Accepting my own survival

After the last therapy session I wrote about the difficulty of accepting the horrendousness of my own past. This is something I hope will come with time. Something which I don’t particularly want to do, but which rationally and emotionally I believe will be necessary.

It’s hard. Very hard.

When I mentioned to my therapist at this week’s session about her validating my story as ‘horrendous’ (or what she’d heard of it) was unsettling, she reminded me of something important.

That it may have been horrendous. But that it’s much, much more than that.

We know about the two different sides of me.

Yes, there’s the vulnerable, emotionally unstable, ‘unwell’ me. The side that doesn’t cope very well at all. Who can’t cope with her emotions. Who is self-destructive. Who believes much bad things about herself. The needy, reliant one. Who feels worthless. Who has little self-esteem. Who hates herself. Who is creeping in now and needs to stop me saying all this stupid stuff. But basically the one who, on the face of it, was most affected by the ‘horrendousness’.

But then there’s the other side of me. The really competent one. The confident one. The one who definitely does cope, and does so very well. The independent one. The ambitious one. The high-achieving one. The functioning one. The one who runs support groups and delivers training courses. The same one who doesn’t really do the emotional side at all – that maybe being one of her saving graces.

But… the therapist pointed out that it’s not just a story of horrendousness. The competent, capable side – I may not have developed that side if I had not experienced the things I’d experienced. And that side is the one which has kept me alive and kept me safe.

That made a lot of sense to me.

Yet, like most people, I don’t really see that as a big deal. So, despite the stuff, I’ve achieved a lot, and will likely achieve a lot in the future, and on paper I have a lot going for me, but it’s no big deal really – it’s really genuinely not – and don’t many people achieve great things.

But then I think of the girl that I was and all that she experienced – all of it – and I see it as slightly more of a big deal. Slightly.

That competent, capable side of me isn’t necessarily the healthiest in itself. But it’s long since been my survival mechanism. Not just a coping mechanism, but an actual survival mechanism.

I remember being very young – too young to be thinking this way — and thinking ‘I’ll focus on my studies, that’s how I’ll get through it. I’ll study hard, work hard, make myself a better life’. And as time went on that same approach but in more detail. ‘I’ll go to university, get a degree, a good job, my own house etc.’.

It was very straightforward in my head. I thought that was the answer. I thought that would make me fine. But the horrendousness and its impact was still there. And I definitely wasn’t fine.

But that approach – it enabled me to survive. And as more things happened, and as I got very unwell, it was that side of me that looked after me, that ultimately kept me alive.

There’s more to my survival than just that ‘approach’. There’s things I did. There’s the impact on my mind. There’s many survival mechanisms that ultimately weren’t good. But still – they enabled me to survive.

It shouldn’t have been like that. I shouldn’t have had to survive.

But I did.

So it’s not just a story of horrendousness. It’s also a story of survival.

But still while rationally I can say that, emotionally I still think ‘it’s really not a big deal’.

And just like I maybe need to, with time, accept the horrendousness in order to begin to heal from it – maybe at the same time what I need to do is accept and honour my own survival. The things I did to survive. The ‘me’ I developed in order to survive.

And the fact that am the one who got me through it.

To accept that horrendousness is painful. I’m not sure that it’s something I can yet do. But until then I can’t really connect with it as being ‘me’.

Yet it’s scary to accept it, and one of the ultimate things stopping me likely is the feeling that it will be totally overpowering and all-consuming.

But… if while accepting the horrendousness – when the time is right – I can focus on accepting my own strength, my own power and my own survival, then the hope in that will play a part in helping me accept and heal from it.

One big issue for me this year is that on a number of occasions the emotional pain that I have felt – for various reasons – has been so overpowering that I believed that I couldn’t bear it. And on some occasions believing really strongly that I needed to take my own life in order to ensure that I would never have to feel that pain again.

Only on one occasion did that belief move beyond thoughts of suicide onto making plans to end my own life, but I would like to not feel this way. It’s not good.

I would like to feel that level of emotional pain and believe that I can endure it.

Actually, fuck that, I’d like to not actually feel that emotional pain at all, but one step at a time…

Rationally, in this moment, I believe that I can tolerate that level of distress and endure it. But emotionally when I’m in that distress it’s very different.

But… there is no level of emotional distress I have not felt before. No level of emotional distress I have not survived before.

To believe, acknowledge and accept my own survival and the fact that there is nothing that I cannot get myself through – that will be necessary for my own future survival.

Who knows if this makes any sense, but it makes sense in my head – what ultimately matters.

Despite bad – I survived… and I will continue to do so. I need to believe this.

Posted in beauty from pain, borderline personality disorder, dealing with emotional pain, hope, psychologist, survival, therapy, trauma | Leave a comment

So you want to binge…? (A letter to myself)

Currently I’m doing lots of different things to help me try to manage my emotions. To help combat bad thoughts, painful emotions, and to help reduce destructive behaviour.

Most of these things are things that I’m doing of my own initiative. Mostly things I’m figuring out myself. I’m taking the approach that I know myself best and using that knowledge to try to figure out what will work best for me.

I’m starting therapy, yes, and it means I’ll have some support to work through stuff – but I know that in itself will bring up a lot of difficult stuff. So I feel like alongside therapy I need to do some work in managing the stuff that it brings up.

Something that I’ve been struggling with more and more lately is binge eating. It’s always been a mild problem at best, but it’s been more and more noticeable lately, and it’s something that I want to change. But I’m aware that it’s about emotions more than it’s about food, and that what needs to primarily change is the bad emotions that lie behind binge eating.

Which is just one of the things that I hope therapy will help with.

Because I’m building up lots of different tools that may help in different situations, I wanted something that might help when I want to binge. So I decided to write a letter to myself. A letter that hopefully I will read when I want to binge. A letter that will hopefully help.

I printed it out, put it in my toolbox, but then figured it might be worth sharing here in case it might help someone.

But firstly, a note… this is not me giving advice to anyone else. I am not an expert in this by any means, and I am only just trying to tackle this myself.

It’s primarily nothing more than a letter to myself. It’s not intended to be advice to any other person. 

Only time will tell if it is any help to me. And I’ve no idea if anything in it would be of help to anyone else. But might be worth sharing in any case…

================================================================

Dear Amanda

So you want to binge again to make yourself feel better…? I know this has become quite a regular habit lately, but I want you to know that you can take control of this.

And it is only you that can take control.

You can swing it either way. You can let binging control you, or you can control it.

Part of the problem is that you do it without thinking – just do it almost instinctively.

You know it’s bad, but in that moment, you don’t really care. Because you just want to feel better.

But it’s become quite a big problem – literally ::) You’ve put on over half a stone in just a few weeks. So physically quite a problem – but emotionally it causes a lot of problems too.

One thing that I need to remember is that when you binge ‘to make yourself feel better – that’s exactly what you don’t do. You don’t make yourself feel better. You think you do… but ultimately you make yourself feel a lot, lot worse.

Actually, let’s make that clearer, as maybe in a moment of haste you might just skim this letter.

When you binge ‘to make yourself feel better’ you don’t make yourself feel better. You make yourself feel a lot worse, but emotionally and physically.

This has to be the basis of you taking control. If food really did ultimately make you feel better then this wouldn’t be a problem, you could binge all you want. But it’s a destructive behaviour which is making you feel bad in a lot of ways, and this is why it needs to change.

So how does it make you feel bad?

  • Weight: Weight wise, yes, it is negative. Earlier this year you had an obese BMI, then you got down to ‘overweight’. I want you to get down to the upper end of a healthy BMI range, or even just slightly overweight. Why? Because of the health risks associated with being quite overweight, but as much as that, about how it makes you feel mentally. The bigger you get, the worse you feel about yourself. When you were taking control of your weight, you were feeling better about yourself – but the past several weeks when you’ve been overeating and binging constantly, as a result you’re been feeling the extreme opposite of feeling better about yourself. Weight for you isn’t about a number. It’s about how you feel about yourself. The bigger you get, the worse you feel. When you can’t fit into your clothes you feel disgusting. It affects your self-esteem and so much more.
  • Mentally: Even the weight aspect was mostly about emotional impacts rather than physical impacts… but the weight impact is slightly more long-term. When you actually overeat / binge, what is the impact mentally? You give yourself a hard time about it afterwards. If you binge now, do you need yet another reason to give yourself a hard time?  You feel weak, disgusting, guilty and ashamed. And probably more. You started out wanting to binge because you felt bad feelings… all you are doing is giving yourself even more bad feelings on top, and probably without even acknowledging them, and they build up and build up to more bad feelings, and then you need to pig out again. It’s a vicious circle without you even realising it. Stop letting food have that power over your emotions. Take control. You can do this.

But you know it’s not as simple as just reading this letter to yourself and then not binging. It’s not that simple. This letter is designed to ground you.

But if it grounds you, the bad feelings that make you want to binge are still there. That’s the problem. So you don’t just read this letter and say ‘ok, fine, I won’t do it.’ Because the bad feelings are still there.

You’ll need to take care of those bad feelings. As well as possibly finding physical ways to manage those cravings and wanting to overeat.

I’ve some ideas for you, but they’re just that… ideas.

Ideas based on what I know of you. But also ideas on research I’ve done on what lies behind binge eating and what might help. I’m not an expert on this, but I’m the best expert on you, so this is worth a try, right?

Some of these ideas might work. Some not. Some on some occasions and not others. Only you can figure that out over time.

But firstly, I want you to know that while I want you to develop a healthy relationship with food, I don’t want you to become obsessive about it. I don’t believe that you will. For a few months at the start of this year, you did great. It came naturally. That’s what I want for you.

But… what you need to remember most of all – this isn’t about food, it’s about emotions.

So the primary focus isn’t on food, it’s about your emotions and dealing with them.

So you want to binge right now?

  • You can say no. Only you can take control. But right now, you can take control. Say out loud if you need to. ‘No. I refuse to binge right now. I refuse to deal with my negative emotions by binging. I deserve better than that. I deserve to treat myself better. I am saying no and I am taking control.Say that out loud right now. Several times if you need to.
  • Just not today: Note, you said that you refuse to binge ‘right now’. The nature of wanting to binge is that it needs to be done right now, but remember that with trying to manage all destructive behaviours / desires, something that you’ve long found helpful is the ‘just not today’ tactic. ‘I’m not saying I won’t ever do it, just not today’. It works for you, so try it now.
  • Is it actual hunger? You’re taking control and saying no, but remember you’re not saying no to food, you’re saying no to binging. Food is healthy and necessary. I want you to have a healthy relationship with food. But think – is it that you are actually physically hungry, and it’s showing as wanting to binge. When was the last time you ate? I think you struggle to tell the difference between emotional and physical hunger, so there’s a really good document I found online at the end of this pack. Refer to it if needed. And if you’ve gotten things mixed up, and it is actually physical hunger, then go and eat something. Something at home. Something safe.
  • Can you trick your mind a little bit? Yes, this is about emotions, not food. But can you trick your mind a little. Presuming at this point you’ve established this is emotional hunger not physical hunger… can you have something small anyhow… like a piece of fruit or a yoghurt. In the past I think that this has sometimes work. Your mind feels a little satisfied and a little comforted. Maybe try it and see if it works.
  • The feelings: I’ve no idea in reality if any of what I’ve suggested so far is going to help, but I hope that it will ground you a little, and may even make you feel better in itself. But it’s not going to be enough. Bad feelings were present to make you want to binge. Most of those bad feelings are still there, so know that those feelings need to be taken care of. How are you going to do that?
  • Acknowledge the feelings: Would it be helpful to write down the feelings? Write down what is happening to make you want to binge? I don’t know. Only you in this moment when you are feeling whatever you are feeling can know that. But my thinking is that by binging you are ignoring the negative emotions… but they will still be there. So maybe do the opposite of that. Try writing about them if in this moment you think that will help. Or maybe ring someone – maybe a helpline like the Samaritans. Don’t know what to say? Ring them and say these words ‘I want to binge, and I know there’s bad feelings behind it, so I wanted to talk to someone about that, as a way of managing those feelings’.
  • Could it be boredom? Thinking about all of this, I know that almost always it’s likely bad feelings lying behind a proper binge. But could it be boredom? Could it be habit? Could it be just what you’re used to doing? If it’s boredom / habit, what can you do? I think maybe something that really focuses your attention. Reading, housework, puzzles, jigsaw, a dance DVD, anything… I’m thinking though that going out for a walk might be risky, as it’s too easy to then go into the shops for the junk food, although simple solution… if going out for a walk is what you do, then maybe don’t bring money with you. No money with you = inability to buy the food in the first place.
  • Replace bad feelings with good feelings: Back to the bad feelings. Acknowledging them, by writing or talking about them might help. But what else? Well, I’m figuring that in order to challenge the bad feelings, it might be helpful to do things that bring good feelings. So, what makes you feel good? At the back of this pack, there’s some pages which ask you to list out things that might make you feel good. Write some out, then try them. Here’s some ideas.
  • A bit of pampering – a shower / bath (very dependent on reasons behind bad feelings), body lotion, paint nails etc
  • A comedy dvd for some laughs
  • some happy dancy music (and maybe even dance around the room)
  • write down things that you do like about yourself / that are good about you
  • put fresh sheets on the bed
  • spray room and linen spray
  • cuddle a teddy (again very dependent on reasons behind bad feelings)
  • light some scented candles.
  • Is there anything in your toolbox that will help?

They’re just some ideas. I’m sure you can think of loads more. What is most likely to work is what feels most right for you in this moment.

So, what now? I don’t know.

Can’t you tell that I’m making all this shit up as I go along? :)

Nah, in reality, I am yet I’m not. I’m saying this based on what I know about you. And given that this is a letter to yourself, and I know myself best, I hope that you found something in it that works.

You can pull up so many pieces of advice from the internet, books etc, or advice from other people… but this is advice to yourself cos you know yourself best.

I hope that as therapy progresses, as you learn and understand more and start to heal, as the bad feelings decrease, as the distress decreases generally, this will be less of an issue.

But in the meantime, I hope that there might have been something in this letter that helps.

I know you also have the ‘dealing with distress’ booklet, and you’re planning to work though that, so hope that you will get new ideas and tactics from that – not just on dealing with the want to binge, but ideas in general on coping.

I have written this letter with the best of intentions. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t it doesn’t. But… if you read it when you have that desire to binge, and you realise something in it that really doesn’t help, or realise something that would work better if it was changed… then change it… You have the electronic copy, change it and re-print it… make it what works for you.

Oh and here’s another idea, time permitting… if you wanted to binge, have read this letter, and found something helpful in it, and managed not to binge:

  • Highlight what it was that helped you. It’ll make it easier to spot next time.
  • Again, time permitting, write about how you feel now that you have not binged. Do you still feel bad? Do you feel better? I’m hoping that you will feel a little better for resisting, and that whatever you write about how you feel now will be something that could help ground you in future.

Finally… find a reward for yourself tomorrow. A non-food reward.

Ideally this is a reward for resisting binging. But either way, if you read this, if you engaged in some of the stuff you thought might help – even if you did binge in the end, you still tried not to, and you did your best… so you deserve a reward.

Not food, and doesn’t have to be something that costs money. Even just taking some time to do something nice for yourself. Believe that you are worth it.

You’re doing great!

Love, Amanda

Posted in binge eating, binging, dealing with emotional pain, food, letter to myself, managing disstress, self-help tools | 5 Comments

Accepting the horrendousness

A lot of people struggle to accept their mental illness, but it’s not something that I ever really remember me having much difficult with. Once I recognised its existence that is.

I had read about borderline personality disorder (BPD) about 18 months before I was diagnosed with it. I knew ‘that’s me’, but didn’t think too much about it for quite a while. Until I got quite unwell. I always knew it was more than depression, so when I was diagnosed it just felt like a relief that others could see what I saw.

As for depression – which I don’t think I do have anymore – in hindsight I could see several past episodes of depression, but at the time it was just a case of ‘that’s just how things are’, it was my norm, and I didn’t recognise it as anything more. But once I did recognise it, things made sense, and for that reason, there really wasn’t much difficulty in accepting that I was mentally ill.

But there’s something else that is incredibly difficult to find acceptance of – accepting my past (my childhood) for what it was. 

In our last appointment, my therapist noticed some change of expression on my face. She said that I looked sad. I replied: ‘But, it was sad, isn’t it?’ Her reply: ‘No, Amanda, it was horrendous’. 

In that moment, caught up in the distress that I was feeling, I did recognise it as horrendous. Overwhelmingly horrendous. That being despite the fact that I didn’t even feel like I’d told her anything really bad.

But later – after the appointment – I realised that this, someone else describing it as ‘horrendous’, had really unsettled me. Rationally I knew that it was someone validating my past (or at least what they’d heard of it) exactly as it was. But it still unsettled me.

I’m trying to understand it, yet I don’t know if I can quite explain it.

Yet, just as I wrote (typed) that, I think it clicked with me. (Which perhaps shows quite how powerful typing in this space can be.)

I know on some level that it’s probably very natural for a person to struggle to accept their own childhood as horrendous, to realise the horror of it. After all, it’s their norm, it was just ‘how it was’, and they never really knew any better.

I know all that. That makes sense to me.

Although what else just occurred to me was that part of it may be related to that whole ‘stiff upper lip’ thing (is that even the right term?) The ‘not talking’ about bad things. The ‘just getting on with it’ without actually saying that what we need to do is ‘just get on with it’, without even acknowledging that unwritten rule. The ignoring of the bad things. The just getting on with it, cos things don’t affect us if we don’t acknowledge them. The smiling and getting on with it. The requirement to pretend you’re fine when you’re really not. The pretending this to yourself, not just to other people. The ‘just don’t think about the past, and it won’t affect you’. And all that other shite…

It has only occured to me in writing this blog post that given that that’s what I grew up with, and everything else on top, is it really any surprise that it’s so hard to accept that childhood as horrendous.

Even just the fact that I can imagine one person in particular reading this now and thinking (based on what they’ve told me before), that I should just not be thinking about the past), that people will think that I ‘just need to move on’ etc.

They’ve told me that when I actually wasn’t even thinking about the past, but now I am, and I’m choosing to, I need to, it needs to be thought about, it needs to be focused on, it needs to be healed from.

That’s why it can’t matter to me what other people think, and it can’t matter if any single person thinks that I just need to be superhuman and ‘just move on’.

Because I have more facts about me than anyone else will ever have. I know me. And I’m the one connecting things, joining the dots…

I used to say that ‘yes, I’m mentally ill, and my childhood – and issues experienced in adulthood to some degree – may have played a part in that, but then again, I may have gotten mentally ill anyway. We might never really know. What ultimately matters is managing it.’.

But now I can see things much more clearly for what they are. That – like anyone else really – my past experiences contributed to the person that I am today. And quite simply way too much fucked-up shit happened that left me in somewhat of a mess mentally. Not just a few years of it, but way beyond that. And those extremely negative – horrendous – experiences left their mark. They quite definitely contributed to my illness. They quite certainly played a part.

Yes, I’m mentally ill, but I don’t so much see it about that anymore. I see it as much about healing from the harm that was done to me. Reclaiming me. Undoing the damage. That was going to need done, whether I’d ever been mentally ill or not.

There’s also other reasons why it’s hard yet to accept the past as horrendous.

Not wanting to feel like a ‘oh, poor me’, when realistically I need a little more of that in order to start healing.

There’s also the fact that ‘didn’t we all have it hard? Doesn’t everyone?’ (Yes, in our own ways, some more so than others, some more so than me… but it’s never a competition, and what did or didn’t happen to anyone else doesn’t change what happened to me – and my head is about me and nobody else.)

But also – it’s painful. Last Saturday was a very hard day. I was riddled all day with bad memories popping up. Everything was a trigger. Everything reminding me of something. And in many cases reminding me of things I’d forgotten / not remembered.

I took an external view of much of it, and was shocked. But only in a way that I would be if someone else had told me it. I was sad too.

But I’ve been reading up on healing from trauma, on connecting with my inner child and other such stuff. That in itself is progress, since it’s not that long ago that I couldn’t even go there. Couldn’t even say those words, couldn’t even read up on it, couldn’t even acknowledge ‘her’.

But… while on the surface I acknowledge that past as horrendous, deep down accepting it as such is much more difficult. Because that might be the start of truly feeling the pain associated with it, feeling the emotions of it. I don’t think I’ve really begun connecting with that part of me, and I just don’t think I’m ready.

It’s beyond painful to accept it for what it was. To accept the horror of it, how badly I was let down, how much was wrong. It’s even more painful to emotionally connect with it, and to feel and see the impact it had on my mind.

But I do feel that that acceptance needs to be one of the first steps in the healing process. The acceptance of things for what they were. The acceptance of those many experiences as horrendous.

I don’t know what it will take to enable me to start doing that, but the rational me says that I need to take my time with it, to go at my own pace, to do what feels right, and to trust that between my therapist and I we can figure it out together.

This is all weird and new and I think back to whatever I’ve just written and I’m not sure that it really makes any sense to me..

 

Posted in acceptance, borderline personality disorder, BPD, depression, mental illness, pain, psychologist, self-acceptance, therapy, trauma | 10 Comments

7th of July, the fourth

Anniversaries seem to be important to me. Well, some more than others.

Good anniversaries at least. I like to celebrate milestones, mark things.

7th July is an important day for me. I suspect it always will be.

7th July 2011 was the day that I turned a huge corner, realised that I didn’t want to die. I so badly wanted the pain to stop, but I didn’t want to be dead. That’s different.

I’m not going to go into all of that again. There’s plenty of it written in past posts:

I’ve thought about the milestone today. I thought about a lot of things today. Not all of them good.

The reality is that I want to mark this milestone as it’s another year alive, another year survived since I made that decision.

So I want to write something tonight.

But the reality also is that I feel incredibly shit tonight. For so many reasons, many of which I don’t even know or understand.

On the day I made that decision, 7th July 2011, I wrote ‘No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much it hurts, I’m going to stick it out’, and the reality is that it shocks me sometimes quite how fucking hard that actually is. To ‘stick it out’. And it shocks me quite how much everything hurts. Quite how unbearable things feel in my head. Quite how much of an effort everything is.

Right now, I’m writing this despite being in a ‘fuck everything and everyone’ type of mood. Marking a milestone is great, but sometimes it’s hard to mark a milestone which relates to staying alive when everything in your mind hurts too much.

When, no matter how much you know it’ll pass it makes no difference, cos it’s still there feeling like that in this moment.

And when you realise that no matter how much you do externally that is good, inside your head still feels like shit.

When you have the will inside you to try to make things better, but you’re still not sure if you have it inside you to endure how painful it might be.

No idea why I am writing any of this, but it is my place, and it is my day.

And I like to note my milestones as some part of me knows how hard I’ve tried, how much I’ve achieved simply by ‘surviving’. So I’m doing this for me, as I’ll be glad of it at some point.

I don’t have it in me tonight to say anything much good. It’s just a bit scary how much my head feels like it did then.

Yet I’m different. Things are so different.

With so much of the same head.

Confusing. Yet not.

Familiar.

Crazy.

Fucked-up.

Fuck everything.

Surviving is too hard sometimes.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

Posted in borderline personality disorder, BPD, child abuse, emotional fuck-up, fuck-up, mental illness, pain, personal, suicide, trauma | Leave a comment

“Only as painful as you let it be.”

Well, despite just 3 appointments so far with the new psychologist, things are looking quite positive on that front. No matter how much training any person has done in psychology, it’s not that training in itself which will be most important in a therapeutic relationship – it’s their empathy, their compassion, their human nature, the connection they build with the client, their ability to actually care. And I think I may have struck lucky on that front with this one. Here’s hoping, at least.

This may have been just what I have been waiting for, but the reality of it may be starting to hit. The reality of how hard it is likely to be.

Someone said to me recently, ‘Most people don’t realise how hard therapy is’ and my response was that I doubted even I fully realise that yet… can you ever truly realise how hard therapy is without feeling it… without investing yourself truly in it… without going through the process?

But I’m starting to realise it, to feel it. And it is scary.

Even just trusting the person enough to let them in it hard in itself. And even while developing that trust to let the person in is the fear – the fear of becoming attached, the fear of becoming reliant, the fear of letting go of a person in your life when the time is right.

But what is also really hard is actually letting yourself feel that pain. Essentially picking at scabs – fuck it, scabs doesn’t even begin to describe it – but picking at them, tearing at old wounds in an attempt to heal, while knowing you’ll have to feel so much pain while doing so.

Knowing you’ll need to feel intense emotional pain, and possibly feel torn apart by it, in order to feel better – and something at the back of your mind wondering if it is really worth that pain.

The reality of how painful it might be started to hit a little more on Tuesday. While on a phone conversation with the therapist, sobbing crying, in a lot of emotional pain. It hit me, and I asked her ‘how painful is this going to be?’ while thinking ‘can there actually be a simple answer for that?’

The therapist’s response ‘Only as painful as you let it be’. 

She then explained that we wouldn’t go into anything too deep until I was ready – but I still struggled to see what ‘only as painful as you let it be’ really meant.

What this translates to in reality. In my reality.

The idea that I have any control over the emotional pain is a strange one to me.

Surely I feel the pain, it’s over-powering and unbearable, and I realise that I can’t take it any more… surely that’s the way the routine goes?

I don’t think it’s for someone else to tell me what ‘only as painful as you let it be’ really means in reality. Because what matters is what it really means for me. 

And I’ve been giving it some thought.

I’d be lying if I said that I’ve figured it out already. It’s not that easy.

But some things are starting to make some sense to me, and it may be connected to ‘only as painful as you let it be’.

I feel remarkably emotionally flat in some ways at the moment. Not just in relation to therapy-type stuff, it goes way beyond that. I can’t help wonder if it’s some self-protection thing. I’m keeping an eye on it, but more so trying to make sure that it doesn’t do damage in my life, in two particular areas at least.

I also noticed how utterly tired I have been recently. And noticeably so that in the middle of the afternoon on days when I’m not out giving training I’ll just so badly need a nap. But also when not working I have this deep need to just curl up, hide away, sleep my time away.

Sleep for me is about escapism. I start wondering if this is one early warning sign of depression returning. Why my mind constantly wants to sleep. (Well, apart from when I’m being the ‘work’ me, I think I’m lucky that I can generally keep those sides so seperate).

But I don’t think that my need to sleep so much more often, or my strong desire to just curl up and hide away and sleep and isolate and not exist in life is depression returning. I think it is my mind protecting me, and related to ‘only as painful as you let it be’.

My mind is telling me it needs a break, hence making me sleepy. I’ve just got to be so careful to listen to my mind, but while doing so, not get into a bad habit of listening to it too much to the extent that living in bed when not working is the norm.

If my mind needs to escape fine, and I need to listen to that, but sleep can’t always be the answer. It’s too bad a habit to get in to to too often respond to bad feelings by sleeping.

While initially I couldn’t really figure out what ‘only as painful as you let it be’ means in my reality, I’m definitely making some connections. Joining some dots.

But what I also realise is that I don’t need to fully understand what ‘only as painful as you let it be’ means in my reality. What I most need to do is to trust my mind.

To trust it to protect me. To trust it to guide me. Nobody can guide me in this process as much as my own mind can.

My mind is complex; more complex, I’m sure, than I could even begin to imagine. But my mind has gotten me this far, and while it has often not felt like my friend, it’s actually a pretty tough cookie.

I need to trust my mind to only give me as much as I can handle, to only let things be as painful as I can bear, and to keep the end vision in sight. I need to trust my own mind and to work with it.

The relationship between my therapist and I plays a huge role in therapy – but me getting to know my own mind, learning to trust it, and to be guided by it, will perhaps play the biggest role of all.

Posted in attachment, borderline personality disorder, depression, hope, insight, mental health, pain, personal, profressionals, psychologist, sleep, therapy | Leave a comment

The opposite of rejection is really difficult too

I feel like I’m constantly learning more and more about myself and my mind. Which is certainly good in terms of things hopefully improving. But it can also be really difficult, confusing and painful.

I also realise that as therapy continues I will almost certainly learn a lot about myself – yet I’ll likely learn as much about myself outside of therapy as I process things, but also just as I live my life, just being myself, responding to life events and learning more about me as I do so.

I’ve known for a long time that rejection (or perceived rejection) is something that is really difficult for me to deal with. Fuck, it’s not just that I’ve known that it’s difficult to deal with, I’ve seen how difficult it is for me to deal with, seen its affects on my life, but also felt how difficult it is to deal with. And it’s feeling it that is the most difficult of all.

Yet I seem to have a new challenge. Which has certainly caused me a learn a lot about myself.

I’ve learned that the opposite of rejection can be really difficult too. 

What do I mean by the opposite of rejection?

Well, someone actually clearly being very interested in me. Someone seeming to like me very much and being open about it. Someone accepting me. Someone wanting me. 

The issues with rejection (or pereceived rejection) are not just about romantic relationships. In fact, they rarely are, as things rarely get to that point. Rather, they are about relationships in all walks of my life.

But this ‘opposite of rejection’ is about a romantic relationship.

I’ve met a guy. We are kind of at the early stages of a relationship and I do quite like him.

But the scary, weird and confusing thing is how he feels about me.

He seems really into me, and it’s definitely got me out of my comfort zone… and I’ve learned that this can be just as hard to deal with as rejection…. and can make me just as likely to fuck things up.

I’d noticed that over time that I’d somehow came to the conclusion in my mind that I would never be in a serious relationship, that I would never settle down and have my own family… that none of this was for me.

Why? Because my mind had concluded that I was too much of a fuck-up. That I could not hold down a relationship as me being an emotional mess would mess everything up. I now realise that this belief developed over time, that even if I wasn’t completely conscious of this belief, it was definitely there.

But… when this guy asked me out… and later when it seemed clear that he is actually serious about me… I also learned that I had deep down held a belief that I did not seem consciously aware of – the belief that nobody would ever want me anyway. That I was not good enough. That there was nothing about me worthwhile that anyone would ever be interested in.

When I realised recently that I had had that belief it actually made me quite sad. It makes the rational me quite sad. Because rationally I know that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me, and that I am not a bad person – but that my life experiences has caused me to feel this way about myself.

One of the difficult things about starting a relationship when you have such a low opinion of yourself, and believe that no one could ever want you anyway – is lack of trust. How can I trust a person to be genuine when they say they like me, that they want me, when deep down I believe that I am a disgusting freak who nobody could ever want? How can I believe what they say to be true? How can I not question everything he says? How can I not question his motives?

Now if someone was interested in me only for something physical, I could actually handle that much easier… since deep down I believe that’s all I’m worth anyway.

I like him, he likes me… but how can I trust him in that?

But more importantly, how can I make sure that I don’t let that lack of trust mess things up?

Rationally I trust him, but it’s all ‘deep down’ stuff which is much harder to deal with.

Trust takes time to fully develop between two people anyhow. Trust should be earned and not just given. But this runs much, much deeper than that.

I’m trying to just go with the flow – and I think I’m doing reasonably ok at it – but it’s harder than I could even begin to describe.

Even while just going with the flow externally my mind was full of a million thoughts, questions and concerns. Yet externally I’m trying to just chill, as I’m determined not to let my chaotic, emotional mind mess things up.

And then there’s the issue of my mind telling me: ‘he’ll see what you’re like soon anyway. He’ll see what you’re really like, and he’ll want nothing more to do with you’. But my mind tells me this without me even knowing what it is that he is expected to see in me, or what it is that I’m supposedly ‘like’. Yet these are the things that I’ve believed deep down for so long that it’s hard to change.

But if anything is likely to mess it up, it’s my head – my lack of trust, my insecurities… oh yes, very much my ‘insecurities’… my need for reassurance, my lack of self-worth….

That’s what is actually most likely to fuck it up…

I’d said that I wanted ‘normal’ stuff… the things that other people manage… but I’m beginning to realise that  some of that may be a possibility, but that it may be harder than I could imagine… and that achieving them may take much more work than is ideal… and that to get the good things, the ‘normal’ things may be somewhat painful in itself… although hopefully worth it…

On the bright side, realising / believing that is at least somewhat better than believing that these ‘normal’ things are things that aren’t for me, things that I could never manage…

 

Posted in abandonment, attachment, BPD, child abuse, childhood, emotional fuck-up, fuck-up, hope, lack of self-worth, lack of trust, mental health, pain, rejection, relationships, trauma, trust | 5 Comments

“You just need to not think about the past.”

Over the years I’ve heard many discussions about the very mis-informed things which are said to people who live with a mental illness. Things that people say probably very well-meaningly, but which ultimately show that they really don’t get it…

I’m sure you can think of many examples. Off the top of my head, here’s a few (not necessarily having been said to me):

  • “You just need to think positive.”
  • “But you’ve so much going for you, you’ve no reason to be mentally ill.”
  • “It’s all in your head.” (Author note: isn’t that the whole point?)
  • “It’s all about attitude. You just need to change your attitude and you’ll be fine.”
  • “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
  • “But there’s so many who are worse off than you are…”

And so on…

A discussion came up about this in training this week and it got me thinking about some of the very mis-informed unhelpful things that people have said to me in the past.

Firstly it made me realise that on the whole I’ve actually been quite lucky in that I haven’t had too much clueless stuff said to me, not that I can remember in any case.

But there was certainly one that stuck out in mind…

A few years ago when many people first started becoming aware that I was mentally ill, I of course experienced many reactions. Mostly they were good, and many shared experiences in return, making me see how many were also struggling in their own way.

But for one person their response really stunned me and opened my eyes to quite what a lack of understanding there is about mental illness and how it works.

This was somebody who I had known a long time, although was not in regular contact with. We’d grown up together, and we had experienced many similar traumatic experiences.

This individual told me: ‘You just need to stop thinking about the past. I choose not to think about the past, and therefore it doesn’t affect me.”

Naturally this brought a bit of a ‘what the fuck?’ wondering in my mind – although I don’t remember that I actually expressed this to them. I could be wrong on that… but if I did express my dismay to them even a little, I think that I generally kept it to myself… due to a definite general feeling of ‘where do I even start with that one…?’

I’m not sure how a person even comes to the conclusion that if a person is mentally ill it means they are spending too much time thinking about the past, and they will be fine if they just choose not to think about it…

Just because someone has experienced a difficult past doesn’t mean that it has necessarily caused their mental illness. (Granted, it likely may have played some part…)

But since when has mental illness just been about someone thinking too much about the past…? And the solution to having a mental illness is just to stop thinking about the past and you’ll be fine…?

Hmmmnn…..

In addition, since when is the mind such an un-complex thing that bad things don’t affect you – providing you don’t think about them? But that’s a whole other strange question in itself… (I did also wonder if this person was actually a robot in disguise.)

We need people to realise that mental illness is real. Just as real as physical illness. But often way more heartbreaking and way more difficult, because people don’t understand it. And because people often choose not to understand it, instead making strange conclusions about what they think it is.

Want to know what mental illness is about? Ask someone who lives with it…

If the ‘cure’ to mental illness was to just stop thinking about the past, then I’d have been fine long ago. I also doubt I’d be running a mental health training business, or that there’d be much need for my mental health support groups…

But the other thing that stunned me about this advice which was, I’m sure, somewhat well-meaningly given to me… I had never said that I was thinking about the past… Did the person think that I was doing nothing but sitting around all the time thinking about bad things from the past?

From what I remember at the time, I wasn’t consciously thinking about the past very much at all – my time was already fully consumed by managing the symptoms of my illness and trying to get myself mentally well. My time was taken up by trying to minimise the damage that a really painful, horrific mental health problem was having on my life.

Now that I am much further on in my progress and have learned much more about how the human mind works, I know that my past probably did play a big part in my mental illness. Because the human mind is vulnerable to trauma and it’s natural that it gets affected. But it was still never about me thinking too much about the past. The mind gets affected by trauma, which changes you… it impacts on you, your life, and ultimately your thinking, how you feel about yourself and much more…

But one of the biggest assumption in this conclusion that I just needed to stop thinking about the past was choice. If I just needed to stop thinking about the past, then surely I was choosing to think about the past, choosing to put myself through that… choosing to put myself through my mental illness.

Nobody choose trauma. Nobody chooses its affects. And nobody chooses mental illness. 

It’s just not the way it works.

How much easier would it be if that was the case…?

But it’s still not the way it works..

The mind is a very complex thing. Life is very complex.

I’ve also more recently learned that, as painful as it might be, that trauma will likely need some processing in order to un-do some of its affects. That I may need to do quite a bit of thinking about the past. Although it’s the last thing that I want to do… So, yeah, definitely not the case that I’m just thinking too much about the past and need to stop it.

Hmmnn….

Posted in mental health awareness, mental illness, shite advice, shite people say, trauma | 3 Comments