Ways to Cope with Anxiety

A fellow patient was screaming a lot today. It made me feel anxious, yet I was too sleepy to get out of bed until it really got on my nerves. Situations like these are hard to cope with, since the fear is not just “in my head”. Yet I get anxiety that is actually “in my head” a lot too. Some of it takes the form of worry, while other times, the anxiety takes the form of panic.

i was inspired today to write about things that help me cope with anxiety. Of course, different forms of anxiety require different coping strategies. For example, my PRN medication doesn’t help with worry, but it does help some with panic. Meds aside though, here are the activities I can think of now to cope with anxiety.

1. Breathing techniques. I learned some in movement therapy a few years ago, but they usually made me dissociate. Now that I’m generally more grounded, in that I don’t dissociate as often anymore, I’ve found breathing techniques can help me calm my mind. I need to make sure I actually concentrate on my breathing or I’ll go hyperventilate just when I’m trying to relax.

2. Mindfulness. I particularly like the “body scan”. With this, I go from toe to head, concentrating on each part of my body and how it is in relation to other parts of my body or my surroundings (like the chair I sit on). I learned this in yoga a few years back and, like breathing techniques, it could set off some dissociation when done the wrong way. The key seems to be not judging my mind when it wanders off, yet getting my focus back to my body as soon as I notice. Not judging my body is also important. I shouldn’t be overthinking that pain in my tummy or how my feet are wobbly, but just register my body and how it feels and then move on.

3. Reading. Last year, I rediscovered my love of juvenile fiction when I first started buying eBooks on Kobo. I make sure I always have some teen fiction in my Adobe Digital Editions. Teen fiction usually is just involved enough that it requires some concentration and just light enough that it doesn't get boring or triggering.

4. Music. when I’m worrying, I like to pick out music that has strong or funny lyrics, so that I will be listening to them. I have some great German country music on my computer (I understand a little German). Again, it is just hard enough that I will want to concentrate on the lyrics but not so hard that I give up.

When I’m more in a jittery state, it helps to pick music that has a soothing melody, or more often actually music that I can dance to. When I choose music to dance to, I don’t listen to the lyrics, so I might as well pick one of my Latino music albums that I bought when I was into world music.

5. Exercise. Dancing, as I said, can help, but so can a work-out. We have some exercise machines on the unit, so I can go on the stationary bike or elleptical trainer. I don’t usually last long on either as I’m in terrible shape, but even a ten-minute work-out can greatly reduce my anxiety.

6. Writing. Usually writing helps me not to lessen anxiety, but to express it in a safe way. I am still looking for the right journaling program (and no, Notepad still doesn’t feel right). Blogging (as opposed to freeform journaling) however can also greatly help me structure my thoughts.

The List

January

The month of January has almost come to a close, and I’m getting used to the year being 2015. I only make the occasional mistake of saying “last year” when I mean 2013 – I just did tonight, but it happens way less than it did in the first days of the year.

January started off with great expectations, both good and bad. I expected to be kicked out of the institution and taken off benefits because of all the budget cuts to care and the Participation Act (by which employable people on benefits need to do busywork for their benefits). Then again, for my employability to be assessed as pretty much perfectly nil, the government has until the end of 2018. That means almost four more years to have a slight worry at the back of my mind.

I also wasn’t kicked out of the institution. It isn’t certain that I won’t be, because even though people in my care category fall under the Long-Term Care Act, the institution still has to face budget cuts itself. The Long-Term Care Act, so I’ve heard, guarantees institutional care to those most in need, which includes people in care categories four and up (I’m in five). Then again, if I were to decide to go live with my husband, I’d fall under the local government re funding my care, and they don’t have an obligation to fund anything.

The good expectations, ie. my goals and resolutions, have also gone down the drain pretty much. I had a bingeing episode today again, and am not exercising nearly enough. I also decided not to take up a college course, even though I looked at them a while ago, because, well, I don’t have the money. I might someday take a writing course, but they’re very expensive too. Since my husband and I have plans of refurnishing the apartment before I move in, we could use the extra savings.

Blogging is the only area in which I’m keeping up with my goals, although I’ve stopped working on my Dutch blog right after posting my new year’s resolutions there. I don’t think I posted any about blogging there anyway. At least I’m writing a few posts each week here. Of course, I do feel guilty about not doing what my pro blogger acquaintances tell me to do. Insert long rant on pictures, social media, affiliate programs and self-hosting here. I actually wrote it, but since this post is about january, not blogging fails, let me just say…

It’s going to be another of those years where nothing happens, nothing changes and I don’t have much to be proud of myself for. That’s what it feels like at the end of the first month. I know that January is my second worst month for winter blues, so it might get better. Let’s hope. For now, the weather doesn’t help much. We had a pile of snow on Saturday, which I hate most of the time. It’s gone now, but now we got rain. Needless to say I’m spending most of my time in bed again. Hoping it gets better real soon.

Friendship and Borderline Personality Disorder

The second question in the “31 days of BPD” challenge asks why your last friendship ended. Now I don’t have any friends (unless you count my husband) and haven’t had any in a long time.

Friendships for me were usually short-lived. I had one friend in elementary school who stayed friends with me for the three years that I attended that school, but we didn’t have much contact after I left the school. I’d call her a few times, but she’d never call me and I eventually gave up.

With my seventh grade school for the blind friend, the same happened. We were good friends for the entirety of the year I spent in that school. I’d say we were best friends, but in all honesty she was my only real frined even though I got along quite well with my other classmates and some older girls too. Anyway, after I left the school to be mainstreamed, I spoke to her a few times on the phone, but I’d always ask her to call me and she never would.

I think I must’ve burdneed her with my problems, being bullied and isolated in mainstream school, but I don’t remember. This was in any case what caused my few mainstream school friendships to end. Right when a girl started hanging out with me, I’d open up and tell her my problems. While that wasn’t the actual reason my friendship with four girls in seventh grade mainstream education ended, it probably did contribute.

This was the only friendship that truly was broken. I reemember it was at the beginning of eighth grade. We’d had to do a graded music performance, which I apparently screwed up. I don’t remember how, but somehow I screwed it up, giving the other girls a bare pass. They ignored me for a week, one girl in particular but she was supported by her three friends. Then, when I apologized for whatever I did wrong, they said they forgave me but never quite grew the friendship back.

This all happened when I was a teen, and I’m not sure it’s truly BPD that caused me to be overly open. It could have been my autistic social cluelessness combined with the fact that, well, everyone needs someone to support them and I didn’t have any adults who did. However, rapidly growing attached to people is a common BPD trait. I am not really sure I have this trait, as it’s not really that I overestimate how close I am to people.

With my now husband, I saw him as an acquaintance when he was visiting me on the psych unit on a weekly basis. I didn’t grow a true attachment to him till we started dating. However, I did open up to him too soon, sharing my suicidal ideation at his first visit to the hospital.

This could be related to BPD in a way, in that I particularly open up a lot when I experience strong emotions. Another thing, however, is that I open up more to people I barely know than to those who should be close to me, like my family. I don’t have a clue whether this is a BPD or an autism thing or not.

Linking up with Saturday Sharefest at the Recovery Bloggers Network. The Recovery Bloggers Network is a new project, where I and another blogger hope to connect bloggers who write about mental health, addiction, recovery, or healing from trauma or abuse.

Borderline Personality Disorder and Anger

As you may’ve noticed, I like to pick my topics for my blog posts in the “mental health” category from recovery or awareness challenges. I don’t usually finish the challenge or answer the questions exactly as they’re asked, but I like to get them to zap me out of writer’s block. One such challenge is the “31 days of BPD” challenge. It asks 31 questions – one for each day – about life with borderline personality disorder. The first one asks you to describe why you were last very angry.

Now the thing about anger in my case is that I don’t usually remember why I get angry, or even what happened. Another thing is that I tend to get angry over the slightest things but then get to make my anger about lots of big and only partly related issues.

For example, a litle over a month ago, I got angry because the staff were decorating the unit for Christmas. I don’t even remember what exactly preceded my blow-up. I ended up running off the ward, wandering, and eventually taking some of my cltohes off so that I froze. When security got me back to the ward, I went into seclusion (voluntarily). I was determined I wasn’t going to go back to my ward. I was angry at the staff on my ward in general for there not being enough support for me or structure to guide me through the day. I eventually even said I wanted to be discharged if my only options were to stay in seclusion or go back to my ward (which indeed were my only options). Eventually, I did go back to my ward.

When I’m angry, I don’t really pick fights or become particularly angry at a specific person. Even when I do direct my anger at someone in particular, I usually don’t mean to single them out for my rage. I don’t ever become physically aggressive towands people, but I do usually shout obscenities and may direct my aggression towards objects.

For me, anger is usually accompanied by a fight-or-flight response. I usually flee in anger indeed, as was the case with the rage over the Christmas decorating I experienced last month. It seems in a way anger for me is close to other emotions, such as anxiety.

It is also closely related to sadness. I usually can’t cry unless I’ve been angry first. Often, also, when I’ve been depressed for a while, it tends to turn into irritability and may even turn into rage. The same occasionally happens with excitement, where I get so excited it turns into rage. In fact, any strong emotion in my case can turn into anger. It’s probably because, with BPD, my emotions tend to shift so rapidly. Maybe even anger is the only “bad” emotion I know.

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Mama and More

What I’d Put in a Time Capsule #TuesdayTen

As Lisa of The Golden Spoons writes, in December of 2014, a time capsule was found in Boston, which dates back to 1795. I also heard that in 1938, people created a similar time capsule (I don’t know whether it’s been opened yet). In 1998, people all over the Netherlands wrote letters to the future, a selection of which was published in a book and the rest of which will be opened in 2098.

Lisa asks what we would put in a time capsule if we could create one. The big problem is that technolgy advances so fast that the technology of today will be useless by 2235. So I’d have to resort back to low-tech stuff because they probably wouldn’t be able to open the text file in which I write my post now. So here goes what I’d put in.


  1. A letter. I’d have to print it out because today’s Microsoft Office can’t even read documents from 1995, so I bet the technology of 2235 will have big problems with the old-fashioned typing I do, as I said. Like Lisa, I would write who I am and explain about the contents of the box.

  2. A copy of my blog. I don’t know whether I even want to include my old blog. You know, the one I always just refer to as “the old blog” and refuse to ever link to even though it’s still online. Maybe I would.

  3. My old diaries. I’m afraid they have been typed in that 1995 MS Word format that Word 2013 can’t read (they date back to 1999 but I was really old-fashioend in terms of technology), so a print copy would have to do then. It’s going to be a big time capsule. I won’t ever publish my diaries online (well, except for that one entry I published for a writing prompt a while back), but I don’t care what the people of 2235 think of me. My diaries are written in Dutch.

  4. Music. I only have a small selection of recent songs and they are not a representation of what’s hot today, but well.

  5. A picture of myself just so people know my face. Not that anyone on my blog knows except if they find me on social media, as I still haven’t gotten my husband to send me a recent pic of myself, but well.


  6. A Braille letter typed by hand. Knowledge of the Braille alphabet is declining among blind people with the advancement of text-to-speech technology, so who knows whether it still exists by 2235.

  7. A Braille display, for the same reason as above but it’s actually current technolgoy.

  8. My list of medications. I wouldn’t be able to include the medicine itself as it’d go off, but I’d love to educate the people of 2235 about what nut cases like me get prescribed today. I bet they’d laugh their butts off.

  9. My phone. Not that it’s particularly hot in 2015, as I have had a Samsung E1130 since probably 2011, but well.

  10. Money. I’d be curious to know whether the Euro still exists by 2235 – or even 2035, but I may find that one out as I will probably still be alive by then.

The Golden Spoons

What Recovery Means to Me

Recovery from an eating disorder, self-injury, another addiction or mental health condition can mean quite different things depending on whom you ask. When I joined a recovery group in my old institution in 2010, it was made clear that recovery is different from cure. You could be recovered while still having symptoms of your mental illness and, I assume, someone could be symptom-free but not recovered too. Recovery, in this situation, means living the life you want given the circumstances you’re in and taking responsibility for yourself.

In the eating disorder, self-harm and addiction communities, recovery is much more tied to cure. You cannot, it is assuemd, be recovered while still engaging in disordered eating behaviors or self-harm or, in the case of Alcoholics Anonymous, even drinking a sip of alcohol. I understand this. After all, how can you be fully taking responsibility for your life, living a full life when your life is ruled by food or alcohol or drugs or self-harm? I do see the point. When you’re powerless over an addiction – admitting this is the first step in twelve-step programs -, it takes abandoning the addiction in order to regain power over your life. I am not fully sure this applies to eating though.

The first definition of recovery – the one of taking control of your life, whether you’re still symptomatic or not -, was also devised by people with severe mental illness. You know, treatment-resistant, thought-to-be-lifelong conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. People in the eating disorder and self-harm communities tend to assume that their conditons are curable, so their definition of recovery requires being symptom-free. Even so, people like Arnhild Lauveng prove that becoming completely symptom-free is possible with thought-to-be-lifelong conditions like in her case schizophrenia too.

I tend to side with the first definition of recovery with regards to most of my symptoms. I don’t even consider some of my symptoms to be entirely negative. Even when I do, it isn’t a priority for me to get rid of them. Rather, it’s my priority to live a fulfilling life in spite of my symptoms.

Having a fulfilling life, for clarity’s sake, does not mean not getting support or help. In the recovery group I was part of, my planning to go to a workhome – one of the more intensive forms of support within the autism community -, was seen as recovery, because I took steps towards taking control of my life. (I originally typed “restrictive” instead of “intensive”, but realized that there is a huge difference and this place was not that restricive at all.) Indeed, living your life with lots of support, but you being the one directing your support, is very much what recovery is about.

However, with regards to my eating disorder and self-injury, I would very much like to become symptom-free. That doesn’t mean that to have stopped bingeing or purging or self-harming for a set amount of time means I’m recovered. Recovery also means having overcome the emotional struggles that underly my food issues and self-harm. In this sense, since my eating disorder is probably and my self-harm is certainly part of my borderline personality disorder, I do hope to become symptom-free from BPD too.

Even so, for me living my life is a much higher priority than becoming symptom-free. I want to go find a place to live, whether it’s with my husband or in supported housing, and I want to take up some course again. Probably not a college-level course, but maybe a writing course or something. I also want to exercise a few times a week, which is good for keeping me healthy even should I not entirely overcome the overeating.

You can’t stop eating entirely, so I can’t decide that recovery means no more indulging into the addictive substance or behavior. In this sense, I realize I’m not fit for twelve-stp programs, even of the compulsive overeater type, because they do require you to be completely clean from overeating in order to consider yourself having entered the first phase of recovery. Becoming binge-free would be great, and I do strive for it, but it’s less of a priority than having a fulfilling life.

Running in Lavender

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Where I Am on My Eating Disorder Journey Right Now

I had a particularly bad week in the eating disorder department. I joined a (not too bad) American pro-ana site and considered joining the bad pro-ana sites that the Netherlands is rife with but was held back by their requirement that I post my weight. I had two binge episodes (Wednesday and today) and am currently fighting off the urge to purge.

In order to motivate myself for recovery or, if that doesn’t work, at least to distract myself from the disordered thoughts, I searched for recovery challenges agian. I remember starting one last year but never completing it. I have no intention of really completing this one either, but I thought I’d answer the first question, which asks you to assess where you are in recovery.

First, here are my stats:


  • Height: 1.53m or 5.0ft.

  • Weight: 74kg or 163lb or 11st 9lb.

  • BMI: 31.6.


Since becoming a psychiatric inpatient in 2007, I’ve gained 20kg, most of which I gained over the past three years.

It would be tempting to say I’m at my lowerst point ever in terms of recovery. After all, I’m one kilogram from my highest weight ever and to be honest I didn’t weigh myself just now but am taking my weight from a few weeks back here. For this reason, chances are I’m currently a bit over that 75kg mark.

If I’m truly honest, I must say I’ve never been truly recovering from my eating disorder. My eating disorder has changed, but some behavioral manifestations were always there. I’ve been overeating for fifteen years, probably binge eating to some extent even for all those years, although I didn’t recognize that what I was doing was more than just overeating until a few years ago. I purged for a while too.

On said American pro-ana site, I defined my eating disorder as in the middle between bulimia and binge eating disorder. In fact, however, I’ve not purged in months so am actually suffering with pure BED (I’ve never engaged in other compensatory behaviors). My staff see it as simple overeating so I’ve not been formally diagnosed with an eating disorder. I guess they’d rather see me as one of their so many obese patients who refuses to lose weight than deal with the underlying problem. I don’t know honestly whether I’m motivated either. Not having had any therapy that worked for any of my issues except a bit of guidance for my autism in 2007, I’m uncertain that I’m fit to ever recover.

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Scarred

Scarred. It can mean so many things. We can have scars on our bodies and on our souls. Sometimes, the scars on our bodies reflect the scars on our souls. Such is the case with self-harm scars.

I started self-harmign when I was very young. I don’t even remember when I started, but my maternal grandma asked when I was about ten wheter I still banged my head at night. I didn’t, but apparently I’d done this for a long time when I was younger. This is seen as a typically autistic way of self-harming.

When I was older, I started biting myself. My sister and I would sometimes bite each other when in a fihgt – usually I’d bite her more than she’d bite me. I also remember using hand-biting sometimes as a way to manipulate. Hand-biting is typically autistic too, although using it to manipulate is not. This could be related to my pathological demand avoidance traits.

I started cutting when I was sixteen. I vividly remember the first incident. It never got severe – most likely because I don’t have the tools to make severe cuts -, so my scars are relatively small. My biggest self-harm scar is on my leg from an incident last year.

The first time I was confronted with my self-harm scars, was when a staff member at the independence trainign home I lived in at the time, asked me about a slight scar on my hand. I didn’t want to talk about it, fearing that if I disclosed my self-harm, I’d be kicked out of the home.

Self-harm had multiple functions for me. The manipulative function is possibly still there subconsciously, but I also use self-harm to cope with strong emotions that are common in people with borderline personality disorder. Self-harm by the way wasn’t the main reason I was diagnosed with BPD.

As I said, self-harm has many causes. It can be used to express pain, as is often the case for me, but many people also hide their self-harm. If a person does it “for attention”, as it’s commonly called when someone self-harms to express emotions, that doesn’t mean they’re fake. Their (and my!) pain is real, only they have probably learned that the only way to express it is through self-injury. Ignoring people or suspending them from help, as happens in some therapy programs, is only going to be counterproductive and especially harmful if the person hasn’t learned more effective ways of expressing their pain. They need validation especially badly, because the very reason they started self-harming “for attention” is the lack of attention they and their pain got in the past.

Even those who self-harm “for attention” may feel self-conscious about their scars. I am fortunate not to have any too obvious self-harm scars, but I do know what it is like to be questioned about your scarred body. I, after all, have a scar on my belly at one end of the shunt I have because I had hydrocephalus as an infant. Children sometimes said I had a second belly button. When I was at one point worried that my shunt had malfunctioned, my parents also offhandly asked whether I could get the scar beautified if I was going to need to see someone about my shunt anyway. My husband, fortunately, has never made a problem out of my scar. I don’t even think he’s ever commented on it except when I asked him about it.

I am not particularly proud of my scarred self, but I don’t feel bad about it either. In November, I took part in a self-harm event which was being filmed for a documentary series. I don’t have time to go to the preview and most likely won’t watch the series as it airs either, so I won’t know whether I’m in it. If I am, I don’t mind. I don’t show off my scars, but I’m open to educate people about them and their cause.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Mami 2 Five

 

Moving On: Moving in With My Husband, Maybe

As regular readers will know, I reside in a psychiatric institution and have since 2007. Originally, the psychiatrist who admitted me did foresee that it would not just be crisis intervention – getting me to sleep better and pop out of my suicidal thoughts. In addition, we’d need to find a suited supported housing placement to move me to from the psychiatric hospital, because I’d ended up in a crisis from having to live on my own. It just didn’t happen. No suitable supported housing place could be found and, more than seven years on, I’m still residing on a psychiatric unit.

When my now husband became my boyfriend and then my husband, several times the thought of us living together crossed our minds. He usually was the one asking me whether I’d consider living with him. I had my reservations, because I didn’t know I’d be able to cope when he’d be at college or later at work. Also, I didn’t want him to take on a carer role, as we’re supposed to be husband and wife not carer and patient.

I still believe my husband isn’t my carer, but he keeps telling me that even though he does more for me practically than I do for him, what I give him in love amounts to the same. Since I moved to the small town institution in 2013 and my husband had moved to the next town in late 2012, we’ve been closer together than ever before.

There have been a few reasons why I started considering moving in with my husband again late last year. First is my difficult relationship with the nursing staff at my current unit, so that I ended up calling my husband when in a crisis situation rather than enlisting the staff’s help anyway. The staff have on at least one occasion refused to come out to help me when I had run off the ward in a crisis state, and my husband had to come to collect me and get me back to the ward. Of course, this isn’t his job, but when the staff don’t do theirs, someone’s got to do it.

Secondly, it’s become increasingly hard for me to function in a group setting with increasingly little staff support and more severely ill fellow patients. I do know I cause trouble to the other patients too, so this is in no way meant to insult them. I just didn’t choose to live with them, and I do choose my husband to be my husband and hopefully can choose to live with him. Of course, after all, amidst all the practicalities, I love my husband and would very much like to be with him most of the time.

So I called my social worker in December to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibilities of me getting home support while living with my husband. The laws changed significantly at the start of this year, so I had some worries. The appointment was yesterday.

First, one of the main things that absolutely need to be in place for me to live with my husband is an out-of-hours support service that I can call when in an emergency when my husband is at work. They will need to be able to send a support worker to my home should I need in-home support. The area supported housing organization for the mentally ill provides these services, but probably not in my husband’s town. My social worker will look into this.

Additional needs are some day activities for me and possibly a bit of scheduled home support for establishing a daily structure. Thankfully, we won’t need housekeeping, as most local governments have cut out funding for that unless you’re extremely poor.

I told my husband about the social worker’s answers to my questions, which weren’t particularly concrete yet as she’s got to ask the government about what they’ll fund and search around for a suitable support agency. My husband was totally cool, as he said he’s willing to relocate should the right services not be available in his current town. He doesn’t particularly like his town anyway, but I suggested moving to this area because of what I thought were good services. Maybe I was wrong on that.

I am trying to be optimistic that I will be able to live with my husband sometime in the not too distant future. I’ll keep hoping for a positive outcome!

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Word for the Year: Nurture

My word for 2014 was “self-care”. Didn’t do too well on that one. I meant to be saying goodbye to my self-destructive tendencies, including eating disorder issues. Didn’t work out. In fact, my binge eating spiraled even more out of control than it already was and I had some bad self-harming episodes. On the up side, however, I did start art therapy, which has been a good experience. Let’s hope for an even better one this year.

This year, I’m choosing a similar but broader theme for the year, which is “nurture”. It refers to both better self-care and nurturing my creativity. I do hope art therapy proves to be a good medium for this. My first art therapy session this year, yesterday, wasn’t too great, but my creative endeavors in recreational therapy have been fruitful. I plan on carrying one of the media I use there, polymer clay, over to art therapy next week. Below I finally show you the polymer clay frog I made a few weeks ago. I’ve made many more things out of polymer clay and hope to keep up the work.

Polymer Clay Frog

In addition, I hope the year will be one where I can nurture my relaltionship with God. I hope my faith will both be strengthened and strengthen me this year. I have made a good start by joining a Bible journaling community on Facebook, and plan on writing more faith-based posts here on the blog. Of course, I know some of my relatives and readers hold different beliefs to mine, and that’s okay.

Besides “nurture”, I have several other words spinning through my head that might be additional themes for the year. “Perspective” comes to mind, as I do hope to finally gain some perspective on where and how I’m going to live after leaving the psychiatric institution. It is, however, also important to keep having a perspective when nurturing myself. I didn’t have one back last year. Now, at least in the eating department, I have the goal of losing weight, and I have a target weight in mind. I am not too good with setting such targets in the creatvity department, but this goal is hope-motivated too.

“Hope” iis another possible theme. Most of my goals for this year are worded in a way to formulate what I want to reach, not what I want to avoid. This is much more positive than last year’s acrostic, which started out by naming all the negatives in which I wasn’t caring for myself. I truly hope to make this year a year with a positive outlook.

Mama’s Losin’ It