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.
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!