Negative Self-Talk and Me and BPD

It’s been a minute since I last wrote a blog post, which makes me sad and also kind of fits with what I want to talk about in this one.

After what seems like weeks (months!) of either me or Robyn being poorly, me hurting my back, snow, busy-ness and just generally parenting a toddler, I was just venting to my husband that I need some time to get out and move my body but that even if I find that time I’m just too flipping TIRED to do it. (If anyone tells me I’ll feel better for going, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.)

Our conversation then went:

Tom: ‘but that’s fine, you need to rest’

Me: ‘no, I’m lazy.’

Tom: ‘you’re not’

Me: ‘but that’s what my brain is telling me!’


I heard the words come out of my mouth and suddenly realised how true they were. My brain was telling me these things, just like in the past my brain has told me I’m a loser, I’m annoying, my voice sounds weird, i don’t deserve to be happy, I haven’t done enough. All those things were cruel bits of self-talk that weren’t true… could this be the same?

Maybe I’m not just a lazy person who can’t be bothered to exercise and can’t stop eating Rich Tea biscuits? Maybe I’m just doing the best I can in my current circumstances?

I’m a stay at home mum, who uses some days of grandparent childcare to get all her work, life admin, cleaning, organising, exercising and resting done, I’m a business owner who’s really trying to book more work and build up a living for myself that way, I’m in charge of running our house (meals, food shop, cleaning), I take Robyn to classes for her development and fun, I try to have a bit of a social life, and don’t even talk to me about keeping up with all my trashy reality tv.

On top of that, I still breastfeed Robyn (it works for us, so that’s that) which is incredibly physically demanding as well as sometimes being mentally exhausting.

Even for someone who didn’t have a mental break down 5 years ago, that’s quite a lot to go at, and for someone who actively tries to not take on too much, I’m realising that actually I’m putting far too much pressure on myself and holding myself to standards I wouldn’t dream of holding others to.

A massive part of my recovery has been realising that I don’t have to think the way my brain sometimes wants to, and that actively challenging the negative self-talk and going against it even if it feels uncomfortable at first is the best way to move forward and be happier.

That’s not to say I don’t want to get exercising again, as I know it’s such an important part of my self care, but bullying myself into it when I’m already depleted and fed up is not going to help.

So for now I’m going to eat chips and beans for tea, put on my PJs and get whatever early night my (nearly) 2 year old allows. Because it turns out, it’s not laziness, it’s necessary.

‘Two Things Are True’ & Me & BPD

My Instagram feed looks very different these days. Yes, I still follow makeup artists, cute cats, badass feminists and awesome illustrators, but now there’s also a hefty dose of parenting help. Sleep experts, weaning recipes, breastfeeding support, ideas for activities, if there’s an aspect of parenting you can make a square picture with a pithy caption about, I probably follow it.

Some of the pages I follow are about gentle parenting, a concept that focuses on positive reinforcement rather than punishment/deterrent. I’m not here to argue the merits of various parenting styles (mainly because I think we will continue to use a mish-mash of everything) but one post on such a page keeps coming back to me. Dr Becky Kennedy (@drbeckyatgoodinside) writes about using the phrase ‘two things are true’ when creating boundaries for children. The idea is that you can explain to a disappointed child that just because they feel one way (which is fine), something else can also be true (which is also fine). So for example, ‘two things are true here: you want to have a snack, but it’s time for tea soon so for now the kitchen is closed. I get that that must be frustrating.’ I like this idea because it promotes the concept that how the child is feeling is valid but doesn’t dictate the situation. Of course, Robyn is only 8 months old so if I tried this reasoning with her at the moment I’d probably just get a puzzled frown or a wooden ring chucked at my head, but it’s a good one to know for the future.

Anyway, what I actually wanted to write about is using this concept of ‘two things are true’ for us as adults as well. I often find myself getting cross with myself for feeling a certain way, especially as a mum, and thinking that if I feel or think negative things it must mean I’m not grateful or happy or loving my best bloody life. Some days are really tough and I find it hard going, even though I love my daughter more than anything in the world, and one of these truths doesn’t negate the other. They can coexist, both be true and both be valid.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what other sets of ‘two true things’ live alongside each other in my brain. Here’s a few:

⁃ I am more tired and overwhelmed than I’ve ever been and I am happier than I’ve ever been.

⁃ I want time to myself but the minute I’m away from Robyn I miss the bones of her.

⁃ Sometimes parenting is mind-numbingly boring and I wouldn’t want to spend my time any other way.

⁃ I feel incredibly lucky to have the baby I always dreamed of and I feel tired, stressed, resentful and grumpy.

⁃ I am Robyn’s mum and I am still me.

⁃ I love my husband very much and I also want to stick his head in the nappy bin when he doesn’t do his share of jobs round the house.

⁃ Christmas is my favourite time of year and I also find Christmas incredibly stressful.

⁃ I am a confident, outgoing person and I live with a mental health diagnosis/condition that needs daily management.

⁃ I want to sleep but I also want to finish watching that tv show we’re streaming…

These are just some of the ones I can think of now as I sit in Robyn’s room settling her to sleep tonight.

My BPD brain deals so much in absolutes (eg ‘if I feel this way I must be a bad mum/friend/wife/human’) that I find this concept of two things not being mutually exclusive both helpful and mind-blowing. I can think and feel negative things about being a parent and still be a good enough mum? Sounds fake to me. I can be well along my road to mental wellness and still have debilitatingly bad days? Yeah, right.

But actually… yeah, RIGHT. Sometimes two things can be true and that’s okay. Nothing needs to be reconciled or figured out, it can just…be. I can just be. Not good, not bad, just a person, a mum, doing my best and muddling along.

Revolutionary, huh?

Sarah x

Talking and Me and BPD

*TW: references to self-harm and suicidal ideation.*

Another mental health day, another influx of social media posts saying ‘it’s good to talk’, ‘it’s ok to talk’, ‘let’s get talking’ about mental health. Obviously this is excellent. But what about when talking about your mental health involves things that are unpleasant, scary or downright upsetting? Is talking still ok, or should we just share palatable infographics and cosy self-care memes?

What if what we have to say about our mental health experiences isn’t what people want to hear?

I’ve thought about this a lot recently, especially as I’ve met a lot of new people since having my daughter Robyn in April this year. I’ve met loads of other new mums, and sometimes I’ve wondered how much is too much to share. It’s a bit like a job interview – feeling like you want to explain how you came to this point in your life, including addressing any gaps in your employment/sanity. In most cases I have told the truth- I used to work in a secondary school until a mental breakdown and psychiatric ward admission in 2018, followed by a break from work and retraining as a makeup artist. I try to be as matter-of-fact as possible but eyebrows still raise, and heads still tilt in sympathy. I’d also like to note that any time I have told someone this recently I have been met with nothing but kind words and understanding. It always astounds me how lovely people can be.

Have they noticed the self-harm scars that run up and down my arms and legs? Maybe those silvery lines are only obvious to me now, but I don’t make my effort to hide them, and it has been a hot summer of shorts and t shirts. We don’t talk about that stuff much on mental health days, do we? About how sometimes it’s possible to feel too much and you’ll do anything, _anything_ to distract from the sheer volume of pain. We don’t talk about the hours of mind-numbing boredom in A&E waiting to be seen by MH crisis teams, eating cardboard sandwiches and drinking watery tea. The weird comedown when you arrive home and realise nothing will change until something drastic happens. Those aren’t really the kinds of things people want to hear about mental health.

My other thoughts around talking involve how much I want my daughter to know about my illness. There’s some things she can wait until she’s a lot older to hear, but there’s some stuff I want her to talk to her about as soon as she’s able to understand. It’s probably easiest to list…

Things I don’t want her to know for a good long while:

⁃ The things I said and did while ill that hurt others.

⁃ The things I did while ill that hurt myself.

⁃ Just how desperate I became.

⁃ How terrified I was on the day of my admission, sitting in a hospital room, shaking, waiting to find out what would happen and whereabouts in the country they would find a psychiatric bed for me.

⁃ The shame I felt, and still feel, about what happened.

⁃ The look on loved ones’ faces when they see what lengths you’ll go to to hurt yourself, and the fear that you’ll do it again.

⁃ What day to day life on a psych ward was like, the things I saw and heard (and did myself).

The things about my illness I want her to talk to her about:

⁃ That it wasn’t my fault.

⁃ Everyone has mental health and everyone goes through ups and downs with it.

⁃ Things can be going well and you can still become depressed.

⁃ The right medical care and professionals can be truly life-saving. (And how lucky we are to have the NHS.)

⁃ That it’s more than ok to take medication for your mental health; for some of us it will be vital, and lifelong.

⁃ Some people just aren’t good for your mental health and it’s ok to say goodbye.

⁃ Just how amazingly supportive her dad was, and is.

⁃ Just how amazingly supportive her grandparents, aunties, uncles and wider family were, and are.

⁃ Feeling mentally ill is awful, but the first time you feel good again after so long being poorly is absolutely mind-blowing.

⁃ Being kind is important but putting that kindness into meaningful action is more so.

⁃ Things can and do change, no feeling is forever.

⁃ Sometimes all we need to do is breathe and hold on.

⁃ And, yes, that it’s good to talk.

Sarah x

Being A Mum and Me and BPD

My Robyn,

A year ago today I felt a bit funny, so I peed on a stick which I then left on the side of the sink while I showered. When I got out, the digital display read ‘pregnant, 1-2’. It was the earliest of early days but, from that moment on (plus the two weeks before), I’ve been your mum.

Over the last year we’ve passed milestone after milestone together. The heartbreaking point at five and a half weeks where I’d lost the pregnancy before. Our 12 week scan, attended by myself while your dad sat nervously outside. I’d been convinced you were a figment of my imagination, and when I emerged clutching our first photo of you, I walked on air.

17 weeks: the private scan where we found out you were our little girl and your dad and I happily cried together over the images of your teeny, tiny feet. 20 weeks: the halfway point. 24 weeks: the magical viability. My first Christmas in years without wine, all worth it for you. 37 weeks: full term and ready to pop.

Your birth still makes me flinch to think about. The suddenness of my admission, the fear when professional tones switched from excited to serious. The 14 hours we were apart after you were born when I was convinced I’d lost you.

But you were brought back to me, wriggling and demanding food, and that night we clung to each other and started to figure things out together.

You’ve taught me more about self care in the past year than anything else in my life. When I was so sick all the way through pregnancy I realised it was okay to nap every afternoon (and every morning if I needed to), to say no to things that would drain me of energy, and to slow down for once. And now you’re here I know that my priority is you, us, I know that things can be rearranged, chores can be left undone, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what you need in that moment, and what’s good for me is also good for you. We work together.

I still live with the nagging fear that this is too good to be true, that I don’t get to keep you, but I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to let that fear just sit there. Loving someone this much means being afraid, that’s part of it all, and my goodness are you worth it. So I promise I’ll try to just be here, right now, and not look too far ahead.

You’re not even 4 months old and the lessons you’ve taught me are countless. To quote my favourite Friends scene: you make me happier than I ever thought I could be, and if you let me I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way.

My baby, you are so good for my mental health, and I will be forever grateful.

Love, Mum x

‘Be kind’ and Me and BPD

CW: Suicide, miscarriage, bullying.

***As ever, I want to state that everything I write on this blog is from my own experience of mental health issues and treatment, it’s all from my perspective and I would never presume to speak for anyone else, no matter how similar their experience may be to mine.***

I wanted to write down some thoughts about two events from the past week or so, and why they’ve been playing on my mind so much.

It was recently the anniversary of Caroline Flack’s death by suicide and social media was flooded with tributes to her. Her death was unspeakably sad, and the backdrop to it had been months of her being hounded by the press and bullied on social media for an upcoming court case about an incident between her and her boyfriend. There was a massive outcry after her death and the phrase ‘be kind’ has become synonymous with expressing grief for her.

Just before this anniversary, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a pregnancy, following a miscarriage last summer. This news was met with various newspapers and a LOT of people on social media criticising her (and it is mostly her, not him) for choosing to make a public announcement when they have famously said they want their privacy since stepping back from royal duties. I say criticising, but let’s call it what it is – bullying.

These two events may not seem linked, but I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past week wondering how many people were posting tributes to Caroline, urging their followers, friends and family to ‘be kind’ whilst also slagging off Meghan on the same platforms for choosing to live life her own way. Social media, unfortunately, means being able to express sympathy with one tap of a thumb, whilst spitting hate with the next. No matter what your thoughts on a ‘celebrity’, does it ever need to be summed up in a vitriolic tweet or post? The answer is no, if you didn’t realise.

I always say that kindness is one of the traits I prize above all others; in fact it’s one of the things that first drew me to my husband, after a string of boys who were keen to be seen as ‘good guys’ without actually realising what that looked like in action. 

Kindness (to me) means:

  • Standing up for what you believe in, and calling out unkindness when you see it. If you see someone exhibiting bullying behaviour, call them out on it, even – ESPECIALLY – if that person is yourself. Hold yourself and those close to you accountable for things said, done and posted online. Just because you don’t like someone, does that mean it needs to be posted in a public forum? Or could you just go about your day? You don’t have to engage in a pointless online argument either (as most people who are vile online are not open to their minds being changed), you can block and report people really easily. I do this A LOT.
  • Listening to marginalised groups, and I mean REALLY listening. Black people, LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, everyone needs to have their voice heard and respected, no matter how different their experience may be from our own. Changes need to be made in order to make things more equitable across the board, and especially in the mental health forum. Kindness is no good if it’s only applied to people who look and think like you.
  • Looking for active ways you can support the mental health of others. A lot of people at the start of this lockdown posted statistics about how suicide figures have gone up during the pandemic. But how many of us would know what to do if someone close to us needed help and support with their mental health? We can’t all train as counsellors, but there are really good, free online courses available which explain the basics of the best ways to support someone struggling. The Zero Suicide Alliance, for example, offers free Suicide Awareness Training and anyone can sign up for it. Suicide is not always preventable, but if we are encouraging kindness in order to help combat it, any advice on how to achieve this should be welcomed.
  • Voting for political parties who are working to support the NHS and its mental health services. Funding for these services is being cut, waiting lists are months long, and NHS treatment options are limited. So yeah, looking at political parties’ manifestos to see how they plan to move forward regarding mental health support is crucial. Be kind by using your vote for what you think is important.
[Artwork from Frank Turner’s Be More Kind album.]
  • Being kind to YOURSELF. We are often so hard on ourselves, much harder than we would be on others. We hold ourselves to such high standards, even when going through a global pandemic. We feel we should be living up to what we see others managing online, whether that’s baking banana bread, decorating your home, sewing clothes for your seven children from old curtains, or teaching them to sing, win a contest and then escape Nazi Austria with the help of some nuns. (The Sound of Music has been on my mind a lot lately, okay? RIP Christopher Plummer.) We are living through a really crappy time, no matter what our individual circumstances, and if that’s not a reason to give ourselves a metaphorical hug and pat on the back, I don’t know what is.

Sorry this ended up being a much longer post than I intended, but as you can probably tell it’s something I feel incredibly passionate about. It’s easy to post about things online, but we all need to do better at practising what we preach. Kindness is incredibly important, but words without action are empty.

Sarah x

‘Stable’ and Me and BPD

Last week I had an appointment with a consultant for us to discuss how my mental health was coping with pregnancy. She asked me how I was and my response was: ‘weirdly…actually okay’. And I am. Despite The Current Climate and the unpredictability of the news from around the world every day, I am actually pretty happy in myself. 

I’ve braced myself throughout pregnancy for hormones to unsettle me, for anxiety to take over, for some seismic negative shift in my brain. And yet, four days ago, this consultant declared my mental health to be ‘stable’, saying she didn’t think we needed another check-in unless things took a turn. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this word used to describe me in the last few weeks – the perinatal mental health team assessed me when I was referred at 12 weeks and they decided that no action was needed by them as I was ‘stable’ and that pregnancy had (so far) not caused any significant downturn. 

All this got me thinking. I’ve not had a really bad spell of mental illness in over a year (barring a few weeks feeling rubbish in March-April 2020, when I think everyone was feeling similarly), I need less support from professional services and even my memory of being so ill is fading. 

So am I…better? 

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel slightly weird at that thought; it’s a bit scary to realise you might soon not need the safety nets you’ve relied on for more than two years, plus I started to feel a bit like a fraud. Should I still write this blog? Should I still describe myself as a mental health warrior on my Instagram bio? Was I even that poorly in the first place? Did I make a big fuss over nothing?

After some reflection, the answers to those questions are, respectively: yes, yes, YES and definitely not.

We ALL have mental health, as we all have physical health, and some of us need extra help to keep one or both healthy and functioning. I’ve been very ill in the last few years, and to a lesser extent at other points in my life, so I think I will always have to view mental illness as something that can flare up at any time, and something I will often have to live alongside.

So even though my day-to-day life no longer involves self-harm, trips to A&E, crying non-stop or nights wracked by existential terror, there are other things I now do daily that someone without the same tendencies and diagnosis as me may not need to. Some examples are:

  1. I take antidepressants daily, and I cannot imagine ever coming off them. They are necessary to my health.
  2. I have to take care of myself physically  – regular exercise and early nights are essential to keep my emotions regulated and to lift my mood when I need it.
  3. Crying. I may not cry as often as I used to, but I don’t now feel like a failure for doing so.
  4. Being honest. Much of my good health relies on open communication with Tom and my family. Not just me telling them if I don’t feel right, but me trusting them to tell me if they notice certain behaviours or patterns creeping back in.
  5. Recognising my own ‘BPD’ styles of thinking when they crop up and seeing them for what they are. I literally have to do this every day to assess whether I am thinking realistically and fairly about situations.
  6. Using the strategies I learned in my Acceptance and Commitment therapy to create space between myself and unhelpful thinking. I use the skills my psychologist Stacey taught me every single day, they have even come in useful when making my birth plan and thinking about (eek!) labour.

So yes, maybe I am stable now, and maybe this is actually what ‘better’ looks like for me.  But that doesn’t invalidate everything I went through, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I was not dangerously ill. Sometimes I still let myself think and talk about all the things that happened in 2018 and 2019, to remind myself that they did happen, and that I then did a hell of a lot of work to reach where I am now. 

I am, quite rightly, proud of the progress I have made, and I will continue to write about my life through the lens of a mental health diagnosis, as I think it helps to dispel some of the murky myths about those of us with these kinds of labels. 

Many people with mental health diagnoses can see better days, can find balance and can be responsible for managing their own health going forward. We are not weird or ‘other’; we’re just normal people who have been through some shit and want to get the most out the time we have.

Sarah x

Big Decisions & Me & BPD

***This post is going to talk about fertility and pregnancy, in the context of mental health. I know from my own experience how difficult these things can be to hear about, so if you’re not in the right space to read about it right now, do what you need to do to look after yourself.***

On my personal social media a few weeks ago I told people that I was pregnant with our first child, and I’m currently 16 weeks along. I was overwhelmed by the positive reaction from everyone, as I assumed people would think I was crazy (well, crazier) to have a baby with my mental health history being as it is. Deciding to start a family wasn’t simple for us, and I thought I’d explain a bit more about it all, and about the support I’m being given by the NHS to protect my wellbeing at the moment. 

I can’t remember the details, but I know that when things started getting serious between me and Tom (probably around the time we started being comfortable enough with trumping in front of each other) we must have had the conversation about whether we each wanted kids, and the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ on both sides. We’ve both got siblings, and soon after we got together our twin nieces were born, cementing how much we loved kids and how much we wanted our own family. 

This all made it especially difficult when, two years ago, following my breakdown, we had to have several conversations about whether we would ever want to risk my mental health by putting my poor battered brain through the hormonal rollercoaster and overall chaos of pregnancy and babies. I felt so guilty at this time, as I felt I had married Tom under false pretences; he should be with someone who could give him children, but as always he was great and told me I was missing the point. If he couldn’t have children with me, he didn’t want them, and he was very clear that, for him, my mental health and wellbeing was much more important than any hypothetical babies. 

(Ah great, now he’s going to read this and be all smug. But, to be fair, he has a right to be, he’s awesome and much more than I could ever think I deserved. There, that should mean I don’t need to get him a Christmas present this year.)

So for a couple of years, we shelved the idea of starting a family. The weird thing is, no one else did. Every mental health professional I have dealt with since my admission to hospital in October 2018 has talked about my age and relationship status, and how they want to ensure that if we did want to have children, my treatment would not prevent this. I remember when I met the consultant on the psych ward she was adamant that we shouldn’t change my medication as the one I have been on for years (Citalopram) is one of the few you can continue to take during pregnancy with minimal risks to the baby. I sat listening to her, thinking ‘I don’t care about this, just adjust my meds and GET ME BETTER.’ Turns out, she knew what she was talking about, she knew that there was a chance that once the smashed up kaleidoscope of my BPD vision cleared, I might see things differently.

However, despite all the encouragement from my consultants, my recovery team and my therapist, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I started to think about babies again. Up to that point, I could not be confident that my mental state would stay stable enough to do it. I was having days and weeks of feeling much better, but these were still punctuated by periods when I felt very low and was really struggling with symptoms such as depersonalisation and panic. 

But from January 2020 onwards, I noticed that things had shifted massively without me even noticing. I wasn’t panicking over every single thing anymore, I started a college course in makeup artistry and regained a lot of the confidence I thought was long gone. I was really happy in myself and our relationship and I started to feel, for want of a better word, broody again. The image I’d had of myself as a mum when we’d got married, that I’d had to keep shut tightly away in my mind for two years, suddenly seemed possible again. I started to talk about it with Tom, and he was open to the idea, depending on what my recovery team had to say.

I was so scared to have the conversation with my care coordinator, as I still had the idea in my head that people would be appalled at the idea of someone who had been as ill as me being a mum. I can see now that this was all my own invention. I had such a fear that I wasn’t fit to be a mum that I believed everyone else was going to think the same. I could not have been more wrong. My care coordinator was very excited that I was even considering this and explained all about the support available to me, including a referral into the specialist perinatal mental health team in Sheffield, who would support me alongside my current team. Once again, I was being told that what I saw as a massively personal flaw/failing/something I should not subject a child to, was actually not such a big deal, with the right support and information. 

I am lucky enough to be able to say that this support, encouragement and lack of stigma regarding my mental health history has been borne out in every medical appointment I’ve had since I got my positive pregnancy test. The overwhelming message I’ve received from midwives, consultants and my GP has consistently been ‘healthy mum, healthy baby’, with everyone emphasising that keeping me well is the priority to then ensure that my baby Baked Bean (BB) is a happy little chap. Obviously this does not mean putting BB at serious risk in any way, but weighing up the minimal risk that comes from taking my medication against the massive benefit I get from it. It’s actually been really interesting speaking to all these different people about it and realising that although there is clearly still a lot of work to do around the way mental health is treated in the NHS, the stigma that I fully expected to meet head on at every turn just hasn’t been there.

Okay, I feel I’ve waffled on long enough for this post! I am going to have a lot more to say about pregnancy and mental health, from what I’ve experienced so far as I went through the first trimester to trying not to pathologise every perfectly normal anxious thought I have. I also want to share some thoughts about all the ways actually trying to get pregnant (not like that, you mucky pups) messed with my brain. But in between all that I’m going to try and post as normal, as life goes on while you’re baking a bean, and I still need to feel like ME, and not just a baby oven.

If you’ve stuck with me this far through this long post, thank you!

Sarah x

Keeping busy & Me & BPD

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of occupational therapy (OT). Basically that means doing a physical or mental activity that keeps your mind occupied and has some form of therapeutic effect on the brain. This can be literally anything, from following a complex knitting pattern to playing Angry Birds on your phone (yes, I still do that because I am SUPER COOL). 

Occupational therapy was always something that I struggled with before going into hospital in 2018, as I believed that if I was distracting myself from the chaos in my head then I wasn’t dealing with it, like some form of denial. What I’ve learned about myself from being on the ward and since then is that actually when I give myself some brain space in the form of an activity, the chaos quietens on its own and then I can work on any problems in a much calmer and more rational way.

During Lockdown, especially at the start, I saw a lot of social media posts encouraging people to not feel like they had to stay busy, or make banana bread, or do anything, because it was an Unprecedented Pandemic and everything was stressful enough. Whilst I completely agree that the situation was overwhelming and that no one should ever feel they HAVE to do anything, some of these posts felt a bit judgemental towards those of us that NEEDED the busy-ness and to keep moving. 

When I was on the psychiatric ward 2 years ago, everyone (regardless of why we had been admitted) was encouraged to take part in the OT activities, as it was considered a massive part of engaging with your treatment and ultimate recovery. I was initially reluctant to take part, for the reasons above, but I slowly began to realise that with every gym session, every picture coloured in, every pumpkin carved, I was feeling better and a teeny bit more like myself. OT has been a massive part of my life and ongoing recovery ever since.

Also, I really don’t think anyone ever feels worse for baking something or going for a walk round the block (if you can). You might not feel better immediately, but you won’t feel worse.

Early on in Lockdown, I took part in a bake-along filmed live on Instagram by Gok Wan, where we made a cheese and onion scone loaf. He posted the ingredients a few days before and thousands of us followed each step with him that evening. It was fun, and I really liked the feeling of having baked something (I’ve always loved cooking, but baking has often seemed a bit too ‘science-y’ for me to understand). Also any baked good warm from the oven is *chef’s kiss*.

Soon after this, I started doing weekly cookalongs on Skype with my mother- and sister-in-law, Val and Hannah. Each week we made something new, or that at least one of us had always fancied having a go at. We started with potato gnocchi, and have since covered many different types of bread, pastries, Cornish pasties, and even crumpets. We’ve made things we would have always said ‘oh I don’t have time for that’ about in the Before Times, and had a lot of fun doing it. I’ve melted plastic wrap into pastry, had bread dough escape the bowl and make a bid for world domination whilst rising, and every single week uttered the words ‘I really need to buy a cooling rack’.

Our first Lockdown cookalong creation -potato gnocchi!

Even though Lockdown has eased now and I have seen Val in person again, and will be seeing Hannah soon, we have decided to carry on as we enjoy these weekly baking and catch-up sessions so much. They’ve given me a sense of routine (Friday mornings are now baking mornings in my diary), a way to connect with people I love and have helped me overcome my fear of baking. I now understand how to make bread (which is great as I LOVE bread), and I am more confident to give different creations a go. 

Following recipes and discussing what is going right or wrong with them is also a great distraction, and for a few hours each week I have been able to, if not forget, then at least keep at a distance everything that has been happening. And whilst I think it is important to stay engaged with the news and the wider world, we all need a bit of time to step away and recharge.

Ciabatta! Maaaan, I love bread.

Now I’m off to eat all the M&M cookies I baked yesterday…

Sarah x

Lockdown and Me and BPD

First of all, how are you doing? Like, really? These past few months have been some of the weirdest most of us have ever experienced, and I think we all need to be checking in with each other, and ourselves, to make sure we’re doing okay, and asking for help or support when we need it. 

Image from

Weirdly, the stage we’re currently in, of trying to emerge from Lockdown and navigate all the ambiguous regulations, ever-changing guidance and new-found freedom, seems to be more anxiety-inducing than the bizarre certainty of full isolation. I have seen a spike in my anxiety in the last few weeks, and a lot of people I’ve spoken to have felt the same.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I pictured us coming out of Lockdown when we were first told to Stay Home, I imagined warm reunions with family and friends, full of hugs and laughter. What is actually happening is tentative plans to meet up 2 metres apart in gardens, the terror of standing too near older family members in case you put them at risk, and the confusion of being so close to people you love but not being able to act normally. Please don’t get me wrong, I am so glad we can see more people now, and I’d take a garden chat with my grandma over not being able to see her any day of the week, but it’s not the joyous resumption of normality I think we were all hoping for. 

So, I hope you’re doing okay, I really do. If you’re not, please remember to be gentle with yourself, drink some water and get enough rest. You matter so much.

At the start of Lockdown, I was really worried about how I was going to cope with the weeks and months ahead. I know a lot of people around me were concerned about me as well. Which is fair enough, as this time last year I was still really struggling to live in a ‘normal’ world, overcome by panic attacks and depersonalisation on a daily basis, so how was my recently-recovered brain going to handle all this awfulness, sadness and change? 

I think knowing that I was at risk of becoming very ill again meant that I immediately went on the offensive, and dug out my ‘toolkit’ of basic self-care and -management that I’ve been painstakingly piecing together for the past two years (and, really, all my life).

I wanted to do a round-up here of things that have helped me keep my head above water during Lockdown, but when I began trying to sum them all up in one blog post I realised that it would be a loooooong post. 

So I think I’m going to do it as a series, and publish a shorter post every few days on a different aspect of my Lockdown life, and how it’s (so far) prevented that dip I so fear.

Until next time.

Sarah x

2 Years and Me and BPD

Wisteria suddenly seemed to be everywhere when I got ill.

It’s two years exactly since my breakdown. It still sounds over-dramatic using that word but there’s literally no other way of putting what happened that weekend. I am not going to go into what happened here (see my previous posts for that information), instead I want to write a letter to myself in May 2018. The me that was lost, sad and so very scared of what was happening. The me that held on and got me to this current me, sitting in our newly-decorated spare room, having finished a day of college work for my makeup artistry course, full of gratitude and feeling kind of hungry.

Dear Me in May 2018,

Okay, take a deep breath and just try to stay calm enough to read this. I know your concentration is shot at the moment but it’ll be worth it. Also, I should say, nothing I say here will change what’s happening and what will happen, but I just want to give you the hope to hold onto while you go through it. I’ll do it as a list, due to the aforementioned concentration issues.

  1. Yes, this is a mental breakdown, and it is serious. You already know this but it may take a while for you, and others, to realise just how serious.
  2. It’s bad and I’m not going to lie to you – it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But it DOES get better, I promise.
  3. I know right now you’re certain that the antibiotics (doxycyline) you took for the sinusitis are responsible (and I still believe they were a strong catalyst), but there has been so much else going on. In time you’ll realise how much you’ve taken on, how much you’ve been pushing yourself, and how much you’ve not felt right for a while. THAT friendship really hasn’t helped either lately, has it? Don’t worry, it resolves itself in a way that has needed to happen for a long time.
  4. You’re about to discover just how far people will go for you. Not just your immediate family (who are going to be as wonderful as ever), but your (still very new) husband, his family, your friends. They won’t give up on you, and they won’t let you give up on yourself. They’re still there, and you’ve been able to repay at least some of what they did to help you.
  5. You’re going to spend time in hospital. Hmm, should I have told you that? But like I already said, you know this is serious, and I think you probably already know you need some specialist help. But that’s okay because…
  6. … in hospital you get that help. You get a diagnosis (not going to spoil that surprise right now) which makes sense of so much of what you’ve felt for so much of your life. You’re going to end up with a fantastic team of mental health professionals supporting you. Just wait until you meet Louise, your Care Coordinator, and Stacey, your psychologist. They are going to change your life.
  7. You’re going to once again love all the things that right now you feel you don’t connect with or deserve. If you can, try and watch that programme, listen to that podcast, go for that run. But don’t worry if you don’t feel like it right now, they’re not going anywhere.
  8. You’re going to go on some awesome holidays, even while you’re ill, and you’ll cope wonderfully, and even enjoy them.
  9. You’ll sleep again. I know right now you’re terrified of closing your eyes because your brain won’t be quiet and stop haranguing you, but you’re going to get back to being The Queen of Naps (remember, Iona calls you that) again. In fact, one of my favourite times now is when I’m reading my Kindle in bed with the light off at night, ready to drop asleep any moment and feeling so warm and content.
  10. This all sucks, but you’re going to gain so much from it. Insight into why you think the way you do, what wasn’t working in your life, and massive appreciation for the smallest things. You’ll look up at a blue sky and smile again, and you’ll float on your back in a swimming pool and the only thing you’ll have on your mind is what you’re having for tea. You’ll love food again too.
  11. Tom won’t leave you. You won’t leave Tom. If anything, our relationship is now forged in fire. I’m really proud of us.
  12. Don’t panic, but you’re going to leave your current job. I know, I know, you love it. But you will choose to leave. Not just yet, and you’ll know when it’s the right time. Again, don’t worry, I’ve started doing something that I’m so excited about now, and I feel in control of where I’m going with it. Oh and those friends you made at Oakwood? You haven’t lost them either. As if they would have let that happen.
  13. You will one day remember fondly the things you hate right now. I know that ‘Shotgun’ by George Ezra is constantly on the radio at the moment for you, but I can hear it playing outside now and I’m happily humming along to it.
  14. You’ll love your home again. Yes, it’s where the breakdown is happening and that’s hard, but it’s also where you’re going to recover.
  15. Keep reading anything by Matt Haig, he continues to help throughout all of this.
  16. You’re going to get at least three more tattoos and have your daith pierced. You badass.
  17. You’re going to develop some coping strategies that are not helpful, and at times you’ll feel
    ashamed of and heartbroken by them. That’s okay, all of it. One day the only reminders will be
    silvery lines on your skin that you can stroke and feel compassion for.
  18. You’re going to be okay, just keep going. Even if all that looks like right now is remembering to
    breathe, eat and shower.
  19. I’m so bloody proud of you.
    Sarah x