Category: Stories of coping strategies

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

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

I’m going to start to put up the Christmas tree later. Usually I’d be looking forward to this. This year I’m not. I can’t seem to feel any excitement or happiness or hope. it’s very hard to get any creativity going even when I’ve been making presents for people. I feel guilty for not being joyful, as it feels ungrateful for the good people I have around me and most of all ungrateful for God’s gift of the Christ Child to us. Feelings can’t easily be changed but at least if I can’t feel I can try to do, so I’m going to make my preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and do as many things I can to bring happiness to other people, completing each tiny task with love, out of thanks to God.

So, the tree is going up later. This will be the first time my cat sees the Christmas tree (I did have a foster cat staying with me last year but it was a different cat) so it remains to be seen will her reaction be. Will I find her half way up it or flinging the baubles across the room, I wonder? It’s an artificial tree so hopefully the appeal won’t be as strong as if it were a real tree. Just as well I don’t have a puppy, where this might be the result:

(Not my cartoon – I just stumbled across it and I’m afraid I don’t know who the artist is!)

When do / did you put up your tree?

Ginny xxx

Miaow!

My houseguest would like to say hi:

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So, here I was reading up and planning to have guinea pigs, when this adorable guy arrived. He’s been a regular fixture for many weeks now since he first “dropped in” at the end of last year but I don’t think I’ve introduced him on my blog before.

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He has previously belonged to at least 2 other households in my block. He’s getting on in years for a cat – we think he’s about 10 years old – but he can still cause enough mischief, between naps that is! I started out agreeing to look after him and feed him over a weekend in the winter, when his owners had serious problems and couldn’t look after him. Circumstances were such that they didn’t collect him after the weekend. They didn’t come back for a fortnight and by this time he was growing used to my flat and, I think, to more regular food and playtimes than he’d been getting.

We have come to an arrangement where I am the main person to feed him and look after him but he goes between my flat and is previous / other home. The couple that had him before are still in difficulties and can’t care for him. So it helps us all, I hope.

I love him. He’s surprisingly affectionate. He loves cuddles. He loves playing with his toy mouse. He usually likes being combed. He even “holds hands” tapping me gently with his paw then letting me take it in my hand.

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He is enchanting to watch when he’s napping, curled up so comfortably and trustingly on the seat beside me, or even in my arms, purring softly, then snoring not so softly, body rising and falling with his breath, smiling (yes really), little pink paw pads uncurling as he stretches out from time to time.

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He is bringing me lots of happiness and I love that I can care for him and make him feel safe.

Ginny Xxx

 

Self-care

Yesterday I put on makeup for the first time for a long time. It was an ordinary day. I used to always wear a lot of makeup and coordinate some of the colours to my outfit. Then I stopped. I was exhausted and down and couldn’t find any will to take care what I looked like. The emotions that would surface when I looked at myself in a mirror for any length of time were unbearable. I felt revulsion. I’d start scratching at my skin, the emotion seeming to creep there and take hold like a rotten, evil force that I wanted to cut away.

Yesterday I was motivated to begin to take better care of myself. I got out the mirror and for the first time in as long as I can remember, the hatred and revulsion didn’t come overwhelmingly to the fore. I started to put on makeup and actually once I’d got through starting, I enjoyed it. Somehow, I began to feel a bit better, more prepared and lifted from the pervading exhaustion.

I carried on. Later in the day I painted my nails red. I used some nice moisturiser. I began to try to think caring thoughts towards my body and come up with caring replies to counteract the shouting voice in my head telling me I’m disgusting.

It’s a tiny couple of steps but it’s a start and each time I can do something caring to myself, it reminds me and strengthens my resolve to come up with new images of myself and new answers to the voices.

Ginny xxx

We all got bruises

Two very different favourite songs I haven’t listened to in a while popped up on my playlist just now. Music and lyrics I can identify with have a powerful effect on my mood and sometimes I use it to cope with strong emotions and memories.

I’d never heard of Crystal Bowersox but felt an instant connection when I stumbled across this song about a journey out of abusive relationships. I like the imagery of the thread in the video – at the start the thread attached her to the abuse / her abuser and it does not disappear completely but she is able to bring from it something different, safe, even beautiful in her own life once she is free.

Here’s another song which lifts me up – “we all got bruises” but it doesn’t mean we will always be down on our knees and they can make for better things to come.

Ginny xxx

Bruises – by Train / Ashley Monroe

Farmer’s Daughter – by Crystal Bowersox

Thanks to VEVO / youtube for the videos

Laundry, hot dogs and tiny steps….

It is a day full of heat and summer. It’s a day of struggles inside my head too and it took me hours to force through the distress in my mind and even open the door and stand outside. I did it with the help of God. Perhaps it’s ridiculous that leaving the screaming and hurting going on in my head and the temptations to overdose and the fear of everything that is just too much and too forbidden to feel, had such a hold on me that it took the better part of the day to leave the one safe zone in my house. It may be stupid to anyone else but right now that’s how things are and the Lord took me in His hands and have me strength. For today that’s a little victory. I stepped outside. I smelt the grass in the sunshine, watched the flowers in my neighbour’s garden swaying in the breeze; I pegged out the washing and made myself concentrate and really feel the texture of the damp cloth, the warm stones under my feet and the air on my skin. It really is a beautiful day.

And that little victory continued and I have managed to walk down the street very slowl and come grocery shopping. I have promised myself to choose nourishing and healthful foods and not continue to punish myself with the binge-purge cycle that could numb some of the feelings I’m so afraid of now they don’t go away.

Right now before I do that, I’m just sitting with a cold drink and writing this to make my promises firmer. I’m watching the people passing in the street and letting this awareness ground me and draw me a little further out of my fear.

In the middle of all this I’ve actually smiled too, at happy children and at this chilled-out (though rather warm)guy waiting for his owner outside the health food shop. Seems they do their own hot dogs:

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So I guess what I’m saying in this strange rambling post is, it is very hard but I am trying to choose thankfulness and presence – thankfulness for feeling, presence with our God who does not leave us for a moment – rather than fear, self-punishment and numbing escapes. One tiny step at a time I’m asking God to give me strength to continue to look outward and be present, however much it hurts.

Ginny xxx

 

Cards and crafts

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I’ve been trying to devote a bit of time each week to something creative. I find it’s encouraging to be able to make something pretty even when you’re not feeling good. I’ve been making some greetings cards again. A colleague is fundraising for the charity Tommy’s , which does amazing work and research to help those who have suffered with a miscarriage or stillbirth, and I’m going to sell the cards for donations to this cause.

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Not very good images I’m afraid;  I should try to get some better snaps.

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I took the pictures used in the photographic cards. As I think I’ve posted about before, taking photos is another activity I enjoy and it helps me focus on all the good things in the here and now. So it’s nice to be able to use the images this way.

Ginny xxx

The garden of souls

Lots of lovely wildflowers are coming into bloom this time of year, sometimes in unexpected places.

I found some especially bright poppies by the supermarket:

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Where I grew up we called this one cow parsley!
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The other day I stumbled across this stunning rose in an otherwise unkempt garden.

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I love how sometimes you find brilliantly coloured, delicate flowers growing in the most unlikely places, like little purple blossoms growing across a stone wall or this poppy springing up from arid, grey, hardened soil.

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The little blooms are not as fragile as they appear. They thrive in barren conditions. They draw their life and water much deeper than we see.

Perhaps it’s the same with our hearts and souls when we have travelled a hard road of suffering and abandonment and pain and are trying to find the way to recovery. Gradually  or suddenly the path bears fruit and something beautiful comes to life at the most unexpected time. As we draw deeper and deeper strength we bloom like that poppy in arid, unstable soil, finding something unshakeable that lets us flourish. Exactly what it is, is probably different for each of us. Then we can even inspire and strengthen others.

Ginny xxx

….

“Every flower created by [God] is beautiful; the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its loveliness. And so it is in the world of souls, which is the living garden of the Lord.” – St Therese of Lisieux

No hands,  no feet on earth but yours – these broken paths

No hands, no feet on earth but yours – these broken paths

On my way home from work I cross a park. The other day on the footpath, I noticed that the little cracks in the path’s surface had curved round to form a heart shape. (Hopefully you can just about see in the photo.)

There are plenty of breaks and cracks to stumble through on our lifes’ paths and there’s no escaping the hurt. Yet I try to remember, we need not fear the pain and confusion and our weakness. When we look back at what we have travelled through and what we leave behind for others, perhaps we will see it was love that remained through the very hardest times, love that grew in our hearts and that we left in the good we did, unknowingly.

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” – St Teresa of Avila

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).

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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