Tag: relationships

Going away for a break

Going away for a break

Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.

My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.

Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.

There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.

So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.

Wishing you all good things this weekend.

Ginny xxx

 

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I don’t remember why – the guilt of my dissociative episodes

It is scary sorting through piles of possessions I do not remember buying.

As part of my recovery work I’m allocating time to take care of my home, household related tasks (bills, organisation, housework etc), in order to take responsibility for living an ordered life, to not get into trouble or overwhelmed with unpaid bills and tasks ignored until they become insurmountable, and to make a safe calm and even beautiful home. I had no home for many years, moving from room to room, moves often prompted by my mounting distress. When I was blessed to find this place, it took a long time to feel at all safe or dare to believe in any stability. Then gradually, it became an escape, flight not by constantly moving around but by means of a protective enclosure. Which is good in some ways and something I still need when things are too much, which is frequent, but now it is time for my home to be more than that; even a place and a life that supports my health.

Part of this is continuing what I’ve been trying to do for some time, which is clearing through accumulated items and clutter and organising the things I decide I do need. I’ve been working on this for some weeks or months on and off, tackling different areas. I’ve acknowledged for several months in therapy and with my support worker how I bought and accumulated items as a desperate attempt at escape, distraction and protection. I acknowledge how out of control my spending used to be and too often still is and how impulsively I buy things when in my dissociative episodes, apparently driven by some desperate need at the time that leaves me sick at myself and painfully empty afterwards when my consciousness returns, a massive blank missing in my memory and emotion, but the fallout of my actions apparent – money spent, arguments had, horrific things said, tablets taken, sometimes alcohol drunk and most of all items bought (usually clothes, makeup, accessories, things I’d never buy for myself “normally” or rationally). I hate myself then, most of all for the money spent on myself and the hurt I’ve caused other people.

I’m coming face to face with all this as I’m clearing through hoarded possessions. Much as I’ve been aware of and fighting these problems for months, it’s still very scary finding things I don’t remember purchasing and don’t know why I have. Perhaps it’s even scarier because I don’t really know why I do this when I’m dissociated. Why? Why do I buy things? Why do I become what the evidence means I am in these times – selfish, irrational, irresponsible, needy, childish, bad? What else am I doing in these times? The violent emotion that takes over and hurts people around me, but still I can’t control it – who am I and where is it leading? Why do I behave in ways I can’t remember, that people close to me say are terrible?

I’m scared. I want to take responsibility. I’m trying to carry on gradually sorting out my home. It occurs to me whether looking at items I bought in these dissociative states where there are huge memory gaps, will help me connect at all with what I was doing and who I was at these times. I don’t know.

Ginny xxx

In the cold

I hate how sporadic I am posting and reading at the moment. Again I’m sorry though I’ve already said that so many times I know.

I’m having a really low time. I’ve too many horrible feelings about the abuse and about the PD service that’s meant to be helping me. I have never felt so far from my dad in what I experienced as a child being abused and what he did not know, that I thought he did know; what he thought was actually going on. It is not his fault, it wasn’t then and isn’t now, but I can’t stand the distance – which means more doubt and fear and was it all because of me and have I invented everything through my madness. I have never felt so trapped by repeating patterns with the service -that I thought would help me and thought I could trust – of being misled, let down, tricked, brought to the very edge then when I’m in crisis they reject me, do nothing to help, say it’s nothing to do with them, send me away so I cope the only way I can at that point of utter pain, which at the moment, means overdose or knock myself out with sleeping tablets. It’s too much like how my abuser made me believe I needed her and she’d protect me but I never received her care, which paradoxically I did need, only her total control and the terror of her threats and certainty of my evil, so I believed. Now the cycle repeats with those I should be able to trust and ends in the same desperate pain.

Even in therapy group today I felt so so far from everyone else. An intruder. Something wrong with me. Disconnected. Just watching. Deeply hurting for everyone else and guilty for causing them hurt and anger too, but at the same time totally out in the cold; so much needing to be heard, but everything and everyone showing how at odds my experience is with theirs and what it should be.

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

WARNING: contains a very brief mention of eating disorders and abuse in childhood

Well. It’s kind of ironic given my post yesterday about uncertainty in relationships. At least the uncertainty in the particular relationship I had in mind at the end of the post has been cleared up. Cleared up with one massive blow. I’ve rarely felt more hurt and betrayed and rejected though I’m not sure quite why the impact has been so consuming.

I have tried to talk with my friend about what has happened in our relationship over the past months / couple of years and some of how I’ve been feeling.

After a line of further rejections from her, her not hearing when I tried to be honest and explain some most painful things, her not believing as far as I can see, what I experience and what has happened to me in the past – today she told me I have no reason to feel upset or hurt or angry, that I have no right to feel as I do, that because I have a feeling does not mean it is right, that I am to come before God and see if I have any moral right to feel as I do because I don’t, I am to push it down and rise above it.

I was filled with a massive surge of anger and raw hurt. It has not stemmed any in the hours since.

Coupled with her rejection of me and her disbelief or at least dismissal and ignoring of severely traumatic things that have happened to me in my childhood and right now, it was an immensely hurtful judgement of me. And how strange she thinks that she has the power to decide what feelings I am morally allowed to experience and what is real and what is not.

The terrors associated with feelings I thought were sinful, feelings I was not allowed, feelings that were so dangerous, that I had to atone for and punish myself for, were together with my terror of my ultimate evil, the way that I got to life threatening anorexia and then bulimia, daily self harm, overdosing and attempting to end my life. These feelings kept me submissive and within my abuser’s control. The feelings my friend’s judgement of my experience, my feelings, their and my morality, where I stand with God, the truth and validity of what has happened to me, brought in me straight back there again. Straight away my impulse was to cut and make myself vomit. But something had happened to my legs and I was shaking too much to do anything and perhaps that was blessed protection. I just cried.

It hurts worse because this came from one of the very few people I trusted. Someone I shared things with. Someone who brought me to the church and whose child is my godson. Thank the dear Lord I did not share with her the very worst of the abuse I suffered. If I had I don’t think I’d cope in any way now. I already feel violated again. Tricked, ripped apart, judged, rejected, punished, blamed.

As well as the hurt that’s making me go to pieces, I wanted to scream – feelings are not a sin. I have many reasons to feel very hurt, angry, scared… Feelings are not moral or immoral. Who is she to judge what I have a moral right to feel? I have a massive amount of pain and hurt and yes sometimes anger about the abuse. That is normal. Yes, when I’m not believed, dismissed and rejected and abandoned when I’m most desperate, that cuts a little deeper every time and yes emotionally I end up right back where I was in the terror of the abuse. This is not a sin or something I have to crush. I am not a sugar plaster “saint” too “holy” to have any feeling but happiness and superficial love, floating on some supernatural plane disconnected from every real feeling. That’s what she wants. I am not that figure. I am bleeding.

She was the last person left, outside this blog and community and apart from my therapist, with whom I had the depth of trust I thought I did. Perhaps it’s as well it’s gone. I will be very very careful indeed in the future (even more than I already am) about what closeness I allow to develop.

But the hurt is consuming. I am falling into pieces. Shattering. I haven’t gone home yet as I was scared what I’d do and of being alone. But I’m exhausted now and I have to go home. I’ll stay safe somehow. If I can’t I’ll have to go to A&E. I tried to get to the safe place I’ve been to before but they are full tonight.

Ginny xxx

The freedom of the sea

This weekend I went to visit family on the Sussex coast. I’ve wanted to do this for months and been battling with fears about the journey, being away from home, how my family would find being with me and how interactions would go. I’m so pleased this time I was able to do it, with the strength God gives and the care and support of my therapy group -and my family themselves.

As I cannot stand or walk for long at all at present, I was anxious about the journey and crossing London but it went as smoothly as I could ever have hoped.

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(Thanks to http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2014/04/03/photo-of-the-day-underground-overground-wombling-free/)

Sussex is a beautiful county. Here is just one of the lovely views we took in:

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I especially like being near the sea. It’s just 30 minutes or so from where my family live. The beaches tend to be more pebbles, rocks and shells than sand. I collected this simple stone from the beach a few years back. As well as serving as a paperweight, I like to use it as a grounding object. Something about the cool surface is soothing. It’s one of the items from my Rescue Box  though more often it’s beside me on the bookshelf rather than in the box.

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In Sussex it’s still quite easy to find peaceful areas of coastline where you can listen to the gulls over the chalk cliffs and the waves, feel the salty wind and run your hands over little stones smoothed and polished by their journey back and forth over the beach and in and out with each fresh tide.

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I love walking beside the sea. I’m not looking for the baking hot days for swimming and sunbathing – not that I’ve anything against that (and being in the water can actually bring me some relief from the pain)! I like being there and letting the sea calm me and assure me of the Presence of our loving Creator. The waves and the tide soothe me and tell me of a Heart much, much greater than mine and an eternal Spirit that speaks to each of us and whispers a hope unchanging, an order in the apparent chaos, whatever storms we are facing right now. In my journey at the moment I often feel very lost and overwhelmed, like one of the little pebbles on the beach tossing in the waves, sometimes scratched and roughly sanded against other stones, feeling very insignificant. But perhaps each motion of the waves in our lives is part of our preparation and refining, it smooths and polishes us to perfection, so we no longer resemble rough stones but bright and shining jewels that delight our beloved Jesus, who sets us right in the perfect place that He needs us to be.

Ginny xxx

 

 

Sorry for my absence this week….

Warning: this post mentions hallucinations, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, my distressing thoughts and voices and the darkness I’m feeling right now. If this may be distressing or triggering for you, please take care.

…. It has been a very bad week. I am sorry for not posting for a while. As I do not have the internet at home at the moment it’s difficult anyway. It has also been a really bad week. The hallucinations are growing / getting more frequent and it’s scary. I am so so tired and really wish I could escape and things all stop. I’m so scared and I wish someone were with me, I wish someone would hold me and tell me it would be alright although in my head it never, never is and I feel so stupid and needy and incompetent and childish and everything else for so much needing that right now. I feel so alone. It hurts but it’s numb as well. I really need to be able to talk to and see a friend but the only two people who live close by are just too busy, their lives too full and too difficult already and I know I would be everyone’s last choice to spend time with, kind as they are, and as much as they have given me. I cannot ask for more. Then the horrible monster inside me tells me that if I had a friend feeling like this and needing help I’d go to be with her straight away, why am I always alone and not allowed anyone? Then the guilt comes crashing back, how dare I be so childish and needy, greedy, ugly, disgusting, go on, get it out, cut and cut and scratch and vomit til you get it all out you sick revolting evil thing…

I want it to stop. I nearly ended it last night. There is really a limit somewhere and mine has been reached over and over again. It’s very dark right now.

I need to write and want to write and perhaps this will build some way to keep going.

Ginny xx

Lullaby for a stormy night #4 – Nana’s

I’m continuing my “Lullaby” series on finding places of safety, after something of an intermission – sorry.

The place I felt safest as a child was at my (maternal) grandmother’s – Nana’s. She was the only relative other than my parents with whom I had contact in my childhood, with the exception of a great aunt and her son who I saw on a couple of occasions, and a handful of more distant relatives on my mother’s side who I met at my grandmother’s funeral.

There is a photograph of me aged about 3 or 4, standing on the steps of our house, ready to go to Nana’s for my first night away from home. I am not sure how many times a year I would go to stay at Nana’s, but it was every so often, and until my mother’s first hospital admissions, I believe it was pretty much my only experience of a night away from home without my parents, with the exception of a rare couple of sleepovers at a playmate’s. I did not go to school at the normal age so did not experience school trips and the like.

When I was born, Nana lived in the countryside, but soon moved into a nearby town, and I clearly remember her bungalow, with its grass in the front, the driveway leading down to the neatly kept garden at the back, with flowers and a tiny vegetable plot tucked away in the corner, where she grew mint. I’m sure she grew plenty else but for some reason it’s the mint I remember. Perhaps that’s because when she was boiling new potatoes she’d let me run out to pluck a sprig to flavour them. I remember where she would hide the spare key (there was a rotation of useful plant pots and garden ornaments). I remember ringing the bell at the dark reddish wooden door and looking up and being intrigued by the cowls spinning on top of the roof and the fact that she didn’t have a chimney pot like ours. It’s strange the details that stay with you.

As I got a little older, I would spend two or three nights with her. The routine and stability was comforting and so different from home. I knew we would wake up a little before eight o’clock. I’d jump out of the big bed where I slept and run to “wake” Nana, who would be waiting for me. We’d make plans for the day, then I would help her to set out the table for breakfast with the delicate blue and white crockery, the toast rack, the Rowntrees lime marmalade, the Bran Flakes, the milk jug. I would have Bran Flakes then toast and marmalade. Nana would have Allbran, a banana, then toast and marmalade. Then the great decision had to be made as to whether we’d have our main meal for lunch or supper time.

We’d always wash up before we went out. (To this day I often remember her advice – you should always wash up before you go out. Otherwise if your house got broken in to and the police had to come round, it would look terribly messy. I think that if your house got broken into, it would probably look terribly messy anyway. Nevertheless, good habit I think!)

We’d go out and walk into the town.  This was a completely different experience from going into town with my mother. With my mother, it was preceded by a lengthy preparation of exactly where we would go, who we would see, what we (I) must say, what I must be careful to do and not to do in case anyone was watching; it was followed by an analysis of what had happened, what had been said, in particular my behaviour and numerous comments on how strange things or people we had seen were. With Nana it was fun and free of requirements and consequences. We would often stop to chat to people she knew, from her lawn bowls club, Church, or the hairdresser. Looking back she was clearly warmly thought of and much liked, and known in the local shops like the butcher’s, the optician, the grocer, the market. Even in one of the two supermarkets we frequented, many of the assistants would smile and greet her cheerily.

Often we’d go to the swimming pool (the Lido in the summer, where I learnt to swim, or the fantastic indoor pool in the winter, which had two huge water slides that were too scary for me to ride but fun to watch, a wave machine, a shallow end with bubbles for babies in armbands to bounce through, and the most enjoyable way of entering the pool, by walking down a sloping floor with painted tiles to reach the deeper water, rather as if you were walking into the sea. This was certainly much more fun than just climbing down a ladder and sliding in, as we did when I went with Dad to the pool near home.

Or we’d go to the park. Sometimes it would be the big park where there were plenty of ducks to feed (this was long before the signs telling us how bad bread is for ducks!), paths to follow, pine cones to collect, weeping willows to play under and a play park with a big silver slide. Sometimes it would be the amusement park nearer the bowling green, where there were swings and a see-saw.

We’d talk and chat constantly. She was so very patient and loving with me. I must have exhausted her as I really did chatter a lot as I relaxed and found her also relaxed and happy to listen. She must have been shattered when I went back home! How totally unaware of it I was at the time.

Sometimes I’d tell her about what I had been learning, but without the gripping fear of getting something wrong, at least unless she discussed things with my mother afterwards. Then I knew that there would be another of my mother’s analyses of everything I had said, questions and probing and why hadn’t I done this or said that, why had I given the impression I couldn’t do x, why was I pretending to be stupid…

We’d see the Warden who kept an eye on all the residents in the complex of retirement bungalows. Most mornings she would pop in for a chat and a cup of tea with Nana. The Warden had a sweet little dog called Pepper and we would take her for a walk sometimes. She was about the only dog I was not afraid of at that age. Pepper loved bouncing along on her lead but she thought she was a baby too and would let you hold her on her back in your arms and tickle her tummy.

Nana would tell me about everything from funny things that had happened when she was out shopping or at her bowls club, to what she had done when she was a medical volunteer in the War. We’d water the garden, do the housework and do the cooking (my mother always said that Nana was a bad cook but actually I think she was rather good). In the evenings we’d often watch some TV or one of Nana’s video tapes. The Sound of Music was my first introduction to musicals, and my favourite, closely followed by My Fair Lady. Poor Nana must have been quite fed up of playing those every time I came round, but in the tape went and we’d watch whilst we had a piece of fruitcake or a couple of digestive biscuits and a cup of tea.

Often I’d draw her pictures, or show her my ballet, dancing round the room to one of the cassette tapes she’d play. We’d look at her beautiful glass paperweights and treasures in her display cabinet. A pottery model of an elegant lady in a blue dress and yellow shawl fascinated me. When I was too young to pick it up myself, I’d ask Nana to show it to me, and she always would. There was a brass statue of a dancer which had once turned round and round when you wound up the base, although it had stopped working. I wanted to dance my ballet like that dancer. But Nana would look sad when I asked her about it and I dimly remember her saying that yes, it had got broken a long time ago, but it was very very special. I wonder who gave it to her.

Nana had lost many very dear people in her life, including a brother, a husband and two very close friends. She had suffered serious illness during the War years and nearly died. Just sometimes, when we were together I would glimpse something I did not understand and puzzled at, which I would now say were glimpses of hurt and loss. I do not recall her ever speaking in anger or frustration and very rarely did any sadness show. She was so warm and so calm all the time and in such contrast to my mother. I can only begin to think what I did not know about and what she very rarely ever let on. I don’t think she had surviving siblings (though we had so little contact with the rest of the family that this could be wrong) and I rarely recall her having conversation in depth with my mother, her only child, at least not without that desperate tension building up so quickly. She was there for me. I wonder who was there for her. She did clearly have many friends who were delighted to see her and I hope that she found good support.

Nana and I developed our own play world of make-believe. I’d make up stories to tell her and she loved to listen. I had a very strong imagination (I think it was more than an imagination, but that is for another post). I made up a family for myself, consisting of about five children for me to look after, giving them all names and personalities. Most of them I can’t clearly remember, though I do recall the eldest was called Amanda. She was well behaved and helped me look after her younger sisters.  I’d tell Nana stories about my made up “family” and often write them and draw pictures. Nana would listen so patiently again and really seemed interested and happy to hear about my stories. They’d make her laugh sometimes. I knew very well that it was all make-believe but I revelled in the fantasy play. From visit to visit we’d continue the story where we left off the last time and the “children” I invented would grow steadily older and change. It was a precious thing that I shared with her alone and never told my parents about. It served as a way to explore the ideas of family and children and caring roles and to play out some of the relationships I did not encounter in my real home life. I wonder where I got several of the ideas about caring for my “children”, because I wove into the stories many aspects that did not exist in my own home life, especially structure, security, routine and companionship. Perhaps I learnt a lot of it from Nana.

It was our world only. When Nana died, my mother found a lot of the pictures that I had drawn for her and stories I had written. I remember coming into Nana’s bedroom and finding my mother sitting on the side of her bed, going through the sheets of paper, reading every single one. I was hurt and angry beyond what I can explain. It was not for her. It was for Nana. It was our make believe. Desperately I did not want my mother to see it. I think I feared what would happen because she had. (And yes, it turned out I was right to – though she didn’t say anything to me at the time she did use it as more ammunition against me, a few weeks or months later, to claim that I was pretending and lying and punishing her.)

Looking back I am so touched that Nana cared enough to keep every one of the silly little stories and drawings. I’m astounded she cared that much to keep every one I gave her.

I am so very thankful for what we shared together and that I had this escape to the safety of her house for the few days at a time I would spend with her. I could be a child there. I was not bad there. I was not dangerous. I could please her and not do harm. I could trust her. I could speak. We could hold on to what we shared together and keep it special and I knew that I would find it again the next time that I went to be with her.

I sensed early on that my mother often did not get on well with her mother. Though there were barely ever big arguments between them, at least not in my presence, looking back I can tell that there was a massive amount of tension and I think I sensed this as a child also.

For reasons I still do not fully understand, my mother disliked more and more me going to stay at Nana’s. She was more and more tense, watching harder on the times when she was around at our house (which were becoming rarer still) or when I spoke to her on the telephone. She would quiz me deeper about what she had said, what I had said and why. She talked more and more about how she thought it was not good for me to go to stay with Nana and how she knew that really I did not like it and that it was okay to feel that and that I ought to go to stay with her much less and we’d cut right down the number of times I saw her.

I was terribly confused. I did like it! I loved it! I loved her! I wanted to go and stay with her and I wanted to stay longer and longer and it hurt more and more as I got older when it was time to come away. Because, the terrible thing inside me was that I did not want to come away. I did not want to go back to my mother. When I was older, I felt sick inside when I knew the end of my stay at Nana’s was coming, frightened and dreading returning to my mother. I learned to hide it although a couple of times I couldn’t and I cried and cried. I wanted to be at Nana’s. Not at home. Nana’s was safe. I was full of guilt. Now here was Mother saying that she knew I did not really want to go there and how much better it would be once I stopped having so much contact with her. Then it would all stop, wouldn’t it, and things would be okay again between us, she’d say. What was I to say?

I could not identify at the time the abuse that I was experiencing almost daily, much less tell anyone, or ask for help. All I knew was that it was me. My fault. I was the bad one really. Everyone else would think it was my mother, if anyone ever found out, if anyone ever saw, or heard. Nobody would think a child could be doing what I was. But really, she would know and I would know that it was me. She and my dad would be taken away and it would be all because of me really. What I was doing to her, how I was “demonstrating that I was damaged”, how I was “getting her back” and “punishing” her, she said… Oh yes, I was bad, I knew that clearly. When was it going to happen next? How could I stop it? And look, just in case I doubted how bad I was, I did not even want to be with my mother.

She said everything would stop if I agreed not to go to stay at Nana’s. So, I agreed. Because it seemed to be what I had to do to keep my mother safe, to stop the evil. I regret it so so so much that I ever agreed. With all the love that I had for Nana, everything she did for me, the protection that she gave me, how could I agree that? How could I have agreed that I would see her less? Pretend to agree that I did not want to go to stay? My mother’s control over me and my need to do what she wanted and please her and agree that her version of the world was true, was absolute. In no way does this take away my guilt. I still said it. I still agreed.

Looking back, I think Nana was often perplexed by things my mother did or said, or by what I reported to her she had done or said, or by things my mother said about me to her. In the same way as my father found a way to contain things and hold things down, I think she found her own way of relating to my mother to hold some kind of peace and prevent conflicts and try to repair and fill in the expanding cracks as my mother’s illness fragmented her world more and more away from reality.

I think Mother knew that the cracks were widening in the isolating insulation that she built around us in her illness. I think she knew Nana was realising and that instead of filling them in and papering them over, Nana would no longer accept at all the world my mother built, and it would collide hard with reality and it might crumble.

I wonder what would have happened if I had told Nana. I wonder what would have happened if I’d told Nana that Mother had said that but really, I wanted to be with her and didn’t want to leave. If I had kept telling her the things my mother said to me and did, the things that I think I realised even then, Nana was starting to realise were bizarre and wrong.  On the few occasions I was met with Nana’s confused questions about why Mother had done or said this or that I’d say that oh I must have got it wrong and yes it can’t have been like that. If I had spoken honestly instead of giving in, I wonder what would have happened and whether Mother would have got help sooner and whether my father would have been saved many, many years of pain and whether my relationship with Nana would have grown and I’d have been able to continue to love her and be with her and thank her, eventually, for every safety and security and love she gave to me.

 

I did not speak. I accepted my mother’s world only, and only her view of who and what I was. I agreed with what she wanted.

My idea of time is foggy then. Her illness intensified, stranger and more frightening things happened, she went into hospital… she would be absorbed for hours with paperwork and rather than the constant watching, she did not interact with me at all for large parts of the day… time stretched and slipped and my fantasy world grew stronger.

So I am not sure exactly, whether it was weeks or months or a year, but it was not very long after then that Nana died. I was taken to see her at the funeral home. I remember kissing a white rose to be laid with her so that it would take her my love. I remember looking at her and seeing that young as I was, it was not frightening at all, though I was shocked by the cold in the room.

It hurt so much.

Yet thinking back I think it seemed she was content, ready, and at peace. Though I could not have articulated it at the time, I think I knew that.

It hurt over and over through the very long period it took for her things to be sorted through and her bungalow to be got ready to be sold.  I remember crying alone and trying not to be found upset (though this clearly didn’t work) unable to share what I was feeling with my dad or even less my mother and the hurt and loss being mixed heavily with guilt. I was distraught at the loss all over again whilst very slowly the bungalow was emptied and when I left it for the last time. A part of the safe place and a part of what Nana gave me and what we had shared between the two of us, had remained there to the very end.

In my church, today is All Saints Day, when we remember and give thanks for our loved ones who have passed on ahead of us in the mercy and peace of God and are Saints in Heaven. We pray and give thanks for them and ask for their prayers for us, just as we may ask friends with us on earth to pray for us, since enjoying as they do the fullness of the peace and glory and unity with God in Heaven, all the stronger their prayers will be to assist us. So it is particularly fitting that I remember and thank Nana today. In fact, she was the first person who took me to a church and I vividly recall sitting beside her, singing the hymns, going up to the altar when she received Communion and the Priest blessing me. What I experienced receiving that blessing stays with me, a loving Presence, thought I cannot describe it properly. I believe that the first seeds of love were planted there which would later draw me safe to the Church and our loving Jesus.

I’m praying for everyone who has lost a loved one, who is hurting and in need of comfort and company, and for everyone who struggles with regrets. I’m praying you be encouraged and that hope can be held somewhere that it will be well.

Ginny xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Then again, if one door closes when another one opens, your house is probably haunted.

“When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Then again, if one door closes when another one opens, your house is probably haunted.

What a week of decisions and emotions rocketing out of control.

I resigned from my job on Wednesday. (My post “not working out” explains some of the reasons behind this.) It has to be one of the hardest decisions I have made and I can only begin to describe the feelings around it. It wasn’t a hastily made decision and came after months of trying to make things better and stay in my job. I am very sad because I had wanted to stay in that role for a long time. I wanted to be able to give back to the firm, to thank them for keeping me on after I was off sick with three hospital admissions at the end of last year and in January 2015 and for letting me come back part time (in principle at least). I owed them. Also as I am longing for some stability and security. Also because I had met two colleagues who were very special and I felt privileged to work with them, clicheed as that may sound. They were kind and compassionate and thinking and brought something much needed, special and rare to the team. I learned from them. I really hope we stay in touch.

Having said that, I do know I feel that this choice is going to be better for my health. I have had to leave jobs before, but it has been a question of giving up at the point I am totally exhausted and cannot cope anymore, my health is spiralling down (well that part still applies, I guess!) and have lost all hope and there just seems to be nothingness. This time, it doesn’t feel like nothing. Making this choice, I have borne in mind being able to be stable and being able to find a job I can sustain whilst also having some balance in my life – being able to do some work but also not being so utterly drained from coping with it that I can’t do anything else (I stop eating properly, can’t look after my home, don’t do housework, cut myself off and have even less contact with friends than I usually do, can’t manage my finances because I’m so vulnerable to giving in to impulsivity). I have also borne in mind being able to fully participate in the treatment programme I’m in at the moment – getting to appointments, being able to be present in them not having to keep part of me shut off because I will not be able to bear the pain of openness and exposure necessary to examine thoughts and emotions and relationships, if I am then to rush back to work afterwards and somehow keep it together.

Admitting my limitations and my fragility at the moment takes humility and trust in the support systems that are there at the hospital community team and willingness to make myself vulnerable in order to begin to learn. Knowing what I fear, what I love, what I care about, what I struggle with, what I feel, what I think; learning to understand what is in other people’s minds and hearts and how to be able to reach out and walk forward, to respond to what I feel from them without being terrified or crushed and without the spiralling storms of thoughts in my head obsessionally spinning, trying to prevent disaster…. This takes energy, hope and a space in which it is possible to be vulnerable but not crushed and somehow also hold on to hope despite knowing all I cannot, at the moment, do.

I feel so many things right now. The actual meeting on Wednesday was made much easier for me than I thought that it would be. I was surprised to encounter compassion I did not expect. I was pleased to find that there is someone who has come as a temp into my post and who seemed very calm and very nice, so I know that the team I used to work for do have secretarial help. I was very thankful to get to speak to two colleagues in particular – and I really, really hope that we will be able to stay in contact – and to leave a couple of notes. I was reassured to be able to “hand over” on a few points of work  to be assured that things will not be lost or forgotten (though as ever I’ve remembered so many more things I should have let people know – where things are kept, where things are up to, etc, etc!).

It was a very very hard day with the highest anxiety for a long length of time that I have experienced for a while. I cried a lot. I walked a lot, trying to stay out of the flat where I’d be alone, to at least be around people if not with anyone, because I would be less likely to crumple completely that way and give in to the self-destructive urges.

It was done.

And somehow I did get through that night to the next morning, even though it was one of those nights where I hurt so much it blacked out everything else. I know it sounds so terribly ridiculous writing this. So childish and stupid and self-centred and incapable. It is no disaster or tragedy and it is a very very little thing in the scheme of things. Everyone else will move on in an instant. Yet that is the reality of what these things are for me at the moment. I am ashamed afterwards and feel ridiculous thinking how much I felt it would be impossible for emotion to pass but at the time it is absolutely that complete and total that it as if a cloud or a wall has fallen over every other factor in my world, enclosing me in spiralling thoughts and plunging emotions and frightening voices.

***

I can’t really describe what I’m feeling now. After the meeting on Wednesday, more happened, which left me feeling further conflicted and intensifying the guilt I feel over leaving and that I really should have been able to keep doing it. I think these will have to wait for another post.

This week there were many little gifts too. I started applying for other jobs. It is incredibly fortunate that I came to my decision at the time that there is an abundance of Christmas work which gave me more hope of being able to find something, at least temporary. Trying to keep focus I took a deep breath and a lot of coffee (not at exactly the same time 😉 ) and redid my CV, walked round town to clock the job adverts in windows and shopping centres and made several applications. Thanks be to God that once I had got over the initial frozen feeling (which was a hard fight) it was not as awful as I had felt it would be.

My confidence is very low right now and I was so frightened walking in to shops to give my applications, actually physically feeling I was shaking. It was not helped by a couple of very difficult experiences. I went into one store to give in my application and went up to the two assistants who were chatting to each other. Instantly I felt incredibly intimidated and uncomfortable and that they thought I was ridiculous. Swallowing my feelings I spoke with the supervisor and handed in my application and she told me she would pass it on to her manager and I thanked her and turned to leave.  As I was walking out I am certain that she and her colleague burst into laughter and made comments about me. I was shaken, not least because instantly I did not know, had that actually happened? Had they actually laughed and teased or had I imagined it and heard it all in my head because I was so much expecting that to be what people would really think of me? I still have no answer. I am just trying not to think of it.

That one clearly was not going to go forward, but I did have some better news and was extremely surprised and thankful to be offered two interviews, including one for a sales assistant in a department store. The selection process was scary for me because after quite in-depth online testing it involved a group task assessment as well as individual assessment. Though I did not feel that I had done well and looking back, could see so many things I had done wrong and ways I should have responded differently – and again, so many ways people would see how stupid I am – I did also somehow manage to enjoy some of it and enjoy being with the people I met, which had to be a good sign, I thought. It suggested I would find some common ground with colleagues and be able to interact with them. It was interesting too. The managers who were present seemed supportive and one was even encouraging when I needed to discuss my health/disability needs – straight away she said that she thought it would certainly be possible to adjust my hours so that I could attend all my hospital appointments.

A couple of days later, I was absolutely astounded to receive a conditional offer! In a very hard week this was a very precious gift! Not least because this means that things will not be completely terrible financially in the next few weeks, though this is a major source of anxiety, both because I will be working fewer hours so managing with a much lower salary, and because in times of distress and anxiety I can be much less able to resist the impulsive urges that come as part of BPD, and one area in which I can be far far too impulsive and irresponsible is spending money.

I still cannot believe it and it does not seem real and I do not think I will quite dare to count on it until I actually get to my first day. I’ve been completing the final questionnaires and going through the health screen, which was much less uncomfortable than I had expected – I’ll post about that another day soon because it certainly was food for thought – and was passed fit with a couple of suggested “reasonable adjustments”.

I thank the Lord for this opportunity. Yet again, it is a situation I did not think I would be in, which I really did not want to come to. Something I really counted on – being able to have a little bit of trust that I could do my work and do a good job and try to please and help people – was taken away and even seemed never to have been real, when I discovered how poorly everyone thought I was performing and how little they thought I could cope. But there is a better way forward being illuminated bit by bit and right now (since this is a moment of relative rationality!) I can remember that we may not be where we planned to be, but we are right where God needs us to be.

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” I hope it will be a French window because otherwise it’ll be a bit tricky to walk through, not that I’d complain at this point.

Ginny xx

(Title – first line from “The Sound of Music”; second line adapted from a funny meme someone sent me a while back – I am not sure whose was the original idea.)

Not working out….

“I shudder to think what the state of my in-tray would be if I was away from work for five days!”

“Yes, someone might slip dragon dung in it again, eh?” said Fred.

“That was a sample of fertilizer from Norway!” said Percy. “It was nothing personal!”

(JK Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”)

 

Well, I haven’t found any dragon dung yet, but I certainly have been having problems with my in-tray.  It has really not been a good few months at work and now everything has finally come crashing down.

All my life I’ve found a kind of escape in work.  As a primary school age child, I was taught at home by my mother who suffered severe mental illness.  Achievement, excelling and perfection was of such importance to her and the only way to avoid her accusations, threats, shouting, violent distress, which would erupt when I could not do something or did not do as she wanted. It was the only way to be safe by avoiding this explosion and avoiding the harm I appeared to cause, escaping the danger and catastrophes I believed would ensue or did ensue. (This probably warrants another post at some point.)

When I went to secondary school, I physically escaped her illness for a portion of the day. Soon I worked out that if I stayed at school as long as possible (extra clubs, volunteering, staying on to do some of my homework at school rather than going straight home at the end of the day of classes) I could escape for longer. Working in my bedroom in the evenings was preferable to staying under her intense gaze, or risking conflict if I was around her. Being used to the need for excellence, I worked as hard as I could, so though I was nothing particularly special or noteworthy I got good marks by virtue of the time I put in, and this too was “safe”. It secured her approval too sometimes.

I continued to work as hard as I could and give my all in every job I’ve had.  Perhaps it’s something that comes fairly naturally to me in my character.  If so it’s a gift I am thankful for.  It is very important to me to do a good job, give my best, serve the people I am working for properly, offer my work in prayer and dedication.

It has been a way to escape from the noise in my head, the hollow emptiness and uncertainty, flashbacks and panic attacks. Focussing on work takes me away from myself, to look outside and to others, to keep my concentration on the task in hand. Although I have never had much self-confidence, I have gradually learnt there are some areas I have some strengths and where, even if I may never be satisfied, my managers at times do seem to be. So whereas pervading most areas of my life I have suffocating fears that I am going to hurt someone, that I’m bad inside really, at work at least I can hope objectively to do some good, give a good service, help someone.

All that has come crashing down in the last few weeks. I’ve been on a phased return to work since I was last off sick after being in hospital.  I’d got up to about 4 days, to accommodate therapy appointments at hospital.  For several months the pressure of the workload seemed to be increasing.  I was getting more and more stressed and though it was agreed in principle for me to go to my appointments, there was not any support in terms of managing the workload or anyone covering during my absence, so work built up, causing more stress for me and more anger from my managers.  I tried to address this, together with the general atmosphere, which was becoming more and more uncomfortable and hostile.  I did manage to have a few brief discussions with managers and was never told that there was a problem with my work and my appraisal earlier in the year was, to my surprise, good as well.

A month or so ago the pressure built up to a point I could not cope with and I insisted that something needed to change.  At this point, I was told that there is not much on, it is not busy, nothing much is expected of me, everyone knows I cannot cope with the work, and people hold back giving me work because they know I can’t cope with it. The fact I do extra hours was used as a fact to support the idea I cannot cope with the work because it shows I can’t get the work done in the standard working hours (whilst I would say there was simply too much work to get through).

There were many other things said that were very upsetting which I won’t go in to here, partly because I don’t want to say anything directly identifiable to my employer.

But basically, I was told that I’m rubbish and I cannot cope with the job an don’t get through the work, and that I am not providing the kind of service that I am supposed to because people know I won’t be able to cope with it.

So many feelings went and are still going through my head over this.  Partly anger and shock, because I had found that it was busy and was giving everything I good even to the detriment of my health.  This was so contradictory to all the feedback I’d had before – why? Then fear and anxiety. I didn’t even know I was doing so badly or that people were so unhappy with me.  I mean, I knew they were unhappy with me, and thought they think I’m stupid and don’t do what they want quickly enough, but I hadn’t realised how incompetent I actually was.  It’s even worse that I did not realise how bad I was, because I fear so much in my life that there is something horrible and bad in me which I’m not aware of and can’t control, which hurts people and I don’t even realise it, means that my family even can’t stand to be around me.

I had hoped work was one area in which I could do some good but now this is gone too.  It was what I was clinging on to and trying to keep going.  Even though I could see in a way it was doing no good to me because I was so stressed and couldn’t cope with other areas of my life at the same time (not looking after my flat, not cooking, getting mixed up over bills, so drained I did not socialise with anyone outside of work).

I know that my concentration is not good, that I dissociate for periods of time and lose track of time when I am stressed and very upset.  I know I do not work as quickly as I used to.  I didn’t realise the extent of the effect it was having.  That I can’t do my job.  That my perception of the situation should be so different from other people’s – I thought I was giving everything, I thought there was pressure, when other people are saying there is no pressure, it isn’t busy, and I can’t do it. That is frightening to me.  According to my therapist, a disconnect between one’s own experiences and other people’s, and a difficulty dealing with this, or dealing with situations in which our emotions and feelings are different from others’, is common in personality disorders.

I don’t know where I go from here.  I called a couple of advice lines and they told me that possibly I have some case to say that more could have been done to support me, with more “reasonable adjustments” at work.  I looked into this and wrote down a case around this but I couldn’t go forward with it in the end.  I doubt my own perceptions and feelings too much and even writing it for myself, I felt like a complete fraud, that I’ve invented everything and the problems lie all with me not my employer.  The voices in my head are telling me I’m nasty, disgusting, invented it, liar, fake, you’ve invented a story to accuse people of things… I just cannot cope with that and know how much more intense it would be if I actually tried to put anything in. Crazy, I know, but that’s what goes on in my head.  I’m scared in the end that I’m just bad and evil and greedy inside.

In the end, my employer has told me I’m not coping with the job and not competent and I think I’ll probably be dismissed.  Even if not my GP and specialist have told me it’s too stressful an environment.  I need to get out of this role and do something less pressured and stressful and where I can engage in the therapy I’m doing at the minute, get to appointments and get support. I agree with them.  Even if I am dismissed or do have to take the decision to leave, the one good thing I can see is that at least I am choosing to try to do something to put my health first, for the first time. Not admitting what I need to do in the past has just led to things getting worse and worse.

But it’s scary right now. I’m signed off sick at the moment. I feel empty and frightened and anxious all at once and there’s too much space for the spiralling thoughts and fears in my head.  I’m trying to focus on positive and creative things. I don’t know how to trust myself at all because even in the last things that I trusted I could do properly, it seems actually I wasn’t doing a good job at all, and everyone except me knew it. So many jobs have ended in the past  and I so want to find something that is sustainable but where I can engage with my therapy as well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on work if you’d like to share them. Is work a good experience or a bad one for you? What kind of work you find is good for you and something where you can give your skills and abilities? If you find part time work is helpful and how much flexibility you find employers can give to be able to go to therapy appointments as well as working?

It seems like a very anxious and uncertain path at the moment.

Ginny xx

Starting out

(I would be grateful if you would please read “About” before reading this, or any other post)

It has taken a long time to come to this point.  The idea of starting some form of blog has taken shape over several months.  Writing, on and off, has been an important part of thinking, processing experiences and emotions, praying, reflecting, sometimes reaching out to people, keeping in touch (sometimes when anything else is too frightening), building relationships.  Sometimes just a way to walk through the frighteningly frantic thought processes that spin round and round.

I’ve also hoped that somehow I may be able to bring something from my experiences that helps someone else.  I firmly believe that everything we experience, however bad, in some way eventually increases our understanding of the world, of others; increases our ability to empathise and love.  (Yes, I can say that now, because today I have some degree of calm… the next time, whenever it be, that I am in the midst of the terror and anxiety it will probably be impossible to comprehend this hope, but somewhere, very faintly, it remains, and I am thankful for that.)

So I guess I hope this blog may bring together the purposes writing serves in my life and the hope to help someone and to share with others experiences.

It is hard to know what is helpful, or interesting, to others – not least because I don’t know who will visit these pages and what they may need or feel.  Therefore, though I do deeply hope this site will bring about some good and help for others, I need to be clear that it’s a personal experience, a personal story. I am not clinically trained. I am not a doctor or counsellor. My knowledge of the conditions and issues I discuss here comes from my experience of my own life, the life of people close to me, the services I’ve come into contact with and the therapies I have participated / am participating in (also, some little experience of working in support roles in psychiatric healthcare settings and as a volunteer).

I also think I need to make clear that some of what I share here will be painful, because the reality of what I’m going through is painful. It is frightening, often feels out of control, often feels hopeless, often all I can see is dark and bad. Equally, there are surprising moments of encouragement, which are surprisingly easy to forget when the next stage in the struggle comes, and I hope to be able to explore those too, and genuinely be thankful.

It seems to me that a strong feature in Borderline Personality Disorder is that feelings become so very intensely consuming and real that they can block out all other truth and experience and in the midst of them, it can be impossible to know anything else, no matter how much the “else” is otherwise important to us, central to our lives.  Then, despite how absolute they seem, these feelings change so fast.  This does not mean they were not genuine at the time but can be very hard for me, and anyone around me, to understand.  Perhaps this means that what I express here will also be hard for anyone to understand at times.  If so I hope you’ll tell me.

And finally, I really am thankful to people who take the time and interest to visit here. I’d like to know what you think, for you to ask questions, or share your own experiences.

This journey is in no way the course I thought my life would take and I did not choose it. And I cannot see far ahead.  Perhaps that is a good thing in some ways – though I may want to, often the little I do see of the path frightens me because it seems insurmountable.  Yet I hope that this blog is one way that it can be a fruitful path and a shared one, and a way to keep taking just one step more.

Thank you.

Ginny x +