Why I started smoking in hospital

Arriving at the psychiatric ward, in which I stayed for the last three and a half months, the first thing you spot is the so called “smoking pavilion”, basically the most important place up there. It’s where you meet before and after therapy, it’s where you get visited by old fellow patients out of visiting time, it’s where you go when you’re upset, because you’ll always find someone to talk to. It’s where you meet in the middle of the night, because almost everyone in there has some trouble sleeping. It’s where the nurses and therapists walk you, when they need to have a talk with you. It’s the place you go to when you’re hungry, but you’re running low on snacks. It’s the place you go to when you’re bored, almost every time someone will lurk around the corner after a few minutes. You spend the sunny days in front of it, the rainy ones inside of it.

After you’ve seen the famous smoking pavilion it won’t take you long until you spot either a single smoker or a whole group of people smoking. There’s no in-between. And whilst a single person smoking is rather rare, the groups of smokers belong to that place like the trees that seem to have grown there all along.
You might think these groups are limited to patients, but nurses, therapists and doctors seem to not have learned so much during their education. It’s actually pretty hard to find a person that doesn’t smoke. Everyone’s doing it. The head physician, the well-educated therapist, the nurse that doesn’t even smoke at home, the trainee, the nursing student, even the addiction counsellor.

When a patient is admitted and tells the physicians that they do not smoke, they’ll probably hear the same thing every other non-smoker did on their first day: “Oh, one of the very few non-smokers here, that’ll be fun.”

I got to hear that sentence, too. But a few weeks later, when I lit up my first cigarette there, everyone was left in shock. Maybe, because I was one of the few that didn’t smoke when they were admitted. Maybe, because they thought I wasn’t ‘that type of girl’. I heard it all.

Now, being outpatient, I quit again. But I’m still getting horribly judged for even starting.

But, you know, it’s hard to explain to non-neurodivergents. And now, that I left it behind, it makes even less sense.

As a person who’s among other things being treated for depression, I as well went under treatment for suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation.
Staying in hospital, you obviously can’t easily act on these or any other self-injurious ideas. I mean, you can, but it’s attached to a lot more stress and talks and justifications, as well as incredibly annoying behaviour analyses.

Not being able to actively harm myself all the time, my incredibly smart and disfunctional brain figured, that smoking could be an alternative.
It was something I didn’t like and I was kinda afraid of, the perfect thing to cause some harm to myself. Not forgetting the harm it causes to the body.

Some days I was sitting there hoping that this cigarette I was smoking might be the one that finally killed me. Other days I was just trying to numb the thoughts and the pain I felt. On even other days I just didn’t have stuff to do and I figured, that it would be a better option to smoke some cigarettes than to cut or burn myself.

If you never experienced this situation yourself, it’ll probably be hard to understand the feeling of having a little bit control over the damage you cause yourself, when most of it is taken away from you by rules the hospital put on you.

It was a way to cope, a way to numb my feelings, a way of limiting the damage.

Now that I am outpatient after a quarter of a year, I am proud to say that I quit.
But there are still days on which I can’t refuse, either because I am feeling okay, but not okay enough to not cause any harm to myself; or because I am just so fed up with everything, I have to turn it into a rebellious act against myself; or because I feel like it would be the better and less damaging option I have in that moment.

It were never my fellow patients that pressured me to start smoking, it was never out of peer-pressure, it was me that made that decision and it is me that has to be able to control whatever I choose to do.

I hope, that unlike a lot of people in life, you will question the things a person does, before judging them for their actions. Their behaviour might not fit your idea of reacting to certain events in life, but yours might not fit their idea either.

“Everyone deals with unimaginable pain in their own way, and everyone is entitled to that, without judgement.”

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These are the things I no longer wish to understand

I no longer wish to understand, why you would give someone the power to make their words become your thoughts. To make you hate yourself so much.

I no longer wish to understand the ongoing panic, even when nothing in particular is happening. The fear of the fear. Developing into a thing so big, that you can’t stop it from attacking you. That you can’t control it, and – most importantly – yourself, anymore.

I no longer wish to understand this constant idea in your head, that tells you everybody hates you. That makes you believe, the absence of the evidence that someone doesn’t hate you equals them actually hating you.

I no longer wish to understand the obsession you develope once you decide to trust someone. The attachement. The fear of losing them. The realization that this relationship only exists in order to end.

I no longer wish to understand why someone would push away a loved one in order to make sure they’ll stay, instead of pulling them closer and holding on to them.

I no longer wish to understand the thoughts that control you every single day. Every hour. Every minute. Every second. That make you want to leave this world. That won’t leave you alone even in the better moments.

I no longer wish to understand why someone would wish for death, even though they know that they’ve been gifted with a life.

I no longer wish to understand the way it stings in the shower the next day. The guilt of realizing what you’ve done and the idea that maybe you deserved it.

I no longer wish to understand why someone would prefer the touch of a razor blade to their skin over that of a loved one.

I no longer wish to understand how you have to explain it over and over. How it is so much worse than every other bodypart being sick. How there exists such a stigma on a single topic.

I no longer wish to understand the idea of not being sick enough. Of wasting time others may would have needed more than you. The way the brain is able to deny its own sickness.

I no longer wish to understand why someone would wish to no longer understand the things they have learned to understand.

Speaking up about mental illness

Looking at any of my social media profiles it doesn’t take long to find a post about mental illness. If you want to find out, you will. Why am I doing this?

You’re talking about having cancer online? Showing others what it’s like to get chemo therapy? Wanting to show other patients that they are not alone?
You’re one big hero.

You’re talking about having depression online? Showing others what it’s like to get psychotherapy? Wanting to show other patients that they are not alone?
You’re an attention seeker, a simulant, a lazy teenager that doesn’t want to go to school.

Talking about mental illness still isn’t considered normal, whilst talking about physical illness is perfectly fine.

We live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast. But if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way.
We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down other than our brains. And that’s ignorance. That’s pure ignorance. And that ignorance has created a world that doesn’t understand depression, that doesn’t understand mental health.

 

I don’t like being vocal about my problems, but I speak up anyway.
If you meet me in person it will take a long time until I tell you anything about my problems. I’ve gone years without anyone noticing there’s something wrong. It’s easier to let everyone around you think you’re okay, but not speaking up will make you even more sick.

Mental illnesses often go unnoticed for a really long time, either because the person doesn’t even know that what they’re experiencing might be a mental health issue or because they’re too afraid to tell anyone or to seek help.

In school we teach kids about HIV and aids, we show them how to brush their teeth and tell them how to take care of their body by eating healthy. But we don’t teach them to speak up about their feelings, to take care of themselves even when they’re feeling like they don’t deserve to or to take a break instead of breaking down because there’s still so much to do.

We tell parents to look out for symptoms of physical illnesses in their kids like rashes or pain, but we don’t tell them to take care of their kids mental health and to look out if they’re often angry, sad or anxious.

Why do we pay so much attention to every part of our body but our brain? Why is it okay to rest when we have a cold, but lazy to rest when we had a rough day? Why are we strong when we come to work even though we had a fever yesterday, but weak when we call in sick, because we had a full blown panic attack last night?

I want others to know that they’re not alone, that they’re not weak, that what they’re experiencing is real. I want to raise awareness on a topic that is still considered a taboo subject in our society and to stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves.
I want to show that it’s okay to take care of yourself, that it’s okay to seek for help, that it’s okay to rest and, most of all, that it’s okay to speak up.

Nobody’s perfect, we’re all humans and we have to take care of each other and, most importantly, of ourselves.

You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.

What happens if I am suicidal at an open ward or treatment center?

This is a question almost everyone who’s been inpatient and deals with suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation asked themselves. Quiet often patients that are at risk of hurting themselves go unnoticed, because they’re afraid of what will happen if they tell anyone.

Please remember that I am in no way a mental health professional or a person that worked in a mental hospital, everything I write is based on my own experience.

First I’m going to talk about what it was like when I stayed at an inpatient psychosomatic treatment center that wasn’t a psychiatric ward at the hospital.

If you were known to deal with suicidal thoughts you had a talk with the staff once or twice a day and probably were classified into how likely you were to act on these thoughts or ideas. Depending on this information they had a timespan, like 5 to 30 minutes, and if you didn’t show up for the meeting within the given time they had to call you, and if you wouldn’t answer, the police.
In these meetings they would always ask you how you were feeling, what you were doing and what you were planning to do, if you felt suicidal and if you felt like hurting yourself.

As a patient at this open station you were reassured to tell the staff as soon as you start to feel yourself slipping into suicidal thoughts. You then had a talk with the staff and if you could believably distance yourself from these thoughts you could go on like before and just had to come to your check-ups.
If you weren’t able to believably distance yourself from the thoughts you were taken to a room that was under video surveillance and had to talk to a doctor. Most of the time you would have to sleep in this room for a night on an incredibly uncomfortable doctor’s couch with all the trouble of doctors talking to patients and staff or patients coming in for medication going on around you.
On the next day you were supervised during breakfast and then had to sit in front of the staff room glass door and wait for your therapist, your doctor and the consultant who’d be coming in for a crisis visit at your room.
In this crisis visit they would ask you a lot of questions so they could see if they could trust you that you’re safe. If you were, you had to promise them via handshake and would probably get a so called anti-suicide-contract. If you weren’t safe, you would be taken to the local psychiatric ward and stay in the closed ward for a few days. If your stay would take more than 4 days your bed at the treatment center would have been given to a new patient and you would have to come in for the next free bed whenever you got out of hospital.

If you’re at an open psychiatric ward it would be a lot easier to transfer you to the closed ward and therefor they would send you there faster, even if it would be just for a night, because it’s just such a high risk for them to let you stay on the ward without being supervised all the time. If you were to actually do something that could take your own life it would be their fault, so if there is the option to let you sleep in a room that is under video surveillance they would probably take it.

Never be afraid to tell anyone that you’re suicidal, because all they want to do is help you and keep you safe. You won’t be sectioned under the mental health act or anything if you collaborate and try to keep yourself safe as well.

Suicide is a permanent solution to problems that may not feel temporary but are! You are worth to keep living and your life matters. If you tell someone about the struggles you’re facing they will be able to help you.

I know it’s scary, but it’s important.


Need help now?

  • Call 911 or your national emergeny number.
  • 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-8255)
  • Text: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)
  • International Suicide Hotlines

Words for anyone in recovery

You ARE “sick enough”.
You don’t need to get worse in order to be “sick enough” to get help. You don’t need to get worse for your pain to be real, recognized and treated. You don’t have to get worse in order to be taken seriously.

You DESERVE to get help.
You are allowed to ask for help and to accept it. You are worth the time it takes others to help you. You are worth getting better. You deserve to get better. You are not weak for getting help.

You ARE NOT a bad person for feeling like this.
You are allowed to feel weak, angry or exhausted. It is ok to feel like this. You can’t feel strength without weakness, there isn’t just one of the two, they coexist.

You CAN’T fight all the time.
You are allowed to rest. It is okay to feel tired. Relapses happen. You are not a bad person because of your coping methods. You can’t just be fine over night.

You DON’T have to cling to your illness in order to matter.
You will be cherished whether you’re ill or not. People aren’t gonna stop loving and supporting you once you’re doing better. You are not your illness.

Recovery IS hard.
It is okay to feel like you can’t fight anymore, there are days like this. Focus on yourself and survivng, be yourself and not some kind of recovery idol. It is okay to sometimes avoid events that stress you out.

TAKE CARE.
You can do this, even if you feel like you can’t. There are better days to come, even if you can’t imagine it yet. You are perfect the way you are and you do not have to change to make anyone else happy. Focus on making yourself happy.

Not being able to talk at times

I’m sitting in my therapists office and she asks me some simple questions.
“How are you feeling?” – “Not that good” is what I say instead of explaining why I feel horrible. “What happened this week?” – “Not that much” I say, not being able to think of what I did the last few days.

“Tell me a bit about your day” she says. And that’s when it happens.
I want to answer her question, but I just can’t get out a word. I try to breathe, but suddenly it feels like I’m suffocating. She doesn’t say anything. I look around searching for the clock, a minute goes by, it feels like an hour. “What’s so hard?” she asks. “I don’t know” is the only thing I can bring myself to say.
She asks a ton of other questions, but I can’t answer anymore. I’m silent for the rest of the session, my therapist doesn’t know what to do.

It’s not only that I am so nervous I can’t concentrate on anything or that I am too shy to answer. It’s wanting to speak but not being able to find your voice, wanting to express yourself but not being able to do it through words and sentences.

I want to talk to you, I want to look you in the eyes, I want to ask you questions, I want to be friendly, but instead I don’t say a word, I stare on the ground, wait until you give up on our conversation and come off as rude.

It’s not that I don’t want to speak, it’s simply that I just can’t. Even in therapy it’s one of the biggest obstacles. Even my therapist told me a hundred times, that she doesn’t know how to handle it.

Please, if you try to talk to someone and they’re not answering, please do not assume that it means they’re rude. Sometimes it’s just too much.

A friendly reminder

Mental illness doesn’t take a break over the summer holidays.

Just because we don’t have to go to school doesn’t mean we’re suddenly doing okay. Our fears and thoughts don’t stop the moment we get out of school for a few weeks, they don’t care about relaxing or swimming pool time.

Having a lot of time now doesn’t always make us feel better and less depressed or anxious, no sometimes it makes us feel even worse, because we’re lacking the daily structure and have even more time to overthink.

Just because we don’t have to get up for school doesn’t mean that getting out of bed is easier when we’re on summer break. No, it might be even harder because we’re not forced to get up in order to be on time.

Not having to go to school gives all of us a lot of free time, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to do things all day. We still get stressed and overwhelmed, we still fear the stuff we fear when we’re going to school and we still struggle with daily tasks.

Being on summer break doesn’t make us able to do fun things with our friends all the time. Often we don’t get to enjoy the stuff mentally healthy people enjoy, we might get exhausted or upset very easy and still need to plan our activities.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental health problems, please remember: Holidays or breaks don’t magically cure our illnesses, we’re still struggling and that’s totally normal and okay. Healing takes time.

Specific phobias

Did you ever fear something so much you would have rather died than having to experience that thing?

That’s what it’s like to have a specific phobia.

Everything I do in my life is meant to prevent on experiencing my fear, every thought I think is checked at least twice in case it could make this thing happen.

I can’t even write about what my biggest fear is, because when I write or talk about it it seems even more real and even more like it’s gonna happen in any moment.

I am ashamed, of my fear and of myself. I know that these thoughts don’t make sense, I know that my fear seems irrelevant to others and I know that my phobia is what holds me back from living a happy life.

Not even one simple action like putting a glas on a table isn’t thought through a hundred times. Did I ever do it like I’m doing it right now and was I afraid or did the thing happen? If I do it like this now, will I be afraid or will this thing happen? If I do it like this now and I will be afraid or the thing will happen, I won’t ever be able to do it like this again, because it will happen again. If I won’t ever be able to do it like this again, I will get afraid and the thing might happen.

My thoughts never stop. My mind is currently working and creating “What if” sentences. I can’t make it stop. I can’t make it stop, because if I don’t think about it, I will be afraid and the thing might happen.

At times it gets worse and I become really afraid. I won’t be able to function like a normal human being, I might escape or try to interact with you, I might talk a lot or not at all, I might sit still or walk around trying to breathe, I might tell you what’s going on, but most of the time I won’t.

I have to get through this and I most probably will get through this, but I never know for sure if I really will.

Sometimes I want to give up, I don’t want to exist anymore or I want to die, because then the thing won’t ever happen again.

Sometimes I just want to hide, forever. I want to find an option to make sure this thing won’t ever happen, at all costs.

Sometimes I just want this fear to go away, because I would like to do something randomly and not think about the same thing all the time, sometimes I just want to know how a normal life feels.

Please, I beg you to never ever ever play down someone’s fears or to even make fun of them. If you’ve never felt like that before, you won’t be able to understand, no matter how hard you try. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Try to find out what comforts the person, what lowers their fear and what you can do to help them a little. Even if it’s just talking random stuff or sitting across the room; the best you can do is to respect the persons fear and to try to minimize the harm they do to themselves, mentally and/or physically. 

Real Anxiety

How my anxiety affected me producing a short film about anxiety

I have struggled with social anxiety since I was in kindergarten.
Now I’m 18 and still struggling.
But things have changed.

Now I’m able to speak up and raise awareness about what I and a thousand others suffer from.

Therefor I decided to produce a short film about anxiety for my 2-year-school-project.
Well, being in front of the camera I recognized I’m even more uncomfortable than I want it to seem in the video.

Most of the anxiety scenes in the short film are staged, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious doing all this.
A whole bunch of the raw material is just me awkwardly talking to the person behind the camera, jumping up and down doing weird stuff with my hands and not being able to think because of the panic in my head.
I have more than 1 hour of material that doesn’t show anything besides me sitting on my bed dissociating and staring at the ceiling the whole time.

But none of this is included in the short film.
It’s raw, it’s real, it’s personal and it’s embarrasing to look at. I look horrible, I do not have any control and I’m an open book. I’m hurtable.

BUT THESE SCENES ARE THE MOST REAL ONES. I want the world to recognize the ugliness of anxiety attacks, I want the people to keep an eye on their family and friends, I want them to know the signs.

Continue reading “Real Anxiety”

Fear vs Phobia

 

People often tend to use the word ‘Phobia’ when they’re actually talking about fears.
Well, not trying to talk down your fears, but telling someone you’re suffering from a mental illness called “Agoraphobia” or “Emetophobia” and having someone say “Oh yeah, I have that too, I’m afraid of this and that, too.” is literally the worst.

Being afraid of something doesn’t equal having a phobia of something.

When you fear spiders you might not want to go downstairs because there might be spiders or you might go a bit crazy when there’s a spider in your house.
But having a phobia is something completely different.


Let’s just say someone has a phobia of headaches.

They’re waking up and the first thing that comes to their mind is “How does my head feel? Am I having a headache? Is there any chance I’ll get a headache today? What if I get a headache today? Maybe I should just stay in bed, maybe I won’t get a headache then.”

They probably still start their day just like you, but whilst getting ready they’re most likely to think things like “What clothes should I wear today? Not these, I got a headache the last time I wore them, if I wear them today, I’ll probably get a headache again. Should I wear these? No, they’re to pretty; if I get a headache today I won’t be able to wear them ever again. Maybe I should wear this, but if I look like that people will think that I have a headache.”

When they finally found something to wear and sit down for breakfast, usual toughts might be “Can I eat this or am I gonna get a headache from it? I need my coffee, so I won’t get a headache, but if I drink too much of it, I’m gonna get a headache. Am I having a headache already? I don’t know if that’s the beginning of a headache, maybe I should stay at home today. I need to drink something or else I’m gonna get a headache, but I can’t drink this water, because my brother touched the same bottle when he had a headache and if I’m gonna touch it I’ll get a headache, too. Oh god I already feel it coming.”

Finally out of the house shit is getting real. “Does anyone around here look like they have a headache? Oh no, this boy just touched his head, probably because it hurt, I need to get away from here or I’m gonna get a headache, too. Look at that womans face, she looks like she’s in pain, probably a headache, everyone around here has a headache, maybe there’s something in the air causing it, I need to get out of here.”

And on the bus. “Why are there only a few people in here? Did everyone else stay at home because they had a headache? What if there’s some kind of disease going around that’s causing headaches? I should probably take an aspirin now, oh my god, where are they, did I forget them, no, I have an extra package. Oh no, I have no water, I need water, I need to take these pills now or I’m gonna get a headache and die. I need to get some water, now.”

At work / school. “What if taking aspirin when you’re not having a headache causes headaches? What if I get a headache in class and can’t get out. What if I’m not allowed to drink something in this class, I’m gonna get a headache. Where’s the teacher, isn’t he here today, did he get a headache and am I gonna get it, too?”

In the evening. “I need to go to bed now, staying awake for that long is causing headaches. No phone, no laptop, no light. Darkness is better for the head. Why are there so many cars outside? Are they all on their way to the hospital because some peoples headaches didn’t go away? I hope I won’t have a headache tomorrow. What do I do if I have one? Please, I don’t want to get a headache ever again.

Sleeping at night. *NIGHTMARES OF HEADACHES*