Tag Archives: Self harm

WHY THE WORD “SHOULD” IS MY NEMESIS

Author Anonymous

Something I have learnt over many years of mental illness is how the way I treat myself affects my mood and personal wellbeing.

Several years ago I reached a crisis situation with my mental health (or should I say “another crisis!”).  I knew I would find it hard to cope if I slipped into a state of severe illness that has happened to me before, so in an act of desperation I reached out for support to as many agencies as I could.

A part of the help I managed to obtain was being able to see a counsellor.  This was an odd experience for me, who had not got on with “talking therapies” in the past, but I was desperate.

Although I struggled with the counselling, it did achieve something that became a revelation to my way of thinking.

I remember vividly how the counsellor was looking at me.  A puzzled frown would come across her face.  Then she proceeded to ask me why I always used the word “should” when I talked about myself or what I was doing.  I couldn’t answer her.  Then she repeated the words I had used over the past few minutes and it became clear that my low self esteem and self hatred was coming out in my language.  The very language I spoke to myself all the time.

I should do this and I should do that; I ought to do this or I ought to do that.  The negative connotations of everything I said about myself were obvious for an outsider to see, but I was blinded to this punishing trait.

That afternoon was a revelation to me in the way I saw myself.  The way we use language is so important to the way we perceive the world around us and ourselves within that world.  I had been punishing myself in almost everything I had done for years.  Being hard on oneself discourages one’s self development in so many ways.

It creates pressure on us and provides punishment when our standards are simply too high.  It provides the outlet of guilt on our shoulders as we see ourselves failing in the things we tell ourselves we “must” achieve.

I learnt, over time, that by replacing the word “should”, with the words “I would like to” or “I could do” somehow made life seem so much easier.  Rather than piling stress and guilt on my shoulders, it provided a possibility of enjoying what I was doing, and that what I wanted to do or achieve was a positive step rather than a chore.

There are many examples of unhealthy and punishing language and ways of thinking, but for me, the realisation of the way I speak to and about myself has allowed me to change not only the way I think but to challenge the image I have of myself.  To lift the burden of expectation and to carry on my daily tasks by wanting to do them rather than seeing them as something I must do.

By reaching out and trying many different ways to help my mental wellbeing, one of the most valuable lessons has been the language I use and the way I see myself and the daily tasks ahead.

I now avoid the use of these punishing phrases and I can even laugh when I do use them.  It has taken a long time, but I can now recognise when my language becomes negative and punishing and I can challenge my thought process.

This wellness tool, of challenging the way I use language, has been one of the most useful lessons I have learnt.

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Suicide, Self Harm and the NHS

I remember my school days with mixed feelings, however, I do remember certain attitudes and phrases that have lived with me or that I remember fondly or otherwise.

One such phrase was a sarcastic one which was used by my economics teacher. He always talked of the “Angels”.  Never say anything against the “Angels” he would say.

The Angels were of the course the NHS nurses.  They could do no wrong, neither could the Doctors.  Of course this is only true until a politician decides stigmatising a profession or other suits their course, but that is another story.

In the past few years I have come to see health professionals in a different light as my dealings have turned from specifically a “user” to someone who has to liaise with and discuss aspects of NHS and voluntary sector mental health services.

Suicide and Self harm are some of the most extreme actions committed by those in mental distress, and listening to the torment that those who inflict harm on themselves feel can be disturbing and heartbreaking.

It is hard for those whose experience in life does not include extreme mental anguish, anxiety and depression, to understand the mentality of taking actions that actively harms ones self.  It is perhaps beyond the logic of the “well” mind.

It is for this reason that many suffering such illnesses do not like to engage some health services.  They do not want sympathy, but perhaps respond better to empathy, from those in a position of understanding.  Indeed some experience of our health services lead people into a cycle of worse mental health as a result of that engagement with the professionals in health provision.

It is a sad thing to say, but many in the NHS do not understand or indeed care about the mental health conditions that they come into contact with on a daily basis.  It may well be a minority, but it comes up with such regularity that it is hard not to conclude it is a real problem.

The stories of those treated with a lack of respect or a lot worse can be seen all over the internet.  It is remarkable in this day and age that there is not some cross over of training to include the mentally distressed when they come into contact with other health professionals.

Stories of a person having a heart attack and being taken to hospital for treatment, to be faced with a Doctor who see’s scars of self harm and proceeds to lecture the patient and to say he did not want to treat the patient and why are they wasting their time .  Treating the patient with disrespect, disregard and insulting them.

On other occasions such treatment has led to suicide attempts.

Then there are the stories of those who attend hospital due to a self harming episode to be again insulted for “wasting” their time and deliberately making a shoddy job of the “treatment”, causing yet more anguish.

There are additional stories of refusing to use pain killing treatment because of the idea that if it hurts sufficiently they won’t come back!

Then there are those within the mental health profession themselves, who are so stretched, or that have such skewed priorities and rules that even knowing patients require help, they refuse them on the basis that a time limit has been reached.

If anyone was unaware, mental health conditions do not heal themselves to a time table.

If you would like to see the effects of some of these issues have a look at the PurpeNoise blog where some of the issues are graphically illustrated.

 

Some people tell me that mental health issues are no longer “stigmatised” or that our mental health provision is “a lot better than it used to be”.  The proof of the pudding as they is in the eating, and I am beginning to have my fill.

Stigmatisation is still apparent, in corners of our society that would surprise many people, and the mentally ill are still the first to be cast adrift in society when the chips are down.

If this would surprise you, then look at the details of the new Employment Support Allowance and the glee with which the tabloids miss represent stories of who is available for work following the new “assessment” procedures.

Those with depression and other mental illnesses are the least able to “shout loudest” to get what they need.  Yet the new assessments are designed exactly for this reason in mind.  It is not about need, but about saving money, no matter who suffers.

This is not political, all parties are sharing the helm on this policy, and it sickens me.

So, for the many “Angels” who do their job without prejudice and professionally, showing consideration and sympathy, please continue your superb hard work and teach the others in your profession the way human beings are supposed to behave.

Compassion is not a dirty word.