Is It True?

I’m confused. Was that therapy? 

I was terrified going into my one-to-one with Monica today and I told her so. She briskly went about business, about how this therapy wouldn’t work unless we were more specific about my behaviours. It felt like being told off. I wasn’t sure what I’d been doing wrong. She asks questions, I answer them and that’s how it goes. How could I be doing that wrong?

She told me that she hadn’t read all of my letter, my chain analysis I had sent her. I was embarrassed. I had opened myself up and it was viewed as the warbling of a madwoman. She hadn’t even read it all. God I’m so foolish. 

She said we had to be more specific about my behaviours. I was confused. I thought she knew but I answered as we matter-of-factly went about creating an itinerary of the awful things I think and do. It was shameful for me. Trains, guns, throat cutting. She categorised each thing in front of me. I felt disgusting, like I was standing naked and being evaluated. 

Then it was therapy interfering behaviours. This is hard to explain. She spoke about the way I am and that this causes problems in our sessions. I felt my trust drain away. I don’t understand. I am who I am and I’m trying to change. In our last session she had sensed my stifled anger and it had made her want to be away from me so I needed to change this behaviour for therapy to work. Now I was beyond confused: but I was trying to keep the anger in as best as I could – what else could I do? She suggested I let it out. No, I can’t, I’d destroy the room, smash it all up, be vile – how is that not therapy interfering? If I shouldn’t keep it in and shouldn’t let it out then what the actual fuck was I supposed to do?! 

I changed my posture to a slouch so she told me that was another thing I do: slouch and become wilful. Then she mirrored my posture. I laughed but it was awful, like being mocked. She criticised my behaviour but I do these things subconsciously whereas she was choosing to behave in that way. She said it was like talking to her 16yo son. I said I wasn’t being wilful – I was disagreeing. There is a difference. 

A different tack – she reminded me how in one of our first meetings I spoke about my lack of friendships, and that I hadn’t understood why this was. Well, if she got the urge to leave the room because of how I was then that would also be happening in my other relationships. I think this was supposed to motivate me to change. I’m already motivated to change! I didn’t need a fucking character assassination. My sarcasm so unpleasant. This confused me too. I’m never sarcastically horrible to anyone (but myself), it’s generally my dry sense of humour which is actually quite a bit part of my character. 

She said I looked despondent. Well, seeing as how we’d already categorised how fucking suicidal I was and I’d just endured a blow by blow account of how bad I make others feel despite only trying to be good YOU BET I’M FUCKING DESPONDENT. Instead I told her it was a lot to take in and I needed time to process it.

Well, I’ve been processing it for a few hours now and nope, I still feel despondent. Worse than ever. I had always hoped that these bad things I believed about myself weren’t true but they are. And I don’t know how I can live with that. 

One Mindfully Flashback 

Mindfulness is at the core of DBT. We learn the what skills (observe, describe, participate) and the how skills (one mindfully, non-judgementally, effectively). Personally I find these formal labels really confusing and tie myself up in knots trying to figure out which mindful skill I’m using, or trying to use.

Anyway, at the end of each module we revisit mindfulness. None of us in group like this. We all bitch and moan and roll our eyes about fucking mindfulness. Still, yesterday’s session (week 20 I believe) was about revising the how skills.


So, I still find DBT group extremely stressful and I’ve discovered that if I sit and colour in then it allows me to concentrate on what is being said, stops my mind wandering and allows me to participate much more effectively. I am calmer and remain an adult. This is good. Everyone in group gets it so they’re fine with me doing it. So yesterday I was sat colouring in, participating and all was going well. Psychologist Amy then says the whole group are going to do some colouring in and we are each going to focus on this work one mindfully. Awesome! There is an initial scrabbling for pictures, pens and pencils. I have my own so I just carry on and internally have a rueful little smile to myself; they remind me so much of the students I used to teach. Amy is teacher so gets everyone settled and instructs us all to focus and be one mindful. And we do. The room falls silent. The only sound is the rhythmic ticking of the clock.

Amy, being teacher, is now a bit lost. She doesn’t want to disturb the silence, the focus, the concentration so she starts getting bits out ready for the next bit of the session. I know exactly how she feels. I have felt that way countless times in front of my classes when they are absorbed in a task and I have become surplus to requirements. Yes I know that feeling very well and I see it in Amy. She is the teacher and I am the student…the child. Uh oh

I won’t have that sensation of leading a class because I am not a teacher anymore. A great sadness arises within me. A sense of loss. I used to be a teacher but now I sit and colour in. I let the sadness come, acknowledge it and try and focus back on the colouring one mindfully.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Just like my gran’s grandfather clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It’s warm like my gran’s house too. Gran’s house; a place of safety. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Focus: which colour for these berries? Gran was a teacher too. I wonder what she’d make of this. She’d probably quite like it, she liked arty stuff. 

Then the smell – the smell of gran’s house. Comforting. A place of safety. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Sometimes when things became too dangerous at home I would take the kids round to my gran’s and we’d stay there. She only had a tiny flat and the grandfather clock was in the hall. Sleeping there was always so special. She would make tea and toast before bed, she would make us brush our teeth and wash our faces, we’d be tucked into a warm, cosy and clean bed. We’d say our prayers (like that helped) and then I could read. Gran had loads of books. They were old. Old book smell (yum!), tucked up in a safe bed listening to the tick tock of that grandfather clock. The rarest of moments for me, feeling safe, feeling cared for. 

But I wasn’t at my gran’s house. She is dead. Long dead. More sadness at the loss. Made so much more bitter by her dying 5 days after my son’s birth. This prevented me attending her funeral. I never said goodbye. I was given nothing of her possessions. Our relationship not even acknowledged by the rest of the family. I was out of sight, out of mind. I am no one to anyone. Every year the family travels back to where gran is buried, to remember her and to keep the family ties. I can never go because I have my son’s birthday stuff going on, which no one thinks of. To be honest I often wasn’t even invited. That hurts. A family gathering of my parents, 3 aunts, 1 uncle, their partners, my 3 brothers, my 11 cousins (and their partners and children too as they’ve grown) – but not me. And no one misses me. 
And I know it’s all part of the fucking Universal balance thing. I fucking know it. Every year I am punished. Special was she? Ha ha ha. Take her away in a way where you can never say goodbye and be always excluded. Ha ha ha. Know your place. And not to be outdone, exactly 7 years after she died (5 days after my son was born) my daughter was born. Her birthday is my gran’s date of death.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I’m supposed to be colouring in. Pick up another pen. Focus one mindfully. Fight the flashback; my vision is going dark and grainy and I feel faint – this is often how flashes come for me. But I fight it. I breathe deeply and mindfully. I fight the urge to run out of the room. God, the sadness. It’s overwhelming. If I start crying I won’t stop. I look at the chimes they use to signal the beginning and end of each mindfulness practice. I’m willing Amy to chime them. Please, please, please. 

Finally she does. With a peaceful smile she asks how we found that. I speak up. I share the sadness, the wanting to run, the near flash but I don’t share the details. Amy asks how I am now. I shyly bring my hand out from under the table. It is shaking violently. I feel faint and sick. I’m sweating. This is fear. I know this. There is no insight or conclusion about what happened and I manage it skilfully. 

When group finishes I am still shaken. Another ghost has been awakened. And I feel alone with it. Again back to the psychotherapy argument – why won’t anyone help me with my ghosts? They awaken them with their stupid mindfulness bollocks and then I am left with them. As if I didn’t have enough to manage already. 

At home that night I want to obliviate everything. Instead of taking all the meds that I want I make, what I consider to be, a wise mind choice. Instead of taking an amount of substances that would be dangerous I take 2 cocodamol, drink one beer and pop my quetiapine. Good night.

No doubt I can look forward to being bollocked for doing that later today. Sometimes I think…wilful? Wilful?! You have no fucking idea how wrong you are. Since when is fighting for survival wilful?

A Busy Day

Full of cold but ok. Busy day. Had breakfast already. I have a little routine: porridge, juice, meds, tea/coffee. Done that. Even added banana to the porridge for fortitude!
I’ll be alone soon. Will finish my tea and have a shower. Wasn’t going to but feel kind of yuck after Body Balance last night and now the snots. Yum! The wilful bit of me doesn’t want to have a shower to spite her – my new care coordinator. This morning I’m meeting nursery Nora’s replacement…I think. I’m not sure because she never returned my message checking the date. Great start. 

I’m dreading meeting her. I fear she won’t see beyond my high functioning exterior. I’ll explain how I’ve been dangerously close over the last few days (I’ll miss out yesterday’s driving with my eyes closed. I don’t want to lose my license again). She’ll have seen my diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder (that’s what the psych calls it) so she’ll be able to ignore what I say as attention seeking, manipulative or just plain untrue. I’m prepared for it and, as such, will have to put on my protective shell. 

After my hour with her I’ve then got an hour and a half to kill before DBT group. I’ve decided to cycle today to 1. Help with weight and 2. With the traffic and parking where I live I’ll just spend my time in the car. I’m not feeling the DBT group today. I’m looking forward to seeing the other people though. Haven’t got on great with the mindfulness homework but don’t want to be patronised over it. If I’d had time I could have looked it up and done it but I didn’t have time. I’ve struggled so hard the last week but I expect they’ll say that’s me being wilful…could I have tried harder…etc etc Yawn/rage.
Anyway best get on. Tired just thinking about it!

Diagnosis, or not

Today was the feedback from my son’s autism assessment. It’s been a two year process. The conclusion: no diagnosis of autism. We had already had a letter explaining how that decision had been reached but today we met the (very competent) clinical psychologist to discuss the findings. 

It’s a strange thing really. I didn’t care one way or the other – I just wanted to know. My gut had always told me that there was something different about my boy; about his need for routine, his obsessions, his sensory issues. I never really had anyone to mull this stuff over with. My husband seemed to just shrug it all off. Sometimes I’d mention something on the odd occasion I’d see another parent and they’d tell me that theirs was just the same…but, no, when they described their child it just didn’t sound quite the same.

Several lengthy questionnaires (and over a year) later we had our first appointment with the psychologist. We discussed the issues with our boy and had reams of examples to give. Honestly it was one of the most uplifting conversations I have ever had. As my husband and I openly described behaviours and an intensity that wears us down so completely the psychologist appeared to understand where no one else ever had. Our son is intelligent, polite, follows rules etc. No one could ever imagine how exhausting managing my boy’s ‘quirks’ could be. We felt like failures. Here were we with this fantastic son and yet, somehow, we were just collapsing with his intensity. So, you can appreciate, having someone recognise and validate what we were saying was a huge relief – maybe we’re not crap parents after all?

The next appointment was our son meeting with the psychologist and an assessor on his own. I fell asleep in the waiting room. He was brought back out to me after 40 mins. I assumed that given the speedy turnaround that they had quickly arrived at the conclusion that he was not autistic and we were, as we feared, just crap parents.

In the next meeting the psychologist fed back to us and I couldn’t believe what she said: our son scored as highly autistic on 2 out of 3 of the measures. I was shocked. They had observed so much in such a short space of time. Entirely selfishly I was so relieved, my god, it’s not just me and my mental illness, two actual trained professionals saw it too! I’ve always been so scared that all of this is just in my head that to have it confirmed, after 10 years, was just…I can’t even describe it.

However,

Ah yes, there was a but. He hadn’t scored as autistic at all on the 3rd measure. For autism diagnosis the person must score on all three measures – a triad of impairments. Also the report from his school completely contradicted what we had reported. Ok, so next steps were to send a trainee psychologist in to observe my son in school and then take the complete body of evidence to a cross functional panel to decide. Ok, cool with that.

Well, you know what they decided, no diagnosis. So we discussed it. Honestly I didn’t mind whether he was diagnosed as on the spectrum or not, I just wanted certainty. Being told he was a borderline case was my worst fear. He does show difficulties, strongly in fact, in 2/3 areas but, but, but this is not ASC. It was the rituals thing that he doesn’t do so I said that he does this yawn/lip smack thing and looked at my husband. No he hadn’t seen that. Ummm…ok…just me…

Somehow I then started getting emotional. I told them about my BPD and cPTSD diagnoses. This changed things. They knew already about my mental health problems but when I confirmed that I had those specific diagnoses, officially then questions were asked about how I was coping and was I being supported adequately by the adult mental health. I threw myself on the sword babbling away about my own concerns about projecting my own difficulties on to my son. I was awful, however I tried to reassure the psychologist that I felt my parenting was ok. I looked to my husband for confirmation. None came. Talk about leaving me hanging. The psychologist reassured me that there had been no concerns about my fitness as a mother and that the adult mental health team had not been in touch with any concerns. That helped. Would have been nice to hear something reassuring from my husband.

Anyway, suddenly the mood lightened. We all agreed with bright smiles that everything was fine and my son was discharged from the child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) team.

And that was that.

Two years. Hundreds of questions. Half an answer. 

Doesn’t matter though does it? Let’s be honest, with a BPD mother me like he’s up against it. 

How do you ‘life’?

It’s like I can’t help but do it wrong.

I had a bad night last night – disturbs husband who is exhausted. Guilt.

I stay in bed this morning (husband insists). Guilt.

I then end up with my daughter unexpectedly so we watch Aladdin but I do nothing. Guilt.

When husband gets home I go back to bed. Daughter follows me. Guilt.

Husband takes daughter to do supermarket shop. I stay in bed. Guilt.

I force myself up. Get washed, brush teeth, put on clothes. I even put on make up because I really want to try. Pathetic.

I go downstairs to join husband and daughter. Daughter is continually attached to me. Everything is mummy. Husband apologises and says he’ll take her out. I must be a monster. I haven’t complained or anything but he feels the need to take her away. Shame.

He moans about everything he has to do. Shame and a little bit of anger actually because the house is an absolute tip and it’ll be my job to sort it all and I’ll do a lot in the week to keep things ticking over. 

I buy some stuff we need for the house. I’ve spent a lot of time researching to get the best deal. I’ve waited to purchase for a few days from fear of being impulsive. I show husband. He isn’t bothered. Pathetic.

We discuss a savings account I’ve opened. I am putting any leftover money from selling my car in it. It should earn some interest. Husband jokes that it’s good I’ll be bringing some money in. It really upsets me. The money will be about £35 for the year. I feel awful about not earning. I’m doing everything I can to ease our finances. Shame. It’s easy for him to joke when he isn’t a burden. He apologises. Guilt. I’m such a horrible bitch. It was only a joke.

I tell him I’m going to look up forensic science roles. This is something I’m investigating for when I can begin working again. His words are supportive but his tone implies ridicule. Shame. I don’t react. The negative voice in my head begins to laugh nastily:

Haha you absolute fucking joke. Forensics? Good one! Ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous! (I sniff to myself, I only wanted a little encouragement). You’ve done fuck all all day. Your efforts are beyond pathetic. Just by being here you make everything worse. (But that’s not fair…you know I can’t kill myself). You should go. Leave. Or at least disappear back to bed where you can do less damage. 

Instead I ask my husband if he’s ok. I say that he sounds a little annoyed. He immediately apologises in a way that means I’ve hurt his feelings. He’s short with me and mutters to himself about just keeping quiet. Guilt. What the fuck is wrong with me? 

I’ve followed what he’s asked me to; I’ve made efforts and tried to engage with the family; I’ve really thought about everything I’ve done today to try and do it right but, somehow, I’ve done it all wrong again. I want to cry but that seems selfish after all it’s me causing the problems. I really want to leave. I have nowhere to go. I feel like I should be away from them, but, I know that’ll be wrong too.

And I’m so confused. If I try it’s wrong, if I leave it’s wrong, everything I do is wrong. I literally don’t know how much longer I can keep on being so confused, trying so hard and being so wrong. I don’t know what to do. I know this is all very hyperbolic yet it’s true. 

How did I end up being so wrong when I’ve spent my whole life trying to do right. Well that worked. Hmmm, I feel a bit better now – twisted.

Mummy is in bed

My children are in the hall outside my bedroom playing catch. My daughter’s voice is full of joy and giggles and she bounces about shouting “catch!” to her older brother. He’s excited because he’s wearing his new football boots to his game today. Hearing them happy makes me smile. I’ve already had bad thoughts this morning and hearing them is a nice antidote.

Then my husband tells them off – they shouldn’t be playing here, making all that noise. Mummy is in bed. Mummy doesn’t want you to do that does she?

Triggered.

His intention is good. He knows that I was in a bad place yesterday and he wants me to have peace. He regularly makes these assumptions about what I need though without actually asking me. I’ve told him more times than I can count that he doesn’t need to silence the children on my behalf. It makes me so sad. All I want is for them to be happy and healthy. Please don’t stop that for me. 

I was already having intrusive thoughts when I woke up (I could overdose when they’re all out and then just start walking until I fall somewhere). Now I feel worse. Everything is my fault.

Mummy doesn’t want you making all that noise.

Mummy is still in bed.

Leave Mummy alone.

My daughter is going to the football game despite her chesty cough. It is 830am, cold and damp outside and I worry about her chest. My husband decided to take her without talking to me because it’s what I need, apparently. 

Guilt. Shame. Anger. Love. Sadness. All swirling around. 

They’ve gone now and I’m alone. My family are gone. Without me. I feel so wretched. Swallowing a load of tablets wouldn’t phase me at all but I can’t do that. That doesn’t help them. Instead it’ll be the knife. Will need to go torso I think. Better weather is coming soon…short sleeves…

Oh, I didn’t take anything last night except my quetiapine. That was a positive step forward of which I’m quite proud of. I slept til 4am and then I was restless/awake and any sleep came with nightmares. Lack of sleep is a vulnerability factor they say. Lucky for me I get to stay in bed whilst my family are out together.

Lucky me indeed.

I want to get off my face. With what? Alcohol? Drugs? I don’t care! Although I think drugs would win as I’m really after being calm, sleepy, dopey and peaceful.

I can say I don’t do drugs with a snooty air of superiority but that’d be misleading. I don’t do illegal drugs. Mine come from the pharmacy, which is fine when they’re being used correctly. Actually I do take my prescription meds as I’m told as I know that if I dick about with them then it’ll make getting prescriptions harder in the future, especially with one significant overdose in the bag already.

Instead I play about with OTC stuff: promethazine and cocodamol. Occasionally I chuck in a lorazepam but that’s prescription and if I use it too much it’ll get taken away. One of the reasons for starting quetiapine was to stop this polypharmacy meddling I indulge in.

Thing is I’m tired. Tired of being ‘on’. The static in my head makes me grumpy and short with the people I love. My self-hatred means that their touch is like being prodded with a red hot poker. They shouldn’t be touching me – I am rotten. I swallow down my discomfort and add it to the already seething volcano. I hate myself further for being like this. F-u-u-u-u-u-u-ck! Listening to the children requires the kind of concentration that I imagine a code breaker has to employ. I listen-take in the info-stifle my reaction-process the info-decide on an appropriate response-give said appropriate response. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. All the stifling and pushing emotion down makes the poison inside bubble more furiously and panic begins. A quiet panic that no one sees. I need to escape. I can’t. This is where DBT skills are pretty lacking to be honest. The urge is to be dead. A completely nonsensical reaction but there it is. Can’t be dead. Can’t escape. Can’t get drunk. Can’t go out (it’s dark, I’d be scared and my husband would stress). So here I am: DRUGS. 

I have all manner of distraction techniques but I’m past that point. This happens all the time. Why can’t they help me with this because I don’t know what to do?! 

The overdose urge is strong but I can’t. It caused such a breakdown in trust in my marriage last time that I just feel trapped. Like I want to scream help me help me help me but I can’t because all of the ways I scream help me are destructive and just asking in a normal person manner doesn’t yield results either.

And then…is it passing? Am I settling? Even if I am the enormity of recovery feels too much, impossible. I can’t. I’ll go to sleep, have nightmares like I do every fucking night, and then I’ll wake up and wait to see what-the-hell mood I’m in when I wake up. Then I’ll begin planning how to manage that emotion, to get through the day, to function, to be as good a mother as I can be. Enormous.

Shhhhhh the static. Quiet the volcano. Sedate the monster.

End 

I know that everything I say here will stupid, it will be illness, but I’ve got to say it all and I’m not going to try to make sense.

I cried a bit in DBT group today. Not properly, just that choked up, can’t talk or I’ll sob kind of way. I feel like crying now but I can’t because my son is here. He was sent home from school sick. In fact I had to leave group to collect him which makes perfect sense because in group I was saying/choking about the fact I can’t stop self harming because I’m scared something awful will happen, particularly to my children.I told them all in group that I would chip away at this belief so it is fucking obvious that my boy then got sick. The message is there. It’s so clear. In group I gave the example that I had written details of my last self-harm and send it to Monica because we never get through a chain analysis because I can never remember what happened. Anyway, my appointment with Monica was cancelled this week. She was ill. Nothing suspect there except I know. Of course it was cancelled! Each time I try and push back against ‘this’ it rebounds back at me, knocking me down. I cried that I could have told them that my appointment would be cancelled: I do something ‘positive’the universe pushes back. It’s like chess. 

I had been crying quite a lot this morning so had hoped i wouldn’t cry in group. I was crying this morning because I feel like the end is coming. As I up my efforts to ‘get better’ my opponent ups their efforts too. Then comes the strange contradiction: the suicidal who is scared to die. I just don’t want to leave the kids, i really don’t. I just want them to be safe and ok. 

And I feel totally alone. The universe is organising things so I become more isolated…pushing me further. So my care coordinator Nora left. Then Monica cancelled my appointment. Now I’ve had to leave DBT today. My new care coordinator keeps fucking up appointments so I haven’t even met her….obviously. She rang the other day to reschedule and didn’t bother asking how I was, or asking how the quetiapine is going or you know basically anything. I’m so confused. I don’t know how the quetiapine is going and I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. I  just don’t know anything.

Last nights dreams upset me so much. I dreamt my mum loved me. I dreamt that when I was a baby she had done so much for me, made huge efforts out of love – like flying to London to buy a special baby sling that you couldn’t get where we lived (and it being 1980!) and she did that because she wanted to be close to me. I felt such a fool in the dream. Yes, she had done all these terrible things to me but, actually, she had loved me, she had tried. Then I woke up and remembered that she hadn’t. I cried a lot then. 

I also dreamt of the rape. I kept trying to see his face. I wanted to stare him in the face. I wanted to know his face so I could recognise it if I ever saw it again but he was the shadow man again. This afternoon as I sat on the sofa I saw him out of the corner of my eye, stood in the kitchen door. Gone in a flash. Thankfully I didn’t startle because my son was there. The whole thing just makes me so so sad. Why is he back? I don’t understand. I tried to deal with it before, I told and nobody cared so what is the point?

I just don’t know what to do so I keep trying to do the things that are supposed to be good, to be the right things for recovery but the more I do the worse things happen. I’ve thought a running away this afternoon at least then maybe everyone would be ok.

I’ve got to go. The cat is being a twat and I now have to pick up my daughter. Somehow I need to rein all of this in and be the mum they deserve. Fuck. I can do it for a few hours and then, when they’re in bed, I can break.

It’s Time to Talk, Seriously.

On February the 2nd it is Time to Talk day 2017. I think this is a great initiative. I know it’s been running for a few years now and I really hope that each year more and more people speak up about their mental health because we all have mental health. Just like our physical health, our mental health can be good, or not so good and it will vary. Just like our physical health, we might suddenly find ourselves in a situation with our mental health that was previously unthinkable. Very suddenly everything can change but the world still turns, the people around you still go on, and you can be left wondering.. how could this have happened to me? I’m not like that… Just like with our physical health there are risk factors in mental health – you probably know that being overweight increases your risk of diabetes, but, have any of us really stopped to consider just how that person with mental illness arrived there? I wonder what they were struggling with for the illness to begin. I suppose it’s easier for us to think of those suffering from mental illness as weak, sensitive flowers because it means that we can reassure ourselves that it will never be us. Until it is. And then…what?

Over the last few years I’ve noticed more people speaking openly about depression and anxiety and it’s brilliant. Even men, a group that speaking about their mental health is almost forbidden (sensitive flowers right?). This is awesome…but… (I’m sorry there’s a but) I want us to talk more. I want us to start being able to share some of of the more (perceived) frightening aspects of mental illness. I think they’re frightening because they are so mysterious, shrouded in hearsay, misinformation and sensationalism. Let’s name some of these bogeymen: suicide; self-harm; hallucinations; hearing voices; psychosis; dissociation; flashbacks; delusions.

I don’t work anymore. That came as a huge surprise to me. I never imagined that would be me. I used to be a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company – intercontinental conference calling, symposiums, shares and benefits. Then I retrained as a science teacher and I was successfully climbing the career ladder with the aim of being a head of chemistry and a lead teacher. See? Normal. Doing life and doing pretty well at it but the risk factors were there. Without realising what I was doing I actually fought mental illness all my life and then, and I don’t know how it happened really, everything changed. I tried to kill myself. Now I’m at home I get to catch up on a lot of TV (no, not lucky me). There’s a lot of crime stuff on during the day. Know who the baddies are? Yeah, they usually have mental illness and are suffering with the bogeymen. But, you see, this is my point – I’ve experienced a few of those bogeymen symptoms and I’m as dangerous as a wet tea bag (i.e. not very). People would know that if I could talk to them about it.

Very few people in my life know that I tried to kill myself. Even fewer know about the self-harm. My husband and I haven’t even spoken about it. I keep meaning to. He must see the cuts but then I hide them so well I wonder if he does know. How do I tell someone who loves me that  I deliberately take a knife to myself? I don’t know but it’s definitely time to talk, seriously, because self-harm is a very real and troubling part of my mental illness. This leads me to another massive misconception about mental illness – that it is attention seeking. Are you kidding me?! Attention seeking?! Ha! Right. No, that’s the kind of attention I can do without ta. People being afraid of me, thinking I’m crazy (which I am but it’s ok)?! No, no,no! Attention seeking. Wow. I’m not saying people don’t ever look for some sort of concern or help and that can be in really messed up ways but that’s mental illness for you – it can make rational thought kind of difficult sometimes!

My diagnoses are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD). I’d never even heard of BPD so I googled it. It’s a heartbreaking and damning read: attention seeking, manipulative, liars. Difficult to love? Aggressive or violent? Hand on heart I will tell you that those particular traits do not apply to me (well, maybe I’m hard to love I dunno) but imagine what people will think of me when I tell them that I have BPD (that they’ve probably never heard of) and if they go so far as to google it? Yeah. So it’d be really great to be able to talk about it, to let them know the truth; what I struggle with and how I manage it and why I’m still me. Then there’s the cPTSD bit. This tells people that I have something awful in my past. They don’t want to ask for fear of upsetting me and I don’t tell them because I know it will upset them (been there, done that, sat through the awkwardness).

No one knows what to say but, you know what, that’s OK. This stuff is complicated. It’d be a lot easier if we could talk about it so that’s what I’m saying: it’s time to talk about the scary (not really!) stuff too. Oh, and I want to make clear that I am absolutely not minimising depression and anxiety. I find the depression the worst part of my illness. It’s brutal and can be life-threatening, as anxiety can be too. These conditions have a continuum and if your depression/anxiety is classed as mild then it is still an illness and you have every right to receive the correct treatment. You deserve empathy and understanding. So, no matter how your mental health is faring currently do make time to talk. Please.

From a  crazy, wet teabag x

BPD & cPTSD: a Monster and a Ghost part 2

The Ghost

The BPD monster peeped out for DBT therapist, Monica, in my last appointment (that’s Part 1). Later in the same appointment the PTSD ghost wanted acknowledgement too.
I don’t know how we got on to the subject but I think it came from me expressing my frustration at not being able to enjoy my life. I have a fantastic life. I couldn’t ask for more and yet there I was, in therapy. The only thing between me and enjoying my life is me. It’s bloody maddening but then the more I beat myself up the worse I make it. From there, I think, M got me to describe the person I am now. I used words like adventurous, that I saw a world full of potential. Monica was surprised. So I explained that I am haunted, continually pulled back to 20+ years ago and that stops me being the person I think that I am. Naturally she asked me to describe that person. Well…scared, invisible, wants to die but can’t because she has to take care of her brothers, powerless, has no voice, doesn’t trust because people say they will help and they never do. This is the person that Monica knows now. It’s not me. It was me; once upon a time. She wonders how the younger me became the adult me given they are so vastly different. I explained as best I could about going to university, meeting new people, going wild, achievements and finally a name change. 

Gradually that younger version of me was eradicated. To the point that she was barely a memory. She was gone but, unfortunately, not laid to rest. I am haunted by the ghost of myself.

Now that I can see she kind of gets it the words come spilling out of me. I sometimes see her at nighttime, I know that what happened to her is really sad but she needs to be gone now, I need to make her be gone but I can’t. It’s like she wants me to do something to giver her peace but I don’t know it is. I try and pay attention in dreams and hallucinations: what is it? I know it’s strange to experience ‘her’ as a separate entity but that’s how this thing is playing out. It’s me – I get that. Although if I stop to think about that it’s terrifying so, for now, I’m thinking of her as a ghost that needs to be laid to rest. Trouble is that I don’t know how. Monica said we would continue to explore this next time. 

That night at my Body Balance class (mix of tai chi, yoga and Pilates) when we were doing the meditation bit I had to keep my eyes open. Whenever I tried to close them my eyelids fluttered and in my minds eye I saw her. I imagined holding her hand and reassuring her – it’ll be ok, we’ll sort this. I’ve got to admit though I don’t know if that’s a good thing or further descending into madness! 

Maybe the monster and the ghost are the same thing? I don’t know but I do feel relieved that my therapist now seems to have a better grasp of what’s going on with me. Do you know what? I’ll happily leave it to her to figure it out. I’m exhausted enough just managing the two of them. 

Well, that’s why they call it complex PTSD! They got that right!