Month: November 2015

Regretting

I fought with a friend today. She is one of my two closest friends and the person I see the most. She probably does more practical to support me than anyone else.

I feel so so stupid, selfish and cruel right now and like I’ve demanded the forbidden. I’ve asked too much and am too much for anyone to cope with.

I got angry and exploded at her really mad and upset because of something we were discussing that a CPN at my service had said to her about carer support. Suddenly and irrationally I felt they wanted me alone and I was never allowed any help or to have a friend and was so harmful to everyone I had to stay on my own and no matter how much it hurt, never show it and never have any help and at that time I felt I couldn’t trust them anymore.

I was hurting and screaming out for someone to hold me but at the same time knew I was so bad I just had to be away from everyone.

My friend does so, so much for me and is the last person I’d be angry with. She was the last person I wanted to hurt or make feel she’d hurt me. I absolutely do not want her to feel responsible for me, that she has to help me or save me, or that she should do more.

I felt like I knew she didn’t want me and I was too bad really. But the frightened child part of me was still screaming for comfort.

I don’t know why I made the leaps of judgement I did. I wish it had never happened.

She told me she is okay. She told me I have not hurt her. She told me she does want to be my friend and does want to meet and she would not do things she does not want or feel able to do, and that she would tell me if she cannot do something. I do believe her. I do.

It was one of those periods where the anger I can’t really explain and the hurt of what felt (irrationally) like confirmation I was never allowed anything but to be on my own blacked everything else out.

Perhaps it is better that we could both speak honestly.

Does the childish part of me want and need too much and is that why I find it so hard to be on my own? Do I ask too much in friendship? Do I become too close in both what I want to give and how I need to be able to count on someone? She was right today – I trust completely or I am completely hurt and closed.

I regret today and I am so sorry for what I said. However, I do believe what she said and assured me as well and I do know we will keep meeting up. Perhaps that’s less “black and white” than my obsessional thoughts would have allowed me a while back  – I would never have allowed myself to see her again because of the hurt I might cause again.

I am so very thankful for the very few people who stay with us when we are frightening and repulsive to ourselves.

Ginny xx

Another year ended (Perhaps, just for a minute, I can believe.)

Another year ended (Perhaps, just for a minute, I can believe.)

Today in my church we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church calendar year. Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent.

Time passes too quickly.

It’s easy to regret, at this time of year.

Advent is a time of joyful waiting and hope in darkness – for me in my faith, preparing to receive in our heart’s God’s gift of love, and placing all our hope in a God who comes into our darkness just as He came as a helpless little baby to Bethlehem that first Christmas. He does not fear to enter our need, confusion and darkness and we need not fear our darkness and confusion because He delights to come to us.

This time of year is one of heightened scary emotions too. It can feel like being pulled back into too intense memories of the past, of past events and tensions, past failures to make things what I should have. We talked about the emotion of regret in my therapy group and I said, trying to give hope to someone else who said she felt regret, that the idea of regret implies perhaps that we know some way in which we would have liked things to have been different. Perhaps we can build on that.

Right now I don’t think I know how to make things different. Looking back this year or so has been terrible on the face of it with loss after loss. Loss of two jobs. Loss of a very close friend (former partner) when our relationship finally was dashed away completely. Leaving two temporary homes. Loss of the ability to carry on or hold it together. Loss of my job and loss of the ability to work full time; with it loss of stability, colleagues, confidence to be able to do anything at all good. I have been in hospital three times for a length of time as an inpatient and at least twice more for a period of hours when I was suicidal.

There is constant news of so much suffering, fear and terror (in all senses of the word) in the world and more and more hurt that cannot be stemmed. What do we do faced with this? What can we do that is good? What is going to win out in the end? I hurt so much too for people close to me who are ill or struggling or suffering and feel their pain to a point I cannot breathe. I wish I could be any good to them.

Is my grip on reality slipping further and further away? The voices, seeing things, explosive emotions, longing not to be alone…. trying to keep going seems more of a fake and more of an act, more exhausting and harder to keep up. Asking for help fills me with fears of unworthiness, having lied, being a fraud and my intense inner evil that I can’t purge.

Yet a couple of people close to me have said that they see a change in me and something getting better that wasn’t there before. I cannot see it yet but they can.

I have a flat of “my own” rather than just one room as a lodger. I can make it home.

I have discovered friends who do not abandon me even when to myself I am totally repulsive and when I cannot believe that anyone would choose me or want to be around me and when I feel I can be no good to them.

I got to work with someone I truly trusted and respected and learnt from him, not only specific skills and knowledge, but how to be fair and calm and how to give generously and work always in a dedicated manner, yet still keeping boundaries and structure and still holding on to a sense of one’s worth when everything around is screaming the opposite and deriding you. I cannot in any way hold that myself yet, but I watched and learnt and it stays with me somewhere. I hope we may stay in touch.

The Lord has treated me tenderly and shown me He is with me and in a moment of the most impossible despairing distress, showed me that at the deepest point and longing of our heart, there is love and there is Jesus, and just for a few minutes I could believe.

I have a therapist. I have one to one and group therapy. I can go to a support group sometimes. I can ask for help when I need it from a specialist PD service, which is a blessing and luxury in the NHS that such a thing is available in my geographical area.

I can join in a therapy which explores emotions and thoughts and reveals something to me every week. It hurts and shakes me but I have to trust that this can somehow lead me to coping and living better and being able to reach the same plane as everyone else in some way. I don’t think my BPD will ever suddenly disappear like with a magic curative pill but I do think I will learn to feel and live better and learn to let the good things ground me rather than the terror. The darkness will not grip so hard.

It’s the end of another year and Christmas is coming (and everything that means in my head, my heart, my family and out in the world). It’s a scary and shaken year and it has passed so fast.

Still, just for a few minutes, perhaps I can believe.

Ginny xx

A super quick question about BPD / PTSD and physical pain

This is a theme I want to come back to in a longer post. I have been meaning to write something on this for a long time. For now, a very quick question, if I may.

As well as my mental health problems, I suffer with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, chronic back pain following an injury, some degree of hypermobility and potentially now a nerve pain condition as well.

I have noticed from therapy and support groups I have attended that pain conditions and joint conditions seem to be suffered by lots of people with personality disorders, PTSD / complex PTSD and/or who have suffered abuse (often in childhood). Certainly in a group I participate in at the moment, I think a higher percentage of us suffer these physical problems than you would expect to find in a random sample of the general population, if that makes sense. I have also read a couple of articles on this theme recently.

I don’t want to push people to disclose something that feels too personal so please don’t feel any need to answer. I just wonder if anyone reading this also suffers pain conditions as well as mental health difficulties? And do you find any interaction between them eg when one is worse, another also is? Or do you feel that psychological things you have suffered have had a physical impact as well as an emotional one? If anyone did want to exchange thoughts on this I’d be really interested.

Ginny xx

Goldilocks and the three bears (with a sore head – or three sore heads I guess)

Goldilocks and the three bears (with a sore head – or three sore heads I guess)

[Artwork is not my own.]

Q “Why are you chasing after a giggling fortune teller with a crystal ball?”

A “Well, my therapist told me that I have to try to reach a happy medium…”

Yeah okay sorry about that one…

In therapy recently we’ve talked about different concepts of an emotional thermometer.

One view could be a bit like a normal thermometer which can read positive and negative temperatures (ie plus and minus zero, not positive and negative in the sense of value). When we reach a very extreme emotional state either side of the middle, it is a bad time for us and we are not able to use coping techniques or mentalise, because of the extreme we are at.

At the high, hot, “red” extreme, where the thermometer has “shot up”, we are experiencing very intense emotions – extreme anxiety, distress, hurt, anger etc. I guess it could also be an extreme of a positive emotion although I wonder if this would make coping as difficult? I probably should think more about that.

At the low, cold, “blue”, frozen extreme, we also aren’t able to manage because we feel so low, cut off from our emotions, maybe as if we are in a numb state.

It might, perhaps, be more possible for us to function in the low extreme than the high extreme – we might be more able to get through the day better than when we are in an extreme of eg distress and crying – but it is not a place we are calm or happy.

In the middle of the two extremes, so a range around the imaginary zero, is a mid-ground where we can have calm and balance and where we are able to mentalise about our thoughts and emotions and be curious and reflective about what we and others are experiencing. So the zero is not a zero in the sense of zero = no emotion, but it represents the mid-ground.

This happy middle ground is the “Goldilocks state”*- where we are not too hot, not too cold but “just right”. (Sadly the term just works with reference to Goldilocks and the porridge part of the story. It is not the emotional state one frequently reaches when finding someone else sitting in your seat on crowded trains and I’m not even going to touch on what happens when you find an unexplained person sleeping in your bed 😉 [joke!]…)**

In order to be able to employ coping strategies, the aim may be to find ways to bring ourselves away from either of the two extremes to this happy “Goldilocks” middle ground. No end of different factors, including our personality, what we have learned about regulating our emotions as children, the role models that we have had, and so on, can affect our ability to return to the middle ground and the extremes we go to in the first place. I guess this something I’m going to find my way through in therapy. Someone said to me that they find the term “emotionally unstable personality disorder” more accurately descriptive than “borderline personality disorder” because it better represents these extremes of emotion.

I think there are lots of ways the thermometer metaphor could be used. Perhaps instead of imagining a plus and minus end of the thermometer, it is more helpful to imagine a thermometer from 0 – 100 degrees and that the happy medium is around the middle of this range, too much is going towards 100, etc.

Personally I can identify with the metaphor that involves the minus temperatures because I definitely feel I slip into a state that’s like sub-zero, when I am so numb and cut off from my emotions (and others’) and can’t engage with anything. Sometimes I can’t even talk to anyone. It is not the heightened emotional arousal of my extreme distress but it is by no means good either. It may allow me to give the impression of functioning for a while, but I feel I am operating in a dream world, not really present. And it is very dangerous because of where it can quickly lead me to, or switch to.

Which brings me on to the thought that for me, as well as the thermometer there is a cyclical path that does not involve going vertically up and down the thermometer, but oscillates straight from one extreme to the other. My “sub-zero” state can very quickly flip straight to the high, hot, red end. My numbness can flick straight to anger, hurt, agitation, even thoughts of violence or fury which I would never normally experience let alone act on. I can flick straight into the compulsive need to self-harm and self-punish to turn the anger and emotional energy on myself. It feels like a frightening loss of control. I can oscillate in the other direction too. Overwhelming sadness and distress can suddenly plunge into numbness and disconnection and dissociation from the world into what feels like one of my other personalities and my memory of what has happened will go very blank. It feels very out of control afterwards.

I don’t know yet how I will start to learn how to some how get off this dangerous oscillating circle to get back to the happy middle ground or how to get control of the extreme emotions, especially managing anger.

Does anyone else switch or spin through emotions like this? I’d be really curious to hear other people’s experiences.

[Note – *and** : as in the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a famous children’s fairytale in the UK / USA. I know some readers are not from the UK so please ask if this reference is puzzling to you!]

Ginny xx

Financial disaster again

Financial disaster again

Disaster is a strong word, I know, but it’s what it feels like right now. I know that many people have suffered and struggled with far more and I am fortunate that I do not have my own family to support – no partner, no children – it is only me, otherwise this would be hundreds of time worse.

I had to leave my last job for my health. I could no longer cope and I was getting daily bullying, harassment, intimidation, pressure, then was told I was completely useless anyway. I tried to make a choice to stop my health deteriorating further and to enable me to keep on going to my therapy sessions. I hoped it would be a choice for the positive. I was so so thankful when I was able to find another job quickly. Although it was much lower paid I could do part-time hours that I needed and I thought it would at least give me a chance. I was just starting to hope again.

Mistake.

Wrong again.

Why haven’t I learned my lesson by now?

I found out last night that instead of the nearly 1 month’s pay I was expecting next week, I will get just 1 week. They have some strange system for temps of pay being at least 2 weeks behind everyone else, and something I don’t understand about different cut-off dates according to when you start for when you get paid. Apparently you get the pay you’re missing at the end of the temp contract. I assume so that if you leave without giving notice they can withhold it.

Even my manager didn’t know about this and couldn’t believe it. I am very thankful and appreciative that she phoned payroll and tried to get things sorted out for me, or an advance. She really did much more than I would expect a manager too. It isn’t really her problem. But payroll flatly said there was nothing they could do.

So now I have the prospect of living on 1 week’s pay until the end of December, which evidently is impossible. Rent? Council tax? Electricity, gas and water bills? Food? Travelling to my hospital appointments? And let’s just pretend to forget that Christmas is coming up and I have nothing to give some of my family or my godchildren! It was already a total pardon-my-French mess because I was paid only Statutory Sick Pay when I was signed off in my old job, and wasn’t told this until after the event, so I didn’t know to claim Housing Benefit as soon as I should have done.

I had just climbed out of debt and now I will be straight back in again – overdraft? Applying for credit cards? I don’t know. That would be the best case scenario. I do not know how I’m going to live. I’m already eating rubbish because things are so desperate financially, trying to live on coffee and toast and whatever I can find in the pound store.

This really was the last straw last night and I was completely wrecked. It had been awful already before this. Just as soon as there was a tiny bit of hope it was smashed away again, like God and the world is saying, how dare you hope, how dare you think you can have anything good, you don’t deserve it, you’re dirt.

I was put through to a support line and there may perhaps be a possibility of a loan until next month, but if it were all to be paid back next month I have no idea whether it would help or just postpone the same situation happening again next month.

I was distressed at work (in private) after this was all dropped on me – none of it was explained before I started work and even my manager didn’t know. I know I’m fortunate to possibly be in a situation of getting help from my employer and not many people would have that assistance. But I just don’t know.

And the support service were helpful and did seem to appreciate some things when I explained my situation but they also said if you think you want to be kept on you will really have to prove yourself, perhaps they will forgive you this time for having a meltdown but if you ever let it happen again there are any number of people standing beside you, if you aren’t strong or if you have any time off your job will be taken away and given to the next person. This was the support team, not my manager, and they do not actually have any say on my performance or whether I have a job or not. I already thought and knew the things they said but it did make it even more painful and anxiety provoking to have it spelled out by another person who is there to provide support.

I wonder whether it’s worth going on. Is it just postponing ultimate complete disaster? I should be more thankful and hopeful but I’ve really run out of strength. I really needed something to hope in.

Ginny xx

Sorry for my absence this week….

Warning: this post mentions hallucinations, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, my distressing thoughts and voices and the darkness I’m feeling right now. If this may be distressing or triggering for you, please take care.

…. It has been a very bad week. I am sorry for not posting for a while. As I do not have the internet at home at the moment it’s difficult anyway. It has also been a really bad week. The hallucinations are growing / getting more frequent and it’s scary. I am so so tired and really wish I could escape and things all stop. I’m so scared and I wish someone were with me, I wish someone would hold me and tell me it would be alright although in my head it never, never is and I feel so stupid and needy and incompetent and childish and everything else for so much needing that right now. I feel so alone. It hurts but it’s numb as well. I really need to be able to talk to and see a friend but the only two people who live close by are just too busy, their lives too full and too difficult already and I know I would be everyone’s last choice to spend time with, kind as they are, and as much as they have given me. I cannot ask for more. Then the horrible monster inside me tells me that if I had a friend feeling like this and needing help I’d go to be with her straight away, why am I always alone and not allowed anyone? Then the guilt comes crashing back, how dare I be so childish and needy, greedy, ugly, disgusting, go on, get it out, cut and cut and scratch and vomit til you get it all out you sick revolting evil thing…

I want it to stop. I nearly ended it last night. There is really a limit somewhere and mine has been reached over and over again. It’s very dark right now.

I need to write and want to write and perhaps this will build some way to keep going.

Ginny xx

My first week – 3 days in

(Please see footnote)

I don’t think I’ve ever had as much online training as I have in the past 3 days. Plus one 2 1/2 hour Powerpoint presentation – I can only imagine how tiring that was for the trainer as well as us! I find it much harder to take information from a computer screen than if I have it in hard copy – does anyone else find that?

Fortunately the training was rather more appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the department than the above (Just for any other NCIS fans out there – if you have never watched NCIS you will now think I’m even weirder than you probably already think I am 😉 Which would probably be about accurate anyway. Please see disclaimer below).

There is certainly a lot for me to learn in my job and I feel very useless right now. I can’t answer customers’ questions properly as my department requires specialist knowledge. It is a blessing that most people have been patient so far. It is also a very different team to work in from those I am used to. There seems to be genuinely understanding and support and a willingness to welcome new staff members, answer questions, explain and value everyone from the start. That is just so far from what I usually encounter at work and that is a great gift. It will make a massive difference to me being able to cope in this workplace.

Ginny xx

Please note: with thanks to Kksuig for the clip from NCIS season 4 episode 11 “Driven”. NCIS created by Donald Bellisario and Don McGill; all rights belong to CBS Studios International / Channel 5 and the relevant artists. 

I do not intend to cause any offence by insertion of this clip. Sexual harrassment or any other form of harrassment in the workplace or elsewhere is a serious and damaging act and in no way do I wish to belittle the harm and suffering it causes.

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

I’ve posted before about how I find that colouring intricate patterns can be very calming.

When I was an inpatient I drew and painted a few times, which I had not done for many years. I go through phases of doing a lot of cross-stitch embroidery or making greetings cards. It seems to be something that I do a lot of and then leave for a while then return to it. Sometimes I find it helpful and calming but other times, I really want to be able to do it but am not able to. If I try to push myself to, it just doesn’t work – I go wrong all the time when I try to follow a pattern, or I just can’t put together anything pretty. Then far from helping I feel dragged down lower. It’s as if when I am completely drained and lacking in emotional / mental energy, there is nothing with which to be creative. In those states I often need to sleep, or paradoxically, to do something physical like getting outside and walking.

I’ve been on two different wards as an inpatient. One of them had a variety of craft activities available and support to use them and discover and learn new ideas for projects. For example we learnt to make plaited bracelets, worked together to put together a collage display, coloured stained-glass window images, and so on. The peer support worker spent a lot of time facilitating these activities. The other ward did not really have such resources and there was nobody to support these kinds of activities. The first ward seemed much more an environment in which it was possible to focus on having hope of getting better and learning skills to cope. Of course the access to creative materials was not the only reason (I think the work of the peer support worker was very important and I will post about that separately). However I think it made considerable difference to how the days passed.

I think in working with simple materials to create something beautiful, you can empty your mind, practise mindfulness techniques, slow some of the frantic anxiety as you become absorbed in the task. The concentration it requires and the different sensations you encounter – textures of fabric and materials, sounds, colours, deciding how to combine them, perhaps repetitive and rhythmic motions, the sense of putting together something lovely from all the separate parts – all of this helps occupy your mind. In  a similar way to distraction techniques, by filling your mind with all these sensations, they can become the focus, rather than obsessional thoughts, sadness, anger and so on. It does not solve anything but can replace some of the intensity of an emotion for a time. I can find it helpful in trying to delay self-harming as well as in times of generalised anxiety or after panic attacks. My friend who suffers with an eating disorder said that in particular having something to do with her hands can calm her after eating and help her resist the urge to binge-eat and/or purge.

My clinicians explained that there is a limited number of sensations the body and mind can experience at any one time. In personality disorder, our emotions may reach a higher level more quickly and in this heightened state, we cannot think rationally or mentalise or make good decisions. We cannot see outside of the emotion. It also takes longer than it does in most people for the level of emotion to fall. One thing that can help the emotion to fall, to get to a level where we can start to mentalise, use distraction techniques or choose to do other things that help us, is to “shock” the body with another strong sensation. For example, putting your hands under very cold water, holding ice, or (this one works well for me) eating something with a sharp taste. I use pieces of lemon, or lemon juice, with a sharp and bitter taste. This can help to lead you out of extreme distress or a panic attack, to the point that you can then address how you are feeling with other techniques. Then continuing to do something that gives positive sensations can continue to calm you – for example, something self-soothing like hugging a soft pillow or wrapping up in a soft blanket, or perhaps one of the creative activities which provides a range of tactile sensations.

There is also something encouraging to me in being able to create a picture, object, etc, which is useful or attractive or perhaps can be given as a gift to someone else, even when we are really not feeling great. It’s another way to make it true that the overwhelming emotions are not all that there is and to start to hope that there could be some good somewhere in me.

Ginny

xXx

Eeek :( – shortest post ever?!

I feel wound up like a spring about to explode, really really anxious and really angry with myself.

I start my new job tomorrow. I’m so scared. I have no confidence. I feel like rubbish. I know it could be good. I’m thankful for it and for having something to go to that will fill the day, be constructive, ease financial problems, let me try to contribute something. But I have no confidence at all that I can do it, after everything that went wrong.

I’ve just had no end of technical problems too with the internal website and had to phone up for tech support, who were very unhelpful, and after I had insisted for about 40 minutes that I needed assistance as I could not do essential things I needed to before starting work tomorrow, was basically told by a tech manager that I am rubbish and will not be a good employee and do not fit in with the firm’s ethos!! It was a completely bizarre conversation and a horrible start. Now I’m even more terrified and sure they hate me before I’ve even started. And still haven’t been able to get onto the website to do what I needed to before starting, so it feels like a mess.

Eeeeek….. Dear Lord, help me please….

The only good thing is that I will be seeing a very good friend later this afternoon and I will be very thankful to share in her company.

Ginny xx

Making it home

Today, I had some new furniture delivered – fantastic bargains in a local furniture charity shop. (The large number of charity shops round here is a particular blessing for those of us on a tight budget and possibly more creativity than money 🙂 .) So I spent the best part of the day re-arranging and cleaning and installing the items.

I have been in my flat several months now and it is my first place of my own, as opposed to renting a single room as lodger. I am thankful beyond words to finally have a housing association flat. Without this I would never have been able to afford to rent a whole flat as rents are incredibly high here. I cannot believe this place should be mine and thank the Lord for it every day.

I was a lodger in a family home before moving here. The family could not have been nicer and gave me privacy but I was struggling a lot, just as I had been in all my previous properties. That was probably one reason I moved around so much. Apart from financial issues or having to move when jobs ended and new jobs started, getting to a new place sometimes provided a temporary illusion of escape. When the illusion came crashing down it would just be worse than ever.

Anyhow, at the last place my OCD and obsessional thoughts were very hard to cope with and hide and my anxiety was increased because there was a young baby in the household, which seemed to increase my fears that I would cause people harm. At my worst times, which was becoming most of the time, I would dread bumping into anyone in the shared kitchen and having to speak, so I just stopped preparing food. The close proximity to others made me want to run and hide. So hide I did, in my room, which was the only place to spend time anyway, since there was not a shared lounge, only a kitchen (and bathroom, but that’s not exactly the place for small talk or hanging out). Then once I was in my room for any length of time, I felt trapped. The panic attacks, flashbacks and terrifying thoughts would come and there was literally nowhere to run.  There was not anywhere to go to get a breathing space or a different environment or to be in a different place for a while to help me step out of what was happening in my head. I’d lie on the bed or sit on the chair and do my best to employ the distraction or self-soothing techniques the clinicians told me but feel I was just suffocating in the world inside my head.

I can’t say how helpful it now is to have more space. It turns out that it really is true that you rest better when the bedroom is set apart as a relaxing place. I have the space I need in the kitchen to cook when I am able to. It is rare that I am able to at the moment, for many reasons, but the fact that I have my own kitchen does at least increase the likelihood that I will prepare food. My lounge is cosy and I’m even so fortunate as to have a view out to the communal garden. I have a very tiny garden and a flowerbed and although I do not enjoy gardening, I do like to keep it tidy and there is a certain satisfaction in pulling the weeds from the earth to let the little plants breathe.

In some way, I can begin to make this flat my own. Having a place where I can start to feel safe in the space, make some choices about how to lay it out, use my creativity to make it the way that I enjoy and even bring other people into it, makes it a home. Caring for it (cleaning, tidying, doing the little flower bed outside, feeling thankful for what I have) gives a constructive focus.

Much as I was longing for a home for a long time, I am still surprised at the difference that it makes to have one. Often I do not realise the value of doing something quite simple towards making it more of a home – such as tidying and choosing how to arrange things, as I did today, or perhaps painting the walls the colour that you like. Even on the very bad days, being in this home makes it slightly better, somehow. Maybe it’s a little bit less scary, a little bit safer, a little less unpredictable, a little more space, or a little bit more of beautiful or positive things around me.

Thank you dear Lord, for HOME.

Ginny xx