Why I’ll Try Quetiapine 

A simple analogy.

I am trapped in a cage with a tiger. It can be fearsome and actually, pretty bloody violent! Well, that’s tigers for you! This tiger can take great big swipes at me and if it catches me with it’s claws then ouchie!


When you’re trapped in a cage with a tiger you learn ways to coexist. So sometimes I might just run round and round in  circles with the tiger chasing me. Other times if I play dead and hide in the corner the tiger will come and paw at me but it’s not so bad. Sometimes the tiger goes for a sleep. I never know how long his nap will be. If it’s a really long sleep then I can almost forget he’s there as I go about, y’know, regular cage stuff. 

Apparently though there are better ways to manage a tiger. It’s called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT. I’m learning this tiger taming stuff but, I tell you, it’s hard. Sometimes my tiger just doesn’t do what he’s supposed to – my mother in law would say he hasn’t read the book! Other times I’m so busy trying to stop the tiger from mauling me, like he might have me pinned to the floor, that trying to implement these tiger taming skills is nigh on impossible. Sometimes the coaches pop by and they will shout advice from outside the cage. All very well and good but can’t they see I have a tiger on top of me?! There are occasions when their shouts feel critical and that really hurts. I’m doing my best. Who wants to be bitten and scratched by a tiger? Not me!

So I’m learning all sorts of tricks. Happily I see him behaving every so often. I’m tired though. So, so tired. Learning how to tame a tiger when living with an out of control tiger is utterly exhausting. It’d be much easier if I could just pop in to the cage for a few minutes a day – like learning a musical instrument – instead of being stuck in this cage with him all the time.

A ringmaster suggested a pill I can give to the tiger. This should quiet him a bit which will give me a better chance of learning how to control him. Control is the wrong word actually. It’s not about control: coexisting or managing are better. The DBT coaches are purists. They believe it’s best to tame tigers naturally and that’s what I’ve been trying to do but I really am very injured by him. I’ve been told that this pill could cause all sorts of problems from me and my tiger and I’ve been very reluctant to try it. After all, I wanted to learn to tame him properly, I wanted to please the purists.

Thing is, though, I’m scared. Tigers can actually kill people. Did you know that? Being locked in a cage with a pissed off tiger does increase the chance of that happening. So, I’m going to get that pill and try it. It will make him very sleepy. That could be a bad thing as he might be too sleepy to learn but I think I need to try really. I do feel like a failure for resorting to it and I’m very nervous about how it will go. I’ve asked lots of people and been given a variety of answers but the decision is made. 

Next time I see the ringmaster I will ask him for quetiapine for my tiger. 

One day…this’ll be my tiger and me

Managing an Internal Catastrophe 

I haven’t been able to write. I’m not sure I can now. I’m in the middle of trying to manage an internal catastrophe. That sounds dramatic. I’m going with it though as right now it feels dramatic.

 I’ve been trying my DBT skills to help me, with limited success. Opposite action has been useful. TIP has been useful, particularly the T bit. That’s been a welcome surprise as usually TIP doesn’t do much for me but I’ve had a racing heart a few times and ice has helped. I even went for a swim to really stimulate the dive reflex and it was good.

However, as I said, I’ve had limited success with the DBT strategies. Using DBT can feel like acting and no one can keep up an act 24h a day. So I’ve also tried alcohol, various pills and cutting. These all had both positives and negatives too. After a good few weeks of no self-harm I went to town and cut myself 8 times in one go. Truthfully I wanted to do more but I’m mindful of covering them up. I’m dreading seeing Monica again as, presuming I’m honest, I’m going to be told off for not trying hard enough to use my skills. That makes me very angry. I’m exhausted trying to do the right thing. I feel like I can’t do right for doing wrong. 

I’ve finally decided that I am going to try the quetiapine because I am trying so hard and yet I still dream of train tracks. I am scared. Yet even this decision is wrong. God, I just want to cry. Monica feels I should be med free. That’s the DBT ideal and we argued over it. Nora keeps trying to dissuade me. She tells me how nasty a drug it is (cheers!) and how right now is a particularly difficult time of year. This makes me angry too. It is always a difficult fucking time of the year to me, Christmas is irrelevant. I’m still going to see my parents every time I look in the mirror no matter the season. I guess she thinks I’m being reactive and looking for an easy fix.

*insert your own ironic laugh*

Easy fix? Aye. That’ll be right.

Anyway she’s leaving and I doubt she’ll be replaced so that branch of support will be withdrawn.

I think that I have lost trust and confidence in them: Nora and Monica. When I believe in someone I will follow you to the ends of the earth, I will walk through fire for you, I will take what you say as near gospel truth. But…when I stop believing in a person…it’s near impossible to come back from. It’s not splitting as I don’t flip flop between idealisation and devaluation. In this type of situation it’s just like it’s over – the relationship that is. Everything they say will be treated with suspicion. They are no longer trusted and instead must be tolerated and appeased.

I feel so so sad right now. That’s it. 

So

Everyone Leaves

Trigger warning – self harm.

I’m done. Done done done. Done fighting the urge.

As soon as the kids are gone I’m going to start cutting. I give up. Why shouldn’t I anyway? It’ll be a compromise as it is. I can’t attack myself in the frenzy I want to but instead I need to wait, bide my time and then decide where exactly to cut to try and minimise the consequences. Having to be so premeditated about an urge is torture. I want to destroy myself.

Monica would ask me what the emotion is that I’m feeling. That’s easy.

ANGER. 

I AM LIVID. 

I am so angry at everyone who leaves. They all leave. Everyone hates me and I don’t understand it. I try so hard, so fucking hard, to be good and to hide the badness inside me and yet still somehow people sense it and move away. All except Andy and the kids. I’m so scared. Surely they will leave me soon? 

I’m angry at myself. What an idiot I am. I thought I could get better, I thought that people were there to support me and I trusted them. I trusted. What a mistake. Now I can’t tell them anything. I hate myself. And although I’m mad at people leaving I’m also relieved. It’s better that the inevitable has happened. No one cares, everyone leaves, no one cares, everyone leaves, no one cares, everyone leaves.

Well fuck the. Fuck them all. And me. Most of all me. Attack, destroy and punish. 

My Twisted Peter Pan Complex

I don’t know much about the Peter Pan story other than what Disney have shown me. I’ve heard that the original J.M. Barrie story is much darker and I can understand how that could be: being trapped in childhood actually isn’t as halcyon as we’d think.

Yesterday I achieved greatness: I went into town. At Christmas time too! This involved a shower and catching a bus. As I was going where there were people I even put some make up on! All massive achievements for the current me. I was going to town to meet my neighbour and new friend, Gina. We’ve lived next door to one another for a couple of years and have lots in common so our paths have crossed and conversation is easy and we’re now friends. Now that’s no small thing for a BPDer like myself. 

Anyway, scene set, I’m in town meeting Gina for lunch in a cafe. We’re gassing away as we do. I can discuss my mental health with her. She knows about my diagnosis and suicide attempt and is unperturbed by it which is a big reason that we can be friends. In the cafe I was talking about why the period from the start of November until January is so particularly hellish for me (largely it’s because of my parents). I was fed up talking in vague terms, after all I’m not actually trying to cultivate an air of mystery, so decided to fill in the gaps. I matter-of-factly explained that my mum is an alcoholic but she’s not just any old alcoholic, no! She brings her own quite staggering cruelty to alcoholism.


 Without going into detail I explained that my dad often left to go away on overnight stays with work and I was left in charge of managing said alcoholic and looking after my 3 younger brothers. I explained that many people – from family right the way through to the police – had known what was going on yet no one had stopped it. I explained that I had done my best to care for my brothers but that, not long after my 19th birthday, I had moved out of the family home. I have always been plagued by guilt about this but, as I explained to Gina, the situation at home became untenable. Mum would destroy my uni notes, threaten to destroy my books, she’d scream like an outraged dying animal, she’d constantly go through my things (to find proof that I’m a dirty slut), sometimes she’d try to kick me out of the family home and finally…the cherry on top…death threats. So, really, I felt I did have to go. Selfishly I recognised that I was on a sinking ship and I could perish with the others or I could save myself. I chose to try and save myself and left. I have never really been forgiven by my dad or brothers for this because my choice also changed their lives. After I’d gone my dad threw my mum out and she went to live in a homeless shelter. Shame he didn’t do that when I still lived there. 

So I explained this to Gina pretty much as I’ve described to you. Our conversation evolved to acknowledge that I had to grow up very quickly. Indeed when I was little I felt rather proud of my ability to rationally manage my knife wielding mum when all the grown ups would go to pieces. Go me! Gina’s very insightful and understood why my past experiences cause me trouble now as a parent. There’s the feeling trapped and reliving the past as well as the horror of realisation of how wrong it all was. 

I looked at Gina across our small cafe table and I said “But that’s the problem. I don’t feel like a grown up at all. How could I? I never got a chance to grow up properly and now I’m trapped.”  My voice was almost childlike when I said it.


This is what I mean by my twisted Peter Pan Complex. Because I started to behave as a grown up at a very young age it’s like the childhood clock just stopped, frozen in time. Now I’m 36. I look in the mirror and I don’t understand. I’m definitely a grown up but I don’t remember growing up. I know it’s a common phenomenon to not feel like a proper grown up. I understand that but that’s not what I mean. This is different. It’s literally like I’ve never passed a certain point of maturity. I’m not much more mature now than I was in my early years. 

Oh I can’t explain it. I don’t have the words. Thing is I don’t want to be in this dark Neverland. I want to be in now.

Final words? 

“Once you’re grown up you can’t come back” – Peter Pan. 

The Trouble With DBT

I’ve completed 11 weeks of DBT. Everyone agrees I’m working very hard and I am. I totally commit to it because I just want please, please, please, to get better. I do see improvement but, well, it’s complicated and I can’t really ignore the trouble with DBT any more.

1. I’m not actually ill

Well I’m not am I? I have a “personality disorder”. What does that even mean? It means that I, me, this, is wrong. Faulty wiring or whatever as inherent as handedness. So I can train and train and train to use my non-dominant hand but it will never be right or natural will it? No, because I am a person disordered. I don’t have a personality. So I don’t see that as an illness. I’m just a faulty model.

2. DBT Doesn’t Give A Shit

It really doesn’t. The whole process is about pointing out all the wrong things I think and do and feel. Then I’m supposed to be a good little girl and learn the right way to think and do and feel. That’s fair enough. I suppose I can do that but you know what’s really hard? It’s the fact that in DBT no one wants to know why I might be scared of walking into a group. No one gives a shit about why I find it hard walking up certain flights of stairs. What’s that? Got a sad story? Do. Not. Care. I’m finding this really difficult. I can explain my fears and reactions. They may be irrational and out of context but they are based on experience and truth and are quite understandable. Do. Not. Care. In many ways I’m being forced back into being 14 again: just act normal, just act normal. No one cares why you’re cutting yourself you’ve just not to do it. That’s how I feel now. I get so frustrated sometimes that I just want to scream “Maybe if you’d grown up with fucking death threats from your drunken venomous mother you might have some fucking fears too!”. Do.Not.Care. So I feel doubly wrong. My personality is wrong so my thoughts are wrong and I believe there are understandable reasons for this but that is all wrong too.

I suppose the trouble with DBT is me. It’s always me. I am the trouble with everything. I am wrong. 

Want to die. Not really.

Ok, compromise: I want to overdose again. Really.

I hate this feeling. These urges to do something so awful. My mind is tumbling trying to figure out which DBT strategy to use but I can’t think as I’m in sole charge of the children today. Well, that does at least provide distraction. Even although I know I will never self harm or OD again when the kids are at home I still think about it. I think about it a lot. It is more than a thought. It is an urge.

Thoughts-emotions-urges-actions.

That’s the sequence I’ve been taught. So maybe I need to isolate the emotion and then try to resolve that?

That sounds like a lot of work.

I can’t think straight. I find a part of me starting to make dangerous plans for Monday. The other part of me argues back with the hundred reasons of why that’s a bad idea.

Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.

As always I dream of someone wanting to be here for me, to sit with me, to hug me tight as I cry and they’d listen and say all the right things and it’d be perfect. I’d be accepted and understood and loved. Yup, a dream. I need to stop torturing myself with this. There is no one. 

I have people, really wonderful kind and compassionate people, in my life but I’m missing my white knight. Andy is close, really really close but he doesn’t understand emotions and if it weren’t for that then he actually would be that person. He’s definitely saved me. I know that and appreciate it. 

Despite the fuzzy plans forming I don’t think that I will overdose. I see it as very unlikely. However it’s going to be a real, painful effort to stay safe. And who’s going to help? Who would I tell? No one. 

When the kids are in bed I’ll head to bed too. I’ll get out my DBT stuff and try to figure all this crap out. Right now I don’t think I’ll ever beat this. Not like this. Not without that someone but as I know they’re not coming then I’d best crack on. 

I hate my personality disorder. Or maybe this is just me. In which case I hate me. 

It’s Back

She’s back. The bad. I’m going to fight her. I wish someone from the outside could jump into my head and help me fight her.

I’m seeing Monica today. She’ll tell me not to fight the bad. Just acknowledge it, to find a…synthesis (her favourite word. I hate it used in this context. As an organic chemist synthesis means something different to me). I may ask to sit on the floor. I dislike chairs. I have always preferred the floor. I forget this is strange and have certainly caused a few double takes over the years as colleagues would discover me happily working away on the floor. 

I’m not making any effort though. I shall throw on clothes and there will be no shower. I hate how she leads me up the stairs. When I arrive at the personality disorder clinic I’ll say hello to the receptionist, she knows us all. Then I’ll sit in the teeny waiting area reading the same posters about being trans or having my say on mental health or taking part in a smoking cessation study. Monica will come through the locked door and I’ll jump up with a bright smile and a hello. I hate that I do this as I am fully aware that in about 5 mins this woman will basically rip my emotional insides out. Still, social formalities must be observed…or…?

Then she leads me to the stairs. I always pause momentarily at the bottom. It’s so fleeting I doubt she notices as she leads me up them. I told her once that the stairs reminded me of something but I couldn’t think what. Then the next week I told her I thought the stairs reminded me of a school that I used to work in. Now that some more memories have come back I know that it is not the school that I remember. It is the rape. These stairs…there’s something about them that is just like those stairs. Anyway it always goes this way: Monica reaches the top and she will wait and then turn. My steps will have slowed, I’ll be dragging my feet and have reached about 3/4 of the way. My palms will be sweaty and my heart will be fluttering. This is where I fell on the rape stairs and he stopped at the top, just as she does, as he turned back and looked at me, just as she does. Every time I wonder what she would do if I lay down on the stairs there. Bizarrely I sometimes wish I was crazy enough to try it and find out. I’m not though. I’ll force my feet forward and wonder which therapy room we’ll go into today. I always like to nosey into the therapists offices as we pass. It’s a good dialectic. Their offices are normal working spaces filled with drawings from their kids, the usual personal desk clutter and normal work chatter. Compare that to where I’m at as I stand there. It’s like two different worlds but in the same place. Is that a synthesis? I don’t know. It’s a good dialectic though.

So the bad in my head? It’s train tracks again. I couldn’t sleep for ages last night as I kept imagining just lying down on the tracks and waiting. This morning it was the first thought. The image evolved. I thought about what I’d wear, how would I make myself comfortable in those final hours? What pills would I take to stop the fear from making me get up? I imagined how my body would be split. I thought about the emergency service personnel who’d have to pick it…me…up. I thought about the fact my coffin would have to be closed and the kids wouldn’t ever get to see me one last time. The sadness. Jesus. I could never do that to them.

So I feel like I’m some sick twisted fuck. How can I have such thoughts? Such fantasies?! It is sick. Then that judgement reinforces the bad. Well, I know I shouldn’t judge the thought, just accept it. It’s hard not to judge the image of my corpse physically destroyed and my children completely shattered. I don’t think I could ever accept that. Surely it’s unacceptable?

Ah but! I still have my little light. It won’t go out. I won’t let it 🌟

Trauma: The Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas season 2016 is officially open. The nature of the season is nostalgia: the same songs, the same films, the food, the traditions. Comforting to some but disconcerting to those of us who are haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year I make quite an effort with the whole Christmas thing but it’s not just the weather that chills me. I feel a kind of internal cold. Every year I do opposite action – I pretend to LOVE Christmas! Every year it backfires. My shiny facade at complete odds with the vacant emptiness inside me. The emptiness is preferable to the memories though. 

You know the kind. I’d taken my brothers to Midnight Mass. My parents had remained at home fighting. Mum drunk. Standard. We returned to open presents. I remember her sat on the sofa watching. Wearing a filthy pink dressing gown and a goofy drunken smile. It showed her yellow nicotine teeth. The smell of vodka and cigarettes and urine sticking to her, her own personal perfume. Her eyes closing clumsily. Having to pretend to be happy in such a desperately sad situation; finally being able to escape to bed, to be sad where no one could see and dread the next day. She would either be hungover and hostile or drunk. I can’t remember which it was. My gut says drunk.

Or how about when I accompanied a slightly drunk mum to the late shop? I knew she was going to buy more vodka. For some reason I thought maybe if I was there she mightn’t buy it. Or I could just tell dad when I got home and he’d take it off of her. Yeah, that plan backfired. She bought the vodka. She was served by a girl who had gone to my school. She knew who I was and here was my drunk mum buying more vodka. I felt so pitiful. As we walked home in the dark I was scared, what would I do now? I needn’t have worried. She stopped me in the dark street. I remember the cars driving past. And she said to me “If you tell your dad about this then I will ruin Christmas. I will take everyones’ presents, not just yours, and destroy them. And on Christmas Day when there is nothing I will tell them why: because of you. You will ruin Christmas”. I mean I can’t remember the exact words but that was the gist. Then I was torn as we walked home. What if dad asked if she’d bought vodka? What would I do? I worried in silence the whole way home. The only sound was her raspy smokers breath (it was an uphill walk) and the sound of cars driving past on the damp road. I felt so alone. All these people just driving past. I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I expect I went straight to my room and hid. No one would have checked on me and she would have drunk her vodka. As usual.


So yeah, Christmas memories are shit.

This year I’m trying to do things differently, instead of just pretending. Basically I’ll do Christmas my way. Obviously I don’t know what that is so I’m approaching it open minded. So far it’s working. I asked my 3 year old daughter what her Christmas wish was and she told me “marshmallows”. I smiled. It’s perfect. This year on Christmas Eve I hope that we’ll toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Perhaps it’ll become a tradition. The Ghost of Christmas Past will still be around but perhaps the fairylights everywhere, and the warmth of cuddles and toasted marshmallows will  help warm the dark chill that She brings.

Really I just wanted to say that if you’ve had a difficult past and feel very alone then you’re not. Christmas has far more ghosts than Hallowe’en. Lots of us are haunted by them. 

DBT 11: Abused Daughter to Loving Mother

There weren’t many of us today. Our therapy group is shrinking. I’m not surprised. It’s bloody hard and painful stuff. 

Anyway, homework feedback was uneventful and I’m handling the group sessions much better now. I sit there half-smiling with willing hands. I have my therapy kit: my lavender playdoh, my cocoa hand cream, my water, my lip balm, my mints, my essential oils. It sounds a lot but, in practice, it’s not really and it really does help.

Back into group and we were starting the Emotion Regulation module. This is a biggie for me. I know I desperately need this. So much so that as Amy the psychologist gets started I feel a pang of fear. What if I fail at this? What if I can’t get it? What if I just can’t handle my emotions? My amygdala kicks in and the fear response begins. Nervous energy pulses through my veins. To focus I take notes. I can do this, I can do this. Then they show a YouTube of a mum and baby interacting in an experimental setting. The mum withdraws any expression and remains neutral. She just sits there. Quickly the baby tries everything in his repertoire to get his mum to interact with him again but she just keeps sitting there.

Triggered

I can’t take it. I don’t watch much of the video but it causes me total distress. I can hear the narrator explain how the baby is desperately trying to get his mum to interact. ( I am the baby). This baby only endures a few seconds but it is chilling to watch. I feel and sort of see my mum’s face just at my left shoulder. I remember when my mum silenced my fussing daughter  with just a look. When my mum looks at you then you know, you sense the danger. Sat in the session it’s all flooding into my brain. I feel like I might pass out or scream. I half expect someone else to do it because, let’s be honest, we’ve all got a trauma background. The video ends with the mum scooping up and soothing the baby. He quickly returns to happy baby land. The narrator says that the mother returning the affection pulls the baby out of the bad place, however, had the child been left with the mother there giving no interaction then “the baby would remain stuck…” and I can finish his sentence: ‘in the bad’. I am stuck in the bad. Nope, I absolutely cannot stay in this room. Escape.

I leave banging into chairs. I get asked if I’m ok and I mumble about needing a few minutes. Then I’m out. I go to the conservatory (our break area). What the fuck do I do now? I recognise that this is a time for TIP skills but before that I fall to the floor and begin crying. Ok. Now TIP. I try intense exercise but my clumpy boots make such a noise! I try paired muscle relaxation but my muscles won’t relax. I curl up on the cold floor in a corner, making sure I can watch the door. I never want to move but equally I don’t want to be caught so vulnerable. A facilitator comes to find me…it’s been 5 minutes. That’s all we’re allowed in case we do something dangerous. I choke back tears and explain I’ll be fine. Reassured she leaves me. I start to sob again. Then I stop suddenly. I stand up and – just like that- I put my mask back on. I walk back into the group, head high and smiling. I engage and smile and laugh. Had they not just witnessed my exit then no one would have been any the wiser. Few people have  knowingly seen how good I am at this. When they do see it it tends to frighten them as, for the first time, they see how skilfully I hide complete soul destroying pain. It’s disconcerting for people. For me it’s all I have ever known. 

I think about how much I love my children. Love love love them. The transition from abused daughter to loving mother is a painful one and I’m just beginning to understand that. My daughter is so like me…but so different; confident, affectionate and strong willed. It’s a bit hard watching what might have been. I mean we’re different people, of course I understand that, but in so many ways I see our similarities. She’s the baby and she’s not stuck in the bad. I am stuck in the bad.