Survival – Knowing When You Need Help

Things aren’t going so well.
Downward spiral at breakneck speed, I feel frightened at how quickly I’ve gone from doing really well to finding myself stuck in a pattern of inward turned anger and self-harm. A few weeks and I’ve managed to undo all the hard work I’ve put in these last four years.

Realising that I’ve lost control of things I have been forced to accept that I need someone to help me, and so on Monday I called my GP to make an appointment. Couldn’t get one until Wednesday, and let me tell you, that felt like a very long way away.

These last few days have really have been rollercoaster like, oscillating between trying to stem flashbacks by using cords and scalpels and later on feeling very very angry with myself for not having been able to stop myself from going back to this very destructive behaviour. And it’s becoming increasingly erratic. This morning I woke up and immediately reached for a fresh scalpel to punish myself for having, the previous night, used a cord coiled around my neck to make myself pass out. – There’s no logic to it, and I can see that. Yet, I don’t seem able to stop myself from acting out in this way.

I’ve been trying to do things in the last few days to try to prove to myself that I’m not quite such a bad person as I sometimes think I am. To show myself that I’m not a waste of space, that I am of some sort of value to the community. But it’s hard to hold on to those thoughts when it has to come through external actions rather than from some internal place..

Saw my GP this morning. I say my GP, but really, I saw a GP. I saw Dr H., a newbie doctor, in her own words. This turned out to be a pretty good thing; she listened to me and seemed to really take in what I was telling her, in contrast to some GPs who’ll whack out the ever-so-patronising “How Depressed Are You?” multiple choice questionnaire at the earliest possible opportunity in a bid to avoid having to actually listen to the patient. Given this opportunity to be heard I tried to be as honest as I could with Dr H. It’s hard, when you’re a bit of a people-pleaser like me, and you don’t want to make the other person feel bad, but I think I did OK.

Dr H. made the decision that she didn’t just want to start me on some meds, but that I needed to be seen by the mental health crisis team. She asked me to wait in the waiting room while she sorted it all out, as she didn’t want me to leave the clinic before she knew for sure that I’d definitely be seen by the crisis team. A reassuring touch, I have to say. I’ve certainly come across doctors who say they’re going to make a referral and send you off with a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” style parting phrase.

As it turned out the crisis team wanted to see me at noon, so I essentially ended up going straight from the GP practice to the Highgate Mental Health Hospital. Felt quite anxious about going there, as I was still experiencing flashbacks and I was worried that I’d become too confused and disoriented on my way there. Also, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been several years since I’ve been in touch with any form of NHS run mental health service. A lot of my work has been aimed at getting away from this system.

Then I was thinking of the advice I would give – and have given – friends who have found themselves struggling in the way I am right now: accept any help you can get, whatever that may be. This is not a time for pride, it’s a time for survival.

Talking to two members of the crisis team I did feel a lot better. They reassured me that their aim is to support people struggling with self-harm and suicidal ideation in their homes, rather than pushing people into wards, which may not at all be the best for a person. They did – of course – make it clear that if they felt I became more destructive and posed a serious danger to myself they would have to put me on a section order, but that their aim was to find alternative ways of supporting me. They made the decision – based on my previous history – that they’ll want to see me every day for now, and also asked if I would give them permission to liaise with A. regarding what would be the best way to go about things. Initially I didn’t feel comfortable with that, but in the end I decided that maybe it could be helpful to not try to keep different parts of my life separate. As I was a little unsure of A.’s number I told them I would ask A. to call them instead.

My session with A. today was quite difficult. I was just feeling so low, so defeated at finding myself back in this very dark place. I’m finding it very hard to motivate myself to not give up, keep falling into thinking that no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I work, I will always come crashing down..

A. said a few things that made me feel a bit better, made me feel like I’m not entirely on my own. But it’s still very very hard. She also added an extra session for me this week – first thing tomorrow morning – which felt comforting. Also I have been given the number for the crisis team, which is a 24 hour care service, so I can call and talk to someone on the crisis team at any time between seeing them in person.

I hope this will help stop me falling any further. Because last time I felt the way I feel right now I drank half a litre of anti-freeze and ended up in ICU..

So, if you have any to spare, thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.

xx

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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?

xx

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.

I Stumble, I Tumble, I Spin, I Fall – An Entry About Losing Control

Remember that little voice I was talking about in my last entry? The one that tells me that I’m just gonna have to get through this? That there’s no other option? It’s gone AWOL. Completely muted. It’s been nowhere to be heard this week. Not good. At all.

I am really struggling at the moment. Not just a little, but to the point of wondering if it’s really worth it. All that darn talk about light at the end of the tunnel. Yeah yeah. Sure. Whatever. What I want to know is when?? How long am I supposed to hang on to the ridiculously vague hope of things getting better? Seriously?

I feel like I have really given it my best shot. No two ways about it. I couldn’t do it any better than I am. I really couldn’t. I haven’t self-harmed for a very long time, I stopped researching suicide methods entirely, I got myself back to work and I even managed to be good to myself by deciding that working full-time is not the best thing for me right now.

I’ve ticked every single box on the “Rid yourself of depression” step-by-step list. I genuinely feel I have. And yet this depression keeps rearing its ugly head, reminding me of all the things that I am up against. No, I’m not after a free ride. Not at all. I know that there is no such thing as a free ride when it comes to depression and over-coming emotional trauma. But couldn’t I at least be allowed to have a good streak that lasted long enough for me to actually catch my breath before being pushed head first below the surface again?

I am so incredibly sick of this illness. And this whole thing with diagnosis. Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Big words, but what the bleeding heck is that supposed to mean? That I have been experiencing more than one depressive episode? Well, duh? Really? I’m glad you told me, ’cause I sure hadn’t noticed.. Or even worse, does it mean that I am doomed to have recurring depressive episodes forever? Honestly? Because if that’s the case, why even try to get out of the one I’m in. For the sheer joy of getting knocked down again?

I had an appointment with S., my care co-ordinator on Wednesday, and being the happy little helper that I am I agreed to allow a third year student nurse to sit in on our meeting. Big mistake I’m sorry to say. Not only did S. spend half the time explaining to him why she had wanted to meet with both me and Dev two weeks earlier etc etc etc (could she really not have gone over the background with him before actually meeting with me?) but also, – and I’m trying to put this in an as gentle way as I can – the poor fella just didn’t seem quite mentally capable of grasping the basic concept of depression and kept coming up with these annoyingly naïve positive comments to whatever I said. This, naturally, made me feel like I wasn’t being taken serious (when talking about having suffered some pretty horrendous flash-backs at work) and also I had to – yet again – practise my skill of holding my frustration back. In other words, the exact opposite of what I have been trying to do. Great! Enormously helpful.

Later in the session we ended up talking about my family and I said that I really really miss them at the moment, especially my nephews – and this guy goes “So, does that make you feel like getting back in touch with your family? Maybe they are exactly the reason you need to get back with them? Does that make you feel hopeful?” Again, surely S. could have had the foresight to have given him at least a the bare essentials on my history before inviting him to join in? Or am I being unfair?

What else? (As I’m going on a monster moan I may as well do it properly. This is meant to be honesty-focused after all). Oh yeah – as great as my boss has been in helping me out with sorting out my working hours and such, it seems my working part-time is breeding contempt in my two closest colleagues. On the one hand I can understand it – they can’t see that my day off is actually my toughest day of the entire week, but on the other hand it’s really none of their damn business what the reason for my absence is. I’ve told them that both Den and the MD of our company are aware of them, and that should be enough.

Finally.. I was meant to see D. tomorrow. But I won’t be. Unfortunately a family matter has arisen and she’s had to cancel the next two weeks of counselling. To start with. Obviously I feel for her, it’s never easy when those things happen, whatever they are, and ultimately we are all only human and sometimes we have to prioritise. But as much as I accept this, it doesn’t stop her prolonged ansence from having a pretty bad effect on me. I mean, of course that’s a mere side effect – but it’s still there. So I had a bit of a breakdown today.

I had already been struggling a good deal with thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation in the last few days, and in order to motivate myself to resist my urges I kept repeating to myself that I’ve made it through nearly four weeks without counselling and I just need to hang on for another few days and I’d be back on the road to normality again. That, if I think about it, it’s only hours, really, until I’d have my time back again. And that although there is no miracle cure, at least that should ease the pressure a little. The space and place that is there just for me to vent whatever is brewing in my head.

And then I was told that that’s not happening.

I was sort of ok with it for a few hours, while I was still at work. But then on the way home I just started crying. All that pent up sadness and loss and confusion just bubbled out of me. Surprisingly I actually had the mental awareness to realise that this might be rather a good thing; that allowing myself to express these feelings is precisely what I need to be doing. But, of course, me being me I quickly reverted to the safer path of checking myself out of this emotional turmoil, turning it back on myself in the way I’m most comfortable with; the self-punishing thought pattern of Blithering heck, woman, get a grip! What’s there to cry about? You have no reason to cry. Only weak people cry, and you can’t afford to be weak because people will take advantage of you. So, literally within minutes, I had switched from indulging in self-pity to absolutely bursting to find a razor and start carving up my arm.

I didn’t. God knows how, – I guess my tattoo and the lack of razors in my flat helped somewhat – and I didn’t. Instead I picked the phone up. First I called the Samaritans and found myself having another good cry over the pathetic mess that is my life, how stupid I am to even think that good things would ever happen to me and how I’m never going to get away from feeling this way. Then I called Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre. I’m not even really sure why. It was just something I did. One of the workers picked up – the one who’s always so cheerful I can’t help but to think of her as being chemically imbalanced no matter how sweet she is – and even though I’ve never actually had a one to one session with her I just started to cough up how badly I was wrestling with the idea of harming myself. She assumed that this was a direct result of having been told that I won’t be seeing D. earlier in the day. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that this urge has been intensifying over the last few days, but maybe that doesn’t really matter – because I’m pretty sure that although this explosion of emotion isn’t purely down to my disappointment with this setback, it was more than likely the final trigger.

Hm.. Odd.. As I’ve been writing this seizmically proportioned rant I think that little voice has returned. Fair enough, it’s still very faint, and my demons definitely still outshout it. But at least it feels like it’s there.

And I guess that’s something.

I just hope I can hold on to it.

xx

“..when all I really want, I said to myself, is to survive the present..” [Nuala O’Faolain]