THE BLOG

Living with Mental Illness - The Recovery Bag Project

09/10/2015 17:03 BST | Updated 09/10/2016 10:12 BST

You woke up 20 minutes ago and decided today is the day. Today is the day you're going to die. By day, you mean 3:30 am. It is dark, silent... the time of night that people may find peaceful. But when you live with mental illness this can be the time where everything is at its loudest; your intrusive thoughts, fears, obsessions, physical sensations, etc become magnified by the stark silence.

But no, you won't die today because you love your family and friends and you have the skills you have learnt in therapy, you have the Crisis Team that you can phone, and you've made it through before. So you begin, you find the phone number and call Crisis. Now you prepare yourself for the three hour wait for a call back... which makes you feel helpless, and also angry. Initially at them for being so bloody annoying because you need an instant response, then at the whole system for not providing anyone with enough funds to provide decent mental health care and then, all of a sudden, you are even more worked up and more desperate for relief than when you first woke up.

But no, you can do this, you know you can, because you HAVE done this before. In fact, recently you have found yourself doing it more often than ever before... and again, your thoughts spiral. You know you need to live so that you do not hurt those around you, but cannot, or more fear, asking them for help because, again, you don't want to hurt them by telling them you have been desperate for your pain and torment to stop.

You're shaking, your head is banging from all of the thoughts, you have the weirdest taste in your mouth and you just need to scream and shout but nothing will come out. Knowing exactly what you could do at this very moment to make it all okay, even for just a brief moment, your hands start to wander to whatever you have planned for your own demise. You almost wish that the Crisis Team would phone right then, you almost wish that you had told a friend, you almost wish that you could go to A&E for help... after all it is an emergency. But no, you're still just sat there, it's as if you're sat with your finger hovering over that big red button and there's nothing anyone can do to help... because there is no one to help.

You need something that you can do where you don't have to ask, you don't have to wait around for someone else to help you, you don't have to fear other people's opinions or emotions. You just have something, right there and then, at the end of your fingertips to assist you in staying safe. Self-soothe rather than self-destruct, colour not destroy. You decide you need a toolkit. You know you don't want those bits of paper written by psychologists who yes, intellectually understand but perhaps don't understand on a practical level, but you have no clue what to include. After all, what on earth can possible help you in that gut wrenching painful moment?

I have, and still do, find myself in these moments: the sleepless nights, the wanting to protect my loved ones but completely failing to protect myself and in January this year, I made myself a kit, a "recovery bag"; a bag that is still not complete but bulging with items that interact with all my senses and also connect with me personally. As I put it together I've thought about those funny tastes and sensations, the need to sometimes just want to "squeeze a daisy" as my mum would prefer me to say rather than "smash the living s**t into something" and started to collect some items together. I spoke to my peers about what helps them and what they experience, because even people with the same diagnosis can experience a whole host of symptoms different to my own. Very soon, I began to put together these kits for some friends who loved them. Moreover, my mental health workers loved them and before I knew it I had created The Recovery Bag Project.

A project doesn't claim this bag is the first of its kind as the idea of self soothe/distraction kits have been around for years, nor that it will undoubtedly solve all of your crisis moments, but a bag that can provide you with hope (as 86.5% of my feedback survey agree), provide you with a starting point to build your journey towards recovery, help to prevent relapse and, most of all, help to save your life by decreasing the number of times you feel too vulnerable to other people's emotions to reach out for help. I have massive plans for this project, to work with schools to help young people create their own kits to help with exam stresses etc and stabilise their general mental health. Also, I want to work with hospitals, universities, colleges etc to reach out to individuals and help them to see that while,we who are suffering, don't have a visible cast on our arm, nor are we a cute fluffy dog, we do, just as any human being does, deserve the right to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion.

One in four adults in the UK do suffer from some form of mental ill health in their life time, this has been mirrored in the number of requests I have had for bags. We need your support. Even the smallest of donations makes a huge difference and could help to save people in those times of distress.