Category: discussion points and suggestions

Your opinion sought – children seeing scars

WARNING: this post is on the topic of self-harm. If this may be distressing please proceed with caution. Thank you. 

I’d welcome any opinions or thoughts on this issue:

I have scars from self-harm, past and not so long past. Sometimes I don’t cover them. Usually I do. I do not mind at all people asking although I do not want to share the full reason with everyone. Too much to reveal, for them and for me. Not because of “what would they think?” type concerns but because the reasons I did it are very raw and intimate. A big reason I cover my scars is not wanting to upset people – this goes for people close to me, too, or maybe all the more – and not wanting to draw attention to myself by making people worry.

I cover the scars with clothes or when the weather is too hot or I want to wear something that wouldn’t cover them all, I use makeup  (designed to cover scars and not to rub off on clothes as ordinary facial makeup would). It isn’t possible to cover them totally but usually I consider it to be enough.

I am going to stay with my friend in a couple of days and she has two little girls, very young, 5 and almost 3. I’ve stayed with them before but never when it’s this hot. There is also the possibility we are going to take the girls to a kids’ pool and whilst I won’t be swimming it may necessitate wearing less. I’m worried about the girls noticing my scars. I will cover them with makeup but I’m worried that as it doesn’t hide everything, the girls will notice and might ask about it. The younger one probably not but the older one may. It may sound like a silly concern however, they are both very observant and pick up on things I would never think that they would.

I’m wondering, first of all, is it the kind of thing they are likely to ask about? Possibly it’s not something children would notice or they might not even know what scars are (as in making the connection that it means I was cut). I don’t know. 

Second, have any of you been in this position? If a child asked you anything, like what are they [ie the scars] or how did it happen, how did you respond?

I’m thinking this is a situation where the girls knowing any of the truth would be unquestionably so damaging to them at this young age that a small lie is the only possible course of action. An adult, if they notice the scars at all, would probably know that it wasn’t done accidentally and not believe my excuse, whilst a child, more likely to ask about the scars in the first place as children aren’t so socially reserved as adults, would probably not realise it wasn’t accidental and would accept the fake explanation I chose. I don’t usually opt for lying but this time it seems to me the only way to avoid causing harm.

Perhaps I should ask the children’s mum (who knows I self-harm) what she thinks or what she would prefer.

Just to be clear, I would never self-harm when with the girls or indeed, when with anyone or where the girls might see me do it – my worry is them seeing the scars I already have from past self-harm.

Any thoughts would be really welcome. Thank you.

Ginny xxx

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To blog anonymously or not…

When I first started this blog, I was certain that I was going to keep it anonymous. By “anonymous” I mean, for example,  I don’t use my full name, I avoid posting anything that would indicate the town I live in and I do not post photos of myself or my loved ones. Recently, I’ve been wondering whether I might change my approach slightly, for instance, disclosing a little more about me, or sharing photos sometimes, or no longer refraining from talking about local groups, services, activities etc that might give away where I live.

It’s a hard decision. I was talking about it with my friend S who suggested “Why don’t you ask other bloggers what they think?” I thought that was a great idea.

So, I’d like to ask you a question: what do you think about blogging anonymously versus revealing personal details? Was this a difficult issue for you? What led you to choose how much you reveal and whether you write anonymously? If you started your blog anonymously but later decided to share more about yourself, or vice versa, what led you to that decision? If you’d like to make any comments I’d be very grateful. Thank you.

I’ll share a few of my own thoughts on the decision I’m trying to make.

Ironically, it’s partly because some of what I post here about my emotions, experiences and relationships is so very personal that I refrain from sharing personally identifiable information. Many of the experiences I talk about are very painful and intimate, especially those from my childhood. If someone I know as an acquaintance or colleague (rather than a very close friend) came across my blog and learned what had happened to me then I might feel really uncomfortable to say the least. At the start of my blogging, anonymity let me write more freely. Also, I didn’t know what kind of reaction I might meet with. Allowing myself to be identified could have made me vulnerable if I encountered unpleasant or harassing “followers”. In fact this hasn’t happened at all; since I started my blog I’ve been very blessed to have caring and supportive visitors to my pages who have become friends and that’s a huge gift.  THANK YOU! It’s now partly because you have become friends that I’d feel comfortable sharing, and indeed would like to share, a little bit more.

However I also know that if I were to be identified my blog might affect not only me but my friends, family and the professionals who care for me.

I’ve written about relationships breaking down and hurt I feel. I’ve shared sensitive experiences that involved others, such as my childhood abuse and relationships in my family when I was growing up. When I mention someone else I never give their name, only an initial sometimes, but if I were to be identified through my blog by someone who knows me (say, through work or a friend of a friend) then other people I’ve mentioned in my posts potentially are more likely to be identifiable too. It’s a small world, as the saying goes, and I don’t have that many friends! 😉 My friends and family may not want to be identified, or they may be upset. The anonymity of the internet does not give me the right to be horrible about people and I try hard not to write personal things about other people or things I wouldn’t say to the person directly. However I’m inevitably only writing my own experience and perception. In another person’s view it may not be balanced. On the flip side of this, I try to write positive things and express gratitude about the good friends I do have in my life and it would be nice to share more of that.

As well as considering my friends, I have to consider the hospital and my doctors and the therapy programme I attend. There aren’t many specific personality disorder services in the UK and if I say where I live, which hospital I attend will likely become clear to anyone else vaguely local with knowledge of PD. I might worry about anyone making a judgment about the hospital or therapy on the basis of what I write. It’s just me, after all.

Equally there is a lot about the support I get that is great and I would like to share this to help others. Having experienced at least 15 years of mental health issues, slowly I’ve come across sources of support and services that can really really help, some in times of crisis and some day to day. A lot of them are not easy to find. I’d love to write about them and how they’ve helped me, in case this in turn helps others and because I think they deserve recognition. So far I’ve held back so as to avoid revealing my location. Perhaps that is over-cautious of me.

You get the picture that I’m in two minds about this at the moment!

Ginny xxx

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx

Infuriated by cold calls!

Has anyone else noticed a surge in the number of nuisance calls / cold calls since the start of this year?

I am very careful about giving out my phone number. If I have to give it for a legitimate reason I am always careful never to opt in to giving permission for my number to be used for future marketing etc, and always to opt out where I need to. Inevitably I got the odd nuisance call but in the past few months it has become ridiculous – I’m being contacted on my mobile several times per day at times.

I don’t know where this sudden surge has come from and it really makes me very irritated! Perhaps I should just hang up but the number of lies they appear to tell and how keen they are to make things my fault and avoid apologising, really makes me cross. I have had people pretending to be from my phone provider, pretending to be from Experian,  telling me they can’t take my number off their records, and most ridiculously yesterday, telling me that they don’t have a telephone number, don’t know who their manager is and don’t know where they themselves work or what their address is. I kid you not…. I even had someone calling me a “silly cow” and launching into further verbal aggression because I asked them not to call again. It’s quite unbelievable. The effect these calls must have on more vulnerable people could be huge, given the length of deception they are willing to go to.

Given that they are prepared to tell any number of lies, even to withholding their name and their company’s address and telephone number, they are able to leave the recipients of their calls powerless to stop the inconvenience. When I worked at a hospital, we received similar calls there too. They became so numerous we investigated whether the switchboard could block the nuisance numbers. We found out that they had tried and been unable to. The calls were even coming into phones in the A & E department, blocking lines on phones that should have been reserved for paramedics to call ahead when bringing trauma cases to the emergency room (after road traffic accidents etc)! And even when informed of this,  the companies failed to remove the numbers from their databases. How could they possibly think that was okay? (Moreover how did they ever get the numbers in the first place?)

Anyhow. That’s my rant over for the day, I promise!

Ginny xxx

BPD and “Warhammer 40k”

I have a colleague who is really into the science fiction fantasy board game, Warhammer. It’s his main hobby. I can’t even begin to explain how the game works so, thanks to Wikipedia:

“Warhammer 40,000 (informally known asWarhammer 40K, WH40K or simply 40K) is a tabletop miniature wargame produced byGames Workshop, set in a dystopian science-fantasy universe. Warhammer 40,000 was created by Rick Priestley in 1987 as the futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, sharing many game mechanics. Expansions for Warhammer 40,000 are released periodically which give rules for urban, planetary siege and large-scale combat. The game is in its seventh edition, which was released on May 24, 2014.”

My colleague has gradually assembled a collection of the figures / characters used in the game, building and painting each one. Apologies to readers familiar with the game as I’m sure “figures” isn’t the proper term. It’s a very detailed game which I understand is played across the world.

I have never played Warhammer and it is too much based around war and combat for me personally to enjoy. However, as my friend told me about the game, I was interested by the premise on which the universe and how the characters originated. I’ve long been attracted to the way fantasy world stories and games allow us to explore emotions and values that may seem both threatening and fundamental in every day life. I think that’s why I enjoy the Divergent trilogy, the Hunger Games series and Harry Potter.

In Warhammer, as I understood it at least,  emotions like rage, anger, depression, lust, and so on take on a monstrous form and inhabit their own plane that was somehow separated from the world we live in. However they can sometimes get through the division between the two planes, into the world, as monsters and destroyers, and attack or take possession of people.

I thought that was quite a vivid description of the emotions that we fear. Sometimes I dissociate and cannot feel. It’s as though the emotions are supposedly safely shut away in the other plane, leaving absence and numbness, but still draining and hollowing me out so I no longer know who I am. The veil that keeps them shut away is increasingly unstable. It shifts and weakens and then with horrifying force, the violent and monstrous emotions burst through back into my reality. They attack. They hurt. They scream fury or whisper paranoia and guilt. They cling, unbearable and foul. They consume me, control me and wrap themselves so tight around my insides that all I sense is pain and I lose sight of everything good. Hope and empathy seem to have fled. I do the terrible things I most fear.

Sometimes I worry what the creators of games like this have been through to come up with these images! Or perhaps it only reads this way to people who think like me 🙂

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #11: ice and lemon?

[Warning: the last 2 paragraphs under the *** contain discussion of self harm]

I know I’ve banged on about this technique elsewhere  in this blog but I just realised it may be a useful tip to add to the collection of coping strategies I’m trying to build up  in this Borderland series. Also, last week I learnt another similar very effective tip which I’d like to share. Thank you for bearing with me through the first two paragraphs if you’ve read my previous posts mentioning this topic.

In Borderline, regulation of emotions is difficult. States of emotional arousal shift quickly. Emotions and the intensity with which they are experienced can change rapidly and yet quickly become all consuming. The instability doesn’t make the emotions less real. Emotions may rise more quickly than they do in people without Borderline PD and stay at the higher level for longer. Equally, those of us with Borderline may suddenly enter emotionally numb or cut off states.

Both extremes can be dangerous, in my experience. Both can quickly tip into dangerous impulsivity, recklessbehaviour and decisions, self harm, suicidal intentions, explosive emotions and higher and higher states of distress. In either state we can’t explore our feelings and thoughts or other people’s feelings and intentions. Most coping strategies or systems of value that keep us strong, or protective factors like caring about other people, or religious faith or other beliefs that give us hope, become inaccessible in these states.

We need something that changes or emotional state so that we are able to reach again for these strengths and beliefs and strategies. One thing that can do this is giving the body a (non harmful) shock or surprise. We can only experience a certain number of sensations at once. A sudden strong physical sensation can serve enough to slightly bring our emotions away from the extreme. Once our emotions are coming away from the extreme, and only then, can we access other thought processes and coping strategies such as self soothing or the rescue box.

My top two ways to create this shift are as follows:

  • Lemon juice: lemon juice is a sharp sour taste. Take a couple of mouthfuls of neat lemon juice. You can even keep a small container of lemon juice in your bag when you’re out (easily available in supermarkets, eg the plastic “Jif” lemons).
  • Instant ice packs: I just discovered these! A really helpful nurse have me one when I was getting panicky in hospital last week after my op. I find this more effective and more practical than holding ice cubes, which is another alternative. Instant ice packs are really small and light, containing little crystals which activate to become cold when you squeeze and shake the packet. The tactile aspect is another helpful distraction too. I’m going to try to get some more. They appear to be available online from about 50p each, though I haven’t tried and tested any sources yet.

It sounds crazy, but the sudden ice and lemon shock does work. (Note to self, don’t follow the ice and lemon with the gin every time 😉 ! Remember to stick to Cola. Joke. No offence intended.)

Other potential ways of achieving the same effect include chewing small pieces of chilli (not too much and make sure you aren’t allergic first!), putting mustard on your tongue, or putting your head under a cold shower. The lemon and the ice are just the ones that work best for me and that I find most practical. I can use them even when I’m out or away from home.

This isn’t intended to be a long term solution but a short term way to keep safe and regain some stability. After you’ve used one of these techniques, you may then find you’re in a position to use other coping strategies once your level of distress is reduced (self soothing or mentalisation, for instance).

****

Incidentally, I wonder if there’s ever a link between why these techniques work and the drive to self harm. I say this with caution because it’s a sensitive and painful thing and what drives someone to self harm will be different for each person. For me, sometimes there’s pain, loss, need, anger, or self hate, or needing to hurt myself so I don’t hurt anyone else, or needing the physical pain to numb and quiet the noise in my head and voices, or to know what the physical pain will almost faithfully be as it stills some of the much more unbearable mental pain for just a little while. For the next person it’ll be different.

One CPN I talked to describes the ice pack and lemon type techniques as safe self-harm. It’s a shock, a not pleasant, over powering physical sensation. Personally I don’t see it as similar to self harm or at all a way of self harming safely. Nor do I think it has in itself directly reduced my self harming. I don’t think it’s yet something I could do to avoid self harming once I’m at the point I’m about to self harm, although perhaps it does stop me reaching that point in the first place. However I think perhaps I see some of the point the nurse was making, in that the ice or lemon shock serves to still and control the emotion a little bit. Maybe part of why I started to self harm was needing to control unbearable emotion.

Anyhow.  When life gives you lemons, as the saying goes. …

Ginny xxx

 

That should have been me

Do you ever feel that someone else’s place or circumstances should have been yours? That you really wish you could swap, or take for them what they are going through? I am not talking about good things, more about difficult things. So many times, when someone I care about is suffering, I’ve wished that I could take for them what they are going through. I guess that much is natural, when we care for someone, particularly with parents and children – I’m not a parent but I imagine loving parents would probably willingly take suffering themselves to spare their children’s suffering. Weirdly, I get these feelings with people I don’t really know. I can get really strong feelings that I should have been in their place, that it should have been me, not them.

When I was in the hospital for my operation last week, there were several of us on the ward having similar procedures. Lovely NHS blue curtains round the beds are fine for privacy in visual terms but do nothing to stop you overhearing what is going on, much as you really try not to! So, I ended up gathering that the lady in the next bed, about the same age as me, was having the same operation as me for suspected endometriosis. We both went into theatre and both came out and the doctors came round to see us to tell us the outcome. I’d gone in expecting to be told I had extensive endometriosis and that it had grown across my bladder and potentially other organs. I’m single and I do not want to have my own children. The lady next door to me had a (from what I saw) caring, loving husband or partner and I gathered that they were at the stage to consider starting a family. She didn’t know what to expect in the op. We both came out. I got told that there was no endometriosis. She got told that she has severe endometriosis, it has grown through her other organs, it was so severe they could not remove it in that operation and will need to do another more complicated operation, and if she wants any chance of having children it’s very unlikely and she would have to go through freezing eggs and having IVF. She was so astoundingly brave, talking to the doctors and talking to her husband / partner, I was stunned, but she has this shock and loss to face of likely not being able to have children.

Now – apart from acknowledging the fact that I have distinctly too big ears and need to stop being such a nosy moo (bring ear plugs next time!?) – I instantly felt that my place and hers should have been swapped. I should have been the one to have the endometriosis. I’m single. I don’t plan to have children, for so many reasons. I knew that already. I expected endometriosis. I’d not really have lost anything if I had it. She has a partner and they love each other and probably wanted a family and she’d have been a lovely lovely mum.

I didn’t know her and I’m sure I’ll never cross paths with her again but I cried and prayed to God, that should have been me. It should have been me, not her. It hurt.

Frequently, I get this strong feeling that it should have been me. It happens with friends, where I really wish I could, and feel I should, be able to take on pain that they are going through and go through it in their place. It also happens with people I barely know. Possibly it’s connected to times I dissociate, or my feelings that I “shouldn’t have been me”, shouldn’t have been who I am, I’m not real, everyone knows my thoughts and intentions are something other than what I think they are (something bad) – but this is different. Feeling I should have been in the other person’s place when they are suffering… that I wish I could take it on for them… that I want to take it away from them (but it’s more than that)….

Is that a typical Borderline Personality Disorder feeling? Or typical of Personality Disorders in general? Do you ever experience these feelings?

I’m sorry this is a badly written post.

Ginny xxx

 

 

My rescue box – update

A while ago I posted about making up a “rescue box” as a tool to help me cope in times of crisis. You can read more about the principle and how the box helps here and I’d strongly recommend reading that before reading this post. In brief, the Box is a way of putting together in one place, easily visible and quickly accessible, the things that will help you cope when you are feeling bad. For me feeling bad tends to mean very upset, crying, struggling with voices and other hallucinations, and re-experiencing traumatic memories. The Box is not a cure for how you are feeling and is not meant to make the emotions go away. It isn’t intended to be a way to suppress them. Having said that, it is to some extent distraction, and a way to access tools to lower your very heightened emotional state so that you can then be more able to cope, to think, or to avoid impulsive actions that may be harmful to you. The CPN who explained the idea to me recommends it as a tool for BPD sufferers. I would imagine it could help people dealing with a variety of other situations / conditions too.

I promised an update about my box once I had put it together, so here goes. I’m new to this technique and I’m sharing updates as I go along.

I made my Box by covering a cardboard packaging box in gift wrap. I’ve started to stick some pretty things to the outside of it as well – a flower, some Hello Kitty stickers because they make me smile, a few little snippets of encouraging text – and I’ve put a little plastic pouch on top with a pretty card and a message from a dear friend. I’ll continue decorating the box with more sensory, pretty, attractive things and things that have a meaning for me and remind me of good times. I think this increases the likelihood the Box will be in my mind and be an appealing thing. (Half the problem with coping strategies, I find, is remembering to use them when the hard times come – often the distress can be so consuming I just don’t think of how to access helpful tools and techniques! Anything that helps me call them to mind has to be a plus!)

rescuebox

The contents of the Box is very much a personal thing, of course, as different things will be important to each of us. In case it’s of interest, here are some of the things I keep in mine (you can see them in the picture).

  • A couple of little stuffed animals – I’ll freely admit I am very childish! 🙂 I find them comforting and have quite a collection. To be honest, Bunny is usually next to me on the sofa, not in the box 🙂 and I collect “ty” Beanie owls and my-little-ponies. I guess stuffed toys also give a soothing tactile experience when you hold them, which can be useful for BPD sufferers. As a soothing sensation increases, the unpleasant sensation of very heightened emotion may reduce (again, I explain this better in my earlier post).
  • For similar reasons, a little bottle of scent. It’s soothing and distracting and if you are trying to control your breathing, the pleasant aroma can help you be aware of exhaling and inhaling.
  • A coaster, to remind me – make a soothing cup of tea! Drink it really focussing on the warmth and taste.
  • A special smooth, flat pebble from the beach, which is calming to hold (feeling the cool, polished surface) and which reminds me of the happy day on which I collected it.
  • A CD – at the moment it’s a CD I like with songs that lift my mood. This is a new one for me to try and I’m not sure which way it will go. When I am not in crisis, I enjoy listening to music. Putting on particular kinds of music and even dancing to it (well okay that’s a strong word – bouncing, at least!) can really pick me up. I’m not sure what kind of effect listening to upbeat music when I feel absolutely dreadful will have, but I’ll give it a go! It’s a way of trying to take an “opposite action” i.e. forcing yourself to do something “happy” or good for you when you are feeling sad and bad about yourself. The idea is this may in turn lift your thoughts. So listening to happy music and making myself move around to it might help lift my thoughts and feelings. Equally, at times music that expresses some of the anger or sadness I’m feeling can help as a way of “letting it out”.  I think I am going to trial both and then put together a playlist of favourite tracks specially for times I’m feeling down. Good job I live alone so there’s nobody to suffer for the fact that if I sing along I sound like a mouse with a particularly bad chest cold 😉
  • A favourite book I know well, which encourages me at the very hardest times, and some prayer cards with very short prayers. I can read over passages of the book, or say the prayers in my head, to repeat a hopeful and loving message to take the place of spiralling panicky thoughts, or the voices I hear telling me that I’m evil.
  • A few cards and a pen, to remind me – could I write a note to a friend? I.E., something nice to take me “out of” my own mixed up head, to force myself to do something positive, thus acting against the negative thoughts in my head, and making somebody else happy too?
  • A ball of wool – could I do something creative? Make pom poms? Do some cross stitch embroidery? Colouring?

I’ve tried to include a mixture of things that are happy and soothing of themselves (eg the stuffed animals, the scent) and things to encourage me to do something positive (eg the cards or the music). I’m also going to add to the box some pictures of my family and my close friends and my godchildren, basically people that matter to me, as a reminder of reasons to keep going and all the good things and good times that I can be thankful for – all things that can so easily be eclipsed in times of extreme distress.

So, that’s my Box! I hope perhaps this might be of interest…. I’m new to this and I will post another update about whether / how I find that it helps me.

Do you use any kind of toolkit like this to help you in the hard times? What would you put in your rescue box?

Ginny xxx

 

How often do you “need” to spend time with others?

I’ve been trying for a long time to arrange to meet to catch up with a particular friend. We used to be close and live in the same city, but we haven’t met since a very brief meeting at Christmas, and before then the last time we met was at a an event at her Church in September. I miss her a lot and have been feeling very sad that we live so close but meet a handful of times a year and never in such a way we can catch up properly.

Part of the reason we don’t is that she has a family now, including young children, and I completely understand and agree that family comes first before friends. Still I’m sad to see her so very little – and also (and this is a big part of my feeling) worried for her. She gives all her time to her children and various numerous volunteer works at her church and parish. She home-schools her two older children. She almost never suggests meeting up, she never seems to socialise except for seeing other mothers at home-ed groups, and she told me she hasn’t met up with a friend for over a year. She never takes any time for herself and she does not seem to have any desire to socialise.

Should I be worried about her? I am, very. I feel like she must be so tired and drained and stressed and never have a moment to take care of herself or do something she wants to. Most of all I fear she never has any time that really is for talking and sharing with her friends. I know I wouldn’t be able to cope with even one day of her schedule let alone the foreseeable future.

I think she is amazingly strong, dedicated and generous to her family and she is responsive to their every need (let alone all the time she volunteers). She has clearly made big sacrifices. She says she loves it and never feels the need for any break or to see any one. I just can’t see how she can possibly be well or happy and it seems really isolating to have so little contact with others.

At first I was hurt that she had no interest in meeting – i made no end of suggestions and she declined them all and didn’t suggest any alternatives and pretty much said she doesn’t do that kind of thing. I was lonely and upset already and I’m sad that we are no longer close friends. She really matters to me and I care for her and miss her. There’s only so much you can keep a friendship going and only so close you can be when you only text message and email. And I’m worried for her welfare, as I said.

Perhaps I should just accept that she says she’s happy and she is. It got me thinking, perhaps it’s a difference of personality. She’s happy not to leave the house for several days at times, whereas I usually feel compelled to go outside, see the outdoors, be around people,  even if I’m not meeting or speaking to anyone (except when I’m very low and not going out is then a sign I’m very unwell). Meeting up with someone is of no interest to her, whereas it’s very important to me, although there are few people I trust and am able to be with at the moment. That probably is a particularly bad combination and makes me particularly needy with the few people I do trust! I need time alone too and have times it’s all too much but loneliness is a big struggle for me. So I’d silence, which is another thing she loves. Perhaps it’s as impossible for her to understand my needs, or values in a relationship, as it is for me to understand hers and how she can be well and happy in her current situation.

I wonder whether she doesn’t value meeting in person, spending time together in friendship, catching up, doing some things for herself outside the family and so on? Or does she just need less of them?

This got me thinking, do we all have such very different needs firstly for contact with other people, and secondly beyond that, what I somewhat inadequately call deeper or more meaningful interactions (a good conversation with a friend you trust and can be “real” with,  as opposed to eg a passing interaction in a shop or talking to a work colleague – all are important but I know I very much need to be able to share how things really are sometimes, not just keep up the acceptable businesslike front where I seem to be well and in control of myself! ).

What do you find that you need? What is important to you in a friendship? How do we know which is normal?! I think my therapist would say that’s one of those questions where there isn’t a definite answer right or wrong. … I’m left wondering in this friendship,  firstly if she’s really okay or not and then how can I be there for her, when she has no interest in regular contact? How do we keep up a friendship with someone whose values here are very different from ours?

Ginny xxx

Scared I’ll lose it again

Tomorrow I have my usual weekly group therapy, then I have my monthly care coordination appointment (it’s supposed to be monthly but has been canceled more often than not since October last year). It’s challenging at the best of times when this appointment comes round, especially when it closely follows therapy group on the same day, which is draining in itself.

I’m very worried about the care coordination tomorrow. Last month I was really upset and desperate in the appointment, didn’t get the help I felt I needed to stay safe and left wanting to end my life and overdosed. There was a complete lack of understanding between me and my care coordinator.

I’m scared something similar may happen. I’m scared that I might lose it like I did a couple of weeks ago. I’m so so ashamed of that and I feel dread when I think of it. I’m scared I won’t be able to control what I do and it’ll happen again because I’m so unstable right now, flicking into distress and hurt and anger so quickly.

Also, I’m scared because there are really difficult things I want and need to say. I can’t say everything’s good and fine or that I’ve made progress; I can’t say I think I have the support I need because there are massive issues and have been huge failures in communication and so many things promised have not been acted on. I now operate by expecting nothing from the service and expecting whatever is arranged not to happen. It’s “safer” that way. It doesn’t open me up with hope and trust then twist the knife with another let down or betrayal. It means I don’t ask for help either.

I need to communicate these things. I never do, usually, but if I don’t there’s no going forward. So I’m going to try to say at least some of them and write a letter as well in the next few days.

I do not know how to stay calm whilst I do it. How do you stop yourself losing it? How do you control the aftermath of feelings without harming yourself? How do you keep your emotions level when things that are really deep hurts to you, are unanswered or ignored?

I’d be seriously thankful for any suggestions!

Ginny xxx