Raising The Roof with Kerri!

Today the Roof is being Raised by Kerri, the blogger behind #chatMH (formerly #timetotalkchat)!

Meet Kerri:

Like many Kerri began suffering with Mental Health problems before she even knew there was such a thing. At the age of 12 she began to feel to low feelings of depression, as a quiet 12 year old she didn’t want to talk to anybody and began to feel ignored by her family. As she began to feel more isolated the confusing combination of desperate sadness and voidance of emotions started which was soon followed by bursts of anger. With the anger came self-harming. 

At the age of 13 Kerri began to self-injure by cutting herself as a form of relief from the desperate loneliness she felt. This soon became a serious habit and a compulsion. The self-harming was a form of control for her and if she couldn’t do it she felt out of control.

Kerri’s first suicide attempt came at the age of 15/16. Just as she reached her final, and most important, year at school Kerri’s parent separated. Each of her parents moved out of the family leaving Kerri abandoned and left to move in with her Aunt and Uncle.  It was at this point she attempted suicide.

At this point she moved out of her Aunt and Uncle’s and felt ready to start discussing her issues. However, she received a negative response and after being told she was being stupid she began to ignore the problem because she didn’t think it was serious enough.

Believing that her issues were stupid Kerri decided to stop self-harming but her self-harm was a form of control, so in order to maintain her control Kerri slowly began to replace her self-harm with an eating disorder. For a while she rebounded between self-harm and disordered eating.

In her second year at university Kerri met her current boyfriend, and for the first time in a while began to feel genuinely happy. For roughly a year her self-harm and eating disorders more or less stopped.
However, the negative emotions started to creep back in and before long all of the negative habits started again.

Kerri still suffers with her problems now and after seeing a psychologist she has been diagnosed with complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which has similarity with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Kerri now lives in Belgium.

Hi Kerri,

The first thing I'd like to pick up on is that through all of that you don't mention that you received any help until recently, how did that affect your recovery?

In a way I do not think it impacted my recovery because for most of my life I was never in active recovery. What I think it impacted on the most was my chance to begin recovery. Being told all your life that you are that ‘silly little girl’ who just needs to ‘stop doing that and cheer up’, you begin to doubt yourself. I began to doubt myself. I started to believe I was a stupid girl that just needed to cheer up. I stopped believing that there may be a problem, for years, and so I ignored everything. I think any chance of recovery was lost when I lost belief that I may have some problems. Even now I still say to myself, my boyfriend and now my therapist ‘nah, it’s just stupid. I’m being stupid’. 

With never having support, I never learnt how to utilise the support of others and now that I have some, I have no idea what I’m doing with it, which continues to impact my recovery because I don’t know how to use the support I have. Mostly I come off as ungrateful and stubborn but really I just have no experience and I still doubt everything. 

Do you think that lack of empathy has been a big issue?

I don’t think so. I was never one to give people the opportunity to empathise because I would just not talk about anything. I had decided early on that it wasn’t worth my time so I never looked for people to empathise in my day to day life. Even now I don’t think that I really need it. I am more confident with myself nowadays so I find it’s not so important that my boyfriend can empathise with my feelings but rather accepts that I have them even though he might not be able to understand. 

When I was younger I had another blog where I would write more about my problems and life and such, as you do when you’re a teenager and you’re lonely.  I found many friends online that could empathise with me as they were in similar positions with similar problems. But, looking back I don’t know how much of a good thing that was. We bonded because we could understand each other and in a way become comfortable with things how they were which I think in the long run is not the healthiest option but probably necessary to get by when you have no one else. 

Do you think that the support you now receive from your boyfriend and your therapist has had a big impact on your mental health?

I think I’ll split the two people separately to talk about them. 

My therapist: 

I can’t decide on this one. I’m in the process of leaving my therapist because I don’t think we are clicking but I wouldn’t say the whole experience was negative. I think she had a positive impact on my mental health as it affirmed my belief that I have a few issues where mental health is concerned but at the same time I don’t feel as though she made a positive impact on helping me with it. In the end I decided to leave my therapist and for the moment I am not in therapy anymore. I’m not sure what I’m doing from now on. 

My Boyfriend (Kris):

I think Kris has had a big impact on my mental health. When we first started dating we were happy, I was happy and I began to let him in and take down some of my walls. In the end, it felt as though I took it too far and let down my walls so much that I was just vulnerable and it was almost as if the happiness was a lie. At the time it felt as though all I had done was lower my defences and allowed my problems to swallow me whole. This then lead to me building more walls, higher and thicker, and I shut him out. The experience was positive and negative but the impact was huge and led into one of my lowest points and I resented him for a long time. Since then things have improved and I have begun to open up again. In a way, going to therapy showed me that maybe I do need to open up a little at times. Kris has a positive impact because he really is unconditionally caring and he tries to understand. He is starting to get better at talking to me, realising that I need a constructive person to talk to and not simply someone to comfort me. If he continues to engage me when I am talking about my issues then I think he will continue to have the positive impact that I hope he will have.

When we first chatted you mentioned that you would like to try and keep the talk of Mental Health positive, do you find that you can be positive with your own Mental Health?
I'm not actually sure I would consider myself positive about my mental health yet I wouldn't say I'm negative either. In a way I feel indifferent towards it. Maybe I accepted too early that things would always be this way and that might stop me from being too positive about. 
I'm positive in thinking I can live with it and I really believe that but I don't believe it goes away or you are recovered as such. So I guess I'm a little negative there.
Do you find that there is a different approach to Mental Health in different countries?
I don't know the answer to this question. Belgium was the first place I have attended any kind of therapy. I chose to do it here for the simple fact that it was hidden from everyone that knew me.

You are very open about your struggles on your blog and through social media; I think it's great you feel able to be open about it, what makes you want to be so open about it?

I’m actually not sure what makes me so open. I my actual life I’m completely 100% in the closet (pardon the use of that phrase) with mental health, depression and anything else. I was talking a little to my therapist but I stopped because, I just hate talking. I talk a little to Kris, I’m trying to be more open with him but I struggle a lot with talking. 

I used to have a blog when I was 13 till around 18 where I used to talk about my mental health and such, I found many people to bond with and I never found it as hard to articulate what I wanted to say in writing. I had time to read it over and adjust it until it said what I was saying inside. At that time I wanted to be open because I was so lonely and I wanted someone else to feel the same pain with me; anything to not be alone with myself. 

Now, I still feel the same but I do have Kris. Although I don’t talk to him as much as I should I know I have him. He makes me feel less alone in the sense of fighting it all by myself, but he doesn’t help my feeling of being alone in my issues. He doesn’t have mental health problems so I’m still alone there. 

Because therapy really didn’t go as well as I wanted and at the time of starting my blog, last year, I was in one of my lowest points and just wanted something I knew I would enjoy and could do it my spare time. Just the act of writing was helping me out of my depression and then I just decided that I wanted to do something - something meaning full. It’s also a little to do with my mental health at the same time; I’m very prone to making brash decisions at times when I feel like I can take on the world. I just so happened to want to take on the world and save all the lonely people at the same time… It’s kind of silly now I think about it. 

I feel at ease in myself and at the same time I feel too old to be worn down by this over and over. I feel like I am at a point where I can actually do something for others, share with others and in a way I’ve been this way long enough to actually believe that things can change, do change and you are never alone. 

It sounds as though your blogging has given you a little confidence to start working through everything. Do you find that you get a lot of positive support through blogging?

It really has, I can’t believe I forgot how much it used to help. But I’m in a much better place now so I think the way I write about my struggles now is a lot more constructive than previously. 
Between the comments on my posts, so far, and the #chatMH on twitter, the support has been amazing. I wasn’t expecting any and my actual intention is to be there as support for others but it is still amazing. I haven’t received any negative comments or feedback which I am grateful for, but I’m assuming that’s only a matter of time… I’ll deal with that when it happens. 

I’m so grateful for all the support/comments/tweets I have had form everyone! 

Do you think that there is still a large Stigma surrounding Mental Health?

I think there will always be stigma surrounding mental health, just because people don’t understand. It’s a catch 22 situation, people don’t understand because it’s not spoken about and it’s not spoken about because people don’t understand… 

Stigma goes hand in hand with stereotype. They are always born from something and it’s up to us to show that it’s not all there is to it. 

This might be an unpopular opinion but I think as mental health sufferers and survivors we are responsible for reducing the stigma and we cannot expect it just disappear overnight because we don’t like it. I fully believe that awareness and eradicating stigma come from empathy and understanding. Who better to understand mental health from than the survivors and sufferers themselves?

What inspired you to set up and manage the #chatMH on twitter? 

To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it was one of those brash decisions. I saw that it was ‘Time to Talk’ day from Time for Change and I just had this desire to take part, especially as I’m in a better mind set lately. As there was so much talk going on I thought I’d try. I have admired a few people online for many years for opening up about their mental health stories and I just wanted to do my tiny part. The response from the first chat was so positive that I thought I would continue with the chat and although the audience isn’t as large as the first time I’m still excited about where it can go. 

My second reason is a little of “I can’t help myself at the moment so I might as well help others”. It sounds hypocritical but sometimes it’s different looking into someone else’s life than your own. 

My final reason is a purely selfish reason. Currently I’m stuck in a job I hate and things just aren’t going great lately with my mental health. I started reading some blogs and it got me thinking of how much I enjoyed it before and I felt like starting one up again. I’m just looking for a little happiness and the #chatMH is just an extension of that. 

If you could have a heart to heart with somebody going through the same things you have been through what would you say to them? 

A heart to heart, that’s hard. I've never had one of those heart to heart’s with someone. I struggle with expressing compassion so this is probably going to come across as not so ‘from the heart’. 

This is what I would want to say to someone:

“It’s hard. I know, you know, we all know. It’s hard. I get it and it’s shit, it really is. But, it’s not too hard. You are not weak, you are good enough, strong enough and you have it in you. You can get through this. Sometimes we have to wait, we have to wade through the hard and come out the other side and that can take longer than we think but it’ll be worth it. You either wait to come out the other side or you push yourself to come out the other side, sometimes it’s a little of both. But, never go backwards. Step to the side, but not back. 

Change will happen, it will take time, a long, long time, but it will happen. You either wait for it or you make it happen, it’s your choice. Step by step you can do this. Make small changes, appreciate the little things that make you happy, that make you who you are and that you are good at. If having the worlds quirkiest sock collection if your thing, then own it. Awesome socks makes you amazing, now believe they do! 

You have to believe. Even when you don’t, you must have a little belief somewhere in the back of your mind (or on a post-it note on your desk) to remind you that you do believe, you did believe and you will believe again. 
Life will change by itself, that’s for certain, but taking control of that change and bending it to your happiness is the best you can do with it. 

You won’t be stuck in your situation forever because you won’t be who you are in this moment forever. Life doesn't work that way, it goes on whether you are going with it or not. Go with it. 

Simply put. Try your best, always. Try for change, always. Tell life to go fuck itself when you need to. Embrace it when you need to. Do what you need to do for you, no one else, but always push forward and always believe. Make the changes you always wished you could make. Or wait. Wait a lifetime for change that will happen in the end, but wouldn't you rather be happy now?"

That’s it.

Thank you Kerri!

You can find Kerri and her blog over at http://bluehairinbelgium.blogspot.co.uk/  

If you are struggling with a Mental Health issue please don’t suffer in silence. If you need unbiased support please contact one of the charities below:

Talk to The Samaritans
Call: 08457 90 90 90 (UK)
Call: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI)

Rethink Mental Illness 
Call: 0300 5000 927

The Mind infoline
Call: 0300 123 3393
Or email info@mind.org.uk

You are never alone; there is always someone who will listen to you. I will listen to you.
Please feel free to email me on beckiatexplorer@gmail.com if you want/need to chat or to find out how you can get involved with Raising the Roof on Mental Health.

Remember; there’s strength in numbers….Raise the Roof loud and proud! 


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