Tag: coping mechanisms

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

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What do you do “out of hours”?

I really needed crisis support on Friday but didn’t get it. After therapy group I was spiraling down and out of control, then a number of bad events came snowballing, knocking me further down. I had a brief conversation with the duty line at the hospital and was supposed to get to speak to them again later in the afternoon but they didn’t have time. I was in pieces, cut and was on the edge of the very dangerous place I cannot take a single step more and decide to end it. Thanks be to God I didn’t but I took a higher dose of my tablets than I should to knock me out and stop the hurt (not really an overdose as it wasn’t over the maximum dose of anything, but I took more than I’m prescribed and everything together).

I’ve been fighting through this weekend as I’m working. What I want is numb, stay at home, stay under a blanket, no more feeling, no more thinking, no more hallucinations, no more noise in my head, never have to speak again, never do more harm, someone to hold me, to go to the dissociated place, forget everything I have to fight through and just stop and be allowed to need it to be no more, stop, sleep.

What do you do when you feel this and you can’t get help? It’s the weekend and/or evening. I couldn’t get help from the hospital on Friday. There will be nobody available until Monday and who knows if they will have time then to see or call me.

I could go to A&E but I wasn’t sure what they’d do, and it’s not really an emergency and there isn’t an instant solution. I need more help day to day. I could call 111 the NHS out of hours line, but they tend to tell you to go to A&E if you admit to self harming or being suicidal. They’d probably take my tablets away too. When I’ve been put in touch with a community crisis team before I’ve actually found it really unhelpful. They did not (in my uneducated opinion) understand BPD. What they said piled on the guilt and made me closer to ending my life and they were determined to show me I didn’t need (or deserve,  I feel) any help and Iwasn’t genuine. If i got that right now I would go through with ending it.

Part of the problem needing help out of hours is having to try to explain your whole story – trauma, abuse,  flashbacks, hallucinations, voices, BPD, hurt, fear, desperation and needing to end it – to someone who doesn’t know you or the therapy you’re having. It’s too frightening to do and the cost of being misunderstood too great.

I promised a friend that if it got to the worst I’d go to A&E before I did anything. I would,  I’d keep that promise.  I made it only because she would be more worried about me and stressed if she thought I wouldn’t. I would go at that point, out of honesty to her. Even though having reached that point I’d not want to be stopped.

What do you do when you need support out of hours and can’t see your GP or your usual clinic / hospital team? I’d be interested to know what others do.

I know a lot of it may involve other coping strategies not going to someone else for help. But what about when it’s bad enough they don’t work?

Ginny xx

Walking this Borderland – You’re not going THAT way

Walking this Borderland – You’re not going THAT way

Don’t look back.

You’re not going that way.

I don’t think we should never look back. Sometimes it can be helpful to look back, analytically, or in gratitude, or recognising how things have changed or how far we have come.

Yet, I like this quotation because it reminds me that, no matter how terrible things have been and are, we try to have courage to face each day hope-fully, and to trust that even if we don’t know where we are going, each day we struggle is a day we are going on, and that God promises us “plans for prosperity and not disaster; plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Ginny xx

Walking this Borderland #2: Grounding

Please read Walking…#1: Introduction before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.

Six ways to ground yourself when you notice the early stages of an overwhelming emotion building (eg, panic, fear, anxiety)

I find these particularly help me. The aim is not to deny or stop feeling the emotion, but to reach a safe state where you are not overwhelmed with distress or driven to compulsive actions, and where you can perhaps begin to recognise your emotions and also recognise that they are not permanent and are not all there is of you or of the world – they are valid and they are allowed and also, they will sometime, somehow, pass.

I know the ideas below sound as if they couldn’t possibly make any difference when you’re feeling terrible but somehow, sometimes, they do. I was taught that it is good to practice using them when you are feeling okay, so that they become familiar, and to try to use them as early on as you can when you first feel your emotions rising, because when you are already in a state of peaked, extreme emotion, it can be too difficult to be able to try to use them.

  1. Step outside if you can, or if not, just into another room. Notice all the sensations around you. What does the ground feel like under your feet? What can you hear? What can you see? Can you touch anything – the wall, the door? What does it feel like? You are here and now. These things you see around you are concrete. They will remain. The emotion, no matter how terrifying, really will somehow pass.
  2. Touch a favourite object. What does the surface feel like? What colour is it? Does the sensation of touch calm you? Is it an object that reminds you of a happy time or place or someone you love?
  3. Count backwards in [threes] from 100 to 0. [Especially occupies your attention if, like me, you are not very good at maths/logic 😉 !]
  4. Clench and unclench your hands rapidly, focussing on the sensations in your muscles and on your skin.
  5. Make a hot drink. Hold the cup whilst it’s still hot. Focus on the sensation of the spreading heat relaxing the muscles in your hands. Breathe in and out deeply and focus on the scent of the drink or the warmth of the rising steam.
  6. Repeat a grounding “safety statement”, even if you can’t really believe it at first. For example (replace the […] as appropriate): “I am [Jane Doe]. The date is [5 December 2015]. I am [35] years old. I am [in my room in my flat] in [name city].  I am in the present, not the past. I am safe now.” I am relatively new to using safety statements but my CPN told me that this is a good way to recover from flashbacks / re-experiencing memories.
Walking this Borderland #1: Introduction to the “Walking…” series

Walking this Borderland #1: Introduction to the “Walking…” series

I’ve decided to start a new series which I’ve called “Walking this Borderland”. I’m going to try to make each post in this series short and readable. My idea is that each will share an idea, skill, or thought that I find helpful in coping with an aspect of the symptoms of my Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of these are things that have been suggested to me by health professionals. Some are ideas a friend (perhaps who also has BPD) has given me permission to share. Some I have come up with or encountered myself in my path living with BPD.

I am sharing these in the hope others may find them interesting or helpful. Perhaps if you suffer with BPD or another Personality Disorder or know someone who does, you may find they are things you can identify with or are relevant or helpful to you. Perhaps they might equally be helpful to people who struggle with other mental health conditions – or even to anyone curious about emotions. Perhaps as a reader you would like to share your own experiences and ideas that help you, in the comments. I’d love it if you did want to do that.

As I have said many times before on this blog, what I’m sharing is personal and every person is very different in what is helpful to them or how they experience emotions. I really hope there is nothing I post in this “Walking…” series that would be unhelpful to anyone reading but please bear in mind that I am only sharing from my experience. Though I have worked in many mental health treatment settings and had some non-clinical training, and receive therapy myself, I am not a doctor, I am not clinically trained, I am not medically qualified to provide support or help to people with a mental health condition. So whilst I hope that this series is going to be useful, I very much urge you to please please access and rely on support from clinicians who are trained to help you.

Ginny xx

Another year ended (Perhaps, just for a minute, I can believe.)

Another year ended (Perhaps, just for a minute, I can believe.)

Today in my church we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church calendar year. Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent.

Time passes too quickly.

It’s easy to regret, at this time of year.

Advent is a time of joyful waiting and hope in darkness – for me in my faith, preparing to receive in our heart’s God’s gift of love, and placing all our hope in a God who comes into our darkness just as He came as a helpless little baby to Bethlehem that first Christmas. He does not fear to enter our need, confusion and darkness and we need not fear our darkness and confusion because He delights to come to us.

This time of year is one of heightened scary emotions too. It can feel like being pulled back into too intense memories of the past, of past events and tensions, past failures to make things what I should have. We talked about the emotion of regret in my therapy group and I said, trying to give hope to someone else who said she felt regret, that the idea of regret implies perhaps that we know some way in which we would have liked things to have been different. Perhaps we can build on that.

Right now I don’t think I know how to make things different. Looking back this year or so has been terrible on the face of it with loss after loss. Loss of two jobs. Loss of a very close friend (former partner) when our relationship finally was dashed away completely. Leaving two temporary homes. Loss of the ability to carry on or hold it together. Loss of my job and loss of the ability to work full time; with it loss of stability, colleagues, confidence to be able to do anything at all good. I have been in hospital three times for a length of time as an inpatient and at least twice more for a period of hours when I was suicidal.

There is constant news of so much suffering, fear and terror (in all senses of the word) in the world and more and more hurt that cannot be stemmed. What do we do faced with this? What can we do that is good? What is going to win out in the end? I hurt so much too for people close to me who are ill or struggling or suffering and feel their pain to a point I cannot breathe. I wish I could be any good to them.

Is my grip on reality slipping further and further away? The voices, seeing things, explosive emotions, longing not to be alone…. trying to keep going seems more of a fake and more of an act, more exhausting and harder to keep up. Asking for help fills me with fears of unworthiness, having lied, being a fraud and my intense inner evil that I can’t purge.

Yet a couple of people close to me have said that they see a change in me and something getting better that wasn’t there before. I cannot see it yet but they can.

I have a flat of “my own” rather than just one room as a lodger. I can make it home.

I have discovered friends who do not abandon me even when to myself I am totally repulsive and when I cannot believe that anyone would choose me or want to be around me and when I feel I can be no good to them.

I got to work with someone I truly trusted and respected and learnt from him, not only specific skills and knowledge, but how to be fair and calm and how to give generously and work always in a dedicated manner, yet still keeping boundaries and structure and still holding on to a sense of one’s worth when everything around is screaming the opposite and deriding you. I cannot in any way hold that myself yet, but I watched and learnt and it stays with me somewhere. I hope we may stay in touch.

The Lord has treated me tenderly and shown me He is with me and in a moment of the most impossible despairing distress, showed me that at the deepest point and longing of our heart, there is love and there is Jesus, and just for a few minutes I could believe.

I have a therapist. I have one to one and group therapy. I can go to a support group sometimes. I can ask for help when I need it from a specialist PD service, which is a blessing and luxury in the NHS that such a thing is available in my geographical area.

I can join in a therapy which explores emotions and thoughts and reveals something to me every week. It hurts and shakes me but I have to trust that this can somehow lead me to coping and living better and being able to reach the same plane as everyone else in some way. I don’t think my BPD will ever suddenly disappear like with a magic curative pill but I do think I will learn to feel and live better and learn to let the good things ground me rather than the terror. The darkness will not grip so hard.

It’s the end of another year and Christmas is coming (and everything that means in my head, my heart, my family and out in the world). It’s a scary and shaken year and it has passed so fast.

Still, just for a few minutes, perhaps I can believe.

Ginny xx

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

I’ve posted before about how I find that colouring intricate patterns can be very calming.

When I was an inpatient I drew and painted a few times, which I had not done for many years. I go through phases of doing a lot of cross-stitch embroidery or making greetings cards. It seems to be something that I do a lot of and then leave for a while then return to it. Sometimes I find it helpful and calming but other times, I really want to be able to do it but am not able to. If I try to push myself to, it just doesn’t work – I go wrong all the time when I try to follow a pattern, or I just can’t put together anything pretty. Then far from helping I feel dragged down lower. It’s as if when I am completely drained and lacking in emotional / mental energy, there is nothing with which to be creative. In those states I often need to sleep, or paradoxically, to do something physical like getting outside and walking.

I’ve been on two different wards as an inpatient. One of them had a variety of craft activities available and support to use them and discover and learn new ideas for projects. For example we learnt to make plaited bracelets, worked together to put together a collage display, coloured stained-glass window images, and so on. The peer support worker spent a lot of time facilitating these activities. The other ward did not really have such resources and there was nobody to support these kinds of activities. The first ward seemed much more an environment in which it was possible to focus on having hope of getting better and learning skills to cope. Of course the access to creative materials was not the only reason (I think the work of the peer support worker was very important and I will post about that separately). However I think it made considerable difference to how the days passed.

I think in working with simple materials to create something beautiful, you can empty your mind, practise mindfulness techniques, slow some of the frantic anxiety as you become absorbed in the task. The concentration it requires and the different sensations you encounter – textures of fabric and materials, sounds, colours, deciding how to combine them, perhaps repetitive and rhythmic motions, the sense of putting together something lovely from all the separate parts – all of this helps occupy your mind. In  a similar way to distraction techniques, by filling your mind with all these sensations, they can become the focus, rather than obsessional thoughts, sadness, anger and so on. It does not solve anything but can replace some of the intensity of an emotion for a time. I can find it helpful in trying to delay self-harming as well as in times of generalised anxiety or after panic attacks. My friend who suffers with an eating disorder said that in particular having something to do with her hands can calm her after eating and help her resist the urge to binge-eat and/or purge.

My clinicians explained that there is a limited number of sensations the body and mind can experience at any one time. In personality disorder, our emotions may reach a higher level more quickly and in this heightened state, we cannot think rationally or mentalise or make good decisions. We cannot see outside of the emotion. It also takes longer than it does in most people for the level of emotion to fall. One thing that can help the emotion to fall, to get to a level where we can start to mentalise, use distraction techniques or choose to do other things that help us, is to “shock” the body with another strong sensation. For example, putting your hands under very cold water, holding ice, or (this one works well for me) eating something with a sharp taste. I use pieces of lemon, or lemon juice, with a sharp and bitter taste. This can help to lead you out of extreme distress or a panic attack, to the point that you can then address how you are feeling with other techniques. Then continuing to do something that gives positive sensations can continue to calm you – for example, something self-soothing like hugging a soft pillow or wrapping up in a soft blanket, or perhaps one of the creative activities which provides a range of tactile sensations.

There is also something encouraging to me in being able to create a picture, object, etc, which is useful or attractive or perhaps can be given as a gift to someone else, even when we are really not feeling great. It’s another way to make it true that the overwhelming emotions are not all that there is and to start to hope that there could be some good somewhere in me.

Ginny

xXx

My new way to relax

swirls

Currently, one of my preferred ways to relax whilst I’m alone at home watching TV or the like, is colouring in complex swirly patterns like this one. It can switch off some of the thoughts for a while, passes time and gives a creative focus outside of oneself, even a way to practice mindfulness. The results can even be used for something pretty, for instance, made into pictures or coasters. Seeing something lovely that you have managed to create, despite perhaps feeling depressed or low, can be encouraging. It is a relatively cheap hobby, especially as at the moment we seem to be fortunate that there is a range of “colouring books for grown-ups” around, often to be found in discount book stores / stationers’ / supermarkets. No doubt you could find template patterns on line as well, which could work if you have access to a printer. Then all that is required is a packet of crayons or coloured pens (note to self, curb tendency to multi-buy pretty pens!).

Happy colouring! 🙂

Ginny xx