SleepscapesHands down, by far and away, my favorite aspect of the app is their Sleepscapes. They are 45 minute guided meditations/mindfulness exercises to fall asleep. I’ve enjoyed all of them so far, but my favorites are the Midnight Laundrette, The Slow train and the Lighthouse. They’ve got a few ASMR guided meditations, and the latest update added some extra features.
The daily rundownA new feature they’ve added recently is a daily plan you can follow. The Wakeup is part of my day already, but they’ve added extra – I like that it’s showing me more of the things are available – from meditations and courses to focus music. You can check out the app for a trial period, at Headspace. Watch “10 Minute Relaxing Deep Sleep Sleepcast and Sleep Story: Midnight Launderette” on YouTube
But it’s a negative concept?The act of surrendering or giving up on something is often percieved and portrayed as negative. You’re quitting after all, but its that whole perception that’s part of the problem.
Bit of a mind-teaser huh? The pereception of something that you’re doing that’s perceieved as negative in itself is the issue. Not the act.
Yeah, it took ne a while too.
Sometimes though, you just have to give in and surrender to the process. Especially when meditating…
The act of surrender as an act of compassionI’m still wrestling with this now myself, and I’m still working on it myself, so if you’re not quite sure about this concept, trust me, I get it, even though I’m talking about it myself. But sometimes surrendering and letting yourself go with the process is absolutely the most compassionate thing you can do, for yourself and your mental health.
It goes for almost every area of life too. If your friend isn’t respecting your boundaries, it might be an idea to give up on the closeness of that freindship, and recategorise them. If you’re struggling to get passed a behaviour, or reaction, finding out what you’re holding on to – even if that’s ‘I’m not ready to address that’ – is an act of surrender and compassion in itself.
My biggest ‘surrender’. Asking for help, or telling people I don’t know.
Turns out that my reaction to fear is almost identical to anger, because that’s what I was taught. You don’t show weakness, you don’t give people an in, you’re not vulnerable, they can’t use that to hurt you. So. You show no fear. you instead make yourself as intimidating as possible (I am completely aware that this may or may not be your experience of my personality, and if you’re really close to me you’ll have seen both, and it may have given you whiplash. Sorry about that).
Surrendering the idea that ‘weak’ = ‘bad’I’ve been working on this because it’s no good for people that don’t know me to see a small tazmanian devil of rage when she’s just desperately afraid, and quite honestly, I’m lucky I haven’t gotten into more trouble in certain settings. I’m giving in on that idea and trying to be more open about it. But it’s not easy. But if I can help someone else see that sometimes, it’s ok to ‘give in’ and reframe that as ‘going with the flow’ then, that’s good enough for me. Because quite honestly, though I’ve always believed that meditation was about building resiliance and learning to focus, and working through becoming a more present person, some of that really is about letting go of ideas that are getting in the way of doing better with practices. Some of it is definitely about asking for help and letting of the idea that I’m showing weakness and arming other poeple. All of it is about growing and becoming a better person, I hope. What do you think? Is giving in good, bad, or does it depend?
My name is Kai, and until two years ago, I wasn’t very good at knowing how to breathe. Odd isn’t it? I’m admitting that I didn’t know how to breathe to calm down. Because of that, I had a lot of issues with my meditation practices, which isn’t as uncommon as many people think, but I do also think, it’s not something people often admit to. I’ve talked more about it in one of my new books, but here I am, holding my hands up to practicing meditation, but not actually knowing how to breathe and calm myself. It sounds oversimplistic – if all you need to do is take three deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth if possible (breathing out through your nose can cause backflow into your lungs and you might not get the ‘full deep breath’ treatment if you breathe out through your nose, but I’m not actually sure and I’m researching now why all meditations start with an in through the nose, out through the mouth. If anyone knows why, I’d love to share.) I’ll be talking about more of this in H for Headspace (the app and the actual thing), and M for mindfulness, meditation and me, but I’ll be honest, learning to breathe has been a revelation.
What do you mean by learning to breathe?I ‘found my way’ to this technique simply by giving in and stopping arguing. Y’see, I’ve always been able to meditate – I don’t actually worry about my ability to do that, but it turns out that I wasn’t ‘doing it’ right, if there’s even that concept when meditating. I guess the video below (which, is, ironically from Headspace), explains how my meditation actually looked before. (hint, I’d go out and chase my ‘traffic thoughts’). So, here I am, learning to do everything I needed to do, but breathing was a huge issue.
Why pausing and taking a deep breath is almost always goodI gotta be honest, I used to side-eye my pysch nurse when she said that one of the major things I could do is just breathe. I was the sort of person that counted out of order, that snapped a band on my wrist, or…I’ll be honest, I’d just melt down. I’m a 42 year old woman and I’ve cried in public more than the average toddler. I might be one of the few adults that freaked the hell out in Disneyland, to the point that my family had to make a ring around me while I sat and sobbed.
In the last few years though, especially since the lockdown, I started committing to refreshing my meditation practice. I was lucky enough to get access to Headspace (no they don’t sponsor us, I just adore them), and I work with their stuff to get through. And just going back through the basics, I have to say, I might go sharing out after the traffic of my thoughts far less, and while I still deal with a lot of distress, just three deep breaths not only gives me the chance to stop and focus on something other than what’s triggering me, but warns my family that I’m struggling. If that doesn’t work, I default to counting odd numbers out of order, or snapping bands or whatever, but seriously, take a few deep breaths. Things might look different afterwards!
I’ll be honest – you may want to avoid this post if you’re not interested in a rant on various things, and my perspective (which is both personal and anecdotal) on EUPD, aka borderline personality disorder.
This post is under a read more because it’s got triggering topics.
A history of being a person with a border
I was first diagnosed as depressed in 1997/98. Even back then though, there was an odd one or two days of the year where I was totally out of control. I wasn’t sleeping for days at a time, I was taking stupid risks and I was not the person everyone knew. I did a couple of really stupid things back then – the biggest one of course was leaving the military. I was diagnosed as depressed because the periods of depression were far longer than the mania, and that continued until I had my son. Then, there was a bit of a shift, and some of those caring for me thought I might be bipolar. Which made sense, but I resisted meds for as long as I could. I took the positive as far as I could with it, obviously, because part of it was this site.
But, after being on antipsychotics in 2011, and then going back at the end of 2014, and discovering all support has changed, and slowly but surely, I started encountering psychiatrists I just didn’t agree with.
I have to say from the outset, I respect the professional effort, education and care that goes into becoming a psychaitrist or psych nurse or anyone with care of people with mental health. I just had a run of really bad luck. So, while I’m criticising the people that cared for me between 2014-2018/19
And this is where the rant starts.
I do want to say though, there is a happy ending to this story. Firstly, I was taught CFT, at least, the beginning of it, and that and the people caring for me now have made a *massive* difference to my outlook. I still struggle, but I’m doing better than I was, for the most part. My current team are amazing. We work well together, and though this year has been a challenge with Lockdown in the UK and CV-19, and trying to avoid making more work for them, we’ve managed. And I now also understand some more of the motivation of why I was labelled as I was.
I’m sorry to say, I still don’t agree.
I don’t live on the borderline
Over the following five years, I met one psychiatrist twice. That psychiatrist decided I was borderline, not bipolar, and when asking for opinions, only took them on board when they agreed with him.
Of the psych nurses and psychiatrists, I passed through in this time, advice ranged from ‘practice abstinence to prevent miscarriage, and we didn’t give you permission to have more children anyway’, ‘have a glass of wine before bed’, ‘if you have side effects from meds, it always means you don’t need them’. I was bullied, and at the core of it, was a refusal to reassess or explain the assessment fully of why I was changed from bipolar to borderline personality disorder.
Over the years I’ve tried to work out what diagnosis criteria they were using (the honest answer to that is basically all of them), and how to deal with them, but every time has left us with more confusion. And I gotta be honest, there’s been a tonne of things we’ve had to discuss with them, we’ve not been able to get to the bottom of it. But one thing I did do, is that I had to move to another county, and got to the place I needed to be, and with therapists I’m dealing with, and they’re wonderful.
One change – wide-ranging repercussions
I’m not sure how many other people with mental health problems know the stigma of having issues like mine first hand, but for the three years directly following being diagnosed as borderline, every single time I ended up in A&E, whether I was vomiting blood or had cellulitis, three questions always started most conversations about pain meds, all centring around whether I’d done it to myself, whether I was faking and was I drug-seeking. We discovered in the following few years after having it changed from EUPD to CPTSD, that the difference in how I was handled was stark. I’ve been in hospital within six months of the change, and even my partner was stunned at the differences.
No one asked me if I was attention-seeking when it was mentioned I had CPTSD.
No one took my meds off me that I’d brought with me to stay on schedule, and in fact, because I was badly triggered and wasn’t feeling my best, a nurse went out of her way to help me. Six months before in a similar situation, I was told to stop being a crybaby.
CPTSD isn’t something that everyone agrees is a diagnosis that can co-exist with bipolar disorder. We’ll see.
So…that’s my rant.
Depression is a horrible thing – it affects one in four of us, (though I think the statistic is much higher) and often, leads to more serious issues, such as anxiety, and insomnia, or conversely, can be fed by them.
I’ve always been hesitant to offer advice about managing depression, in part because I don’t want people to use my advice and get into more difficult situations, or worse, become even more depressed, so while I’m offering five suggestions, there are of course others.
My top five go-to’s when depressed
I’m not kidding when I say that these are my top five, and in this order. I am trying to take my medication far less, so none of these are ‘take your meds’, which I’ve found is a suggestion that happens quite a lot.
- 1.Have a relaxing bath or shower – find your favourite scent (whatever you have accessible) and have a bath or shower. I’ve found a great product on Amazon, called Feather and Down, which is a sleep spray, but their bath oil to milk is just divine. If you’re not a bath person, grab an indulgent shower. Break out your favourite moisturiser, shower gel, whatever you like that makes you feel better. If you’ve been less than great about brushing your hair, put it under a shower cap, you can deal with that after your bath, when you feel up to it, or if you want, give it a wash too.
- 2.Indulge in something just for you – my partner often brings me home ice cream or chocolate, but actually, what I like doing is having five minutes just to myself in the forest, which is why we go out to local forestry parks, or Arboretums. (yes, it’s called Forest Bathing, which is something recommended for depression)
- 3.Indulge in one of your hobbies – I know it’s hard to feel comfortable doing something only for yourself, but it’s important to try to relax into a hobby. And you deserve time to yourself.
- 4.Spend time with your pets – spending time with my cats is some of the best therapy for me.
- 5. If all else fails, if you have one, curl up with an anxiety blanket. If you don’t, I recommend getting one – they’re well worth it. Again, there are some available on Amazon (UK link – US link). I’ve had several anxiety blankets, and I’ve found that I sleep better, and I calm down faster.
The research based on anxiety blankets is extensive, but my own experience (anecdotal as it is) is that it’s a great aid.
While these suggestions work for me, the biggest recommendation I can make if you are depressed is seek help. Go talk to a doctor.
Do you have any suggestions for people to help them relax or find space when depressed.
CPTSD has been a persistent part of my diagnosis for a few years now, in part because we just refused to accept that I had EUPD. And while many survivors of childhood abuse have CPTSD, I’m one of the few that don’t have it due to what happened to me at home, as a child. There’s a theory it could have been – in part – to do with the meds I had as a child for epilepsy, or it could have been because I was bullied, but what I do know was that unlike some, I wasn’t as unlucky as others I’ve met, and that I wasn’t abused as a child by my family. This seems to be one of the key areas people focus on – if you have CPTSD, you were obviously abused as a child. And I have to say, it’s not that simple.
And as it’s an emerging label, I guess we just need to keep an eye on it.
How did I end up there?
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on various blogs, about two yearas ago, around about the time a unit decided that there was nothing more they could do to treat me, my diagnosis was re-evaluated and changed to CPTSD. I could give a list of historical reasons why this is the case, and why most bipolars end up being reclassified as EUPD/borderline, but instead I’ll just link to this article.
I’m just a really passionate person
What got me ‘into trouble’ and the unit absolutely obsessed with the idea that I wasn’t bipolar was that I was always angry. There was no accounting for the reason *why* I was angry (I don’t do any other reaction in flight, fight, freeze), nor did they listen to me about specific things that made me feel as if y only protection was to be protective of myself.
The line though with the first team came when we had to complain about them and they said ‘everything in her record is completely accurate and justified, and we had didfferent letters, so…that was fun.
At the end of that road
I try not to focus too much now on what went on back then, but it wasn’t the best of times. And due to the way I’d been handled before being passed to the new unit, I’d basically had six months treatment in five years, something I’m still working towards fixing now.
One of the first things I had explained to me at the new unit though was that though he couldn’t say- for sure – whether I was bipolar – he was pretty sure that I wasn’t borderline, for the reasons I gave (I have little difficulty with long term relationships, and I’m angry all the time, it’s got nothing to do with my mental health, I’m just…feisty and will argue for what I believe in. In fact, at the end of the process with the complaints team, I showed the head of the unit this table from this article and he was in agreement with me. I didn’t fit BPD, I fit CPTSD, but it still took moving to a new team to be taken seriously.
CPTSD – here to stay?
In the last ten years, the definitions on mental health have changed so often that it’s hard to tell whether we’re dealing with one classification or another, whether we’re talking to someone who uses one set of terminology or another. Whether we’re even using the same definitional syste that they are. What is clear that if you find one that’s in one of the accepted systems and it works for you, it’s ok to want to use that one, and hopefully those that care for you are open to it.
*As is the common notice on Bi-polarbears, please do not self diagnose. While we appreciate, especially now, that healthcare is limited and difficult to come by mental health is important enough that you should work hard on ensuring that you’re supported and have an accurate, unbiassed diagnosis from a third party. Take a family member with you to advocate for you, but it’s important to have an official level of support and/or recognition for your mental health status. If you self diagnose, you could choose the wrong one, and as many of the items chosen when self diagnosing require medication only accessible from a professional, self-dx defeats the purpose of getting help for things, that way. And you don’t need to have a ‘formal diagnosis’ to practice mindfulness and self-care. Which I’ll be talking about later this month.
If I’m not careful, I get to be very opinionated about labels and stuff. I was going to do ‘why it’s dumb that most bipolars are being reclassified as borderline’ but…I’m grabbing for any positive posts I can make. Though, to be fair, because of how I describe some of this stuff, I suspect this one might come off as slightly opinionated too…
A human BEING
I get really annoyed with some of the meditation challenge stuff that I read that says ‘to be in the moment you have to be a human BEING, not a human doing.’. It’s actually true though. Mindfulness, at it’s core is being as present as your brain allows it, in the moment you’re experiencing. It’s about making and keeping memories, not dwelling, not allowing pain to overwhelm you and building a better way to handle the ‘world’ in general. And I know why it annoys me so to talk about being versus doing.
What does it mean anyway?
Mindfulness sometimes means, for me at least, not to switch to automatic when I’m doing something. To pay attention and note, not only differences, but the good things I enjoy about experiences. And, in being present in moments, finding the courage to face harder stuff, by remembering the lessons of ‘being in the moment’ otherwise. That it passes.
Time however, even when being instead of doing, sometimes gets the upper hand
I can tell when I’ve not got the spoons to do a being versus doing exercise when it drags ON and ON and ON. I like meditating. I struggle sometimes, and I’ve been known to do things on autopilot when I shouldn’t, but lately, meditating has been hard. Being in the moment, moreso. I know some of it is to do with the process of grieving, after losing my grandmother mid-February, and I know some of it is about the fact that I know that it’s not going to be pleasant if I follow the trajectory that I’m on, because I don’t do well with what comes next. But as I’m more about being in the moment, I’m trying not to think too far ahead.
Being though is more than…well…being
One of the concepts I think I scrabble with, and may talk about more, who knows, is that ‘being’ isn’t just about the act of staying present. It’s more than that. I’m learning that through mindfulness and meditation. I’ll need to keep talking about it, I guess, but I’d love your thoughts.
Tomorrow I’m doing C for CPTSD, but how about we just be, today?
(Featured image on this post was the first picture I took of our beach at the Hotel in the Dominican where we stayed in 2018. And honestly, feels like a lifetime ago. It’s also the tree I did my final mindfulness mediation under before heading back home at the end of what was an incredible holiday)
Normal – a loaded wordThe real reason I wrote this specific post was I was thinking about doing A for Aspergers and I had someone jump all over me with ‘actually, Asperger was a Nazi, the community was moving away from that,’ and I was thinking ‘but I’m part of that community, news to me!’, so instead of just talking about one aspect of what I’m thinking, I’ll be touching on the fact that I’ve gone from being diagnosed as bipolar in 2003, to…much more in 2021, including aspergers.
And how ‘normal’ is a completely loaded word. (well, I’ll be doing that in N for ‘setting on a washing machine’) later on the month.
Here comes the new boss, same as the old bossThe thing with diagnoses is they’re just labels that let people broad stroke know what may or may not happen on interaction with them. They aren’t, for example, the be all and end all (as one psych student once told me, ‘nope, if i were to guess from your file, I’d never have got ‘gestures at me’. And that was the part my GP choked on his coffee cause he was sitting there innocently allowing me to corrupt…well… correct really… med students. I was, when I started this blog, bipolar. Might have had a soupçon of anxiety tossed in there, but no, I was bipolar. Up, down, 60 days with a five day variance on my cycle. You could set your watch by me, apparently.
Except. I’m not.
Not any more.
The new is a bit of a shockSo, the new actually snuck in. I was first decided NOT to be bipolar because bipolar and borderline personality were so easy to mix up. And we argued that no, I was not borderline. Even when they tried rebranding it to EUPD (I’ll explain why in E is for ‘if you dare say that again, I’ll scream’). And do you know, the only person that can actually explain it doesn’t like to use it anyway. So, five years of arguing about that, being discharged and sent to a neighbouring county and meeting Dr C and nurse M and life is good again.
Dr C has changed my diagnosis to ‘CPTSD with traits of EUPD, anxiety, (pseudo?)psychosis, historic bipolar’ and is pretty sure I’m mildly on the spectrum. Mostly because I’m really, specifically, hardcore focused on the use of language and its myriad shades. My vocabulary causes issues, put it that way.
Mouthful right?What the new normal actually is though is me meditating more (yeah, I’ll talk about my complex relationship with that later too), being mindful, and recovering. Because the five years leading up to me getting help, from 2014-2019 were when I stopped leaving the house. Which is why there’s whole sections of this AtoZ devoted to bullying, psychosis and less cheery subjects. As for the lockdown? I live in the UK and it’s getting to me a bit now, but when it started it was pretty much ‘ok, I hear this is an instruction for you. It’s a description for me.’. I’d never have wished the confinement my psychosis makes me impose on myself on anyone else, but that’s where we are right now, I guess. What’s your new normal? Anything changed you might wanna discuss?
I’ll hopefully deal with stuff that helps people, but at the end of the day, I think mental health is going to become a topic that we’re more front and centre discussing, just because of what’s going on right now. Finding our new normal is the start – A New Normal will go live on April 1st.
If you’d like to see what else I’m up to, please head on over to Kaiberie.com, and check out the page that lists all the AtoZ challenges for 2021 that I’m doing.