Friday, 2 February 2018

CBT for Anxiety Session 2 - My Past

(TW: mentions of self harm, suicide, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and diet)

I'd had a bad couple of weeks between session 1 and session 2 of CBT. I did, however, manage to do the homework my therapist set for me. This was to read and print off a booklet about Panic as well as doing an anxiety based thought record. I filled in quite a few entries for this record, so had a lot to talk about with the therapist. I also wanted to monitor my mood swings in order to help with filling in the questionnaires at the start of session 2 (as well as for my own benefit). One of my best friends suggested this and I found it a very helpful idea.

I used a mood diary template; where I recorded levels (from 1-10) of stress, mood, energy, and how many hours I'd slept. I also commented on my moods and things that had happened that day. I found that I had to add at least 2 or 3 entries for these topics throughout the day (except hours slept of course) as my moods changed. I found my moods changed rapidly and extremely in response to things that happened. I had a couple of days, for instance, where I had read too much into some things and got it into my head that some friends had got fed up of me. This resulted in me feeling very paranoid, angry, upset, and anxious to the point that friends noticed and reassured me. Reassurance helped my mood a bit, but did not completely alleviate those thoughts and feelings.

Moving on to my therapy session, I was a few minutes late but the therapist didn't seem to mind. Once we'd sat down, she gave me the usual questionnaires (see my previous post) as well as a Risk Assessment questionnaire. This yes/no questionnaire asked about suicidal and self harm thoughts, as well as plans and attempts. I did answer yes to some of these, so my therapist wanted to talk about this first. We moved on, once she was sure that I wasn't currently planning to end my life.

We next talked about the thoughts I have about myself, my family, strangers, and going outside. This brought us to various things that had happened in my past, and how they affected my thoughts, feelings, and behaviour nowadays.

Two particular things that were major factors in my mental illnesses were the bullying I experienced at school, and the psychologically and sexually abusive relationship I had when I was at university. These really affected how I saw, and still see myself. I don't see myself as a person of worth, I think of myself as "wrong" no matter what I do or say. I blame myself for everything and punish myself through regular self harm. Long story short,  I don't like myself very much. My therapist commented that I speak about myself very negatively.

The next topic we went onto was lifestyle. What did I do throughout my day? What is stopping me from working? Do I go out much/socially? I mentioned that this past couple of weeks had been difficult and I'd barely been out of the house at all. Partly this was because I felt very demotivated and low, but it was also the Agoraphobia making me avoid situations that make me panicky and anxious. My therapist said that I needed to go out more, and try a short walk at first. I pretty much promised her that I would try to go out more. I also explained why I didn't work, but that I would like to if/when I am ready. I explained that this work would have to be very flexible and accommodating as I have energy "crashes" in the afternoon and need a 2 hour nap when I get too exhausted. Ideally, this job would be a work-from-home one (not easy to find!).

We then went onto general health. Did I exercise much? What is my diet like? Can I cook for myself? I told her that my Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility Syndrome do cause a lot of pain, fatigue etc so cooking is difficult and I need help when cooking from scratch. I spoke about the kinds of things I ate for each meal and that I was doing Slimming World online. Overall, my therapist decided my diet was relatively healthy. She also mentioned how certain inflammatory foods could make my Fibromyalgia flare. I had read up about that when initially diagnosed, but have forgotten now, so will look into it.

The session was coming to a close by this time, as we'd been talking about a lot for a while! My homework for this time is to find 3 things each day that are positive (it could be about my day, myself, something I'm looking forward to or that someone said to me etc). I need to work on being compassionate to myself. She also wants me to carry on with the mood diary and fill in the activities in the Panic booklet.

So far, I'm liking my therapist (apart from her questions about getting back to work soon) and the sessions are at least giving me time and space to vent. I did find this session very emotionally and physically exhausting, however, so had to nap for a while once I'd got home.

My next session is in 3 weeks time, so I hope to write a post on a separate topic before my session 3 post. I hope this post is helpful in the meantime!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

CBT for Anxiety Session 1 - The Assessment

(TW Suicide and Mention of Sexual Assault)

I've decided to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy again. This time, I want to focus on my anxiety issues with travelling alone. I've had CBT 3 times in the past, but without a specific goal so this is partly why I think it didn't work for me. I didn't know what exactly I wanted to achieve, apart from a lessening in symptoms. Previously, the focus was on my Depression and suicidal ideations. I found CBT unhelpful for this however, as I felt my issues were more complex than this type of therapy allowed for. At the time, I didn't know I had Borderline Personality Disorder however, and this is probably why CBT didn't work for me. Recently, however, I felt trying CBT with a focus on one of my anxiety disorders, with a specific goal/problem would probably be more effective.

After a self referral, a telephone assessment, and a few months on the waiting list, I had my first session earlier this week. As it was session 1, it was more of an assessment however. The therapist initially gave me the standard questionnaires to complete (PHQ-9, GAD-7, phobias and work and social adjustment scale (see page 5)) Once she had looked through my responses, she discussed my suicidal thoughts with me to find out whether I'd attempted in the past or made plans, and if I had plans to end my life right now. I reassured her that although I used to have quite strong suicidal thoughts, they are more passive now and would only be likely to become active if I were to suffer a sudden loss of support or someone from my support network (such as a close friend, parent, or my cat).

She then went through my diagnoses (both physical and mental) and asked how I felt about my BPD diagnosis. I said that the assessment for it was one I'd asked for, and although I did not like how stigmatised this disorder is, I'm relieved to put a name to my problems and to be believed. I mentioned to her that I had not been referred for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy when diagnosed (as this is the standard treatment recommended for BPD). She noted that I had been discharged from Secondary Care soon after my diagnosis, and she was very surprised about this. She told me that Primary Care mainly does CBT and it is Secondary Care that would carry out DBT.

We then went on to my anxiety problems; primarily anxiety with travelling alone. I explained how I felt when trying to travel alone, and problems I've had in the past that I think may have contributed. I used to be bullied and harassed on the coach to school for example. Because it happened for so many years, I expect it to happen on public transport (such as a bus). When I was 17, I was sexually assaulted at my local bus station. Although it has been 11 years, I still can't sit in a bus station by myself. Lastly, I had a panic attack a few years ago when changing trains, because I could not find the correct platform. It was so intense and scary that it put me off taking trains.

I also spoke about how often I have racing thoughts, and that it can get too much to cope with. The therapist asked how I would try to manage this, and I said through distraction (gaming mostly). She said that I was relying too much on distraction and mindfulness may help me to "sit with" my worries. Hopefully this will help me to face my fears and come up with solutions that could calm my anxiety down.

By this time, the session was running to a close. The therapist gave me some links to a worksheet for recording times I'm anxious and why. She also gave me a link to booklets online that described anxiety and panic. I'm to read these, fill in the worksheet and bring it to the next session (in a fortnight).

I hope this blog post has been helpful for anyone considering CBT for anxiety. My next post will be about Session 2.


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Self Care New Year's Resolutions

The end of a year can be very difficult for many people; bringing up mixed emotions and placing expectations on us to think over the past year and make resolutions for the new year.

I find resolutions difficult to make/stick to, and the guilt and failure I feel when I don't stick to those resolutions can be very damaging for my mental health. Mental health problems, such as Depression include symptoms such as guilt and feeling like a failure, so another dose of that is definitely not welcome! I have general aims I'd like to meet, but no strict resolutions. I decided to put them here, in case they may be helpful for you. Of course, you can tailor them to your abilities/what you feel able to cope with!

1. Be kinder to myself.  Specifically, I want to try not to say such horrible things about myself and focus on the more positive things I can find. I can't be all bad, right?!

2. Do my best to set boundaries. If I am not comfortable with something, it's ok to say no! If I am finding a friendship is becoming toxic, it is ok to step away and even end that friendship if I feel able to.

3. Stay connected to loved ones. I am terrible at starting conversations. I know I expect people to talk to me first, and I feel very alone if no one does even for just a day. I want to take that step and say hello to someone first.

4. Let friends/family know if things aren't going well. I don't need to bottle up my physical or mental health problems. If I'm in pain, it's ok to say! If I'm feeling down, it's also ok to say! That bit of support I hopefully get in return can really help my mood.

5. Take time for myself. Although I shouldn't isolate, it's ok to take some time out for myself. Being round people can be exhausting and overwhelming, so it is a good idea to have that time and space for myself.

6. Do a nice thing for myself every day. This could be watching a movie I like, playing a game, treating myself to a favourite snack, or putting on makeup and taking a few selfies! Whatever I consider a positive, mood lifting thing counts.

7. Stay hydrated! I know I don't drink enough water, so I often try to aim to remedy that. Apart from other drinks, I manage half to a whole 500ml bottle a day. I want to double that.

8. Try not to put too much pressure on myself. There's quite a few resolutions here, but I need to remember that these aren't set in stone. They are just guidelines, suggestions even. If I only manage one or two next year, that's fine! I'm not a failure if I can't manage to meet all of the above.

Are you setting any resolutions for 2018? Comment below with your suggestions!

Whatever you do, I hope next year is the best year so far for you. See you then!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Please Help my Friend with his Independence!

I have a close friend called Daryl, who is one of the kindest, most supportive and most generous people I've ever known. He volunteers, does a lot for disability sports and manages a charity that helps get disabled people into sport.

He does all this, whilst living with Marfan Syndrome and Epilepsy. He needs more support than he's getting right now; which is why I am asking for your help. Daryl lives with his brother, and they are both wheelchair users. They have been living in a bungalow which is not suitable for their needs. It is not adapted and what they really need is to be able to move into a bungalow that has been specially adapted. Daryl also needs a specialist wheelchair, so that he is able to move about freely whilst using the strength that he has left.

This, of course, comes at quite a cost, so he has had to set up a fundraiser. His target is £9000 and he has raised £1505 so far. He really needs as many people as possible to donate and share so that he can reach his target as soon as possible. This really is a life-changing amount for him and if you could donate just £5, it would really really help.

I've embedded the link to his fundraiser below. Please donate what you can, and share far and wide! I know he will appreciate this so so much.

(If the above link doesn't work, then please follow the following link to access Daryl's fundraiser: )

Thank you so much!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

My Favourite Person

This blog post has been inspired by this article on The Mighty.

A Favourite Person (or FP) is someone you absolutely love, to an extreme extent. They really are your favourite person and you place responsibility of your happiness onto them. They can make you feel on top of the world, or in the deepest pit; depending on whether they are paying attention to you or not.

Looking back on past relationships, friendships etc, I can think of one particular person who became my FP. Let's call him M. M and I met while I was studying, and had a close friendship from the off. I was in an abusive relationship at the time, and M was always there for me. I confided in him a lot and the worse my relationship became, the stronger my friendship with M was. We continued talking after university and when single, we'd flirt as well. I always felt so grateful for how much he'd been there for me. We started flirting more, and even started talking about dating. I wasn't sure at first, but then the more we talked, the more attracted to him I became. I started to put him on a pedestal, and relied on him to talk to me constantly, and be there for me constantly. At first, it didn't seem a problem. I felt like I was his favourite person too.

But then he started dating others and I resented that. I really thought he was the best person ever, and that I was the only one he wanted to be with. I fell for him and saw him as The One. If we talked, everything was great, he was the best person ever and I loved him more than anything in the world. If we didn't talk for a day, or didn't talk much, I resented him and at times, I hated him. I felt so hurt and betrayed by him. I got very jealous of women he dated. I resented the closeness they had because I thought it should be me and him. I wasn't a very nice person to be honest.

He did mess with my feelings. I'm not denying that. He made me think we'd have a relationship soon, then next thing I know, he was in a relationship with somebody else. He should've told me. I wouldn't have liked it, but in time I'd accept it. But the way I was with him, the way I placed that responsibility of my happiness on him, wasn't healthy. We'd have big arguments because of it.

I ended our friendship when I found out he'd got engaged, and not bothered to tell me. It would've been nice for him to tell me this big news, especially as we were such close friends, but I think I made a bigger thing out of it than I should've. I saw it as the ultimate betrayal, and ended up blocking him for it.

Nowadays, I worry about getting another Favourite Person. I know I ask for reassurance constantly, and think someone hates me if they don't reply to me or start conversations with me. Whether it be with friendships or romantic/sexual relationships, when I love, I love extremely deeply. I have to be careful of that, and it has affected forming relationships.


1. What Having a Favourite Person Means to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder:,%202017

Friday, 1 December 2017

Another CMHT Assessment

TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of overdose

To catch up on my experiences with mental health services, please watch my playlist on Youtube.

After another sharp decline in my mental health, and a small overdose, I decided to call the Community Mental Health team (secondary services). It'd been just over 3 months since I'd been discharged back to my GP. I was feeling confused, panicky, lost, and honestly unsafe.

Some things had contributed to my mental ill health; one of them being a PIP reassessment. I knew there was the possibility of having a face to face one, but being given just two days' notice was a real shock. I felt like I wasn't able to properly prepare, and I didn't have time to arrange a recording of my assessment. I vented about this, how I'd felt, and what I'd done, on Twitter, and some close friends persuaded me to contact mental health services.

Doing this wasn't easy. I doubted myself, and wondered if I really was ill enough for their help. I took a deep breath and called though. The person I spoke to was lovely. She said I'd done the right thing and booked me an appointment for an assessment with a CPN (community psychiatric nurse).

The assessment itself was thorough. It wasn't with my old CPN unfortunately, but this one was just as kind. We went through my problems right now, things in the past, things in the present, possible triggers, my meds, what therapy I've had before, whether I'd been with secondary services before etc. She wrote a lot of notes, and I hoped she could do something for me.

Her decision however, was to advise me to try mindfulness at home, and wait for the CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) sessions with the Primary Care team. I did ask about DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), as I'd been diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) but she said things had changed with the mental health team, and I may not fit the criteria for that type of therapy. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, so I just accepted this, and said goodbye.

I'm not sure how I feel about this assessment. I think I feel listened to, and I guess I wasn't expecting much in the way of help, but last time I was assessed, I felt pretty much the same and was offered some help from secondary services. In all honesty, I feel I've been abandoned since my BPD diagnosis, even though there are therapies suggested for it. Why am I not getting access to these, when they could help me a lot? Is the diagnosis just not enough anymore?


My Mental Health Vlogs:

CPN definition:

CBT definition:

DBT definition:

BPD definition:

Monday, 16 October 2017

Going Abroad with Chronic Physical and Mental Illnesses

Last month, I went on holiday to Gran Canaria, with my parents. As a person with multiple mental health, physical health, and mobility problems, the thought of travelling abroad can be quite daunting and nerve wracking. Will I remember everything I need to pack? How would I be able to get across a large airport, when I can't walk far at the best of times? How will I keep myself calm? Will there be toilets available nearby? How can I plan my holiday to make sure I'm not overdoing it every day? These were just a few worries that I had. Below, I explain how I eased or solved these problems.


About a week before I was set to go, I made lists of things to pack. I wanted to ensure I would be able to keep as cool and comfortable as possible.

  • I picked clothes that could mostly be slipped on, with no fiddly fastenings to deal with.
  • I made sure I packed extra medication (including extra pain medication) so that I definitely had enough for the holiday.
  • To keep myself cool (as well as for easily removing makeup!), I packed a full pack of face wipes. 
  • I packed travel size bottles of shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser etc. These are useful for keeping the luggage weight below the allowance, but also are easier on achy arms. There will be days where washing/showering is a struggle, so light products are helpful.
  • Dry shampoo! I usually try to shower every other day, but sometimes I have to miss a few days, so dry shampoo is absolutely wonderful for ensuring my hair stays relatively fresh and clean.

At the Airport:

There are various things to consider, when at the airport, especially when you are chronically ill (physically or mentally). 
  • It is important to book special assistance at least 48 hours before you are due to travel. 
  • As soon as you arrive at the airport, find OCS for special assistance. They can help with getting across the airport and through security, as well as boarding the plane and even getting you to your seat (using an aisle wheelchair) if needs be. You can use your own wheelchair, if you have one, or one will be provided for you. There may also be mobility scooters available if you'd prefer to use those. I flew from Birmingham airport and found OCS opposite the Spar shop in departures. Make sure you have your passport and boarding ticket to hand, to show when asked. 
  • This link will give you more information about special assistance at Birmingham Airport specifically. For any other airports, there should be information about disabled facilities and special assistance on their website.

On the Plane:

  • Ask for assistance, if you need help with putting your hand luggage in the overhead locker. Airline staff are there to help!
  • I find it's helpful to have anything you need for the flight to hand (maybe in a handbag if it fits) so that you won't need to get to the overhead locker and search for your bag amongst the others.

Arriving at your destination's airport:

  • It's likely that passengers will need to alight the plane via the stairs (unless you're lucky and a tunnel is ready!) An ambilift will be available, however, for passengers needing special assistance.
  • You will need to wait until everyone (not needing special assistance) has left the plane, before assistance and the ambilift will be available. This may take a little while, so it's best to remain seated until you see special assistance staff.
  • If you have checked in your own wheelchair, it may be the case that it will arrive on a different carousel to your suitcase/s. At Las Palma Airport, the wheelchair arrived on the last carousel to the right. We weren't made aware of this beforehand, so had a bit of a panic before a member of staff advised us!

Transfers from the airport to your destination.

  • Coaches can be a nightmare to get onto; with large steps and rarely any toilets. The amount of stops they make can increase the journey time by a lot as well. I would suggest booking a taxi. It pretty much halves the journey time!

At your destination

  • I know it's tempting to plan to do a lot on holiday (especially if there's lots to do/explore!) but consider what makes you flare up. As you would at home (when having plans for days/nights out), rest up as much as you can, before doing anything potentially flare-inducing. Most hotels have areas near reception where you can relax, so keep that in mind if the cleaner needs to access your room. 
Are there any other tips you would give for fellow spoonies? Comment below!