I said to the sun . . .

I’m going to begin with one of my all time, absolute favourite quotes – “I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘it hurts to become.'” (Andrea Gibson).

And my oh my, that quote just fills me with so much power and so much strength; strength that it not my own but something that I feel as though I can be apart of.

These past two months have been a whirlwind. Everything has just been going and going, and these days have been all about hard work and consistency, and just getting stuff done. It’s exhausting, but a good sort of exhausting. It’s a normal kind of being to busy to breathe kind of exhaustion, rather than my mind is going crashing through the ground. It’s a refreshing change.

Some solid, concrete steps for the future are fitting into place. This morning I was offered a new job, and it has made our future far more secure and stable. It hasn’t sunken in yet really. It will change a lot of things, in a good way.

Lately my head has been doing so good. I feel burnt out, but not because of what’s going on within, but because I am able to do so many things beyond now. I have felt so confident and content. I don’t know what has changed. Maybe it’s all the therapy work. Maybe it’s all the pushing to change. Maybe it’s just a new season. But what I do know is that I feel more me than I can ever remember.

For years I was stuck within illnesses that took over my entire world. Every decision, perspective, and moment was controlled and dulled by their graces. I was never me. I was just trying to survive, and knew only how to exist just beneath the surface.

However today, I feel more authentic to who I am supposed to be than ever. It sounds cheesy but I don’t know how to describe it. I have been trying to stand up for myself and for what I believe is important. I am talking to people I would normally be afraid of, because I can think “what’s the worst that can happen?” and actually go ahead and do it. I’m trying to stay true to my values in all situations. Anxiety, where are you at? It’s weird but enchanting. It’s amazing how much life expands when anxiety lets you push it. I truly don’t know how all these things have changed, but for now, things are wonderful. Thinking to how things used to be – to hell and back – I don’t know how I am still in today. But heck, I am so thankful for it.

Right now I am living in these days where I don’t constantly think about and dwell on bad things that have happened, and it’s such a strange, yet absolutely amazing feeling. To have my mind not imprisoned with a reel that replays the worst on repeat – it’s crazy. I still think about these things, a lot, but they are not my every thought anymore. I’m trying to build new moments and thoughts to outgrow the old. Bad, triggering songs are being replaced with songs to make new, good memories with. My psychologist and I are working on my safety behaviors, and it’s horribly difficult but good too.

The sun has told me that I can cope, that I can survive and keep living, and today I am beginning to believe her.


A small hello.

Hello lovely blogging friends!

It’s really nice to be back, even if it’s only for a little while.

I took around a month off from blogging – a month away from writing lots and lots, and sharing difficult things, and connecting to wonderful souls all across the globe. You see, several things happened which prompted me to step away from this world for a little bit. I missed everyone here a lot, but it was good in ways too.

University began and was hectic from the get-go. I’m trying to juggle classes, my research project, co-leading a club, volunteering, working two part-time jobs, married life, house hunting, recovery, and just general life too! I really admire people that can keep their blog up despite living crazy busy lives – go you! I am learning an awful lot, and am loving what I get to study more and more each day. Alongside this there are always so many meetings to attend to, emails to reply to, and plans to make. But I’m happy. And I’m good. It’s a stressful, yet beautiful whirlwind.

In terms on mental health, things are okay. It’s kind of weird though, because apparently I’m not very good at telling when I’m not doing okay. Despite being the busiest that I have ever been, and from my perspective coping better than ever, I have been referred to a specialist centre for a higher level of treatment. It made me laugh a little bit, because I feel that I’m doing better than ever, which may be true, but I guess it shows that we can always keep going upwards. That we can always keep pushing forwards. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m unwell, or that I’m not making progress, as I am, but my therapist said that she would be doing a great disservice to me to not hand my treatment over to people she think could help even more. Have I mentioned that she is one of my favourite people? I am so grateful to her.

Another reason why I had to step away from the blog for a while was due to fear. I was afraid that a couple of people who are very dear to me would find this space, and that my writing would either upset them, or change our relationship in some way. It’s a tricky one. So, I took a few weeks to try and decide what to do with this blog, and where it is going. I don’t want to get rid of it entirely, because the connections it has allowed me to make are too precious, and writing 60 pieces over summer was a great learning experience. However, I have decided to just leave it as it is, where it is. Whatever happens, will happen. And all that has happened so far is amazing conversations with special people. This tool is such a blessing.

Someday soon I would like to write more in depth about what I’m up to this year, because it makes me so happy, and it would be nice to have a living record of it. But for now, I am just going to stick with writing on here irregularly, and with reading blogs irregularly and such. I don’t want to place more pressure and deadlines on myself than necessary, and turn this space into “work”, when it is supposed to be natural, organic and flowing. So we will see what happens.

I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone, and I hope that your todays all around the world are beautiful and peaceful.

Sending lots of love and hugs,


What is dermatillomania?

From writing a couple of little ancedotes about my experiences with dermatillomania on here, quite a few people have said that they hadn’t heard of it before, and didn’t know what it was. And understandably so! It’s a big, long funny sounding word, and it definitely isn’t talked about as much as other mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression. So I thought it would probably be helpful to make a factual sort of post, explaining what dermatillomania is, and how it is generally expressed in different people. I hope this doesn’t come across as lecturing or condescending, or like I’m demanding that you learn everything about dermatillomania, but merely if you are interested, here you go! 

So first things first, dermatillomania is also known as skin-picking disorder or excoriation (another complicated sounding word) disorder too. It’s classified as a BFRB, which stands for Body Focused Repitive Behaviour, and that’s actually quite an informative acronomyn. There is also a big debate about whether dermatillomania is more closely linked with obsessive compulsive disorder, impulse control disorders, or body dysmorphia disorder.

From a technical perspective, dermatillomania is defined as the “repetitive and compulsive picking of the skin which results in tissue damage.”. It’s estimated that about 2% to 3% of people experience dermatillomania. This can present itself in many different ways across the population of people who experience it. For some, it’s all about removing anything that is percieved or deemed as a blemish or irregularity, regardless of how small, while for others it has a more obsessive nature. However, across all, the urge to engage in picking feels uncontrollable, and there is always physical harm as a result.

Most people pick with their hands, however tools after often used too. This happens can happen primarily during times of stress, tension and anxiety, and can also occur absent-mindedly, without the person even realising what is going on. The focus is generally on the areas of the body with the most percieved impefections, however once the skin becomes too damaged, other areas can be targeted too. The most commonly affected areas are the face, scalp, limbs, shoulders and chest.

It’s also important to note that most people do pick their skin from time to time, that it’s just something that lots of humans do. However it’s the significance of the effects of the picking, including physical, mental and social, and all the chaos going on in the brain surrounding the skin picking, which sets it apart as a mental illness – dermatillomania.

The physical consequences of dermatillomania aren’t too fun, and many provoke the continuation of the disorder. Picking, squeezing and scratching the skin, for what can be hours each day, has significant, long term effects. Scarring, both temporary and permanent, is really common, as is pain and skin discolouration. Infection and tissue damage is also prevalent, which can be a nasty surprise when you are convinced that your skin picking is nothing to worry about. A blog post over at Fkin Realistic, BFRB Put Me In Hospital, describes really wonderfully the severity of dermatillomania. It’s a great read.

From a mental perspective, dermatillomania rampages here too. The embarassment, guilt and feelings of shame that arise from skin picking are apparent, and it also really doesn’t help with self-confidence, self-esteem, or resilience either. It can also result in social issues, such as interfering with work and social lives, and having to hide the condition away.

Treatment for dermatillomania is a bit of a tough topic, as not a lot of research has been done. Also, it’s estimated that less than half of people with dermatillomania seek treatment. The embarrassment and shame can be huge. The physical consequences on the skin of dermatillomania can also mirror drug abuse in some instances, and the stigma surrounding both is harmful to accessing treatment in both cases. However, success has been found in the use of anti-depressants for reducing skin-picking severity and intensity. Behavioural therapies have also proved useful in many cases. It’s all about trying out as many options as possible, until the individual finds out what works for them.

Anyway, that concludes this little introduction to dermatillomania. I hope it didn’t come across as too boring, or like I’m some sort of expert, because that is definitely not how it is! I’m just an ordinary person who recently got diagnosed, and who is trying to learn more. If you got this far, thank-you so much for sticking through, and I hope that this has helped in some ways whether you are just interested in learning more, or if this is something that you identify with. It’s really important that if you see your skin-picking and thoughts around it as a problem, or if others have expressed concern, that you do get in touch with a doctor or mental health professional. They truly can help, and you don’t deserve to live all alone with no tools to use against dermatillomania. 

This article by SkinPick, Everything You Need To Know About Dermatillimania, does a superb, detailed job at explaing it all much better than I can. 

If you would like to read more of my posts about dermatillomania, you can check out finding some good in dermatillomania, dermatillomania, bees, and buttercup, and dermatillomania and self harm – twins or neighbours? All involve big old rambles and yarns, if that’s more your jam.

Finding some good in dermatillomania.

A couple of months ago when my therapist began talking about dermatillomania with me, everything clicked into place.

It all made so much sense. Why I find it near impossible to just leave my skin alone, and why I’m constantly running my hands down my limbs, face and scalp, searching for any imperfections to remove, regardless of if they are real or not.

Dermatillomania causes arguments in my relationship with my husband, because for him it’s painful to see somebody he loves and cares for, hurting themselves. And for me, what it really comes down to is that it’s an impulse control disorder, so it can be really tricky to mitigate and explain.

It makes me self-conscious. Right now, my face is a mess, not from acne, but because I remove anything I classify as “blemishes”. My legs also look rather bad, because I got a couple of mosquito bites while in the forest at the weekend. They would be fine, however dermatillomania mixed with insect bites does not go well. So what began as a few small bites have now turned into a nasty red, painful jungle, spreading over my legs and feet. I had to put plasters over all of them to try and preventing them being touched and to be given a chance to heal. But then all the plasters looked silly with the dress I wanted to wear, and I wanted to avoid questions from people I knew, so I had to wear jeans in this 27°C, 95% humidity weather. A weird little reminder to the many summers of having to hide self-harm scars. But different. Better, much, but still a bit of weird nostalgia.

I don’t know how to explain dermatillomania, other than all I feel is that I have to do it. Sometimes I’m aware of it, and sometimes I’m not. It can kind of be like a trance?

Anyway, all of this feels super whingy and complain-y, which doesn’t help anyone. I’m also not very good at explaining what dermatillomania is, why people with BFRBs do what we do, and what it all feels like.

So, I turned to tumblr for some help, and found some absolute gems which made me laugh, a lot!

I like laughing at how illogical and silly my brain can be. It helps me, and these follwing images describe perfectly what goes on inside my head.

I get worried that people will be offended that I can laugh about my mental illnesses or whatever, but I’m trying to push that aside. Mental illnesses aren’t funny and they aren’t meant to be the brunt of every joke, but it’s okay to find good, warm things in your own experiences. If laughing about your own mental illnesses helps, then by all means, go for it! Perhaps we could all use a little bit more silliness and light-heartedness sometimes. These following jokes help me cope with my experiences, and hopefully they will help somebody else out there too!

Therefore, instead of wallowing about in the I Don’t Know What To Do About Dermatillomania phase, I thought why not share what I found, because not only are they insightful (each one is literally how my brain works), but humorous too!

And I truly haven’t seen anything more apt than below (my favourite)!

The next ones are fabulous too!

And these are like my brain speaking into an internet microphone –

And to end with, here is a sweet, little bundle of hope.

I hope you got some light-heartedness out of this too! Let’s work on spreading flowers, on spreading hope, on spreading kindness. It begins with ourselves.

Recovery & joy.

Hello everyone! I’ve not been able to write as frequently on here for the past few weeks, which makes me a bit sad. I love the WordPress community I’ve found here, and following along on everybody’s journeys and adventures. Currently I’m working on catching up on all the blogs I have missed reading, so I’ll get through them all eventually!

The past couple of weeks have been hectic and so, so busy, which is why blogging has taken a backseat, and become a little bit neglected. Hopefully in a week or two, things will settle down, and I can get back to rambling on here more often. I’ve been working all the time, as well as spending a lot of time with family and friends, and while both of which has been anxiety provoking, they have brought me so much joy. I am so thankful for the past few weeks, and all the wonderful people in these moments.

A massive highlight has been celebrating our first wedding anniversary!

We spent a weekend driving up and exploring the very tip-top of our group of islands here in New Zealand, a place called Te Rerenga Wairua, or Cape Reinga. It’s over 100km away from the nearest small town, a distance which makes the final destination even more special. Neither of us had been up that far before, and so it was magical to see it all for the first time together.

Right at the very top, the view is magnificent, surreal. There is a cute, little lighthouse, and you can see the waves coming in different directions, crashing against each other, marking where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. It looks like something out of a movie – too spectacular to exist in this life. The deepest, rich blues of the oceans, and the sheer, stark quiet of the place, was incredible.

We camped at a beach about 45 minutes away, at Spirit’s Bay, an isolated, gorgeous coast with a wild swash. About 10m from where we pitched our tent, there was a herd of around 20 horses, all carefree playing and grazing. We drank moscato, got a bit giggly, and reveled in our surroundings. It really was the most special place.

The next day, we explored the Te Paki giant sand dunes. It was nothing like I ever expected, or even could have imagined. It was like stepping into a whole, new land; a sand desert so different from all other landscapes here. The sand dunes are dynamic – ever-changing and shifting. We climbed up so many sand dunes, people were boogie-boarding down them and everything, and I can’t even explain how vast and brilliant the world felt from up there. It made us feel so small, in the best of ways.

This beautiful celebration that we were so blessed to have made me think about a lot of things.

About joy, about luck.

About the little things, which can be as meaningful as the big things too.

It made me think about recovery, and how thankful I am for it.

Without recovery, I doubt I would have been able to get married. I wouldn’t have been able to give all the time and energy that marriage deserves, because I would have been to preoccupied being trapped in the eating disorder. I wouldn’t have been able to wake up and eat cookies for breakfast outside our tent. I wouldn’t have been able to go swimming, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it up those crazy huge sand dunes. I wouldn’t have been able to have fun.

I wouldn’t have been able to live the journey, of our first year of marriage, let alone find joy within it.

Without recovery, from many other things as well as the eating disorder too, I doubt that I would still be here today.

Recovery is the hardest thing. But it is so, so worth it. I promise.

Keep fighting, my sweet friends.

P.S. Hope you like the photos! I’ve decided to try be brave, and start using our own photos instead of CC0 images. It might help to put a face to all these ramblings too.

Dermatillomania, bees, and buttercup.

Yesterday during a volunteering session at the local community garden, I had a really interesting experience.

We were clearing out a garden bed in order to create a bee-friendly space. A space with a diverse variety of flowering plants, to give the bees a healthy range of pollen sources. This first involved weeding out all the invasive, pest species, and then planting new flowering herbs which will hopefully grow big and strong.

Getting rid of all the buttercup plants first was a mighty task, as it had completely taken over with really deep, twisting roots. Although buttercup is flowering and therefore can be suitable for bees, it’s pest and weed type nature means that it smothers out all other, less intense plants, removing the natural diversity in both the vegetation and soil.

We used hook type tools, and Japanese weeding blades to clear the buttercup shoots and to dig up the roots, and in doing so, something really weird happened.

It’s really difficult to explain. In using the tools to dig deep into the soil, and remove out the knot of budding weeds which centred each buttercup plant, this mirrored exactly how it can feel to have dermatillomania.

Don’t worry if you are lost, even I’m quite confused about it all at this point.

The drive, the full concentration, and sole needing, of absolutely having to remove all the complex layers of root systems of each plant – is exactly how I feel having dermatillomania.

Except with my skin.

Macro Photography of Green Grass

Even thinking back to all the weeding we did, removing the plants in their entirety; it gives me a weird feeling. A feeling of needing to keep going, to make it all perfect, of it never being good enough. A feeling of absolutely having to, of there being nothing else I would want to do, or could do instead. That this is what I need to do, plain and simple. Making the soil pristine from all buttercup roots which could come back with a vengeance, and the appearance of the garden bed with far less imperfections – it’s all exactly the same as needing to clear and get rid of my skin.

As a small child, I remember sitting in the gravel driveway of my Uncle’s farm, using a stick to pick out small stones. This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, per say, as visiting the cows or hanging out with my cousins would have been far more fun, but it’s something I couldn’t resist. I had to, almost impulsively. It’s like I had no control. The satisfaction of removing each small piece of gravel was like some sort of buzz, keeping me going and going until my parents said it was time to drive home. The knowledge that what I was doing was incomplete and unfinished, bothered me greatly.

It’s not as though I’m particularly passionate about weeding, or removing small pieces of gravel for that matter. It’s more an “instinctive” feeling or drive, like something I just have to get done before all else. I took a while to get to sleep last night because my brain kept replaying over and over again how removing the weeds felt. And how that feels very weirdly exactly the same as removing anything I deem “wrong” with my skin. Which is quite often an awful lot, and sometimes apparently invisible to everyone else.

I don’t necessarily like or enjoy what I’m doing. I just have to do it, if that makes any sense.

All I can think about is how it feels removing the weeds, which is annoying because today there are lots of things I need to get done, and none of them involve obsessing about weeding buttercup. Honestly, if anybody else could see inside my brain, they would be absolutely baffled.

Seriously brain, what are you doing?

Hopefully this discovery, albeit strange, can help me channel some of the nuisance that is dermatillomania into helping the bees instead. Saving the bees is a way better cause than taking apart my skin any day.

All of this felt kind of uncomfortable to write, like saying it aloud. Does anybody else have experiences that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the brain, but feel strangely similar?

Reclaiming summer.

It’s no secret that I love summer. I adore the constant hum of cicadas, and all the beautiful fruits that are in season. From November to February, I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be, than at the beach.

For some reason, summer makes me feel strong. Perhaps it’s the perpetual warmth, which can reach even the innermost depths of the darkness inside me. Or perhaps it’s that my skin is busy, producing enough vitamin D in the sunlight to keep me afloat. Either way, it’s strange that I should feel strong in summer, when summer is the season that has been the hardest for me.

The ebbs and flows of my eating disorder used to often peak in the summertime; coming out to bask in the warmth while my authentic self would be forced into hiding. The lack the routine of school, or in early university days, classes, would wreak havoc on my depression, anxiety, and intensity of self-harm. Without the structure of academia, I would usually crumble more so than at other times, falling into the full grasp of these illnesses.

Therefore, it would make sense to have been conditioned to dislike summer, at least to some extent. I have many years of negative memories from during summer, some from many years ago, and others from quite recently. Many of these I don’t feel ready to talk about yet, because I haven’t worked through them enough to be comfortable to share. It’s weird how most of what has influenced my mental illnesses has happened during the summer. Life is funny like that.

In some ways, summer frightens me; the pain of the past is still all too real and daunting. However, in other ways, I am reminded of my love for summer. I love the smell of the ocean. We love taking our dog to the beach, and watching her run through the sand, but quickly dance away from the water’s edge. I love exploring the coastline with friends, and my memories of camping with them every summer holidays during school are some of my dearest.

adventure, back view, beach

Maybe this is why summer is so special to me, despite it being a season of not very nice things to think back on. Despite it all, summer, essentially, has made me strong. My summer battles have largely helped to craft me into who I am today. I didn’t choose them, but recovery is teaching me to fight back, and if nothing else, I am learning how to be strong from it all.

Therefore, this year I am reclaiming summer, for all that makes it so brilliant. On its own, there is nothing essentially bad about summer. Summer is warmth and light; golden yellows and cool blues. Summer is not what has happened during this time. Summer is instead what we make it, and who we become through the strength it has given us.

At the end of last year, I wrote about how it was one of my goals to wear a bikini at the beach. This would be an act of defiance, a great big scream at the lingering remains of the eating disorder, and at everything else up in the brain that chips in to tell me I’m not good enough, that I’m awful, and that I shouldn’t be alive.

And last week, I did it. I wore a bikini. We went swimming. It was so scary at first, but we had an absolutely magical time. Summer is for swimming, and I am learning that I am allowed to have fun. I am also learning that I can say nasty things right back to the silly lies inside my head. A few days later, I did it again. And this weekend, we are planning to go to a beach waterfall, and guess what? The bikini is coming along. What’s neat is that I’m learning that wearing a bikini to the beach isn’t a big deal. Like at all. People don’t care, and my human body is entirely insignificant in the big scheme of things. And I love that. My brain makes my body out to be such a nightmarish horror, when in reality, it really doesn’t matter. At all. The end.

Reclaiming summer has also being happening in other ways too. Although I vowed to avoid New Year’s Eve like the plague since a few years ago (if you would like to read my little ramble about that, you can do so here), this year my beautiful husband wouldn’t stand by and let it pass. He was determined that I would be able to enjoy myself, and work on reclaiming New Year’s Eve too. So he invited around a couple of our dearest, closest friends, and we had so much fun. I was an anxious mess leading up to the day, but by nighttime, laughing more than I have in a long time, I trusted that everything was going to be okay. Seriously, it was the best New Year’s Eve of my life. I am so thankful for him, for pushing me to strive for brighter and better, when I cannot do it for myself.

This year, I am reclaiming summer. It has been spectacular so far. Thank-you, summer, for the warmth you bring.

Sharing our stories.

Being open about mental illnesses is something that is so much easier in theory than in real life. I fully advocate for breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, and in doing so, fulfilling the requirement of talking about it. However, when life cuts to the chase, and suddenly it’s my turn to share my experiences, there is nothing more I would like than for the ground to swallow me whole.

Just joking. I imagine that would be a rather uncomfortable drop! However, talking about mental illnesses, especially in terms of our own experiences, is hard. It’s nerve-wracking, it’s scary, and it can sometimes feel awkward. There can be a lot of kerfuffle about what exactly to say, and how to say it. About what to share, and what to keep to yourself. However, what is the most uncontrollable, and thus can be the most scary, is how the other person will respond.

I really don’t know what I’m doing over here. I don’t know how to have exactly the right conversation when talking about mental illnesses. I’m not very good at it, and that’s because I haven’t had much practice. All I really know is how I would prefer discussing mental illnesses not to go. This is because there have been many times when instead of having a conversation I should have had with those close to me, they have instead found out through other means. This could be from someone else voicing their concern, from a professional, or from my own behaviour when I am in the depths of the mental illnesses.

I’m not saying that these methods of people finding out about your mental illnesses are wrong, or bad, because they just simply are what they are. However, from my own experience, I would prefer to communicate, honestly and openly, so that I can choose what and when details are shared. It also provides the grounds for connection and understanding, more so than if it’s discovered in a heat-of-the-moment type situation.

Standing Man in Black Dress Facing Mountain

Upon beginning this blog, I was a bit nervous to write so openly about my experiences with mental illnesses. I was afraid of the shame, and what people would think. One of the most harmful factors of mental illnesses is the stigma attached to them. The stigma stifles us, makes us feel ashamed, and labels us as broken. It prevents the truth from being shared, which results in misunderstanding and isolation.

I am still afraid about writing about my experiences on this blog. It scares me that I’m not writing about these things in the “right” way, or that I might be doing something wrong. It also scares me that I may come to face discrimination later on in life due to being open about my mental illnesses.

However, these are the reasons why I need to write about it all so badly. Because it is not right that we are afraid of how people may think differently of us, after they find out about our mental illnesses. It is not right that I feel ashamed of these parts of me, when if it was an illness that revolved around an organ that’s not my brain, things would be different. I’m not saying that visible illnesses are easier, because they aren’t. But the fear of being deemed incompetent or unworthy once conversation makes them visible, may not be as prevalent.

In all honesty, throughout my little recovery journey so far, the conversations in which I have opened up to those around me, about my experiences, have been invaluable. The support I have been given astounds me every day, and I am so thankful for that. Many times it has also provided a window for the other person to open up about their experiences too. This goes to show that for the most part, it is okay to talk about mental illnesses, even from our own shoes. Especially from our own shoes.

It should go without saying, but please never feel pressured to share part of your story with anyone, if you don’t feel comfortable to do so. However, these conversations can be beautiful, connecting, funny, awkward, and life-giving even. They can help to build us up, higher than any walls of stigma can reach. This year, I’m working on honesty. Honesty about who I am, and with each conversation, maybe the next one will get easier. We don’t have to fight our battles alone.

Mental health goals for 2018.

With 2018 right around the corner (I can see it waving a hand and saying “Hello! Are you ready yet?”), now seems like a good time to create some goals for next year. Although I have many goals I’m setting for new year, I wanted to give some time especially for the goals that I know will have the biggest impact – these being about my mental health. I have never set goals for my mental health before, and at first I didn’t know if it was a “right” thing to do. Are you allowed to set goals for your brain and recovery? But then I realised, that as with everything, mental health is no different. Some people have fitness goals or academic goals, and reaching these takes discipline, courage and dedication. Working on building a good mental health is no different.

My mental health goals for 2018 scare me a little bit, because I don’t know if I can achieve them. What if I’m aiming too high, too fast? However, as Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s cheesy, but it’s true. I may as well give them my all, because even if I don’t reach them entirely, at least I will be ahead of where I am today.

I have general, open-ended recovery aims, which are the foundation for the goals I have set below. These aims serve as guides for the goals, and the goals are the steps I need to take to get to where I want to be in recovery.

Two People at the Seashore during Dawn

In my recovery, I am aiming for growth, confidence and resilience.

I am aiming to continue working on anxiety and depression.

I am aiming to have another year of being self-harm free under my belt, and to still be in a stable, recovered point from the eating disorder.

I am aiming to start tackling dermatillomania.

I am aiming to be kinder to myself, to become more body positive, and to be in a healthy, strong place mentally so I can be a good example to our future babies.

The goals below will hopefully led me in the direction I’m aiming:

Affirming and constructive self-talk. This one is probably the most difficult I have set. My self-talk is, well, rubbish to put it frankly. It’s kind of like the vandalism on the public bathroom walls, all nasty and useless and scrawling. I’m hoping to improve this by identifying the thoughts that aren’t mine, authentically, but rather are those of anxiety. I’m also hoping to improve this by using facts, differentiating emotions from reality, and maybe even doing some more pep talks too!

Autogenic Training. I’m excited for this! I have only been doing Autogenic Training for a little while, but already is has been wonderful. It helps with getting your body to relax as you ask it to, and it’s a good medium for people like me who find more traditional meditation tough.

Accomplishment and gratitude lists. For a couple of weeks now, I have been doing this most nights just before I go to sleep. It’s getting a lot easier, and is helping to build my confidence and create a good self-esteem. It also helps me to see that every day is not all bad, you know.

Self-care. Self care for me means eating and drinking when I need, prioritising sleep, taking my medication, and completing those small tasks that need to get done, but the anxiety is all loud and annoying about them.

Skin care routine. This one may have you wondering. Skin care? Mental health? The last time I checked, they were two different things too. However, with dermatillomania, my face is one of my most targeted areas. Alongside my goal to work on dermatillomania, I am hoping to start taking care of my skin, alongside stopping destructing it.

Therapy when and as needed. Having been in weekly therapy for the most part of this year has been incredibly helpful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s changed my life. It was so hard to start off with, to get to the point where I would accept help, but I am so happy I did. In 2018, I’d like to continue to utilise this tool as I need it. It will be far less scary this time around.

This list of goals ended up a bit longer than I had first intended! But that’s okay, as they are exciting and scary all the same. Do you have mental health goals for 2018? What are they?

Therapy cannot fix me. Only I can heal.

Two years ago, I was running through the rain with my boyfriend, to reach the shelter of the cinema where we were going to watch a movie. Before I knew what was happening, I slipped over, and landed backwards, straight onto my right elbow. It turns out that it was badly broken, and I’ve had two surgeries and lots of physiotherapy to get it to how it is today. Surgeons put in numerous wires and pins to try and get my bones reconnected again. These eventually had to be removed, as they had moved around inside my bone, and were dangerously close to sticking out through my skin. Yes, it was pretty gross; you could see and feel them clearly pointing out, ready to spike through at any time. It was a cool party trick though! For several months my elbow was stuck at 90 degrees, unable to move much beyond that point. Through lots of patience and work and saying kind things to it (have you ever tried talking to your right elbow?), it has gotten to where it is today. I can bend it, not fully straight, but it works nevertheless, and can put pressure on it again. Part of it is numb and has no feeling, but that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The scars from the surgeries are big and deep and purple, but I like them. They are just part of me. It still hurts occassionally, gets a bit stuck sometimes, and the shape of it is a bit weird compared to my left one, but it’s an elbow. It’s part of me, and my story. It’s not the same as it used to be, but it’s okay. It’s all okay.

Where am I going with this? Well I’ve been thinking lately, and elbows aren’t too different to brains. Sure, one is far more complex and diverse, while the other is lovingly nicknamed the funny bone, but they are both part of us. They both help to make us, us.

You know the classic, detrimental way of mental illnesses being treated differently to physical illnesses by society? How physical illnesses are generally prioritised and taken seriously, while mental illnesses can be seen as “not real”, or are bound in shame? Well, all this made me think that the way I should approach healing my elbow, and healing my brain – that they shouldn’t be treated all that differently after all.

With my dodgy elbow, it’s not exactly what it was like before it hit the concrete in the way no elbow should. The surgeries and physiotherapy didn’t leave it looking and feeling all brand new – in fact in both looked and felt worse than ever before during these times. To anyone who is currently experiencing physiotherapy, I admire you. That is some badass, painful stuff to go through! However, although my elbow came out of the other side of recovery remarkably different to how it went in; it coped. It is still an elbow. I have learnt how to adjust to it, and it’s little quirks. I’m thankful for all it does.

I’m going to stop writing the word “elbow” now, because not only has it gotten to the point where it’s starting to make me question if “elbow” is a real word, but also who would want to read a whole blog post solely about elbows? Anyway, in a similar way, therapy for mental illnesses cannot magically cure us. Therapy is hard work, heck it’s like physiotherapy for your brain. It will not mend our brains into invincibility, or take away all the bad things that have happened to it. Nothing can do that, sadly. But it does teach us how to cope. How to endure, and how to create meaningful, enriched lives that are not dictated by the mental illnesses and trauma. Therapy gives us the tools to find resilience for our demons, to become stronger in their presence, and to lead the lives we deserve to be living.

And I don’t think the lack of feeling “fixed” after attending therapy should cause me to consider myself as weak or forever broken. Therapy isn’t about that, it doesn’t leave you feeling brand new. It gives you the tools to better understand yourself, to call your struggles out by name and take away their power.

Courtney Bunting – The Reality of Therapy.

For some mental illnesses, recovery from them isn’t about returning to who we were before everything went bottom up. Sometimes it isn’t about, or possible, to be free of all the symptoms, forever. But it is possible to live a rich, meaningful life, despite these diagnoses. It is possible to learn how to manage them, and to continue becoming and blooming through them.

Through all this we learn:

I am creative.

I am strong.

I can keep living even when my brain is under fire.

Therapy does not fix us. This does not make us weak, but rather it empowers us to fight our own battles.