A few weeks ago, See Change put out a call for volunteers to do a firewalk tonight, and asked anyone interested to write in as to why they wanted to do it. Here's what I said, and why I'm doing it.

I've been living with clinical depression for years, and was recently also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. There are many aspects of having a mental illness that are difficult to live with, but for me, perhaps one of the most challenging is the way it takes over my thoughts. I can no longer trust myself to make the right decisions, react in an appropriate way, or even think in a constructive manner. I speak to myself in a way that I would never consider speaking to someone else. I firmly believe every single negative word I say to myself, and my sense of self worth plummets. These negative thoughts quickly lead to rumination, and before I know it I’m trapped in a vicious cycle of black and white thinking, firmly believing that I’m always like this, that things will never get better, that really, I’m a burden on my family and all who know me. When it reaches this point, all of my usual fallback coping strategies are beyond me - walking, yoga, running, socalising - they’re destroyed by my illness. It’s almost impossible to look after myself, never mind my kids.

But then something will shift, most recently, it was a change in medication. It allowed me just enough breathing space to be able to take back some control - I could begin to recognise what was disordered thinking, and take a step back from it. I’m practicing yoga again, which really helps to quieten my mind. I’m more focussed in work, and at home I’m more available to my kids and my husband. More than that, I’m more available to myself. I’m able to allow myself to make time for me, and recognise that not only is that ok, it’s actually necessary to keep me well.

For a while there, my mind was broken, and the essence of me was gone. But I’m coming back. It’s been a huge struggle, and I continue to struggle daily. There are so many things I have to be aware of, so many things I need to balance to keep myself well - get enough rest, enough exercise, enough time alone, enough time in company, a good diet, the right medication, on-going personal therapy - never mind the every day demands of work and family. But I’m getting there, I’m slowly, slowly getting there.

Doing this firewalk will be an incredible way to mark the end of a really difficult period in my life, and the start of something new. Having had my thoughts and actions controlled by my illness for so long, I’m grateful for every second that I’m able to think clearly and rationally. I’ve faced an enormous challenge in getting myself well, and now face another one in keeping myself that way. The firewalk will be another challenge,and when it comes time to actually set foot on those hot coals, I'll have to make a huge decision - go forward, or go back? I hope I'll be able to go forward, but if not, I equally hope that my decision to hold back will be one that I can stand by, and honour that in doing so, I'm being aware of my limitations. I'll let you know how it goes!

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