‘HAPPY HOLIDAY’ BLOG BREAK

Here’s a summerSHINES announcement in poetic prose

I’m taking a break for a well-deserved doze

This blog will have to wait as this mum has demands

I only have two eyes, two legs, and one pair of multi-task hands

The kiddies need me for six summer weeks

They need my love and some well-earned pick ‘n’ mix treats

Writing distracts me from the specialness of being with them

So I’m grasping the nettle right by the stem

Enough is enough but don’t fret as I’ll not be gone long

Please stay around if you enjoy the sound of my shiny song

I’ll soon be singing with full gusto again

Blogging and badasssing in the fast ‘n’ furious lane

But it’s time to pull back and reduce some demands

To shut my blog curtains and draw a squiggly line in the sand

No goals, no stress- allowing myself to just ‘be’

Thanks for your loyalty- for reading, liking, and following me

I’ll soon be back. Six weeks will fly

Being alive is how I plan to kill time till I die

Time to say goodbye and farewell and that shizzle

I got a chocolate pudding waiting for me (M&S melt in the middle) 🙌🙌🙌😊

BOOM!

Happy holidays everyone :P

Mwah 💋

SummerSHINES ©



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WHAT IS MAD & AM I IT?

Am I mad? And what is madness anyway?

How do you define yourself? Do you fit into the category of ‘mad’?

What does madness mean to you? Does that determine whether or not you are mad?

‘Mad’ is a word that is has strong connotations and will be interpreted in differing ways dependent on who you are, how old you are, what experiences you’ve had, and what attitudes and personal values you hold.

Complicated isn’t it.

Are you the one calling someone mad? Are you the one being called mad? What is worse and what is better?

The English language is incredibly vast and incredibly subtle. For a writer, speaker, musician, poet, politician, teacher, preacher, or conversationalist-whatever type of wordsmith you happen to be, you’ll know that word choice fucking MATTERS.

Word choice matters, and the word-based labels we give people/ourselves matter.

Labels can be either received or given out. On social media, words/adjectives/labels with decidedely negative connotations and meanings seem to be chucked out daily like confetti, often by morons with no social skills who can’t even spell.

Harsh, but fair :P

Any public and supposedly “social” exchange by internet strangers on social media platforms is WORD HEAVY. Well, more accurately, ALL about the words.

Words are pretty much all we have to play with when we write. We don’t have tone of voice, facial expression, or tactile contact to temper or influence how our messages go down and get interpreted by the receiver. So in this modern age where so much communication is about the written word/the email/the text/the instant message/the article that comes up on your Facebook feed, the blog (and very rarely about the book), our communications are fraught with social difficulty.

I hate social media (& I don’t personally class WordPress blogging as social media, though you may well. Again, word choice- open to interpretation!)

But going back to the point of the post, am I mad?

Well yep, I pretty much think I am…..

I’d say I am more mad than not mad. Ergo I must be…mad.

I’m black and white. I ask questions like “am I mad or not?”, expecting a yes/no answer. Other humans wouldn’t even ask the question in the first place. They might be more comfortable with the whole idea of differing shades of mad, as in shades of ill (please see the brilliant and most fascinating post I published on that topic yesterday!).

I think anything over 50% of something makes you that particular thing. [In other words if 49% of me I deem ‘not mad’, but 51% of me I deem ‘mad’, then on balance, I’d say I’m mad.]

How do you decide if you are something, or NOT that thing? do you use the ‘50% plus makes it so’ rule?! Or do you have your own ways of conceptualising life and humanity?

I think I am mad on the basis that I have two mental health conditions which only affect less than 3% of the population. Therefore I am unusual. If 96% of people are not officially diagnosed with BPD/EUPD and PTSD and roughly 3% are, then that puts me in the atypical and unusual minority-based category.

When I studied psychology, first at A-level, then at university, the modules that covered mental illness were called “ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY”. That may surprise you if you’re not from a psychological background yourself, as this seems like a rather stigmatised name for a branch of social science that investigates  a bunch of people who suffer greatly with their illnesses and have a suicide, self-harm and substance abuse rate that is far higher percentage than the general population. To call people like me ABNORMAL can sound on the face of it quite harsh. Unless you decide that abnormal is an OK word, and NOT a negative pejorative label to attach.

When I studied “abnormal” psychology all those years back, from memory, the justification for using the word abnormal was that it didn’t happen to many people, was statistically unlikely, and was representative of ‘atypical’ psychological development which deviated from developmental norms.

I demonstrate abnormality bows

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My brain structure, synapses, neurotransmitters and pathways are abnormal.

The physiology of my body is abnormal- often either hyper or hypo aroused.

My thinking patterns are abnormal sub-optimal, and would present a challenge to the most seasoned and experienced professor of CBT.

My ability to regulate my emotions is absolutely abnormal FUCKED!

My ability to maintain an equilibrium of mood that allow me to have a productive, fulfilling and satisfying life is abnormally non-existent FUCKED!

My ability to live life without the repetitive intrusion of suicidal thoughts, feelings and occasional self-harm is absolutely abnormal FUCKED!

My ability to have managed to survive life and it’s challenges without psychiatric hospitalisation is abnormal COMPROMISED.

My ability to live life without the use of anti-depressant and anxiety medication is absolutely abnormal NON-EXISTENT!

My potential to live unsupported by NHS mental health services and psychological therapeutic intervention is absolutely abnormal currently impossible.

……Thereby I would say I am “mad”.

However not everyone who thinks of themselves as mad is like me. Not everyone who is mad has professional mental health support available to them. Not every self-described mad person takes meds for it, has attempted suicide, been hospitalised, has ever self-harmed, has had crisis admissions to A&E, has had crisis assessments by the crisis team or long-term psychological intervention.

There are many ways to be mad, and many ways to deal with that madness.

Some people prefer to ignore their mad and bury their head in the sand and scrape by by whatever means possible. Others positively embrace their mad, viewing it is a good thing that enhances their creativity and sense of individuality and presence. Sometimes mad can even be seen as trendy. Being an artist, writer or other such creative with bipolar disorder can be seen as something admirable. The madness is associated in people’s minds with the genius they observe. Without the so-called madness, they would not be able to create such masterpieces. Musicians can be mad and their madness is viewed as a likeable eccentricity. So there is a link between madness and talent, if not a literal one, a perceived one. People believe that mad people can achieve great things, especially when hyper productive and hyper creative hypomania and mania takes hold. BUT, those states of madness are as potentially dangerous as they are addictive, intoxicating and “desirable”. There is a dark and dangerous side of madness, as well as it’s lighter creative eccentric side.

And where does criminality fit into all this I wonder? People often believe that people who commit acts of violence towards others are mad, but in a inherently deviant way. We label people “mad” when they do things we cannot understand and don’t like.

Anyone who abuses children is mad, surely? No sane person would want to abuse a child, people say. If it’s the “mad” people doing it, and the mad and sick people are incarcerated, then it makes us feel safer as a society. The more alarming truth of the matter though, is that most people who abuse children or rape someone or stab someone or steal from you are actually reasonably sane, at least on the visible surface layers.

You wouldn’t look at a person on the street and intuitively know they are a criminal or predator. Those who commit criminal acts look alarmingly normal. They are not all ugly with huge foreheads and squiffy eyes. That is just the stereotype. Criminals in court who are physically attractive with symmetrical facial features are given more lenient sentences. FACT. Why? Because it is harder for a jury to believe they could do bad things because they don’t look unwell or deviant or stereotypically criminal. Women are also given more lenient sentences too because we are influenced by what we expect of women in society, influenced by gender stereotypes.

I call myself mad, because I openly have mental health ishoos, have had a lot of mad person type experiences and regularly partaken in a lot of behaviours that are fairly mad-ish. But do I look mad to the naked eye? Well no.

I look totally normal.

This is a photo of me……..

Does this person look mad to you? Would you know looking at this image that I’m a mental health patient with a disordered personality and PTSD who has had several crisis admissions to A&E and acute psychiatric wards, has attempted to take my own life three times, takes two meds per day and requires psychological help just to stay afloat?

Nope. I don’t do I.

None of us look especially mad, so deciding who is and who isn’t mad is not for us to decide.

I AM mad, because I say so. But I will not like it if you call me mad. I will also not call you mad. Deal?

Will someone tell the morons on social media that someone is not mad because they have political beliefs different to yours, not mad because they have a different style of dress or preferences on lifestyle, attitudes, values, or aspirations?

Instead be like me, and call people who do this shit on social media a bunch of morons. That is far fairer :P

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I am fully aware I sometimes do the things I get peed off with others for doing. I guess it comes with the territory of being a human.

Let’s face it. We’re all mad here.

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summerSHINES ©

 

 

 

 

SHADES OF ILL

I woke this morning heavy hearted, and I’ve already idled away some unknown mindless length of time pondering why it is I feel so crap today. I think I’ve finally now worked it out.

I’m not sure if I’m ill or well (mentally/psychologically) and I’m trying to work out which of the two things I am-cause I have to be one or the other don’t I?….surely?

I have BPD. I’m black and white and cognitively inflexible bows

I see the world as either/or. I see myself as either/or. I see you as either/or.

Am I ill? Or am I well? That is my question. This is the issue I personally wrestle with huge amounts and can’t stop wrestling with.  If my therapist were here she’d say “summer- it doesn’t have to be that you’re either well or unwell. You can be shades and variants of both at different times.”

Visualise my inflexible mind exploding at this flexible suggestion. I’m cognitively inflexible, remember!

I’m black OR I’m white. I’m all OR I’m nothing. I’m ill OR I’m well, and there is n.o.t.h.i.n.g  inbetween.

The ‘am I ill or poorly issue’ is a recurring theme in my therapy. I’m sure my mental inflexibility must really annoy her (among other things), because no matter how many times she tells me life isn’t a discrete category of one thing or the other, my mind will just NOT compute this bonkers notion.

When she tells me that there doesn’t have to be a choice made, and that you can be both ill and well at the same time – all you need to do is visualise smoke and steam emanating from the vicinity of my NHS patient chair and that’s a fairly accurate image of how much this blows my tiny mind.

What the actual FUCK?! (is what I silently think). grimace

I will often physically shake my head when she says this flexible-ness, in an attempt to shake my cognitive inflexibility away, just as a wet dog would do shaking muddy water off it’s fur; but try as I might I just CAN’T be cognitively flexible. (Even me saying categorically that I CAN’T be cognitively flexible, is evidence of my categorical inflexibility 😛)

My identity is as black-and-white categorical and discrete as is everything else about me and how I perceive the world.

When I wake each morning I need to work out if I am ill today or well today. There is a logical and understandable reason for this…I have unstable mood, so tracking where I am on that mood continuum is a natural mechanism for keeping my otherwise emotionally chaotic life reasonably ordered and monitored, whether that is illusory control, or real discernible control. It makes sense I guess that I would become hyper vigilant in assessing my mood state regularly, given that I’ve already had such a long battle with my mental health. But my whole personality and self identity changes with every variation in my functioning and mood, and that is the BPD bit of it.

I am ill me, till I am well me, but I can never ever be ‘indifferent me.’ I just can’t do indifference, or vague watered down approximations of X shades of greyness. I am either ill or poorly. Job done. Truth. Yes?……no? Choose one of the other. You MUST choose.

‘Both is just not an option’ commands my brain.

The difficult to handle cognitive dissonance aspect (internal stress at incompatible ideas), rears it’s head when people react to me as if I am ill at times when I perceive myself as well, OR when people respond me me as a “normal person”, assuming I’m well, when inside I feel shite.

If people suppose I’m ill when I feel well I feel……….pissed off.

If people treat me as a well person when I actually truthfully feel ill, I feel……….. like a freakish fraud who is pretending to be what I’m not and not benefiting from any assistance at dealing with this BPD mood monster that lives inside me.

Why don’t they see how unwell I feel? I ask myself. Nine times out of ten though it’s my own responsibility, because I don’t like to tell them how I really feel because that feels too exposing and difficult for me to do. I seem to spend most of my life either concealing my illness and silently resenting that people are treating me as a normal person when I feel not normal (in other words not treating me differently because of my illness, which is on the face of it, good) OR getting frustrated that people can’t seemingly view me as a capable happy shiny person when I’m well, but instead seem to perceive me as a loose cannon who needs patronising mental health warnings and concerns over keeping myself well and looking after myself (kindness on their part granted, but fucking irritating from my perspective).

Do you follow? I’m as confused as you are believe me.

I’m rarely satisfied. But that may just be down to me and how I manage my illness and communicate it to people…… People can’t win with me I suppose, because I’m a continually fluctuating beast. My psychiatrist said to me on our last sesh that mental health services didn’t know how to respond to me in a way that I find consistently helpful because when I feel good I impatiently want them to forget that I’ve ever been ill and want them to trust that I’m now well and will be forever well (which is unrealistic) OR I want them to be there for me nurturing and caring and supporting the very moment I feel unwell to avoid me feeling vulnerable and emotionally uncontained (which is unrealistic because I’ve just been trying to convince them I’m well now and don’t need wrapping in cotton wool, so the professionals have backed off by this point). When she said this, it stung, because Dr Cautious actually had a point there, and it’s deeply threatening whenever people point out the truth.

I feel most of my life I’m either pandered to for my illness when I actually feel well, OR not pandered to when I actually feel unwell. My response was that I wanted them to be more flexible, and listen to me when I say I am well or unwell and respond accordingly. But really, maybe the onus should be more on me to be more flexible and communicate more effectively. Who is right? Who is wrong? Can the professionals and me both be right and wrong in different aspects?

BOOOOOM smoke billows from my cognitively inflexible brain

Is the difficulty actually not about them, and  instead in how I communicate about myself about my relative illness or wellness? squints in full concentration

Who the hell am I? Am I ill or poorly? And how can other humans know how best to treat me and perceive me when my swings from illness to wellness are so unpredictable and so continual and so bloody intense?

My psychiatrist used to see me a few months apart and the differences in how I [psych speak] “present” to her, are so vastly different that imagining I am the same patient must be a stretch for her. It’s the same with my therapist who I see weekly. How the fuck can she prepare for an appointment with me in advance?! She has no bloody idea what she’s in for! I could be rock bottom, I could be bouncy and vibrant with a flight of ideas, or I could be quiet and reflective. Sometimes I’m friendly. Sometimes I’m reserved. Sometimes I barely speak and mainly listen. Sometimes she can never shut me up. Sometimes I feel I don’t need her. Sometimes I want to cling on for dear life. I can also be both well and ill in one therapy session, just as I can be be both very ill and perfectly well within one sodding day. Sometimes only minutes apart. I can be capable and confident and smiley then weeping and crumbling and drowning half an hour later, but I don’t communicate those extremes to people as quite frankly, I’m ashamed of it.

I allow people to visibly see a small fraction of my mood swings. I conceal the rest until I’m alone. It is perfectly possible for me to attend a meeting all smiles and then cry the whole drive home at the sheer effort of hiding for that hour or two of the day that I’m honestly feeling really bloody awful. If I authentically was myself in all situations in all moments, I predict I would not socially survive. I would have no friends and would barely achieve anything (so I imagine anyway, so the fear of that possibility leads me to protect myself via altering my behaviours).

Mood swing concealment is an art I have become a seasoned expert at.

Minimisation is my super power. Even if I say to someone “I’m not feeling great today”, what I actually mean invariably is far worse than that. What I tend to actually feel on days I admit I’m ‘not great’ is closer to this…….

“Today I badly want to self harm to soothe the internal agony I’m feeling. Today I am pretty much questioning my entire existence on this planet, believing myself to be an inept useless piece of crap who I should destroy for the benefit of humanity. Today all I can foresee is my future as a stretch of everlasting endless psychological pain. I’ve wanted to die more or less since I was born, and today just trying and succeeding in not hurting myself is about as good as it gets. If I can get through the day not giving into those self-destructive urges then that’s about the best I can hope for. Fingers crossed I keep myself safe.”  

But I don’t say that! Because the mentally ill truth isn’t socially palatable, is it?

 If I actually said in response to the “how are you” question, “well, I’m actually battling suicidal urges today- how are you!” or “I’m very keen to self-harm today and using any technique I can to distract myself but hopefully I’ll manage to keep myself self-harm free and add another link to my no self-harm paper-chain,” I doubt anyone would ever speak to me again!

So sometimes I have to hide my illness and play down my symptoms, only to end up feeling horrible when I’m alone again feeling all the ill and crap stuff juxtaposed with the mental confusion of having been treated as a well person just a short time earlier, because I presented to them as a well person! My fault though isn’t it. Or society’s I suppose.

Note to self- It’s easier to blame society. Good plan summerSHINES ;)

It’s tough. I’m low. This sucks. I’m trying not to be down though because I’m too busy right now to be depressed. The timing is inconvenient. sigh If I could wave a magic wand I’d want to be allowed to be ill when I’m ill, and well when I’m well, and people take me as I am in real time. It’s hard for them though, and for me. I need to figure out how to manage my differing shades of illness and wellness.

If anyone had some wisdom to share on the ill/well continuum do please throw it at me in the comments section as I’m a bit bamboozled and confused as to what I do. If you have a mental health condition which fluctuates in severity, how do you manage this issue? Do you have seperate ill and poorly identities as I do? Do you communicate fully to people the extent of your downs as well as your ups? How do you react when people treat you as ‘well’ when you’re ill, or ‘ill’ when you actually feel well? Am I the only one wo struggles with this?

Wisdom appreciated, please!!

summerSHINES © 

 

 

TRIGGER (UN)-HAPPY

If you have a PTSD diagnosis as I have- one thing you’ll be intimately familiar with is the whole concept of triggers. Triggers are what turn you in an instant from ‘ok’, to PTSD’ed up to the max.

PTSD is not a constant illness. I have phases of normality and phases of PTSD flare ups. I very much feel I have PTSD and am ill at times when I’m triggered, but the rest of the time my PTSD remains neatly tucked away and boxed up in pretty ribbons- ready to become active again when reminders of my traumatic history punctuate my consciousness and transport me straight from the here-and-now, reminding me of way back when.

I suppose a great metaphor for PTSD would be that the illness of PTSD is a volcano. PTSD sufferers essentially live with a metaphorical volcano within us, but it is only active and spewing out explosions of lava when we become faced with a trigger that takes us slam back to a time when life was traumatic. BOOM.

A second ago we were ok. Now we’re not. Under-statement.

We’re erupting with full natural force, and nothing much can stop us.

You can’t politely tell a volcano to stop erupting can you? telling it that it is bad timing and a little inconvenient, and would you mind awfully ceasing to erupt right now (!)

Nope.

A volcano does what it’s meant to do- periodically ERUPT. A volcano has ideas independent of what the humans caught up in the devastation really want. Volcanos have minds of their own.

It is not that often that I will be faced with one of my overt PTSD triggers during a therapy appointment itself, but yesterday’s sesh was a clear example of this….and it all centred on oranges. Yes you read that right…oranges (well a satsuma to be precise.)

To imagine a tiny satsuma has the power to make a volcano erupt is, on the surface, ridiculous, but I guess if the flap of a butterflies wings can cause a hurricane, then satsumas must be able to cause a volcano to erupt? Yeah?

Let me explain……

I go in in the therapy room as usual. We do the introductory patient -client small talk chat. I stare into space for a bit, interrupt her and say, “I smell oranges”

Therapist says “yes, I’ve just had one before I came in as my mouth was dry”

I say in a less friendly and more urgent tone “oranges are a PTSD trigger. You need to open the window…… NOW.

awkward silence while she processes that it’s going to be a challenging apt, and I process the frustration that this unexpected and shitty trigger has intruded on my therapy sesh, which is meant to be therapeutic and not traumatising and a welcome relief after a difficult week

I already want to cry there and then, and therapy hasn’t even started.

Jeez, just remembering how upset I was in that moment makes me just as upset now :(

Cue panic, swirling spirals of darkening mood, frustration, annoyance and much sadness, tinged with a fair bit of embarrassment on my part.

I twist my body away from the person (who helps me more than anyone) to block her out. I’m annoyed with her because she has reminded me of trauma.

My eyes turn downward and remain there.

My arms block my body in defence.

I reach for my cardigan for protection from this orange scented sensory onslaught.

She talks to me about how she didn’t know the smell of oranges was a trigger for me and I reassure her she wasn’t to know, and eating an orange is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but it’s my issues/my past/my history that make the smell of oranges unbearable and very upsetting to tolerate.

All the time I’m acutely aware of the ridiculousness of the situation, quietly beating myself up in my head with self-attacking statements and self-directed annoyance that oranges remain such a triggering issue for me.

‘Of all the things to find triggering, why on earth does it have to an everyday citrus fruit?!’ I silently ponder. This isn’t in the standard lists of PTSD triggers in the textbooks. What the hell is wrong with me?! sigh

I have literally banned oranges from my house. My husband and kids aren’t allowed them because they make me feel sick, uneasy, dizzy, totally disconnected from the world and mentally reliving traumatic childhood events that no child should ever go through.

Anyone eating an orange, or having orange juice on their fingers or detectable in their breath makes me turn off them, despise them, even hate them. Really though, what is happening is I am hating my abusers, and projecting those strong visceral feelings on the innocent everyday orange consumer.

I was annoyed with my therapist for eating a orange and ruining my therapy! That is irrational. I know that! She didn’t know beforehand that I took issue with the smell of oranges, because its never come up in conversation. She didn’t deliberately bring one of my triggers into therapy. It was unplanned and unknown and unexpected for both of us.

I felt like I hated her in that moment, but I don’t really. It was just a reflection of the intensity of my reactions to unexpected reminders of my traumatic background.

Triggers affect all the senses. A trigger can be a smell (as in this case), a sight, a sound, a taste or the feel of something against our skin.

WHOOSH. We are back there; being assaulted, being abused, being mistreated, hurting, afraid, vulnerable, powerless, helpless, drowning on horrible feelings.

I have not yet recovered from the orange situation. I had an awful evening post-therapy, and this morning has been equally crap. I am sitting typing with the aid of calming diazepam in my system, after yet another panic attack this morning.  The orange legacy may persist. Who knows for how long?!

Triggers are so overwhelming in their effects, and unfair.

I would love to be a person who was OK with citrus fruit!

But I’m not.

My PTSD volcano is ready to erupt at the smell of an orange, even an orange eaten five minutes earlier in a separate room by your therapist who you’ve known for years and you trust and like and who you know wants to help you and not harm you.

This is why I get annoyed at people who are impatient with my PTSD symptoms, and think I should be over the past by now. How can I be over this when my brain goes into fight or flight full adrenaline mode at the smell of a satsuma?! My brain hasn’t forgotten, and it’s bloody hard to stop a volcano erupting isn’t it, yet some people seem to think I am capable of this.

If I could NOT be bothered by the scent of a satsuma, I would! If I could be cool with my therapist snacking on citrus fruits before our session of course that’d be my preference.

But the power of oranges to make my PTSD volcano erupt is too great. The power of the senses and the memories they evoke is too instinctive and automatic.

I am fully aware my orange issues put me in the category of “unusual” but my life has been unusual, and I cannot stop the flood of stress hormones and physiological/neurological changes that occur when PTSD triggers arise.

She tried to reassure me, but the hour and a half that I was there and she was trying to engage with me were bloody hard, because all I was doing was fighting off memories and strong body, auditory and visual memories of ritual abuse. That took a lot of effort and the session was exhausting and emotionally draining.

I wanted to self-harm there and then and I told her that. When panic builds and emotions build and bodily tension builds I habitually crave that release- that physical pain to externalise the mental torture; the adrenaline rush, the distraction, the punishment for getting upset over something as small as an citrus fruit.

She said in a calm voice…. “ok, you’ve been triggered…you want to self-harm because you’re distressed and that is what you feel an impulse to do when you feel triggered and upset, but you know you can’t self-harm, so what else can you do?”

I furrowed my brow in full concentration while my mind swirled. I tried to purposefully direct my attention to different pathways other than the “I must hurt myself right now” option which was not possible and not desirable.

I can’t remember whether I thought of anything. I think instead I just cried in desperation. “Crying is a good safe release” she said reassuringly, so I cried more and more, punctuated by bits of listening to her soothing voice and me describing what was happening in my brain and body as a running commentary.

I had the bright idea that I distract myself to cope. She was pleased at this evidence of proactive successful problem solving on my part and positively reinforced that, verbally giving me the equivalent of a gold star for my progress in psychological coping strategy theraputic learning! I showed her pictures on my phone of my daughter on the night of her school prom. We talked about plans that were coming up and she attempted some “therapist-client jokes”. I told her that her banter wasn’t funny :P (because I can be very blunt at times) and then fortunately she said some things that were actually funny so I forgave her and slightly smiled a bit to diffuse the ‘orange-generated therapy-ruining’ tension between us.

I’m low. I’m miserable. I’m not as far forward as I hoped I was. I’m a victim of my unrealistically high expectations of what I “should” be able to do at this point in my mental health/PTSD survivor treatment journey.

When I met with a lady from the victim charity I explained I’d been having psychological treatment on and off for 4 years, and saying that out loud made me feel quite poorly, especially considering that many people trying to access NHS mental health treatment will wait upwards of a year for six measly sessions of CBT. Why am I not better yet? I asked myself. Will I ever get better?

This is what I’ve learned though…..

Recovery is something you fight for everyday. Sometimes I just need to rest and recoup my energy from that fight. It’s OK not to be OK, especially when you’re having mental health treatment. Psychological treatment is helping, but my illnesses are still there. The PTSD volcano is always there, no matter whether it is dormant or erupting. I can’t remove the possibility completely of volcanic eruptions, because the PTSD is a volcano that sits beneath my skin and will continue to sit there. My hope is just that in time the volcano will erupt less times, and less violently.

I don’t think I’ll ever like the smell of oranges though. :(

summerSHINES  ©

 

 

 

 

 

REAL LIFE?

Has anyone seen real life? I think I must have mislaid it down the back of the sofa or something, because I can’t for the life of me locate real life. Real life has become unreal chaos.

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I am busy.

Not at all centred.

Floaty. Overwhelmed. Confused.

I haven’t been normal since Wednesday, or maybe, if I’m accurate, I’ve never been normal since 1981 [when I was born], but I have felt especially abnormal since Wednesday.

I haven’t yet regained a sense of who I am since Wednesday-wait, what? Surely I should know who I am. I’m summerSHINES, yeah? the blogger person? the mum person? the wife person? the volunteer person? Yeah I suppose I am those things, but I don’t feel like me.

I have BPD. BPD me has something called ‘identity diffusion’. It’s a symptom of trauma-shit that happened long ago when my personality was (literally) in it’s infancy and still forming. My personality developed weirdly, in that I don’t have a consistent core sense of self. Who I think I am is fluid and mercurial and changeable. I can’t be quantified or measured, and good luck tracking my moods and behaviours on an ongoing basis. They are not constant. Your measuring stick needs to be very long and very flexible….basically very much not like a stick, because a one size measures all stick is just not sufficient.

A lot of my summer starts to shine writing is about my personality and learning to cope with my trauma history. But I hope those repetitive themes don’t make for repetitive writing. My writing is as unpredictable as my feelings. Sometimes I write and write. Other times I can’t write one meaningful sentence. Sometimes life is all great. Sometimes life is all wrong.

I wrote a crisis post a couple of days ago, because a mini-ish crisis was escalating. At that point I didn’t know whether the crisis would stay mini-ish, or if it’d get big and dangerous-ish…..It stayed mini-ish I’m relieved to say, because I took action to reduce my level of threat. My crisis was building due to a very clear trigger, so I removed the trigger, and now my mini-ish crisis is fading to me being ok again (though I haven’t arrived at ‘Destination OK’ just yet).

The trigger was being asked to say a few words about trauma and my experiences at a charity launch. I said yes immediately because I was flattered to be asked. I have literally thought of very little else though since I agreed to doing this and my anxiety levels went suddenly skyward on Sunday.

Cue panic attack and afternoon/evening of uncontrollable crying.

This on the surface ‘over-reaction’, (though not really an over-reaction when you see it in context), was at the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd. I fully intended to keep the talk as un-emotive as possible so I could get through it without crying on the night, but even that precaution wasn’t enough to remove the emotional sting out of the perceived difficulty of me doing the said speech.

I did something hard. I alerted the lady that I didn’t feel I was up to delivering the talk.

I cannot tell you how bad that made me feel. How much I felt guilt and a sense of failure and disappointment. How embarrassed I felt at feeling I was letting the charity down. crumpled face

BUT, I know I have made the right decision for myself as a survivor.

I KNOW me doing that speech is too much for me, at this stage in my recovery (which is not especially “recovered”).

I KNOW the chances of having some kind of panic attack or public emotional episode are far too high for comfort.

I KNOW it would have taken a huge amount from me emotionally.

I KNOW I did the right thing.

I also know though that doing the right thing can feel immensely difficult, but that doesn’t mean that doing the right thing shouldn’t be done, just because it’s hard.

I had to swallow my pride, face letting the charity down, and face that they may feel disappointed with me.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that although I am extremely confident in sharing about my trauma history when sat behind a keyboard, that making eye contact with a room full of professionals and saying it out loud to a sea of faces is very different and just not realistic for me right now at this point in my recovery journey.

It has made me realise that many of my prior goals (that involved speaking to a crowd) are just unrealistic. It is a personal psychological cost that is too much to expend. The future is unknown, but for now, it was just too much.

I used to fancy myself as one day doing a TED talk, speaking to groups of school kids about mental health and grooming and abuse, running training courses for large groups of professionals.  Now I have looked down the barrel of a gun and actually imagined the white knuckle nerves of steel emotionally draining REALITY of doing this, I realise the epic fear involved. I realise how nerve wracking that’d be. I realise how triggering it is. I realise it is something that right now is beyond me, so I will quit pressuring myself to achieve over-ambitious goals such as this.

I will stick to what I am good at. I will write. I will attend meetings. I will network. I will speak to only small groups (less than 10). Anymore exposure than that is bad for my PTSD, and anything that causes my PTSD symptoms to flare up is just NOT worth doing, however much I am attracted to the abstract idea of doing it.

I have learned valuable lessons from this. I know my limitations. I also know that I should not be in so much of a hurry to say yes immediately to daunting offers which I know will challenge me.

Saying yes to something, then backing out, is far worse than not saying yes to begin with and expressing any uncertainty that might be there. “Take a step back summerSHINES, and have a fucking word with yourself” (is my blunt advice to myself).

I am off for a meeting with the charity in a little while to discuss this face-to-face. They are a victim charity. They have been understanding. PHEW. I have sent my speech and someone will read it out for me. I will still be contributing, but on my own terms.

Survivors like mehave to learn it is OK to say no to things and not feel shame attached to that. This is something I need to work on.

Hopefully now I’ve made this decision and suggested I meet with the charity to chat it over, no great harm will be done, and I can still assist them, just in a way that is psychologically safe for me as a survivor.

I hope my sense of unreality will not persist. I hope for the chaos to die down and the calm to remerge slowly but surely.

I hope that I will find a sense of myself again. I hope my feet will soon touch the ground. I hope I will have the mental capacity freed up now for me to work on my other volunteering projects which need my urgent attention.

I need to write my piece about westminster for the NHS mental health trust bulletin. I need to write my piece about another UK charity I was networking with at Westminster “Young Minds”. I need to apply for a Time to Change training day. I need to plan for my NHS meeting on Friday. I need to spend some time on my fundraising event planning. And I need to go to the launch, sans public speaking, and network my shiny arse off. That all takes energy.

I think I need a sandwich……or cake.

LOTS OF CAKE!

summerSHINES ©

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