A Fork In The Road – Choosing A Path

A. has been away since the Friday before last, and it feels like it has been our longest break ever. There is just something about this particular break that has felt sort of endless. Of course, this hasn’t really been the longest one, seeing as she was off on maternity leave last year, but it has felt incredibly long.

I think one part of it is the fact that I have been living in a heightened state of fear ever since I ran into M., and not having A. there to talk it through with has been hard. Yes, I’ve still had Z., but since that’s the place where I’ve seen M., I haven’t been able to relax at all, and that – naturally – has had a direct impact on my ability to open up and talk about things; it is very hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable in a place where you don’t feel safe. That isn’t to say that I haven’t tried to do just that. But, still, it’s in my sessions with A. I usually feel most safe, more sheltered from both external and internal storms. In fact, this is where I am least likely to experience flashbacks. Sure, I do still have the occasional flashback when I’m with A., but it happens a whole heap less there than anywhere else.

A. is back tomorrow, and that’s a good thing, for sure. I feel that there is a lot that has happened in the eleven days since I last saw her, and there is a lot of catching up to do. Prior to A. going on leave I had a session where I tried to be brave and share my concerns regarding not feeling sure about where our therapeutic relationship and work is headed, or even where I would like it to go.

There is one part of me who is listening closely – perhaps even a little too closely – to other people, who all seem to be suggesting that perhaps I am overly attached to A., and that I have really come as far as I can, working with A. That I may have outgrown her, in a sense, and the time has come to start over with someone else. And at the same time there is the intense pull in the opposite direction: that while there are many things that are less than ideal in our relationship and the way we have been working together, there is a golden opportunity here to work things through, to have a different experience to what I have had in many previous therapies.

I think what troubles me most is the fact that I feel so completely in the dark about my own motives for wishing to go in either of these directions. Is thinking about terminating my work with A. really a result of outgrowing something, or is it a case of the exact polar opposite? That, actually, having spent years only dipping my toes I am now dangerously close to allowing myself to dive in head first? Perhaps terminating is a way for me to avoid having to do that? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that happened. In at least three previous therapies I’ve managed to find an ‘out’, when things have got a little too hot. Maybe I am really just repeating a pattern here? To cut and run, rather than stay and face my fears?

And, at the same time, is my wish to stay with A. purely about this opportunity to go deeper than I have done before, or is it rooted in fear of letting go of the emotional safety blanket A. has been providing for me in the last four and a half years? Change can be a pretty scary thing, and sometimes we all need a little push in the right direction to dare take that final step off the beaten path.

I definitely feel that working with Z., alongside A., in the last few months has been a very positive experience, has made me reflect on the work I have been doing with A. It has helped clarify in my mind what I feel has sometimes been lacking. But, equally, it has highlighted the things I really appreciate in my relationship with A., the things I find a little overbearing in my work with Z.

In many ways, therapy with A. is a very independent endeavour; I am most definitely in the driver’s seat, choosing which roads to go down, which ones to avoid, and what speed we should be travelling at. Counselling with Z. is a lot more directed, something which became very clear when she expressed concern that we may be dipping too deep into things. And, at the same time, Z. is a lot more head on than A. She often asks very direct questions about what’s going on for me, what I am feeling, and, particularly – what I feel about our relationship, pushing me to go to a place where it is a little scary to be. And, this is an area where A. and I don’t really manage to communicate all that well. I am not sure if this is down to me and my fears, or if it is a situation A. and I have created jointly, but I do know that it is absolutely one of the things I would like to change.

A. made a comment when I talked about this, among many other things, in one of the last sessions before this break, which I feel is both valid and makes me worry. She said that all these questions I have about our work together, the uncertainty of where we are going, the not knowing where I would like to go, echoes very loudly in the rest of my life: there is a lack of clear direction and a strong feeling of being pulled in two opposite directions [the wish to live and work through things, and a darker pull towards giving up and ending my life].

As I wrote earlier, this comment does have some validity: I can see the echo, and I get what A. was trying to tell me. And at the same time, there is some frustration on my part about the way A. tends to see most everything I say about our relationship as a direct echo of something bigger in the world outside of her consulting room, the way she sometimes seems reluctant to allow me [us] to fully explore what’s there inside those four walls. My general view is that, yes – there are often echoes of the outside world being reenacted in A.’s and my relationship, but, that this doesn’t mean that what is going on between the two of us isn’t equally real and in need of being worked through. One doesn’t negate the other, and sometimes a rubber duck is just a rubber duck.

As you can see there are a whole lot of questions bouncing around inside of me at the moment, and very few solid answers to counter them, but I hope that in the next few weeks I will be able to use my sessions with both A. and Z. to look at them closer.


Self-Harm Distraction Techniques: "Draw, Don't Cut"  [..the slightly more creative version..]

Self-Harm Distraction Techniques: “Draw, Don’t Cut”
[..the slightly more creative version..]


I Try My Hardest Not To Lose It All – An Entry About Help And Support

For those of you who haven’t heard from me – and owing to an immense wish not to communicate with my fellow humans lately that will be the vast majority of you – as of Friday last week I am out of the Drayton ParkWomen’s Crisis Centre.

And what can I say? Well, for better or for worse this stay was very very different to my stay there earlier in the year. As this was meant only as a short term intensive intervention style stay the main focus was put on helping me use and acquire distraction techniques to enable me to better cope with my urges to self-harm once returned into the wilderness that is my home life.

Did it work? Yes and no is the honest answer. Yes, because I’m still here now, and apart from very lightly scratching myself with a scalpel purchased on my way home from Drayton Park on the day of my discharge, I haven’t actually physically harmed myself. No, because my mind has now moved on to a much darker place. A place where self-harm for the sake of release is no longer my primary urge.

I suppose that in order to understand what’s going on in my head one would need to understand the reasons behind the change in my urges, and the best way to do that is something like this (forgive me for detaching myself somewhat emotionally in composing this explanation, but it’s the best way I can think of to be able to write it and at the same time keep myself safe and away from harm); Some people self-harm for the sake of scarring themselves. I guess you could say that it is a way to show the outside world how much they are hurting on the inside. Others do it to allow themselves to feel a different kind of pain to the one they are experiencing emotionally. Finally there are people who use it as a means for breaking the pent up tension inside of them to avoid having a panic attack, physical outburst or other extreme reaction.

As for me, well, I suppose I’ve gone through stages of all of these variations, and at the moment I am stuck on the last; I am overwhelmed by powerful urges to cut myself in order to relieve the pressure.

Naturally, this is a pretty perilous place to be, in all senses of the word – and I have been working very hard at not giving in to this need for self-harm by distracting myself through various mind-numbing activities such as boxing, painting and re-painting my nails, writing lines etc. (In fact I went a bit crazy one evening at Drayton Park – spending half an hour covering the entire slated patio of the garden in pastel chalk drawings and random bits of lyrics, until one of the workers came out and helped me settle down with a hug and a good talk – an act of enormous kindness, and one I will never forget.)

However, using distraction techniques to refrain from self-harming has its downside as well as the obvious positive effect of not injuring yourself; whilst they do keep you safe for the time being they don’t actually do anything to manage or reduce the intensity of the emotional turmoil inside of you. That, I believe, can only be achieved with additional guidance where the underlying feelings and, peeling back yet another layer, the reasons for those feelings are explored and dealt with.

In the absence of my counsellor this has become increasingly more clear to me; that distraction alone is not enough to keep safe in the long run. Yes, employing distraction techniques will keep you safe for the moment – but unfortunately, without the extra direction that counselling and therapy offer, the emotional strain still keeps building and thus you may, as is the case for me, find yourself moving from the stage of wanting to self-harm to actually wanting to end your life altogether, simply for the sake of escaping the pain you are experiencing.

For me – and I have said this repeatedly – it is not a case of actually wanting to die – I just don’t want to live. In this way. And without the help I need to make sense of all those underlying emotions I mentioned earlier, I can’t see myself breaking away from it. I am more than willing to admit that I simply don’t have the tools yet to be able to do this on my own.

I have spoken to my care co-ordinator about this on a number of occasions, but she seems not only unwilling but unable to understand the severity, the depth, of this problem.

Two weeks ago, when I, for some inexplicable reason called her, naïvely hoping that she’d be able to help me make the referral to Drayton Park since I didn’t feel able to do it on my own, she actually gave me the oh-so-insightful advice “Just think happy thoughts!” – as if that would somehow magically make things ok for me, would enable me to pick myself up and put myself back together. I mean, I’ve had my fair share of You’ve just got to stay positives aimed at me – and in all honesty sometimes it’s even been helpful, but, that – “Just think happy thoughts!” – really drove me over the edge.

This same woman, by the way, made the unbelievably bright statement that “we don’t want to overcrowd you with support” when she met up with me and one of my named workers at Drayton Park for a review last week. Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s been a good ol’ while since I heard about anyone stating “overcrowded with support” as a reason for giving up on themselves and on life, so I’m not entirely sure how she reached that conclusion. Then again, she is apparently also the kind of person who thinks that a pat on the head is an acceptable form of encouragement, rather than a decidedly condescending gesture. (Yes – you guessed it – she actually, physically, patted me on the head as she was leaving the room..)

Ok, so I’ve lost the track a bit here, but on the other hand it does rather perfectly illustrate the fact that not only do people suffering from depression and other emotional difficulties have to deal with the actual difficulty in itself, but often – and I’ve heard this said time and time again by people who are in a similar situation to me – find themselves having to also struggle to convince the people who are meant to be there to support them that lending an occasional helping hand will not necessarily render them completely dependent on others from here on out.

There is a lot more I could write on this subject, but I think that for now I’ll leave it be and just concentrate on the things that are going my way, rather than the things that aren’t. Things like having people around me who picks up the thread and helps me where the system seems to have failed. And friends I can call and just cry and not say a word to and they will still understand me.

How’s that for positive thinking?


PS. No need to freak out over the scalpels, they are no longer in my possession; I called Drayton Park and the workers helped me calm down and have a breather before supporting me to dispose of the offending objects.

Disappointment & Rejection – An Entry About Coping With Negative Experiences

I didn’t have counselling last week as D. was away. It’s been ok, anyway, but it is nice to know that you have that set time that is there just for you to vent whatever you need to vent.

Not only was there no counselling last week, but Dev has been away, also, and is not returning until late on Friday.

So, I’ve been on my own. Which is always a bit of a worry. Not so much because I don’t like being on my own, I actually do, but, well, leaving me on my own with my thoughts for too long can sometimes lead to me getting stuck in a thought pattern which isn’t necessarily healthy for me. I’d say that I have been able to take quite a big step away from becoming directly destructive, but I still, on occasion, end up allowing my thoughts to roam a little too freely. While I was at the women’s crisis centre earlier this year I learned various different distraction techniques, and have become pretty good at using them as my coping strategy when I feel myself slipping. And yet, being on my own – I think it’s a good idea to be aware that I am still recovering from a very severe depression.

The week has actually gone quite well. I’m back to working, which is incredibly exciting, and at the same time very very tiring. It’s amazing how unfit you become, workwise, from being off work for six months. I get home from work and I’m absolutely knackered. Usually I’ll just make myself something nice and easy to eat and stumble into bed, somtimes being able to read for about an hour before falling asleep, but more often not. In fact, yesterday, when I started doing a load of laundry after work, I found myself struggling to stay awake until the cycle had finished. Luckily my friend Bobbi gave me a ring, so she kept me awake, and then I managed to squeeze in another quick call with a friend from back home before dozing off.

Now, I said that the week has gone well, and in general that’s pretty accurate. Having said that, I did have a pretty big downer on Monday. As I’ve told you I had my assessment for psychotherapy a couple of weeks ago. Well, on Monday I was asked to come down to my local community care centre, to meet with S., my care co-ordinator, and Dr J., who I did the assessment with.

Said and done. Come eleven o’clock I rushed from work to make it in time to the meeting at eleven thirty. S. greeted me in the waiting area and lead me to a tiny and very hot room. Dr J. was already there as was some psychiatrist or other from the community care centre. Unlike the last time we met, Dr. J was the one who first spoke. She made a bit of waltzing around before telling me that they had – after careful consideration – reached the conclusion that at this point in time psychotherapy would not be right for me. That, looking at my history, I’m simply too high risk to be put through it. Basically, they felt that therapy might stir up emotions in me that I haven’t got the means to handle.

So, I said exactly what I felt – that it was a huge disappointment and that it felt incredibly unfair that I was being denied the help that I genuinely feel is right for me, and that I can’t prove to them that I am able to handle it, since I won’t be given that opportunity. I also pointed out that I have completely stopped self-harming and that I’m only on a very low dose of anti-depressants, compared to earlier in the year when I was impulsively hurting myself and was taking a very high dose of an SSRI.

Naturally I knew that this would by no means sway the decision that had been made, but I felt it was important to make it clear that I disagreed with it, and that I feel that psychotherapy would be more helpful than harmful to me.

In the meeting it also emerged that Dr J. had not actually talked to D. before making her decision. This feels especially unfair since S. has only been my care co-ordinator for a very short time and we’ve only met three times, and D. actually knows me a lot better, and has also seen for herself how I manage both my counselling and the week between the sessions.

Needless to say I left the meeting feeling pretty downbeat.
I was meant to return to work, but decided in the end that I was too upset and needed time to take this all in.

I went home feeling very tearful and bundled myself into bed, where I reached for the phone and called up the Samaritans’ helpline. I got to talk to this really lovely woman who encouraged me to keep calling back throughout the day and evening to make sure I didn’t lapse too far into my thoughts.

Next I called S. They had said, as the meeting ended, that they’d want to keep in close contact with me to make sure I was able to cope with the disappointment. She told me to come on over to the community care centre again so we could talk face to face.

So, I did. And it was pretty good. I still felt rather low, but it helped to at least be able to talk about how I felt.

I should probably point out here that all of this in itself is pretty solid proof that I’m moving in the right direction. Had this happened earlier in my life, I would without a doubt have felt suicidal, and instead of calling the Samaritans I’d likely have got my razorblades out. And there is absolutely no way that I’d have picked up the phone to S.

Also, I would have shut down emotionally. I would not have allowed myself to stay in the moment for long enough to even identify all the things I was feeling, whereas now I was able to tell S. exactly how I was feeling and pinpoint that it was without doubt the feeling of being rejected that I struggled the most with.

I made it through the rest of the day and evening by calling a number of different helplines and talking to my sister. I never felt that I was in any real danger of becoming physically or mentally destructive, but I did make a conscious decision to not hold back on the way I was feeling, but explore it and express it as best I could and to be aware of any drastic changes in the intensity of my emotions.

And when morning came round I was ready to go to work.

This is not to say that I’m not still very disappointed – I most definitely am – but at the same time I want to make sure that I properly acknowledge the fact that I found a way to manage this let down that was positive and will hopefully eventually prove to the powers that be that I am capable of controlling my negative impulses.

I’m not sure what will happen next, and that does worry me. A lot. A few of my friends have suggested that I go to a private therapist, but in all fairness, I think that looking at my papers they would also make the decision that I’m too high-risk and would likely be unwilling to take me on.

Unless you actually know me you probably wouldn’t be able to see how far I’ve come and how radically my view on life has changed. Looking at the papers it will probably look like We’ve been here before – she says she’s better and then she crashes.I guess I can’t really blame them for thinking that, but it’s enormously frustrating to feel so ready to start working on my issues and at the same time be denied a safe place to do it.

I think that is the main problem for me at the moment; I feel ready to talk about my experiences – I can feel it wanting to bubble out of me – but I have nowhere to put it all..

Still, at least I have learned something from all of this:
I’ve come damn far from where I started out!