Category: Recovery Experiences

A beautiful day

Today was amazing. I don’t know why but we were both full of hope for the future. It wasn’t that the many obstacles in our way at the moment had been moved. Yet we both felt lifted up by God’s grace. The magic and beauty seemed to be stirring in our hearts and giving an energy Ive never felt before. This evening I’m buzzing and high even though I’m exhausted physically and mentally. The voices are telling me this happiness and goodness isn’t for me and doesn’t happen to me; they are trying to fill me with the dread and guilt I always feel after any brief elation.

No. I choose Jesus. I choose my life by grace with Him and in the love of my fiance R. We are richly blessed. We are created for good.

Thank you Dear Jesus.

Ginny xxx

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On the move

Its a few weeks until the wedding but I am getting ready to move house, packing boxes to go over to our new flat. It feels as though I’ve been trying to get to this point for months and not making progress, through a combination of my exhaustion, my physical disabilities and mentally being unable to make decisions or forward plan. At last we are making progress! Thanks be to God!

The approaching deadline of our wedding is certainly a motivating factor. So is the fact that we are putting our home together in the new place (my fiancée has moved there already). We are blessed that our financial situation is better than it was and this means for the first time – first time ever for me and first time for years for my fiancé – we can actually choose some furniture we like and pieces which all match or coordinate, to make a calm and restful environment for us both. It’s somewhere we both want to be and feel thankful to be. For the first time it’s not a move that’s fleeing something, escaping somewhere, or because of a loss (death, broken relationship, having no money to live, for example). We are moving to start our married life together and that’s wonderful. That helps me keep going.

It has been very hard for me to tolerate the mess and chaos of packing. My threshold for feeling overwhelmed and having a meltdown is lower than usual. I’m trying to recognise that and actively spend mental time focusing on the good we have achieved so far and the good to come. Actively thinking about the good is much more effective for me than saying “just don’t think about it [the things panicking me]” “just push it away” “just don’t worry about that” “you just have to keep it simple and be positive”. (What exactly does that last one mean, anyway?). I can’t “just” stop a thought or feeling by choice, and the fact I can’t do that when other people require it is likely to make me feel even worse. But I can dedicate time to thinking of a positive future, however imaginary it may seem, or to counting tasks I’m thankful we have achieved.

Yesterday a friend of mine in the parish took lots of my surplus kitchen things and clothes to give to a poor family and some refugees arrived in the parish. They will be able to use some of my furniture as well, if we can find a way to transport it.

Tomorrow a lovely charity are coming to take away all kinds of other things I can donate or that need to be disposed of, and to help me pack because I can’t physically do it myself. This is amazing.

My cat doesn’t think it’s so amazing and is walking around with a very suspicious look on her face. She doesn’t like a lot of bustle or things being moved round the room. She’s alternately ever so affectionate, then moody and trying to scratch. I think she has lived in so many different homes before I adopted her that she thinks she will be left again – that the signs of moving mean I’m going to go away and abandon her. Poor puddy cat has attachment problems just like me! 🤣

We shall have to see if her mood improves once she realises there will be lots of cardboard boxes to hide in…

Ginny xxx

Picture by memecenter.com

Greek deliciousness and changing tastes

Continuing to share photos of our experiences in Greece, I think some of the foodstuffs are worth their own post!

The vegetables alone deserve a mention and the Greek treatment of them is totally different from the UK’s. Above is a picture of part of my lunchtime snack at the shopping mall. It’s a roast aubergine with tomato, courgette, herbs, olive oil and a little Greek cheese. (Similar and even tastier than this was vegetables “imam” style, involving aubergines slowly baked with a tomato sauce, which we had at a little restaurant by the Cathedral.) Greek meals incorporate vegetables as an interesting, focal part of the dish or course. They are bursting with flavour already from the climate but as well as this they are prepared with love, whereas in the UK we often drop them on the plate to tick the “5 a day” box and eat them as a chore to be got through to deserve the enjoyment of the meat or sweet. I think we miss something there.

On a similar line, that’s a Greek salad.

Fish and seafood is also important and I tried quite a bit. Sardines are totally different and definitely not tinned there. But much as I wanted to, as they look great and my fiancé enjoys them, I could not get my tastebuds round calamares (squid):

I think I’ll stick to photographing them 😅!

Greek breakfast usually involves hard cheeses and cold meats, and even stuffed vine leaves on occasion, as well as eggs, bacon, fruit, bread, cereals, yoghurt, nuts and so on being available at the hotel buffet.

Not forgetting sweets and desserts:

These macaroons and truffles were just a couple of the amazing selection at a sweet shop near our hotel. The sweet shops we saw also sold a huge variety of nuts – often a better variety than I’ve come across in many health food shops – as well as honey, preserves, halva and candied / dried fruits.

Finally, there are our delicious aperitifs at a rooftop bar looking out over Athens (incredible view to feature in my next post!).

Before we went, I was not sure how I would find following the diet I need to at present because of my EDS and gastric complications (no wheat, minimal gluten, minimal grains, no milk or yoghurt or soft cheese). I found it much easier than I had expected and that there were loads of available choices. I couldn’t try any of the pasta or pizza which was a shame but there was so much else to choose from. There are fewer gluten-free substitute foods on the menu, for example, I got the impression that restaurants don’t typically offer gluten free bread or pasta. However with so much else free from gluten to choose from, they aren’t missed (and they don’t feature much in my regular diet anyway). Admittedly, for someone who is celiac and has to be stricter than me, or who is completely dairy intolerant or vegan, it would be harder when dining out.

Eating felt much more enjoyable than it usually does. Everything just tasted riper and better. How much of that was objectively true and how much my “grass is greener” perception because of being on holiday, I’m not sure! Meals felt more filling more quickly. Or was it the heat?! I didn’t feel the intensity of hunger and cravings that I hate – maybe I shouldn’t but I do – and I didn’t feel out of control. I didn’t feel such a desire for sugar and have to deliberately choose to substitute it with protein, as I’ve been trying to. I just wanted other things. Back home, my regular food tastes rather lacking. On the positive side, this inspires me to learn to cook some Greek dishes once my house move is complete and we are married in the autumn.

Ginny xxx

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

Trying not to choose destructive “safety”

I’m buzzing with anxiety and I don’t know what about. There are loads of things I have been really worried and upset about. But I can’t work out what’s bothering me right now. My stomach is knotted around a cold ache. An actual physical pain. My head feels the same as when my thoughts spiral but there aren’t any thoughts I can catch, just dizzy blankness. My legs are shaky and I’ve lost balance several times. It’s different from the dizziness and fainting that comes with the POTS. I wish I could make it stop. My tablets I regularly take in the evening usually sedate me a bit but it isn’t working. If I could walk for ages, or go running, maybe it would channel the feeling out of me (but I can’t since I can only walk a few yards with crutches).

If I knew why it would help. It’s scarier when the feeling is separated from thoughts. The emotional state seems to have a tighter and limitless hold on me even if rationally I ought to know it will pass. An emotion that shouldn’t be unbearable becomes so because of confusion, fear, and I realise now, the dread that is wrapped up in the associations of previous experiences of this emotion (abuse, being trapped, feeling guilty, feeling unable to stop terrible things happening because of me).

I desperately want to numb it and stop it. Drink, or cut, or binge, or take enough tablets to knock me into sleep. That seems to be the default response my mind and body make. I’m asking God to help me stay right here and feel and know I am with Jesus. This week leading up to Easter we are particularly close to Him in the suffering He went through so we could be with Him. In this small struggle that feels big right now, He hasn’t left me. I will keep on reaching out for His hand, praying and reminding myself of His goodness. Every moment is His way of coming to us now and sometimes we are with Him on a steep path, a storm or a lonely place. What matters is we are with Him.

It seems I’m saying what I really want to believe, rather than give in to the false security of numbness through destructive actions.

Jesus, please hold me, Mother Mary, please help me.

To be continued…

Ginny xxx

Brave

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles / video by SaraBareillesVEVO (c) 2013 Epic Records a division of Sony Music Entertainment

In my lowest times I look back and wish I had just stopped speaking. I think the idea took hold about a year before I was first in hospital but I used to think it as a child too. I know partly why but I don’t want to think about that right now.

This song tugs at my mind. Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out… I couldn’t. I feel my throat close over when I have the flashbacks, or when the voices are loud, or my mind is spinning as the multiple possibilities of disasters I could cause wrap tight around me. Even though my history of silence never did any good.

Some of healing is letting out the words I need to say. It is not an easy fix. It is not as simple as “get it all out and you’ll feel better”. Often getting it out isn’t okay. It’s almost never okay. I wish I could speak and live sure that I wouldn’t cause terrible harm to other people. I wish I could be sure that I’m not all bad really, after all. I wish I were untangled. Perhaps I can never be sure unless I’m brave enough to risk a little more.

To be continued.

Ginny xx

Anger management courses – do they help?

I’m scared that I’ve become increasingly angry and less able to control it. Maybe I never could control anger. Under my abuser’s control I never felt it, except for a very few occasions where some feeling that probably was anger exploded, always severely punished. When I did start to feel it, when rebellious feelings grew, fear of myself almost always grew stronger, and so I channeled it towards myself with anorexia and self-harm. I lost control eventually, years later, but bulimia and binge eating, overdose and cutting still did well to numb my most frightening emotions. But then, and I don’t know why, I started to scream. Rage burned and exploded and my control was gone.

I did not learn, in the therapy I undertook for my personality disorder, how to control the anger.

It may not be the first emotion that takes hold of me but every difficult, unwanted, feared, painful emotion seems to work its way to uncontrollable anger that I can’t control. I still turn it against myself but it explodes outwards as well. Dissociation possibly gives me and others some protection but my “others” can get angry too and that’s so dangerous.

Recently, someone suggested to me that I could try an anger management course.

I’d never thought of this. On one level it’s an obvious thing to try. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

I’d be very interested to hear about your experience if you’ve tried an anger management course, especially if you also suffer with PTSD or personality disorder/s. How did you do the course, for example a self help course or taught? How did it help or not help you? Is there a particular kind of course that will help those of us with PTSD or PD?

Thank you in advance.

Ginny xxx

2018

I haven’t managed any Christmas or New Year posts, at least not as I wanted to. Some wonderful things happened over Christmas so far yet I feel totally blocked when it comes to writing. After intense emotion I feel exhausted and shut down, even if the emotion has been good. Then shut down leads on to dissociation and being unable to be with anyone. That’s BPD. A lifetime of experience of Christmas and New Year as a very unstable, frightening time (abuse, rejection by family and so on, continuing well into adulthood) must add to why I find this a strange time. I need to pray and act to change this for my fiancé as well as me.

I wanted to be able to write about the immense gratitude and astonishment I felt at the wonderful parts of this Christmas and to share all the hope there is for my fiancé and me this coming year. I see that I’m going to have to take that slowly as it’s overwhelming.

So instead, I’m going to share what comes to mind now that I’m thankful for in the year just past, and how I’m resolving to make more space for gratitude in 2018.

  • I started working as an “expert by experience”, sharing my experience of my mental health conditions, my life, therapy, and getting (or not getting) help. I’ve been working with medical students, researchers and clinicians. Doing this has meant battling massive anxiety and some of my symptoms temporarily being triggered stronger in a scary way. But it has been a massive positive in the end. It’s given me the chance for my mental health not to be solely something problematic – for me to be something not solely problematic. If I can help students gain an understanding of mental health, if I can contribute to shaping research materials and methods, then my experience is working to the good.
  • This is a mixed one for me. It’s about 3 weeks short of 1 year since I was discharged from the specialist personality disorder service, because I had come to the end of the treatment course they offer. It’s mixed because of the difficult relationship I’d had with the PD service and because all mental health support abruptly ending like this was really really hard. I was left without the ongoing support that several doctors all agree I still need and with some conditions (such as my PTSD) left untreated and no prospect of getting therapy for them. Despite this, during the past year I have stayed out of hospital. I have needed crisis support on a few occasions and once this involved several days of help from the crisis team at home. However I haven’t been admitted as an inpatient. And I’m still here, somehow getting by, sometimes more than getting by. Though it’s hard to hold in mind, this is a massive change from say, 4 years ago, and I owe massive thanks for this.
  • This little fluff ball joined the household and she’s brought me abounding snuggles, purrs, laughs and love (as well as her fair share of moody or mischievous moments).
  • My greetings card making has very gradually taken off and it has been so great to see that other people enjoy and appreciate my designs.
  • I’ve discovered a relationship I never thought I could know in my fiancé’s care for me and his love that continues constant through all the things I’m ashamed of and hate about myself. Never did I imagine this kind of relationship, this kind of life together, could be.
  • Every week I look forward to the Day Centre where I go to keep elderly people company and lead art and craft activities. There I am “okay”. There I am part of the team and I am deeply thankful for that. We pray together. We are strengthened together. We share a little of how we really are that day and it’s okay. We find hope not the need to hide. We find creativity we often deny ourselves. The voices that crowd my head sometimes leave for a time as I’m engaged working for our elderly people’s happiness.
  • This year 2018, I want to really notice gratitude – preserve time each day to notice what has happened, what I’ve done, what I can give thanks for and to record this. One of the ways I do this will be keeping a handwritten daily and weekly diary, not much, just a few lines or words some days, but enough to maybe stop everything slipping by so fast, to help me to be present here and now. Too often dissociation means scary voids behind me when I try to remember the day or week just passed, whilst my physical and mental exhaustion mean overwhelmed panic at the next day and the future. Neither fosters gratitude or being present for my fiancé – or for God. I’m going to protect time each day to reflect and give thanks.

I’m praying for blessings of hope and for time to notice the good for you as we step into 2018.

Ginny xxx

All in boxes

House clearance day has arrived. I’m waiting for the clearance firm to get here. My anxiety is going through the roof right now (well at least there’ll be more space to get the old sofa out if it does 😜). On the one hand I’m dreading it and very nervous. On the other I’m relieved we are finally doing this and excited that my home will be emptier and calmer.

I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m nervous for, or what I’m dreading. Maybe it’s because I’m coming face to face with how I haven’t coped and the effects of my mental illnesses’ symptoms; coming face to face with the fact I couldn’t do this on my own.

I’m trying to focus on being excited. Recently I saw a documentary about stress which said that a lot of the same chemicals are released in the brain and body when we are excited as when we are nervous. How our brain interprets these biological changes has an impact on whether we feel excited in a positive way, or stressed / nervous. So when we feel nervous about an event, if we tell ourselves we are excited, this may be able to change how we feel to a more positive experience. I’m not sure if this is correct but I’m going to give it a go!

Ginny xxx

House clearance

(So I just wrote this, pressed publish, got confirmation it was published but then it vanished. Aargh. Here we go again. Apologies if it has only vanished for me and you can still see it, in which case this is duplication!)

I’ve just had a house clearance firm come to give me a quote. Years of hoarding, clutter, old and broken furniture, cupboards of near useless and unnecessary items, have all got too much. I’ve tried and failed repeatedly to get through it myself and with my partner R’s amazing help. We can’t manage it. As my physical health has got worse, I can’t manage day to day or keep on top of housework and daily living like this. It’s no nice place for R to spend time either (we are not living together but of course he comes here most days). So it’s time to change this. I got the quote (yikes £££) today and next week it’ll be done. I feel intensely guilty and anxious but also desperate for the resolution.

Ginny xxx