Tag: surviving abuse

I can’t be loved

It hit me today. I can’t be loved. I am unable to receive love, most of all God’s love. I long for it in different ways. Crave not being alone or being understood. Crave protection. Crave being wanted. Being needed. Being any good (any good to anyone, and just simply any good). Not being rejected. But I’m totally unable to receive it, accept and believe.

A friend said to me a few months ago that I always put a barrier and was too angry to let God love me. I got very angry with this friend at the time and very afraid. I felt like he confirmed everything I always inescapably feared about being outside God’s grace, bad, too bad to save and it was my fault, that however much I thought I wanted good I was bad in the end. I spoke very angrily to my friend, accusing him of frightening and judging me. But really everything I attributed to him, was what I utterly feared because of what I’d learnt as a kid being abused. The only way to stop my abuser’s threats coming true, I believed, was to accept what she (my mother) was telling me about me. That meant admitting to my own pervasive, enduring, dangerous evil.

I’m only just now suddenly starting to see how strong her deception was and how it has made me unable to receive love, rather only to receive confirmation of her view of me (or at least the view she presented as an abuser). She talked a lot about love. I did not receive love in that relationship and as a kid that’s the relationship where love is most important. My father loved me but she so twisted things that my impression of him was that he believed the same about me as she did. The closest thing I experienced to safety and love was “admitting” under her violent coercion to how evil I was, accepting and desiring her total control over me and my total weakness.

Most of all I have been unable to accept the love of God. My abuser’s twisting of the meaning of what should be love has had a very direct impact that I wonder how I didn’t see til now.

More on this in coming posts. Right now I’m feeling like I just fell off a cliff or something.

Ginny xxxx

 

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

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: when it’s less safe

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

When it’s less safe, but I am no longer my abuser’s child

WARNING: this post contains mention of childhood abuse, discussion of my experience of anorexia and disordered eating and the purpose it served for me in my eating disordered thought processes.

When I started drafting this post, I didn’t actually intend it to form part of this series on eating disorders and personality disorder. I didn’t realise that it would be so much about my eating disorders, but it turns out that it is. I started writing tonight in preparation for my therapy group tomorrow. Last week, we were talking about feeling safe. In the discussion, I said that at some points during therapy (around the past 14 months so far), I’ve actually been less safe than when I was not in therapy. In hindsight, perhaps I should say, felt less safe. It has felt less safe. Despite this, I still feel therapy is a process I need and want to go through. Someone asked me a question about that, to which I struggled to verbalise the answer. I’ve thought on her question during the week. I’m not going to write what she said because I don’t want to break her confidentiality, but I wanted to share the reflection she has led me to about becoming more or less safe during therapy.

As soon as I tried to explain, the familiar eating disorder thought came into my mind – when I was anorexic it was safe. I know how sick and dangerous that thought is and how illogical, the physical destruction of my body having been so clear. Yet, there was a point not very long ago in therapy where I so desperately wanted my anorexia back, because it would have been safe, and not so much too much. With anorexia, I wasn’t too much and nothing was too much. (Except food, of course!) I was encased in a safe, protected place, and I felt nothing but its power, voice and drive. My emotions and my body made no more demands.

With anorexia I could be certain in the knowledge I was starving, punishing, weakening, enough to atone for what my abuser told me I was, enough to avoid the damnation I thought I otherwise deserved, enough to ensure I was not a threat. Enough to satisfy my abuser.  And even years after I had got away from her, I thought perhaps anorexia could take me back to that one time where it had seemed she wanted me, seemed through a child’s eyes that perhaps she loved me, the one time I wasn’t bad, where I was so weakened she took total control. That would be totally safe.

I was never cared for by her. Total control stood in for care instead. The closest thing to care and safety for me was my total self-destruction, total physical weakness, allowing her to take total control of me. My BMI was about 13. I was in unbearable pain in my back and legs. I could just barely walk with crutches and had to spend a lot of time in bed. She took control literally of my movements, my food, my use of the bathroom and toilet, my washing, my dressing and undressing, my weighing (any action that could have and should have been private, she invaded) my contact with other people (even the doctors who wanted to help me, whom she prevented me seeing most of the time). Telling me what I was thinking, telling me what I was doing to the family, telling me what to say, total control – but this total control was the only time that the terrible powers and terrible intentions she told me I had, seemed to cease. My body and my mind ceased to make demands and I succumbed to her totally. This was the only safe place. The rest of the time I lived in fear of what I would do to her or the family and of her terrible threats coming true.

Paradoxically, at other times my anorexia gave me something that was nevertheless mine. It was my anorexia and my body. I think I’ve written before how when she had me strip in front of the mirror, a fierce voice in my head said, this is my body and you will never touch me again, and I resolved to lose as much more weight as I could.

That determination and angry strength was unusual. It was more about cutting off. Later, I stayed as numbed and weakened as I could. Long after I was out of the anorexic weight range, physically safe, I continued to punish myself. Starving. Vomiting. Cutting. Overdose. On the outside, I could do what was required and expected. I achieved. I was together, doing what they required in terms of education and work. Again, that was safe, because I was doing what was required, my dangerous emotions were numbed, my atonement continued. Until I imploded. Everything went to pieces.

As everything fragmented, numb was no longer sure and safe. I desired the end and wanted to end my life. At the same time, my child voice that I had suppressed so successfully for so long, was screaming and desperately needed to be cared for. This was explosively dangerous. My abuser’s threats about what I was would come true; they’d be proved to be true for all to see. The evil in me would explode out of control, if I could no longer punish and weaken myself. I would cause unlimited hurt to others without even seeing it myself, but everyone else knowing the evil I was. I would never be cared for (ie in someone’s total control).

Straight away, the rejections began. (Again. Just as I’d been rejected when I had needs and sought help as a child – terrified what my abuser’s reaction would be; my father not knowing what was going on, so not protecting me.) I was not under my abuser’s control any more, but there was no care for me, no one to protect me, and the few people I trusted were not there for me. The pressures – I don’t know if consciously or not – piled on me made it very clear I am a disappointment, not good enough, not what they need me to be, that they will only accept me as long as I am moving in the direction they think I should be at the pace they have dictated.

I cannot silence the needs any more. Anger boiled out of control, hurt screamed. Going through therapy, the feelings intensified. There was no way back to the protection my eating disorder had given me. Now, when I write about how it worked and why I wanted my eating disorder back, I am horrified. I am horrified at the power my abuser had over me and how I allowed her to have it and how that made me feel safe.

I will never receive now the care I did not receive when I was a child being abused. I will never receive again the closest thing I knew to care, the total submission to another person and control by them. Terrible as that was, I feel as though I will never be sure, as I could for a brief time be then when I was totally dependent on her, that I am not the bad, evil thing I had been taught that I am.

With the loss of all my coping mechanisms, including stopping self-harming and stopping overdosing, as I have somehow by the grace of God managed not to do in the past few weeks, it does feel more dangerous. I don’t know how to find any reassurance, internal or external. My feelings, my emotions, experiences, feel so out of control and dangerous. I am no longer my abuser’s child. I am no longer what my family requires. I will never have the care and security I did not have as a child, nor will I have the safety unconditional acceptance would give, because I do not have that now that I’m no longer what they require. I don’t yet know how to exist without these things.

Part of me grieves for the loss of the eating disorder and mechanisms that kept me safe, because stupid and twisted as it sounds, they did at least protect me; despite the harm they caused, they protected me from ending my life, and though it was fairly illusory, they gave me the closest thing I had experienced to being cared for.

****

I should say that I think that another important part of the safety issue in therapy is coping between sessions with the emotions that have come up in sessions. Also, the impact that this disorder and the recovery process has across your life. Until very recently having the help of my support worker, I struggled badly with the social isolation that followed the loss of many important relationships, and the “domino effect” of all the material stability in my life falling away because of the financial problems caused by losing job after job and my erratic spending when I was out of control. Struggling with this at the same time as my emotions were going out of control anyway, my desperation for help increasing but being unheard by everyone I tried to get help from and had been led to believe I could trust, brought me very much too close to the edge. My support worker has greatly contributed to my safety now.

Ginny xxx

Bob and me and why couldn’t I say “no”?

WARNING: this post contains a passing mention of self-harm thoughts and a very brief generalised mention of abusive relationships

I’m sorry for this ramble that isn’t necessarily of interest to anyone. I really have to get this out and there’s nobody I can talk to. Kinda wish I could call someone but I don’t want to be totally needy and a burden on people.

It’s Friday tomorrow, which means group therapy. I’m really nervous. It’s the first group therapy for about 3 weeks following the summer therapy break. After the last therapy break (over Christmas) I found it hard to engage with the group again, stay present to mentalise and keep safe between sessions. The main reason I’m nervous this time is something that has happened between me and someone else in the group. Let’s call him Bob. I know that what happened is going to be talked about in group (because I talked it over in my 1:1 session earlier this week and my therapist told me it also needs to be discussed in group).

There’s a rule that group members should not have contact outside the group. It’s accepted that chance meetings happen or that we may see each other when attending the same hospital or GP Surgery  or other places and we aren’t expected to ignore each other if this happens, but we are not supposed to arrange meetings. One reason for this is that we should not discuss what happens in group outside group where not all the members are present. In particular we should not talk about other group members and if group members felt they or their issues were being talked about, this could be very upsetting and damage trust between group members.

“Bob” and I sometimes bump into each other because we tend to head off in the same direction after group. We sometimes bump into each other in the supermarket or in town because sometimes we go to the same church. Small world and all that. At these times we’ve chatted and I never felt that was wrong. This has happened with other group members too; we’ve discussed it in group and everyone has felt that it’s okay when that happens. Some members live quite near to each other so it’s somewhat inevitable.

In early June, I talked a bit more to Bob whilst we were in the waiting room before group started, because he was going through some practical problems that I had also had experience of and I was glad to be able to suggest a couple of sources of support for him. Then Bob asked me to meet him for a drink. It was his birthday and I knew that he does not have any friends locally and had been through a rough time. Straight away I didn’t feel comfortable with this. It was breaking the group rule. It could be breaking other members’ trust. I felt this was different from all the previous times Bob and I had talked, because this wasn’t a question of bumping into each other or waiting in the same room together for appointments; it was going out of the way to arrange a meeting. I was straight away nervous about why he was asking me. Plus going for a drink with anyone is hard for me, especially someone I don’t really know very much. Crowded places and lots of unknowns are difficult for me, raising my anxiety. I didn’t want to say yes. But I was completely unable to say no. I knew he would feel hurt and rejected and upset. I would be being nasty and rude. There was just no way in my head I could say the “no” I wanted to.

[I’m scared…]

Instead, I agreed but gave the proviso that it definitely be a one-off, just for a drink because it was his birthday. I also said that I wanted to be very, very clear that this was as friends. I have a lot of issues of my own and I do not find relationships of any kind easy. I am not looking for anything more than friends and I would not be able to give to that kind of relationship what I would want to. I said I felt silly and awkward saying that but just to make sure there can’t be any confusion I wanted to say it outright. Bob said he totally understood that and he felt the same.

So we met for a drink one afternoon. Well, that was the agreement, I thought. Except that Bob made it dinner, one evening, at a restaurant. And he insisted on paying for me. And it wasn’t a one-off, because from there Bob contacted me more and more. He wanted to meet again and again. He told me more and more that he had been thinking about me and praying for me and that he thought I was a very special person. And every time, I didn’t want to. I wanted to say no. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. And we met again, then another time, then another.

[I’m so scared even writing this. I feel I can’t breathe. I’m twisted up inside. Why?]

I couldn’t say no but I hoped it would stop. I tried to say. I said I was worried for both of us – that we’d get worried about the other and not be able to tell anyone, that we’d share things that we really needed to talk about (in group or with our therapist) and we wouldn’t be able to, that I wanted to share our meeting with the group, that I didn’t think we needed to hide it, that I thought he was trusting me and thinking of me differently from everyone else in the group and that could be damaging, that he was sharing things with me and not with the group and that could be bad for him (and the group)… I said these things, I think. Yet I let them be quickly brushed aside. Bob wasn’t dismissive. He wasn’t typically pushy or crass. Somehow though, I let my concerns be put away by what he said in response and I didn’t follow them through.

It was evident he cared for me very much and thought well of me. A lot of it seemed to be true Christian care and prayer and friendship. However, I knew it went beyond that. If someone cares for me, it frightens me. Bob would say in group that he had been thinking about me and it scared me there too. I wasn’t the only person he’d say it about but he seemed to say it about me more than about others. I know I get scared about this kind of thing and it makes it hard to know (or hard to trust myself when I think I know) if the other person is caring about me in a normal way or if something is unusual.

Scared turned to terrified when he seemed to care for me obsessionally. It sounds wrong to say that. It sounds like he did something wrong. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t force me. He did nothing wrong. That’s what makes this harder. He did nothing wrong and he is not a nasty person and he is a kind, caring, generous, Christian man. But his contact became more intense. Even how he looked at me. He’d watch me so intently. He’d comment on tiny things in my appearance and say he couldn’t get over them. He made a few comments that freaked me out, like that he couldn’t resist me if I had long hair, things about wanting cuddles, that I shouldn’t let my father know his age [Bob is substantially older than me but – what??!!]… I wanted to run. His texts got more frequent. Several times within an hour at the end. I knew I could not be what he thought I was and couldn’t give him what he needed.

In the end I was scared enough that he was obsessed with me that I stopped it. I checked out my feelings searching online to see if people can be obsessed with other people and if this happens in relationships, knowing the answer really but having to check out whether it is something bad and whether it can lead to worse – because I couldn’t trust myself. Partly because he really was being so “nice” and not doing anything wrong. As well, I was scared he was telling me things that he wasn’t telling the group. I was trying to encourage him to tell the therapists and tell the group. I knew too much about pressure he was under and danger he could be in and help he might need. I knew it wouldn’t be safe for either of us. I felt that whenever I ended it or whether I just let it carry on, I would end up letting him down and not being what he so much thought I was and he would get hurt and the longer it went on the worse it would be.

I couldn’t trust myself. I felt so strongly that there was a sexual or at least physical attraction undercurrent, that he was attracted to me, that he wanted more and wanted me to be something I never can be to him, that he was becoming what felt like obsessed with me. It is so obvious to me now and it scares me now and scared me then but for so long I couldn’t trust this instinct and end the relationship.

[I want so badly to cut. I won’t. I won’t. I am determined to sit with this and try to stay present to feel in group tomorrow and not numb everything down by self-harming.]

Though I was scared I don’t think he knew it. I don’t think he knew I was uncomfortable because I said nothing and pursued none of my objections. Actually, I was dishonest with him, in sharing time with him but actually wanting to get away whilst he thought we had a connection, or were sharing something important. I feel so guilty for that. But then, we did share something. We are both Christian and we spoke often of God and hope and mercy and that is something I cannot share so fully with many people. It’s something I don’t really talk about in group, not yet anyway, and it’s a different kind of conversation. Genuinely we did share that and it was good. It’s not black and white and I don’t blame him and he did not do anything bad or wrong.

I know a lot of my fear and my feelings came from triggers in our conversations and relationship which probably would not have been triggers to anyone else. To the next person perhaps it would have been easily passed off or nothing important. For me there were so many triggers to my emotions and behaviour that reminded me of when I was being abused. That sounds terrible to say. It makes it sound like he manipulated or took advantage of me. All he did was kind. Apart from me not wanting it and feeling we were deceiving people and feeling scared. He didn’t know. But it’s how I felt. I started behaving and thinking like I did in the abusive relationship. It’s why I couldn’t say no. It’s why my feelings totally disappeared for me in the sense that I dismissed them all and followed only what his feelings and his needs seemed to be. It’s why I couldn’t say no, couldn’t trust what I felt, wanted to run but it was utterly impossible to do anything about it. I fell into the same patterns of watching and silence and trying to get it right, perceive his needs and his emotions correctly, trying to save him and keep him from danger. His obsession with me and his need for me reminded me – in my emotions if not in facts – of the abuse too. When my abuser wasn’t threatening me she was attributing bizarre powers to me, largely perhaps stemming from her own delusions (or perhaps it was all part of the plan of the abuse), powers I did not have, powers that I was to have because I was born at a particular time because she had planned it for a reason; she’d watch me obsessionally and intently, she’d have me keep secrets… I ended up emotionally right back there when Bob talked about how good I am, how he thought about me, how important it was we shared these conversations separate from the group, how it should not be shared with anyone in group because that would get too complicated, when he so intensely contacted me and needed me.

When I did finally end it, I told the service because I was so afraid what Bob would do. I am not so arrogant that I think contact with me can matter that much to anyone, but I was sure that he’d interpret me ending our contact as total betrayal and breach of trust. I know those kind of feelings put him in danger, because of what he’s discussed with me both in group and outside. I didn’t want him to know I was scared, because of a particular thing he shared in group once. I thought for days about how to do it. I told the PD Service right away that I’d ended it and told them I thought he’d be in danger. If the service hadn’t been there and I hadn’t believed they could try to keep him safe, I would not have dared to end things.

I’m scared for group tomorrow. What’s going to happen. How it’s going to affect Bob when we have to talk about it. If I admit I wanted to stop the meetings, or that I had worries, it makes it sound like he forced me. He didn’t do anything to force me. So many times I could and should have said no. But I have to be honest. I’m scared how what’s happened will affect other people in the group and what they’ll feel. They may be hurt, they may feel betrayed, angry that rules have been broken and trust has been broken, they may think we were trying to do something in secret to exclude them. I think everyone will lose trust. I don’t know what Bob feels about it being discussed in group and I don’t really know what he feels about me having ended contact. I told him that I had told the service, but I don’t know what he feels really. I just feel so sure he feels totally betrayed. I’m scared he mightn’t come back to group. I’m mainly scared about him and about the rest of the group and how they’ll feel but I’m also scared how unable I was to act on my feelings and say no.

My head is imploding with all these feelings. Maybe I’ve really turned the proverbial molehill into a mountain but for some reason this whole situation is leading to really strong unbearable feelings for me. I’m fighting so so hard not to self-harm tonight. I’ve been trying self-soothing, trying to do creative things, trying to do practical things, hot drinks, texting a friend about something else, trying to take the focus away from the emotion and away from myself. Then I wrote this. In a minute I’m going to try a weird approach that just occurred to me – I’m feeling totally nervous and wound up so maybe if I watch a DVD that makes me just a little bit on edge and in suspense it’ll give another direction for the feelings and get some of them out. Not sure how that’ll go down and it’s just a thought that occurred to me, but here goes! A couple of episodes of Grimm should do nicely.

Ginny xxx

We all got bruises

Two very different favourite songs I haven’t listened to in a while popped up on my playlist just now. Music and lyrics I can identify with have a powerful effect on my mood and sometimes I use it to cope with strong emotions and memories.

I’d never heard of Crystal Bowersox but felt an instant connection when I stumbled across this song about a journey out of abusive relationships. I like the imagery of the thread in the video – at the start the thread attached her to the abuse / her abuser and it does not disappear completely but she is able to bring from it something different, safe, even beautiful in her own life once she is free.

Here’s another song which lifts me up – “we all got bruises” but it doesn’t mean we will always be down on our knees and they can make for better things to come.

Ginny xxx

Bruises – by Train / Ashley Monroe

Farmer’s Daughter – by Crystal Bowersox

Thanks to VEVO / youtube for the videos

Becoming like them would be worse

What a week. On Tuesday, again I was crying, asking, what is happening across the world. Every day there seems to be more violence and anger and fear and it is felt all the more as it erupts in places we thought were safe and stable. The murder of the Priest Fr Jacques Hamel in a small town, St Etienne-du-Rouvray, outside Rouen, was particularly shocking for many reasons including the fact that it shows such acts of war can happen anywhere. Loss of life is equally terrible wherever and whenever it happens and I fully hear the call of those pointing out that atrocities like this go on every day potentially unreported in areas of the world suffering indescribably more than the continent I am privileged to live in. Certainly the spread of attacks in European cities in the last month shakes us by making us realise there is no longer any way we can pretend it is something distant from us or not affecting us.

Some of my family set off today on a holiday driving through France and Spain.  I will be more mindful of their safety and praying all the harder for them than usual. I can’t imagine what it is like living somewhere that has been directly affected. Understandably, there is a call to action. Churches in the UK have all been asked to review their security systems, for example.

One part of the response that I find very alarming is the segregating, defensive, even attacking language and stance that spread quickly in articles and comments on a couple of pages I follow. I can understand the roots of this response, for example, the desire to remove the threat of extremism and restore safety and silence those who preach hate. But very quickly we risk acting in hate ourselves. In the days following Saint Etienne, I read several alarming comments calling for us to take up the crusade against the Muslim world which we supposedly “left unfinished”, saying that anyone who raises their children in the Muslim faith condones these barbaric acts, saying that terrorism spreads from anger (okay, that part I can accept) which spreads from bad education about the source of the Arabic world’s problems and to stop it we have to educate the angry young men who may be recruited by extremists that the Western World is infinitely better than theirs and all their problems are of their own making.

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

(John 13 v 35)

Perhaps I’m naive but I was shocked. Of course I am not suggesting tolerance or negotiation with extremism / extremists. However, somehow, I don’t think asserting our superiority is going to calm their anger. I don’t think responding to extremists’ war with a “holy war” of our own is a way to bring peace. Labelling a whole religion or culture on the basis of the way an extremist group twists its teachings and seeking to obliterate it, is not a solution to bring peace. Quickly we become anger and we speak in hate. We become like the aggressors that we fear.

I prefer Fr Dominic LeBrun, Archbishop of Rouen’s, response when he was leaving the World Youth Day pilgrimage in Poland to return to France the day after the attack on Fr Jacques. “I cry out to God with all men of goodwill… The Catholic Church has no arms than prayer and fraternity among men. I will leave behind here hundreds of young people who are the future of true humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of such violence and to become apostles for a civilisation of love.”

Becoming apostles for a civilisation of love does not mean a saccharine sweet front or a return to Flower Power (!) but a genuine and often painful call to continue through pain, instability, suffering, hate and poverty responding in love – still allowing ourselves to dare to feel things other than anger and coldness that might protect our hearts, allowing ourselves to hope, allowing ourselves to believe somehow that people are foremost created for good, including ourselves.

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This applies on an intimate scale too. I apply it to my recovery from what I experienced at the hands of my abuser. That way I do not become what she wanted me to become and do not become like her.

If I give up, stop seeking the good in the little things of every day, I become isolated, as she desired. If I believe the voices, which pleases them – and pleased her – then I remain paralysed and in her control. If I shut myself away and do not speak because I know the torment that will go on in my head afterwards because of her twisted words and threats so firmly internalised, her world continues to surround me. If I allow anger to harden my heart then numb me; if I do not dare learn to let anyone love me; if I do not dare to allow my feelings and needs without punishing myself, then she wins.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

(Proverbs 31 v 25)

If I keep looking out and up, I learn to be thankful for a world which teaches us constantly more about our loving Creator. If I counter the voices with God’s Word of truth and life, I become like Him. If I reach out with love wherever I see someone suffering or in need, I forget my own, and good experiences multiply and become more wonderful and more vivid than the fears. If I believe the Lord made us in His image and “clothes with strength and dignity”*, I believe first in my capacity for good and slowly may learn that I am not the evil that she so well convinced me that I am. In all I do, Lord, may “my deeds publicly declare Your praise”*.

Ginny xxx

*Proverbs 31 vs 25 and 31.

 

PS – for fellow NCIS fans…this episode sprang to mind…

becoming like him would be worse

Ziva: This country holds itself to a higher standard. It is a nation of laws which are to be followed not only when it is convenient or easy. I have seen firsthand what happens when convenience wins out.

Tony: You never talk about it.

Ziva: What is there to talk about?

Tony: [Long pause] Come on, Ziva.

Ziva: What Saleem did was bad enough. Becoming like him would be worse.

From NCIS Season 7 – “Masquerade”

PPS: NCIS property of Channel 5 and CBS; directed by Donald Bellisario and produced by Don McGill. Image – Cote de Pablo as Ziva (not from Masquerade because I couldn’t find a suitable appropriate one from Masquerade).

 

A much bigger loss than they realise

When I signed up to the programme of treatment I am in at the moment, it was to include weekly group MBT therapy, fortnightly individual therapy, monthly care coordination and support available from a duty team.

With no warning, monthly care coordination has been stopped and changed to quarterly. Having expected to see my care coordinator yesterday as we’d previously booked, this was cancelled and my next care coordination is not to be until the end of September, which will be about 4 months since my last appointment.

I could write a lot about how badly the actual communication of this decision has been handled. Actually I did but I deleted it. It probably doesn’t do anyone any good, not me or the service or anyone else, to shoot off into an angry tirade. I’ve been trying to process this through since we (ie all of us in the therapy programme) got letters telling us a few days ago. My emotions are pretty out of control and shooting to extremes at the moment independent of this which is making things harder – ironically, partly because there is so much going on all across my life and I can’t hold it all together; I could have really done with some help from my care coordinator. I’m trying not to just rant in anger here. However, I do think that some of my feelings are shared by other people in the programme and I do think this reduction in appointments is a much greater loss than the hospital realise. There is a huge gap in care here and it’s getting wider.

We weren’t involved in the decision. We were informed afterwards in an impersonal letter. We were informed that this would be best for us. There was nothing personal about the decision. Surely everyone’s needs in terms of care co-ordination may be different, at different times in their therapy, according to what’s going on in therapy, their health across the board, and all areas of their life? The approach being taken isn’t responsive. It’s just a blanket decision.

My views are certainly being influenced by what I observed and experienced when I worked in mental health services in the same mental health trust in which I’m now treated, but I wonder if the source of this reduction in appointments is actually largely to do with funding cuts and staff shortages? Conversations I’ve had with my care coordinator have given me more than an inkling that my suspicion is correct. If this is so, it would have hurt a lot less if this explanation had been given plainly, rather than it being couched in claims that the service think it’s better for us to have less coordination of our care.

Leaving this aside, nobody actually discussed the matter with us whilst deciding what would be best for us. We didn’t get to give any input about why care coordination is important for us, the help we need, the effect this withdrawal of support would have, what our needs are and how they might best be met. We committed to the therapy programme expecting one thing and now this has been changed. We’re expected to stick with the programme and commit to it but they are free to change it how they choose. This is by no means the first time this has happened and what we have trusted in has been changed or taken away. Support we desperately needed, which was insufficient anyway, has now been withdrawn further.

All these things combine to make us feel hurt and powerless and unheard by those we should be able to trust and undeserving of support. I posted yesterday about how when I discussed the changes on the phone with my care coordinator (after I’d chased several times for any explanation of how the decision was made and what’s happening in practice with my appointments going forward) he told me the service thinks this is the best way to challenge us to be more independent, and how much this hurt and how little the service we should be able to trust actually appreciate what we are facing.

Separate from the emotions this brought up, the withdrawal of these appointments doesn’t just affect the appointments themselves; by the very nature of what care coordination is meant to do, it will have an impact on our wellbeing across the board and I think this is where the proverbial baby well and truly has been thrown out with the bath water. It seems the clinicians who have made this decision do not realise what a loss this will incur.

First, on an immediate practical note, it will have a knock on effect on our therapy appointments. We have been told that the clinicians have decided it is most appropriate for us to get help in therapy appointments rather than care coordination. The focus of a care coordination appointment is utterly different from a mentalisation-based therapy appointment . Therapy appointments focus on emotions and interpersonal situations, looking in depth at particular relationships and specific interactions, our emotions and thoughts and our understanding of what is in our own and each others’ minds. It’s not so much about events and information and our circumstances as focussing in depth on our emotional experience and thought patterns. This is totally different from what is covered in care coordination – such as building a care plan, reviewing mental and physical health, looking at input that may be needed from other health professionals or support workers, looking at social and financial problems and stability, monitoring risk and safety issues, communicating with the range of professionals and others involved in someone’s care… the list goes on. If this is now to be squashed into the therapy appointments, either the time for therapeutic work will be greatly reduced or the problems we needed care coordination for won’t be addressed.

This is all the more important since the length of time for which one can be seen in the service is now strictly limited. The service was set up to be a lifelong service, recognising the fact that we may likely need help outside of particular therapy programmes across many years. Now this has been stopped and after we have completed a particular therapy course we are discharged whether or not we are coping or safe or recovered. When time is limited and so soon we will find ourselves alone again or at least without specialist support, whatever state we are in, it’s all the more important that whilst we are with the service we can get help pulled together across all the areas of our life that our mental health affects and that affect our mental health.

And these areas are broad.  Several of us in my therapy group, myself included, have multiple mental and physical health diagnoses. Most of us have many unmet needs at any one time.  Some of this is because of rules that you can only be seen in one service at one time. I’ve posted before on how unfair that can feel – for me one thing this rule means is I’m not allowed any help with my PTSD and trauma following the abuse I’ve been through, because I’m being seen in the PD Service. I know other people who were forced to choose between being treated for their life threatening eating disorder or their personality disorder. Multiple mental health diagnoses are often closely related but I, and I’m sure many others, have had big difficulties trying to find the way through the care and treatments they need and I’m regularly promised help that is then the next minute taken away. Someone needs to pull all this together and make sure communication happens and that help promised is actually delivered. It is too hard to do this on your own when you’re seriously ill and all too often you are bounced between different services, each telling you that another service is meeting your needs when actually nobody is.

Physical and mental ill health tend to cause disturbance and instability to a lot more than health. Just a few examples from my own experience – and all these are shared by other members of my therapy group – are losing your job, being made homeless or having to move from your secure home, having nowhere stable to live, having no money to meet essential expenses of food and rent and bills, falling into debt, trying to navigate the system to claim sickness benefits or help with housing costs whilst working part time – and being met by mistakes and delays at every turn and waiting weeks on end to receive any money, consequent trouble with utility companies, landlords, over or under payment of tax and Benefits, filling out form after form, having less and less contact with friends and having no resources (financial, or in terms of emotional strength) to keep in touch with the little positive things that can keep you well, relationship breakdowns, addiction, crises, losing control and ending up in trouble with the police or other involvement from emergency services… I could go on and on.

It just isn’t possible to sort out all of these things on your own especially when you’re struggling with the daily pain of the BPD itself. You desperately need someone to get you access to help and guidance, to be familiar at least to some extent with the systems you’re struggling through and to know what help is available and refer you there. This help has never come, for me, from the PD Service, and with so little care coordinator input going forward, it’ll be even scarcer.

Yes, a lot of these things are parts of everyday adult life but the fact is by the time most of us eventually get seen in a specialist service like mine, we have struggled without the help we need for years upon years and are very near the end of the road. (Potentially, very near ending our lives, or already having reached that point because there is nothing but pain, dark, utterly spent, utterly trapped, self disgust, I could go on…) Yes, we have to be able to function independently. But we are silently screaming how right now we can’t. We need help. We desperately need to be heard that we need help. Every time we have tried the very hardest we can and there’s yet another loss, obstacle, more and more piled on us, our risk increases and we are less and less able to be independent and more and more locked into our compulsions to overdose and self harm and try to numb and control the utter desperation and silence the painful scream for help inside us. If someone hears us, guides us, gets an understanding of what is happening across our lives, pulls the pieces together and gives some continuity, as our care coordinator could, then we can start to gain strength and start to find some kind of stability that might eventually allow us to heal.

I am incredibly fortunate that I have a support worker (from a local social service, not from the NHS) who is helping me with so many things that I’d have hoped my care coordinator and/or support workers from the PD Service would have done. The response from the PD Service was to brush me off saying everyone has to deal with these things and I did not qualify for any help and one appointment with a care worker who did not know anything about most of the areas in which I needed help. Thanks to my current support worker, I have not been evicted by my landlord, I have been helped to fill in the complex application forms for disability benefits, I have had support to go to assessment appointments, I have had help learning to budget, I have been able to access the correct advice and information from all the services involved (housing benefits, the council, the Jobcentre, disability services etc), I have someone on my side who understands the difficulty I’m going through at the moment in the police investigation into my abuser, and I have some social support which will help me use my time constructively to keep getting better and eventually learn how to get back into work.

In no way did the lack of recognition, lack of coordination and lack of support I received from the PD Service make me better or more able to function. In no way has having a support worker made me less independent or worse. I am now self harming much less and have not overdosed for weeks. I’m able gradually to do a little bit more and then more, because I have some sense of stability and safety and someone who believes me. With his support I’m not alone going through the things that distressed me to the extent that I couldn’t cope and could only hurt myself.

This support is desperately needed. It is very sad that it is so hard to find. Given that the therapy programme is so good, and I know it is such a privilege to be able to undertake it, it is sad that the support towards staying safe and being well and stable, is so lacking. It is much harder to grow and make use of the therapy from a place where you don’t feel safe or heard.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps I’ve had an unusually bad experience with my care coordinator or when I’ve been in crisis. Perhaps I’m incredibly dependent. (Well, I think I definitely am.) Probably I should focus more on the fact I have the support I do. I know many services have much less support available. It just seems to me like a big and widening gap and that things could so easily be different.

If I recover enough to ever work or volunteer in this field, I’d like to work on trying to bring together patients’ access to the support that’s out there and bridge the gap of all the unmet needs that are stopping us from having a stable life whilst we’re working through our therapy programmes. I’m sure this would increase people’s security in their recovery.

Ginny xxx

Lost and hurting

[WARNING: this post contains content that may be distressing including mention of past abuse and things said and done to me by my abuser; it also reflects my very distressed and confused state. If this may be upsetting or unhelpful I would suggest giving this one a miss.]

It’s been a really bad day.

I’m sorry I can’t post quite what I said yesterday that I would although this is quite closely related.

I can’t do anything right now really. I’ve never felt so lost and fragmented. My thoughts are racing but I can’t get them into words. I’m freezing cold. I literally feel far from everything real. I tried to go for a walk to calm down. Everything around me – trees, people, sounds of talking around me, the ground – seemed to be existing and happening further away than usual behind a screen. The pain and exhaustion is intense and shattering.

Something inside me that was the last thing pushing me forward even in the mess things are, seems to have switched off. I can’t do anything. I don’t want anything except desperately wanting someone to hold me. I don’t know for sure what I feel apart from lost.

I feel a total failure. Failure as a friend. Failure in what everyone else can do. Failure as a Catholic. Failure at being. Not enough.

My friend told me he’s known for years I’m angry. That terrifies me. I have done everything to stop it getting out. I stopped eating. I cut myself. I overdosed. In the end it came back to stopping the evil getting out of me. It didn’t work. Everything I feared. There are evil things in me I can’t control. They got out when I was a child. What my mother said is coming true. I can’t even hurt myself enough to stop it getting out.

He said I’m too angry to let God in; that I don’t want God to love me,  I always want there to be a barrier, I won’t let God love me.

But I thought nothing could stop God’s love. I so want to love God. It has never occurred to me to think I don’t want God to love me. I don’t think I please God and I don’t think I love Him enough and it is very hard to truly believe He does love me. I find it very hard to think He does want me and I’m terrified whatever i do, in the end He’ll reject me and everyone will see how bad i am and I’ll be damned. But to think I don’t want God to love me? It terrifies me.

The thought terrifies me constantly that my real desires and motivations are evil however much i want them to be good and even when I think they are good. That God knows and other people know they’re bad really. That it’ll be exposed sooner or later. That it means I can never be loved and never be good.

Just like when my mother told me, she’d be taken away because of me or whatever she was threatening at the time, I’d fool people it was because of her but she’d know and I’d know it was all because of me really. Nobody would believe a child could be that bad but really it would all be because of me. When all along I didn’t know what I’d done wrong and desperately tried to do what she wanted and needed, it turned out that was how bad I was really. I took in totally on board.

And – they’ll know you enjoyed it, she’d say after she put her hands in me. They’ll know you wanted it and you enjoyed it. Mind you don’t do that,  don’t breathe like that,  or they’ll realise. It hurt and I was frightened but she told me they’d realise I wanted it. It plays over and over in my mind now. The thought that I wanted it, is  as bad again as what she did. And when she had me do things. You love that don’t you, you really like it…. I wonder if anyone’s listening. ..no one would believe it’s all because of you, daddy and I would be taken away and you’d be sent to a special school for morons. Are you a moron?

Another time, just because i couldn’t do something – Look, this is a toddler walking rein. This is what you put on babies when you go out. So if you’re going to pretend, we’ll put this on you whenever we go out so everyone knows you’re a baby.

As a kid I knew I was evil. But even as a kid I wanted to be loved. I wanted it but I knew I was too bad really.

I’m fragmenting now.

Now my friend has said I don’t want God’s love. I don’t want a relationship with God. I want to put up barriers. I’m too angry. I didn’t think it was possible not to let God love. My only hope was we can’t stop God loving. But he said I refuse to receive it. What I feel is shaken and darkness and alone and losing one by one everything that gave me any stability at all. I try to read the Bible and I feel fear. Where I should feel hope. Where my friend tells me i should feel hope and joy and I just have to keep on doing it and i have to make the choice and if hopelessness carries on it’s a choice. My friend said he doesn’t think I’ve really tried to pray. That I haven’t kept doing it. That if I don’t feel hope I have to stir myself back up to it. That it works for most people so why would I be different, why wouldn’t it work for me? I repeat words I cannot believe and promises I cannot feel and try to follow a God I cannot find, I am twisted inside trying to act against everything I feel and say only what I want to believe but isn’t real in my heart.

I am completely lost. The relationships that meant most to me all broke down and it turned out I’m not a good enough friend, that when I was trying everything I could to do good and to keep all the frightening horrible evil things inside me, I was just a burden.

I have lost any grasp on what I can trust. I’ve lost any grasp on my faith. I think I desperately want my God – i thought I did, at least that was sure, although I found it impossible to believe He could want me. The terror of the harm I do and the evil that will come out of me and knowing I can never really know if I think or mean or want what I think I do, was too great. But now I have been told I don’t even want God, am too angry to want God’s love. I’m utterly shaken. Have I never had any faith. …if despite everything I really don’t even want God and everyone but me knows that then I’ve never had any faith and I’m lost.

This is absolute pain now. I cannot function. I am so frightened.

Ginny xxx

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

Just now I was typing a text message to my friend to say thank you for a good catch up that we had a couple of days ago. Like most Android phones now (I think – dodo alert!) it not only has predictive text in terms of suggesting the word you are currently typing, it also predicts the following words (so for example, if I type “hello how” it will prompt “are” then “you” “?” and so on). Sometimes it is rather over zealous in that function and inserts words you don’t want. Or, as I said, possibly dodo alert again.

So there I am starting to write “It really was good to see you” and my phone changes it to “it really hurts”. Then tries to do it again the next time, too.

It’s not just me you see – now it’s official, my cell phone is depressed too. It’s going for all the sad options!

This made me laugh and also realise that I must whinge a lot more than I realise if it has learnt that word combination. Then it reminded me of the time a while back when I had to send numerous messages about the choir arrangements over  Holy Week* and Easter at my church, so frequently that come Easter Sunday my phone’s predictive text learnt how to spell “Triduum”* and  “Attende Domine”*. So I’ve got a Catholic phone too 😉 .

On a more serious note, this got me thinking that my cell phone mirrors what the cells in our brains – y’all see what I did there 😉 – what the cells in our brains do as we have our life’s range of emotional and interpersonal experiences. Like my phone literally expecting “hurt”, the more hurts and pains we experience, the more we can readily expect this, the more we feel it and the harder it may be to feel anything else. Perhaps the longer we’ve suffered in an abusive or otherwise harmful relationship, the more we are only able to see ourselves and others only in the light of how our reality and our identity and our relationships were in that abusive trap. It’s somehow sadly a lot easier to continue to believe a very painful belief about ourselves that we’ve always held, than to be able to dare to adopt a new belief and to tolerate the cognitive dissonance we need to go through in order to begin to switch our beliefs. It’s easier to continue to believe rubbish about ourselves that our abuser(s) indoctrinated to us, than to accept any good. We long for care and help but we may be unable to receive it. Which sounds bizarre and I hope that it does not sound offensive.

To give an example, in therapy this week I identified that I have lots of rigid and entrenched beliefs along the lines of: “if N. wanted to be my friend, s/he would do xyz” “if N. cared about me, s/he would have [replied straight away to this message because I said abc in it] and because s/he didn’t it shows s/he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to be in touch and couldn’t stand me anyway, what an idiot I was to think s/he’d want me around anyway” or “if you’re someone’s friend and they are upset you do xyz, it’s just obvious, and N. didn’t so it just shows they really think abc [negative thing / opinion that I’m evil] about me”. The thoughts that spiral from these beliefs mean that if they aren’t fulfilled and someone doesn’t do one of these things that I have set as absolutes in my mind (and which, incidentally, I would hold myself to in relationships as well, as rules I must follow as a friend) then very quickly I use them to confirm an even deeper-seated view of myself which stems from things my abuser told me. Such as that I’m evil really, I manipulate people, everyone will think it isn’t my fault but she and I will always know it’s because of how evil I am, xyz person I care about will die or be taken away because of the harm I’ve caused, I’m disgusting and ugly, etc, etc. It’s impossible for me to get past these beliefs and they are a big block in therapy and in everyday life. It’s impossible to believe that my beliefs and motivations are what I think they are and impossible to believe anyone could really want me. My cell’s predictive text is set to “hurt”.

I’m not sure how to get around this at all. I’m not sure if my psychiatrist is either. I met with her yesterday. It was a very helpful meeting and was about a lot of things other than this as well. However, I think to this there isn’t a short answer. How do I go through this? How do I learn a new setting, a setting in my mind that is open to a different belief? How do I dare to actually feel differently? I can try to explore other possibilities cognitively, but I cannot link it up to the emotions and what I really feel and believe about myself and others. I just cannot reach that. What the psychiatrist did help me identify is that only with repetition can we learn something new (as with my cell phone’s expanding Catholic vocabulary). I need to try to continue in relationships long enough to get past the point at which my default beliefs about myself as evil are (or so it seems) absolutely confirmed. Currently I don’t. Like my cell phone I go into “predictive” mode and I pull away from the interaction or even end the relationship at that point.

That’s the one thing I can change, though with a great deal of help from what I think would have to be incredibly supportive and understanding friends. That’s almost too much to ask. This is going to be a long road.

Ginny xx

*Quick (hopefully simple) explanation of Catholic terms: Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The Triduum is a term which refers to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday immediately before Easter Sunday: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. “Attende Domine” is a piece of chant music often used during Lent at one of the churches I attend – “Attende Domine et miserere” or “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy”. I find it quite beautiful and relaxing to listen to.

https://youtu.be/t7Glyu7tEWU – Attende Domine – with thanks to Petrus Josephus for the video

Image from Gilmore Girls (sorry I am not sure which Season) – Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson – Gilmore Girls produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. All rights belong to respective artists.