Tag: emotional thermometer

Getting stuck on a loop

I’m gradually coming to notice when I re-experience feelings associated to long past experiences of abuse. I’ve described this as emotional flashbacks. They can include re-experiencing physical sensations of events, but also and often more overwhelmingly, emotional experiences. This often leads to certain thoughts being triggered and impulsive, uncontrollable actions that aren’t necessarily helpful for me or others. (I say uncontrollable. I must still take responsibility for them though I do not yet manage successfully control them and the impact the feelings have on me.)

I’m also noticing that I re-experience feelings and thoughts associated to more recent events; events which are not nearly as damaging as the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child. Sometimes, I can identify that the event triggered a deeper memory, which to some extent explains my reaction. But frequently, I can’t identify this. It is like feeling stuck on a loop. It causes me a lot of guilt and anger at myself. I feel I am being childish and self-centred because I should just get over it. I feel guilty, especially when it leads me to think over and over a time when somebody upset or hurt me, because I ought to be forgiving them. If I am repeatedly thinking of the hurt and wrong caused to me, I am holding it against them, not truly forgiving and I am keeping a barrier between them and me. God forgives us fully and it is as though our offences are blotted out. When we receive his forgiveness, we are washed “whiter than snow” and He does not look any more on our transgressions. Who am I to think I’m so important that things that hurt me play over and over in my mind? I’m reminded of someone close to me telling me “nobody else is responsible for making you feel better” “I’m going to be completely straight with you and I don’t have to think about what you’re feeling”. Am I making other people responsible for my feelings by my inability to move on? Am I making everything about me? I really fear that.

An example of such an event and consequentially getting “stuck in a loop” occurred this weekend. It’s a fairly low intensity example. Yesterday, I was in the street when I was stopped by a charity fundraiser – there are many of these people in shopping streets in my city, stopping people and wanting to take their personal details and sign them up to make regular donations. This person both irritated and intimidated me immediately. I watched him approach a lady who was a little way in front of me and follow her up the street. He then came up to me, coming uncomfortably close and half-blocking my path. I think this kind of approach is particularly intimidating to me since I’m disabled, unsteady on my feet and walk with a stick (and in my mind it is insensitive and inappropriate to approach in this way someone who you do not know, especially someone who is clearly physically vulnerable). He started to ask me questions and I simply replied “no thank you,” and carried on walking as best I could. I am in no position to give money at the moment and do not want to be signed up to anything, and think the best approach is to firmly but politely refuse to engage with this kind of approach. He then continued to follow me up the street, very close, muttering behind me sarcastically “oh, well that’s just charming” and so on. I was at once frightened and suddenly angry. I turned round and by no means shouting, but firmly, told him “Would you please stop following me. I am not obliged to give you my details. I do not want you to follow me.” “Well that’s incredibly [*&$% expletive deleted] rude of you” he retorted. I told him this was highly inappropriate and asked for the details of the organisation he was working for as I would be making a complaint. Fortunately, I was able to get sight of the ID badge he was wearing as he told me “Good, I hope that you do, because you’re incredibly unpleasant!” and noted the details.

Now, this event should probably no longer be in my mind. I was not hurt. I was probably not in any danger despite his intimidating and verbally aggressive behaviour. Likely as not I will never see him again. I have never heard of the organisation he was working for and have no dealings with them. It was nasty but probably not personally directed at me. It is an unpleasant way for anyone to behave, and all the more inappropriate on the part of someone representing a charity. I felt strongly about that. But it isn’t really an important event. The damage caused to me wasn’t major or worth thinking about (beyond that tomorrow I may make a complaint to the charity as I don’t think he should carry on representing them so poorly or treating other passers-by in the way he treated me and the lady in front of me).

The intensity of the fear and anger I felt at the time was much more than it should have been. It flicked me to come very close to an outburst of upset and anger that wouldn’t have helped anyone. I was able to stop that by the grace of God. I went some way into dissociating, hurting, being out of it but thoughts spiralling in a way too much to catch, being on the edge of going into a nearby shop and impulsively spending, which is one of the responses I’m most at risk of when I’m suddenly angry or upset. Again, I was able to stop myself. Mixed into this was the thought, what if someone was watching me, what would they think of what I had done? Was it my fault and was I wrong? I went home. I felt very low and was starting to shut down and everything I’d planned to do that evening was too much. I’m ashamed to admit this.

I’m more worried right now though, that instead of this whole minor incident now being over, it has come back on this loop in my mind today, several times. My mind has compulsively played over the incident many times, very vividly, but until this has been going on for a period of time, I’ve been unable to acknowledge what’s happening, whilst also being detached from what’s occurring in the present (for instance, no longer hearing the TV that was on, no longer doing the task I was doing). The way my mind has been playing this experience over has been similar to the way obsessional OCD thoughts about bad things I’ve done or am going to do, take hold of my mind. All the emotions I experienced at the time of the incident have come back again. With each obsessional repetition in this loop, my doubt of myself and my own actions in the situation increases, so that I am more convinced that I did wrong, that it must have been my fault, that people were watching me and now know how nasty I am.

Why am I unable to move on from even such an unimportant event? Why are my feelings so extreme at the time and no lower some time after? Why am I so unable to limit the impact of the emotion and the memory of the emotion and event? Does it in some way I do not yet understand, send me back to memory of a more damaging experience? That would give some explanation at least. Or is my experience just totally out of proportion, making me self-centred, self-obsessed, childish?

This event wasn’t particularly emotive in comparison to events that take place with people I know and care about. When upsetting interactions with friends and family get stuck on a loop in this way, it can completely affect and impede my future interactions with them and feelings towards them. I feel this is all my fault through my faulty reactions, emotions and thinking. Ultimately I end up self-punishing and self-harming as the only possible escape and a desperate attempt to punish myself enough for my failure to be an adult and my failure to forgive.

Writing this, it occurs to me that this feeling of being stuck in a loop does not only apply to things done against me. It applies equally to hurt I have caused or fear I have caused others, and other mistakes I have made. Wrong things and stupid things I have done play over and over in my head. The intense feelings of guilt, shame, horror, pain, etc, play over in my head and diminish little in intensity over the years. I regularly have vivid memories of, for example, things said during an argument with my dad and step-mum 3 years ago, or something wrong I did in my work that I worried endangered a patient 5 years ago, a time I stepped out of line with something I said to my boss in a meeting 8 or more years ago… I re-experience all the feelings and they can really shake me. I become afraid of any situations similar to those in which these events occurred, maybe because I believe I’ll do the same wrong again.

Again I wonder if all the feelings I have, whether it be a situation of wrong done by me to others, or a situation of wrong done by others to me and consequential hurt, in some way are (a lesser intensity of) feelings that were overwhelming and terrifying during the years of my abuse.

I also know that in personality disorders, emotions usually reach a higher intensity more quickly, and stay at the higher intensity for longer, than in people without personality disorder. I guess that explains to some extent why the feeling hangs around for longer, though not the vivid mental replaying of inconsequential events.

I desperately want an answer and I think I’ll talk about this in my 1:1 therapy tomorrow.

***

I wonder have you had similar experiences? Have you felt stuck on a loop remembering experiences or having thoughts and emotions you want to let go, but can’t?

Ginny xxx

Pop goes the weasel…

Do you ever have so many things in your head it feels ready to go “pop”?!

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In therapy group on Friday, I felt I could identify really strongly with what a couple of other group members were saying. We talked about so many themes that are really pertinent to my life right now. My thoughts started spiraling and firing off faster and faster in my head and I felt I couldn’t keep hold of them all. I wanted to write them all down right after group as it seemed so important they didn’t get lost. There were so many things I wanted to ask the group members.

I often get spiralling thoughts. In my 1:1 therapy we identified this often happens when I’m starting to experience a strong out of control emotion. The spiralling thoughts are somehow safer or more possible to name than the emotion. Focusing on them can suppress some of the emotion. If I can’t – like in group last week where they were just too fast and I was trying to stay focused on what others were saying – the emotion intensifies and is really uncomfortable, though I can’t name it or understand it. I just know I feel panic. I’m working on trying  to sit with the emotion and explore that rather than plunging straight into compulsively following the thoughts.

Interestingly, my thoughts used to do something similar when I was studying. I’d frantically try to get them all down. They seemed important. Sometimes they were and sometimes they were not. But it was often really hard for me to explain the links between them to other people or get them down coherently.

Writing this, it’s occurring to me – does this sound like I experience manic episodes? I have never felt as though I have manic periods in terms of hyperactivity or boundless energy but can manic episodes affect your thoughts alone? The spiralling thoughts can stop me sleeping and if i miss any medication doses at this time i can end up going all night without sleeping. Though the thoughts take the focus away from the uncomfortable emotion at first, eventually it returns, often more extreme than before and together with a lot of anxiety and physical exhaustion.

After the spiralling thoughts have squirmed and pushed their way round my head for a while, it’s as if part of my brain shuts off. I feel frozen inside my head. It’s a huge effort to fight to interact with people and speak and respond appropriately. I can’t bear the emotion and spiraling energy. It hurts. I can barely understand what’s happening round me. I want to get out. Go home, shut off and curl up somewhere safe, or have someone hold me (though there’s almost never anyone. ..) If anyone talks to me and I’m required to interact I am likely to somehow jump to irritation and frustration, though it isn’t really irritation I’m feeling inside.

I’ve never talked to my therapist about the idea of manic states but perhaps I should. Do others with Borderline experience this kind of thing, I wonder? Do you struggle with this?

It’s been worse in the past week or so because I’ve had more stress with my Tax Credits being stopped and consequent further financial panic. I’ve also been exhausted from low physical health with a lot of pain. Every day off has been taken up with hospital appointments and trying to sort out my finances. I’m worried I won’t be able to keep up my job as I’m struggling with the physical aspects of it and it is also very discouraging that pushing myself to the limit of what I can do to keep working, I’m left without enough to meet basic expenses. I’m so fortunate I have a very good friend and a family member who are helping me from time to time. Without them I think I’d have ended up on the street by now.

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).

****

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

 

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

 

“Are you one person or two?”

“Are you one person or two?”

I’m writing this in a coffee shop. I was just thinking about therapy on Friday when a lady came up to me. “Are you one person or two?” she asked straight away. I had to smile – nope, I’m not currently in a dissociative episode but thanks for asking! (It turns out that what she meant was “is this seat taken?”)

It does feel like having to be two (or more) people sometimes. The socially acceptable me that has to cope at work and pretend to be fine, and the emotional mess underneath. The me that is vulnerable, scared and crying and still re-experiencing the traumatic events of my childhood and desperately wants a hug. The me that is angry and bitter and has lost all compassion or patience.  The me who is hypervigilant and whose thoughts are spiralling, and bound to the voices and obsessional thoughts, and the me that is out of it, numb and disconnected, only watching the world outside, losing huge chunks of time.

Sometimes it isn’t a question of having to be two separate people because part of me is so unacceptable (for example, having to hide what’s really going on in order to function at work, or in social situations). To some extent I suppose having the other “me” that goes to work is some kind of a coping strategy. Otherwise I might be hidden at home under my blankets crying all the time. The problem is, sometimes it’s a question of flicking, uncontrolled, unstable and without wanting it, between the different “mes”, and being taken over by the different emotions and reactions to the emotions the different personalities experience. I think maybe, because my emotions are so all-consuming and take me over so much that I don’t seem to exist outside them, when I have such a surge of different emotions, going through them feels like being split into different people, all dissociated from each other. Another problem is losing memory around the time that I experience the strongest emotions, so feeling I have not been present at all. And whether switching people / personalities is wanted or not, it is shattering. When it’s unwanted, perhaps because it’s frightening. When it’s wanted, it is completely draining constantly trying to conceal what you’re really feeling and act against it, and it can make me feel that I am being very false,  and that I am so bad really on the inside even if nobody else sees it yet. I guess because I think the emotions I label or experience as “bad” make me bad. That’s something I probably need to try to examine.

Now, particularly for fans of The Big Bang Theory, this could of course turn into a particular skill, a la Sheldon Cooper 😉 :

[Raj wants Sheldon to sign up to an online dating website.]

Sheldon: “Are you sure? I’ve heard that on those sites, often when you think you’re corresponding with someone, it’s actually a computer program pretending to be a real person.”
Raj: “And you’re afraid it’ll do a better job than you?”
Sheldon: “Excuse me. No one does a better job pretending to be a person than I do. Siri comes close, but I know more jokes.”

Certainly it can feel like pretending to be a person. Or pretending to be an “okay” person, at any rate! I’m trying to focus on the fact that even when we are in pain or turmoil or angry or whatever it may be inside that we feel is not okay, it’s what we do and how we act that is important in terms of good or bad. I’m not saying that I think it’s bad to express these difficult emotions, to get upset, sad, angry and so on. I’m learning that we need to do that. I mean that whatever we feel, and indeed whether we think it’s a bad feeling or not, we can still do good. Even if I’m angry and upset inside, I can still choose to be dedicated at work or to do some little thing to show kindness to a friend. Having the difficult feelings inside doesn’t mean we are worthless, or can’t do any good. Everything is harder, for sure. It costs us much more to smile, go out of the door, talk to people, go to work, etc etc, when we are having an awful day. If anything this increases the value of the good and the kindness we do because it is done with all the more effort and love.

Keep drinking the coffee 😉 and keep going!

Ginny xxx

[Photo from Gilmore Girls episode “Luke can see her face” (season 4 I think) …..The Big Bang Theory – directed by Mark Cendrowski, produced by Faye Oshima Belyeu ; Gilmore Girls directed by Amy Sherman Palladino. All rights belong to the respective artists.]

 

How do you keep on trusting?

I’m really struggling at the moment with the fact that whenever I’m really counting on something it gets taken away. When I’m already at breaking point, things that should be simple are made incredibly difficult so I don’t get help I need or have to go through complicated, draining processes I can’t cope with.

I’m not even talking about more “abstract” ideas like complex relationships or values but very basic things like urgent appointments repeatedly being cancelled, having appointments for support booked but being told the wrong time or the booking not being made, completing lengthy forms for Benefits only for the wrong decision to be made with the wrong information, on and on. I suppose the apparent rejection, lack of care, implication I am undeserving and not allowed help, behind all this, makes it worse.

Most recently it was being discharged from 2 days in hospital after I’d overdosed at the weekend, having had a lengthy assessment with the duty psychiatrist, who discharged me on condition I would be seen by the psychiatrist at the personality disorder team the next day and my CPN within 24 hours, a report had been sent straight to them, and that I could hope for more support. So off I went to the PD team at the hospital on Monday. No report had been sent. The psychiatrist would not see me. The report has now been sent this afternoon. There is still no intention for the psychiatrist to see me despite the duty doctor and actually also my GP requesting it. They actually asked why did I think the psychiatrist needed to see me! No more support is forthcoming although I have had telephone support. The duty workers say haven’t I got any friends I could stay with to be safer. My 2 friends who are nearby have made it clear this is not possible.

There is an absolute pattern of this happening over and over, week after week. I can guarantee that if I’m desperate, just trying to hold on, relying on my next therapy appointment – I’ll get a call to say it’s canceled.

How do you cope with this kind of thing?

It feels like a cruel trick or a sick joke and spikes my anger and hurt out of control and I disintegrate and the feelings I was struggling with already explode as well.

I do not think it’s only me it happens to. In fact someone else in another online forum was saying a very similar thing and that it’s as if we’re never allowed to rest, it’s always the next test and the next thing to go wrong.

How do you keep trusting when you feel like this? How do you stop resenting and being consumed with anger? Becoming more and more self centred?

It is really hard to try to keep trusting the hospital and the doctors when I can’t count on anything and repeatedly hope then bang, it gets taken away again.

I shouldn’t put my trust in anything or anyone and I should detach from the need for it and not depend on anyone or anything. But how do we even start to reach that point?

Ginny xxx

I think, therefore I am, as the saying goes. ..

[Sorry. I know this post makes little sense. It’s a mess of thoughts in my head tonight since I realised how much I “am” what I am experiencing and feeling and cannot stand it and get lost along the way. ]

“I think, therefore I am.” ??

I think…

I feel…

It’s harder than you’d expect to separate thoughts and feelings. Thoughts can hurt. Thoughts are (must be?) quickly judged. Thoughts desire; thoughts need and long and that again is judged at once, answered or unanswered, and that brings feeling.

Can thoughts be stopped? Those that come unbidden, spiraling or shouting and yet never to be trusted, tell me I am deceiving, tell me – too bad to write… memories…

And feeling. Nothing. Terrible nothing with something clawing at me to come back, or blessed numb. Or everything.

Everything. Everything I am. All I am – pain, hurt, need, frightened – everything I am, all I am. Can’t anyone else see? Can’t you see? Everyone is in so much pain. Feeling it and absorbing it – theirs or mine? But it hits me like a wall and it’s all there is that moment, separated from time, not knowing what to do or what to be but – pain.

I think, therefore I am? I’m not sure about that! But I feel, therefore – I am not. My self, my certainties, are lost and all I’ve become is the feeling and the fear.

Out of it

I’m going between boiling anger that I can’t stand (a force rising inside me which I can’t swallow down, just force and power uncontrolled and bursting free) crushing anxiety with spiraling thoughts, lists, growing out of control faster than I can count, no air to breathe, dread that I can’t surmount, and numb.

Numb. Nothing. Stopped. Watching. Un-engaged. Dumb. Deaf. Hearing what everyone else says but it makes no sense and causes unbearable sensations if I try to respond – I need numb.

I’m drinking tonight to make sure I stay numb and make warmth and cotton wool replace the ache, distancing the hurt from my dissociated state so it can grow without sensing the raw pain or maddening and crushing demands of the ‘other’ (real) world.

The pain from my gynae problems has been scary too, as well as the arthritis. It’s almost funny – completely messed up inside and the physical stuff out of control too, things ‘breaking’ one after the other. Nothing medically serious but it does seem to make me as useless as possible in the real world.

I don’t often drink and it’s a dangerous and stupid choice, especially now. I’m in a really dangerous state right now. I tried and couldn’t get help. I can’t choose rationally what to do. I’m saying it’ll just be tonight and tomorrow I’ll try to face it all again.

Walking this Borderland #6: Shine

Walking this Borderland #6: Shine

Stars can’t shine without darkness.

To everyone who is alone, hurting, fighting, crying, tonight –

Don’t give up. If you can’t say, one day more, say, just one hour more.

When all you can see is that everywhere is darkness and you are breaking and cannot believe that it will pass, if all you can do is breathe, then that is how you can go on.

In this darkness, you will be the stars, and this struggle you give your strength and your heart to will make you shine the brighter.

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #2: Grounding

Please read Walking…#1: Introduction before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.

Six ways to ground yourself when you notice the early stages of an overwhelming emotion building (eg, panic, fear, anxiety)

I find these particularly help me. The aim is not to deny or stop feeling the emotion, but to reach a safe state where you are not overwhelmed with distress or driven to compulsive actions, and where you can perhaps begin to recognise your emotions and also recognise that they are not permanent and are not all there is of you or of the world – they are valid and they are allowed and also, they will sometime, somehow, pass.

I know the ideas below sound as if they couldn’t possibly make any difference when you’re feeling terrible but somehow, sometimes, they do. I was taught that it is good to practice using them when you are feeling okay, so that they become familiar, and to try to use them as early on as you can when you first feel your emotions rising, because when you are already in a state of peaked, extreme emotion, it can be too difficult to be able to try to use them.

  1. Step outside if you can, or if not, just into another room. Notice all the sensations around you. What does the ground feel like under your feet? What can you hear? What can you see? Can you touch anything – the wall, the door? What does it feel like? You are here and now. These things you see around you are concrete. They will remain. The emotion, no matter how terrifying, really will somehow pass.
  2. Touch a favourite object. What does the surface feel like? What colour is it? Does the sensation of touch calm you? Is it an object that reminds you of a happy time or place or someone you love?
  3. Count backwards in [threes] from 100 to 0. [Especially occupies your attention if, like me, you are not very good at maths/logic 😉 !]
  4. Clench and unclench your hands rapidly, focussing on the sensations in your muscles and on your skin.
  5. Make a hot drink. Hold the cup whilst it’s still hot. Focus on the sensation of the spreading heat relaxing the muscles in your hands. Breathe in and out deeply and focus on the scent of the drink or the warmth of the rising steam.
  6. Repeat a grounding “safety statement”, even if you can’t really believe it at first. For example (replace the […] as appropriate): “I am [Jane Doe]. The date is [5 December 2015]. I am [35] years old. I am [in my room in my flat] in [name city].  I am in the present, not the past. I am safe now.” I am relatively new to using safety statements but my CPN told me that this is a good way to recover from flashbacks / re-experiencing memories.