Tag: self-soothing

Fear, tears, pain, joy, guilt, thankful, anger, strength, shaken…

The emotions are crashing over me now. They stayed temporarily a little distant in the activity of yesterday afternoon and today. Now the activity has stopped. The rush of mixed experiences of the past week is temporarily still. I am physically utterly exhausted, shaky and hurting and it’s all I can do to get across the room. Sitting I feel like I’m being crushed. I’m cold and my chest aches deeply. I’m curled up in my dressing gown and blanket, needing all the comfort and grounding I can get. I feel childish and guilty for saying that, because I have no right to – what have I been through that’s so bad? – but it is true.

There’s so much to take in right now.

Intense waves of scary emotions jolted me through the week, especially fear and anxiety I cannot attribute to a logical cause that was there at the time. On reflection perhaps it was an emotional flashback to earlier times and threats, both distant (childhood) and more recent.

The hallucinations strengthened – auditory, visual, sensory – and scared me more.

My escape imaginary world was closer than ever and its pull stronger than ever.

Anger is raging and rising uncontrollably in me against my stepmother. All at once I feel huge guilt, fear, hurt, rage, the need to express what I feel and the impossibility and danger of ever actually doing so.

It’s feeding anger against my dad again; then against both of them together.

More memories of specific painful derogatory, demeaning, restricting, humiliating things my abuser did have been coming to the fore, along with memories of how her abusive power was perpetuated, and then in turn, more thoughts of how it feels – and this is so scary to write – similar patterns still repeat in my family. I need to get away from that.

It was goodbye to a friend in my therapy group for whom I care very very much. I’m still crying for her.

Another member of my therapy group to whom I also feel a particular connection, has suffered an unimaginable avalanche of hurts, struggles and illnesses. Now, he has been diagnosed with cancer which is likely to be late stage. The end of his life could be close. I’m crying for him.

Today was a special day. I had a little coffee morning to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support (part of the “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” Macmillan run nationally). It is the first time I have ever done an event like this at home (following on from the courage I gained from having had some close friends over for my birthday earlier in the year). My anxiety was huge. I put as much as I could into the preparations. Good things happened today. My guests’ care and kindness was wonderful. This fills me up with gratitude.

So here I am now, afterwards, with this whole mix of soaring emotions. All of them I need to face and there is a lot of work for me to do. My individual therapy is tomorrow and I’m so glad. When the emotions are too much, every so often, I’m going to try to return to the thankfulness for today and remember everyone’s enjoyment and generosity. Somehow, this just a little restorative.

Ginny xxx

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Walking this Borderland #13: Tangled!

(For an explanation of the intention of this series please click HERE. )

In learning to sit with different emotional states, I’ve discovered that tactile, sensory experiences are important for me. I find warmth, softness, different textures, tastes and so on soothing and a major way of soothing and coping with anxiety and distress. Creativity and surrounding myself with an environment that feels safe and contains pleasant sensory experiences is a necessary part of staying stable and well for me. 

It’s not surprising then that I find certain objects are good for aiding self-soothing. One habit I fall into when I’m anxious, upset or emotionally uncomfortable is scratching and pulling at the skin on my arms, hands and sometimes face. Often, until it starts to bleed this is an unconscious thing, though it can also be something I’m aware of but irresistibly compelled to do in response to psychotic thoughts about evil inside me or mental images of having to cut things out of me.

Meet my new toy – it’s a Tangle.

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The Tangle is a bendy, twisty, small plastic form, made of lots of smaller sections connected together so it can be stretched out, bunched up, wrapped round and twisted into different shapes between your fingers. It has a smooth, pleasing texture. It’s very light and little, easily fitting in your pocket or bag. I’ve started carrying this with me and in times I’m likely to start scratching – when I’m waiting for something or when I’m nervous, for example – I hold the Tangle and fiddle with it. So far it has worked well to reduce the unconscious scratching.

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I’m sure no end of other objects would also serve this purpose and I also use a special pebble and a tiny stuffed animal toy for similar purposes.

Now, on the subject of Tangled, here’s another kind of “Tangled” – one of my goddaughter’s favorite Disney songs (from the movie of that name) which I have to admit is quite uplifting, for all it may be cheesy. We all need a bit of happiness sometimes and this scene is quite magical.

Ginny xxx

“At last I’ve seen the light” from Disney’s musical “Tangled” sung by  Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

Bob and me and why couldn’t I say “no”?

WARNING: this post contains a passing mention of self-harm thoughts and a very brief generalised mention of abusive relationships

I’m sorry for this ramble that isn’t necessarily of interest to anyone. I really have to get this out and there’s nobody I can talk to. Kinda wish I could call someone but I don’t want to be totally needy and a burden on people.

It’s Friday tomorrow, which means group therapy. I’m really nervous. It’s the first group therapy for about 3 weeks following the summer therapy break. After the last therapy break (over Christmas) I found it hard to engage with the group again, stay present to mentalise and keep safe between sessions. The main reason I’m nervous this time is something that has happened between me and someone else in the group. Let’s call him Bob. I know that what happened is going to be talked about in group (because I talked it over in my 1:1 session earlier this week and my therapist told me it also needs to be discussed in group).

There’s a rule that group members should not have contact outside the group. It’s accepted that chance meetings happen or that we may see each other when attending the same hospital or GP Surgery  or other places and we aren’t expected to ignore each other if this happens, but we are not supposed to arrange meetings. One reason for this is that we should not discuss what happens in group outside group where not all the members are present. In particular we should not talk about other group members and if group members felt they or their issues were being talked about, this could be very upsetting and damage trust between group members.

“Bob” and I sometimes bump into each other because we tend to head off in the same direction after group. We sometimes bump into each other in the supermarket or in town because sometimes we go to the same church. Small world and all that. At these times we’ve chatted and I never felt that was wrong. This has happened with other group members too; we’ve discussed it in group and everyone has felt that it’s okay when that happens. Some members live quite near to each other so it’s somewhat inevitable.

In early June, I talked a bit more to Bob whilst we were in the waiting room before group started, because he was going through some practical problems that I had also had experience of and I was glad to be able to suggest a couple of sources of support for him. Then Bob asked me to meet him for a drink. It was his birthday and I knew that he does not have any friends locally and had been through a rough time. Straight away I didn’t feel comfortable with this. It was breaking the group rule. It could be breaking other members’ trust. I felt this was different from all the previous times Bob and I had talked, because this wasn’t a question of bumping into each other or waiting in the same room together for appointments; it was going out of the way to arrange a meeting. I was straight away nervous about why he was asking me. Plus going for a drink with anyone is hard for me, especially someone I don’t really know very much. Crowded places and lots of unknowns are difficult for me, raising my anxiety. I didn’t want to say yes. But I was completely unable to say no. I knew he would feel hurt and rejected and upset. I would be being nasty and rude. There was just no way in my head I could say the “no” I wanted to.

[I’m scared…]

Instead, I agreed but gave the proviso that it definitely be a one-off, just for a drink because it was his birthday. I also said that I wanted to be very, very clear that this was as friends. I have a lot of issues of my own and I do not find relationships of any kind easy. I am not looking for anything more than friends and I would not be able to give to that kind of relationship what I would want to. I said I felt silly and awkward saying that but just to make sure there can’t be any confusion I wanted to say it outright. Bob said he totally understood that and he felt the same.

So we met for a drink one afternoon. Well, that was the agreement, I thought. Except that Bob made it dinner, one evening, at a restaurant. And he insisted on paying for me. And it wasn’t a one-off, because from there Bob contacted me more and more. He wanted to meet again and again. He told me more and more that he had been thinking about me and praying for me and that he thought I was a very special person. And every time, I didn’t want to. I wanted to say no. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. And we met again, then another time, then another.

[I’m so scared even writing this. I feel I can’t breathe. I’m twisted up inside. Why?]

I couldn’t say no but I hoped it would stop. I tried to say. I said I was worried for both of us – that we’d get worried about the other and not be able to tell anyone, that we’d share things that we really needed to talk about (in group or with our therapist) and we wouldn’t be able to, that I wanted to share our meeting with the group, that I didn’t think we needed to hide it, that I thought he was trusting me and thinking of me differently from everyone else in the group and that could be damaging, that he was sharing things with me and not with the group and that could be bad for him (and the group)… I said these things, I think. Yet I let them be quickly brushed aside. Bob wasn’t dismissive. He wasn’t typically pushy or crass. Somehow though, I let my concerns be put away by what he said in response and I didn’t follow them through.

It was evident he cared for me very much and thought well of me. A lot of it seemed to be true Christian care and prayer and friendship. However, I knew it went beyond that. If someone cares for me, it frightens me. Bob would say in group that he had been thinking about me and it scared me there too. I wasn’t the only person he’d say it about but he seemed to say it about me more than about others. I know I get scared about this kind of thing and it makes it hard to know (or hard to trust myself when I think I know) if the other person is caring about me in a normal way or if something is unusual.

Scared turned to terrified when he seemed to care for me obsessionally. It sounds wrong to say that. It sounds like he did something wrong. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t force me. He did nothing wrong. That’s what makes this harder. He did nothing wrong and he is not a nasty person and he is a kind, caring, generous, Christian man. But his contact became more intense. Even how he looked at me. He’d watch me so intently. He’d comment on tiny things in my appearance and say he couldn’t get over them. He made a few comments that freaked me out, like that he couldn’t resist me if I had long hair, things about wanting cuddles, that I shouldn’t let my father know his age [Bob is substantially older than me but – what??!!]… I wanted to run. His texts got more frequent. Several times within an hour at the end. I knew I could not be what he thought I was and couldn’t give him what he needed.

In the end I was scared enough that he was obsessed with me that I stopped it. I checked out my feelings searching online to see if people can be obsessed with other people and if this happens in relationships, knowing the answer really but having to check out whether it is something bad and whether it can lead to worse – because I couldn’t trust myself. Partly because he really was being so “nice” and not doing anything wrong. As well, I was scared he was telling me things that he wasn’t telling the group. I was trying to encourage him to tell the therapists and tell the group. I knew too much about pressure he was under and danger he could be in and help he might need. I knew it wouldn’t be safe for either of us. I felt that whenever I ended it or whether I just let it carry on, I would end up letting him down and not being what he so much thought I was and he would get hurt and the longer it went on the worse it would be.

I couldn’t trust myself. I felt so strongly that there was a sexual or at least physical attraction undercurrent, that he was attracted to me, that he wanted more and wanted me to be something I never can be to him, that he was becoming what felt like obsessed with me. It is so obvious to me now and it scares me now and scared me then but for so long I couldn’t trust this instinct and end the relationship.

[I want so badly to cut. I won’t. I won’t. I am determined to sit with this and try to stay present to feel in group tomorrow and not numb everything down by self-harming.]

Though I was scared I don’t think he knew it. I don’t think he knew I was uncomfortable because I said nothing and pursued none of my objections. Actually, I was dishonest with him, in sharing time with him but actually wanting to get away whilst he thought we had a connection, or were sharing something important. I feel so guilty for that. But then, we did share something. We are both Christian and we spoke often of God and hope and mercy and that is something I cannot share so fully with many people. It’s something I don’t really talk about in group, not yet anyway, and it’s a different kind of conversation. Genuinely we did share that and it was good. It’s not black and white and I don’t blame him and he did not do anything bad or wrong.

I know a lot of my fear and my feelings came from triggers in our conversations and relationship which probably would not have been triggers to anyone else. To the next person perhaps it would have been easily passed off or nothing important. For me there were so many triggers to my emotions and behaviour that reminded me of when I was being abused. That sounds terrible to say. It makes it sound like he manipulated or took advantage of me. All he did was kind. Apart from me not wanting it and feeling we were deceiving people and feeling scared. He didn’t know. But it’s how I felt. I started behaving and thinking like I did in the abusive relationship. It’s why I couldn’t say no. It’s why my feelings totally disappeared for me in the sense that I dismissed them all and followed only what his feelings and his needs seemed to be. It’s why I couldn’t say no, couldn’t trust what I felt, wanted to run but it was utterly impossible to do anything about it. I fell into the same patterns of watching and silence and trying to get it right, perceive his needs and his emotions correctly, trying to save him and keep him from danger. His obsession with me and his need for me reminded me – in my emotions if not in facts – of the abuse too. When my abuser wasn’t threatening me she was attributing bizarre powers to me, largely perhaps stemming from her own delusions (or perhaps it was all part of the plan of the abuse), powers I did not have, powers that I was to have because I was born at a particular time because she had planned it for a reason; she’d watch me obsessionally and intently, she’d have me keep secrets… I ended up emotionally right back there when Bob talked about how good I am, how he thought about me, how important it was we shared these conversations separate from the group, how it should not be shared with anyone in group because that would get too complicated, when he so intensely contacted me and needed me.

When I did finally end it, I told the service because I was so afraid what Bob would do. I am not so arrogant that I think contact with me can matter that much to anyone, but I was sure that he’d interpret me ending our contact as total betrayal and breach of trust. I know those kind of feelings put him in danger, because of what he’s discussed with me both in group and outside. I didn’t want him to know I was scared, because of a particular thing he shared in group once. I thought for days about how to do it. I told the PD Service right away that I’d ended it and told them I thought he’d be in danger. If the service hadn’t been there and I hadn’t believed they could try to keep him safe, I would not have dared to end things.

I’m scared for group tomorrow. What’s going to happen. How it’s going to affect Bob when we have to talk about it. If I admit I wanted to stop the meetings, or that I had worries, it makes it sound like he forced me. He didn’t do anything to force me. So many times I could and should have said no. But I have to be honest. I’m scared how what’s happened will affect other people in the group and what they’ll feel. They may be hurt, they may feel betrayed, angry that rules have been broken and trust has been broken, they may think we were trying to do something in secret to exclude them. I think everyone will lose trust. I don’t know what Bob feels about it being discussed in group and I don’t really know what he feels about me having ended contact. I told him that I had told the service, but I don’t know what he feels really. I just feel so sure he feels totally betrayed. I’m scared he mightn’t come back to group. I’m mainly scared about him and about the rest of the group and how they’ll feel but I’m also scared how unable I was to act on my feelings and say no.

My head is imploding with all these feelings. Maybe I’ve really turned the proverbial molehill into a mountain but for some reason this whole situation is leading to really strong unbearable feelings for me. I’m fighting so so hard not to self-harm tonight. I’ve been trying self-soothing, trying to do creative things, trying to do practical things, hot drinks, texting a friend about something else, trying to take the focus away from the emotion and away from myself. Then I wrote this. In a minute I’m going to try a weird approach that just occurred to me – I’m feeling totally nervous and wound up so maybe if I watch a DVD that makes me just a little bit on edge and in suspense it’ll give another direction for the feelings and get some of them out. Not sure how that’ll go down and it’s just a thought that occurred to me, but here goes! A couple of episodes of Grimm should do nicely.

Ginny xxx

All change…

Officially, my last day of work at the department store was yesterday, although as I am currently signed off sick, I was not actually in work. Last week I had my exit meeting with my manager (handing back my ID and keys etc) and said goodbye to my closest colleagues. I’ll be popping in again this week to say bye in person to a few people I was not able to see, and deliver some notes of thanks. They gave me a reed diffuser in a summery freesia scent, which is already providing a perfect calming aroma in my lounge, as well as a card wishing me well. I hope that I keep in touch, in particular with a few people from the department where I worked. We found a lot in common in the months I was there.

So it’s all change again now. I’m sad to leave. I’ll miss people – colleagues and some customers. I’ll miss the creativity. I’ll miss some aspects of the routine and order. I feel bad for having to go after I’d got to grips with things, received training and my colleagues and manager had put time in to show me what to do and support me into my role. They are all incredibly understanding and caring over my situation that has led me to need to leave and that helped me a lot; I still feel bad for leaving the team and leaving more work back on other people. I guess the good side of that is I must have had some confidence, in the end, that whilst I was there I did manage to do some good. Before I started this job I felt utterly useless, unable to trust that I could do any good because my previous employer seemed to find me so deficient. I see now that at the store I gained a tiny bit of confidence, as well as knowledge.

I’m amazingly anxious and I’m not quite sure why. I’m feeling it physically and feeling shaken and near crumbling and crying and really wishing someone could hold me and tell me it would be alright. I don’t know exactly what is causing this. I’m teetering on the edge of dissociating but I’m staying on this fragile edge instead of slipping over. On the edge are raw and exhausting emotions and I’m spinning and spiralling rather than falling into the safety in the hidden mist of dissociating. It’s painful. I’m trying to use my grounding techniques and self soothing and trying, if only in tiny moments, to avoid falling over that edge. Dissociating may be a relief but the pain it causes me afterwards, and others during, is even worse.

I’m trying to find the way through the next steps now that I will not be working for a while (on my GP’ s and support worker’s and others’ advice). I’m confused about all the forms I have to complete and assessments I have to go through. I’m scared of how they’ll judge me. Scared of whether I’ll manage financially. Scared of so many things that are making me feel trapped, not believed, going into the unknown…. I’m so thankful I have my support worker guiding me through, otherwise I’d implode and go back to shutting down and hurting myself out of fear and pain and flashbacks. I’m so thankful I’m not alone. I’m trying to find ways that this instance of having to leave work – because I’ve lost or head to leave more jobs than I can cope with counting, for the same reasons every time – is not yet another repeat of this cycle and is not only another failure, loss, or let down to those who have tried to help me. I’m trying to find ways I can make this different. I have therapy now. I have my doctors and support worker. I have a home. God willing I am soon going to have some more social interaction and a place to contribute something, in a mental health charity I’ve been referred to. These all count for a lot in stopping me going so deep over the edge and now I pray I can build something good from this place.

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #11: ice and lemon?

[Warning: the last 2 paragraphs under the *** contain discussion of self harm]

I know I’ve banged on about this technique elsewhere  in this blog but I just realised it may be a useful tip to add to the collection of coping strategies I’m trying to build up  in this Borderland series. Also, last week I learnt another similar very effective tip which I’d like to share. Thank you for bearing with me through the first two paragraphs if you’ve read my previous posts mentioning this topic.

In Borderline, regulation of emotions is difficult. States of emotional arousal shift quickly. Emotions and the intensity with which they are experienced can change rapidly and yet quickly become all consuming. The instability doesn’t make the emotions less real. Emotions may rise more quickly than they do in people without Borderline PD and stay at the higher level for longer. Equally, those of us with Borderline may suddenly enter emotionally numb or cut off states.

Both extremes can be dangerous, in my experience. Both can quickly tip into dangerous impulsivity, recklessbehaviour and decisions, self harm, suicidal intentions, explosive emotions and higher and higher states of distress. In either state we can’t explore our feelings and thoughts or other people’s feelings and intentions. Most coping strategies or systems of value that keep us strong, or protective factors like caring about other people, or religious faith or other beliefs that give us hope, become inaccessible in these states.

We need something that changes or emotional state so that we are able to reach again for these strengths and beliefs and strategies. One thing that can do this is giving the body a (non harmful) shock or surprise. We can only experience a certain number of sensations at once. A sudden strong physical sensation can serve enough to slightly bring our emotions away from the extreme. Once our emotions are coming away from the extreme, and only then, can we access other thought processes and coping strategies such as self soothing or the rescue box.

My top two ways to create this shift are as follows:

  • Lemon juice: lemon juice is a sharp sour taste. Take a couple of mouthfuls of neat lemon juice. You can even keep a small container of lemon juice in your bag when you’re out (easily available in supermarkets, eg the plastic “Jif” lemons).
  • Instant ice packs: I just discovered these! A really helpful nurse have me one when I was getting panicky in hospital last week after my op. I find this more effective and more practical than holding ice cubes, which is another alternative. Instant ice packs are really small and light, containing little crystals which activate to become cold when you squeeze and shake the packet. The tactile aspect is another helpful distraction too. I’m going to try to get some more. They appear to be available online from about 50p each, though I haven’t tried and tested any sources yet.

It sounds crazy, but the sudden ice and lemon shock does work. (Note to self, don’t follow the ice and lemon with the gin every time 😉 ! Remember to stick to Cola. Joke. No offence intended.)

Other potential ways of achieving the same effect include chewing small pieces of chilli (not too much and make sure you aren’t allergic first!), putting mustard on your tongue, or putting your head under a cold shower. The lemon and the ice are just the ones that work best for me and that I find most practical. I can use them even when I’m out or away from home.

This isn’t intended to be a long term solution but a short term way to keep safe and regain some stability. After you’ve used one of these techniques, you may then find you’re in a position to use other coping strategies once your level of distress is reduced (self soothing or mentalisation, for instance).

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Incidentally, I wonder if there’s ever a link between why these techniques work and the drive to self harm. I say this with caution because it’s a sensitive and painful thing and what drives someone to self harm will be different for each person. For me, sometimes there’s pain, loss, need, anger, or self hate, or needing to hurt myself so I don’t hurt anyone else, or needing the physical pain to numb and quiet the noise in my head and voices, or to know what the physical pain will almost faithfully be as it stills some of the much more unbearable mental pain for just a little while. For the next person it’ll be different.

One CPN I talked to describes the ice pack and lemon type techniques as safe self-harm. It’s a shock, a not pleasant, over powering physical sensation. Personally I don’t see it as similar to self harm or at all a way of self harming safely. Nor do I think it has in itself directly reduced my self harming. I don’t think it’s yet something I could do to avoid self harming once I’m at the point I’m about to self harm, although perhaps it does stop me reaching that point in the first place. However I think perhaps I see some of the point the nurse was making, in that the ice or lemon shock serves to still and control the emotion a little bit. Maybe part of why I started to self harm was needing to control unbearable emotion.

Anyhow.  When life gives you lemons, as the saying goes. …

Ginny xxx

 

Mixed up

It’s a night of confusing feelings. It felt like a strange day from the start as group therapy was cancelled. Tonight I keep nearly crying for no reason. My chest hurts. Feels like there’s a weight under my ribs. Anxiety? I don’t know. I just want a hug.

It wasn’t all bad today. Actually there was a lot of good. I met my friend for coffee. She has a beautiful baby girl, six months old. Baby was in the mood for cuddles, despite not having seen me for a couple of months, and giggled away in my arms. Being loved and trusted by her just made me really happy. With a little baby there’s no room for the second guessing and doubting that comes into all my other relationships (like the voices telling me they can’t stand me really even if they pretend to like me and finding proof all too easily of how bad I’m sure they think I am). With a baby it’s open emotion that I don’t doubt.

It was good to talk to my friend and I realised how much I miss her. She’s special, very astute and empathic and reflective. She is really supportive to me and still so through the fulness of her own life as a mum when she has do many demands and many people might understandably lose touch or be less “present” for friends.

We talked some about how I feel really unhappy with the hospital at the moment. On the way to meet her I’d had another upsetting phonecall with the hospital which I won’t bore you with detailing right now. Talking helped at the time for a little while and stopped me losing it but soon after the crashing guilt hit me, that I shouldn’t have said anything and shouldn’t moan and it’s my fault anyway and that I took up her time and took over the conversation; although I really tried not to and tried to turn the conversation back to her quickly, I worry what if it did. I’m trying to trust she meant it when she said she enjoyed meeting.

Through the afternoon spikes of anger kept hitting me about the phonecall. I kept actively choosing to do things other than self-harm, which did have the one positive effect that I cleaned my flat as distraction!

This evening I made a card for my colleague B’s golden wedding anniversary. Tomorrow evening B and her husband are having a party and she’s kindly invited us from work. I’m very happy for her and it’s very generous of her indeed to include us. At the same time I’m anxious already. I’m getting a lift with another colleague as it’s not really on a bus route, which means I don’t have control over when I can leave if I don’t feel good. I worry about spoiling things for other people. There’ll be lots of people, it’ll be busy, it’s in the evening, I don’t know the venue and it’s the first socialising I’ve done with colleagues outside work (apart from one coffee with someone). All challenges for me right now. I’m trying to just focus on being happy for B. and being warm towards new people I meet. I don’t want to waste all the good of the lovely celebration with my anxieties.

I’m missing N. and feeling very upset with how I left things with her. I’m determined to do something, go to see her, to tell her meaningfully I’m sorry and try to sort it all out but I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me approaching her or if it’s better for her that I leave things be now and don’t try to get in touch if I’d only cause more hurt.

Anyhow. It’s a lot of feelings to sit with tonight. I’m tired and I need to try to be still. Thanks be for tea and hot water bottles!

Goodnight. I’m praying for you.

Ginny xxx

My rescue box – update

A while ago I posted about making up a “rescue box” as a tool to help me cope in times of crisis. You can read more about the principle and how the box helps here and I’d strongly recommend reading that before reading this post. In brief, the Box is a way of putting together in one place, easily visible and quickly accessible, the things that will help you cope when you are feeling bad. For me feeling bad tends to mean very upset, crying, struggling with voices and other hallucinations, and re-experiencing traumatic memories. The Box is not a cure for how you are feeling and is not meant to make the emotions go away. It isn’t intended to be a way to suppress them. Having said that, it is to some extent distraction, and a way to access tools to lower your very heightened emotional state so that you can then be more able to cope, to think, or to avoid impulsive actions that may be harmful to you. The CPN who explained the idea to me recommends it as a tool for BPD sufferers. I would imagine it could help people dealing with a variety of other situations / conditions too.

I promised an update about my box once I had put it together, so here goes. I’m new to this technique and I’m sharing updates as I go along.

I made my Box by covering a cardboard packaging box in gift wrap. I’ve started to stick some pretty things to the outside of it as well – a flower, some Hello Kitty stickers because they make me smile, a few little snippets of encouraging text – and I’ve put a little plastic pouch on top with a pretty card and a message from a dear friend. I’ll continue decorating the box with more sensory, pretty, attractive things and things that have a meaning for me and remind me of good times. I think this increases the likelihood the Box will be in my mind and be an appealing thing. (Half the problem with coping strategies, I find, is remembering to use them when the hard times come – often the distress can be so consuming I just don’t think of how to access helpful tools and techniques! Anything that helps me call them to mind has to be a plus!)

rescuebox

The contents of the Box is very much a personal thing, of course, as different things will be important to each of us. In case it’s of interest, here are some of the things I keep in mine (you can see them in the picture).

  • A couple of little stuffed animals – I’ll freely admit I am very childish! 🙂 I find them comforting and have quite a collection. To be honest, Bunny is usually next to me on the sofa, not in the box 🙂 and I collect “ty” Beanie owls and my-little-ponies. I guess stuffed toys also give a soothing tactile experience when you hold them, which can be useful for BPD sufferers. As a soothing sensation increases, the unpleasant sensation of very heightened emotion may reduce (again, I explain this better in my earlier post).
  • For similar reasons, a little bottle of scent. It’s soothing and distracting and if you are trying to control your breathing, the pleasant aroma can help you be aware of exhaling and inhaling.
  • A coaster, to remind me – make a soothing cup of tea! Drink it really focussing on the warmth and taste.
  • A special smooth, flat pebble from the beach, which is calming to hold (feeling the cool, polished surface) and which reminds me of the happy day on which I collected it.
  • A CD – at the moment it’s a CD I like with songs that lift my mood. This is a new one for me to try and I’m not sure which way it will go. When I am not in crisis, I enjoy listening to music. Putting on particular kinds of music and even dancing to it (well okay that’s a strong word – bouncing, at least!) can really pick me up. I’m not sure what kind of effect listening to upbeat music when I feel absolutely dreadful will have, but I’ll give it a go! It’s a way of trying to take an “opposite action” i.e. forcing yourself to do something “happy” or good for you when you are feeling sad and bad about yourself. The idea is this may in turn lift your thoughts. So listening to happy music and making myself move around to it might help lift my thoughts and feelings. Equally, at times music that expresses some of the anger or sadness I’m feeling can help as a way of “letting it out”.  I think I am going to trial both and then put together a playlist of favourite tracks specially for times I’m feeling down. Good job I live alone so there’s nobody to suffer for the fact that if I sing along I sound like a mouse with a particularly bad chest cold 😉
  • A favourite book I know well, which encourages me at the very hardest times, and some prayer cards with very short prayers. I can read over passages of the book, or say the prayers in my head, to repeat a hopeful and loving message to take the place of spiralling panicky thoughts, or the voices I hear telling me that I’m evil.
  • A few cards and a pen, to remind me – could I write a note to a friend? I.E., something nice to take me “out of” my own mixed up head, to force myself to do something positive, thus acting against the negative thoughts in my head, and making somebody else happy too?
  • A ball of wool – could I do something creative? Make pom poms? Do some cross stitch embroidery? Colouring?

I’ve tried to include a mixture of things that are happy and soothing of themselves (eg the stuffed animals, the scent) and things to encourage me to do something positive (eg the cards or the music). I’m also going to add to the box some pictures of my family and my close friends and my godchildren, basically people that matter to me, as a reminder of reasons to keep going and all the good things and good times that I can be thankful for – all things that can so easily be eclipsed in times of extreme distress.

So, that’s my Box! I hope perhaps this might be of interest…. I’m new to this and I will post another update about whether / how I find that it helps me.

Do you use any kind of toolkit like this to help you in the hard times? What would you put in your rescue box?

Ginny xxx

 

Trying to be curious about trust #1

As you may know if you stop by regularly ( 🙂 thank you lovely people!!) I’m finding it very hard to trust the personality disorder service at the hospital (where I go for therapy) at the moment. It has become harder and harder over the last few months, in part due to repeated occasions where, in my experience at least, I’ve been let down, not had the promised support, or been turned away when in desperate need of help. I feel they do not believe me and do not think I deserve help and the more I’m in crisis the more they don’t believe me. Everything that happens confirms this now. In my last care coordination appointment I felt again completely dismissed, not listened to and that what was recorded on my care plan did not reflect what I was going through or needed, until I’d insisted time and time again that my care coordinator write what I actually said rather than re-phrase it in a way that minimised and avoided a lot of the issues at stake. Aargh….

I can’t explain it more than this right now because I will get so angry and out of control. Plus you’ve all probably heard me go on about it so much you’re bored 😉 ! Sorry.

I’m trying to be curious about my feelings about trusting the service and how they see me, as Mentalisation Based Therapy focuses on this and trying to be curious and open to different feelings and uncertainties about what is in our mind and other peoples’.

Right now, although I can try to examine different possibilities, I’m certain in my heart that the service don’t believe me. This doesn’t apply so much to my 1:1 and group therapy sessions. In some way the group feels honest and safe. Perhaps it’s something to do with my commitment being to the other people in the group, listening to them and being there for them, present with them, and sharing honestly as much as I’m able, rather than it being a relationship just with the service or the therapists. It applies more to when I need support between sessions, or when I’m in crisis, or talking about support outside therapy with managing daily life, or in my care coordination appointments.

After the experiences I have had so far, I am not sure what would now reassure me that they did and do believe me and do want me. I got on to thinking about how my recent falling out with a close friend N. involved my absolutely unchangeable feeling that she didn’t believe me, didn’t really want me, didn’t think I deserved help, and I was just a burden and irritation. I don’t know what would convince me otherwise (except, just perhaps, if she had come to help me when I was at my worst, in some of the times she was adamant she could not or should not come).

Not being believed and not deserving help is a big theme for me. Ultimately, I do it to myself too, because I can’t really believe myself. Some of my psychotic symptoms feed into that, with the voices in and outside my head telling me I’ve lied, I’m a fraud, that everyone knows and is thinking and saying I’m a disgusting fraud, cheated people to get help, and no matter if I may think I want to be good and try to do good, there’s all the bad things in me really and everyone else knows and I’ll hurt everyone in the end. Only self-harming in some form quiets this.

In my last 1:1, we talked about my recent falling out with N. We started going slowly through my feelings and thoughts step by step from the beginning of the day things really fell apart between us. We didn’t get very far through. Nevertheless it brought back a lot of the feelings of that day. I’d been feeling very bad about things I said and how things were left at our meeting and in our exchanges the week after (since which, we haven’t been in touch – I couldn’t anymore and felt she didn’t want to either, really). I’d been trying to write to apologise. But in the 1:1, what was even harder than this was that guilty as I felt (and still feel), a lot of the hurt is still there too.

As the memories of these feelings, and more of the feelings, surfaced in the 1:1, I suddenly felt sure that my therapist must think I’m a horrible, childish, needy, jealous, selfish, demanding, nasty person who thinks terrible things about people. Then I started thinking these things about myself together with feeling guilt, disgust that I was so evil, and worry about what would happen to my relationship with my therapist now she thought these things – I couldn’t say what I thought would happen at the time but now I think it was feeling that, oh now she’s started to realise that I really am bad after all and she’ll leave me and not want me around any more.

I was certain about what my therapist must think. Just as I was/am certain about what N. thinks about me. It was actually very hard for me to think curiously about what N. (or my therapist for that matter) would feel. I spend a lot of time certain and horrified about what the people I’m interacting with think about me, and feeling bad for what I am (because of what they’re thinking), what I cause, and the feelings that are then in me, confirming my self-disgust and self-hate. My self identity is somehow, in a way I can’t yet express properly, bound up with what I am certain the other person is thinking about me. My own feeling follows immediately being so certain of their thoughts. I am not necessarily at all able to access beforehand what I am feeling, and I am not necessarily able to think about what the other person is feeling (separate of me, as opposed to being convinced about their thoughts about me).

I am not necessarily bad at picking up what other people are feeling. Actually, I can be very accurate in it, and sense it before other people do. I’ll post about that separately and will put a link here when I’ve posted. However, in these situations, I’m entirely sucked into the certainty of their thoughts.

I am not at all able to “mentalise” – to reflect and be curious about what is in their minds and what they are feeling and what I am thinking and feeling. There is no possible questioning or genuine entertaining of different possibilities about the other person’s mind. I am absolutely certain of their thoughts about me and I have absolutely certain thoughts and feelings as a result. Even though I may at some level be able to come up with a distant idea of other possible thoughts that could be in the other person’s mind, it is completely disconnected from my beliefs and emotions.

Written down like this, it is quite easy to see that this could lead to or be part of my psychotic experiences. I am certain of other people’s thoughts about me. The voices repeat them to me. I feel disgust and guilt and horror of what I’m doing to people. Somehow I become linked with the thoughts I think the other person is having and I am all those horrible things.

I am starting to wonder whether I am actually having the thoughts (which I attribute to the other person) myself, and having the resultant feelings myself, but I am unable to recognise them or feel them in myself, and then for some reason attribute them to the other person as though I know for sure that they are thinking these things. Really they are just my own thoughts or feelings about myself.

Perhaps my certainty nobody believes me or wants me and my resultant inability to trust, is in fact simply nobody else’s thought but rather just what I think of myself – and the fact that I cannot trust or believe myself because I always doubt my own motivation for good or evil, because I have no identity except what I find in what I think are others’ thoughts.

I don’t know quite where this came from. Certainly my mother’s very unwell beliefs about thoughts and emotions during the time I was growing up, clouded my learning about my and others’ feelings and thoughts and the demarcation between them. Her deeply psychotic beliefs were pervasive and persistent. She believed that I knew exactly her thoughts even in advance and when I did not, she told me this was deceptive; she believed she knew my thoughts and intentions; she frequently presented to me my intentions as malevolent and manipulative in incredibly complex ways, when I was unaware of any such motives or thoughts (precisely because they didn’t exist, but I didn’t know that as a child); she made inconsequential, morally neutral actions (such as being able to do some particular thing or not) have a moral value or manipulative power (“repeatedly punishing her” for example); she perceived my emotions as controlling her and done to her (unless they perfectly matched hers); and this was coupled with dire threats (including her suicide, my father’s death, the family breaking apart, my parents being taken away) because of my emotions and thoughts – and of course, with the abuse.

I don’t know quite how to unpick that to find out how much does it explain how I now feel about others’ thoughts about me. Maybe I don’t need to and just need to find out how to change my certain, set-in-stone thought patterns now.

Oh my days I’m tired now and I need a hug. Think I’m going to have a hot bath and curl up under my blanket when I get home.

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #9: My rescue box

Eee, it’s been a long time since I’ve added to this Series.

My CPN and I talked about the following idea today. I’ve been meaning to put this together for a while.

All the other ideas / coping techniques I’ve written about so far in this Borderland series are things I’ve tried or do use currently myself. This post is a bit different because this idea is new to me and I’m going to be trying it out for the first time, so I can’t yet say how helpful I’ve found it. (Updates will follow and I’d love to hear from you if you use something like this!)

I’m going to make a “rescue box”. I’m not quite sure if that’s what I want to call it but for now, it’s what I’ve named it. Apparently some people call it a suicide box because it’s a box full of things to turn to when you’re feeling absolutely at your worst. I didn’t want to call it that because it emphasises the terrible feelings more than the good I’m trying to climb towards.

The basic idea is to make up a box filled with things that help you to cope in times of extreme distress. This works well, I’m told, if like me, you find sensory or tactile things helpful and grounding. As I think I’ve mentioned earlier in this series, in personality disorder when emotions are overwhelming, introducing other, soothing sensations can help bring the emotions down. You can also put things in the box that remind you of good times or reasons that you do keep going every day, or anything that triggers positive memories and thoughts in the hope that in the long run making more and more positive memories makes these stronger than bad memories or obsessional thoughts.

I’m new to this. I’ve been trying to think of things I could put in my box. Here are a few things I came up with:

  • A special smooth pebble that I collected on the beach one good day, which I find very soothing and grounding to touch. It also reminds me of the sea. Walking along the coastline and watching the sea always assures me of the presence of creation and love far greater than ourselves.
  • A small stuffed animal – yes I may be an adult (perhaps 😉 ) but I still find soft toys comforting.
  • A particular book that never fails to encourage me (more on that in another post).
  • Photos of my godchildren whom I love very much; seeing them always brings me joy.
  • A list of people I care about whom I can pray for or do something nice for – maybe write a letter or a card. This reminds me I’m not alone and helps me focus outwards on other people rather than my own problems.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’ll post some pictures as I make up the box.

I have the feeling that the hard thing is going to be remembering it is there and being able to use it when I really need to. I can have coping strategies but being able to turn to them rather than a destructive “coping mechanism” is the hardest thing.

Do you use a box like this or anything similar? How do you remember to use it in the hardest times? Does it help when you’re distressed as well as when you’re feeling okay?

Ginny xxx

Silly post, but just to hold myself to it!

This is a pretty silly post but I’m writing it here in order to hold myself to it, because if I write it here I’ve made the commitment to all of you (lovely readers) as well as myself.

I went to group this morning. I’m so boiling with feelings and hurt and loss and anger (not with group or anyone in it but with the whole PD Service). I desperately need to shut off and the best ways I know without help are things that hurt me. And it’s very possible I could just go home and do that and dissociate or literally knock myself out. I am going to try to make myself take another action instead.

I commit that this afternoon I will write a card to send something to my step-sister that she needs. Then I will clean in every room in my flat. It is in a complete state as i have not cleaned or cared for it in the state I’ve been in in the last two weeks. I may not finish all of it but I will vacuum everywhere and I will clean at least three things in every room (it’s a small flat!).

And to keep going in the promises I made in my commitment to getting better, 5 things I’m thankful for today are:

  • I have a flat of my own to live in (well I say my own; it’s rented but it’s home and I’m blessed to have my place and my safe space).
  • I went to therapy today and talked about horrible feelings and the other members of the group listened and didn’t treat me like a freak. They actually seemed to understand.
  • I saw an old friend yesterday who I have not met in years. She seemed happy and well and she’s having a baby very soon.
  • My step-sister and I are getting in contact with each other more.
  • Um… I didn’t have to wait ages for the bus back to town after therapy, does that count 🙂 ?!

I’m wishing for something good to happen to you today.

Ginny xxx