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.
Every year I forget how evocative certain Christmas smells are. Not just the more obvious things like candles and oranges and mincemeat and brandy, but certain specifics. It was black treacle and spices the other day, as I was making gingerbread dough. Suddenly as I counted out the syrupy spoonfuls I was taken back to being stood in front of another cooker, aged maybe 7, stirring the pan dissolving the sugars, with my mother watching. Chain smoking, of course. A knot of emotions expanded inside me as they did then. Excitement for Christmas. Some kind of enjoyment of doing a grown up thing. Delight at wanting to make pretty biscuits. Wanting to get it right and please my mother…. well, the desperate need to get it right, impeccably following the process she had shown me. That meant tenterhooks and anxiety and churning emotions, too often teetering on the edge of me ruining everything again (I thought). One mistake, one deviation from her instructions, her watching would explode into anger, ridicule, accusations and threats. Hours of shouting and violence would follow. And everything, I had made her do, and each time I’d have that sick terror inside that this time it was over and the threats were being fulfilled. Looking back and seeing how little was needed to tip us into that disaster, it’s bizarre. Laying a biscuit onto the baking tray in the “wrong” way (ie not the precise arrangement she required), not getting the bow on a package right fast enough, touching the wrong switch on the oven – even simply letting any of my anxiety show. It sounds almost as if it should be funny. But it isn’t funny when someone has you isolated, under their power and in fear; not in fear of them but in fear of yourself. Because one sure thing to me at the time was that it was my fault.
So, standing there measuring the treacle it all came back. As I’ve been making the biscuits over the last day or so, I keep being catapulted into so many emotions and suddenly reliving snatches of good and bad … And to tell the truth I’ve been pulled into the bad too much. Exhausted.
I’m fighting it, because there’s no way my abuser’s having this Christmas. This Christmas is for God and the present and my fiancé and it’s about all the good we can do and are thankful for today. I speak briefly, quietly to God as I roll the dough, cut, bake , ice, package these cookies. I’m pushing through the dissociation to do all I can to hope for this Christmas and for every flashback find twice as much I’m thankful for today.
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?
The house clearance turned out to be more emotional than I expected. The small local firm that did it were very good. Three guys came in a big van and 2 hours later I was looking at my emptied home. Unfortunately I was also looking at the large patch of hairball sick the cat had left under the bed without my knowledge which the workmen politely didn’t mention. Guess I can always hope they thought it was an unusual pattern in the carpet?! Actually I felt utterly disgusted. How badly had I been living that I could be unaware of a pile of cat sick?! That the damp in the bedroom had taken hold on even the one piece of furniture in that room I wanted to keep?
Clearing through my possessions in the days before the workmen came, as well as the hairball incident, left me with a question. How could I have let my home fill with clutter and hoarding, yet despite this frighteningly surging tide of possessions, I am still without certain much needed items? So many things incomplete? For example, though I’ve been over 2 years in my flat, I have not got the painting done and the walls are still patchy and stained just as they were when I moved in. The same shelves are broken in the cupboards, just as the day I moved in. I still don’t have a table to eat at. Yet I had 14 nail polishes pretty much untouched, baskets of broken jewellery, pieces of ripped paper I might supposedly use in a craft project one day, clothes stuffed tight in cupboards (shamefully hidden and many of them purchased in dissociative or irrational episodes for an identity other than “me”), and cluttering nick nacks covered in a film of dust.
My head was full with disgust at myself, confusion, failure, not knowing who I was. Who, what part of me, unquenchably acquired all these things? I am wholly responsible for it, but frighteningly out of control and unable to connect with who or why.
The neighbours must have thought I was moving out with all the bustle.
Despite the exhaustion and disgust I am gradually starting to see that this is a new start. My home is emptier. It is different now. The furniture I have left is not broken. It matches together as much as I can manage. Surfaces are no longer jam-packed. I can see space and calm and bit by bit I am attaining some of the mental quiet I so desperately need and I have been trying to achieve.
This is going to be a home I can make good for my fiancé and I; when we get married please God next autumn our home will be my flat. He has not had a home of his own, at least not one where he feels safe, for a long time. It needs to be different now for both of us. I need to look forward.
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!
(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.
I am so stressed and strained beyond the limit. I’m trying to care for my fiancé. I can’t. He’s yet again been discharged from A&E, this time with DVT having been told he could have a pulmonary embolism at any time. No plan in place. Vascular problems, tumour, hernia, unidentified lump in his stomach, knee operations, diabetes, hips going to need replacing… how much more, how much longer Lord? Why? I’m screaming and crying inside. How much worse he must be feeling. Again and again after every emergency and discharge we are no further forward. All the risk and pressure falls right back on us. I can’t do it. I’ve been overloaded for weeks or months. Way beyond the breaking point. I need it to stop. Already I’m drinking with my medication to try to get knocked out. I cannot cope with yet more emotion and pressure. Cutting, bingeing, purging, everything is worse. I have no mental health support now, nor does he, so what can I do? Time has slowed down. I’m hearing things. I need it to stop. Please God, I want to say I know you will answer and not turn away from us forever. But I can’t see You or hear You or feel You. It’s been a long time that way. Xx
So many times I have tried to start posting again and been unable to write. Tonight at least I’m going to write something even if it’s rubbish.
I stopped because I felt I was constantly moaning, constantly apologising for the same failings then failing again, constantly sad, ill, unthankful, dissociated… and I’m in about the same place now. Shakier actually. When I started this blog I really didn’t want it to be like that.
Tonight I’m days into yet another period of being half gone, needing to be out of it, but knowing I can’t be too. And it’s twisting inside my chest, pulling me, dragging me, itching, hurting, voices getting louder, so desperately needing to do anything to turn it all off, but I mustn’t and I can’t. And this is rubbish. I can’t even get a tiny part of what’s going on inside, out. I used to cope in bad ways but I can’t even go to those ways now …. and everyone says oh it’s really good, you’re doing really well, but I’m losing my grip and imploding. Despite so so many things that are good or should be good and that makes it even worse.
Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.
My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.
Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.
Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.
There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.
So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.
Wishing you all good things this weekend.
I’ve been trying to catch up on my commitments after a really difficult few weeks of being unstable or cut off and dissociated, following the contact from my abuser and the issues that came up during my meeting with the police.
This catching up has involved writing several emails, and putting together feedback on a document I’ve been asked to help put together. (I’m helping compile some material that may go towards a course supporting others with mental health conditions to manage money and debts.)
I have wanted to do this. I care about these topics and the other people I’m writing for. Yet it is a fight to get myself together to do it. My concentration is terrible. My brain seems to be exhausted quickly. It takes me so long to get down a few sentences that I then get frustrated about that itself, which doesn’t help. Thoughts, connected thoughts, then ever more rapidly spiraling thoughts, whip round my head out of control. But this doesn’t help me write. I can’t translate the thoughts into written or spoken words. I don’t know how that can be, since the thoughts must be in words! Where do the words go? Why does the spiralling take over til suddenly every idea is lost, any communication impossible, and an aching, frozen foggy feeling envelopes me?
The only thing loud and clear then are the voices telling me what a load of rubbish my ideas and words are, how I’ll hurt or be disrespectful to someone (or whatever the specific fear is that day), how nobody would want to read this, how it’s worthless….
An email that I’d think should be simple, which I think other people would expect had taken me a few minutes, can take me a couple of hours, including my obsessive checking once I have managed to get any sentences written down. When I was in office work, I was noticeably slow or would lose track of the passage of time. Sometimes, the same experiences stop me writing here, though they are not usually as bad. I’m inefficient and left exhausted. I turn to comfort behavior lile uncontrollable constantly eating sweet “bad” foods because of an unsettling aching hunger that probably isn’t really for food but I can’t satisfy otherwise.
I wrote the above a couple of weeks ago but ironically, didn’t finish the post. Today I have an article to write for an online mental health magazine. I’m writing about my experiences of debt and difficulties controlling my spending with BPD. I’m struggling. I wonder if I’ll find this a bit easier than the feedback I was trying to write, as I might not be so anxious about reflecting on what someone else has written, about what they might feel, about what we’ve discussed and whether I’ve paid attention and remembered correctly.