Tag: grounding

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

My latest creative projects

This week has been demanding with two medical appointments, an assessment for a disability benefit I am hoping to claim, meeting with my support worker, taking documents about my changes of circumstances (now signed off from work) into the housing office, catching up on filing a massive stack of paperwork which keeps pouring in thick and fast at the moment as I am sorting out different Benefits claims, and a difficult situation in relation to my therapy group, which I’ll post more on shortly.

I’ve been really needing some calming time amid all this. Colouring is still my go-to calming activity at the moment. Also, I’m continuing making greetings cards and have got together some photos to use to make some for a friend who has requested some. It’s lovely to do them with a particular person in mind and I’m happy they are good enough that someone would actually request them.

Here is a picture I’ve just begun colouring, from a book called “Secret Garden” drawn by the amazingly talented Johanna Basford.

owl for M.jpg

My step-brother graduated last week, so I made him this little card with stars on the front, putting to good use some of the materials my friend kindly gave me for my birthday the other week:

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This week I need to tidy and organise my card materials, as everything is thrown in a box together and I am sure there is quite a bit I’m not making good use of!

I’m thankful that I have these hobbies which I can still do fairly much unaffected even when my physical health isn’t great.

Do you have a favourite hobby that helps you relax?

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

This is different, somehow

This is different, somehow

I’m feeling very very anxious today. My emotions have been shifting quickly in the last two weeks. Many of the emotions are familiar but some aren’t and the startling changes are raw and unexpected.  I feel so shaken and quickly exhausted. A substantial part is physical but a lot is emotional or mental too. Anxiety and hurt and pain but also thankfulness, feeling overwhelmed at goodness and expressions of love – from friends, for example – come suddenly and something is different. It sounds nonsensical because so much of my problem for a long time (and a big feature of BPD) is that my emotions have been so total, overwhelming, all-consuming, the only thing that seems to exist, the only thing I seem to be. Now I’m saying I’m feeling overwhelmed but it’s different. So, what’s different?

I can’t express it properly but since my therapy group two weeks ago things are shifting. I admitted in that group to strong and frightening feelings of anger and need and fear of the voices I hear that tell me I will do terrible, violent things; I admitted that since I have tried to stop self-harming I’m experiencing every feeling I so much wanted to cut off and control to keep other people safe from the evil I fear in me; I admitted how I detach and dissociate and how a lot of my needs and emotions, I only allow myself to feel through the pain of self-harm or in my escape (“imaginary”) world. I admitted I knew that  they would be horrified and disgusted at me and that I was disgusted at myself. Then something happened. The other group members weren’t disgusted or afraid of me.  Several people said that they hear the voices too and that they have similar feelings too. These three things stunned me – that they were not disgusted or afraid, that they hear the voices too, that they also have these feelings. This started to change things. It was more than a feeling of “oh thank goodness I’m not the only crazy one”. It started to mean that if these things are felt by other people too, experienced by other people too – other people who I trust and who are good and kind – then it is no longer something that means I’m evil inside or that I’m just all bad really and everyone else knows it or everyone else will be hurt because nobody could believe I was really so bad but they will find me out in the end, fulfilling my abuser’s threats.

Since then, and even more since therapy group this week, I’m feeling my forbidden emotions, without doubt. Some connection is appearing that was not previously there. The void between my emotion and my ability to be present and think and speak is closing, somehow. Before, everything was either consuming emotion, leading to explosion, violence to myself; or to total dissociation, impulsivity and non-presence then utter horror and depression afterwards and memory loss; or thinking spiralling compulsive thoughts, being unable to connect to the emotion behind them that was just too frightening. Now somehow I am starting to pray and think in the emotion, experience its presence, experience its coming and going… it’s very raw but somehow it is different from how previously the emotion was my everything, my only reality, and the self-destruction (self-harm, overdose, starvation) was utter safety. My escape world of my other dissociated identities is encountering this world more and more, whereas previously they stayed safely separate, present with me much of the time, but not overlapping with my own consciousness, thoughts, feelings, needs…. Now I am feeling what previously “they” felt. That’s scary. That’s unknown. Also, that could be good.

I’m frustrated by how very inadequately I am able to explain what’s happening to me. It seems as if I could put it together better some of the anxiety I have might reduce. I know it isn’t a bad thing and that it’s very important but I am extremely shaken and high in anxiety and needing comforting, grounding things. I am going to find it a struggle the next 3 weeks or so, because there is a break in the therapy programme for the summer holiday time, meaning I don’t have any group therapy this coming week or the next and no 1:1 therapy until the second week of August. Right now I so need someone to work with through what’s happening. I have to try to dare to call the duty support team if I’m getting bad in the meantime. I have to take the step to trying to trust them again and this is as good a point as any, I guess. Perhaps it’s also good that I’ll have to try to cope without therapy. I know part of these changes is going to be learning to experience and emotion of my own without it being understood or accepted or cared about (and indeed without me being cared for) by anyone else. I’ll have to do that in these two weeks.

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #12: 5 4 3 2 1 steps

A family member gave a women’s wellbeing workshop recently. I wasn’t able to go but I helped her look over some of her materials. Many of the daily challenges she suggested to improve our wellbeing incorporated elements of mindfulness  (in a loose sense at least – I’m not yet very knowledgeable about mindfulness so you may correct me). For example, becoming aware of our emotions, or being curious about our environment, perhaps taking a little time to be present in each moment and noticing new things in places that are familiar to us which we might often pass on “autopilot”, such as the beauty of a tree coming into bloom on our route to work.

I came across The 5 3 1 Technique to improve your daily wellbeing, of which you can easily find various versions online, for example here *. All credit for the idea behind this post goes to that technique. I do not know who first invented it and I’ve seen a couple of different versions.

Inspired by this, I developed my own version, which I’m going to try to practice daily. I’ve called mine simply “5 4 3 2 1” (this being more memorable than 5 3 1, perhaps?!):

FIVE – the original 531 technique suggests 5 minutes of meditation at the start of each day. I think starting each day with meditation or prayer is a great idea but it can be really difficult if you have never done it before or if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. I find it helps to give the time more structure, for example, finding 5 things or people you are thankful for and thinking about them for a minute or so each. Or you could write a list of 5 things that happened in the previous day that you enjoyed or are thankful for. I’m Catholic and another way I sometimes do this is to pray a decade of the rosary really slowly. On each bead, I say the prayer in gratitude for a particular person or event, trying to be open to let the thankfulness fill my heart. This can be a good way to calm down when I’m feeling very anxious or a good way to pray when I’m struggling to be still.

FOUR – find 4 ways to connect to the outside world. For instance. … Go for a walk. Write a letter to someone. Pray for someone. In your work or chores, find a tiny way to do something with a little more concentration than normal, or with a little more care than normal. The simplest task done with love and attention has value and grounds you in the present moment, turning your thoughts and energy outwards rather than inwards to anxiety and fears.

THREE – notice 3 things in the world around you that are different or beautiful. It could be something new you’ve learnt, a conversation that made you think, something beautiful in nature, a sensory experience like a soothing scent or touch, and so on.

TWO – look in the mirror and tell yourself 2 good things about yourself. For example: you are beautiful; you are loved; today you are going to help people; you deserve to take care of yourself… (wow, for me at least it’s incredibly hard to come up with these things for myself 😉 !)

ONE – do one small act of kindness for another person. This need not be a big action. It could be simply smiling at them, allowing them to go before you in a queue, or asking them about their day and really listening. Just something to make them feel valued.

All these steps are intended to be small things which all work towards grounding us in the present moment and increasing our sense of wellbeing. I’m giving it a go. ..

Ginny xxx

*I have not followed up all the links on the mindfulness site myself so am not advocating their contents / saying that the techniques or information there will be useful for everyone. I just intended it as a description of the original 531 Technique.

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

 

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

What do you hold onto in the darkest times?

I’ve posted before about how, like many people with Borderline Personality Disorder, one of the things I find hardest when I feel really bad is to hold on to any knowledge that it will not always be this way. The overwhelming emotions – especially fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, pain, frustration, self hatred, self disgust, hurt, distress, longing or needing, or the feelings I can’t yet name that come with flashbacks – they eclipse everything else and become all that exists.

I wonder if their power is greater if I fear the emotion I sense. But the totality of the experience, their consuming nature, makes them the more frightening.

Descriptions of this emotional experience in BPD often term the feelings intolerable or unbearable. It is that but it isn’t quite either; it’s not all of it. Intolerable, more than I can stand, yes… but it’s not something I can’t stand because it’s me. In that state there is nothing but the emotion and there is nothing of me but the emotion. I cannot stand it but neither do I exist apart from it.

I hate it so I hate myself. I must get rid of it, purge it, so I must get rid of myself and cut away the bad – so I cut.

I can name some of the emotions afterwards. Maybe the therapy is helping me to do that. But in the experience, I cannot. I cannot recognise anything but hurt and pain and hate and evil (me); I cannot hold in mind anything but the impulses to cut, run, scream, end it, reach back for numb. .. and I am gone. ..and I spin between cut off and unable to feel and any attempt to engage being painful, and the state of total emotion, of only existing as that pain.

I cannot control it. I cannot bridge that gap. Therapy is helping me identify what feelings are. But it doesn’t separate them from me, from time, from permanent reality, from right and wrong. It doesn’t tell me how to feel, rather than be, the emotion. It doesn’t tell me how to bridge the gap between the different people I become – the cut off numb one;, the one that hides everything to cope day to day and do what I’m meant to and fulfil my responsibilities and pretend and hope I could ever be good but knowing all the time that everyone really knows how fake it is and how evil I am deceiving everyone; the frightened needing child; the angry, vengeful and impulsive one. More and more they seem to be separate personalities. I am fragmenting. I am more unstable. I lose more periods of the day – when I’m in one state I cannot “access” the other and I can’t remember things that happened (though I may remember the state). I flick so quickly between states without being able to engage my rational mind and try to employ any grounding techniques or DBT techniques to control my behaviour or my experience.

I guess it’s good that I can start to be curious about the process, from the temporary relative stability of my “coping” state. It must show I do have some ability to learn to mentalisa about what’s going on in my mind. Usually my “coping” state would be trying to suppress what I’m exploring right now. Perhaps eventually I’ll be able to build a more curious and stable personality at least alongside these others.

What do you hold on to when your whole reality, your whole existence, is unbearable sensation and emotion? It sounds utterly stupid. It sounds utterly out of proportion. It sounds self centred and I am forced to admit that though it’s the very last thing I want and one of the things I most hate in myself, in a way it is, though at the same time self has got totally lost in the feeling and emotion coming from everywhere.

What do you hold on to when you can’t access your coping strategies or even your most rooted beliefs and deepest cares? I love my God and know God is mercy and compassion, but in the bad states I can only conceive of a vengeful God or a God casting me out. I love my godchildren, I care about keeping my commitments at work,  but in those states I can conceive only that I do everyone harm and everyone knows I’m bad really and would rather I weren’t around. The centre of my beliefs and values warp according to the state I’m in.

What to I hold on to?

Ginny xxx

Walking this Borderland #3: Good things happen over tea

 

 

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

 

Good things happen over tea. I saw that quote on a gift mug today. It’s true. Perhaps I’m particularly English 😉 though it’s my coffee I really can’t get through a day without!

This one follows quite well from#2 and is another way of practising grounding and mindfulness.

If it’s not too wet a day, I like to sit outside for a few minutes with my tea. I don’t mind if it’s cold – I wrap up well and the nip in the air adds to the sensations that keep me rooted in the present.

I hold the cup. Enjoy the smell. Watch the delicate progress of the steam wafting upwards and maybe feel it on my cheeks if it’s a particularly cool day. I sip slowly and really enjoy the flavour and the comfort the warm milky drink brings inside.

Then I turn my attention further outwards. A good place to start, I’m told,  is to name 3 things you can see, 3 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell. Sometimes I start there and then go on to appreciate in detail something in my familiar surroundings. For example, how many different shades of green / gold / brown are there in the big tree opposite my flat? Count them. What shape are its leaves? Are there fewer today,  if it has been windy?

By this time, if I was feeling okay when I started I may be feeling calm enough to try some slow breathing exercises. If I was in a state of very high emotion, turning my attention outwards in this small way may have been enough to just slightly take me away from the extreme, to a place I can be a bit further from acting on dangerous impulses.

Ginny xx