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hope

On the mental health front, I’ve been fighting. I realized, early this week, that I’m still internally beating you child parts up. I don’t mean to do it. In fact, it doesn’t really feel like me doing the beating up. But whoever it is, B seems mostly petrified that she’s done things wrong and is bad.

When you have dissociation issues, these kinds of things are not so easy to spot. I deeply believe in being kind to all parts of myself, and have believed this for years. And yet…I so often feel overwhelmingly sad or anxious and don’t know why. And I think one reason why is that these are child feelings, which I’m not taking care of, and causing to some extent.

I started operating more like a kind kindergarten internally. As an experiment, for this week. In the morning, I picture myself holding hands with B on the way to work, and telling her reassuring things. Things like we’re doing a good job, and also that I, the adult, will take care of work stuff, that I’m good at it, and that she can relax.

At work, when I have a fraught interaction with my boss, I’ll reassure B that all is well – bosses can be weird sometimes, but there’s nothing wrong with her.

I really felt an inner lightening when I started doing this. I think it’s helping, though a few days isn’t long enough to tell if this is going to really help going forward.

I mentioned in therapy that I was doing this hand-holding visualization type exercise going to work, and Ron thought it was a good thing to do. So this week, I expanded it.

It is really surprising to me that I could be having internal parts getting beaten up without my realizing it was happening. That just seems so strange. And yet, I think this is true. And to guard against that, I need to take so much extra care to show parts love and care. It’s hard, when that was not my experience as a child. But I can provide this.

The world is becoming a lot less scary for me. I want a safe world, and the thing is, it is largely a safe world, it’s just that I have not been able to let that in. The world is safe, and no one is attacking me for the most part, and I need to keep letting young child parts know that this is so. The world is peaceful. The bad things are not necessarily my fault – they’re usually not my fault at all. If something is my fault, I can take steps to try and make it better.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. Or if you just read along – that’s good too!

I’m documenting my craziness. I’m aware it’s my craziness. So I spent a very depressed weekend. Saturday I slept a lot, or dozed, or something. It was as if I was immobilized. I didn’t go to my group either. I know when I’m that depressed, first of all there’s not a lot of motivation to get my ass downtown. But second, I feel I repel people somewhat. It’s something I give off I suppose. And I knew I couldn’t handle no one saying hello, and I wouldn’t be able to reach out, and the whole thing would make me feel worse, so I stayed home.

Today was similar, but with more moving around. Just this deep sense of hopelessness and depression. So around five, I emailed Ron. I said some of the things I’m concerned about, plus how depressed I was feeling. A fairly short email. And then I had another nap. And since waking up, I’ve been feeling better. Like coming out of a fog.

Nothing has changed. I still have all the same concerns about therapy, about whether it’s going anywhere, about how to handle trauma. I’m still old, and unlikely to be able to heal much before I’m too old to have a life. But – it doesn’t seem overwhelmingly dark and awful anymore. It seems workable.

I don’t really get what’s happened. Ron did not reply to my email. As I didn’t ask for a reply, he’s unlikely to bother responding. Anyway, he must think I’m insane, even for a therapy client. Up and down, in despair and then OK again?

I wonder if just expressing something to the person concerned helped me. Even though he didn’t respond or reassure me in any way.

It feels as if I was ill, and the fever has broken. It always seems to me as if I can feel the edges of things again. Not sure what that means, but it’s as if the world has become embodied again perhaps, no longer lost in the fog? Whatever has happened, I’m grateful for it. Lost in the fog is a crappy place to be.

I don’t know where to start. Hmm…I’m not working, so I have lots of time. That’s one thing. I’m depressed a lot, but not always. I find I really need to get out of the house fairly soon in the day. That helps me rev up a bit, not get lost in dissociation or fog or whatever this is. I have things I need to take care of at home, but mostly I just ignore all, and leave for a few hours. Otherwise, I’d probably go back to bed. If I stay home, it’s as if I’m a machine that runs down – I move slower and slower, until I’m staring at the wall for minutes at a time.

Now I want to say – that’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t be doing that. How hard is it to wash the dishes and vacuum before going out. But. Although a part feels like that, I am trying to give myself space, to not let that part have its way with me. A part of myself batters the rest of me mercilessly. Sometimes with words – you’re so stupid, you stupid bitch, why are you like this, you have no friends….Nice. Very nice. Other times, it’s more with images of someone beating me with things, or beating child parts. None of this is flashbacks. That is, no one actually beat me, or called me a bitch as a child. But I’ve developed a part, I’ll call her Witch, that does this.

I figure I’m a bit ahead of where I was, because I’m now on to this situation. I can try and protect younger parts. At least give them space, and see that this attacking part is also a part, it’s not the Truth. Too bad just telling the Witch to cut it out has absolutely no effect whatsoever.

Choir went better this week. I’m so happy about this. I’m sure writing about it here, and discussing it in therapy, paid off. One dear commenter suggested taking something that comforts kid parts, and positive messages. I took a small blue plastic frog that fits in the pocket of my jeans. Whenever I felt anxious, I would pull out the frog (hidden in my hand), and it helped tremendously. Who would have thought it would. As well – positive praising comments (silent). That helped a lot also. Why be my own critic? It doesn’t really matter after all. Why not encourage myself, the way I’d encourage a young child who is scared?

The other benefit to being calmer was you sing better when you’re relaxed. I wasn’t super relaxed, and my high notes were screechy, but it was OK. We sounded pretty good I thought. Plus, people respond to you differently if you seem calm.

I got home and did not have an anxiety attack. I was pretty tired and emotional though. But overall, I’d say this choir experience was good. It gives me hope I might be able to join another more permanent choir (this one is just for advent).

Calming down this critic/witch part of myself is huge. It’s a huge job, because that part is so all-pervasive.

cookingWe bought these new bottles for oil and vinegar that let you drizzle the oil….it’s so I eat more salad, but anyway. They’ve sat on my counter for a week until finally I felt like filling them with oil and vinegar. Because Ron replied to my email so I felt better so I started pouring. The oil is in a big bottle it’s olive oil and I pour so slowly, and it’s pretty, it’s pouring in, then I think, maybe it’s enough so I stop but, then, what happens is the oil spills over the side of the bottle

You stupid bitch!

I’m sorry I didn’t mean to I was trying….

Wait, OK. It’s fine. It’s OK. We’re trying something different, pouring, no one is perfect at everything all the time. It’s fine. See, we can wipe it off. Looks like we need a bit more.

Oh, OK. I am so sad I spilled the oil but anyway. We can pour a bit more OK. So I start pouring some more, and it’s a pretty good feeling, and we get it filled pretty full, and then stop, and it spills a bit again, but it’s OK because we can wipe the bottle with some dish soap so it’s good.

So then I do the vinegar bottle too. It doesn’t spill because maybe I’ve gotten better with the pouring or maybe vinegar isn’t as spilly. So now we have oil and we have vinegar and we can drizzle it and we can eat lots of salad!

Your friend Ellen

Art: Robert Wagt

Another night where sleep comes too slowly.

My weekend was mixed. Saturday was dreadful. I’m not sure why it was so bad. In therapy for the last twenty minutes, I went into various parts. I’d been having a lot of trouble sleeping and thought probably parts were the reason. And I did start to sleep better on Friday. Just the price for having parts speak seems to be a whole lot of pain.

Saturday I had no food prepared, and I was too dissociated to cook. Yet I can’t eat bread, cereal, rice as I used to when I couldn’t manage food. I don’t know why it becomes impossible. I even had some stew I could have unfrozen. Just then I would also need a green veg and some kind of root veg for starch, and altogether, I couldn’t work out what to do. Or I could have given myself step by step instructions, but I didn’t have the will to follow them. Things just fall apart in a way that’s difficult to explain.

I ended up realizing I could manage to nuke a sweet potato. Those four steps – get out of fridge, scrub with brush, poke with fork, cook in microwave – I could do those. Something about there just being one ingredient. So I didn’t starve but I did get nauseous as I suppose it wasn’t the right food.

Sunday, today, was better. I woke up and realized that yes, I could do things. I could wash the dishes from yesterday. I could get dressed before noon. I could even make a salad.

In the afternoon, I met an internet date at a coffee shop downtown. I feel like a regular person who can do regular things.

It went pretty well. I did want to cut and run after twenty minutes, but I don’t think that was the man’s fault. He is Indian from India, and works in banking. He seemed steady and calm, and explained about Hinduism. It was kind of interesting. He had a nice smile.

Compared to others I’ve been out with, he seemed quite together. Seems to have steady decent work. Nice newish clothes. Talked reasonably.

I’m not sure if we had a connection or not. How do I tell with one meeting? When I’m mostly scared I’ll screw something up, and am just thinking of the end of the tea, because I’ve done this thing I was scared of doing and now I’m just relieved and want to go home.

But we stuck out the hour, walked a few blocks together, then said goodbye. I hope to see you again? Sure.

No little email note at home saying polite things. But I think it was fine. If he asks me out, I’ll go.

After meeting him, I bought some homeopathic remedies. I’ve been trying natural healing lately, got a book on it, so I purchased two of the remedies listed there. Also looked at crystals, and know which ones I’ll buy if I decide to.

The kid loves this kind of stuff. The homeopathic remedies are like little toy pills, tiny and sugary. Yum. Buying crystals also appeals – the nice colours and smooth feel of the stones. The kid also likes aromatherapy – good smells are right up her alley.

I try one of the remedies at home. It does make me feel calm, and slightly happy.

For I have learned how to soothe the hot spots, how to salve the soreness on my skin….”Shhhh,” I whisper to the hurting part, hidden here. You can call her borderline – call me borderline – or multiple, or heaped with posttraumatic stress – but strip away the language and you find something simple. You find me, part healthy as a horse and part still suffering, as are we all…What sets me apart from these “sick” ones – is simply a learned ability to manage the blades of deep pain with a little bit of dexterity. Mental health doesn’t mean making the pains go away. I don’t believe they ever go away…I have not healed so much as learned to sit still and wait while pain does its dancing work, trying not to panic or twist in ways that make the blades tear deeper, finally infecting the wounds.

Lauren Slater, Welcome to My Country

Lauren Slater is a psychologist and works with people with severe mental difficulties. A visit to a new patient in hospital sends her hurtling back in time, to when she was admitted to the psych ward in this hospital herself, diagnosed as borderline. She reflects on what it was that enabled her to escape and mature and to put together a life for herself, while her patients are mostly not so lucky.

This is something I wonder about also. I’m kind of in between – I’ve never been admitted to a psych ward and don’t carry a heavy diagnosis. At the same time, my childhood and resulting dissociative disorder were so damaging, I’ve struggled to put a life together that’s worth living.

Slater goes on to muse that her memory is kind, in that she also remembers good things from her childhood, beyond trauma. Times spent in nature or laughing. BeingĀ  able to hang on to good things has given her a measure of sanity.

Also, she credits a loving foster family who took her in at age fourteen and stood by her through many hospitalizations. Having that one person that was kind and believed in her potential. A gateway out of trauma and abuse.

She’s learned to sit still when pain hits, knowing it will pass if she doesn’t make it worse by ‘twisting the blades’. Cool. I like how she sees everyone as having pain, even horrendous pain. It’s not the pain that does the damage on its own though. There are other factors that can help. How we respond to the pain. Some goodness from the past. And that gives me some hope.

weedThere’s a pale half moon rising in the skylight right above my desk. 8:30 and it’s still daylight. Still too hot and humid to risk going outside more than a few quick minutes. But it’s cooled down enough that my AC can make a stab at keeping things comfortable. Warm but not stifling.

Today I went in to work and stayed all day. Because I haven’t had enough to do, I’ve been tending to stay only half days, but today there was a little more going on. It’s easy to get used to not staying for eight hours and I’m tired today.

I was noticing the low depressions I used to fall into at work are less severe. I think for me it’s a parts problem. I am used to severely holding down parts, especially at work. It amounts to not allowing those parts to speak, so I can’t even think some things. It makes me very depressed. What seems to be helping is when I feel that sinking depression, is to allow parts space, especially the kid and the dark voice.

This all happens internally BTW. It’s obviously inappropriate for parts to express themselves at work. But I can allow them to talk to me. It’s like giving air and sunshine and a listening ear to small parts. For instance, the kid loves to walk around outside and look at things. I can be the kid for a few minutes, walking around, just enjoying moving and watching what’s going on.

When I do this kind of thing, that stressed out black depression starts to roll back.

I can provide reassurance, that we’re all basically OK at work, earning money is good, no one hates us. Or that we’ll have a break soon to walk around, get a snack, or that it’ll be time to go home soon, and then we’ll have some ice cream….Things like this, I find extremely soothing. Trying to be a good mother, instead of a repressive one.

I really like this discovery. I’m hoping it keeps helping me.