Tag: dissociation

“Music, sweet music, there’ll be music everywhere…”

It’s been a while since music has made me happy. Music is important for me. I don’t deal well with silence – something I’m trying to work on because it stems from trauma and what happens if I’m alone with my thoughts, my feelings and the voices. So when I’m home alone I tend to have either the TV on or music playing. Many songs help me get through the day by reflecting how I feel and even giving me some sense that someone is here who empathises. Others are effective at taking me away from the stresses I’m working through in reality. They may remind me of a good memory or something I like but more than this, they can be a super-highway into dissociation – not the scary dissociation but what I call the protective dissociation, where I can detach by becoming subsumed into one of my escape worlds.

It’s been a long time since music I’ve come across by chance has stirred up a simple feeling of happiness here and now. Today I was trying and failing to focus on work I want to prepare for seeing the psychologist tomorrow and on preparing a short talk I have to give on Friday. I was exhausted and my head couldn’t take anymore. It’s been a gruelling month. I decided to stop and do something else, a sort of example of the strategy “take the opposite action”. Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed I decided to act as if I were happy and in control of my life. I put on iTunes Dreamboats and Petticoats Diamond Edition – vintage and summery?! – and started cleaning my lounge of a week’s mess. After an hour or so it was as though a switch flicked in my brain and I started to feel mentally energised (if physically tired because of my disabilities and resultant muscle problems) and the panic receded. I hung out the laundry and actually felt happy for a little while.

Now I’m returning to my work for the psychologist and though I’m starting later than planned, at least I can use the boost the music gave me and actually face it.

Ginny xxx

Dancing in the Street by Martha and the Vandellas

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Clearing out my flat and trying not to go out of my mind

I didn’t know it had been so long since my last post. Life is chaotic. Either I’ve been too low to write, dealing with flashbacks and triggers or scrambling madly to keep on top of more and more pressing demands.

Perhaps I’ve actually achieved quite a lot, with the unending support of my fiancé. We had to put in a “mandatory reconsideration request” with the DWP for his Personal Independence Payment (PIP), including a lot of extra information and details of everything they had got wrong in their report about him. This meant a huge amount of research and writing. In itself it was a daunting task. There were others we tackled this past fortnight too. Perhaps I should feel pleased we did it. Instead I just feel exhaustion, anxiety and upset (at the lies in the DWP’s report and the ramifications for us of his PIP being cut). If I could feel some sense of achievement I’d feel more thankful and encouraged; I’d see how God is leading us step by step. When despite hard work there is still a maze of uncertainty and upset and no conclusion to the situation – in this instance, we have to wait indefinitely to hear back from the DWP as there is no timeframe within which they have to respond – I find I can’t see what we have achieved. Even when others can and are optimistic.

This month several notably positive moments got lost in the anxiety and depression and desperate hamster-wheeling to meet deadlines. For instance I had a couple of great psychology sessions at the hospital. I need to take the time to build up from that.

Meanwhile as a way to try not to lose it completely I’ve been clearing through my flat – again – putting everything I can for sale this time. I haven’t sold as much as fast as I’d hoped but it’s better than nothing. At least it feels like I’m adding a little more to our savings for our future. Listing items for sale online takes more time than I’d expected, accounting for photographing, pricing, listing, checking postage and keeping on top of enquiries.

I signed up to eBay which I haven’t used for some years. It’s been helpful and I’ve sold a couple of things, as well as buying a couple of cheap smaller size clothes I needed as I’ve lost weight. However straight away I am faced by constant temptation to buy things I don’t need, or binge spend when I’m low. I’m worried what I might do if I shop on there when I’m “gone” (when I’m dissociating) and I spend impulsively, taking me back to the state I was in when I shopped and shopped and accumulated bags of things I didn’t recognise or recall buying. It would be worse to fall into this now when it’s not just me but my fiancé’s life that would be affected. I need to put some safety measures in place.

Ginny xxx

Panic about planning

My partner and I had to go into town today to buy some items for Easter and for volunteer work next week; also to meet a friend for coffee. There were 5 items on the list, to be bought in a couple of different shops.

Why did I go into a full panic attack?!

The task seemed completely insurmountable, more and more insurmountable as the minutes passed; and the more insurmountable it seemed, the angrier I got with myself. If it hadn’t been for my partner I would not have left the house. I’d have hidden away under my blanket at home. Yes, like a three year old.

I could not make any decision on where to go. Nowhere would have everything. There was a potential problem with every potential store we could go to. There was a reason not to go to this or that place, but also to go to this or that same place. I was exhausted. I wanted sleep. But I had to get everything on the list or I’d let people down at work. If I did go, what order should I go to different shops? All the possibilities made a desperate screaming noise in my head and it was impossible to choose and any choice felt disastrous.

Why? Why am I so unable to cope with the simplest choice and task? Decisions are always harder than I think they should be but not usually this bad.

There seemed to be too many combinations of possible outcomes to make a choice but I don’t know why this was so paralysing. Why there was so much noise and crushing pressure in my head. My reaction to not being able to choose was very much a child’s – want to stop, want to hide and so on. Had I dissociated and my little-child-self was in the fore and unable to cope with the decision-making? Or is my adult self so overwhelmed I can’t go through a normal choice process? Or both….

My partner made the choice in the end. We made it out. I had two other near panic attacks when things went wrong while we were out. We were glad to see our friend. I’m home now, utterly wiped out, pain off the scale. On days like this I’m astounded my partner wants to be with me.

Ginny xxx

Easter crafts – letting the light shine through

We made stained glass window pictures this week at the day centre where I volunteer with elderly people. In a small group we made three pictures – loaves and fish, the Cross and the sun rising above a tomb with the stone rolled away. Here’s the Cross (please excuse the scribbling where I’ve removed anything that could have identified the location; I’m probably being over-cautious but still…):

I made the templates and then we laid them on laminator pages, filled the designs in with tissue papers then added the top sheet and laminated them. This gave them a shiny finish. Once cut out we attached them to window panes to let the light shine through. My inspiration came from a YouTube video of Christian seasonal craft ideas.

It was trickier to do than I’d expected and tested my patience! The tissue paper did not stay in place easily especially when people with limited movement were handling it. Too easily it could be knocked, or the static between the tissue and the laminator sheets pulled pieces out of place. Surprisingly perhaps, all the clients enjoyed it and persevered. It helped that this week everyone seemed curious and wanted to be involved. With clients who often feel depressed or otherwise unwell, this isn’t always the case. This week the clients’ enjoyment encouraged me to keep going even when I thought everything was going to go pear shaped.

Thanks to one of the other staff members we were able to read a bit about how stained glass was and is made and where the colours come from.

We were very happy to do an activity strongly rooted in the hope of Easter. Of course compassion and generosity and love underly everything we do with the clients and we almost always learn, discover and receive blessings as well. However we wanted to do something explicitly exploring God’s gift to us at Easter. In our pictures, each side of the central Cross, the bread and fish represent Jesus’ presence amongst us, His feeding us, His Body given for us 2000 years ago and still on all the altars of the world; the empty tomb and rising sun represent God’s Son Jesus rising from the dead, as He is with us on earth so He is lifting us up to Heaven to be with Him where He is gone. The Cross itself we decorated in bright colours not dark. The Cross is deepest suffering but also and inseparably, our only hope, because there Jesus restored the ruptured relationship between God and man, so that we can now joyfully call Him Heavenly Father. There God’s light shines through to heal our broken hearts.

This Lent time seems to be passing faster and faster for me and I’ve felt I’m grasping at desperate moments to pray between crises, responsibilities, pain and dissociation. It was important to me to have this little time trying to reflect on the Easter promise with those Jesus loves so much, the frail and lonely. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying for moments of peace throughout your every day.

Ginny xxx

Looking for an app to track mood and pain

I am seeing a psychologist at the pain clinic for a short number of sessions. When I was first sent an appointment to do therapy I was really worried and almost angry about it, feeling I’d had enough of therapy in other services where I couldn’t trust the therapists or the community team and I couldn’t risk making myself vulnerable again. On top of that I was sure the therapy would be from the point of view that nothing is wrong with me, the pain I have is unnecessary and my fault because I’ve rested too much and not pushed myself enough, which is an attitude I’ve encountered too many times on so-called pain management courses. Amazingly it has turned out to be a very different experience.

I don’t tend to find pain is terribly related to my mood, beyond the fact that I’m more anxious and low when the pain is worse. It’s also connected to flashbacks but I don’t quite know how. We identified in therapy today that I find awareness of my body very difficult. Maybe that is common in personality disorder and certainly in dissociative identity disorder.

I want to try tracking my pain and my mood together to see if this may show up any links I’m not aware of. I’ve done the two separately before as part of learning to pace activity (I did not find the recording gave me any new insights) but I’ve not really done the two together, not over an extended period anyway.

Phone apps exist to track your mood but I’m looking for an app that tracks mood and pain. Ideally I’d like an app where I could record a numerical score for my pain and my mood every couple of hours through the day, with space to make a brief note if something very significant happened (for example if I have flashbacks or an event triggers traumatic memories or dissociation).

Have you used an app like this and did you learn from it? Any recommendations would be very helpful.

Ginny xx

Colouring and dark

This picture has taken me over 2 weeks to colour.

I love grown up colouring books and usually no matter how awful I feel I can still colour. It’s a way of escaping for a while. Drawing is harder and needs some part of my creativity that gets frozen by depression but colouring is different. But the past month has been terrible and I couldn’t even do that. Tonight I finished this picture at last. It’s not any good all in all. I like a couple of the flowers.

Colouring for a few minutes was about the only time today I wasn’t breaking down overwhelmed with panic, asleep, mindlessly scrolling through the phone, or lost in dissociation. One small step, maybe.

I’m so mad with myself for not being able to do the simplest tasks, letting the house go, trying and trying and getting lost after a few minutes, binge eating, boiling over with emotions… cutting off for a while… in pain if something or someone interferes with that state… only knowing how to be alone because I only know how to be left even if I desperately want saving… trapped by fear and anger at myself, just hoping to get back to numb again and not remember. Sleep.

G x

Q – “Have you got your hearing aids in?” A – “Pardon?”

I thought I was losing my hearing. Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve found myself asking people to repeat themselves more and more often. I noticed it particularly when I was working in the department store. What customers said came over as a jumble of sound to me, often as though far away, or sometimes I’d miss it entirely. At the day centre where I volunteer, a couple of the elderly clients remarked that my hearing was terrible an I needed a test. Discussing this with a friend, she commented that she’d long thought that my hearing was worse on the right side.

So I booked a check up and hearing test.

I had my ears checked and syringed. Nothing remarkable was found. No mountainous heap of gunk blocking my ears 🤪.

I had the hearing test.

Everything came back normal.

What is happening?

I’m left thinking that my hearing “disturbances” are to do with attention, dissociation absences, or the effects of overwhelming anxiety. Certainly, high anxiety affects my attention span and my memory. I can talk to someone but not take it in, or not remember what someone has said. Dissociation definitely affects my memory and I lose big chunks of time, not knowing what I’ve done whilst I’ve been gone. If I’m very emotional, I may be unable to remember events before and after the time of heightened emotion.

Is my weird hearing loss / confusion also because of anxiety, distress or dissociated absences? So not only is my memory affected, but also the information does not come into my brain normally in the first place?

Does anyone else have this problem?

Whatever it is, it’s scary. It disconnects me from the people around me, as if I’m floating in a vacuum or surrounded in bubble wrap. Sound doesn’t pass through the bubble wrap wall at all, or if it does, it’s chaotic noise that’s very unsettling deep into my mind and body. It makes me scared and I just want to get away.

Maybe it gives me some insight into what it’s like for people who live with deafness.

Ginny xxx

Coming back at 2.45am

I haven’t slept yet tonight. It’s unusual for me as my medications usually knock me out soon after my night time dosage. That sleep is one of the much needed escapes I rely on. My head is all light and floaty now but … no sleep.

I think it’s because I’m still in the process of coming back from a dissociated state that I slipped into at some point early yesterday evening. This is one of the times the process of coming back is awful and drawn out. The time for which I was gone was good on this occasion. I think it gave me some kind of release. I am not totally sure. I know the little-child-me took over. I think she was happy when I answered her at first. But she got very scared in the end. But coming back is horrible, partly because of the guilt about what I did whilst I was gone (it’s automatic before I have any evidence to know what I’ve done) and partly because of the confusing emotions I get whilst I’m coming back. Tonight the start of coming back brought this sudden switch to emptiness combined with a feeling of being bereft. Time felt distorted. Then jumpiness and feeling sure I was being watched developed as well, along with the recurring notion people were standing just outside my field of vision waiting to grab me (and do what I don’t know but it’s scary).

Suddenly exhaustion is tugging at my brain and I feel as if I’m swaying and I know I’ll sleep now. Writing it down seems to have helped.

Ginny xxx

Frozen, slipping, returning

I’ve a list of things I need to do. Call my energy supplier as my current gas and electricity plan is coming to an end. Write Christmas thank you notes (I always have them done by New Year so this is late for me). Type up notes for some admin I do to help my fiancé’s work. Read the material to prepare for a meeting on Friday. Clear up the house. Sort the TV licence payment.

Why do I feel like I’m drowning… no, stuck in a block of ice too frozen cold to move again? I can’t do any of it. Waves of exhaustion, vacancy, cold, fear, dread, crash over me even though I can’t find any immediate cause. I slip in and out of presence and dissociation. The guilt intensifies on every return.

My to-do list is an insignificant lot of things to most people, I know. I know if I told someone I am struggling with this they’d say it’s nothing and just day to day responsibilities. This brings back so many memories of times I’ve struggled before and family members have told me I have no responsibilities and I’m a spoiled brat. Here comes more guilt and fear wrenching inside.

What I have to do overwhelms me but it’s not really what overwhelms me – the waves, the cold, the dissociating and returning do. It hurts and takes all of me and if it weren’t for my fiancé I don’t think I’d be able to come back at all. I’d have no strength left.

Why now? When so much has been so good? (Ungrateful little brat, look what everyone’s done for you, why isn’t it enough – the voices scream, preventing me telling anyone about what’s happening because that’s what they’d say again.)

Is that just what trauma and depression and borderline do?

How can I try to escape from this ice and reach out and reach forward again? I know sometimes doing even the tiniest thing can make a difference at first. I forced myself to get up this morning, get dressed and put on makeup. Afterwards I was shaking and exhausted. Being more ill physically than usual doesn’t help. After some rest I made a little start on the paperwork I’ve just been sent that needs to be read for Friday. My mind was a blank for hours after that and I was gone for much of the time but at least I had achieved something not absolutely nothing. I’ll write this down in the journal I resolved to keep, to see if this helps me when I look back. I will be able to acknowledge what I did and somehow find a way to see good in this day and give thanks. Creativity sometimes breaks through the ice so I made a paper origami ball and did a few steps towards decorating the photo frame I’m giving my dad as one of his birthday presents. Then I really, really struggled with so much pain in my head and inside me, anxiety, hallucinations and unbearable voices and just… numbing cold.

I want to sleep now and I will soon and hope rest can shut off this state for a while. I don’t know if I believe even that right now. I forced myself to write this post bit by bit over a couple of hours because when I wake up tomorrow and read this, I’ll know I got through it thanks be to God, and something, however small, will be different in the morning.

Ginny xxx

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