Category: Finances and Mental Health

Magic carpet time

“…and I’ve been wanting a word with you, too, Arthur,” said Mr Crouch, his sharp eyes falling upon Mr Weasley. “Ali Bashir’s on the warpath. He wants a word with you about your embargo on flying carpets.”

Mr Weasley heaved a deep sigh. “I sent him an owl about that just last week. If I’ve told him once I’ve told him a hundred times: carpets are defined as a Muggle Artefact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects, but will he listen?”

“I doubt it,” said Mr Crouch, accepting a cup from Percy.

“He’s desperate to export here.”

“Well, they’ll never replace brooms in Britain, will they?” said Bagman.

“Ali thinks there’s a niche in the market for a family vehicle,” said Mr Crouch. “I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve – but that was before carpets were banned, of course.”

(From “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J K Rowling)

The long-awaited day has arrived. My carpets are being fitted in my flat today. I’ve been here 1 year 9 months and it has taken til now to have the resources – financially and mentally – to get this done. Right now I’m feeling very anxious and tired. It has been a big job getting all my furniture moved, cleaning and painting (the skirting boards for example, where I don’t want to get paint on the carpets). I’ve done the last bits this morning; my legs are shaking now and the pain’s really bad but I’m so pleased I’ve done it. The fitters will be here any time now. It will be so much cosier with carpets, as well as being easier to clean and probably reducing my heating bills too. I think the colour will work well and be quite calming.

There are some amusing moments to come, I’m sure! For example, I’ve moved most of the furniture to the kitchen, which is not being carpeted. I can’t fit any more in there now. So where could I put everything that I then had to empty from the hall and bedroom cupboards and wardrobe?

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Yup, in the bath, of course! 🙂

I’ll post some before and after shots later.

Have you got anything exciting happening in your week?

Ginny xxx

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A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: when it’s less safe

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

When it’s less safe, but I am no longer my abuser’s child

WARNING: this post contains mention of childhood abuse, discussion of my experience of anorexia and disordered eating and the purpose it served for me in my eating disordered thought processes.

When I started drafting this post, I didn’t actually intend it to form part of this series on eating disorders and personality disorder. I didn’t realise that it would be so much about my eating disorders, but it turns out that it is. I started writing tonight in preparation for my therapy group tomorrow. Last week, we were talking about feeling safe. In the discussion, I said that at some points during therapy (around the past 14 months so far), I’ve actually been less safe than when I was not in therapy. In hindsight, perhaps I should say, felt less safe. It has felt less safe. Despite this, I still feel therapy is a process I need and want to go through. Someone asked me a question about that, to which I struggled to verbalise the answer. I’ve thought on her question during the week. I’m not going to write what she said because I don’t want to break her confidentiality, but I wanted to share the reflection she has led me to about becoming more or less safe during therapy.

As soon as I tried to explain, the familiar eating disorder thought came into my mind – when I was anorexic it was safe. I know how sick and dangerous that thought is and how illogical, the physical destruction of my body having been so clear. Yet, there was a point not very long ago in therapy where I so desperately wanted my anorexia back, because it would have been safe, and not so much too much. With anorexia, I wasn’t too much and nothing was too much. (Except food, of course!) I was encased in a safe, protected place, and I felt nothing but its power, voice and drive. My emotions and my body made no more demands.

With anorexia I could be certain in the knowledge I was starving, punishing, weakening, enough to atone for what my abuser told me I was, enough to avoid the damnation I thought I otherwise deserved, enough to ensure I was not a threat. Enough to satisfy my abuser.  And even years after I had got away from her, I thought perhaps anorexia could take me back to that one time where it had seemed she wanted me, seemed through a child’s eyes that perhaps she loved me, the one time I wasn’t bad, where I was so weakened she took total control. That would be totally safe.

I was never cared for by her. Total control stood in for care instead. The closest thing to care and safety for me was my total self-destruction, total physical weakness, allowing her to take total control of me. My BMI was about 13. I was in unbearable pain in my back and legs. I could just barely walk with crutches and had to spend a lot of time in bed. She took control literally of my movements, my food, my use of the bathroom and toilet, my washing, my dressing and undressing, my weighing (any action that could have and should have been private, she invaded) my contact with other people (even the doctors who wanted to help me, whom she prevented me seeing most of the time). Telling me what I was thinking, telling me what I was doing to the family, telling me what to say, total control – but this total control was the only time that the terrible powers and terrible intentions she told me I had, seemed to cease. My body and my mind ceased to make demands and I succumbed to her totally. This was the only safe place. The rest of the time I lived in fear of what I would do to her or the family and of her terrible threats coming true.

Paradoxically, at other times my anorexia gave me something that was nevertheless mine. It was my anorexia and my body. I think I’ve written before how when she had me strip in front of the mirror, a fierce voice in my head said, this is my body and you will never touch me again, and I resolved to lose as much more weight as I could.

That determination and angry strength was unusual. It was more about cutting off. Later, I stayed as numbed and weakened as I could. Long after I was out of the anorexic weight range, physically safe, I continued to punish myself. Starving. Vomiting. Cutting. Overdose. On the outside, I could do what was required and expected. I achieved. I was together, doing what they required in terms of education and work. Again, that was safe, because I was doing what was required, my dangerous emotions were numbed, my atonement continued. Until I imploded. Everything went to pieces.

As everything fragmented, numb was no longer sure and safe. I desired the end and wanted to end my life. At the same time, my child voice that I had suppressed so successfully for so long, was screaming and desperately needed to be cared for. This was explosively dangerous. My abuser’s threats about what I was would come true; they’d be proved to be true for all to see. The evil in me would explode out of control, if I could no longer punish and weaken myself. I would cause unlimited hurt to others without even seeing it myself, but everyone else knowing the evil I was. I would never be cared for (ie in someone’s total control).

Straight away, the rejections began. (Again. Just as I’d been rejected when I had needs and sought help as a child – terrified what my abuser’s reaction would be; my father not knowing what was going on, so not protecting me.) I was not under my abuser’s control any more, but there was no care for me, no one to protect me, and the few people I trusted were not there for me. The pressures – I don’t know if consciously or not – piled on me made it very clear I am a disappointment, not good enough, not what they need me to be, that they will only accept me as long as I am moving in the direction they think I should be at the pace they have dictated.

I cannot silence the needs any more. Anger boiled out of control, hurt screamed. Going through therapy, the feelings intensified. There was no way back to the protection my eating disorder had given me. Now, when I write about how it worked and why I wanted my eating disorder back, I am horrified. I am horrified at the power my abuser had over me and how I allowed her to have it and how that made me feel safe.

I will never receive now the care I did not receive when I was a child being abused. I will never receive again the closest thing I knew to care, the total submission to another person and control by them. Terrible as that was, I feel as though I will never be sure, as I could for a brief time be then when I was totally dependent on her, that I am not the bad, evil thing I had been taught that I am.

With the loss of all my coping mechanisms, including stopping self-harming and stopping overdosing, as I have somehow by the grace of God managed not to do in the past few weeks, it does feel more dangerous. I don’t know how to find any reassurance, internal or external. My feelings, my emotions, experiences, feel so out of control and dangerous. I am no longer my abuser’s child. I am no longer what my family requires. I will never have the care and security I did not have as a child, nor will I have the safety unconditional acceptance would give, because I do not have that now that I’m no longer what they require. I don’t yet know how to exist without these things.

Part of me grieves for the loss of the eating disorder and mechanisms that kept me safe, because stupid and twisted as it sounds, they did at least protect me; despite the harm they caused, they protected me from ending my life, and though it was fairly illusory, they gave me the closest thing I had experienced to being cared for.

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I should say that I think that another important part of the safety issue in therapy is coping between sessions with the emotions that have come up in sessions. Also, the impact that this disorder and the recovery process has across your life. Until very recently having the help of my support worker, I struggled badly with the social isolation that followed the loss of many important relationships, and the “domino effect” of all the material stability in my life falling away because of the financial problems caused by losing job after job and my erratic spending when I was out of control. Struggling with this at the same time as my emotions were going out of control anyway, my desperation for help increasing but being unheard by everyone I tried to get help from and had been led to believe I could trust, brought me very much too close to the edge. My support worker has greatly contributed to my safety now.

Ginny xxx

Constant anticipation of the next error – and consequential disaster: Part #1

I try hard to look for good things to appreciate. I’m trying to counteract my anxiety and overwhelming emotions by looking for the positive, hopeful things that can come from a situation. (It’s something of a DBT technique which I’ll elaborate on in another post.) I’m told I’m not yet very good at finding positive things about myself. I think gradually I’m getting better at seeing positive things in the outside world.

However in some areas it’s hard not to not only feel overwhelmed by both emotions and external negative events and also to expect them.

Benefits is a case in point right now and it has been for years, every single time I’ve needed to claim a Benefit when I haven’t been able to work / haven’t been able to work full time, because of my health.

Today, I received a letter from the Tax Credit Office about an error made in my tax credits earlier this year, when I was working at the department store. I was aware of that mistake. They had incorrectly recorded the income figures I had given them and given me only partial information about eligibility. Consequently they paid me tax credits I wasn’t entitled to. The letter I received today was rather confusing but essentially confirmed that. So far, that wasn’t too bad – I will have to pay back the overpaid money when they ask for it but I already knew that.

Next, I opened two letters from the Housing Benefit Department. The first contained two award notices both almost the same but with completely confusing dates, entitlement and income figures. What’s that about, I wondered. One of them was marked “change in personal circumstances”. What change in circumstances? I haven’t had a change recently. I opened the second letter from Housing Benefits, with a certain sense of foreboding!

Yup, disaster again. The letter told me that the Housing Benefit Department had been informed by the tax office that I am in receipt of working tax credit, therefore I am working and my housing benefit has been suspended until I give them details of my new job and current income.

Oh my days. I assume they have received a copy of the letter I got from Tax Credits. If they took time to actually read the letter, they would have seen it was saying that I am not entitled to tax credits. If they had looked at the dates in the letter (not to mention previous documentation I’ve supplied them and previous discussions I’ve had with them about my receipt of tax credits) they would have seen that it referred to a period earlier this year, not to now. They also know that I am not working – I have given them proof that I am currently in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because I am not working because of my health.

So, my housing benefit has been stopped. I will have to contact my landlord on Monday to explain why the benefits payments have stopped. I will have to contact Housing Benefits and try to prove to them that I am not working. This will probably involve chasing around the tax office and the other oxus involved in my employment support allowance. I have to make a written statement and gather together copy documents from my employment support allowance claim and tax credits. Quite probably I will have to take this in to the housing office, queue for a long time to see someone, which physically I cannot cope with at the moment as I can walk so little. My anxiety has skyrocketed because of the financial problems this suspension in my housing benefit will cause. Worse, from my past experience, once one benefit gets stopped, all the other benefits get stopped too. I am anticipating that I’ll be contacted by the employment support allowance office next week saying they’ve received information I’m working so my benefit has been stopped. Then I’ll have nothing coming in.

This may sound like an exaggeration but it has happened to me and to friends of mine before. And it could all so, so easily have been avoided. How easily the housing benefit office could have seen that the correspondence referred to months ago. How easily they could have checked with the tax office to see if I was working. How easily they could have made a quick phonecall to me or my support worker, if something wasn’t clear or they needed a particular piece of evidence. Wouldn’t this have cost them less, as well as me? The situation would have been resolved in minutes. Instead they have sent out a letter, required a statement, someone has to take copies of this, take copies of documentation, probably see me for an appointment, restart everything, set up payments to my landlord again (God willing!). Even without counting the cost and distress and anxiety caused to me, it is a hive waste of resources and confusion for nothing.

Since I first had to claim Benefits in something like January 2015, I reckon I have been paid the correct amount I was entitled to for a maximum of one month at a time, before the next error or mess-up has occurred and at least one of my Benefits has been cut, stopped or refused incorrectly – and completely avoidably. Last year when I rented as a lodger in a private landlord’s family home, this array of errors left me so very close to being on the street; if it were not for an extremely generous friend who paid my rent one month, I would have been out with nowhere to go. It is hugely fortunate that I now live in a housing association flat where I will not be thrown out immediately if there is a problem with my housing benefit. It is hugely fortunate I have the expertise of my support worker who will help me get this resolved as fast as possible and stop me going to pieces in the meantime. Most people don’t have those two blessings.

I don’t want to complain and whinge and expect money for nothing. I don’t think I deserve other people’s constant support. I could very well have nothing. I need to try to become independent and able to support myself. Support doesn’t come for nothing and I should expect to take responsibility, not have everything handed to me.

I think one thing that makes it so hard is when you have been through every process as well as you can, given all the information asked of you, taken all the steps you can, and despite this everything still crumbles. My experiences over the years tell me as soon as there’s any stability, it gets taken away again through error or miscommunication, despite all your best efforts. And the error seems to have an effect like tumbling dominoes on all the other areas of your life there is any stability. Losing stability has immediate big consequences when you have very little to live on. It also drains all your energy, time and emotional resources, which go into trying to correct the error before disaster point (losing your home, no money for food, etc) rather than leaving you any strength to recover, contribute something to your community in your day to day life, benefit from opportunities that might make your situation better (and even maybe less dependent on social and state support, not that needing it is a bad thing). When you are constantly using all your resources fighting the next mistake and next disaster, trying to ensure that you have the basics you need to get by, in a state of anticipation of the next disaster so you can try to minimise or allow for its impact; when you feel as if you’re being knocked back, kept vulnerable, denied any security, despite your hardest work to set things right; then there is no way you can do more than just get by, in a constant state of strain.

So, I’m wondering what I can change. It seems I cannot change the fact that mistakes constantly occur, despite me trying my hardest to do the best I can for my part and to take steps to pre-empt the problems. I don’t want to feel so spent, trapped, angry, vulnerable and at risk as I do at the moment as a result of the repeated cycle of mistakes.

So, what can I change?

[Part 2 to follow, not that I have any answers yet! Thoughts are most greatly welcome, as ever.]

Ginny xxx

 

Feeling very useless again

I am feeling bad because I’ve not managed to post on several things I hoped to and a couple of them I’d promised to. I should just stop saying I’ll post on x at a certain time because too often I fail to! I should be able to stick to these things. It’s not just about posting; there are so many daily tasks that are taking me much longer than usual and things I want to get done that I haven’t done. It hasn’t been a great few days. I keep saying that. I’m trying not to think of them as bad days because that dismisses the good things that can still happen and the fact that the Lord is always bringing good from every situation.

I haven’t been feeling stable. I’ve had a lot of forms to fill in for out of work / disability Benefits. I’ve had to try to explain my conditions and go to assessments. My support worker is helping me a lot and the hospital I go to for therapy is providing supporting letters that have to go along with the forms I submit. Things are not going badly and without my support worker’s help I wouldn’t be getting through it as I am. It’s still difficult and raises a lot of obsessional thoughts. Whenever I talk to people about my health conditions in this kind of context, or ask for help, afterwards the voices go mad and shout at me that I’ve lied and I’m a fake and everything becomes terrible and hollow and full of dread and guilt. I feel so stupid because this means even when things go well and get sorted out, instead of pure relief, I feel stressed and I’m having to overcome what the voices and hallucinations tell me: that I don’t deserve the help, that I’m a fake.

Physically I am really struggling and getting scared by how little I can walk at the moment. I’m needing to sleep a lot. The pain means I’m needing to lie down often and I’m trying not to give into it as I know doing nothing isn’t good for me either. I’ve tried to keep at least stepping outside into my little garden and enjoy so many things I do have which are good, like talking to a friend on the phone, trying to create something pretty with my meditative colouring books, even an interesting TV programme or passage in a book.

I don’t want to keep on complaining and being negative so I won’t keep writing but I just wanted to try to explain how things have been.

Ginny xxx

Managing money with Borderline Personality Disorder

I am bad with money. I panic about it. I’ll panic for days beside being able to sit down to look at my financial situation. Partly this is because it’s usually so dire and it’s a constant background stressor in my mind that sends me to extremes of distress when my thoughts are in the foreground and that I block out at other times. I even find myself dissociating from it. Additionally, there’s the fact that I find it hard to deal with figures and hold them in my head and follow steps through when I’m budgeting. I always did find dealing with numbers hard, even before I was particularly ill.

However, with help, for example from my lovely support worker or my very close friend L., I can list out all my money coming in and my expenses and I can draw up a budget based on that – even though the outcome for months has been that I don’t have enough to meet basic expenses. It may not be workable but I can at least get things down on paper.

It’s very hard for me to get to that stage but that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is when it comes to spending. I have been very bad with money and very impulsive and out of control and I really want to change that. I must change that if I’m to stay out of debt and all the spiralling material and mental consequences.

Even if I have made a budget plan, when I’m most ill I do not stick to it. Best laid plans to waste, as the saying goes… When I dissociate, or flip, I am no longer in control. It’s my responsibility and I don’t want to deny that but I’m not mentally in control. I make decisions and act on impulses and spend money rashly. I act on a temporary conpulsion to buy things I’d never normally touch. Sometimes I know it’s temporarily squashing down the unbearable feelings. Sometimes I’m buying a different life. Sometimes I’m buying for one of my “others” or it’s the “other” wanting and needing it and making the decisions. Often I’m too far gone to have any awareness of what or why I’m doing it and afterwards I see what I’ve bought and have only a dim recollection of why and when i did it.

Afterwards, infallibly, I feel terrible: guilty, disgusted, that I’ve been selfish, greedy, confused, angry with myself, scared, an absolutely unbearable feeling I can’t describe. There’s dread there. There’s shame – a lot of shame. There’s panic. There’s something more. Yet I still do it. There’s always the next time I lose control and dissociate and spend again. I’d call it a kind of manic dissociation that leads me to spending (it leads me to impulsively angry and needy actions too), as opposed to the frozen and numb dissociation that accompanies self harm or the safe dissociation of slipping away from this world into the imaginary one in my head. The manic dissociation is probably the most socially dangerous.

I really want to break this. I can’t stop the dissociation and impulsivity yet but I’m trying to find ways to reduce its impact. It’s become very important right now because, having had problems for nearly a year with my disability-related Benefits, with my support worker’s help we have now resolved the problems and I am due to receive some back-payment of money I should have received some time ago. This is absolutely great for me because it means that I can pay off my arrears and make a stable budget going forward and it looks as if finally I will have enough to live on! I am so so so thankful for this. It also means that I have a lot more money than I usually do (even if only temporarily til I pay the arrears). This is scary because I know that I cannot be trusted with it.

I texted my support worker straight away about the back payment and he’s going to call me this afternoon so that we can make a plan, pay the arrears and make an appointment to look at my budget again now that I’ll have a bit more money coming in. I’m hoping we can come up with some things we can do so that, at the times I’m being impulsive and not in control, I can spot this quicker and ideally, my access to money could be strictly limited at these times. I’m not sure how we could achieve that but maybe he will have ideas.

I know that ultimately I need to get to the root of what’s causing the impulsivity and learn to take back control of my actions at those times and stop the dangerous behaviour. I’m hoping therapy is going to help me find this, though it worries me I’m so far through therapy and still I don’t think I’ve changed in this area. Until I can do that I need to try to stay safe and be as responsible as I can.

I’m interested to know, if you or someone you know has Borderline, or indeed any other mental health condition, does it affect how you / they feel about money and how you / they can manage it? Is it an area you feel vulnerable or find stressful? In all the years I worked at a hospital and in the various services I’ve been seen in, it isn’t talked about very much.

Just recently I saw a useful self-help booklet at the PD Service I’m seen in, on these kind of issues. I’ll share here the booklet here later today or tomorrow (I think there’s an online version). It was about the first publication about managing finances which I’ve come across targeted specifically for patients.

Ginny xxx