Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back – An Entry About Slow But Steady Progress

As you’ve probably noticed reading my blog, I have been increasingly struggling with some very dark thoughts of self-harm and suicide. I’ve been doing my very best to be able to contain myself, to keep myself safe and to not act on my impulses. I’ve been calling various helplines at all hours of the day and night and using tens of different distraction techniques. Basically, I’ve given it my all to make it through, to hold it together, until D. comes back and I’ll once again have the space and the guidance I so desperately need.

But sometimes, as hard as you try, it’s just not enough. Lately I have felt myself seriously slipping and losing my focus, forgetting altogether what it is that I want to achieve.

So, I decided to do something for me drastically different. I decided that rather than tell people I need help by acting on my impulses, drinking anti-freeze and suchlike, I would simply reach out and ask for it. I spoke to a very close friend of mine who called up the Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre to start a referral. There were a few ifs and buts, but the sum total is that I am back at the centre now for one week, to give me the chance to re-discover what the real me is like. I remember reading Freud’s metaphor for regression where he likened the phenomenon to that of an army retreating to the last safe stronghold. Much in the same way have I now retreated to the last place I felt I could get the help and support I need. This is not in any way criticism towards any of the many wonderful people I have in my life, who have all been worried and tried to help to the best of their ability – but merely stating a fact; The last time I felt really safe and able to express my fears was at Drayton Park – at my sessions with D. and also during my residence there earlier in the year.

I have been allocated two key workers – both of whom I have not worked much with in the past, but I have also had one-to-ones with one of my main workers from my last stay, and I think the combination of new input and ideas and talking to someone who knows me reasonably well is very helpful for me.

I have changed a lot since my last stay there, and also my stay this time around will, as I mentioned before, be decidedly shorter; one week compared to the five weeks of my previous stay. So, it’s different. It’s different also because there are different women staying there at the moment. However, there are two people there from my last stay, and that’s really nice – it means I don’t get as shy as I normally get around people I don’t know very well, and it helps me challenge myself to interact with the people I don’t yet know.

Another change, and one of the really major changes within is how I really feel about myself. I suppose that it goes hand in hand with starting to allow myself to feel things about the actual abuse; it alters the way I feel about myself. And although some may argue that I’ve always had a somewhat weak self-image this somehow feels different now. Whereas I may previously have disliked aspects of myself I now genuinely loathe everything that I am, and I feel absolutely disgusted by myself.

I am aware that this is an enormously common way for abuse survivors to feel; in fact I talked about this this very morning with my previous key worker. That in order to overcome and heal I need to acknowledge, in the true sense of the word, the fact that what happened really was abuse, and much like how people mourning go through a series of comparatively predictive phases, so do people who have experienced abuse, often starting with questioning their own role in it, feeling as if they haven’t done what they could have to make it stop and so on and so on – ending up where I am now: sheer self-hatred.

But as much as I can intellectualise and analyse this, it doesn’t help one bit when it comes to dealing with the actual feeling. And that is where the asking for help comes in. I need someone to put things into perspective, to in a sense hold my hand. Help me chop things up to bite-size portions, rather than biting off so much that I end up choking on it.

So, to sum up; although it doesn’t change how I feel about myself or where I’m at right now, I’m glad that I did decide to ask for help before I got to the stage where I forget that I can.

Anyway, dear friends and random readers; I’m going to leave you now – I’m only home for a bit and I want to go cuddle Dev. Thank you all for your lovely and encouraging text messages. They mean a lot to me.

All the world has to offer and more,

xx

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Moving At My Own Speed – An Entry About Accepting My Limitations

I’m struggling.
As I was saying to someone recently – I’m better than I was a couple of months ago, but worse than I have been in the last few weeks. I’m sure I’ll pull through, but it’s still difficult at the moment.

D. has been away for two weeks now and will be away for one more, meaning that I will have had no counselling for nearly a month. And it’s taking its toll. I miss having that fifty minute hour every week that’s there just for me. The safe place where I can talk about whatever is playing on my mind, where I can open up and think out loud. And, yes, damnit, I miss D. herself, too! I miss her a lot. Classic transference syndrome, I suppose; the mother I always wanted, the one who would listen and understand and more than anything react to what I say. React in a way that is appropriate to what I am telling her.

In order to manage the weeks of no counselling I have put in place a very simple coping strategy. We talked about it in my last session before she went away, since I in the past have been known to suffer in silence and then turn against myself in a radically destructive way. Basically, whenever I start feeling something, rather than pushing it away I will call one of the many helplines available to talk about it. It’s a pro-active way of avoiding going back to square one in D.’s absence. Still, as helpful as the helpline people are, they’re not quite an adequate substitute for talking to someone who actually knows my story and understands my way of thinking.

So, yes – it is tough.

Also, I started a new job a month ago. A job that is really perfect for me. Hand and glove. Or, it would be, really, had I been a hundred percent well. Ideally I had been wanting a part time job, but since it seemed such a well-suited role for me accepted it, knowing that it might be a bit too much too soon.

I made it very clear already at the interview that I would need to have Friday mornings off, since I have a regular appointment then. I didn’t tell them what the appointment was for at the interview; people have such unpredictable ideas about counselling and those in need of it – but I put it quite plainly that I would not be able to take on the job if they were unable to accommodate this. Luckily they agreed to my demand, even though I was something of an unknown quantity to them.

I started working and have really been enjoying it for the most part. I’m heading a quite big project, something I generally thrive on, and my work mates are great.

Still, I have been off work for a very long time, and reality is that it is hard to readjust. Not just mentally, but also physically. I’m not used to being out and about, I’m not tuned for a long day of thinking and coming up with creative solutions. So, while I had decided to give it a real go, I in the end had to accept that I’m not quite ready to be working full time.

One of the main issues was the fact that I felt it had an effect on my mental health progress. Although I have been able to carry on seeing D. on Fridays going back to work has presented a dilemma of sorts. One of the things that I am working very hard on, as I have mentioned before, is allowing myself to stay with my feelings. Trying to not close the door and run when I become a bit too emotional for comfort. The time immediately after my counselling sessions has been a great time for me to practise this, since it is a time where I am naturally somewhat more fragile than normal, and therefore more likely to experience strong emotions. The only problem is that now I have to go to work straight from counselling, and so I am forced to do the opposite of what I am meant to do; I have to distance myself from what I am feeling in order to be able to manage my job.

Another issue with already having a half-day off (which I, by the way, make up for by working half an hour later than everybody else every day) is that it makes it hard to be allowed time off for other things. Like seeing my care co-ordinator. I would fit it in on the Friday mornings if I could, but unfortunately she only works Monday through Wednesday.

So, last Friday I had a chat with my boss, Den. I was very open about what has been going on, and told him that unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to stay, since I’m just not up for working full time yet. I expected him to say that he was disappointed and that it would leave them in a very difficult situation since the project I’m running is such a central part of everything that goes on in the company.

Not so. Instead Den sat quietly for a few nerve-racking moments, before finally stating that he really didn’t want me to go now that he had finally found someone who not only was capable of doing the job, but who also fit in so very well with the team and that he’d simply have to persuade the powers that be to allow me to stay on as a part-timer.

After a near week of living in limbo, not knowing whether or not I should start looking for a new job, Den came back to me and told me that I’d be able to stay. I’ll be working Monday to Thursday, 9-17. Also, I will be given the flexibility to take extra time off to see my care co-ordinator. He said that he had talked to our MD and explained that basically they’d have to find a way or I would walk, and that he since I had told him my reasons for needing this he was absolutely certain that I wasn’t bluffing. Our MD had then basically said that in that case there really was no option – that I’d be doing part-time, because they couldn’t afford losing me.

Needless to say I’m more than just a little relieved at this.
I had mentally prepared myself, even before starting my new job, that I might not be able to handle it. To tell myself that it’s just a job, and there are more important things for me to focus on at the moment.

And I suppose that although I stumble every once in a while and I am struggling a bit right now, things are doubtlessly moving in the right direction and that, actually, I am coping. I just need to keep reminding myself of that. It’s so easy to forget the things you have been able to do and see only the things you have failed at, and it takes time to learn the skill of pointing out the good rather than the bad. But, I’m getting there. Slowly. At my own speed.

xx