend.