Coping With A Mental Health Crisis

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My mental health has taken a nose dive recently. I’m coming out of it now, but it’s been unbearable. If it wasn’t for the support of The Listening Place then I would have ended my life, I had plans to.

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This relapse has built up slowly over a few months, and it began with an increase in anxiety and paranoid thinking. Whenever I heard sounds or talking from nearby buildings I believed that the people in those homes were talking about me, and planning to kill me.

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It’s been so intense that I have been too afraid to stay in my home during the day, and I would go to bed and wake up full of anxiety. When I wasn’t experiencing paranoid thoughts I was thinking of how I could kill myself.

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I’ve been so exhausted by the anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, and this rose to a crescendo at the beggining of last week. I’m grateful that my friends, The Listening Place and the mental health crisis team have been there to support me.

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One of the most positive aspects is that I have been able to nurture myself. Not perhaps in the traditional sense, but it’s worked. I accepted that I could not stay in during the day, so I took myself out. I’ve been to so many places, Wood Green, Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Tottenham Hale, Walthamstow Wetlands, Stave Hill Eco Park, London Wetlands, Clapham, Hammersmith, Trafalgar Square. I also visited my cousin, and I’m going to stay with a friend shortly. My favourite trip was to Heathrow Airport. There’s an area of grassland near the south runway which is used by many to watch the aircraft come and go. I feel guilty for liking aircraft when I know how much damage they do to the environment, but I do like them, and the day relaxed me. I’ve also been meeting my daily calorific need and I’ve cut out caffeine.

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It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself, to be honest about how much I was struggling, and to seek support, but I’ve done it. I’ve also found that if I feel unsafe at home then I put wax earplugs in. They block the surrounding noise and that helps a lot. I’ve felt such an urgent need to leave home that I’ve barely done any washing, and no housework at all.

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But things are easing now. I’m still experiencing some paranoia, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but the intensity has lessened. Life has been so painful, but I’ve created peace and calmness by going out to these places. Photography has been my bearer of peace. Thank goddess that it provides me with such an escape. I’m feeling very grateful, and you know what – I’m proud of how much effort I have put in to survive.

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The Listening Place is a London based charity which provides face to face support for people who feel that life is no longer worth living.

Reflections Upon Improving Suicidal Ideation, Anorexia And Paranoia

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me, with intense paranoia, suicidality and relapse with my eating disorder. It’s been a very painful time to be honest, and I’ve needed to delve into the pain in order to survive.

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Diving into the pain means to stop resisting it, to lean into it and to allow it to be, just as it is. It’s had me curled up on my bed in tears and too scared to move, and it’s taken me into leaving my home upon awakening and returning in the evening because I’ve been to scared to be at home. Paranoia is a fucker, I hate it, it’s been overwhelming, but it’s eased somewhat.

The shift happened last Thursday when it hit me that despite feeling unsafe, I’ve actually been safe. I’ve used the rationalisation for a while, but it finally dropped into place.

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Going to Brighton last Sunday and Monday was a decision to go out because I wanted to, not because I felt that I had to. I have spent most of the last week out as well, as an act of protecting my mental health. There’s a workman decorating the communal space and having him around triggers my experience of paranoia, so I’ve been out every day, and I will be for the next week too. Sometimes it’s knowing which fight to battle and which to accept. The good news is that I’ve stayed at home this weekend. I’ve felt anxious, I’ve experienced paranoid thinking, but it’s been at a level that I can cope with.

The fear has reduced significantly, and I believe this has had a positive impact upon my eating disorder. I’ve increased my food intake to around 3/4 of my bodies daily requirement. My body is larger than I want it to be, heavier than what I feel comfortable with, but I’m eating more and I feel better for it.

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Life is still a challenge, I don’t find living easy, but this week has been more enjoyable. Getting out with my camera on my trip to Brighton was very enjoyable, and shooting whilst being down on my knees has been a learning experience and I’m going to post about that over the next couple of days.

A friend sent me a link to an artists call for submission for a health related exhibition. Submitting was such an invigorating thing to do. I felt alive with enthusiasm and passion. I haven’t had the motivation to continue with embroidering on photography as yet, but it will return. I’m sleeping for longer and up later in the day, my most creative time, but the motivation will return.

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I’m Struggling With Anorexia, Paranoia And Suicidal Thoughts, But….

Fuck, life is hard at this moment in time. I’m experiencing intense paranoia, suicidal thoughts and severe relapse with anorexia.

Yesterday I struggled so much that I went back to bed, which is something that I never do. Today the paranoia and fear were so intense that I couldn’t stay in. I’m paranoid that my neighbours are going to attack me, so I packed my camera and went out. Thank god for photography, it’s saved me on many an occasion.

Suicidal thoughts are building up, which is linked to the paranoia. I was in a building today which had a viewing gallery on the tenth floor, which is open and has an easily climbable fence. I looked down, imagining jumping, which sent shock waves of fear along my legs. I didn’t do it, I can’t do it, but it’s a venue logged in my mind.

As for the anorexia, I had two weeks of eating a ciabatta with either peanut butter or marmite per day, and since then I’ve not eaten anything for eight days. I know that not eating anything at all makes it harder for the paranoia and suicidal thoughts to dissipate, which I don’t want, but I can’t eat. I’m obsessed with food but I can’t eat, can’t do it.

I feel completely fucked.

However, I am doing things to cope.

  • I’m still attending 12 step eating disorder recovery meetings
  • I’m being honest with people about the state of my mind
  • I’m attending therapy
  • Yesterday I went back to bed
  • Today I went out
  • I have been out with my camera
  • I’m making plans for future study
  • I’m visiting a friend next week
  • I’m planning things with the OCA London Regional Group
  • I’m continuing with my embroidered photography
  • I’ve kept my spiritual life up
  • I’m exploring ways to fund living costs so I can study BA hons photography
  • I developed some photos in Lightroom this evening, which are found below

I’m doing what I can right now, I’m doing my best, and this too shall pass.

London (3 of 6)

London (1 of 6)

London (4 of 6)

London (5 of 6)

London (2 of 6)

London (6 of 6)

Some Consequences Of A Failed Suicide Attempt

A Photographic Documentary

Back in March I tried to end my life, although on this occasion I didn’t want to die. I have long term mental health problems, and one of my symptoms is suicidal ideation. When the thoughts became so bad that I was scared that I was going to act upon them, I asked for help. The support that I recieved was OK, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

This wasn’t the first time that I had tried to commit suicide, but it was the first time that I hadn’t wanted to die whilst the intensity of suicidal thoughts built up. I’ve been in a coma before, my next of kin has, on previous occasions, been told to prepare for my death, that I would not make it through the night. However, this attempt to end my life has had some serious physical and mental consequences. I’ve added some suicide helplines at the foot of this post.

IMG_20190614_090027The ambulance took me to the Whittington. I was stabilised in A and E and then transfered to the critical care unit. The doctors informed my friends not to expect me to make it through the night.

rhdrMy photo’s of my time in the Whittington are limited, and from when I was well enough to be sent from the critical care unit to a general ward.

fznorI had no intention of creating a photo documentary at this point. I took the photos because I loved the views of London.

IMG_20190513_124829My overdose left me with pneumonia on my lung, which turned into a septic abscess. This needed to be removed so I was transfered to the Heart hospital.

The surgery which I needed to undergo was complicated. The abscess released the poison into my blood stream and this lead to a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped for three minutes, again it was believed that I wouldn’t pull through. My cousin took this photograph when I had begun to awaken out of the sedation.

qrfI needed to have a central line as part of the operation. Central lines enable the delivery of IV fluids during and after an operation. The catheter goes into the superior vena cava.

qrfTo perform a thoracotomy an incision needs to be made from underneath the arm pit, around the side of the body and under the breast. The surgeon can then access the lung.

qrfThe chest drain was painful and uncomfortable, but a necessity to drain fluids from the chest. I also required five pints of blood to replace what I had lost.

hdrplI don’t have the large veins in the arm that most people do. It’s so difficult to put a cannula into me because they need to go into tiny superficial veins. They also dislodge very quickly with me, so I needed them replacing often. There were occasions which cannulisation required an anaesthetist to use an ultrasound to find a vein.

qrfThe quality of care was incredible and I found the whole staffing team to be amazing, supportive and empathetic.

hdrplPost-op it took me over a week to get on my feet. Physically I was very weak, but having the chest drains and a urine pot from catheterisation meant that movement was limited anyway. Once they were removed I was filled with relief to be able to move.

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Other injuries that I have as a result of my overdose are pressure ulcers. I developed four of these whilst I was unconscious in the time between trying to take my life and the police being called. I developed the one above whilst under sedation. I’ll write more about these below as well as show a couple of photos of the ulcers.

qrfI lived in this chair, it was my refuge and the beginning of my recovery. But the chair was also a place of vulnerability. Ward round was a necessary daily occurrence, but I also felt trapped and cornered with up to seven people surrounding me.

qrfLooking at this photo now I feel some fondness towards the bed. I slept in it at all hours throughout the day and night. I was so exhausted that during visits from family and friends I would still go to bed and sleep. I could only lay on my left hand side and I was scared of falling out of bed. It was difficult to get into a comfortable position because I didn’t have the strength to pull myself with just my left arm. I could use my right arm at the time.

I still struggle with exhaustion today. I’m having to really listen to what my body needs. Listening to my body is one of the many silver linings from my experience.

qrfWith five pressure ulcers I’m unable to take a shower. A sit down strip wash was all that I could, and can manage.

fznorMoving from one hospital to another and being on four different wards meant that my family and I gave up on trying to put clothes and belongings into drawers and the wardrobe.

qrfI hate feeling trapped, it scares me and leaves me panicky. I was unable to leave the ward for around two weeks post surgery. It was impossible because I was so unwell. But as I got my strength back I was aloud to go out for 20 minutes at a time. This helped to reduce my anxiety.

hdrplOnce I left hospital I was so weak as to be incapable of doing anything other than basic functioning. I had a friend stay with me for the first week, and then I want and stayed with my cousin. I’m still recovering, but I’m most grateful for P and L for making life easier. L’s art and craft room became my home during my recuperation.

Asking for help/accepting help is not something that I do. I’m a hermit, I live alone and I do everything for myself. Being so unwell has meant that I’ve had to ask for help from P and from L. The thing is that my belief is that it’s not acceptable to impose myself upon others. However, I’ve found out that people want to help and that they are pleased that I have let them in. I have a lot to learn about human relationships.

hdrplThe right hand side of my body was so tender following surgery. In order to open my chest the surgeon had to cut through skin and muscle. Although it hasn’t hurt it has felt very uncomfortable. The only relief from the discomfort has been cuddling a pillow. It’s bliss when the discomfort goes away.

hdrplThe team at the Heart hospital wanted me to have plastic surgery to debrided the dead skin, and then a skin graft to replace it. I felt so traumatised that I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The trauma which I experienced was related to having surgery and then cardiac arrest. I’ve felt terrified of having another procedure.

rhdrThe same has been true about this ulcer on my heel. I couldn’t allow them to cut the skin away. The thought of it has brought me to tears. However, this week has been a turning point. I agreed that plastics could debrided the skin by using tweezers to turn the edges back, and then a scalpel to remove the dead skin. I’ve also had the dead skin removed from my arm this week in the same way. The healing process will last for many months, but it will be quicker now that the dead skin has been removed.

fznorI am grateful to be alive, but at the same time I’m frustrated at the amount of medical appointments I have. To assess and dress my injuries I see plastics at the Royal Free, podiatry at St Pancras, and three visits per week to my doctors surgery to have the dressings changed by a nurse.

qrfRecovery also means getting back into normal living. I have been able to finish the third embroidered photo for my final Foundations in Photography assignment. This is the start of the fourth photo. I use a black and white photo, taped onto a self portrait, in order to prick the holes into the self portrait. It’s a slow process, but it’s mindfulness and rest. I look forward to the embroidery. It’s such a rewarding process.

fznorI haven’t felt able to get out with my camera, I’ve been exhausted. But while I’ve been out I have been making potography with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I love how this guy is so loving towards the pigeons.

I had no intention of documenting my time in hospital, nor my recovery. However, a friend suggested that I document the progress of the wound on my arm, and I then figured I could piece together a photo documentary of my experiences.

Attempting to end my life was as an experience of intense suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to die on this occasion, and I’m very grateful to be alive. Many people attempt suicide and sadly, a lot of people succeed and die. Help is available and we do not need to be alone with our thoughts or experiences.

If you are feeling suicidal then know that it is OK to ask for help. You can speak with one of your trusted friends or your Gp, or call a suicide helpline.

Grassroots is a charity in the UK that has a focus on preventing suicide. They have a Men’s Suicide Prevention Campaign which encourages men to talk with their mates about mental health and suicide, “This campaign focuses on encouraging male friends to look out for each other. The aim is to foster open and direct conversations about any concerns, including thoughts of suicide and mental health issues.”

Suicide Charities and Telephone Lines.

UK

The Samaritans Call 116123

CALM 0800 58 58 58

The Listening Space (London)  020 3906 7676

Papyrus (young people) 0800 068 4141

USA

National suicide and crisis hotlines

India

AASRA 91 22 2754 6669

Australia

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

 

Mental Health – Health Update

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The photos in this post were taken on the day that I tried to end my life. These were all shot near the Barbican in London on an overcast and wet day. It had been a wonderful and enjoyable day. I had no intention of trying to commit suicide, I was just overwhelmed by the suicidal ideation which had been building up in intensity over the previous 10 days. Although it may be hard to get your head around, I wanted to live, I was happy and I had been seeking support to try and fight off this aspect of mental illness.

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The consequences have been severe and challenging, and I’m putting together a documentary photo series to chart my experiences.

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My mental health has been unstable since leaving hospital. I’ve had intrusive thoughts about being shot and being followed. Sometimes the intrusive thoughts are visual and scary. I get images of my throat being cut and of people shooting me. This has increased my paranoia and I’ve sometimes been unable to move off of my sofa if a car pulls up outside. I believe that if I move then the people in the car will notice me and then attack me.

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For some reason I stopped meditating a while back, when I was really ill with my anorexia, but I have now returned to my practice. Twice daily meditation has helped reduce the paranoia, and my doctor has increased one of my meditations. Things are beginning to ease off now, such a relief.

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My attempt to end my life resulted in physical complications. I developed pneumonia and a septic abscess on my lung. I required surgery to have it removed, along with part of my lung which had died. On the operating table I had a cardiac arrest.

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As my lung has started to heal I have been able to work at a better pace, and I’m no longer scared of people walking into my right hand side, the side of my body where my chest was opened.

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My memory and ability to communicate is improving. There are occasions in which I get lost in a conversation, or cannot find the right words, but this is happening less than previously. qrf

Fatigue is still a problem. If I have a busy day then I need to have a nap, sometimes I need to have a complete day of rest the following day. I also find that my fatigue gets the better of me, which means that I’m going to bed around 9.30pm, but I’m sleeping for longer and sleeping through the night which is fab.

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The biggest challenge at the moment is that I have five pressure sores, some of which need dressing three times per week. On top of this I also have weekly podiatry appointments for the pressure sores on my feet, and fortnightly appointments for my arm. Worse still is that I’m scared of knives. The dead skin on the pressure sores on my feet needs to be debrided with a scalpel, and i cant cope with that. My fore arm is covered with a large pressure sore, and I have now come to terms with that being debrided using tweezers and scissors. The same can’t be done on my foot because the skin is different there.

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The great news is that I’ve got my mojo back now. You can probably tell because I’m following blogs and blogging myself. Such a relief. Most importantly though is that I’ve returned to my final assignment in Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts . The embroidery is going well and I’m more than pleased with my progress. The embroidery is slow progress but it is progress.

 

 

Fragile As An Eggshell

My mind, my mind

Emotions intense

My thoughts they torture me

Emotions  so intense

Your more important

Than me.

Obsessive thoughts

Of what you think

Of what you think of me.

The more I think

Of what you think

It takes a piece of me.

A piece of me

Is taken

Each time I think of you.

When I say you

It’s not just one

It’s every one I see

I think you all hate me

And I don’t think of me.

A crack appears

My mind is broken

My fragile mind

My fragile self is gone

Myself I cannot find.

I’m fragile

Cracked

An eggshell

Broke

The yoke had gone

The egg white has disappeared

The space inside is fear

I live inside the eggshell

Please don’t come to near.

Please don’t

Please don’t

Just leave me alone

Fragile mind

Fragile thoughts

Fragile feelings

Fragile self

Fragile self esteem

 

P.S. My poetry can be quite intense. I am OK.  Writing is recovery

Paranoia Says…Mindfulness Replies…

Paranoia – The thought that my neighbours go to bed at the same time as me because they are spying upon me.

Paranoia – That feeling I get that the people who live on the other side of the road are spying on me as I make coffee and toast.

Paranoia – The cautiousness I have about talking on the phone because my phone is bugged.

Paranoia – That man talking on the phone, the one with the glasses. He’s watching me, following me and talking about me.

Paranoia – That car that just pulled up with the two men inside, that was on my street, in front of my home when I left this morning. Why are they following me?

Mindfulness – Naming. I am aware I am experiencing paranoid thinking.

Mindfulness – Acting opposite. I have decided not to follow the man who has been following me.

Mindfulness – Sharing. I have told a friend about my paranoid thinking because I know it will help me to gain a better perspective.

Mindfulness – Writing. I’ve written my experiences of paranoid thinking in my journal. Getting things down in black and white helps me to stop mentally creating the story of paranoia.

Paranoia – Shame. I don’t like to experience the feeling of shame, so I subconsciously create the story called “My Paranoia”.

Mindfulness – Meditation. I sit with my feelings of shame and say “Welcome shame, come and sit with me. Be as much or as big as you are”.

Mindfulness – Acceptance. When I accept my feelings, no matter how painful they are, I am far safer than when I create a story out of them.

Test Photo for Paranoia – Recallibration of Screen and Printer Required – Keep it Simple Sunday – Violin

I’ll begin with Keep it Simple Sunday. I don’t do anything complicated on a Sunday and I don’t turn my computer on. As much as I enjoy photography, I find Lightroom and developing my photography equally enjoyable and mindful. However it is an intense process for me. I only use my computer for developing, photography, my website and study – so it stays off on Sundays.

Which means I can recalibrate my monitor or printer and it definitely needs it. My current project Mental Illness/Mental Wellness is coming along and I printed out one of my test images yesterday. It’s sitting in front of my fire so I can consider whether I like the concept. I think I have a problem with the yellow cartridge – I’ll find out tomorrow.

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The colours are so far off its scary. However – I like the on screen version. The photo involved me asking a security guard to talk into his radio whilst looking at me. Using a 10 stop ND filter, ISO 100, f22, 1.3 sec- panning onto him. In lightroom I’ve burned the doors and repeatedly dodged the background of the security guard. The A3 photo is on watercolour and the a4 is matte photo paper.

Even without having the correct colours in print it’s good to have the photos printed. I am going to overpaint in acrylics – think abstract – think Kandinsky (Can’tdon’tsky in my case as I have no ability – but hey – can’t remain in my comfort zone). If the overpainting doesn’t work it doesn’t work, but if I can get what’s in my head onto the photo that will really help with the project. The project will involve 24 photos depicting mental illness and mental well being – portrait orientation and 1 landscape orientation as a book cover.

I’ve been out with my camera making further test shots, researching how to research and plan projects, and one of my favourite things – reading blogs from other creative people. There are some truly amazing people out there whose talent is inspiring.

My recommendation for other photographers – follow photographers blogs but don’t limit yourself only to photography. Follow other artists, writers, poets, musicians, designers. I get so inspired by the creativity of others.

Oh and one more thing – I’ve been trying to teach myself to play the violin. I only started 4 weeks ago. God it’s so hard. However – I’m definitely improving. I can play the scale of D major. I’m following an online tutor – but decided to skip forward from open strings to scales. It made sense to me that if I learn the scales then my fingers will be more used to the positions of the notes than learning each finger separately.  And if your one of my neighbours – I’m sorry to be hurting your ears.

Achievement – Asking Members of the Public to Help Me Make Photos

I’m currently begining a project Mental Illness – Mental Wellness. For two photographs I wish to make it need other people involved. Yesterday I went out with my camera to make a series on paranoia. I spoke with four people and they all agreed. It’s an achievement for me whenever I ask people to be involved with my photography. I have severe social anxiety and I don’t like to be around people.

For this series I’ve been taking three photos of each person which I will blend together, darken the highlights,  print on A3 watercolour paper, then paint in some detail with watercolour pencils. I haven’t done this before so I’m looking forward to it.

Counselling – Camera – Photography as Mindfulness – To Give Up on Photography Would Be to Give Up on Life

I didn’t go outside before I got my camera. My anxiety was so high that I couldn’t. I didn’t talk with people. I stayed home – afraid.

I got a camera as a reason to go out. 10 minutes lead to half an hour, which lead to an hour, and now I can shoot an event, approach a homeless person, talk with them an ask to take their photo. I can even approach a shopping centre manager and ask to photo in their premises – on a good day.

Most days I struggle to get out for an hour as my anxiety is so high, and even on a day when I can mindfully observe anxiety I struggle. Often anxiety turns into paranoia and then I know I’m being followed.

Today was my day for counselling, and I struggle for two or three days afterwards. So I take my camera. I took a few photos for a series I’m making on mental illness and mental health – There is a difference. It was also an opportunity to begin to create a series for exercise 1.9 Soft Light Landscape.

Photography gets me so focused on the moment, the presence of being a creator and director, that I lose the image of a paranoid and anxious person. What is self if everything is transitory and impermanent?

I won’t go out tomorrow. I don’t go out the day after counselling, I stay at home as I don’t feel safe with intense feelings.

Tomorrow is my Lightroom day, and I will be developing some macro photography. Developing my photography is also an exercise in mindfulness. It takes me over and requires my full attention, it becomes a safety release valve. To give up on photography would be an act of self harm. It would be to give up on living, to give up on me.