Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. This weeks guest article is from Rowan Wild who shares her experiences of “diagnosis shaming” from professionals. Rowan really goes deep on how something as simple as communication can have such a long term impact on service users. This is an article that should be read by EVERYONE within the mental health sector and should a lesson for all future professionals on the importance of their role! We hope you enjoy this article as much as we did!
Long time no post, yet again. I can’t seem to keep myself in a routine at the minute. Graduation through my mood completely out of whack but here we are! Back with the second part of my tips on how to cover up in the hot weather without actually melting into a fleshy puddle.
As I said in my previous post, scars from self-harm affect so many of us. Whether we have scratches, scalds, or stitched up cuts, the act of showing them is a personal choice.
I am a huge advocate for being transparent when it comes to mental health, however many of us choose to hide the history we have on our skin.
DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way intended to be body-shaming. You can wear anything you feel comfortable with, no matter how your skin looks, your shape, height, or size. These are simply suggestions I use for myself to help cover-up and stay cool.
Midi skirts are fantastic for summer. You can find them in most charity shops for under £10 (I once found one for £2.50!) and they keep your upper thigh covered. This one here is from H&M for £19.99.
Skirts this length can be found in a range of different styles, like pencil skirts and body-con so it’s super easy to tailor this tip to your own style. However, I find that the floaty type like the one pictured above is the most summery, and is typically my favourite style to go for when I’m trying to cover scars and stretch marks on my thighs.
These skirts are wonderful. You can dress them up or down, depending on the occasion. They don’t raise questions, as they are often worn in summer anyway. You can guarantee if you wear jeans someone will crack the old,
Aren’t you hot in that?
Yeah, I bloody well am hot in these jeans, but that’s none of your business!
Another life-saver in this weather is the maxi skirt. Obviously I’ve chosen to display this black jersey skirt from Boohoo because I’m still an emo kid at heart, but again you could find an alternative for cheap in Primark or a charity shop.
These are great if you have insecurities about your calves and aren’t ready to show them off just yet. They’re elegant and perfect for whatever occasion. Going somewhere fancy? Pair it with a fitted crop top. Heading to the shop? Sling on a t-shirt and tuck it in.
The added bonus of these skirts is the control you have. If you’re sitting in the garden at a sunny barbecue, you can keep your legs covered up. Then if you find yourself alone for a few minutes you can take the opportunity to get your legs out and show them the sun.
Being a short-arse
Are you like me and 5 foot nothing and find maxi skirts drag on the floor?
Maxi skirts with an elasticated waist can be rolled over at the waist band without looking weird. If you fold it towards you it can take the skirt up a couple of inches.
Alternatively you could pair it with some platform shoes, sandals, or boots, depending on your style and where you’re walking that day.
These RAID “flatform” sandals from Asos are an example of a flat but raised shoe – far easier to walk in than traditional heels. I’ve seen some similar in Primark which were about a third of the price of these, which are currently being sold at £29.99.
I know many of you will hate the phrase “chub rub.” Some of you lucky devils might not even know what it means.
This is a rash that occurs when there is friction between your thighs as they rub while you walk. It can be incredibly painful, and often deters people from wearing skirts at all.
That being said, there are two tricks you can try which I have found to be particularly helpful.
1. Roll-on antiperspirant
I’m no scientist so I can’t explain to you how this works, but for the past two years I have been using this trick to help combat my thighs from chafing when I wear skirts.
It doesn’t feel very flattering to be rolling moist deodorant on your inner thighs, but I believe it reduces sweating and also acts as a protective layer to reduce the friction of skin-on-skin. Roll-on deodorants are fairly cheap and usually small so they’re easy to carry about with you so you can reapply in the loos later if you feel the effects wearing off.
2. Cycling shorts
For some people, the deodorant trick simply doesn’t work. An alternative to this is to wear form-fitting shorts underneath your skirt to prevent chafing.
These LA Gear body-con shorts from Sports Direct are really cheap, costing only £4.
Can’t afford to buy something extra? You could instead cut up a pear of tights or old leggings to just above the knee. Though this is not an ideal solution, nor one I’ve tried myself, it seems to be an effective way to tide you over until you’re able to buy some actual body-con shorts.
Although I previously mentioned in this post about how jeans can raise the ridiculous “Aren’t you hot in that?” question, wide-legged or light weight trousers are a good choice in hot weather. They keep you covered, but are far more breathable than jeans.
These floral harem pants from H&M retail at £12.99. Wearing them feels like pyjamas. They’re thin, airy, and comfortable. You are also able to roll them up to your knees should you want to, so they look like cut-offs. This is great if you only want to cover your calves some of the time.
Finally, we come to the thing that is my biggest difficulty in summer. Tops.
Most of the tops I own are band t-shirts from when I was younger and in my prime emo years. These are no good in 30°C heat. First off, they’re black. Secondly, they do not cover my scarred up arms that I don’t always want to have out on display.
So if you’re like me and vest tops and t-shirts are a no-go for you in summer, here are a couple of suggestions that I have found useful.
Crop tops and bardots
Long sleeved crop tops and bardot tops are both beautiful and covering.
This cropped bardot top from New Look would look excellent paired with a long skirt or high-waisted trousers. Plus, the tight sleeves on these is great as it means you won’t have the awkward moment where your sleeve accidentally rolls down and your scars are on show to the bartender in Spoons who you weren’t quite ready to reveal your life story to.
I know that often because it is marketed as a crop-top and usually models who wear these have flat stomachs and defined abs, people are often uncomfortable about wearing these or even trying them on.
If you have a muffin-top like me, a sad belly button, stretch marks, scars, whatever, you can hoist your skirt right up to where the bottom of the top is as if it were a dress.
There is NO SHAME in having these things. I absolutely am not body shaming. However, I do understand than not everyone is ready to show these parts of themselves that they may be self-conscious about.
The market is rife with thin, baggy shirts at the minute. Especially longer shirts.
This beautiful pale green shirt from New Look retails at £14.99 (but you can usually get 10% discount on non-sale items if you have your university student card with you in store). It would look gorgeous paired with skinny fit shorts, whether they’re mini or knee-length.
You could also tuck it in to some chino-style trousers, or a midi skirt for a smarter or more formal look. Alternatively, you could wear the shirt unbuttoned over a cami-top, however this causes me anxiety as I’m often worried someone will tell me to take the shirt off because they think I’m too hot.
You do not owe anyone an explanation.
It is your choice if you want to show your scars, and if you don’t want to, you do not have to justify that because someone is asking questions.
Stay safe. Keep hydrated. Autumn will be here before we know it.
Scars from self-harm affect so many people. Regardless of whether you have scratches, scalds, or stitched up cuts, the act of showing them is your choice. I am a huge advocate for being transparent when it comes to mental health, however for one reason or another some of us need to hide the history we have on our skin.
In winter, finding clothes to cover up isn’t such an issue. Come summertime, however, finding clothes that don’t make us feel like we’re being slow roasted by the sun can be a problem.
For years I wore hoodies and skinny jeans in 30°C so that the people around me wouldn’t see my scars. Some days, I wouldn’t even leave the house if it was hot, which becomes increasingly difficult as you get older.
So here are some outfit ideas that you can take inspiration from that won’t cause the ‘aren’t you hot in that?’ fiasco. All these outfit ideas are fairly affordable, and variations of them to suit your own style can be found in Primark, H&M and charity shops around this time of year.
(DISCLAIMER: I am not a fashion guru. These are ideas you can tailor to your own tastes.)
I’m gonna be honest, this is a difficult thing to combat. Normally when you go swimming people see almost everything. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Long sleeved swimsuits come in all sorts of colours and are suitable for all sizes. If you have scars on your arms, these are perfect for going to the pool or swimming at the beach.
This one piece swimsuit from Rosegal is pretty, covering, and most importantly: subtle.
This particular suit costs $22.41 which currently is about £17. Rosegal offers free shipping internationally and have a plus size range if you are a fuller bodied person like me.
One thing to watch out for, however, is their sizes. Make sure to use the size charts they have and remember that US sizes differ from UK sizes. For example, a US 14 is the equivalent to a UK 18.
Sarongs and long skirts
If you have scars on your legs or thighs, it is quite easy to find a sarong. Sarongs are a skirt-type wrap that people often wear to the beach.
This is a simple black sarong from H&M costing £4.99.
Despite the dark colour, the material these items are made of are intentionally thin and airy as they are designed for beachwear. Black is also simple and versatile.
The simplicity of a sarong is that it is easy to remove, so if you get a few moments away from the group, you can still move it off your legs to catch some sun.
Unlike a white sarong, it is unlikely to be see-through.
These items cover beachwear, but there is still the issue of hiding self-harm scars on your legs when you go swimming at indoor pools. If this is an issue, which it might be if you are on a family holiday,
Board shorts are a great way to cover up your thighs if they are an area you wish to keep hidden.
Honestly, the board shorts in the ‘male’ swimwear section are usually better, like these AMAZING pineapple shorts from Sports Direct costing £4.
Next week I will be posting the second part to this blog, which will be all about other fashion ideas you can wear to stay cool but covered in this ridiculous summer heat.
You do not owe anyone an explanation.
It is your choice if you want to show your scars, and if you don’t want to, you do not have to justify that because someone is asking questions.
Stay strong, my lovelies. It’ll be dropping cold again soon!
I’m sorry I’ve been on hiatus with no real explanation.
Over the past week I have been having a serious borderline episode. For me, this means that all of the emotions I am usually able to deal with using DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) techniques are stronger than usual, so the techniques I use don’t work out so well.
For example, I’ve been having hypomanic episodes some days, which means I’ve been getting significantly less sleep which has messed up my sleeping pattern. Under normal circumstances I would take my emergency zopiclone to help me, but these shouldn’t be taken with alcohol and usually by the time I’ve remembered I have them I’ve started drinking.
Anyway. This post is just an update to say I’m not gone.
I’ll still be here, coming back in the next week or so with new content for you.
This weekend was particularly intense as some difficult things happened within my family life that triggered a BPD meltdown.
BPD meltdowns happen (in my case, at least) when you become so consumed and overwhelmed by emotion that the rational parts of my brain shut down.
The rationalising techniques taught in therapy, like finding distractions, like films or crafts, or self-soothing, such as having a hot drink or a bath, are no longer effective.
During my meltdowns, I am incapable of stopping crying.
My brain goes a mile a minute thinking about why I am worthless, why I should be ashamed of who I am, and how I don’t deserve to be alive any more.
Eventually it passes. Honestly, the most effective thing to help a BPD meltdown is time.
I understand that you might not want to. In that situation you probably feel like you don’t deserve any kind of love and support. Regardless of whether you deserve it, I promise you that there are people in your life who want to support you. They want to help. Let them.
And please, if it is an emergency call 999 or visit your nearest A&E.
These emotions are temporary.
In the mean time, if you’re reading this, here are some BPD related memes I’ve found on the Internet that might provide the relief of making you smile.
I know this is not normally the day or time that I post but I need to write this.
There have been two times in my life that have made me ashamed to be British…
PIP Disability Benefit cuts
That shame has come back today.
I got my PIP decision today, and it is not good news. Most of you know this, but for those of you who don’t, I have congenital Cerebral Palsy on my right side. It gives me serious weakness on the right side and prevents me from using it as a hand is “normally used”
I can also not feel impact, such as heat or from an injury, despite being able to feel muscular pain. This can put me in dangerous situations (say an electronic hob is left on as I forgot to turn it off – or I’ve broken a bone and gone a…
Do you remember those games you’d play in primary school?
Where you’d cup your hands in a ball shape and your friend would place their hands around yours, pushing your hands with their palms, and you’d push back against them?
Then after a while, they’d take their hands away and you felt like there was an invisible ball between your hands that you could stretch and manipulate?
Weird feeling, wasn’t it?
For me, that’s what derealising feels like around my entire body.
Derealising is a form of dissociation that, in short, makes you feel like the world around you is not real.
This past week I’ve been experiencing some intense dissociation. Chances are, if you’re here reading this you have some idea of what ‘dissociation’ is, or maybe you’ve heard of it before.
If not, a generalised summary of dissociation is the feeling of disconnect from the world around you. To varying degrees of severity, it affects your cognitive function (so, like, your memory, concentration, feeling of identity) and is generally thought to be caused by significant stress, trauma, or as a side effect from medication. That’s dissociation in brief, anyway. It presents itself in a lot of different forms which you can read more about on the Mind website.
You don’t have to have been diagnosed with a specific dissociative disorder to experience dissociation, though. Personally, I experience it as a side effect of my PTSD and social anxiety disorder.
It isn’t until later in life I realised I’d been dealing with derealisation and something else called depersonalisation for the majority of my teenage years. Depersonalisation is, pretty much, the feeling that you are not real, and feeling disconnected from your own self.
I’d walk around school feeling as if I’d left my body. I looked at my hands, and they felt unreal. I looked at my friends and my surroundings and felt like I was looking through dream fog. As if my alarm clock was about to ring and I’d wake up somewhere else sweating, with a massive sleep headache from being dead to the world.
It always terrified me, and now it makes me exhausted all the time.
What prompted me to write about this is that yesterday I had one of the most severe episodes of dissociation I’ve had since my ~Official Breakdown~ in 2015/2016 when I was having total blackouts and psychosis but that’s another story for another time.
So I was walking around town on the hunt for a specific item of clothing and saw GAP, a place I have never set foot in in my life.
I wandered in, a conspiracy podcast soothing my little ears through headphones, and immediately I was over-sensitised. The bright LED lights, the walls and walls of clothing and unclear layout. I closed my eyes for a second, then tried to focus on the things I could see. Typically, a good grounding technique if you’re dissociating is to list five things for each sensation you’re experiencing.
It was the simultaneous experience of seeing everything so vividly whilst also feeling like I’d been knocked outside my own head and the door back inside had been locked.
Okay, I thought. Let’s just have a quick look around and see what we can find.
Walking further into the store, I felt like I’d been winded by sensory overload. I started to black out.
It felt as if I were looking out from a glass box that someone was drawing the curtains over.
Usually I catch the dissociation before it gets that far, but this time I honestly couldn’t see from the anxiety and the overwhelming sense of being unreal.
So I left and decided to get to a place I recognised. I walked into another store I know and love but the same thing happened. Once again, my vision started to fade and I couldn’t make sense of the words my podcast was saying.
It was at this point I left the shopping centre and went to wait outside for my friend as we’d planned to spend the day together. She eventually turned up and was amazing at drawing me out of that glass box I was looking through. We went for milkshakes and some retail therapy which I found manageable with her. Yet for some reason my broken brain couldn’t handle it on my own, when usually I love shopping alone. Weird!
If you guys are interested in learning more about dissociation, I’ve listed some links below to documentaries or films that have informed my understanding of myself.
‘Numb’ – A 2007 film with Matthew Perry, about a man who experiences dissociation as a side effect of smoking weed. I honestly don’t know how often this happens to people but the representation of how some people cope with dissociative disorders and how difficult they can be to diagnose is pretty great.
Dodie is a singer and musician who lives with derealisation and she explains how she experiences dissociation concisely in the video I’ve linked.
I do hope you’re all doing well. I’d be interested to hear how you guys experience dissociation in the comments. It’s always useful to help me further my understanding of how other people experience the world.
These past couple of weeks have been hectic; I passed my driving test, got a car, became officially discharged from outpatient. It’s been a wild ride to be honest.
But now, let’s get down to business to defeat the Huns! (Had to, sorry.)
When I was 18, I started having driving lessons. I wasn’t on any meds at this point, and I would have panic attacks before every lesson. Shaking. Crying. Unable to breathe. After about two months, I gave up because I didn’t need to drive. Why put myself through something that was such an ordeal every week?
In an attempt at self-encouragement, I passed my theory test. I had pressure from all sides of my family, who mostly all had driving licenses (including some who can drive HGVs and tractors.) That plan didn’t really work out and I ended up not driving again at all until I was 20, at the start of last year. By this time my theory test was running out – they only last for two years.
During my time away from driving, I had an emotional breakdown. I don’t use this term lightly. I literally had to quit my job, I barely made it in to lectures at uni, my relationship ended because this was the worst my BPD has ever been. In hindsight, I should have been hospitalised, however the person I was living with at the time insisted that that wasn’t the right thing for me.
Back then the idea of ever passing my driving test was laughable. Even my little brother had surpassed me, when he got his license in February 2017, after learning for just five months. One day as I was traveling to an appointment with my CPN, I thought, Now my brother could drive me to my appointments. Almost instantly, a voice I hadn’t heard for a long time spoke up in my head: or you could drive yourself.
I sat with this thought for a while. It made me feel sick. The fact that I was thinking about learning to drive again by choice was terrifying to me, because it meant I might actually be ready to try. Although this seems like a positive thing, it was disconcerting. When you’re ill enough for long enough, it feels like there is no personality inside you beyond your disorder. This was a sign that there was a part of my identity growing. I was becoming stronger. In turn, this meant there was likely to be a retaliation from my illness.
I’m sure this will upset some people, but for me personally there is something about being ill that is easy. It is easy to sink back into this, because my illness is severe. It’s my natural, organic state. It is who I am at my core. But I don’t want it to be. Fighting to get out of that, to become a person who doesn’t just survive but functions was something I longed for.
So I decided to give driving another go. It was horrible. Before every session, pretty much, I had a panic attack. I’d stim and shout noises that were akin to a screaming goat. However, after a while of witnessing my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel and grabbing the gear stick so hard I’d ram it into reverse instead of first, my instructor asked me if I have anxiety.
I laughed. How had he only just noticed?
But wait. He thought I was neurotypical. He thought I was a person who can function.
I told him I had depression and anxiety (I hadn’t been fully diagnosed with EUPD and PTSD at the time.) This meant he adapted our lessons. He took the time to drive around country lanes, on scenic routes so we could look out over views of the hills. He was pagan, and he told me after he did this in part because green is such a calming colour.
After he did this, I became so much more relaxed. Well, apart from when I had a panic attack and cried during my first mock test, but hey we all have ups and downs.
And then, on 23rd May, I passed my driving test. First time. Eight minors but it doesn’t say that on the certificate so who cares?!
I got my brother’s old car, which I love. My favourite thing now is to drive down the stretch of road when I’m on my way home with the anthems of my teenage years playing loudly as a ‘screw you’ to the mental illness that took my adolescence away.’
Mental health blog by a service user with bipolar disorder. Winner of the Mark Hanson Awards for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards 2013 and the Mood Disorder category in the 2012 This Week in Mentalists Awards.