Tag: emotions

Panic in BPD and dissociative episodes – spilling over and used up at the same time

My mind won’t stop. Yet at the same time I can’t process anything. There is constant clamour; panic and fear rolling round my head, gathering speed and swirling til there is nothing else in my head. I cannot hear properly. What I do hear is senseless, clanging, distressing sound with no words or meaning.

Remember a feeling can never be bigger than you, my psychologist said. But this feeling is. It’s boiling and spinning and pouring and rushing, and once it had taken every space in my mind it rushed outwards and spun round my head, like a hurricane or a tornado, slower but heavy, making a colourless, invisible, but impenetrable barrier between my mind, my eyes, my heart and the outside world.

I’m full but drained. In my heart it’s like only the dregs of me are left.

The panic has sucked everything out of me, draining away like water down the plug hole. Nothing is left but exhaustion, emptiness, and emotion that has no route to be expressed, so it just feeds back somehow into an explosion of pain and anxiety. The barrier round me gets stronger. Panic locks it tighter in place.

I need to cry and scream and I need to be silent. Silent inside and silent outside. I need to stop, so very much, but my mind is unable to stop spinning because of the panic force driving it on.

I need to be held, I need to be safe, I need everything that I have no right to in the adult world, because the only part of me left after this tide of fear is done with me is a screaming toddler, overwhelmed by the world. A little child who needs to be carried and protected. Adult me is lost in the panic, feeling forces she doesn’t understand, and little me comes out all alone.

***

Pain after pain, trauma after trauma, repetitions of past abuse, are all happening to people I love the most. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help. I feel so empty and I don’t know how to protect them. There is so much I need to give them and I can’t because the panic has emptied me already and that’s so selfish and stupid.

I’m exhausted and afraid of these exploding emotions that I don’t know how to control. I feel I’m barrelling on towards disaster. I feel failure. I feel the losses and longings and guilt and dread of terrified little me, alone after the abuse. Not knowing what to do or say when I see my loved ones suffer it too.

Xxx

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God whispers and the world is loud

I stumbled across this quotation today.

It’s apt for me. I need to rest and listen for God’s “still small voice of calm”. Amid anxiety, distress, confusion and an awful lot of dishonesty around me right now, His voice guides and assures and gives hope for now and the future; His voice is always there if I allow myself to hear Him. I know He is with me working out His plans. Where I am right now, He needs me to be and needs me to serve Him.

I don’t know who drew the beautiful illumination in the quotation or who wrote it, but I found it thanks to the Facebook page Contemplative Monk.

Ginny xxx

Losing Lily

TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicide, of deaths of people suffering mental health conditions, and of failings in mental health care. If you are in mental distress, caution is advised in reading this post.

A NOTE: This post mentions anonymously the death of a person who had recently left the care of a service I worked in. There was an investigation into the circumstances of the person’s death and the investigation has now concluded. I want to make clear that this post discusses solely my experience from my point of view and my knowledge of the situation, my thoughts and feelings. It does not reflect the position of the service I worked in, or of any other person or team involved in the person’s care.

During the time I worked in a specialist community and inpatient mental health service 7 or 8 years ago, two of our patients died. One lady had moved away to a different part of the country so hadn’t been in our service for a couple of years when she tragically died from an overdose. The other lady had just left our inpatient ward (as far as I know against doctors’ advice but assessed as having capacity to make her own decision in this regard) and gone to live independently, but deteriorated rapidly within weeks and died 4 months later. I’ll call her Lily*.

At any one time we were working with several other patients in my eyes dangerously close to death – because of their drive to harm themselves (by overdose and substance use and so on), because of their suicidal intentions, and/or because their organs were so damaged physically by the effects of their mental health conditions (starvation and other eating disorder or self-neglect symptoms leading to heart failure or diabetic coma, for example).

We were working constantly short staffed, physically and mentally unwell ourselves because of the workload and emotions and conflicts and fear of making mistakes, within constraints of time and policy that often felt out of our hands, trying to provide a service fair and the best for everyone, but knowing we could not give enough.

Lily has never left me. She’s come to my mind every week or so since the winter she died. I was a secretary, not a clinician. I didn’t know Lily as much as I got to know some of our other patients. She was intelligent and wanted to do well and was very driven for her goals. She made close friendships with a couple of people on the ward. Yet, she really needed love which I think she often didn’t find where she may have most expected it. She really did start to get better but something very painful remained impossible to reach. Sometimes I wonder if she was hurting so much she’d had enough. If everything was so locked in and disconnected from the people she needed and wanted to trust, that in her pain it felt like time to go – if she didn’t choose exactly when but she did know she’d quietly slip away.

We didn’t reach her. Even as she got a little better, we couldn’t reach through her pain. We didn’t catch her. We didn’t keep her safe when she was slipping. We lost her.

There was an investigation – many investigations – after Lily’s death. The final investigation ruled that the harm she suffered, and her death, were avoidable. I just now read the start of the report of the last investigation and horror and panic and confusion took over. The room swayed and spun and I couldn’t breathe. I’m still freezing cold.

Her life is on my hands. Not mine alone, and not the service I worked in alone because several other services were involved – but I was there.

Of course we had not wished to reject her or abandon her or disown her or her care. One of the worst things is that a lot of what was judged harmful in the report, were either actions in line with procedures we were taught to follow to give safe and fair and consistent care to every patient in the service, or matters that within the constraints we faced, we could not personally control. But whichever, it wasn’t right or safe for Lily. Consistency and guidelines and constraints are one thing but every individual patient is in very individual circumstances at very individual risk. Procedure under huge constraints imposed from outside, doesn’t make account of that.

What do we do when the steps that were supposed to have been good or safest or standard, or following established guidelines, or the best we could give, or taken in faith in the decisions of those we work for and trust, were actually steps that led to a death?

Personally, what should I have done and what do I do now? My heart is screaming at me, you did not speak up, you did not speak when you had concerns at what you heard, you did not act, you did not follow your gut – you followed instructions instead, and you know this wasn’t the only time.

Good intentions or having tried to follow what was supposed to be good enough, or even best, count for nothing now.

I’m reminded of my mother and her care and deterioration; how we were locked in an agonising cycle of her discharge, the same crises repeating, her deterioration and readmission, worse and worse every time, all of us knowing what would happen but all held powerless by legislation that didn’t allow us to put in place a few simple steps that would have kept her safe. Ultimately an adult judged to have capacity to make a decision is allowed to make a decision that will harm herself, allowed to cut herself off from sources of help, allowed to deceive everyone who wants to help. Even when those decisions and actions are the work of a delusion founded in deep-rooted, severe psychosis. My mother couldn’t be more different from Lily but I see similarities in how the hands of those who wanted to help were rendered powerless.

In my head when Lily stares at me, slowly fading, I don’t know what to say, and everything I should have said back then echoes around me.

(*not her real name. Again please note that the opinions and thoughts and experiences mentioned in this article are mine alone.)

Ginny xxx

The guilt I feel when I’m met with no response – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3 part post. You can find Part 1 HERE

I wonder how much of my misinterpretation of emotional facial expressions is because the people I grew up with, my current family members and I myself express emotions in a different way from the typical?

It occurs to me that I’m told that often I show no emotion outwardly, or that people can’t work out what I’m feeling. In a family member’s words, “we just have to have some kind of reaction out of you,” and “we have no idea what on earth is going on with you so it feels like – aargh – we can’t be dealing with this!” I’m often told this when internally I’m having really strong emotions of loss, hurt, upset, abandonment and fear, and having flashbacks. Sometimes I’ve wanted to keep my emotions hidden. Almost always I’ve tried to turn my feelings inwardly so as not to bother or hurt anyone else with them.

However at the same time I’ve frequently thought other people understand what I’m feeling inside (but don’t want to discuss it so I just have to keep going) when it may later transpire they had no idea what I was feeling. I will then find it really hard to believe they had no idea. I will also be upset because my attempt to keep inside the sad feelings I have, to keep going as you’re meant to and not draw attention to myself, then backfired and seems to cause anger and upset and accusations of being childish, spoiled, rude or disrespectful, and of making other people responsible for me. People have said things like “It looks like you’re accusing me of not looking after you,” “I’m not responsible for how you feel,” “Its not anyone else’s job to make you feel better,” “You’re a spoiled little brat”; I’m told I have to stop thinking about my own problems, should push them aside, should think what other people have gone for me, etc. Which is often exactly what I’ve been trying to do and nearly broken under the strain. I don’t know how I get it so wrong. I don’t know what other people are seeing at these times that is childish or rude etc. If I did I would have some chance of correcting it.

This reminds me that as a child being abused, I was daily really distressed, inevitably expressed it (til I learnt better) and got no help. I was at best ignored. More often the punishments redoubled and threats got worse – more threats of how I was breaking up the family, of how the couple of people I had and loved would die because of me and graphically how I would find them, of how my parents would be taken away. I was told I was a liar, faking what I was feeling, behaving as I was in order to cause worry and hurt to my abuser, to punish them because in some way I didn’t get what I wanted. One of my abuser’s paranoia about us being watched increased too. Her bizarre, possibly psychotic behaviour, and ridiculing of me, came to the fore. I tried my hardest not to express any feelings, even physical feelings. When I got ill I was terrified what would happen when my abuser and others complicit in the abuse found out. Basically I got no response or a terrible response, and none of the help I needed, from my main abuser and the person enabling her.

Both my abuser when I showed my emotions as a child, and family members now when I try not to show my emotions, said/say that I am childish, spoiled and hurting others.

When I do express my emotions now, the reaction from my family is rarely positive. Occasionally it is, but often it isn’t. The fact that it fluctuates is really hard to deal with. But that’s another story for another post.

My abuser’s emotions could change in a couple of seconds so I had to be constantly on the alert and do what I could to stay safe. She was either emotionless in all her expressions, or furious, or distraught, or ridiculing me. Occasionally she was happy but you got the sense it was only on the surface and sometimes it seemed like a trick, especially when it quickly flipped to anger or ridicule. (Her severe psychotic episodes were somewhat different.) Whilst I had to be on the alert to her emotions, I didn’t learn anything from her about normal emotional expression.

My other immediate family members’ emotions are also hard for me to judge, in facial expressions and verbally. I can fail to spot the onset of anger with me. At other times I’m overwhelmed by how they express it. I often interpret anger when they are actually feeling concern or upset. I interpret disinterest or rejection when they say there is none there.

So…. on the whole that does seem quite messed up, doesn’t it!?

To be continued in Part 3 (which will be what I thought I was going to write about originally!)

The guilt I feel when I’m met with no response – Part 1

I was reading about how people with borderline personality disorder interpret emotion in facial expressions. I came across a study that had found that people with BPD are quite similar to people without any personality disorder in how we perceive emotions in facial expressions, however, those of us with BPD are likely to perceive neutral facial expressions as communicating “negative” emotions*. If someone is not displaying a positive feeling in their expression, we are likely to interpret a negative feeling. Of course, facial expressions are a somewhat personal and subjective thing. Additionally, I am not sure whether the finding was that we tend to interpret the perceived negative emotion as directed at us (eg the person is fed up with us) or as a non-personally-directed emotion (eg the person is sad, the person is frustrated after a bad day). Perhaps the study didn’t differentiate. I must try to revisit the study online and I’ll post a link in the comments if I find it.

Two things rang true to me. First I agree that I’m likely to infer from an expression that isn’t warm / positive that the person feels negatively. I’m not sure whether I actually see the expression as negative, or know it’s neutral (maybe “not letting anything on”) but a neutral expression for me means the person’s feeling is negative. Second, once I interpret a negative emotion (from whatever expression) I will usually be absolutely sure it’s directed at or because of me. Even if there are abundant clues that it’s because of something else, even if logically it can’t be because of me, this is my default assumption. Cue massive guilt and a desperate urgency to put things right. My first thoughts, my deepest emotions, my bodily reactions, are all based on that. Even flashbacks or memories involving deep guilt (where I know I hurt someone in the past) can follow.

This can all happen before any words are spoken.

However, I do the equivalent with speech and writing too. If anything is left open, ambiguous or ignored, I often feel I’ve done something wrong, or caused irritation or anger or displeasure, or that the person doesn’t believe me.

To be continued in Part 2.

* Note: by “negative” I mean feelings like sad, angry and so on. I don’t like using the word “negative” as it suggests something wrong with the feeling. This isn’t what I mean. All feelings are valid. I couldn’t think of another word. Perhaps “unhappy”?

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

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

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

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