TW* Post written about mental health crisis, with brief references to childhood sexual abuse, suicidality and self-harm. Read with caution if you have personal experience as this may be triggering.
The pull excites me-the pull draws me close to the ledge-the pull is what I fear AND crave-the pull is what I am used to-so unlearning what you’ve learned and not feeling drawn by the pull is nearly impossible, isn’t it?
The pull I’m talking about is the pull of mental health crisis. I feel pulled into crisis almost relentlessly. I’ve had a long-ish stable period of relative balance and relative robustness lately. I’ve felt abnormally good actually; eerily and wonderfully good. Not high, not low. Just good. But anything ‘good’ gets thrown in the mental bucket in the corner of the room labelled “abnormal”. The corner is also where the elephant in the room sits.
Goodness and Crisis are the two ingredients in the bonkers bucket.
I can’t separate them out. Or is it maybe [more accurately] that one invariably follows the other?
Crisis IS the mental health elephant in the room.
It is OK (so society generally believes), to be a little bit mental, but not a lot mental (excuse my flippancy- just reciting what society says. If you’re offended, blame society, not me).
To be a bit ‘mental’ is OK, but being A LOT mental (as in things getting to mental health crisis level mental) is not OK. That is what I have learned anyway.
The only times it’s OK to openly discuss mental health crisis is with crisis team employees, A&E staff, psychologists, psychiatric nurses or psychiatrists. Even mentioning the word crisis under your breath in passing with a everyday counsellor (of person-centred origin) is something best done at your peril. Person-centred counsellors seem (it seems to me) to only remain person-centred, as long as you are not feeling like harming yourself, at which point they tend to look suddenly scared and refer you on to the mental health heavyweights thereby obliterating their person centred-ness. I speak from my own experience there.
It is really tough to explain mental health crisis to someone who has never experienced it for themselves. Many counsellors and people who work in the mental health trade even, have not personally experienced crisis. And as I’ve said, they usually just deal with the ones that are only slightly mental and not fully mental like me, so crisis is an unknown to them too.
What is even harder to do (than explain mental health crisis to a mental health prof when you’re actually going through it) is explain mental health crisis, in general, on a blog post en masse to the entire internet world. And the hardest thing OF ALL is to try and explain exactly what is so damn addictive about it.
Yes you read that right. ‘Addictive’. I didn’t say ‘enjoyable’ but I said ‘addictive’. I would suspect that fellow diagnosed people will relate to me describing crisis as addictive and the rest of the world will go….wait, WHAT?
The thing with addiction, or anything with remotely addictive properties, is the addiction doesn’t always involve experiencing great feelings. Addictions are not happy clappy experiences of great joy. Addictions are a fucking drag most of the time- an unwanted and overwhelming intrusion to your life which you patently wish was not there, but it just is and it always is, so you have no choice but to accept it’s unwelcome shadow and get yourself comfy in it.
As a person with emotionally unstable PD/a diagnosis of Borderline, I’m addicted to crisis, and when I don’t have crisis I miss crisis, in the most perverse and unintelligible way possible. How on earth, I ask myself, could I possibly miss crisis? at times when I’m emotionally stable??
It doesn’t really make sense-until you realise that it actually does.
My typical state to live life by is CRISIS, and stability is alien. Stability represents a deviation from normal, and is very very unsettling. Stability can’t last long before the pull of crisis entices me away. Crisis is comforting and familiar. It’s MY SWAMP/ my home/my resting place of chaotic unrest.
Emotional stability is absolutely and incredibly unsettling and abnormal to me. It makes me feel WEIRD and strange. After a while of stability I get tired and dizzy. Stability exhausts me-or rather the pursuit of stability does. Sustained stability involves hundreds of corrections, large and small every fucking day. Day in. Day out. Night. Day- each and every day.
Crisis is when I freewheel and stop trying to ride my bike of life at the SLOOOWWW and controlled speed limit that the rest of the world live by.
It’s not fast enough for me! It doesn’t make me FEEL enough. Stability involves me not DOING enough, for far too fucking long.
Restraint is the byword for me to remain stable, and I cross off things off my ‘to do’ list with confidence knowing I am conforming to this thing called “totes living like a NORMAL person”.
To be normal down, normal fed-up, normal uplifted, normal numb, is NOT what this lady called me is used to.
I’m a junkie of excitement. Mental health crisis can be addictively exciting, if the chaos is [relatively] controlled chaos.
There are many different layers of crisis. I reside just above the mildest crisis level almost all of the time. bows.
I’ve experienced the very top and upper echelons of the crisis pyramid too. I’m referring here to the attempts to take my own life, the crisis team evaluation appointments, the psych ward admissions, and the times I’ve hurt myself (in a self-harming way) to cope. Those levels of crisis were categorically not addictive in a “fun” way, but there was something about those times that has carved out new and intense pathways in my brain. These pathways have become well furrowed and automatic and have kidded me into believing that suicidality is an inevitable part of living for me these days.
I’ve lived with the wish to hurt myself and/or die for a long time, so my mind isn’t treating this is a novel and inaccurate/unhelpful mind-set to live by. Instead there is a familiarity with mental health crisis which I am weirdly emotionally attached to, even crave.
Crisis creates surges of feeling SO INTENSE that they’re virtually indescribable, even to the most gifted of writers. People who write about crisis well have my full admiration, because to write about something that feels so fucking FULL ON as mental health crisis and emergency is so challenging.
I can’t do the panicked feeling of crisis justice when I write about it (as much as I’d like to be able to), but I do love and respect writers who can truly do that. It’s like writing about another equally intense phenomena- childhood sexual abuse. How can you possibly do literary justice to something as all enveloping and overwhelming as the intimate deviation of hands, lips and body parts on bare flesh?
Crisis writing is very much like a writer attempting to write about abuse. Reading about it should hurt the reader, if done well. If it doesn’t hurt and cause emotional pain to the reader, you probably haven’t adequately described how unspeakably AWFUL that experience was, and you have failed to generate sufficient empathy.
This post isn’t really about how awful mental health crisis feels. Instead this is about the natural addiction we can develop towards it, and the powerful pull of it to upturn lives, with potentially lethal consequences. This post is my attempt to explain the comfort of hanging out in the crisis swamp.
Crisis is my go-to reaction when life stressors build up to a particular level, and averting crisis when you have the emotional sensitivity that I possess demands continual EFFORT and concentration.
Crisis is what happens when I can’t be arsed to concentrate anymore. Crisis is what happens when I’ve been too strong for too fucking long and I know I have little reserves or energy/inner capacity left to fight whatever mental health/life dragons are there in front of me to fight.
Yesterday I experienced suicidal ideation and an intense craving to self-harm. The self-harm cravings have been lingering for a few days now and yesterday they were excruciating in their intensity. I began writing this post yesterday but couldn’t complete it as I felt so fucking TERRIBLE that I couldn’t even type. I could barely stay awake. I sat under a blanket virtually motionless ALL DAY trying to work desperately hard to distract myself from succumbing to my crappy self-harm addiction. Please people reading this-if you have never tried to self-harm, keep it that way. Just doing the action once or twice is enough to create a harmful addiction :( I would NOT recommend. NO WAY.
My crisis periods don’t always involve me building up to a level where I actually self-harm. I very rarely carry out the action, but the addiction and the craving to do it is very hard to resist. Even an alcoholic dry for 8 years may probably still feel they want to drink, but they are a recovered alcoholic and will always be an alcoholic.
I will maybe always have an addiction to self-harm, suicidal scheming and emotional crises? I hope I won’t, but I can’t at this point in time imagine never having those addictions.
Yesterday I felt a crisis was building, and I told many of my close friends of that, because sharing and unburdening my panic and fear helps alleviate my sense of being out of control. If ever I think I actually will carry out my plans I warn people, and if I feel in crisis but know I can handle it without it escalating I tell people that too. I think it’s only fair to be honest about your intentions when you communicate how you are feeling to people who care about you.
I have always told my mental health clinicians and sometimes my husband when I have been about to act. I have also told them when I feel AWFUL but they don’t need to worry about me hurting myself. That is because I don’t want to burden people with either surprises (when I act without warning), or worry that isn’t unwarranted (because I know I can keep myself safe despite my building state of crisis), so I tell the truth. Fair is fair.
Mental health crisis has a bad name when people who are in crisis don’t communicate honestly what their genuine level of risk is-maybe that’s because they don’t know I guess, but I suspect more often than not people are fearful of telling the truth because of consequences.
A criticism often levelled at those in crisis is that we are “attention seeking” and crying for help” as though crying for help when you’re in an emotionally dire situation is a bad thing?!
When I am in crisis, I prefer to tell people, simply because it reduces my own anxiety and makes me feel the building crisis is more controllable. If I have told someone I am wanting to hurt myself and they know that, it helps if people check in on me regularly. I am less likely to act on my thoughts if I verbalise them out loud, or write them down and send them to someone. I release some of the craving in that sentence.
I’ll tell the world, if that means I am less likely to act in a self-destructive way that threatens my very place in the world.
It is sensible to tell people and share when I’m feeling in crisis. It is more dangerous to not reach out and share and unburden my overwhelming feelings. People are caring back to me, but I don’t need to reach crisis point for that to happen. People are as caring to me when I’m in good moods, therefore I am not attention seeking as such as I get loving caring attention from my husband and friends anyway, even on my good days. I certainly don’t need to make up being in crisis to know I am cared about.
I’d rather not be in crisis. But stability remember is alien to me, and unsettling, and crisis is familiar, so it keeps happening and is therefore normal to me. The stability-crisis-stability cycle recycles over and over. The addiction of crisis and the intensity of those surges of feeling make me feel alive. Stability is, essentially, BONKERS to me!
Tell me how you feel about crisis? Is there anything appealing about it? (if you’ve personally experienced it). How do you feel when you are the person supporting someone during a mental health crisis? Why is crisis so hard to talk about? Can you relate to crisis periods being addictive? Share all :)