Tag: friends and family

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

Advertisements

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

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”?

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

Voids between my mind and others’ minds

I feel so sad and I’m doubting my mind. I clashed with someone I care about. It doesn’t feel right to put the details here much as I want to. Basically I felt we need to make a fact very clear to someone we are working with, a fact that ought to have been made clear from the start. In itself the fact isn’t right or wrong but it does totally change what we are offering the person and what they will expect and it’s absolutely necessary to say it. The person I clashed with thinks there’s no need to say it, it doesn’t change anything, nothing was ever promised. I tried to explain what I believe and he said he would write off working with the person completely.

There’s more to it but that’s all I can say here.

It sounds like a tiny thing but it’s shaken me and got me lost about how I see things and how others see them and the gulf between that. What I see as a clear duty when others don’t. What I expect. How I deal with uncertainty (rather, don’t deal with it). The gap there is between my mind and the people I care about. It’s brought back the ever-near memories of people telling me I expect other people to look after me, or that I didn’t keep my word, my responsibilities, when I was doing all I could to get it right for everyone and hurting myself to punish myself for my failings and still wasn’t good enough.

I’m sad. It probably doesn’t help I’ve been ill physically this weekend.

I know this blog has been too down and negative lately and I need to change that. I’m sorry.

Ginny xxx

The peculiar significance of treacle

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.

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

Exhausted unrest

I am very frustrated that basic activities are taking so much of my strength and taking a massive amount of planning.

Just going out is exhausting. I’m desperately needing more time to rest physically. Also, desperately wanting more time to properly order my home and take care of it. I have had a constant stream of appointments and commitments that I’m struggling through, feeling more and more frustrated by exhaustion, mobility problems, pain I can’t cope with, and anger with myself and unrest about my home being disordered and messy.

There are a couple of friends I really want to spend time with or do things for. I’m scared of taking from others and not giving back. Yet meeting someone, or going to their house, or cooking a meal for them, totally wipe me put afterwards for days after. I think that’s through a mixture of my pain and pushing myself too far physically, and my anxiety and the voices and feeling overwhelmed in a sensory way. Talking, others’ emotions, noise, new places, everything happening around me, can be just too much coming in to cope. Sometimes I think I have sensory processing disorder or at least sensory processing difficulties!

All this leads to despair, being cut off, and being unable to give thanks or try to open my heart to learn gratitude. I need to make a change. I don’t know what.

Ginny xxx

Please plan your crisis 24 hours in advance…?!

WARNING – discussion of suicide, suicidal thoughts, emergency services

Am I expecting too much? I don’t think I am. Yet again I and my friend are being bounced around from service to service when he/we are most in need and so many opportunities for giving help missed. But I’ve certainly been made to feel I am asking too much and am a nasty person and more importantly, yet again my friend is left in avoidable danger.

In my local area, there is a specialist phone line for people in a mental health crisis, accessible via 111. This is a pilot, I believe, which may be rolled out in the rest of the country. According to information published about this crisis line, it is for patients, family, carers, friends and professionals, you can get an assessment of your needs, help, advice and visits, it is available 24/7, every day of the year. It is supposed to help you get more specialist help more quickly than if you have to go to A&E.

I phoned this line today because my friend is suicidal and today is a very “risky” day for him. He has specific plans and whilst there does seem to be a part of him that wants to keep going and not end it today, and I think it’s possible he will get through, I’m very worried about him. He was promised to get help from the crisis home treatment team, but he had one phonecall in which they told him to phone services if he felt worse. They have not assessed him or visited. The community service he was seeing haven’t put anything in place.

I wanted to get advice what to do and how to help my friend. I wanted to raise the alarm that he hadn’t had the agreed support and I was apparently the only person who is going to be with him today. I needed to ask some advice for me on how to cope because I’m getting very near another complete breakdown myself. I don’t know how to avoid me losing it and flipping out again when I want to be helping him.

So I phoned this line. First I was told nobody was available but brief details were taken and I was told I’d be phoned back in a few minutes. 1 hour 20 minutes later, having heard nothing, I phoned again. There was no record of my previous call. “You didn’t speak to me before, how would I know the details?” asked the operator. I went through everything again (painstakingly  spelling every name and number about 6 times…) I was told that I had not been told I would be called back today. Er, yes I was, I was told I would be called back in a few minutes. “Oh no, we have 24 hours to respond.”

But we’re talking about someone potentially about to end their life here. Don’t you think that might necessitate an urgent, even immediate, response?! Isn’t this a crisis line?!

They made no assessment of the situation, would not listen when I tried to tell them the home treatment team input had not been delivered as agreed, gave no advice except for if he attempts to end his life, call an ambulance. What about any support that might stop him getting to that point? What about any professionals putting help in place? At the very least, any advice to me? At the moment I seem to be the only person doing anything today to keep him safe. I have no training, I do not know how to help him, I am ill myself and close to breaking point. I am terrified what is going to happen and whether he’ll still be here in the morning.

I tried to impress the urgency of the situation and that a call at some point within the next 24 hours was not soon enough seeing as he planned to end his life today. The so called crisis line told me that I simply had to calm down, that I had to realise they have plenty of other referrals to deal with, that they are very busy and it is not very nice for me to suggest they aren’t doing anything (not sure how I did that?), and when I insisted on speaking to a manager she continously talked over me and threatened to end the call. I was told that they had told me about plenty of other ways to get support. They had not suggested one single thing.

I would expect more from a crisis line. I would expect immediate response when someone is suicidal. How can it possibly be okay for them to say, sorry we’re too busy? I would expect the promises in their literature about getting assessed, supported and visited by mental health professionals to be fulfilled. There is no mention in the literature that they may do nothing for 24 hours. I would expect professionals to be ensuring my friend’s safety today, not me. I want to be there for him, I want to listen, be a friend, offer comfort and encouragement. I am happy to stay with him when that helps, as I will today. But I should not be the only one doing something to stop him ending his life. Is it really too much to ask? I don’t think so. He has asked for help and so often been turned away. This has been a pattern for him just as it was for me in my care. If harm comes to him today in my opinion it will have been completely preventable. That is not to blame services for the state he is in, but they have failed to provide support they agreed to, could have and should have.

I don’t know why I keep on having some hope in services that they’ll do what they promise. I’ve had enough demonstrations to the contrary. I’ve given up on help for me but I don’t give up so easily for a friend. I suppose it’s natural to have some trust in those we believe are there to help and protect us and that instinct doesn’t disappear quickly even when it’s proven wrong. If I could expect the total absence of support it wouldn’t be so distressing. I’m not looking for sympathy though it probably comes over that way. Just very angry, bitter, lost and scared.

Ginny xxx