Tag: Panic

All in boxes

House clearance day has arrived. I’m waiting for the clearance firm to get here. My anxiety is going through the roof right now (well at least there’ll be more space to get the old sofa out if it does ūüėú). On the one hand I’m dreading it and very nervous. On the other I’m relieved we are finally doing this and excited that my home will be emptier and calmer.

I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m nervous for, or what I’m dreading. Maybe it’s because I’m coming face to face with how I haven’t coped and the effects of my mental illnesses’ symptoms; coming face to face with the fact I couldn’t do this on my own.

I’m trying to focus on being excited. Recently I saw a documentary about stress which said that a lot of the same chemicals are released in the brain and body when we are excited as when we are nervous. How our brain interprets these biological changes has an impact on whether we feel excited in a positive way, or stressed / nervous. So when we feel nervous about an event, if we tell ourselves we are excited, this may be able to change how we feel to a more positive experience. I’m not sure if this is correct but I’m going to give it a go!

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

Today I will find good

Ouch. The pain is really bad this morning and I’m exhausted, anxious and don’t know if I’ll get through the day at work.

Today I am deciding to find as much good as I can. Today I commit to notice and be thankful for 5 good things around me. Today I commit to hold onto hope. Today I commit to find every small way I can to go that little bit further and bring help and happiness to others.

I’ll post the 5 thankful things later today.

Wishing you good today.


On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

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

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

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

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

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

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



Stars, in your multitudes

Stars, in your multitudes, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness

With order and light, you are the sentinels, silent and strong, keeping watch in the night,

You know your place in the sky, you hold your course and your aim

And each in your season returns and returns and is always the same….

Repeating the lyrics of songs in my head was one of the distraction techniques I was told to try early on in my diagnosis, when I was in a highly anxious state. ¬†Actually, it doesn’t work very well for me in episodes of the most heightened emotion but it is something that can distract me from repetitive cyclical thoughts, if I persist. ¬†I think I learned to do it myself as a child, actually. ¬†I do relatively often get songs “stuck in my head” and when I find one I like, listen to it over and over before moving on to another. ¬†(This also results in certain songs becoming associated very strongly to particular times in my life, even years later. ¬†There is some music that I like but just can’t listen to anymore because it is too strongly associated with journeys to visit my mother in the hospital 5 or 15 years ago.)

Anyhow, lately it’s been songs from Les Miserables in my head. ¬†“Stars” in particular came to mind as I reflected on one night a few weeks ago.

Granted the song is largely a bitter and very sad quest for an ideal of justice to the exclusion of all else, yet it is in parts beautiful all the same.

I was walking home after a very long day at work and my mind just would not stop and thoughts were spiralling painfully and I was exhausted.  Shortly before home, I cross a large park and that day I was surprised how dark it was, autumn evenings fast drawing in this time of September.  Just that little removal from the street lights and there was an inky darkness and a hush of the quiet night.

I looked up and happened to see The Plough almost right above me, then I stopped and my eyes jumped from star to star, “scarce to be counted” as the song says. ¬†“And each in your season returns and returns and is ever the same…” I remembered watching the stars as a child with fascination. ¬†Watching them through the darkness – or equally, the lights of distant towns on the skyline as we drove in the car – somehow calmed and reassured me and I would look intently, needing them somehow, especially on drives to and from the hospital, or when signs were multiplying that the next crisis was coming.

It was the same now.  Watching, stopping, my mind too began to stop and still.  The stars told me calmly of the world outside, of the beautiful and good, of constancy, patterns, hoping.  I was enveloped in something much bigger than myself.  The turmoil and spirals in my head spun less loudly.

Javert sang to the stars for constancy, clinging to something – justice, retribution, the quest he thought he must never lay down til, by himself, he brought order and vengeance.

I cling to something too, when I go outside and stare up at the stars.  But I cling to their brightness, steadiness and the order and beauty they already show, that is far beyond any work or thought of mine.

When the panic rises and terror comes, if I can form any rational thought I try to tell myself to go outside, break the spiralling thoughts and noise by just stepping outside into something else.  And I look up and surrender and sometimes, just for a moment, it is quiet.

Here’s “Stars” sung by Philip Quast in the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis, at the Royal Albert Hall: