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Maybe I’m just like my father: of psychiatrists and psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a general term referring to therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group. The problems addressed are psychological in nature and of no specific kind or degree, but rather depend on the specialty of the practitioner.

Psychotherapy aims to increase the individual’s sense of his/her own well-being. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behavior change that are designed to improve the mental health of a client” – Wikipedia

woman-in-therapy-session

In my experience, most mental health centres and hospitals look the same. Red-brick buildings with NHS-standard signs directing patients to different departments, a row or two of (usually blue) chairs in a soulless waiting room, and old copies of Lancashire Life stacked on a low table if you’re lucky. Mazes of corridors and doors which are always kept locked. A buzzer or bell to gain entry or allow exit. Sometimes the paint on the walls differs, but it’s usually a palette of beige, pastel green or pastel yellow. “Calming” colours.

They inevitably make me think of the contents of an unwell baby’s nappy.

Our local mental health centre is, handily, in my town. It was recently refurbished and is now very different from the brief glimpses I got when I was being hauled – twice – to a private room on suicide watch in my teens. Back then the entrance led to a huge staircase which dominated the entire hallway of what used to be a beautiful old building but which has now been added to so much that it’s lost most of its character. Now, the staircase has been remodeled and everything’s been painted an off-white. There’s lots of glass and bright posters. It almost feels like a primary school, except you’re always aware that there are people upstairs, being watched 24 hours a day in case they hurt themselves.

waitingroom

I sat with my mother, and waited. As my legal appointee, she has a right to accompany me to any appointments and while I usually try to wriggle out of it… sometimes I need her. My fear of going back into the mental health system after over a decade of let-downs and damage inevitably took over, and I know I wouldn’t have coped on my own. As it was, I had a small panic attack when I realised the psychiatrist was stuck in traffic and would be late; if I ever needed control, it’s when I’m about to open up my fucked-up heart to a complete stranger.

I was mildly surprised that the psychiatrist I saw was a young woman. I’ve become used to stuffy old men in shirt and tie, peering at me over their glasses and shrugging off all my concerns as being “down to my age”.

Another blue chair. Another desk, another patient file. I’ve done this so many times that I may as well just record what’s said and play it at the inevitable next appointment a few years later. You see, I have a problem sticking with things, and I’ve already spoken about how I find it almost impossible to be honest when faced with authority. When everything becomes too much I cave in and accept professional help, but I either pretend nothing’s wrong, or never go back. It’s as though I want to help myself, but the process is too frightening. Therapy means a loss of control and a need to be painfully honest; two things I find almost impossible to deal with.

I explained to the psychiatrist that I felt I was too old to still be dealing with all this, and that the mental health system has let me down a lot in the past. Picked at my jeans and stared at the wall as I detailed everything; the panic attacks, obsessions, paranoia, the total lack of self-esteem, the drugs, the painkiller addiction, the times in my teens when I relied on stolen bottles of gin to get me through the night, the self-harm, the bulimia. As I spoke, I realised that honesty was never going to come easy; although I was forcing the words out with all my strength, I still held back. However, my stumbling confessions were enough to confirm the diagnosis of BPD, and to earn me a referral for psychotherapy.

chickentherapyhut

Specifically, I’m on the 18-week waiting list for CAT Therapy.

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is a form of psychological therapy initially developed in the United Kingdom by Anthony Ryle. This time-limited therapy was developed in the context of the UK’s National Health Service with the aim of providing effective and affordable psychological treatment which could be realistically provided in a resource constrained public health system. It is distinctive due to its intensive use of reformulation, its integration of cognitive and analytic practice and its collaborative nature, involving the patient very actively in their treatment.

The CAT practitioner aims to work with the patient to identify procedural sequences; chains of events, thoughts, emotions and motivations that explain how a target problem (for example self-harm) is established and maintained. In addition to the procedural sequence model, a second distinguishing feature of CAT is the use of reciprocal roles (RRs). These identify problems as occurring between people and not within the patient. RRs may be set up in early life and then be replayed in later life; for example someone who as a child felt neglected by parents perceived as abandoning might be vulnerable to feelings of abandonment in later life (or indeed neglect themselves).

It all sounds like much of a muchness, and initially I was reluctant to even consider it. Most experiences I read online leaned very much towards the negative, and the idea of writing a “goodbye” letter to my therapist is an odd one; I usually leave therapy sessions by simply walking out and never coming back.

However, I’ve given it a lot of consideration over the past few days. Knowing CAT is a “cheap” therapy is a concern; does that make me a snob? I’ve decided that a minimum of eighteen weeks is a long time to think it through, and I do have the safety net of being able to leave whenever I want; I’m not being forced into psychotherapy. It’s my choice, and I think at least giving it a go is the right decision.

I think.

I hope.

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26 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Every day life

 

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I always find someone to bruise and leave behind: the personality of BPD

Trying to access my blog has been a nightmare today; it’s almost as if I’m being punished for putting off writing. I sit in the living room or the kitchen, staring at my laptop and willing the words to be there, but they just aren’t – I don’t particularly want to think about the negative side of things at the moment – and not being able to log in to my account all day has driven me half-crazy. Finally, I have the words… and the fear that I will never get my blog back. Similar issues have been had across WordPress according to their support forums, and my natural cynicism makes me wonder if they’ll ever fix it, or if I’ll be in blog limbo for the rest of my life, unable to download my content or ever update. It’s frustrating.

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I’m going to write anyway, because I received email notification of a comment from one of my old posts – Borderline Personality Disorder – and although I try not to put too much pressure on myself to respond to negativity, it was too tempting to reply, rather than let it go.

I can’t stand people with BPD!!!!!!!!, My soon to be ex-wife has ruined or should I say destroyed everything i built for the last 21 years. I’m retired military, she put me into 25k debt, sold my retirement gift (1972 Plymouth duster), took money from me, calls, texts, emails, hoovers, threatens, plays the victim, has filed PFA’S on me to hide her lies, told a judge she tried to commit suicide 3 times, told that crap to my youngest daughter, lied about 6 surgeries, accused me of killing the dogs when she had possession of the dogs, sold items of mine, harassed county attorney, hide my cell and car keys, twice told my daughter she doesn’t want to be her mom, called and emailed my family members about our sex live, hates my other kids, took all parental rights away from me with her son while we were leaving together, called child protective services on me for child abuse, lied about receiving taxes (my taxes 3.5k) and spent it all, gave her 4k for my daughter’s ortho and she never paid it, keeps getting into my retirement account and changing crap (it’s a federal crime!), every three days would be arguments until i apologized or caved……and so much more……..you people with BPD SHOULD ONLY BE ALOUD TO MARRY EACH OTHER!!!!!! The total destructiveness you bring into peoples/family/loved ones lives is just criminal!!!! Now I have to pick up the pieces; my daughter cuts herself, oldest daughter is on depression meds, claim bankruptcy, and start all over again age the age of 44. You BPD!!!! should never be allowed to date/marry/have kids……I feel so sorry and sick to my heart for all of your next victims…..GOD help them so they won’t be put through this hell I’m going through.

Wow. Where to begin.

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It’s difficult not to take such opinions personally when somebody says that the likes of myself and many of my readers should never be able to date, marry, or have children. Attempting not to take such comments to heart is nigh-on impossible. Those like myself already live with ridiculously low self-confidence and constant snipes from society and the media, without being told these things in shouty capital letters on a blog which – I like to think, judging by many comments I’ve received – has become a safe place to discuss issues like BPD and mental illness without being judged. Although I know there’s no way to stop such comments – and I wouldn’t want to, as everyone is entitled to an opinion – I don’t like to respond to them, as it makes me feel like a victim. The very act of explaining why I behave the way I do gives more ammunition, and I’m not always sure it’s possible to change somebody’s mind on mental illness when their beliefs are so set in stone.

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I will be the first to say that living with someone suffering from BPD must be a nightmare if they are experiencing the fully-fledged out-of-control side of BPD. If they refuse to take their medication, won’t or can’t accept help, or have attempted to get help but the system and/or friends and family have let them down, as is so common with borderline personality disorder. I will never deny that my past behaviour has been controlling and has caused pain to those around me; to lie about that would be to lie about my entire life from puberty onwards.

However, that controlling behaviour has never been out of malice, or acted out with any intent to hurt or cause distress. Describing the BPD mind is an impossible task; but, like everyone else, we have our own distinct personalities. Although outwardly we may appear incredibly bitter and resentful, hell-bent on causing mayhem wherever we go without a single thought for the consequences, inwardly can be an entirely different story. Inside there could be somebody who simply has no control over their actions, and who is lashing out because it’s the only way they know how. It may not be the right way, but it’s their way, and it’s the only thing they have at that moment because their entire being is consumed by all-enveloping fear.

BPD is not a free license to abuse people; when I was first diagnosed, I noticed a lot of resentment around the internet regarding relationships with BPD’ers, and their ability to destroy everything within sight; emotions, furniture, families, friendships, affairs… to the non-BPD partner it seems that everything their boyfriend/girlfriend touches turns to shit. That they get off on controlling others, and seek attention at every available opportunity.

This is a myth.

I have never, ever enjoyed having BPD. Since my symptoms started in puberty, my life has been an uphill struggle to find some form of sane balance. To connect with others without clinging to them. To know who I am, and why I think the way I do. It’s been hard; heartbreaking at times, and a nightmare for everybody around me. I’ve sprinted through life like a whirlwind, grabbing onto others for safety and leaving chaos in my wake. I’ve said and done terrible things. Threatened to harm myself when I had no intention. Lied. Cheated. Stolen. Caused undeniable pain and, yes, abused others.

Of this, I will never be proud.

However, I have made every effort to change, and gain control over the tangle of self-abuse and denial. Comments like the one I quoted above, and many I have read online, seem to suggest that abandoning those with BPD is the only solution. When I was first diagnosed, my mother bought Stop Walking On Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger. After she read it, her suggestion to me was that I didn’t look at the book, as there were heavy hints that walking away from somebody suffering from BPD is an easy option. I haven’t read the book myself, so she may have been exaggerating, but it wouldn’t surprise me. BPD is a mental illness like any other, but it seems acceptable to cast suffers off with “they’re a cruel person” or “it’s not worth it”. Or, as above, suggest that we should never marry or even date.

I have worked hard to get this far. I’m twenty-eight in ten days, and there was a time when reaching eighteen seemed impossible. Admittedly, I find it difficult to recognise any achievement, but I know my life is massively different to how it used to be. Medication has the anxiety and panic attacks mostly under control, and stops me going too far into depression. Without the anxiety, I don’t overreact, I don’t convince myself that everybody I love despises me. I don’t believe that the world would be a better place if I were dead.

So, people with BPD can change. They can grasp some control, if they work at it. We’re not hopeless cases.

I called this post “the personality of BPD”, because the comment above angered me. It totally disregarded any of his partner’s personality, and attributed all her behaviour to borderline personality disorder. Just like anybody else, people with BPD can be cruel, regardless of their condition. They can also be kind, although sometimes the kindness is muffled under sheer panic. Somebody living with BPD is not the whole of the condition; they’re still the person you know, with all that person’s foibles, beliefs, experiences and knowledge. BPD may be a massive part of their lives, but it doesn’t entirely consume; they’re in there somewhere and not everything they say or do is dictated by BPD.

I don’t know if this post makes much sense; my head is everywhere right now. There’s a lot to write about.

 

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29 Comments

Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Every day life

 

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In absentia

It’s a strange feeling. Sitting on the sofa, listening to 4 Non Blondes, drinking coffee, and realising I finally made it. Knowing it took what felt like forever to get here, and trying to accept that I now have my own life. My own rules. My own independence.

Neglecting my blog, and everyone involved… it hasn’t felt good. The occasional tinge of guilt sneaks up on me, knowing that so many people have supported me for over a year and are still commenting despite my absence. However, sitting in the front room and seeing my belongings mixed with S’s… I honestly never believed it would happen, and real life has to take precedence.

Yes, we moved in together. I escaped; and not only do I have freedom for the first time in years, but I also have access to my own finances for the first time in my entire life. I got the bus into town two days ago – a feat in itself, considering how long it’s been since I felt brave enough to use public transport – and checked my bank account. Seeing money in my account for the first time since receiving my stepfather’s inheritance… you don’t know how amazing it feels. Knowing that, for the first time in twenty seven years, I am entirely independent. For the first time, my life is my own and not controlled by anybody but myself.

The past couple of weeks have been an unbelievable nightmare, culminating in a full-force BPD freak-out where I cried, screamed, howled, and eventually called a taxi to take me to S’s. I couldn’t cope with anything at all, and I admit there were a couple of situations where it looked like I was going to lose it entirely. I hit myself in the face. Toyed with a razor and a pair of scissors. Pulled a chunk of hair out, just to feel anything but the horrible pain inside of total loss of control. Stopped eating entirely for a week, living on strong coffee and the last of my dope stash, codeine; anything I could get my hands on to numb the fear just for a short while.

In truth, I don’t know how I got through it all. Trying to explain just how wrong everything seemed to go…it’s impossible. You can’t put such things into words.

You see, it wasn’t just the move stressing me out – although it really didn’t help – and my habit of not being able to cope with more than one thing at once really didn’t help. Quite why I decided to stop taking my medication for a few days, I’m not sure… I should know better, and can only assume that BPD was telling me I’d be better off without them. It’s happened often in the past but I thought I was over it, and had more sense now. Obviously not.

Within two days I’d gone back to the old ways. Panic. Everything was a disaster. The world was ending. Paranoia, beyond belief. Constant – and I mean constant – tears. The need for reassurance. Grabbing onto anything to survive. Laying awake at night hearing the slight whisper of the voices creeping in. Shadows and movement just out of my vision. Feeling victimised by things which hadn’t even happened.

I don’t know how I used to live like that.

Along with everything else I was trying to deal with – the return of fibro pain from not taking Lyrica or Celebrex/Naproxen, the tendonitis getting much, much worse, my mother freaking out over every little thing connected to the move – I finally got to the Biomechanics appointment which had been moved around so many times; I thought I’d never get there. Waiting was pointless though, as nothing was achieved. In fact, I may as well have stayed at home and abandoned any hope of help.

After months of waiting, after being discharged from physio after nothing helped, all the appointment involved was being told I need to do exercises to help the pain in my ankle and foot. In other words, I waited months – and worried – simply to be told exactly what I was told at physio. Told exactly what I already knew. I tried explaining that I’d had to stop the exercises since they were so painful but was simply told to do them regardless. Then, I was referred back to physio.

What is it about me? Why does nobody take me seriously?

I pondered this for a while after the appointment. There’s no denying that I’ve been let down by the NHS a ridiculous number of times; pushed from pillar to post, sent from one specialist to another, and always been made to feel like more of a nuisance than a genuine patient.

So I sat, and thought, and came to perhaps a controversial conclusion; that my past history of mental illness is affecting my treatment. I know this sounds paranoid – and it’s understandable that perhaps the idea of doctors refusing to treat me due to mental illness is something many would pooh-pooh as ridiculous – but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

You see, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that many see me as a faker. A chancer. Someone who goes to the doctors just to get attention and treatment I don’t need. Munchausen’s syndrome comes to mind.

It’s possible that some of my symptoms are psychosomatic; in fact, I know some are. Others however… you can’t fake them. It’s impossible to fake things like hair loss, swelling joints, jaundice, constant coldsores, endless urinary infections, weight loss, tendonitis, crunching knees and fingers, sciatica… all these things are real, physical symptoms, and have been proven to exist. So I can’t be faking it; doctors themselves have confirmed a myriad of symptoms and illnesses.

Yet… I’m not getting the treatment I’m entitled to.

Last week, I discovered something I’d never known, and it’s only served to confirm my suspicions. I spoke to my mother about accessing my medical records – she agrees that I’m not being treated fairly – and I found out that when I was seventeen, I was sectioned.

I never knew. Nobody told me. I assumed I was simply being ‘kept an eye on’ when I was stuck in hospital after a failed overdose, but in reality the truth was kept from me to protect me. I can understand why, but still… it’s a lot to come to terms with. I’ve always held onto the belief that no matter how crazy I’ve been, I’ve never been sectioned. Somehow that belief helped me cope. Now everything’s been turned upside down. A lot of my life has been a lie.

It’s a weird thought. I was sectioned, and never knew.

It makes me wonder what else I was never told. Just what my past involved. I know for a lot of my teens I was out of it, and couldn’t take much in except for the difficulties and problems I experienced, and I know I was often trapped in some form of psychosis; living my life in a bubble created to protect myself. There’s so much of my teens I can’t remember – medication, craziness, lack of sleep, lack of food, drugs, drink… it all blocked out memories – and it’s entirely possible that things happened I wasn’t aware of.

So much of my life has been pieced together from flashes of memory; some of which may not even be real. In truth, I don’t know half of what I’ve lived through. I just… locked it away somewhere.

They should have told me. I had a right to know.

Right now, I’m trying not to think about it too much. I have an appointment with my GP on the 9th, and I’m planning on talking about all my worries. I’m really not up to it right now – a lot needs to be done to the flat – but this needs to be sorted once and for all.

 
43 Comments

Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Slight return

I sit. Read the comments on my last few posts. Sit a little longer. Sleep. Play computer games. Sit some more. Smoke.

Honestly? The energy isn’t there; and it frustrates me because there are so many excellent comments which deserve a well thought-out reply. So I sit, and read, and make myself forget because right now I can’t be doing with worrying over yet another thing I can’t cope with.

Food? I’m getting there, slowly. My mother’s noticed my eating habits – she screamed at me over them, in fact – and although it’s utterly terrifying I’m managing to make myself eat. It’s not easy. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because I do need to lose weight - genuinely -  and I’m shit-scared of bloating and the idea of calories sloshing around in my stomach when I’ve come this far. I’ve been told in the past to worry about losing weight sensibly when my ED’s are under control, but what nobody seems to understand is that my ED’s are never under control where weight loss of any kind is concerned.

S is being incredibly supportive, in his own way. I feel safe eating around him, and he doesn’t push me. My mother… she thinks she can shout at me until I eat again.

 

I have an appointment at the biomechanics clinic in the morning. Friday, I’m taking my incredibly phobic mother to the dentist. And some time in the next couple of weeks I’m moving in with S. There’s 27 years of shit to sort through before I can even consider fitting it all in a van. Most has to go to charity. In a way I’m glad; I want shut of this life now. I’ve been stagnating for far too long in a seemingly endless cycle of bad boyfriends and ruined friendships, all while festering in this house and wasting my life away. I want to start again.

 
18 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Not that I need proof.

3.30am. We were outside. Me sitting on a slightly damp mesh chair, S standing; smoking and drinking white wine.

S kissed me on the forehead.

Me: “If I had a problem, and felt weird talking to you about that problem, would that be silly?“.

 

So I told him. Confessed I’d lied last weekend about feeling ill, and in fact I was trying my best not to eat. Explained how it’s all about control and, haltingly, listed the reasons why I’m grabbing onto a past ED to cope.

He didn’t ask why.

He didn’t tell me to stop.

And he didn’t get angry.

He just kissed the top of my head and rubbed my shoulder.

“How are we going to fix this?”

 
31 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Hole

Puppet strings are bearing down on me
Trying to control the enemy inside me
Choking me
Destroying me.

There’s a hole in my soul
Which I filled with everything
but love.

(c) 2001

I lost my virginity in 2001. I was fifteen and my boyfriend – soon to be fiancé – was eight years older. He lived in a council-owned property with a nerdy Lloyd Grossman lookalike, at the end of a long, narrow street in Liverpool. Over time, he would move to my hometown to be closer to me. We were together for a couple of years, and there’s a reason why I have rarely mentioned him; simply because the thought of his face gives me panic attacks. 

During that time I was still struggling with anorexia. I’d gained a little weight, but my BMI was still too low. However, I’d walked away from the mental health system (as I’ve done many times) because all they could offer were pills and force-feeding. I was vulnerable – much younger than my fifteen years both physically and emotionally – and when a man eight years my senior paid attention to me… I jumped straight in. Didn’t give a damn about consequences or morals. I jumped in feet first and, by the time the relationship ended a couple of years later, I’d grown up immensely. I knew what it was like to be hit by a man. To be sworn at and locked in his flat. When he chased me down the road, hurling a full can of Coke at my head and pulling my hair until I hit the ground… I stayed. I stayed because I was desperate to be loved. 

We ended with his boot in my belly and a footprint on my face. Police and concerned strangers. My mobile smashed, shattered across the road. Black eyes and swollen fingers. My mother and auntie taking me to the police station to give a statement. And, finally, an injunction. A letter stating he couldn’t come within ten feet of me or contact me in any way. 

Still. He inspired poetry. 

I’ll write about him one day.

 

Posted for dVerse Poets Pub:

D’verse Poets Pub is a place for poets and writers to gather to celebrate poetry. We are many voices, but one song. Our goal is to celebrate; poets, verse & the difference it can make in the world. To discover poetry’s many facets and revel in it’s beauty, even when ugly at times.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Every day life

 

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“We can’t let her think we’re unintelligent, T”

My mother is still stressing out over the benefits situation. This morning found her surrounded by bank statements again; double, triple and quadruple checking dates just in case she’s made a mistake somewhere. The living room floor has become a holding pen for pieces of paper, pens and cups of cold tea as she tries to ensure every last little bit of money in her account can be explained. Pension credit. Money my father occasionally paid into her bank for work on the house. Gifts. Every last penny is being accounted for, and it’s driving me crazy.

I don’t know if she’d ever understand this, but they’re investigating me, not her. I’m doing my best to ignore all that’s happened and let it wash over me, but the constant stress of my mother’s obsessive perfectionism is ruining my attempts at coping. I want to slap the bank statements out of her hand and shout at her; tell her it’s my life on the line, not hers, and if I can try to deal with it then she should too. I know that’s a selfish attitude to have, but I wish I could make her see that she’s just winding herself up. The fraud officer… she doesn’t need all this information. I wish I could explain that, but my mother doesn’t hear me when she’s determined to prove some sort of private point to herself.

I had to type out a couple of cover letters earlier, to put in with the collected statements. My mother’s wittering and stressing and tutting… I made so many mistakes, and each time my mother pointed the errors out and said, “we can’t let her think we’re like the others who get accused. We’re intelligent”.

She reads the Daily Mail.

I haven’t felt able to think rationally all day. It’s 1am now, and I’ve been trying to write this post since early this afternoon, with little success. Every time I sit down to type, I get distracted. I get like this sometimes; I go from laid-back and lazy to almost-ADHD within a second, unable to stop my brain running away with itself. Today was one of those days, with a hefty dose of panic thrown in.

All day I’ve been on the edge of tears for no damn reason. I hate it when I get like this. I can remember standing at my teacher’s desk in primary school, being told off for something stupid, and bursting into tears. I felt so ashamed; no other kid reacted like that. I still do it whenever I feel threatened or backed into some sort of corner.

Before we even got to town, I was panicking and snapping at my mother. I didn’t mean to; I just had no control over my emotions. Again, I hate it when this happens… everything in my life is about control and knowing exactly where I am emotionally, and when I freak out it feels like I’m going to die. All the protection I build around myself gets stripped away by anxiety and I feel utterly exposed. Like the whole world knows I’m a big, fat failure.

It’s now 3am. I tried to sleep, but my bedroom is too warm and my mattress is at an odd angle since my mother flipped it over at the weekend. I keep thinking back to today/yesterday, and realising just how much anxiety still rules my life. It’s not just a one-off either; I freaked out at the weekend too, while S and I were in Liverpool. I was frustrated that everything was hurting, and walking was near-on impossible. I couldn’t keep pace with S and even though he tried to slow down for me, I still felt angry that I couldn’t walk normally. That I had to keep stopping and sitting down to give my hips and legs a rest. I felt like I was letting S down; he’d gone to the effort of taking me for a day out, yet I bitched and griped my way around the city.

I tried eating at the restaurant he took me to – a bistro we’d visited before – but even the Greek pizza tasted like disappointment. On the train home, I sat next to S while he chatted to an old man sitting opposite, feeling utterly miserable. I know I shouldn’t let the pain get to me, but sometimes it’s hard not to wish I could just be normal. Just for one day.

We got back to his landlord’s house and sat in the garden for a while, smoking and drinking coffee. We chatted a little, and I made a few jokes about my inability to cope. S seemed unusually introspective, and something inside me decided to take the BPD view on things. I asked if he was okay. S said yes. I asked again. I worried. I thought perhaps I’d ruined the whole day by being me. I said he looked sad; he said he was just tired. It took all my strength not to ask again, to avoid grabbing onto his arm and begging him not to leave me.

It’s now half past two in the afternoon. Managed to sleep, eventually, after going downstairs and stuffing myself with mango jelly. I’m quite proud of myself; I wanted chocolate cake, but forced myself to go for the low calorie option instead. For now, the binge cycle is somewhat under control.

Yesterday ended up being a total disaster. I was angry and defensive to begin with, and my mother commented on my paranoia; something I hate being brought up. I know I’m paranoid. I don’t need to be told. I tried to keep it together as we walked around town, but everyone seemed to be staring at me and getting in my way on purpose, and half way around the shops I realised I hadn’t taken my medication – which only caused me to panic more. Life without the cipralex and beta-blockers is unbearable, and it amazes me how quicky I can go from coping quite well, to a nervous wreck within hours of missing a dose. Especially without the beta-blockers; they slow my heart down and stop me going into the fight or flight response because of entirely ridiculous things.

I complained. Bitched. Moaned. I felt bad, but I couldn’t help it. My brain said one thing and my mouth said another. The pain in my ankle was frustrating me and every tiny little noise set me off. Our main shopping street isn’t particularly big, so it gets very crowded. Even though it was pouring with rain, the crowds were enough to make me feel entirely insecure and vulnerable, and my mother kept telling me off for being irrational, which didn’t help at all.

I’m sorry for this post. I know it’s mixed up and confused. I don’t even know what I was trying to say.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Every day life

 

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In which I step outside my comfort zone, and enjoy it

Our kitchen is what you’d call a ‘galley’; if a galley could ever be so small that one person barely fits in it. On one wall is cabinets and a tall fridge and on the other are appliances, squashed together and sometimes inaccessible behind organic cleaning products and spare shopping bags. There’s little wallpaper – it was stripped off years ago and somehow never got finished – so the walls are mostly bare and nicotine-stained. The ceiling is yellow and the lino on the floor is slowly peeling up.

Because it’s so small, my family tend to take it in turns to use it; even making a simple cup of tea is a military operation if more than one person is standing near the kettle. Cups tend to build up in the drainer and teaspoons clutter up the sink.

Earlier, I was making a brew for my mother and I. She’s ill at the moment – I suspect a chest infection/bronchitis – so I’m trying to help a little around the house today. I feel guilty for not being able to help more, but I had a busy weekend (more about that later) and fibromyalgia has sapped all my energy. I’m not in pain, just exhausted. Like my body wants to fall on the floor and stay there.

My dad walked in as I was pouring the tea and trying to juggle making a sandwich while my brain feels like it’s stuffed with bubble wrap. As I said, the kitchen is small and as he squeezed past me, I couldn’t help but feel irritated; it’s a one-person kitchen, we’ve all agreed on that. I stood patiently while he fiddled with the back door a little before wandering back into the living room. Almost immediately I felt guilty; my dad’s well into his sixties, he’s not in great health because of his drinking, and we suspect he’s possibly suffering from some sort of dementia, probably brought on from years of downing spirits and cheap wine every night.

But then I thought, why should I feel guilty for getting irritated by him? After all, I’m the one who made the decision to distance myself from my father; I can’t go getting emotionally involved if I’m trying my best to ignore the man who made my mother’s life hell until she got up the guts to leave him after one too many drunken punches were thrown. He may have been fantastic in my childhood – my hero in fact – but I refuse to smile at a wife-beater. I just can’t allow myself to do it. I can’t be a hypocrite and loathe violence but chat to the man who pushed my mother down the stairs. The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got. My father never once visited me in hospital when I was seriously ill with acute cholecystitis and pancreatitis. He never spoke to me about my mental health; not when he was sober, anyway. He doesn’t even say hello when he comes to my mother’s house. He’ll grunt, or say thank you if I make him a cup of tea, but he doesn’t say hello.

I made him a cup of tea. Told him it was in the kitchen, and came upstairs.

After my GP appointment on Friday, I sat around for a while, smoking and watching E.R (obsession of the moment; I always have an obsession. Last time it was House. When I was younger, I played Age Of Empires for two years straight) and waiting for the next medical adventure; an appointment with the podiatrist who’s been checking up on the tendonitis for the past few months. It went as well as it could; I have more flexibility than last time, but it’s still swollen so I’m being referred to rheumetology again. Different doctor this time, but the same department. Sometimes I think my life runs in circles and I’ll never break free.

I don’t quite understand why they’ve passed me on to rheumetology; the podiatrist didn’t explain, or if he did I was too anxious of being in hospital to take any of his advice and feedback in. I can only assume he thinks there’s something wrong with the joints in my foot. Same old, same old.

My best friend, Z, was 24 years old on Sunday, and she invited S and I to a barbecue at her house on Saturday night. My initial reaction was the usual; I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to speak to people I didn’t know – her friends, her family – and I was worried I’d get too stressed out and retreat to a quiet corner and become my usual reclusive self, ending up going home and failing at yet another social situation. However, this weekend I felt the fear and did it anyway – with S’s help – and not only went to the barbecue, but had a fantastic time. S and I even stayed over in the spare room, snuggled together under a bright yellow duvet and shielding our silent midnight sex with a spare curtain draped quickly over the bare rail.

.Z’s two-bedroom house is rented out by her boyfriend’s parents. When she told me she was moving in with Steve, I was jealous; the most I could hope for was a small flat or paying well over the odds for a tiny house in a dodgy area. They have a huge garden and enough room for their animals; a cat, a corn snake, two degu’s and whichever cat from next door wanders in. However, it soon became obvious that she and Steve were struggling to cope with running a household. The first time I visited, the living room was filled with boxes and half-empty cups and the carpet hadn’t been hoovered since they moved in weeks earlier. The kitchen was a death-trap, and the bathroom had no door. Steve and Z have a strange relationship. I’m sure they love each other, but they’re so different to S and I, and sometimes I can’t understand how they stay together. Z is incredibly clingy and possessive, and always demanding reassurance. She doesn’t always take her medication for bipolar and I’ve stood awkwardly on many an occasion while Z overreacts to something Steve says and starts asking if he wants to break up with her. It’s uncomfortable, and reminds me a little too much of myself.

I confess, I wasn’t at all prepared for Z’s birthday. I’ve been losing track of dates recently – I have no idea what today is – and I have a really difficult time remembering birthdays anyway. I try, but it just doesn’t happen. I still can’t remember my brother’s birthday after knowing him for 27 years. Numbers just stress me out too much. Typically I hadn’t remembered  to buy Z a present, so I had to do a mad dash around Tesco’s on Friday evening while S and I were shopping for pizza and Fosters, grabbing a baked eyeshadow set and a box of Thornton’s chocolates; hardly innovative, and entirely crap for a best-friend gift.

My friend G (we actually call him G as well, it’s not just a nickname) was invited too, and walked up to S’s house with his staffordshire bull terrier so we could get a taxi together. G never spends money unless forced and the only reason he gets away with it is because he’s so charming. I call him a friend, but I’m still not entirely sure what that words means; we speak, chat on Facebook, and he used to live with me when I was in a relationship with J, does that mean he’s my friend?

Sometimes I think I’ll never understand social interaction. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.

Z was quiet when we got to her house – I was worried she hadn’t taken her meds again – and she barely acknowledged our presents. I instantly started panicking; I know I’ve been an awful friend and isolated myself, but she can’t leave me. She can’t abandon me; losing people has happened too many times now for me to cope with. Z leaned into me and whispered, “I was going to call the whole thing off” then pulled me into the kitchen. As partygoers pushed past us, she told me somebody had hung themselves. She said who but I was too Lyrica-muddled and panicked to take it in. Somewhere in my head I was still stressing over her lack of reaction to my admittedly shitty present.

A couple of years ago, Z’s cousin hung himself. She took it very badly, and still gets tearful if his name is mentioned. She told me that knowing somebody else who’d commited suicide in that way brought it all back for her. Everything brings it back for her. I tried to hug Z, but she wouldn’t let me.

S was chatting with Steve and G, poking around the barbecue and trying to be all manly, so I went to talk to Z’s next door neighbour. Ann is in her fiftes and lives with five cats in a house filled with nick-nacks and photographs. She has severe osteoarthritis and can barely walk, and she’s awesome. We sat in her house and rolled a joint each, chatting about the painkilling benefits of weed and my mother. Nicely chilled and calmed, I went back to the party, bumping into my friend (again, friend…) Debbie. I’ve only met her once before – when I was ill in hospital – and although we’ve chatted a lot on Facebook, I’ve always made excuses not to meet up. I’m too nervous. Being thrown into the situation suited me much better; she hugged me and we chatted while I broke the Lyrica rule and drank cider and Fosters. I figured if I was going to be ill, I may as well go out in style.

A couple more joints later, I was feeling okay. Z had brightened up (although she was still somewhat aloof; understandable),  and watching S holding the corn snake and marvelling over the muscle structure cheered me up in a way only geeky boyfriends can. I started chatting to other guests – there were about ten in total – and actually mingled. I never mingle. I’m very anti-mingle.

The night was a success, and I’m glad I made the effort to socialise for once. We ate birthday cake and played with G’s staffie, throwing balls across the garden for him to catch. Cooked burgers and watched S pour a whole can of Fosters down himself; nobody’s let him live it down. As it went dark we set up a plastic table and some chairs around the back of Ann’s house and smoked blueberry and weed shisha, accompanied by hash brownies and Jägermeister shots. Played music on our phones and talked about everything and anything.

On Sunday, Z and I left the men to do some work in the garage and went to a local food festival. It was shutting down a little as we got there but we still had a good time; loads of free samples and I tried anything which had chilli involved. Afterwards Z bought me some chips and we walked back to her house. I confessed that I’d been feeling guilty over not seeing her often, and she said, “yeah, but it’s your mum, she’s too controlling“. True, and I decided not to mention the other reasons; fear, anxiety, paranoia. Thought I’d just pretend it was all my mother.

I’ve promised myself I’ll make more of an effort to socialise; I’ve realised that when I do, I enjoy myself. As long as I have a safety net of dope and somebody I know to look after me, I’m okay.

I’m not going to die.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Don’t blame your daughter, that’s just sentimental

I was angry earlier – I suppose it showed – and I’m starting to feel a little guilty for lashing out verbally on such a time-worn subject. It’s a story which has been done to death over the years, and I’ve cried more tears over my mother’s control than anything else in my life. Although I didn’t cry this time, I wanted to; the only thing holding me back was a sense of pride in believing I was right, and not wanting to show weakness to her while she had the emotional upper hand.

Understand this; I love my mother. I worry about her constantly – her physical health, her moods, her depressions, the way she rarely eats – and I’d fall apart if anything happened to her. Although I hated her at times throughout my teens, I gradually learned that not everything she did was to spite me; over the years, my mother has opened up about her abusive relationship with my father, her brother dying when he was eight years old, her father dying of cancer when she was fifteen. She’s had a turbulent life – like mother like daughter, I suppose – and the more I get to know her, the easier it is to see that I’ve learned a lot of my behaviour from her, such as my ridiculous attitude to food. She’s obviously struggled with a lot of stress and drama, and sometimes I see flashes of myself in the way she rants and raves; flashes of BPD.

I suppose we’re too alike in many ways. Both prone to sulking and unjustified anger. Both trying to control situations; she tries to control me, I try to control myself. Both living with chronic pain. Both dealing with the stress of illness. Both knowing that men are sometimes unspeakably cruel.

I’ve spent so much of my life feeling inferior to her, feeling pushed out of the family and wrapped in cotton wool. Been the baby of the family for too long. I’ve watched my brother go off to be a train driver. Seen my sisters become managers and childcarers. Felt left behind as they buy houses and settle into their lives. My sister (E) ran away from home in her teens and stayed in a B&B, because she couldn’t cope with the controlling atmosphere in the house… leaving me to receive it all.

In a way, I wish I could hate her. It would be much easier to think she’s just a cruel woman; but she isn’t. She’s ill, she’s ill in the ways I am, but she will never admit to it. I’ve tried; she admits to having depression and I know she’s been on antidepressants in the past, but I know she struggles more than she ever shows.

I don’t know how I feel about moving into a flat with S – possibly next month – because I know she relies on me. As a child, I thought her demands for cups of tea were akin to slave labour; now I know it was because she couldn’t handle the kettle with arthritic fingers in the morning. I thought her hatred of my boyfriends was some sort of jealousy, when she turned out to be right about them every time.

She hurts me, though. Her little comments about my weight – hinting I shouldn’t be eating so much – and piercings/tattoos get me down. Her need to know every single thing about my life is tiring, especially when there’s so much I could never tell her. Her control over my finances… it’s destroyed my trust in her, because I know she doesn’t trust me. I’ve tried my best to be the daughter she wants me to be, but I know deep down I’ll never achieve that because it just isn’t me. I have piercings which she hates. I have ink she loathes. I hang around with people she can’t stand. I wear clothes she may not always approve of. I take risks and make decisions without her input… and that won’t change, because it’s taken most of my life for me to begin to realise who I am. I’ll never be what she wants.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Every day life

 

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… and I’m feeling good.

I think the Lyrica has stabilised after the settling-down period. I’ve been taking it for two weeks now, and this morning I experienced a little pain; not enough to concern me, but it was noticeable. I’m seeing my GP in a couple of weeks, so I think I’ll have to ask for a higher dose – I’m taking 75mg twice a day, and he said there was a lot of room for raising the dose if I needed it – just to make sure I’m getting the best pain relief I can from it.

Lyrica has already been a blessing. Even on a low dose, the pain has reduced dramatically. My arms don’t ache anymore – and I can lift them above my head for the first time in years – and my thighs no longer feel like somebody’s stabbing them with a blunt spoon when I wake up. The anti-inflammatories are helping with the joint pain more than I expected; my fingers still hurt, but my wrists and ankles don’t feel weak and painful anymore.

Today’s a rest day. The sun’s shining outside, but I’m sitting on my bed, half-typing and half-watching television. The window’s wide open next to me, so I can enjoy the warmth and sunshine without having to sit on the uncomfortable bench in the garden. Yesterday, I sorted clothes to give to charity and helped around the house, clearing my extensive toiletries collection from the overcrowded bathroom and sorting things online for my mother. It’s the first time I’ve slept well on a Sunday night since I can remember – I always feel uncomfortable and alone when I come home from staying with S – and I got up early; around 8am. This morning, I got up even earlier, making a coffee at 7am and settling down to reply to emails. I slept for 11 straight hours last night, and woke up feeling properly awake and ready for the day; no nightmares, no going back to sleep, and no waking that I can remember.

It’s years since I’ve slept properly. It feels like a miracle.

Perhaps it’s all the weed I’ve been smoking recently, but I feel pretty blessed right now. Not in a religious way – I’m not about to suddenly find god – but just in the sense that I have plenty to feel good about right now. For over a decade my life has been a struggle – panic attacks, paranoia, failed relationships, lost friendships, life in the mental health system, unexplained diagnoses – and at this moment in time a lot of stuff is under control, or I’m at least trying. I never used to try; I just accepted my fate. Now… perhaps things can change.

I have S, who is the best boyfriend I’ve ever had by miles. I love him dearly, without jealousy or resentment. I trust him not to hurt me;  I’ve never trusted anybody else like that. He makes me happier than I ever thought I could feel, just by smiling at me. I’m far from a novice when it comes to relationships; I’ve been engaged, lived with partners, loved, hated and cried. I’ve had long-term relationships and short disasters. I was with the same person for four years. I know how love feels, and how relationships work… and I love S with all my heart. He’s amazing.

I have pain-relief. Finally, I have something which works. I’m no longer bed-bound for most of the week, and I’m starting to feel I could start achieving something again, after giving up entirely on any idea of a decent future.

Last year, I got my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, after years of ruining relationships and acting in ways I didn’t understand or much like. In truth, I hated myself for lashing out and being so suspicious of everybody; I felt like an awful, obsessive person, one of those women who refuses to ever let a relationship go and boils bunnies in her spare time. Now I know why I react in that way, and I can work on fixing it. I’m already improving.

Finally, I’m really enjoying writing. Loving it. I feel like me again.
.

.

 
48 Comments

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Every day life

 

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