Tag: panic attacks

A question for bloggers, and the outline of my blog

A question for bloggers, and the outline of my blog

A special thank you to those of you who have commented on what posting schedule you’d like to see and those who have shown their support. Today I’m writing to update you on the new outline and posting schedule I’ve decided on; also to ask a question to other bloggers.

From your responses so far to my recent posts, it seems that topics you would particularly like me to write on are eating disorders and life with / after trauma and abuse. I will make these topics main categories on this blog. The main categories will be: PTSD (including life with and after abuse and other trauma); eating disorders and body image; borderline personality disorder and dissociative disorders; mental health and finances; mental health and work; living with physical health disabilities as well as mental health conditions; question time (writing in response to questions you and others have asked me – this will of course encompass a wide range of aspects of mental health conditions and cross over with other categories on this blog); in the future I want to add a “help” section where I will outline coping strategies that help me, mainly regarding PTSD for instance things you can do that may help during a flashback.

The posting schedule I’m going to start off with is one weekly journal-style post and one weekly post on one of the above topics. I may be able to increase this but I think this is a reasonable aim to begin with. As mentioned before I will post outside this schedule at times. I think I need to choose what days of the week I will make my two regular posts. I’m thinking Wednesdays and Saturdays but I may change this – I’ll let you know when I next write.

You will have noticed the change of name to Dignity Beyond Trauma and at the end of the week I will write a post explaining the new name.

I have upgraded my site plan so will be giving this site a new and hopefully more accessible look over the next few days.

Finally, I have a question for other bloggers. Do you use another form of social media as well as your blog, for example Instagram or Twitter? If so what benefits do you feel this brings to you and to your readers? What should one consider before linking your blog to another kind of social media? It’s something I’ve been considering doing; I am not going to attempt it right now as I need to focus on sorting this blog but I am interested in the future. I’d be very grateful to know how it worked out for you. Thank you in advance.

Ginny xxx

Panic in BPD and dissociative episodes – spilling over and used up at the same time

My mind won’t stop. Yet at the same time I can’t process anything. There is constant clamour; panic and fear rolling round my head, gathering speed and swirling til there is nothing else in my head. I cannot hear properly. What I do hear is senseless, clanging, distressing sound with no words or meaning.

Remember a feeling can never be bigger than you, my psychologist said. But this feeling is. It’s boiling and spinning and pouring and rushing, and once it had taken every space in my mind it rushed outwards and spun round my head, like a hurricane or a tornado, slower but heavy, making a colourless, invisible, but impenetrable barrier between my mind, my eyes, my heart and the outside world.

I’m full but drained. In my heart it’s like only the dregs of me are left.

The panic has sucked everything out of me, draining away like water down the plug hole. Nothing is left but exhaustion, emptiness, and emotion that has no route to be expressed, so it just feeds back somehow into an explosion of pain and anxiety. The barrier round me gets stronger. Panic locks it tighter in place.

I need to cry and scream and I need to be silent. Silent inside and silent outside. I need to stop, so very much, but my mind is unable to stop spinning because of the panic force driving it on.

I need to be held, I need to be safe, I need everything that I have no right to in the adult world, because the only part of me left after this tide of fear is done with me is a screaming toddler, overwhelmed by the world. A little child who needs to be carried and protected. Adult me is lost in the panic, feeling forces she doesn’t understand, and little me comes out all alone.

***

Pain after pain, trauma after trauma, repetitions of past abuse, are all happening to people I love the most. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help. I feel so empty and I don’t know how to protect them. There is so much I need to give them and I can’t because the panic has emptied me already and that’s so selfish and stupid.

I’m exhausted and afraid of these exploding emotions that I don’t know how to control. I feel I’m barrelling on towards disaster. I feel failure. I feel the losses and longings and guilt and dread of terrified little me, alone after the abuse. Not knowing what to do or say when I see my loved ones suffer it too.

Xxx

Losing Lily

TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicide, of deaths of people suffering mental health conditions, and of failings in mental health care. If you are in mental distress, caution is advised in reading this post.

A NOTE: This post mentions anonymously the death of a person who had recently left the care of a service I worked in. There was an investigation into the circumstances of the person’s death and the investigation has now concluded. I want to make clear that this post discusses solely my experience from my point of view and my knowledge of the situation, my thoughts and feelings. It does not reflect the position of the service I worked in, or of any other person or team involved in the person’s care.

During the time I worked in a specialist community and inpatient mental health service 7 or 8 years ago, two of our patients died. One lady had moved away to a different part of the country so hadn’t been in our service for a couple of years when she tragically died from an overdose. The other lady had just left our inpatient ward (as far as I know against doctors’ advice but assessed as having capacity to make her own decision in this regard) and gone to live independently, but deteriorated rapidly within weeks and died 4 months later. I’ll call her Lily*.

At any one time we were working with several other patients in my eyes dangerously close to death – because of their drive to harm themselves (by overdose and substance use and so on), because of their suicidal intentions, and/or because their organs were so damaged physically by the effects of their mental health conditions (starvation and other eating disorder or self-neglect symptoms leading to heart failure or diabetic coma, for example).

We were working constantly short staffed, physically and mentally unwell ourselves because of the workload and emotions and conflicts and fear of making mistakes, within constraints of time and policy that often felt out of our hands, trying to provide a service fair and the best for everyone, but knowing we could not give enough.

Lily has never left me. She’s come to my mind every week or so since the winter she died. I was a secretary, not a clinician. I didn’t know Lily as much as I got to know some of our other patients. She was intelligent and wanted to do well and was very driven for her goals. She made close friendships with a couple of people on the ward. Yet, she really needed love which I think she often didn’t find where she may have most expected it. She really did start to get better but something very painful remained impossible to reach. Sometimes I wonder if she was hurting so much she’d had enough. If everything was so locked in and disconnected from the people she needed and wanted to trust, that in her pain it felt like time to go – if she didn’t choose exactly when but she did know she’d quietly slip away.

We didn’t reach her. Even as she got a little better, we couldn’t reach through her pain. We didn’t catch her. We didn’t keep her safe when she was slipping. We lost her.

There was an investigation – many investigations – after Lily’s death. The final investigation ruled that the harm she suffered, and her death, were avoidable. I just now read the start of the report of the last investigation and horror and panic and confusion took over. The room swayed and spun and I couldn’t breathe. I’m still freezing cold.

Her life is on my hands. Not mine alone, and not the service I worked in alone because several other services were involved – but I was there.

Of course we had not wished to reject her or abandon her or disown her or her care. One of the worst things is that a lot of what was judged harmful in the report, were either actions in line with procedures we were taught to follow to give safe and fair and consistent care to every patient in the service, or matters that within the constraints we faced, we could not personally control. But whichever, it wasn’t right or safe for Lily. Consistency and guidelines and constraints are one thing but every individual patient is in very individual circumstances at very individual risk. Procedure under huge constraints imposed from outside, doesn’t make account of that.

What do we do when the steps that were supposed to have been good or safest or standard, or following established guidelines, or the best we could give, or taken in faith in the decisions of those we work for and trust, were actually steps that led to a death?

Personally, what should I have done and what do I do now? My heart is screaming at me, you did not speak up, you did not speak when you had concerns at what you heard, you did not act, you did not follow your gut – you followed instructions instead, and you know this wasn’t the only time.

Good intentions or having tried to follow what was supposed to be good enough, or even best, count for nothing now.

I’m reminded of my mother and her care and deterioration; how we were locked in an agonising cycle of her discharge, the same crises repeating, her deterioration and readmission, worse and worse every time, all of us knowing what would happen but all held powerless by legislation that didn’t allow us to put in place a few simple steps that would have kept her safe. Ultimately an adult judged to have capacity to make a decision is allowed to make a decision that will harm herself, allowed to cut herself off from sources of help, allowed to deceive everyone who wants to help. Even when those decisions and actions are the work of a delusion founded in deep-rooted, severe psychosis. My mother couldn’t be more different from Lily but I see similarities in how the hands of those who wanted to help were rendered powerless.

In my head when Lily stares at me, slowly fading, I don’t know what to say, and everything I should have said back then echoes around me.

(*not her real name. Again please note that the opinions and thoughts and experiences mentioned in this article are mine alone.)

Ginny xxx

Panic about planning

My partner and I had to go into town today to buy some items for Easter and for volunteer work next week; also to meet a friend for coffee. There were 5 items on the list, to be bought in a couple of different shops.

Why did I go into a full panic attack?!

The task seemed completely insurmountable, more and more insurmountable as the minutes passed; and the more insurmountable it seemed, the angrier I got with myself. If it hadn’t been for my partner I would not have left the house. I’d have hidden away under my blanket at home. Yes, like a three year old.

I could not make any decision on where to go. Nowhere would have everything. There was a potential problem with every potential store we could go to. There was a reason not to go to this or that place, but also to go to this or that same place. I was exhausted. I wanted sleep. But I had to get everything on the list or I’d let people down at work. If I did go, what order should I go to different shops? All the possibilities made a desperate screaming noise in my head and it was impossible to choose and any choice felt disastrous.

Why? Why am I so unable to cope with the simplest choice and task? Decisions are always harder than I think they should be but not usually this bad.

There seemed to be too many combinations of possible outcomes to make a choice but I don’t know why this was so paralysing. Why there was so much noise and crushing pressure in my head. My reaction to not being able to choose was very much a child’s – want to stop, want to hide and so on. Had I dissociated and my little-child-self was in the fore and unable to cope with the decision-making? Or is my adult self so overwhelmed I can’t go through a normal choice process? Or both….

My partner made the choice in the end. We made it out. I had two other near panic attacks when things went wrong while we were out. We were glad to see our friend. I’m home now, utterly wiped out, pain off the scale. On days like this I’m astounded my partner wants to be with me.

Ginny xxx

Awake but locked into my dreams

I had a terrifying experience whilst I was waking this morning. Recently my flashbacks and intense dreads have blended with nightmares so that the flashback will first work its way into the dream, then I’ll be locked for a long time into a state where I feel I’m conscious (and I’m aware of physical sensations in the real world like the feel of the mattress under me or noise outside) but the flashback continues all around me and I can’t move  and often can’t open my eyes from it. In my hallucination / dream I’m screaming and panicking to move and get free but for a long time I can’t. Usually when it eventually ends I’ll be able to move and full consciousness returns and I’ll be very upset. Occasionally I go back into sleep for a time.

Today’s experience has left a peculiraly lasting fear with me although it was bizarre and did not involve explicitly reexperiencing a past event or threat. Afterwards my anxiety was really high, I was shaking, crying and for about 4 hours I felt as if I was bordering on a panic attack. I spoke on the phone to a family member, about what had happened but also about other nice things like how they were decorating for Christmas, to ground me and draw me back to the real world. A little later I forced myself to go out, pushing through the panic and feeling so dizzy and faint. This also helped and I was rewarded with beautiful gentle afternoon sunlight. Ducks and gulls were circling over the river and the sunlight in the trees through the mist gave a delicate pastel glow. I went into town and got the last couple of Christmas gifts on my list. Somehow, reality became a little firmer and safer.

I apologise that the rest of this post may not be terribly interesting to anyone but me. Reading about my dream or hallucination probably isn’t very appealing! I have written about what I experienced as a way of processing it and accepting that it happened, facing it and hopefully making it a bit less scary. Also, I think what I experienced tells me about ways I am feeling (in the real world) trapped, scared and dissociated from a couple of identities within me which I don’t allow to speak or feel and one of which doesn’t really dare be heard. I think it may be useful for me to come back to this later.

****

In one of these bizarre conscious-but-trapped states (is this the horror people with Locked In Syndrome feel?), I was panicking desperately trying to fully awake, open my eyes and get off the bed, when a woman I couldn’t see came to me and told me that my friend A was very sick and going to die. She had not asked for me and wouldn’t, but I must go to see her.

In real life I lost touch with A several years ago. We were never very closest friends but we connected over various work and discussions at church and spent some time together and I felt somehow that A, an extremely private person who very rarely spoke of herself at all and shrank away from any time spent on her, struggled deeply inside with fights I could somehow empathise with.

In my hallucination this morning, I decided immediately that yes, I must go to her, and so I stopped screaming and panicking about not being able to force myself up off the bed. I started to go with the woman I couldn’t see to A’s house. I asked her, what about A’s husband G (in real life A is married). The woman told me G was overcome with sadness for A and couldn’t any longer reach her. He didn’t know what to do but he wanted me to come. The woman I couldn’t see and I went to some kind of building I don’t remember, except that there was lots of wood and it had lots of rooms or passages. The woman I couldn’t see was gone suddenly and I wondered how would I know where A was. But then suddenly I found myself in A’s room. I was aware that her husband G was in the room but further away in the corner not able to come closer, though he wished he could. At the same time my terror resurfaced and came to its peak and I remembered again how I was trapped and couldn’t move. I was being crushed by terror and dread. A was in her bed; she was really sick; she was dying; though I was really afraid I absolutely had to look at her without fear. Despite the fear I was longing to look and be with her.

So, with all my courage and in so much pain I looked. Suddenly I was right by her bed kneeling on the floor wanting to take her in my arms and hug her. Then the utter terror returned because at first I couldn’t see her. Then I realised with horror she was all covered over with these richly embroidered sheets and cloths – like altar cloths or priests’ vestments, I thought – and her hair was covered as though she were a nun… but somehow she had become fused or blended with the bed. It was surreal and frightening. Then she looked straight at me and I remembered the pain she was in and how her husband was hurting so much but couldn’t reach her anymore and couldn’t go on. She smiled at me and told me I do not need to be afraid.

Then suddenly she was in intense pain. It gripped her. She was no longer fused to the bed but sat up then fell forwards near the foot of the bed. She was no longer covered up by the sheets or dressed as a nun; instead her hair was loose and she wore a childlike flowery dress. I reached out to soothe her and rub her back and cried out, what should I do, all her muscles were rigid with pain. Was she going to die? Panic cosumed me. I started to pray the Hail Mary, but part way through I suddenly could not remember the words even though I pray that prayer many times a day. I was looking right at her hurting, and completely helpless.

Then suddenly the bed and room was gone. She was taking me through corridors I didn’t know. Where was G, I thought. Where were we going? I wanted to get out and get away. I couldn’t even say one simple prayer. I must be going to go to hell. That must be where she’s taking me. I’ve run out of time. Again, I was fighting and crying so hard to move and get off the bed and open my eyes and make it stop. Still I was totally frozen.

Then somehow, we were in an elevator going up through different floors. My friend A was in front of me now. She was still wearing the flowery dress. She was going to heaven, I thought, and I wished I could go too. A wasn’t ill anymore. She was happy. As the elevator went on I got more and more scared and kept trying to move though I still could not. Each time we stopped at a floor I was sure this was my punishment and damnation. I was going to be thrown out of the elevator doors. I couldn’t see or don’t remember what was on the floors we stopped at. I was scared but eventually A was smiling and telling me not to be afraid. We were on the way up.

Eventually we stopped and the doors opened. You see, A said. It’s all alright. We walked out into a room full of tables and there were people I somehow knew to be A’s family members, as well as her husband who was no longer separated far away and could now reach her, and the woman who I couldn’t see when she had led me earlier. Don’t be afraid, it’s the way to heaven, said the woman.

Then the hallucination ended and suddenly, at long last I could move and stand up. I was in intense pain through all my joints and in my muscles, as though they had been cramped or under exertion for a long time. Despite having felt so frozen still, actually at some point during the night I had moved a lot because I had kicked covers off the bed and knocked booklets off the bedside table. Waking, I felt unengaged from the real world for a few minutes, then dread and anxiety boiled up inside me and it became terrifying how I had been unable to move and unable to step out of the hallucination. I was intensely afraid for a short time that something had happened to A, yet then I saw clearly that what I’d seen did not mean that, this time. Sometimes I do have thoughts and dreams about people that tell me something isn’t right with them, but this was not one of those times.

I think this is all to show me important things but I have not yet figured out how to express them.

Ginny xxx

Blank and falling

I was sent home from work today because I got to the point I just could not stand up anymore with the pain and altered sensation in my legs. I had to get a taxi home. Walking was so painful and my mind felt totally out of it and like I was ready to fall asleep or faint. I was trying to take steps but it literally was not working and I felt I was coming to pieces.

I’m scared. Things have crashed so fast. Though it isn’t fast really, as I’ve known for months that physically things were getting worse. But it feels fast, how quick I’ve gone over the edge to not coping.

The mental effects are as frightening as the physical loss of strength and all-encompassing exhaustion. I feel the room is swaying. On the verge of a panic attack for ages. Other times my mind feels frozen. My words get mixed up, the words that come out aren’t what I’m thinking or wanting to say, some stupidly substituted word or mixed up syllables comes out. People talking seem far away. I hear sounds but I cannot piece the words they are saying together. It’s scary, overwhelming noise. Thinking and speaking myself feels like struggling through thick water. The worse the tiredness and pain is, the worse it gets.

Then the worse the anxiety, hallucinations, obsessional thoughts and panic about what is in me and what everyone thinks…

I’m scared how far I’ve crashed so quickly. I’m hoping I’ll be able to find the way forward soon. Maybe with rest in a couple of days my head will feel different. I’m scared I’m going to get all shut away in my head again and lose the benefits people tell me therapy has brought me and that I was starting to see in what I can express or hold in mind.

The state of my mind right now makes me feel more vulnerable than the physical effects.

It’s weird the interaction with the pain and the cognitive struggle to keep a grip and the disconnection from reality, either shut off from emotions, drowning, or feeling too overwhelmed by being scared.

There’s so much I want to ask but can’t articulate.

Everything is slipping and I’m trying to hold on to the fact that even though I don’t have control of my mind right now or control over what’s happening to my body physically, I have a loving God, who will not leave me, whose love is perfect when we are weak; I have family members who care and some good friends who are still there now things are hard.

Ginny xxx

Not my day off

Today has been demanding. It’s one of those days that seems too much to have been only one day. I got big stuff done but also I’m losing time in unsettling ways and I know I was dissociating a lot between the different tasks and meetings I had to do, slipping out of being engaged with what’s going on and what I’m feeling and struggling to come back. Nevertheless I got through quite a few challenges.

Last night I knew I needed to tidy and clean my flat. My support worker was coming today. Also I hadn’t been on top of the housework since my operation and it was bothering me more and more. Recently I’ve started to find a greater sense of order and calmness if I don’t have too many things disorganised around me. This is interesting because til now, I’ve tended towards accumulating things I don’t need and not being able to keep my house ordered, not exactly hoarding but not being able to face items and paperwork and household tasks without going into panic.

Yesterday I was very anxious about today but put some of the physical drive from the anxiety into cleaning and then went on to clearing out some of my cupboards. By late evening I’d cleared 7 big bags (between rubbish and charity shop) and set 3 more big bags of things to try to sell at a car boot sale. The fact I don’t have a car for the boot element of that plan is potentially problematic 🙂 but there are the odd few table-top, largely indoor, sales in community centres / church halls here in the summer and I’m hoping I can find one to join in.

Today was a struggle to get up. Everything hurt. Still, I got together the papers I needed to show my new support worker (more on this tomorrow), then it was off to my care coordination appointment with my CPN. This wasn’t easy to go to because, although my last appointment was okay, in the two previous appointments I’d been really distressed and felt I didn’t get heard when I was desperate and at risk. Today’s appointment was actually really good. We looked at some DBT skills and we did a review which was overdue (every 6 months or so is a review appointment). I’ve not yet felt able to discuss with my care coordinator exactly what went wrong in the difficult appointments earlier this year when everything was going to pieces. I’m scared I’d lose control and the feelings of anger and not being believed would return and I’d do bad things and be back where I was. However my care coordinator and I have managed to move forwards having 2 positive appointments. I was scared after what I’d done – how upset and angry I’d got – he wouldn’t believe me or want me anymore and they’d know how bad I am and that I didn’t deserve help. That hasn’t happened. That’s something that I don’t usually get to experience.

Straight after my care coordination I met my support worker, H., who is from a housing support charity I was referred to recently. He is going to help me sort out my benefits like Housing & Council Tax Benefit, Tax Credits and disability benefits,  as well as liaising with my landlord about the rent arrears that I got into when I lost my job last year. It was a long appointment. We went through the background to how I’d got here, financially and in terms of my health, and we looked at lots of documentation, my income and my benefit and Council Tax notices. This took a lot out of me and I came so close inside to panic and losing it and emotions shooting too high. H. was very calm and non judgemental, which helped a lot. (More on this in the next couple of days.)

Then I had to rush to my GP appointment, which was the first since I’d been very distressed and angry at the surgery a couple of weeks ago;  also the first since my operation and finding out endometriosis isn’t actually the explanation for my pain and gynae issues. I’m still working through what happened in today’s appointment. I was dreading going into the surgery because I’m still terrified of what I did and how much I lost it. I was ashamed and embarrased and knew that they probably didn’t want me around again. I knew I’d really upset and inconvenienced and disturbed people. I’d scared people. That’s the worst thing,  the harm I caused, the bad I’ve always feared getting out of me. Talking to the GP  and discussing what happened and then also talking about my physical health was really emotionally charged.  It’s hard trying to deal with a lot of uncertainties about my physical symptoms. I know not having endometriosis is a really good thing but not having any explanation for all the things I thought it explained, and the fact the doctor isn’t really interested any more in investigating what may be wrong – well, that’s hard and triggers all my fears that it’s all in my head, I’ve made it up or I’m mad, it’s my fault. …

After the GP it was off to the pharmacy with my prescription, then finally home.

It’s been quite a day. I had a soothing bath tonight. Today was the first day I could have a bath since the operation (don’t worry I promise I did still wash 😉 !). The doctor sealed the wound with dissolvable stitches so it was important not to soak them in water too soon or they could have come undone. Also it was not safe to try to get in and out of the bath whilst my mobility was further reduced with post op effects. Falling is a risk for me anyway because of the problems the fibromyalgia and arthritis cause in my legs. So, tonight was a good little relaxation and refreshment. The little things do help!

How has your day been?

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

 

It just doesn’t stretch, whatever I do

I’m scared I’m so close to everything falling apart. Financially. But it feels like everything.

I got an automated voicemail message from my landlord telling me I’m to call them urgently to discuss “ways we can help you to pay your rent”. They had closed by the time I finished work so I have to wait til tomorrow to call them and find out exactly what it’s about but I know it will be about my rent arrears. I doubt they will be “helping” me pay, somehow! I know the fact of having to call them doesn’t instantly change anything but I’m really panicking.

I was struggling already today, feeling very sad after a difficult 1:1 therapy session on Monday, a friendship having broken down and a few other things. After getting this message I just wanted to crawl under my duvet, cry, shut off, everything and nothing…and the urge to cut is very strong but I’m trying to resist.

Nothing is working out. I got into arrears last year when I lost my job, wasn’t paid notice and holiday pay as expected, and my housing benefit didn’t come through for 10 weeks. Working part time I’ve been entitled to some housing benefit but my claim has been messed up, suspended, altered back and forth from start to finish and I’ve had more periods of weeks with no money coming in. I’ve been paying my rent, with great difficulty, but not able to clear the arrears.

Now they have stopped my housing benefit because my salary has increased by a few pence per hour. This leaves me unable to meet even the tightest budget. I do not have enough money to cover the bare minimun of rent, council tax, bills like electricity, telephone, prescriptions, travel to the hospital, some access to the internet and food (let alone any other expenses like buying clothes when needed, any longer distance travel, or socialising). I’ve cut back as much as I can, especially on food. I don’t make proper meals, just toast, cereal and cheap snacks. It makes me feel awful (plenty of guilt for bad fattening food) but I can’t afford anything else.

I know the arrears are my responsibility and I have to pay. I feel panic and guilt every day over them. I know that in the past when very unwell I made poor financial decisions and was irresponsible with money, which has contributed to why I don’t have savings. So has the fact that I’ve been too ill physically to work full time at several points in the last 10 years.

Part of what is so upsetting is that I am now doing all I can but I still can’t stretch to cover the tightest budget or see any way to change things. I am pushing myself as hard as I can to keep going to work. It’s very difficult mentally – and I’m sad that it is so hard to do it but that is the situation I have to accept right now. It’s very difficult physically too. The pain I’m in from the fibromyalgia, arthritis and so on has been increasing since I started and each day it gets harder to do certain things (going up and down stairs, staying on my feet for lengths of time, etc) and if it carries on it’ll get to a point the pain is too much or I can’t stand long enough or something like that. I hoped if I kept pushing I’d get better at dealing with it but that isn’t happening and instead everything is flaring up.

I really want to keep working. I’m blessed with kind and happy colleagues, a caring employer, a creative environment, varied days, lots to learn and so many good things. Psychologically this job is so much less stressful than the legal secretarial work I couldn’t cope with. There’s so much that should be positive that I don’t want to waste.

However I’m in a situation that I just can’t cover day to day living going forward let alone clear the arrears I owe. It shouldn’t be a reason to give up but when things seem to be falling apart anyway, it’s harder to keep pushing through the physical pain and mental struggle to keep working.

I feel really trapped because with the rent situation alone I think I’m going to end up losing my flat. I know the landlord, being a housing association, has given me more time with the arrears than many other landlords would. A private landlord would have thrown me out ages ago. I know that’s another way I’m fortunate. It’s my responsibility but I don’t know how I can or will be able to pay.

Even if I could clear the arrears  I don’t know how I’d pay the rent going forward. If I can’t,  I don’t know where I’d live because I have no money for a deposit to rent privately. If I went back to renting a room as a lodger my mental health would crash downhill but at this point I would have to be grateful for anything. If I lose this place and end up homeless I’d lose my job. I might anyway if my physical health keeps going down.

It’s horrible thinking even if I get evicted and lose my flat, I don’t know how I’ll change my situation. It’s horrible that trying as hard as I can to do the work I can, I’m not able to live on what I earn and I’m assessed not to be entitled to any benefits despite this. I want to work as much as I can but I’m actually in a worse situation, it appears, than if I were not working at all signed off sick. My rent and council tax would then be covered by benefits. Not that that would help with the arrears but it would at least cover rent going forward. The system says it shouldn’t happen that you are worse off working than not, but it does. I’m actually put into a situation where doing the most work I can means I’m left with not enough to live.

I was referred well over two weeks ago to an organisation that would help me sort all this out and talk to my landlord. I was supposed to have been seen by them within two weeks. I chased up as I hadn’t heard, only to find out they said they had not received my referral from the support worker. It had got lost in the secure email system somewhere,  ironically. It has been sent to them again but now they are not likely to see me til after my operation.

I have no idea what to do. There are so many “if”s and a spiraling whirl of consequences that make it feel that everything’s already falling apart.

I don’t want to make out I have it harder than the next person. I know so many people are in this situation. I know I have to deal with it. It’s a time I wish someone could catch me when I’m falling like this but I know that’s nobody’s responsibility. I’m scared and everything’s already unravelling inside.i suppose I have to try not to listen to the spirals in my head until at least after I’ve spoken to my landlord tomorrow.

Ginny xxx

I lost it.

I lost it today. And I wasn’t on my own this time. I went to an appointment with one of the CPNs. I was shaky before I got there, anger rising in the waiting room as two other patients and I were talking about how let down they felt by services, and in my appointment everything I said it felt like it was minimised or dismissed, I think. I can’t remember what we talked about or what we said.

I snapped. I screamed and screamed and then I can’t remember. Pain. Then I was on the floor screaming and then I couldn’t breathe and I was crying and couldn’t stop. I thought I’d hurt the CPN and took a long time to believe I hadn’t. Then I couldn’t speak and somehow nearly an hour had passed with all this, though I couldn’t understand it. I was so tired.

I’ve never flipped out like that in front of anyone. I cut so I don’t get there. Now it isn’t working. Usually it just happens on my own usually at night. Now they’ve seen the worst of me. Now I’ve lost control. I want to take responsibility but I’m losing it more and more. Nothing is working.

I’m home now. On the way home I felt out of my body but unable to get away from everything being shaken. Tea and blankets and NCIS tonight, my usual escape. But I have to face it.