Stepping Away From The Edge

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have commented and/or emailed me since my last post. It really means a lot to me hearing from you, and it never ceases to amaze me how people can show such warmth, care and concern for someone whom they have never even met.

A lot has happened since that last post. I’m not quite ready to go into detail just yet, so please forgive me for withholding the specifics. For now things are, well, somewhere in between. There is no nice straight road ahead, free from twists and turns, but some hope has been given back to me, and as long as there is at least a little hope to hold on to, I can keep fighting. And I will.

There are many things which are still very uncertain, and will remain uncertain for some time, and so I don’t feel I can quite relax. I keep worrying that the little hope I have been given will suddenly be taken from me again. It’s hard to strike the right balance between daring to hope and being realistic about things.

The last month or so has been stressful beyond anything I have ever experienced before, and I can honestly say that I have never walked quite that close to the jumping off edge before. Not in this way. I pray I will never ever find myself in that hideous place where someone else takes hope away from me.

Meanwhile, I am trying to live my life to the best of my ability; going to shul, seeing friends, doing course work and popping into work to say hello to my wonderful workmates. And, of course, there is therapy.

I spent my birthday at my sister’s place, as I always do, and that was great. It was better than ever before. My other sister, her partner, my sisters’ brother and his partner all joined us, as did a close friend who showed up to surprise me. A whole week with those closest to me, celebrating having made it through yet another year.

Prior to going, when things were still so terribly dark and lacking of hope, I genuinely thought this would be the last time I would ever see my sisters [and co], and I was dreading going, because I knew it would be so terribly hard to say goodbye. As it were, that glimmer of hope had been given to me, and so I felt entirely differently about going to see my loved ones, and as a consequence I was able to enjoy every second with them, and not worry about things coming to an end.

I am, and always have been, blessed with having people around me who are truly there for me when it matters, and that helps a lot. While there is a very long road ahead, and I can’t know for sure that I will never sink as low again, I can say that – with the help of the people around me – I have taken a small step away from that edge.

xx

Advertisements

Three Key Rules For Surviving The Present

*

“..when all I really want, I said to myself, is to survive the present..”

*

Sitting here, alone. Trying to somehow keep it together. And failing miserably. I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own life, and while there may well be a key to the lock, it seems impossible to find. Or maybe I’m just looking in all the wrong places?

I haven’t been able to attend service for weeks, owing to flashbacks. Haven’t even had enough head space to follow them online. Still, as my therapy is on now on hold, I know that it will be important to find other, non-destructive, ways to cope, so this morning I decided to brave it and just push myself that little bit extra to get there. Which I did.

I now regret that bitterly. As lovely as the service was, I was struggling throughout it, trying to stave off the flashbacks that insisted on popping up, and it took all I had to somehow stay in my seat and not just rush out. I tried to focus on the music, on the words, the prayers, and to a degree I suppose you could say that I succeeded, but what is normally something that feels naturally easy and enjoyable, today took a lot of hard work. By the time service was over and it was time to exchange the customary Shabbat shaloms [“have a peaceful day of rest”] I was exhausted, and I only barely scraped by during kiddush. Feel very bad about it, because I know I probably came across as a bit off to others, but it was the best I could do. Having greeted the people I know, I made my excuses and left as quickly as possible. The second I got on the bus home I just broke down in tears.

Of course, tears are not the enemy, if anything they are an entirely appropriate response to the difficulties I’m facing, and they’ve been waiting to fall since I left my final session with A. But it’s not nice when it happens in public. It just isn’t.

It was hard saying goodbye to A. The session in itself was reasonably OK. I managed to talk about the extreme separation anxiety I was [and still am] experiencing, and I think that was important. To be able to say how hard and frightening this long break feels, to be honest about how uncertain I feel about whether or not I have what it takes to make it through to the other side of it. To talk openly about why it’s so hard, this effective re-experiencing of every other time I have felt abandoned, neglected, second-best and left behind, with no one to care for me. To feel that there is no one I can truly trust to see me through.

Of course – and I said that, too – in my final session, I know that I’m not really all alone. I know that there are lots of people in my life who care about me and who want to see me make it through, people who are more than willing to offer me support. But, at the same time, as I’ve described many times in the past, a therapist is in many ways a pseudo-parent, and so, having a break – especially a big one like this – is bound to cut pretty deep. And when you cut deep, you bleed, and it inevitably leaves a scar. It’s impossible to just pick up where we left off, as if nothing’s happened. So there is a fear of that, too. Of what it will be like once A. is back. Will I ever feel able to trust her in the way I was? Because, unlike other breaks, at the end of this one her whole world will have changed. That moment when she goes from being a pseudo-parent to her clients, to being an actual parent will be unlike anything else. And even if we manage to reach that Winnicottian good enough place together again, the fear of another abandonment will linger, as it’s likely that in due time she will want to have another child. In fact, whether or not she does, the fear will be there, regardless.

So things are distinctly uphill right now. I keep thinking Oh, I’ll talk about this in my next session, and then I crash with the realisation that that next session is so desperately far away.

I told A. that I would do my very best to stick to my usual 3-rule therapy break survival plan:

1: No matter what; keep breathing in and out
2: Try to find ways of coping other that resorting to self-harm
3: Even if I fail on number two, stick to number one!

That made A. smile, and I will try to keep that in my mind and in my heart, because I do want to make it through.
I just don’t entirely trust it that I will.

xx

The quote at the top is from the book Are You Somebody? © Nuala O'Faolain

The Maytree – A Sanctuary For The Suicidal – An Entry About Feeling Safe

As many of you will already know I have for a long time been struggling with thoughts of suicide. Lately it’s been more a case of “I don’t want to die, I just feel so incredibly ready to give up,” than what one might call an active wish or search for self-inflicted death. It doesn’t make it any less real, any less frightening, of course – just different.

So, on Thursday morning I called up a charity called The Maytree. I had heard of them earlier in the year, right after my first suicide attempt back in January, and although I gave it some serious thought already back then, I decided that it wasn’t for me. It just seemed too difficult a thing to do, to go to a place that exists specifically for people who are suicidal. I’m guessing the feeling might compare to that of attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the first time; you have to be able to accept that you are indeed suffering from this particular illness in order to feel ok to approach such a place.

But as the year has passed, week to week, month to month, working as hard as I possibly can to get away from the lethally magnetic lure of the final escape that I’ve always felt death offers, well.. Somewhere along the way I just felt more able to accept that this is something I live with; this is a problem I suffer from. The emotional world in which I live is one where when enough things go wrong and I feel overwhelmed and unable to get the help I so desperately need, suicide just naturally comes to mind. There is no point in pretending anything else.

So, as I said, on Thursday morning, feeling that I simply had nowhere else to go, I phoned up The Maytree. And at the other end of the line was P. In a somewhat confused fashion I explained how I felt – or, rather, – how I thought I felt, very carefully pointing out again and again that I’m not reallysuicidal, I don’t really want to die and that in fact I didn’t even know why I had called them in the first place since I was unlikely to even fit the profile, so to speak. P. listened, probably, I imagine, jotted down a note or two, and asked me would I come round for an assessment just the same? I live reasonably locally to The Maytree and what was the harm in coming for an assessment? Even if I went and felt that it wasn’t for me at least I had given it a shot.

Thus, come two o’clock the same day I nervously rang the bell and was let into the Maytree. And I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t quite know why I wanted to be there, or even what I thought I would gain from staying there, but I just felt that whatever had happened in the past, whatever might be ’round the next bend, this was where I was meant to be right then. That for the next four days, this was where I needed to be. I can’t explain exactly what it was that made me feel that way, I really can’t – I just know that that’s what I felt. So, when P. told me that I could come to stay as early as the following day, that she did feel I could get something out of a stay there, I asked could I stay right away? Could I please not have to go home in between? I had my toothbrush in my bag and that was all I’d really need until the following day when I could nip back to the flat to have a shower and change my clothes.

I cried during my assessment with P. That’s pretty big for me. In fact I could probably count the occasions it’s happened on the fingers of my mother’s left hand. I don’t quite know why I cried. But I did. And I think that’s important. I think that was the key to me deciding to take the opportunity to stay at the Maytree.

What I got out of my four days at this sanctuary for the suicidal possibly differs greatly from what many others get out of it. P. told me yesterday that she had had a conversation with one of the volunteers, and they had been wondering if P. felt I had been able to actually get anything out of my stay there, and she had replied that she thought I had probably taken in more than any of them knew, more than what showed on the surface. And I think that’s probably true. I didn’t come there, spend four days pouring out raw emotion and leave – I wouldn’t know how to – but I did get a lot out of staying there. I think I was probably different to many people who come to stay at the Maytree, in that it wasn’t a case of shedding tears that had been held inside for years and years in order to feel less lost and desperate – I wasn’t at a point where I’d be able to do that – but, inside I cried a lot. In the safety of my bedroom, with no one around – yes, I did cry, albeit not in the traditional sense with tears rolling down my face, soaking my pillow.

And I got to tell my story. I can’t even remember all the people I met there. The Maytree is a constant beehive of volunteers and directors coming and going, and so I was allowed to tell my story again and again and again and again. And to me that is invaluable. Yes, I have been asked to recount the events of my life before, but it has nearly always been for the sake of an official NHS form; a necessity in order to tick the applicable boxes, something the often overworked mental health professional has had to do. It has rarely – save in counselling – been because the other person wanted to hear my story. And there I was, meeting one wonderfully understanding person after another, and they were there because they wanted to hear my story. Words can’t describe how much that meant to me. I spent time with J. in one of the upstairs talking rooms, just explaining as much to her as to myself all the things I have had to go through. And again, just the other evening, in the front room with R. further exploring all of these things, using their reactions to understand the magnitude of it. Repeating my story over and over and over, sometimes in the same words, sometimes in entirely new ones. It meant so much to me. In a way I guess you can say that my tears take the shape of words, that having someone hear my story was like having someone see my tears, feel my pain. Even though it may not have shown on the outside, it had an immense effect on the inside.

P. gave me a little letter before I left. I didn’t read it then, in front of her – I chose not to – but I read it on the tube on the way to the rest of my life. There were these few lines in it that just made everything click somehow, made it possible to allow myself to not hold back. “..all those years of fear and helplessness with your brother. So bad were they that you still haven’t been able to feel safe enough to talk about what happened..” And that’s when the wordless tears came. The visible ones. The kind that the outside world can understand, can recognise.

And, although I know that I will, inevitably, revert back – at least for some time – to my old way of unwillingly holding things back – I now know that with the right support, the right guidance I have it in me; the ability to feel.

That, in fact, I am human.

xx

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, I think contacting The Maytree might be a good idea. You can find their details on their website: http://www.maytree.org.uk

PS. If you happen to have some cash burning a hole in your pocket and you want to do something better with it than buy a pack of cigarettes or another frappuccini, I think a donation to the amazing place that is The Maytree would be a good option. I know that there’s where any Christmas prezzie money I may be able to conjure up will go. They survive solely on the kindness of others and I can’t tell you what a difference they can make to a person.

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.