"Snap Out of It!" is honored to have spoken with Saskia Lightburn-Ritchie, the Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of My Cheshire Without Abuse (My CWA). Saskia lives with bipolar disorder, and she is proving every day that it's possible to be successful even with a serious mental illness.
Recently, a report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that every adult under 65 be screened for anxiety by their primary care doctors (family doctors). When I first saw the headline, my initial response was, "Well, that's stupid. You go to the doctor when you're sick, and people know when they're sick." But, upon second thought, I realized this was wrong. Screening for anxiety in general doctor's appointments does make sense.
Self-harm is not avant-garde. Depression is not mysterious. I know these two statements to be facts, so why do some forms of media want us to believe otherwise? On the one hand, maybe I should be grateful. Grateful that topics such as suicide are even portrayed on television or in movies. Why, then, is the predominant emotion, not gratitude but sheer anger? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
As a victim of verbal abuse for many years, I am no stranger to feeling like running away. This stress response will typically appear after I've hit the point of burnout and feeling that the only way to escape unfavorable circumstances is to leave physically. As a teenager, multiple times, I left my home and sought refuge with a friend, only to return again and face the consequences of my actions. Unfortunately, this pattern followed me into my adult life.
“You are not alone” is a common phrase within the mental health community. I suspect it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but here’s what it means to me and my schizoaffective disorder.
Many of us dream of the day we are completely self-harm free. But does such a thing as a self-harm cure exist?
I’ve heard a lot about self-sabotaging or being self-destructive when it comes to anxiety, but somewhere along the way, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do that. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do things that prevent me from taking advantage of an opportunity or being in line with my goals. Has this been a form of self-sabotage in and of itself? I honestly believe so. Because when I take the time to think about it, I can think of many times in my life where I’ve purposely taken actions – or not taken actions – that weren’t consistent with things I have wanted for myself.
As someone who started flirting with anorexic behaviors in early adolescence, I have cycled both in and out of many toxic, compulsive traits over the years. But although I consider myself to be in a stable, consistent recovery mindset now, the competitive nature of my eating disorder still pulls me back into its orbit sometimes. In fact, I noticed this competitive streak reassert itself as recently as last night. The normally sweltering temperatures in metro-Phoenix have begun to cool down, so I went for a run with my husband to soak in the evening breeze. However, I was not hydrated enough to maintain our pace, and he easily outran me. Knowing my husband, this was not a race to him—it was a chance to spend quality time together—but as soon as he passed me, the competitive nature of my eating disorder took control.
Nobody is perfect. Another way of saying that is: everybody makes mistakes. They're an opportunity for growth—something about failing forward, or, without mistakes, there is no progress, and so on. Some people take their mistakes in stride, learning the lessons and moving forward, seemingly unconcerned. As for me, whenever I make or may make a mistake, I deal with anxiety bombs of varying sizes that go off inside me, rendering me twitchy, edgy, and generally a mess.
All too often borderline personality disorder (BPD) and suicidal ideation go hand-in-hand and I am no exception. I am grateful today that I survived my childhood and early adult years, but it was not easy. This is my experience with suicide before I knew I had BPD. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)