I BELIEVED HIM

I write this fresh after my psychiatric reassessment experience. Only minutes away I was sat with him [and her who was sitting in to interject, if I went (for want of a better term), “bonkers”].

That was the conclusion of the two-parter- the psychiatric evaluation with some fresh meat….Fresh mental health doctor meat, with fresh eyes and less preconceptions and prejudgments.

How can I sum it up? Hmmm…..let me try.

It was tough, though much more relaxed than the first one. I didn’t have to tell him to stop talking this time! My tolerance (for him and the evaluation process) was higher, because I am now medicated appropriately on 100mg Pregabalin twice daily.

He was a nice doctor, with a heart- but my god did he talk! He talked and talked and talked, and I interrupted (in frustration a few times), and occasionally he’d ask me questions, but for the most part he talked, and he philosophised and he hypothesised, and he got caught up in his own elaborate descriptions and metaphors of what he believed were my issues, and what was happening emotionally for me which was affecting my mental state.

It will take a while for all of that content to percolate through my awareness, and for me to reflect on it further, but this post is my initial impression on the conversational exchange between us.

He made me cry today, but not in a “this man is a evil psychiatrist” way, more tears of resignation and overwhelm that no matter how many people I meet and how many times I think I am starting afresh, people form the same kind of opinions about me and my personality and mental health and where they believe I am going wrong.

He did a long monologue at one point (one of many!), and it made me weep. No matter how much I tried to blockade the newly forming tears by plugging the gaps with my tissue, they continued to drip drip drip out of my glassy eyes.

It wasn’t a monologue that I shall remember because it was unkind. Quite the opposite. It was a monologue that I shall remember because I know his words were absolutely dead right, truer than true, and compassionate and very kindly meant, though aching in the sadness of their truth.

Even though I have heard variations on the content of that monologue from several friends, mental health workers and colleagues, I think it finally worked and had a bit of an impact today- because I knew he sincerely meant what he said. I am used to the same mental health professionals and once I can predict them, I almost stop listening.

I need newness and novelty and fresh people and new and interesting conversations. Because with new people I think I sometimes believe them more, and their words therefore have a greater personal impact.

As a survivor of extreme childhood trauma/ abuse/ mind control/ brainwashing/ torture/ manipulation/coercion and cruelty, it remains difficult for me to take what people say on face value as being an accurate reflection of what they really think and feel. I am always skeptical and trust isn’t given on demand. People have to work a little to gain it first. The doctor worked so he gained my trust. He challenged me and I challenged him, so mutual respect and rapport developed.

Respect and rapport isn’t always 100%. I find the world threatening, and people even more so. I have complex-PTSD. Therefore I am hypersensitised to social danger. I am always assessing people’s faces very very closely. I am noticing the tiniest change in their body language, eye gaze, intensity of attention, facial expression, and so on, and this a skill I learned to do as a child who was physically, sexually, and emotionally hurt on a daily basis. I had to find ways to predict when the bad things would happen so I studied people closely. I think my motivation to study human psychology at school then university is definitely no coincidence.

I trusted he meant what he said because of the emphatic manner in which he delivered those messages. Wishy washy definitely doesn’t wash well with me. He had impact, and was quite mesmerising actually.

He said stuff I’ve heard but rarely believed, and he’d helped me believe it. All because I believed in him.

I won’t write what he said just now, as I want to keep it just for me a bit longer.

I think I will change. I just need to plan how the hell to do it!

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I am motivated to change, because I believed him, and in him- and in the truth he was trying to convince me of.

summerSHINES©

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MY [EMPTY] SELF

I’m bored of myself. Bored of my [empty] self. Bored of what I write.

I am really sorry my blog posts lately have been so uninspiring in tone. I feel actively and most passionately mundane, supressed, deflated, dull, pedestrian and un-shining.

The last time I was inspired was yesterday, which seems both not long ago while simultaneously VERY fucking long ago.

On Tuesday I wrote my piece for the local paper about mental health. I felt inspired then. I also felt proud yesterday when the charity CEO asked for my permission to share what I’d written with the team and when my social media idea was launched on world mental health day. But today, all that pride and gratefulness and positive feeling has drained away, and this is sadly the way it seems to go.

I cannot grasp hold of those amazing euphoric warm fuzzy feelings that I get and keep them.

They slip like sand through the hourglass with the passage of time…and not very much time elapses, usually.

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Emptiness is my ‘usual’.

I am feeling acutely aware of my unmet emotional needs just lately. I know why this is. It’s since the whole Facebook saga where I caught a glimpse of photos of a family wedding that I remained uninvited to and left out of.

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I saw evidence of their life going on, and I wondered why mine was not. That has made the inner emotional emptiness absolutely un-ignorable (I’m hoping that’s an actual word?!).

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Long-term therapy is what I need to get anything close to “well”, but as I can’t afford to pay for a therapist privately, I am reliant on my NHS psychologist not dropping me off her caseload too soon.

I said to her that therapy is okay and great and all that, but it is nothing like as nice as the warm fuzzy feeing that comes from having an attentive family; people who are there to stay and to love and support you as long as you need them. My therapist cannot maintain what she does for the rest of my life. She is here for a period of time that she will never ever tell me the proposed length of. I cannot know that I have a few more months, or a few more years or any kind of estimate. She simply refuses to do this.

She claims that I will not always need her, and I will naturally want to break away from her when the time comes. I tell her that is BOLLOCKS and will surely NEVER happen! I just can’t see it. I can’t envisage EVER feeling that her addition in my life is unnecessary or counterproductive or counter-therapeutic.

I am uncomfortably attached to a pretend mother figure who isn’t really my mum and never will be! and I know she isn’t really my mum, and she knows she isn’t really my mum, and we just basically play a weird dance of pretending that she is re-parenting me and teaching me psychological life lesson stuffs, and I go to the office weekly and have a good old cathartic cry, and then miss her inbetween so email her as I want to tell her psychologically relevant stuff that she MUST know that second, and then she finds me bloody intrusive and annoying (I would imagine) as I am eating into her time, and I know I’m eating into her time so feel awful and stupid and pathetic and demanding and fucking guilty, and then she knows and I know that the whole fucking shambolic mess of pretences and client-therapist exchanges would never be happening if I’d have had a less shit childhood, and at the end of the day it is all BOLLOCKS, but bollocks that if I didn’t have would cause me to become very fucking unwell, which is hard to imagine really isn’t it? as even with therapy and shit I am still fucking miserable and recurrently suicidal and fighting off impulses to do totes dangerous things like jump out of windows and carve into my skin with blades and swallow more tablets than I should be swallowing….and I really should be stopping this grammatically poor and overly LONG sentence NOW.

And breathe.

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I’m sick of having a empty space in my empty self.

I want to feel full.

Food doesn’t do it.

Booze doesn’t either.

Or sex.

Or Netflix on demand.

Or beach walks.

Or candle lit evenings with hubby.

Or meditation.

Or shopping.

Or writing.

Or drawing.

Or cleaning.

Or bleeding.

Or talking therapy.

Or coffee with good friends.

Or reading.

Or learning.

Or music.

Or nature.

Or hugs.

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Or praise.

Or reassurance.

Or expressions of love.

The only thing I’m full up with, is my own inner emptiness.

I am crammed full with emptiness, and weighed down by the weight of my (empty) self.

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summerSHINES©

 

BRAND NEW DAY POEM

You’ll find me in my wishing well, once upon a dream

Voicing anthems of survivors till my tears dry clean

Never will I stop defending those like me

No matter how tough it is to urge the blind to wake up and see

Maybe they’ll NEVER see?- maybe their blindness is a permanent forever 

But I won’t hush my words for comfort because they don’t appreciate my wise or my sensitive or clever

I won’t put up with shit- I’ve had far too much of it

So on my podium I’ll sit, and then stay and sit and sit

I’m not going anywhere-won’t be put off this (my mission)

I’ll speak my truth till my voice shakes, I don’t need your approval or permission

I’m feeling OK now- human sludge rinsed away

Letting it go now because today’s a brand new and beautiful day :)

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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Post-Traumatic SPARKLE

Everyone has heard of PTSD. But not everyone had heard of PTSS (most probably because I literally just made it up!).

On my email signature I describe myself as a ‘mental health blogger of post-traumatic sparkle’ @summerstartstoshine etc, and ”PTSS’ is the new phenomenon that I totally just made up, which is essentially a fancier and sparklier way of describing post-traumatic growth.

PTSS is post-traumatic-sparkle syndrome :)

I think I have this. I invented it 😉

I’m a person who believes in post-traumatic GROWTH, as well as post-traumatic stress.

Since the box of horrors opened in my subconscious mind, making my traumatic memories conscious and very much out there, I have suffered one hell of a lot of post-traumatic STRESS. I have experienced many other mental health-ish things beginning with the letter ‘S’ besides stress.

Suicide (ideation, preoccupation, attempts.)

Self-harm (to relieve tension enough to deal with the above.)

Silence and shunning (when I accused my perpetrators of their crimes and they responded with rejection.)

All of those things are awful things for anyone to deal with and cope with, but a relatively new thing to come out of my trauma is something which is really quite fabulous is……S.P.A.R.K.L.E.

People who are early on in their post-traumatic healing will most probably get annoyed at me for saying there is anything at all sparkly or growth oriented about living with the psychological and physical effects of a traumatic history, but please reserve judgement till you’ve the post.

I hear you. I know what trauma does to you. I know all of the awfulness of it first hand. I am not a trauma victim who hasn’t suffered, believe me. I would NEVER minimise trauma. And a couple of years ago I would have scoffed at the concept of post-traumatic sparkling, because I was so poorly back then, literally fighting for my life.

I nearly died and that wasn’t at all sparkly.

I have HATED my trauma history and everything about it almost as much as I hate the abhorrent people who did this to me.

I have lived trauma. I am shaped by it. I have hated and despised my past and have wanted to die because of it. In truth, some days, I still wish I could.

Wishing I could die is my NORMAL. But I made my no suicide attempt pact with my hubby, and I promise to stick to that always.

So my basic choice is, what the hell do I do with a life where I don’t really want to be here at all; chronically, strongly, and all the time? How do I tolerate living with a near constant death wish?

Well…..my answer is, I create meaning from it and purpose. I make lemonade from these sour face-pulling life lemons. I taste the lemon, but instead of spitting it out, I think these are the most perfectly awesomely designed ingredients to make the most zingiest most refreshing and most delicately and beautifully tasting lemonade EVER.

I want to create something GREAT out of something miserable.

I want to turn the evilest black to the purest and most innocent white.

In order for me to do that, I am having to learn to sparkle in whatever way I can. I am having to create something, when once there was nothing. There is no handbook for this. I’m carving out my own niche.

I have learned it is OK to shine, and the only people who have a vested interest in preventing me doing that are those who perpetrated those dreadful acts in the first place.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how survivors (including myself) often look towards others for permission to shine, because we are so used to having our inner light dimmed by very unshiny people. But the people who try and do that are, I believe, only doing it because they are stuck in their own darkness, so the only way they can feel any better about that is by dragging everyone else down to the murky depths with them.

Why do we need to be granted permission from others to shine? We are adults and can make our own decisions, right?

I’m having to make some important decisions myself lately about my future and how I choose to move forward. At every decision point I will aim to choose the sparkly way-(the PTSS way).

It really matters to me that I use my trauma and I own it.

I have assimilated trauma into my identity, but not in a victim way. I prefer to try and focus my attention on the positive aspects of my trauma history (on my better days when that is possible.)  I prefer to marvel at my own strength, rather than dwell on the extent I’m broken. I aim to live with a strong sense of survivor pride instilled into my character. I tell my story, because I am proud at what I was able to survive, and because I believe everyone should find their voice, if they want to find it and know it is there.

My intention is not to tell people my story so they say POOR YOU. I want them instead to say BRAVE YOU! I want people to know just how much a human is capable of tolerating without breaking. I want people to not take for granted the gift of safety. I want parents to know how precious their children are and what a privilege it is to care for and raise a child. I want people who are survivors to not feel limited by their history. I want it to be OK to share your truth without fear that people will back off if they know what happened and what exactly you endured.

I am gutted I was a victim, but I am proud of how much of a resilient survivor I am. I am proud of all of you too!

Please believe me when I say it IS possible to sparkle after trauma. It IS possible to use your pain and transform it into personal contributions you can make that benefit both individuals and wider society.

My trauma is what made me. Like hell am I gonna let it break me.

Without my traumatic history and motivation to help other survivors I wouldn’t be making the contributions to benefit others that I’m making now. Without my trauma I wouldn’t have the same drive and persistence and inner motivation. Without my own trauma experience, I wouldn’t know how on earth to support others going through similar difficulties. I’d have no mission- no purpose that means quite as much as this does.

Of course I wish what happened hadn’t happened. Of course! But it has happened. And I will make good from it.

I suggest to all survivors that we try and retain hope and faith that we can come back from what happened to us, stronger and fighting. If not now, eventually.

I give that message to myself too, hoping I remember this on my low days when everything gets on top of me and I find it almost impossible to believe the words I’m typing now.

I’m healing, but I’m not healed yet.

I’m broken, but my repair WILL happen.

I’m ok today. Tomorrow is a mystery. My personal hell is behind me.

I’ll be alright. That stuff is over now.

It is time for summer to shine.

Here are some happy summery images I found on tumblr… 😊

SummerSHINES ©