Fiona is a married mom of two living in the west of Ireland. She has been blogging about mental health for 5 years, documenting her journey into, through, and out the other side of Irish Psychiatric Services. Previously diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and clinical depression, she is now symptom free and working to help others recognise that their mental health issues need not be thought of as a lifelong illness.
She is an Ambassador for See Change, the Irish national movement to change minds about mental health, and has recently started working with Advancing Recovery in Ireland. She is a public speaker and regular contributor to a number of national publications on the subject of mental health.
Years ago, before self-harm became part of my life, my understanding of the term would have been as a purely physical act. I equated self-harm with physical self-injury, of the sort that would leave visible damage.
My understanding of self-compassion has changed dramatically in the last three months or so. Up until I really started learning about it, I believed that self-compassion and treating myself were the same thing. They're not. There's a world of a difference between the two. Self-compassion is defined by two key features:
Over the last six months or so, my attitude towards mental health and mental illness has shifted quite dramatically. It hasn't been an easy shift, or one that happened overnight. In fact, I resisted it quite strenuously because it flies in the face of everything I had come to believe. It's been slow and frustrating and has progressed by tiny, tiny increments, but all those little steps are starting to add up and I now find myself with a very different perspective.
I knew that while I would get great energy from them, and it would possibly help take the national conversation about mental health a little further, it would also knock the stuffing out of me and the fallout wouldn't be worth the whatever slim gain may have been made.
I came across the above quote on twitter this morning. It practically screamed at me from the screen, because it encapsulates everything that is wrong (this is just my opinion of course) with how we view mental health issues, and how they are portrayed by the media.
We are making huge progress as a society when it comes to talking about mental health, huge. Slowly but surely, the stigma that surrounds it is being chipped away. There are several well established national campaigns encouraging people to talk, and these are getting a bigger response year on year. It's fantastic to see.
I'm about to say something a little controversial. Ready? The very mention of the word 'mindfulness' gets my back up. Before you hop straight to the comments to tell me about how utterly ridiculous and short sighted I'm being, hear me out.
The theme of World Mental Health week this year is dignity, the dictionary definition of which is 'the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect'. This is proving to be a particularly tough topic to write about when it comes to mental health, particularly as I can really only talk about it in relation to my own experience.
I recently came to the end of a therapeutic relationship that spanned just over six years. I can quite honestly put my hand on my heart and say that that relationship has changed my life more than I ever thought was possible.
Looking back, there is so much I would do differently, so much I wish I'd known. Because there are things they don't tell you about in the antenatal classes, and things that nobody likes to talk about.
We've come a long way in recent times in our ability to talk about mental health. Increasingly people are able to admit when they're struggling, to realise that they need help, and we're slowly, albeit too slowly for my liking, chipping away at the stigma that surrounds mental illness. But then something like this pops up.
I don't like my labels. I didn't ask for them, and I would certainly rather I didn't have them. But I do. They don't define me, and they're not all I am, not by a long shot. But accepting them, rather than fighting them, has brought me just that bit closer to being able to manage them. So go ahead, label me, it helps. Just don't judge me.
I felt like an outsider, an imposter, someone who was tolerated, but not really accepted. Awkward. I always felt so unbelievably awkward, like I was taking up too much space. I was afraid to join in. I didn't do societies - walking into a room full of people without actually being required to be there was beyond me, never mind walking in and actually striking up a conversation.
I'm tired of being asked why I got depressed. I have no problem talking about how it has impacted on my life, and that of my family and friends, I think people need to know exactly how much mental illness can take over and infiltrate every aspect of life. But I have a very big problem with the perception that this could somehow be my own fault
But how about my kids? How am I with them? At my worst, I'm unable to cope with them. I can't engage, I don't want to play, getting myself up, dressed and fed is sometimes beyond me. Often, all I'm capable of is sitting and staring at a wall for hours on end. I resent every demand that's made of me, I want to be left alone, utterly and completely.
At the times in my life where suicide has become a real and valid option, it seemed the best thing to do for everyone. When my mind reached this completely irrational conclusion, I was convinced that while my family might grieve for a while, they would ultimately get over it, move on, and be the better for no longer having to watch over or worry about me.
Hubby is a patient man. Strong, loving, considerate too, but mostly patient (in the extreme). He has a tough job sometimes - he has me. Granted, I have my good points (too many to list, obviously) but then there's also that nasty cloud/dog/bubble aspect just waiting in the wings, ready to pounce as soon as I let my guard down. And when it pounces on me, it pounces on him too.
Robin Williams' death is everywhere this week. It's been on my mind as to whether or not I would post something about it, as I have really mixed feelings about the general furore that follows the death of a celebrity, whether accidental or in this case, probably not so much.
15/08/2014 13:32 BST
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