Tag: stress

This time next week

This time next week

This time next week we will be in Greece, God willing. My fiancé and I are going away for a few days. It will be the second time I have been abroad before which I hadn’t been for about 14 years, so travelling is still new for me. My fiancé’s family on one side were Greek so it’s important to him. I’m still extremely nervous about the journey but I’m using what it means to him and the good it will do for him to motivate me to continue past the anxiety. I know what beautiful places we saw last time and we have plans of what to do this time.

We are both much in need of rest and it seems impossible to get it at home, where the next medical appointment, the next task, the next step preparing to move house, the next unforeseen problem, always cuts into whatever downtime we plan. It’s been impossible to have quiet to listen to God, or calm and free time together or alone.

“We must never let the noise of the world overpower and overwhelm that Still Small Voice.” – Elder L Tom Perry

Maybe going away will allow us to find some stillness and re-establish a routine starting with prayer. We are longing for freedom from the spiral of pushing through the latest crisis then collapsing exhausted. Having a day out locally doesn’t seem to afford us that and brings more stresses. This temporary escape will help.

In terms of travel anxiety I think I’m feeling pretty much as I did before last year’s trip to Greece. Maybe I should expect to be feeling much more confident now but it’s still a new thing and it might take lots more travelling before my feelings change. Or maybe it’s a feeling I need to accept experiencing and it might vary according to how otherwise strained or ill I am. When I’m less well with my physical disabilities, for example, I know my anxiety about leaving the house for even familiar journeys can be huge. What has changed since the last trip to Greece is that alongside the anxiety, I also have a lot more happy emotions, like excitement and curiosity about what we will see and where we will stay. This motivates me to want to go, rather than it simply being a question of trying to push aside frightened feelings.

I’m full of thanks to God for bringing me on this path and for the amazing understanding my fiancé shows me. I never wanted to go anywhere before but I do with him.

Ginny xxx

Image from patternpictures.com with thanks

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What is it okay to protect for ourselves?

I still can’t figure out why I’m crumbling so much trying to support my friend. Partly it’s because the trauma he’s suffered and needs to talk about is so close to my own experiences and I don’t know how to cope with my own emotions about my trauma, and bad as I feel about this, I can’t always cope with someone else’s experiences, the even stronger emotions this gives rise to in me and the overwhelming emotions they are also feeling. It’s as if I absorb the pain and feel it 3 times over – my own pain and distress, my pain for them, and their pain and distress.

But this isn’t the only reason. When there’s no link whatsoever to my experiences I’m still feeling panic, dread, boiling frustration (inappropriately), unease, fear… and terrifyingly, too many emotions that are too close to those I felt when I was caring for my mother (who was also my main abuser). My conscious feelings towards my friend are nothing like what my feelings towards my mother were so why are these experiences occuring? Very raw feelings, as well as flashbacks, hallucinations and panic attacks are increasing. For some reason the situations with his health deteriorating out of control, hopes for things being understood resolved and treated then being delayed time after time, his near desperation, his rapidly overtaking weakness and physical degeneration, even his need for me, is triggering the feelings I had when I was with her. This scares me. It’s nonsensical. He’s nothing like her. The situation is not the same. Yet I can suddenly feel just as desperate to escape. I don’t know why because he is generous, good, caring, honest, he wants to help me, he does not judge me, he worries for my wellbeing and he supports me greatly in the faith we share.

Why does his need for me scare me so much too? He tells me I’m the only person he trusts to tell certain things or to give comfort. I am thankful and sort of honoured that he trusts me but I don’t want to be the only person. That isn’t safe for him. I am only one person. Yes, I care, I pray, I do not judge (well, wish not to, with God’s help), I can empathise deeply; but I’m only a normal person. I can’t keep him safe, heal him, I am not the total good he thinks I am. God gives hope. God gives safety under His care. I am only one person. I am thankful he trusts me but I don’t want him to trust and confide in me and not the doctors or other professionals who can help. If I’m honest, I cannot be the only person because it isn’t safe for me either, as well as for him. I cannot be the only person who knows when he is in danger. I cannot carry that or keep him safe. I cannot be the only person he can turn to because despite my best desires I cannot infallibly be there and there will come a time I don’t do the right thing or the thing he most needs or that I hurt him unintentionally and I don’t want him to be in danger then.

Which brings me to: what time or mental or emotional resources can we protect for ourselves? He needs me desperately and constantly. As well as practical help, there is rarely more than a couple of hours that I’m not listening, emotionally supporting or encouraging him or at least trying to. I might be coping more stably, or having lower levels of the currently overwhelming emotions, if I had more breaks, time separate from him, time to meet my own daily tasks and duties, time to keep my commitments to others, time to pray, time just to rest. But what would he do then?

When is it okay to protect time and mental resources for myself? The Lord is with us always. He always listens, always answers and always holds us in His Heart. Jesus gives His life for us. We are called to emulate this, to join in the sacrifice He made and pour ourselves out in love. If I’m to follow Him, to offer my life too, then I need to be there for people in need, always not only when it’s easy or convenient. I have felt the hurt myself of people I’d counted good friends cutting off or cutting back contact when I got more ill and being alone when I most needed contact with friends and to know I wasn’t going to be left for my weakness.

So I just cannot limit my availability to someone in desperate need. But I’m crashing up against my own physical and emotional limitations. What is the loving response? Admittedly my friend is not my only calling and responsibility. I have a calling to my family, my volunteer work, to run my home responsibly, to manage bills and finances and so on. In a way I have a responsibility to my own health and wellbeing too, though that’s hard to admit. Though that’s a fight in my head to. I should deny myself to reach out to bring God’s love to others. Then again the Lord created me, wants me, loves me – perhaps not only so that I can be denied and weakened? At the moment every responsibility except to my friend is falling to the side. I have no reserves left for anything else. That really does not feel right. I feel more guilt for it, especially not having the energy for family, for contemplative prayer or for treating my home that I’m blessed to have with due care so everything is in disorder.

This is all very uncomfortable and I’m so tired. I need to seek guidance.

Ginny xxx

An evening of baking

What a week it’s been. I feel frazzled. Every day my anxiety has been hitting hard and every challenge exhausting, needing rest and feeling every chance for it is snatched away by the next problem. Therapy was really hard today and I’m very worried for someone else in my group. I told the PD Service and I don’t think they heard or recognise the danger I can see so clear and imminent for the person.

It’s Advent. It’s a precious time. It’s slipping away from me so fast. I really need stillness, to acknowledge what I’m feeling and to draw close to God in prayer. Every day passes and I have the same weaknesses and struggles.

Tonight part of me wants to curl up and escape – but I’m baking because some friends from my old job are coming for coffee tomorrow morning. I put some Christmas carols on and feel a little bit of peace creeping into my heart in the simple repetitive tasks.

20161209_165422.jpg

Ginny xxx

 

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

I’ve posted before about how I find that colouring intricate patterns can be very calming.

When I was an inpatient I drew and painted a few times, which I had not done for many years. I go through phases of doing a lot of cross-stitch embroidery or making greetings cards. It seems to be something that I do a lot of and then leave for a while then return to it. Sometimes I find it helpful and calming but other times, I really want to be able to do it but am not able to. If I try to push myself to, it just doesn’t work – I go wrong all the time when I try to follow a pattern, or I just can’t put together anything pretty. Then far from helping I feel dragged down lower. It’s as if when I am completely drained and lacking in emotional / mental energy, there is nothing with which to be creative. In those states I often need to sleep, or paradoxically, to do something physical like getting outside and walking.

I’ve been on two different wards as an inpatient. One of them had a variety of craft activities available and support to use them and discover and learn new ideas for projects. For example we learnt to make plaited bracelets, worked together to put together a collage display, coloured stained-glass window images, and so on. The peer support worker spent a lot of time facilitating these activities. The other ward did not really have such resources and there was nobody to support these kinds of activities. The first ward seemed much more an environment in which it was possible to focus on having hope of getting better and learning skills to cope. Of course the access to creative materials was not the only reason (I think the work of the peer support worker was very important and I will post about that separately). However I think it made considerable difference to how the days passed.

I think in working with simple materials to create something beautiful, you can empty your mind, practise mindfulness techniques, slow some of the frantic anxiety as you become absorbed in the task. The concentration it requires and the different sensations you encounter – textures of fabric and materials, sounds, colours, deciding how to combine them, perhaps repetitive and rhythmic motions, the sense of putting together something lovely from all the separate parts – all of this helps occupy your mind. In  a similar way to distraction techniques, by filling your mind with all these sensations, they can become the focus, rather than obsessional thoughts, sadness, anger and so on. It does not solve anything but can replace some of the intensity of an emotion for a time. I can find it helpful in trying to delay self-harming as well as in times of generalised anxiety or after panic attacks. My friend who suffers with an eating disorder said that in particular having something to do with her hands can calm her after eating and help her resist the urge to binge-eat and/or purge.

My clinicians explained that there is a limited number of sensations the body and mind can experience at any one time. In personality disorder, our emotions may reach a higher level more quickly and in this heightened state, we cannot think rationally or mentalise or make good decisions. We cannot see outside of the emotion. It also takes longer than it does in most people for the level of emotion to fall. One thing that can help the emotion to fall, to get to a level where we can start to mentalise, use distraction techniques or choose to do other things that help us, is to “shock” the body with another strong sensation. For example, putting your hands under very cold water, holding ice, or (this one works well for me) eating something with a sharp taste. I use pieces of lemon, or lemon juice, with a sharp and bitter taste. This can help to lead you out of extreme distress or a panic attack, to the point that you can then address how you are feeling with other techniques. Then continuing to do something that gives positive sensations can continue to calm you – for example, something self-soothing like hugging a soft pillow or wrapping up in a soft blanket, or perhaps one of the creative activities which provides a range of tactile sensations.

There is also something encouraging to me in being able to create a picture, object, etc, which is useful or attractive or perhaps can be given as a gift to someone else, even when we are really not feeling great. It’s another way to make it true that the overwhelming emotions are not all that there is and to start to hope that there could be some good somewhere in me.

Ginny

xXx

Eeek :( – shortest post ever?!

I feel wound up like a spring about to explode, really really anxious and really angry with myself.

I start my new job tomorrow. I’m so scared. I have no confidence. I feel like rubbish. I know it could be good. I’m thankful for it and for having something to go to that will fill the day, be constructive, ease financial problems, let me try to contribute something. But I have no confidence at all that I can do it, after everything that went wrong.

I’ve just had no end of technical problems too with the internal website and had to phone up for tech support, who were very unhelpful, and after I had insisted for about 40 minutes that I needed assistance as I could not do essential things I needed to before starting work tomorrow, was basically told by a tech manager that I am rubbish and will not be a good employee and do not fit in with the firm’s ethos!! It was a completely bizarre conversation and a horrible start. Now I’m even more terrified and sure they hate me before I’ve even started. And still haven’t been able to get onto the website to do what I needed to before starting, so it feels like a mess.

Eeeeek….. Dear Lord, help me please….

The only good thing is that I will be seeing a very good friend later this afternoon and I will be very thankful to share in her company.

Ginny xx

My new way to relax

swirls

Currently, one of my preferred ways to relax whilst I’m alone at home watching TV or the like, is colouring in complex swirly patterns like this one. It can switch off some of the thoughts for a while, passes time and gives a creative focus outside of oneself, even a way to practice mindfulness. The results can even be used for something pretty, for instance, made into pictures or coasters. Seeing something lovely that you have managed to create, despite perhaps feeling depressed or low, can be encouraging. It is a relatively cheap hobby, especially as at the moment we seem to be fortunate that there is a range of “colouring books for grown-ups” around, often to be found in discount book stores / stationers’ / supermarkets. No doubt you could find template patterns on line as well, which could work if you have access to a printer. Then all that is required is a packet of crayons or coloured pens (note to self, curb tendency to multi-buy pretty pens!).

Happy colouring! 🙂

Ginny xx

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