Spaghetti Head

Inside my head

Hate it when my head gets like this: spaghetti head. Each piece of spaghetti is a different thought and they’re writhing around, all jumbled together and I can’t make any sense of any it. I become removed from the thoughts and try and observe them, willing them to make sense. Writing helps. I’ve written a to do list and now I’m writing this. 

Some of my thoughts include (but are not limited to):

Should I tell Nora about the Shadow Man; oh good the GP has increased my prescription; my stomach hurts; is the cat ok; I should have a shower; is that ok; what will I do about Andy; fuck I need to sort my car out; the house is a mess; I need to cancel my union fees; I don’t feel real; should I ring my aunt; the kid’s birthdays; are my meds working; how can I explain to Nora what’s been going on; I’m alone; I wish I could just die; the TV is loud; my heart is pounding again I’m so fed up of it; no one listens to me; I need to talk; God I’m boring; does anyone miss me; wonder if I’ll see the psychiatrist again; do I see things or am I making it up; am I really sick; best sort the Hallowe’en stuff; I won’t go out today; what is being real…

And on and on it goes. All at the same time. Sometimes I scrunch my eyes up to try and make it stop – to block it out. Trouble is I can’t block out something that is inside me. Or maybe I can. DBT talks about that but that’s what lead me into trouble in the first place…

And on and on…

The Shadow Man

The Shadow Man has been bothering me recently. I see him. Only out of the corner of my eyes or in passing. He was at the front door and I was sat on the stairs opposite putting my shoes on. Our front door has a window in it. As I looked down at my shoes I saw him through the window. When I looked up he was gone. There was only the sunshine streaming through. Then the other day Andy was stood in the living room doorway. I was sat on the sofa looking directly at him and I screamed. The Shadow Man had walked right behind him. 

I know who the Shadow Man is. I’ve been wracking by brains trying to find an alternative explanation. You see I don’t want it to be him. I want to be ok about that. I don’t want to revisit that time. The Shadow Man raped me. Oh fuck that’s horrible to write. I feel physically sick. I’ve only ever told two people about what happened. One was a close male friend whom I haven’t spoken to in years now. The other was Andy and, do you know what, I don’t even think he remembers. So really no one knows. But that’s ok because I don’t want that memory so I’d happily just blank it out but now I can’t because the Shadow Man is here. So I’m going to write about it here. Fully. Trigger warning – I’m going to describe the rape. 

Here goes…

Summer 2002 in Glasgow. It was sunny! A rare treat in Glasgow! A friend and I went roller blading in the Botanic Gardens. We quickly decided that a pub crawl was in order. It was a strange day because all of the mains water had been turned off due to contamination. A hot sunny day with no water – there was beer though! We happily pub crawled from the West End to the edge of the City Centre when hunger kicked in. We went to a Mexican bar restaurant place. It was really quiet as it was week day. A pub quiz was due to start. I don’t like pub quizzes as a rule. I find them boring. However a guy approached us and asked us if we fancied joining their team. There were three of them. We went for it and joined them.

As the quiz went on we all got more and more horrendously drunk. It turned out that three men didn’t know each other. Well, two did. The third man, G, didn’t know the other two. So somehow we formed this team of the drunken five. I got on well with one of the men, M. My friend got on well with his friend, R. As closing time drew near we decided we were all having too much fun for the night to end and we enthusiastically agreed to go to the big student club a few doors down. G said that some of his friends were having a party. I was keen but the others wanted the club. No matter – I’d go wherever there was booze! 

In the club I drank more and more. I was just about out of money. Nightmare. I threw myself at M. That was my usual M.O.: get drunk, pull, go home with some guy. I was so drunk by now though that M wasn’t in the least bit interested in me. Hmpf! I thought I’ll show him! I switched my attention to G. He didn’t seem that interested either to be honest but he bought me drinks which was a win as fast as I was concerned. My friend and R continued to get on well and decided to leave together. This was really out of character for my friend but she seemed really happy. That drunken tiredness hit me: time to go except I had nowhere to go as I was supposed to go home with my friend. That was ok though as I was happy I was going with G to this party. I think we’d probably been kissing now anyway. All good. I recall M and his friend R trying to explain to me that there was no party…or something…I’m not quite sure, it didn’t matter though as I was happy to go back with G.

G’s place was only a few doors down from the club. That was good as I was now paralytically drunk. Actually it wasn’t his place – he said he was watching it for a friend or something. Ok whatever, like I cared. It was a tenement. A really posh one. Lovely concrete stairs, clean, well lit, mosaics on the floor. The flat was on the top floor. I started climbing the stairs but I was too drunk. I couldn’t walk. I tried to crawl but I couldn’t. I was stuck on the stairs. I would have happily slept there! G got me up and half carried me into the flat. It was dark and there was mess everywhere – just belongings. The flat wasn’t dirty. It was a beautiful flat with a high ceiling and huge shuttered windows.  I was deposited in the bed, I think. As soon as we entered the flat I knew I was in trouble. Something about how G had been with me on the stairs…and the dark empty flat…there had never been a party here. I was exhausted and confused. It was ok though. I was in bed so that was good. I must have misunderstood.

I can’t quite remember the sequence of events. It was dark throughout. He never put a light on. I wanted a drink of water but there was none. There was nothing to drink apart from some spirit. I don’t know what it was. As I lay in bed I struggled to stay awake. G moved around the flat. I saw him walking past the bedroom door, back and forth, just a dark shadow. The Shadow Man. 

I remember telling him that I that I was too sleepy for sex. I told him that I would sleep now and then we would have sex in the morning. I promised. I just really needed to sleep. Please. He just continued to wander about. I knew now that I had no say in what happened next. I thought about it as I lay there unable to move. What should I do? What is the right thing to say in this situation? The thought that he might kill me crossed my mind. There would be nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t bothered about dying but I was bothered about my parents finding out the truth about me; that I wasn’t the golden girl I was supposed to be. I wondered if I would go to the police but I knew I couldn’t. If it even got to court his defence lawyer would tear me apart. After all I was promiscuous. Going home with men for a one night stand was standard behaviour for me. I couldn’t bear the truth about me to come out. No one would believe me because no one ever believes me anyway. G was really good looking too – why would he do this to me of all people?! A whole lot of humiliation for nothing so I had to accept that this was going to happen. Tough. I couldn’t fight or run so that was that. I couldn’t tell anyone so really the best way forward was to behave in a way that worked best for me. It’s not like I would jeopardising any court case. That’s quite a lot of rational thought for someone as drunk as I was but I remember these thoughts. I remember assessing my situation.

He still paced and wandered. I have no idea what he was doing. I may have asked for some music on, I can’t be sure. The flat remained silent, dark and still –  except for him. I lay on the bed and he was pacing on my left. I said to him “please, if you must do this thing, wear a condom”. He did not reply. Later, he did not wear a condom.

My clothes coming off is really fuzzy. Then it’s blackness. I passed out. I have no idea how long had passed. When I awoke there were some rays of sunrise poking through the shutters and he was having sex with me. I’m not sure which I noticed first: the sex or the sunrise. 

The sex was painful. I tried to recall us starting to have sex – had I fallen asleep? No matter how hard I searched my memory I couldn’t remember the sex starting. Had I been unconscious?!  A blessing perhaps?  I tried wiggling my toes and gently lifting my legs. I could move them and I considered whether this was the time to fight. I had no clothes on, no money, no idea where my bag was and may still have been quite weak. I figured it was probably better to just get the whole thing over and done with. He seemed devoid of any emotion at all and I wondered what he was getting out of this. It felt so horrible he surely couldn’t be enjoying this. Why bother? I wondered if he was so out of it that he had missed me asking him not to do it. And missed me being unconscious? Yet maintained an erection? No, I don’t think so. 

I have no idea how long it lasted (for the part I was awake for). It certainly felt like forever. When he was done I was relieved. I still can’t recall him speaking. He went to sleep in bed next to me. I now lay awake. My thoughts raced. I tried to make sense of it all. I must have it all wrong. This wasn’t rape surely? This was…a…a…misunderstanding? 

When he woke up he told me he had to go out this basically translated into get the fuck out. Here is a very strange thing that happened though: I didn’t want to leave. You’d think I’d run for the hills but no. I was desperately hoping that he would show me some sign of affection so that I could dismiss last night. There was no affection though. I got up and vomited blood in the toilet. I have been in some states in my life but have never ever vomited blood – only then. It made me wonder…I actually mentioned it to him. He said it was normal and sometimes some of his rugby friends vomited blood. Oh right. I was a hardcore party girl and had never seen this but ok. 

I was desperate for some water but of course there was none. We both left the flat together and stood on the pavement in bright sunshine. Here’s another weird thing: the day before he had been carrying a small carrier bag from Fopp Records. He’d bought some CDs. It seemed odd that he was still carrying the bag now. Why not leave it in the flat? He said he was going to meet a friend so why take the CDs? There was something very wrong about him being in that flat. It was all just very odd. Even odder I stood on my tip toes and kissed my rapist on the cheek goodbye. I was still trying to pretend that actually everything was fine. Everything is fine. He stared straight ahead. He was so cold. Bizarrely I felt rejected. “Well, err, bye then”.  Off he strode and I stood thinking, now what? 

I only had coins. I had drained my bank account. I counted my coins. I had enough money for a train ticket home and a drink. Thank goodness! I had Fanta. 

I sat on the train feeling disgusting and numb. You should tell someone I thought. No, I couldn’t. This was my fault. The phrase asking for it had been invented just to describe me, in this situation. The train was taking me back to my parents house. I hoped my mum wouldn’t start on me. She could torture me if she saw a weakness. I constructed an alternate version of reality. I used to find that lying was easy to pull off when I was younger. Just construct an alternative reality and believe it, like really commit to it, then it’s less like lying and much easier to pull off. And that’s what I did. I told them just enough about my night out and went to my bed and slept.

I decided to just file away what had happened into that box named ‘unpleasant things I never have to think about ever again’ and so it was. I never thought about it…apart from the times I did. It’d pop out the box but I’d get it back in there. With no one really knowing about it it’s just like it never happened which is perfect.

But now the Shadow Man is here.

And I know who he is.

And he is hard to ignore.

Maybe I should tell but I’m scared. Not of him! No, the real Shadow Man is long gone. I’m scared of the horror when people find out how disgusting and bad I am inside.

In fairness though, I did warn them.

Flashbacks?

Flashbacks. I don’t really know what they are. No one has ever talked to me about them. I did have a whopper of a flashback once. I was driving and my mum was right there. I could see her. I could feel her breathing on me. I could hear her saying she would kill me. Now I knew that was a flashback. That was undeniable and it was freaky as fuck. I felt I might pass out and when on to have the biggest panic attack I’ve experienced. All before 9am.

Anyway I was confident then: that was a flashback. Cool. Got it. Complex PTSD. Right on. But since then I’ve had all sorts of visions and experiences and I never know – does that count as a flashback? You may be wondering why it matters. Fair question. It doesn’t really. I could call them zooblickys if I wanted, it wouldn’t make a difference to the experience. The only reason the identification matters is because hcp ask about flashbacks (not zooblickys) and if I don’t know these things are flashes (as Dr D calls them. I like that because it sounds like being a flasher which appeals to my dark humour) then I say no, I don’t really get proper flashbacks. The information I provide helps them decide wtf is up with me. So, there’s a bit of a problem there.

As it is I like learning anyway and try and absorb any information I can about these things. Back in the time of teenage choices I considered neuroscience as a degree. Really I wanted to be a brain surgeon (true story!) but didn’t think I would be good enough. I also quite seriously toyed with the idea of psychology. I nearly applied but actually meeting a counsellor put me off. When we were forced to have family therapy in my teens I met JB – blunder therapist extraordinaire*. She put me off for life. When I told her I was interested in studying psychology she nonchalantly informed me that a lot of troubled people study psychology to try and understand themselves. Well, I thought, I want to escape my troubled background not spend my whole life dissecting it so screw that (yes, do feel free to snort at the irony). JB also had a fucking fascination with her inner child. She drove me up the sodding wall going on about her inner child. I would fantasise about grabbing some toddler sized infant and ramming it head first down her throat – how’s that for your inner child luv?! So, yeah, I was dissuaded away from psychology by JB and her inner child.

Shame because if I’d done it I’d probably know what a flashback is and that’d be pretty handy. Last night I was lying in bed cuddling my rabbit and my husband was cuddling me. I felt cosy and secure. It was bloody lovely. Then a weird thing happened. I experienced incredibly vivid memories of my school days. This was stuff I had forgotten. I can’t even recall the details now. I do know that I could smell the smells, I could hear the sounds, I could touch the wall and explore the texture. It actually felt magical, like some door to my mind had been opened and I’d just wandered in. It wasn’t in the least bit upsetting. I enjoyed it. Like rediscovering an old treasure which doesn’t make sense at all because I hated my school days! I was awake and aware of my husband the whole time yet I still felt like I was actually re-experiencing these memories. My heart was there; stood in the school corridor. My feet were on the red vinyl floor yet I was still in bed. It was like gentle time travel. I loved it. As the sensation passed I tried to explain to Andy but he wasn’t all that fussed. Just another crazy wifey moment. Anyway, was that a flashback?

When I see shadowy male figures out the corner of my eyes – are they flashbacks?

Am I regressing to being childlike? Since cuddling my toy rabbit in bed am I unlocking the me of the past? What’s going on? Obviously I’d dearly love to discuss it with a psychologist (JB need not apply). Well, that’s not going to happen any time soon so in the meantime I’ll grab my rabbit, curl under a blanket and be that teenager who was interested in psychology. Although adult me has Google! Gotta love technology!

*I will say this for JB – she was the first person, of many, to accuse me of black and white thinking. Who knew eh? 

What is ‘Better’?

I’m wondering what ‘getting better’ actually means. I don’t believe that everyone else is walking around not hating themselves. I just can’t. Everyone hates themselves don’t they?

And isn’t everyone depressed? I know loads of people either taking, or have taken, antidepressants. So, with that in mind, isn’t being depressed just normal…to an extent anyway?

I don’t think I’ve met another parent who isn’t tired so that’s not an illness thing either.

Then there’s binge eating as self-harm…well, last time I checked we were heading for an obesity crisis (too dramatic?) so that must mean a lot of people are self-harming with food.

Then there’s the alcohol. Again, getting absolutely hammered seems to be a societal norm. 

Mention insomnia to anyone and they’ll tell you about their insomnia. And it’s probably worse than mine too. Insomnia appears to be as widespread as sneezes in winter. 

All of these things really confuse me because when I’m better how will I know? I could still be a medicated, boozing insomniac and that’d be…ok? I’d still be better? I suppose so because it seems like that’s what’s normal now. 

Then I think: why put myself through all this medication and therapy crap? Why not just accept that what I’m experiencing is just life? It’s tempting. I try it every once in a while – the fake it til you become it thing. I’m just no good at it though. I end up wanting to kill my self and crying and generally not very functioning. So how come? How can everyone else be walking around feeling like shit but I’m not achieving it? I genuinely don’t get it. Is it laziness? Perhaps. 

I’m not sure anyone really wants me much better than I am currently anyway. I mean I’m not causing trouble particularly. I seem to have grasped the whole not-killing-myself thing (although I often get annoyed about the demands of others that I stay alive. Seems a bit selfish to me. Just saying.) I’m doing a fairly passable job at the mothering. House is cleaner than it’s ever been. So what if I never work again? Lots of people don’t work. Obviously there’s the crushing loneliness but that again seems to be a modern epidemic.

So I don’t really know what I’m aiming for. What is getting better? Is it worth it? The thought of the whole thing is decidedly terrifying. I’ll just sit under my duvet cuddling my toy rabbit – just like everyone else.

DBT#5: The Rebel and The Rabbit

I was absolutely buzzing this morning. I hadn’t slept much. My heart pounded and my thoughts raced, tripping over one another. Yesterday I had received two pieces of outstandingly helpful information and I was flying on the boost. A friend from work came round and just chatting to someone really helped to settle me. The extra propanolol possibly played a part too!

I cycled to DBT. It was a clear day and a pleasant ride. Unfortunately I’m currently experiencing the venlafaxine sweats so it doesn’t take much for sweat to start pouring out of me. I had brought deodorant with me to DBT and sprayed liberally before going in but I still had to apologise to the lady next to me. Sweat dripped down my brow, my hair was damp, my palms were yuck! 

In our beginning mindfulness exercise we had to accept the non-judgemental kindness of the chair we were sat on! Bit weird…errrr thanks chair? The group seemed more motivated today. People spoke about their TIP skills homework. Confession: I hadn’t really done it. Not properly. I talked about how I’d used paced breathing, how I’d been too lazy to try paired muscle relaxation and mentioned that I’d done the ice thing before. That seemed to satisfy the facilitators. All good. Oooh what a rebel!

Break was fun. We realised that many of us share a psychiatrist. Poor guy. Ummmm yeah. You might imagine a bunch of us struggling with our mental health and on various medications aren’t too complimentary about our nasty psychiatrist and you’d be right. I know it’s a bit childish but it was fun. I’m led to believe that psychiatrists are generally unpopular with their patients given the nature of the relationship. To be fair I’m not sure how I feel about Dr D. I hated him first time and liked him second time. I shall reserve judgement until I see his letter which he still hasn’t sent (huff!). We shared med stories. That was good too. 

Back in and we were still on Distress Tolerance. The first bit was about methods of distraction. The acronym ACCEPT was used here. Google it if you care enough. I think the acronyms get annoying to be honest. Quite unexpectedly my anxiety level ratcheted up. Some of the things in ACCEPT seemed stupid to me. For example ‘Contributing’ held suggestions like texting a friend to say hi. Why would I text a friend to say hi if I’m at crisis point? I’d just freak even more that I’d said the wrong thing, or what if they didn’t reply? Pffft! I thought. Stupid. There was also something about ‘Pushing Away’ as in smother the thought/feeling. This got to me big time. I felt the shaking begin. You see I’m a master at pushing the thought away. That’s how I’ve ended up here. I have so many repressed feelings that they’re spilling out uncontrollably and overwhelming me. To be advised to do the very thing that was contributing to my situation made me so mad. What a lot of crap! I really wanted to walk out. I mulled it over – what would happen if I walked out? Nothing. So, if I wanted to walk and there was no consequence then why not do it? So I did. I grabbed my bottle of Pepsi Max, stood up, murmured “2 minutes” and walked out. Rebel. It felt good. I sat in the conservatory at the back of the building. I did some paced  breathing and mindfulness and tried to calm down. I went back in before I was ready really but I didn’t want a facilitator coming to find me.

When I went back in we were on to Improve the Moment. I’ve written about this before. I was still upset. I felt like I could see things that weren’t there out of the corners of my eyes but whenever I looked there was nothing. I now had a little blutack ball and I fiddled with it endlessly. We got on to the idea of a self-soothe kit. I was quite excited by this. Monica had asked me to think about what would go in my kit at my last one to one. I had been thinking about it and enjoyed hearing other people’s ideas. I’ve realised that I adore my daughter’s favourite cuddly rabbit. I slept with it in bed the other night and since then I’ve deliberated on getting my own. I mean it just feels wrong. I’m a 36 year old woman. A cuddly rabbit? Well after today’s discussion on self-soothing I decided I was definitely going to purchase my own bunny. Job done. I am ridiculously excited about this!

I may name her Rebel

To finish off today’s session our last task was some mindful colouring. I started doing it properly – like the good girl I always am. Then I looked at it ruefully; I wanted to destroy it, to scrub it all out with black. Oh hello here’s the rebel again! I did it. I destroyed it. Damn it felt good. I explained to the facilitators that one goal for me was to find healthier methods of rebellion. With that in mind they were quite happy when I then tore the colouring into shreds. I felt a kind of cackle inside me and I said aloud “screw your colouring. I’m going to destroy it”. 

I can’t decide if this awakening rebellion is a good or bad thing. Although why judge? DBT says just accept it. And perhaps it’s about time I showed people just how rotten inside I am. I am bad. I will show you just how bad I am.

Says the lady who has just purchased a soft toy rabbit.

When?

When did I become so pathetic?

When did showering become an achievement to be celebrated? When did I stop being able to make phone calls and get stuff again? When did a morning with my toddler daughter become a virtual Everest looming intimidatingly in front of me? When did I start having to write everything down on my phone so I know what I’m doing? When did I last sleep soundly, without visions or dreams or tears or medication? Do you remember when I used to work, to teach? I barely do. That must have been some other person, not me. Did I have interests? Not really, I don’t think so. Well that’s one less thing to miss I suppose. When did I stop being part of the real world?

Pathetic. I’m 36. Middle aged. I should be over all this now.

I should probably ask when will this end? When will I be better? But I don’t think there’s an answer to that. Right now I don’t even know how to make that happen. 

Pointless 

I can’t do it. I know what you’ll say – that I am doing it; that I can. But you’re wrong. I can’t. I feel like my whole interpretation of the world is wrong and I have to relearn everything. I’m just not strong enough. Or motivated enough. Like, why bother spending years to ‘get well’ only to get elderly and infirm. I saw them in hospital – the elderly. No ta.

I don’t know how to manage this feeling. It is omnipotent. I’m functioning a lot better at the moment which is encouraging for everyone, except me, because I still don’t want to be alive. And maybe that’s it; that’s as good as life gets – wanting to die but still getting dressed and showing up every day. I’ll admit that the prospect doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm. 

I just don’t see the point. Why should I do this? For the children is the only answer I can think of. It’s a good one right enough. Probably the best reason there is: for the children. But, I can’t. I just think I need a cheerleader. Someone to encourage me – keep going Trudy! 

I’m spending any free time knitting. Don’t laugh (oh sod it, knock yourself out laughing if you want). It distracts me from my thoughts. As soon as I stop though my mood immediately crashes. Hello…I’m here…it’s the darkness back…have you thought about ending your life recently? Let’s do that. Which method shall we think about now???

Everything is pointless.

DBT#4: Yeah, OK, Whatever 

I drove to DBT today, too exhausted to cycle. Too exhausted to shower in fact; I’ve not done that in a few days. Don’t care. I did, however, make the effort to be early as Monica had told me that one of my group facilitators would speak to me beforehand about dealing with the accent thing from last session. I’ve been sick with nerves about this all week. I even practiced a little speech in my head about how I was going to explain why mimicking my accent is so upsetting to me.

I needn’t have fucking bothered.

Nothing was said. 

No, instead Sally blathered on about the group should be a safe place where everyone feels they can speak. Did anyone want to add anything? I just couldn’t speak up out of nowhere and say “hey, you know when you put on my accent it really upsets me?” I just couldn’t. And because I said nothing the lady did it again: she did my fucking accent again. I actually asked how to pronounce her name, it’s unusual and I wanted to get it right. So she told me whilst imitating my accent and saying “I don’t know how you’ll say it in your language”. What?! My language – English?! Anyway I just accepted that I was going to have to shrug it off. Fuck it.

I spent the whole of the first session staring at the bubbles in my bottle of sparkling water. Just look at the bubbles. Nothing else matters, only the bubbles. It was homework feedback and I just kept on staring, mouth firmly closed shut. I will not speak I vowed. Eventually though I was asked about my homework – had I done it? I nodded now staring at the desk. I began to speak slowly, trying to choose the words carefully. “I did the STOP skill thing. I spoke to my dad. That was a big deal. My low got worse. On Monday I was sat on the sofa and I could feel my usual cycle of behaviour beginning. I couldn’t self-harm because I get in trouble here for doing that. Well, the feelings don’t pass so I knew that I’d have to do something and that’s when I come up with plans – not to kill myself, no. Just to hurt myself in a way that might cause me to die by accident”. I looked up from the desk. I certainly had everyone’s attention. I got this feeling that I had kind of nailed it, that the others in the group knew what I meant although no one had been quite so frank about it. That’s my style – blunt. Holding Sally’s gaze I continued “so I used STOP and instead of making dangerous plans I proceeded mindfully and tried to distract myself. I cleaned and it worked until I stopped. Then all of this came back”. Ah fuck she looks worried. Best reassure her I thought “I have not made any dangerous plans”. I felt her relief. A bit more chat and we moved on. Then it was break.

I made some pretty inappropriate suicide jokes at break. The people I was speaking to seemed to like them, they were cracking up. I apologised for my dark sense of humour and hoped it wasn’t triggering for anyone. 

Back in and we learned of TIP skills. I’d already done of all this months ago with Nora. I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade so I tried to look interested. Inside I was thinking yeah, ok, whatever. Some people were quite enthused about TIP skills and felt they would be helpful to them. I hope they are. When I’ve tried TIP skills they haven’t done anything for me particularly. I stay just as deranged and obsessed with whatever crazy life threatening scheme I’ve dreamt up. Sigh. I can’t help but wonder if this DBT is right for me. 

Oh well. Ups and downs. Peaks and troughs. Knives and ice cubes.

I have no identity

I am person. About 90kg of person. I have green eyes, brown hair and freckles. I’m nothing special. I have my own unique DNA and my own unique fingerprints. I have a date of birth and a name and a National Insurance number and an NHS number. I have qualifications. I have a driving licence and a passport. All of this information about me. Me! But I have no identity.

Sure I could show you ID if required. Some document to confirm facts about which human I am? Yes, I’ve got that. That’s not the identity I mean though. I mean about my bpd1personality. Who am I? I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know. Trying to figure it out is like shouting into an empty cavern and just hearing who am I…am I…am I…am I echoing back to me.

I’ve been at my DBT one-to-one with Monica today. I cried and I felt bad. It was a difficult session. I could see she was trying to puzzle me out and I felt guilty for being whatever way I was being. Bleurgh. I told her that I am just wrong and no amount of DBT would fix that. As far as I could see it would just give me skills to hide it. I used an analogy. I said that DBT was like training me as a boxer and  I just had to get used to (or accept in DBT language) being punched. Well, maybe I do need to just accept being punched a lot but, at the end of the day, being punched over and over and over again was still really going to suck and forever was too long to spend being punched.

hh-too-many

Picture from Hyperbole and a Half

She tried lots of different approaches with me and I rejected each one. No no no no NO! Why won’t anyone see?! She wanted to get to the bottom of what I felt was wrong about me specifically – as if it were that simple! I could have torn my hair out in frustration: EVERYTHING! My entire core is rotten and none of you will even try to see it! “So tell me” she coaxed. “Absolutely not. I cannot discuss how rotten I am. It is too difficult.” I replied, crying. When I composed myself I sniffed “You see that’s why I try so hard to be good because I know that I am bad and I have to work really hard to balance it out. So I try to do the right things. I try to show positive traits, like kindness…and…stuff like that. I try really hard to be good because I am so bad”.

I think that might be what they call a breakthrough.

I felt the first realisation: I do it for them, for my parents. I just want to be good for them. I’m so so sorry about being born and ruining their lives. I know I was a really bad baby and I couldn’t choose my behaviour as a baby but as soon as I could choose I chose to be good. Really fricking good.

Then came the second realisation: No matter what I do it will never be good enough.

So, I asked Monica “Where does that leave me then?”

Instead of any sense of self, my identity, I just have this empty cavernous space. Who am I? I’m scared to find out. Monica told me that DBT would help with that. Well, that’s something at least.

 

 

Hi Dad, it’s me…

I haven’t spoken to my father in at least 6 months. I haven’t seen him in over a year. When I was having the EMDR for my childhood I was very unstable and the counsellor advised that I didn’t have contact with my parents (she didn’t really advise as they’re not allowed to do that but y’know we spoke about it and her feelings were clear). The reasoning being that any contact with them was going to destabilise me and that could be life threatening. 

So many months ago I sent my dad an email saying that I was having some mental health trouble and I needed some time. He was ok about that…until the time I needed exceeded what he found to be acceptable. The occasional text from him was laden full of guilt inducing news of how I was hurting him and my mum. Never asking how I was doing for that was unimportant. My mother was even worse. She texted and attacked me for being so selfish and uncaring. I rose above it. I responded as a calm adult although the abused child inside cried in fear. 

Finally I felt I had to talk to my dad. I missed him and was prepared for a negative response for him. However there was also a sense of being on borrowed time and if I didn’t make contact then I wasn’t sure what they would do. Mercifully (or more truthfully) I live over 200 miles away from my parents and where I grew up but I knew they may come to my house. That would be unacceptable so I had to act.

I texted him to ask if we could have a casual chat – nothing heavy. I told him I missed him and we arranged a time to speak.

I rang. Hi Dad, it’s me.

What do you suppose a father tells his adult daughter who is struggling with mental illness that has stopped her working, stopped her living?

Yes, he tells her how much she has hurt him. Unqualified with any understanding of her situation, just that she has hurt him. Then he goes on to tell her how she has especially caused pain to her abuser, her mother. That was when I knew the call wouldn’t go well; he cared more about how my illness was affecting my abuser than me. I don’t like the word victim, who does? But here was a victim being told off for indirectly hurting her abuser by having the audacity to be ill. I defended my position and I’m glad to say I did so calmly. I only lost it slightly about my mum and he told me: well, that’s your opinion.

He told me he was sure that I’d told them all about it. Translated this means ‘you have told our secret. You were not allowed to tell. We will deny everything. You are wrong.’ And there it was, that feeling, that sense of not knowing what was real, of doubting myself, of blaming myself. Everything is my fault. I have brought this on myself. My emotional mind feasted on what he said. My rational mind could recognise guilt-ridden denial when she heard it.

He told me he had nearly driven down to see me. This was my fear. I knew he might do something like that. His reason was pretty interesting though. You might expect that he wanted to help or to see how I was but you would be wrong. He wanted to see me to physically inspect me. What did I look like now? Had my shape changed? Had I grown long flowing hair and started wearing long hippy skirts, y’know, like some women with depression do. Even I was caught off guard by this absurdity but I still had the presence of mind to see that he didn’t want to help, only assess and judge. How bad had I got? And it struck me: he doesn’t care about the real me. He only cares about the idea of me. Surely it shouldn’t matter what hairdo or clothes I was sporting?! I would still be his daughter. His daughter that is going through absolute fucking hell trying to recover from the damage that was done to her. 

He rubbished my treatment. Not blatantly. Subtly through intakes of breath or “14 months….really? That’s a long time….” 

Eventually we moved on to chatting about the banal: new cars and the price of metal. I wasn’t engaged in the conversation. For a start it doesn’t interest me, but my mind was also busy making sense of the actually very heavy indeed (despite my request) conversation that had just ended. And I saw it: he will never acknowledge what happened to me and that he played a part in that. She certainly will never acknowledge it. There will be no apology from either. Ever.
I didn’t know where that left me. 

I know I don’t want a relationship with her. I’m not sure I want a relationship with him. I’m not sure of anything. Reality. What even is real? I can’t be real. I don’t understand.

I suppose that I have to work on accepting it. That’s it then. Forget the family reunion. The loss feels big but it isn’t, not really. What have I actually lost? Just a fantasy I guess. The fantasy that they would acknowledge the abuse, perhaps even apologise, that they would see me as a real person and I that I’d finally have a mum and dad. 

But that’s never going to happen. 

It’s not fair that they get to live contentedly in denial whilst I battle through this. But hey, if there’s one thing they did teach me it’s that life ain’t fair kid.

Now that is the truth.