You know the thing I hate most about my mental health? The irrationality. When you’re sitting and crying and someone is asking you to help them understand but you just can’t, because you don’t understand it yourself.
It’s my birthday today. It’s the one day of the year that I can pretty much guarantee year on year that I will be depressed. I’ve tried to understand this birthday related depression over the years, I really really have, but I just don’t.
I will sit and cry. I will sob. I will be filled with urges to self harm and/or thoughts of suicidal idealisation. I’ll go off my food. I will happily stay in bed all day. I will get irrationally angry when people wish me happy birthday. Yet I don’t have a good reason why.
I know when I was younger, not sure how much younger but long before my first suicide attempt, possibly before my self harm started, I would try to comfort myself when the depression was bad. My choice of comfort was the knowledge that it would all end in death. I could take control of that in my life, decide when I die and free myself from it all. I could make things better. I know the old argument of ‘death isn’t better, it is nothing’, but to me nothing was a whole lot more attractive than the hell I was living and that I believed I had been living for oh so long. At some point, probably a birthday when I had seen another year pass by, I told myself that I wouldn’t live to my 16th birthday. I would kill myself before then I promised myself. When it got bad I would comfort myself with that promise, that it would all be over soon and the end was in sight.
My 16th came and went and I lived on. I think it was then that I stepped up plans. Four or five months after my 16th, on a day when I didn’t feel depressed, actually felt quite happy, I had my first suicide attempt. People don’t seem to believe that I wasn’t depressed that day but I honestly wasn’t. When you’ve been depressed for so long and you know that even good days are short lived, you can make that kind of decision on a good day and that is what I chose to do. I wanted to leave this world happy rather than depressed. Suffice to say I stayed in this world, although I am told it was very close, my closest to success to date. I was devastated and started planning my next attempt. Things did not get better for me for a long long while. Years of self-harm and two more suicide attempts that required a trip to A&E followed, along with so many antidepressants that I forget now which ones I have tried.
I’m 14 years on from that suicide attempt now, 19 years on from when I first knew that I was depressed. Life has changed a lot in those years. I haven’t self harmed in 7 months, at least not in terms of cutting, I’m currently unmedicated, I have completed a BSc, MSc and written my PhD thesis, I am a wife in a relationship that is 11 years old, I am a homeowner and I am 23 weeks pregnant with my first child. I really am in a good place in life right now. I have learnt so much more about my mental health and how to cope with it. My anger is in check most of the time and I look after myself as well as others.
So why is it, on my birthday, even though things are going well I am suddenly swamped with thoughts that I would be better off dead, lovely images in my head of all the ways I can achieve that death and urges to self harm that are so strong I have to physically stop what I am doing, grit my teeth and move myself away from whatever I am near? Crying all day, too scared to see people and petrified of my husband going to the shops because I do not feel safe being left alone?
When life is going well why does my birthday still trigger these feelings? The only thing I can think is that it is at least partly due to the aspect of a birthday in that ‘another year has gone by’. When I remember that another year has gone I remember that so many have gone already, I have survived through so many, and although not all of those years were dominated by mental illness they have all been tainted by it. Every year I struggle. Every year there are instances where I watch as my mental health wears me down, scares me and makes me think that this is the year I will lose to it. Every year there are times where I watch as my mental health causes me to lash out and hurt those around me. Every year there is another event that I will forever remember because I am so ashamed of my own actions.
Yes every year I get through all of those things. Every year is a year where I have survived my mental health, where I have tried to rebuild the bridges that my mental health caused me to damage, where I have achieved things I am so proud of. And maybe if that was it I would be ok. Maybe I could look at all the bad that has gone, weigh it against the good, hold my head up high saying ‘I’m a survivor’ and celebrate my success at being where I am. But it’s not.
I think I get the depressed feelings and urge to self harm and thoughts of suicide on my birthday now for the same reason I did when I made that stupid promise to myself. I feel like I have been living hell for oh so long. I didn’t know how long it could last then, I had only been ill for a few years and already it seemed like it was too much to cope with. Now, well now I have lived with my mental illness for so much longer. Nearly two decades. I really do think if that was it I could be ok with today though. But that isn’t all there is.
Back then, when I made that promise to myself, there was an out. There was a way to end it all. I haven’t had a suicide attempt in nearly 8 years and I’m not sure I will ever again have a pre-meditated one (I can’t speak for what happens in a impulsive moment – that will forever remain a danger for me). I really seem to have moved to the point where I no longer see planning to end my life as an option. ‘Hurrah!’ I hear you say, that is great progress right? But on days like today it is deeply depressing. I know that an imminent death is not an option, but I also know that medication is not an option (been told so by my psychiatrist), I also know (through having done enough of it) that CBT and other talk therapy is also not something that will make me better. This is it, this is me. I will continue year on year to fight my mental health, I will hurt those around me, I will be ashamed by my own actions, this is the rest of my life. There will be good things too, amazing things, but I will not stop having urges to self harm, I will not shake the self hate and disgust I so often feel, I will not stop having intrusive thoughts of suicide. And that thought, it is exhausting, it is depressing, it is soul crushing.
Fighting for so many years already and knowing I won’t stop for the rest of my life is just too much to think about and yet birthdays remind me of this.
The real kicker is that yesterday I was ok. Tomorrow I will be ok. It is just today. It is only day that I stop and see the long road behind and the even longer (hopefully) road ahead and just cannot walk any further. As quickly as it came these feelings came this morning they will be gone tomorrow. It’s so irrational. How do you explain that what has you sobbing and scared today won’t affect you tomorrow? My husband wanted so much to do fun things on my birthday to make me feel better but all of it is wasted on this day. Celebrations on other days can be appreciated but nothing seems to be able to penetrate my mind today. If I wasn’t pregnant I would have spent today in bed, taking my diazepam and not eating, ignoring the world until tomorrow. It really is like a 24 hour mind bug and that is surprisingly hard to explain to people.
I had an appointment with my CPN yesterday and we finally got around to filling in some forms, which included what my religion is what I do to cope. She asked me if anything in my religion helps me to cope, like some people pray, or go to church, some meditate etc. I also read a post by a fellow blogger SoTiredOfMe which made me think about paganism and practicality.
My answer to my CPN was that my flavour of paganism was more a way of life or world view than what a lot of people would consider a religion. I speak a little about my flavour of paganism here. I explained that my worship is in stopping to watch the sunset, or dipping my head in respect to a full moon, an animal or even a hill that calls that response from within me. I am comforted by the cyclical nature of the land. There is life and death and life from that death. Decay and growth. Nothing is truly stagnant in life, ever changing. When my mental health allows, I take comfort in that fact. As the land changes constantly so too can I, what I go through with my mental health is cyclical. Life is never all light and happiness. You need storms and dark clouds and death. There is fear, bleeding and pain in Nature. Just as there is joy, laughter and happiness. Life for all aspects of nature can be cruel, Tooth and Claw, but it can also be wondrous and magnificent, a warm embrace. So that is I guess the answer to my CPN of what paganism does to help me cope. Sometimes the black clouds in my head are too thick and too dark and there is no comfort to be found in anything, but as I said, life isn’t always comfort.
Another thing I draw from my flavour paganism is practicality. The blogger I mentioned earlier said how they consider themselves to be a practical pagan. As I’ve said before there are many flavours of paganism. Different paths suiting different people. But that phrase of practical pagan stuck with me. I suppose you could call me a hedgewitch of sorts. My flavour of paganism is all about being practical. It is hands on with Nature, outside get the hands dirty, it’s trying to find ways to incorporate a respect and stewardship for Nature into modern day living, the way I run my house. It’s about learning what the different plants can be used for, in cleaning, cooking, healing and even in dying yarns. Not just plants but in how so many things can be used from Nature into our daily life. Upcycling is a wonderful way of practising my religion. Bringing re-use to things. Buy less, throw away less, reuse more and in all have the utmost respect for the world.
So what does paganism do for me? It reminds me that life is not black and white, and trying to live exclusively Tooth and Claw or Happy Fluffy Bunnies will not sustain me. It also grounds me in a practical way of life.
If you are pagan what does paganism do for you?
Moon photo courtesy of my lovely husband
Bipolar of BPD I am on an up right now.
For the first time in about a month my brain seems to have come on line! Whoop whoop.
It ramped up with fairly easy fiction reading and knitting to reading papers and finishing off a chapter that I haven’t been able to work on for over a month.
Last night I stayed up. I got some good work done. Took a 2 hour nap during the late afternoon when I realised I felt like I was floating away and actually talking rubbish but got going again. I’m meant to be going in to work tomorrow to do some lab work that requires focus, but I got an email from my supervisor today saying they had expected some chapters, really wanna get on and sink my teeth into this next chapter. I know I can do it. But my eyes are closing, and the small voice in the back of my head is saying I won’t have focus tomorrow if I stay up too late tonight. But I will. I know I will I can feel it. It’s if I go to sleep that it will all go bad. If I go to sleep I might wake up not thinking clearly again, with a brain full of fog and have to wait how many months to have a clear head again.
I don’t have that many months. I have two months before we are hoping I submit, and sooooo much work to do. I have 7 chapters to my thesis and as of today only 1 that has all sections filled in with something, even if that something is the ramblings of a crazy woman. No where near ready to submit.
The Dr signed me off sick for two months from today. We are going to try me on the fluoxetine again. I suggested it, I agreed to it. I thought it would help. But I’ve made no moves to take 2 months off from the PhD to settle into the meds again. I’ve also just realised that I’ve not started taking the meds yet. I should have. After I got off the phone I should have. But I didn’t. It’s that same thought that says I shouldn’t go to sleep tonight, it’s saying that I shouldn’t pause the PhD, I shouldn’t start the meds again.
Yeah I am up. My brain is working. And my stupid body wants sleep. If I wasn’t driving someone else in a car tomorrow I’d say fuck it, stay up and work, write, think, and leave the lab work for another time. Captialise on this focus while I can as I never know when it will go or come back again.
Ok now is not the time to get caught up in this. Deep breath. Feed the fish, tidy away and save my work, have a drink and take the medicine, have a shower and go to bed. Tomorrow go to work, do the lab work, in between work on this new chapter in my office. Go to a friend’s celebration as she has finished her PhD. Be healthy. I can do this. Oh and take the medicine tomorrow as well. Gah head is still telling me I’m making a mistake in all of this.
I hate my body for being so tired and I hate my head for being so confusing.
Bright side, draft chapter handed in today. If nothing else that counts as awesome.
I was asked on my ask.fm to write a blog post. I had hoped that my next post would be about the gardening, about the knitting, about successful steps in the phd, about feeling better, about something pagany, about something cat or geek related, about anything other than this.
I’m not doing well. There, I said it. What do I mean by not doing well? I’m drowning in a sea of fuck-ups of my own creation. I’m struggling with intrusive thoughts, with copious amounts of anxiety that just makes me want to hide under my duvet and see no-one, not even my husband. My CPN (community psychiatric nurse) asked me how I dealt with anxiety I said that sometimes I try and knit, go out in the garden or read very short stories, but recently it’s been too much of that, and more than likely I will take a diazepam or go to sleep. She explained that sleeping isn’t dealing with the anxiety, just avoiding it. I guess I should have discussed that more, as none of my arsenal actually deals with the anxiety, after each one of them it just comes back. I can distract my mind from it for short bursts, but as soon as that distraction is gone I’m drowning again.
I used to think I didn’t have anxiety. Hell even now I question my anxiety as well as any other labels I have on me. I’m not hyperventilating right now but I am what I would describe as anxious. Maybe that’s why I don’t use the term panic attacks. Right now my skin is crawling on my forearms and hands, my throat feels like a balloon has been inserted into it and it is being inflated, whilst it is also being squeezed from the outside, I feel like something is clawing inside my chest, in the centre; just above my breasts but below my collarbone, the pit of my stomach wants to throw up, so much so I can just about taste it in the back of my throat. Even my nose feels like it is being pinched so I can’t breathe through it. My breathing is shallow but not fast.
I’m so full of what I call anxiety but I’m not panicking. I can’t panic. It’s 8:30pm now and I’ve been like this since I woke up this morning at 9am. I’ll likely stay like this until I go to sleep and wake up the same tomorrow. It’s been like this for a while now, more than a week less than a month probably. I lose sense of time when I am like this. I’m not crying either. I am sad that this state of physical sensation has become something that doesn’t panic me, has become so commonplace that I am used to it, but I’m also grateful in a way. Because right this minute there is no rage, no urge to self harm or impulsive need to escape it all, and that means that I am safe.
Right now I am not doing well, but I am safe.
I had a bad few weeks recently, which saw the diazepam being used with increasing frequency, the nitrazepam being re-introduced but as a sedative rather than a sleep aid, and the zoplclone being used as a sleep aid. Things have gotten better since then, so while I am not at my worst I am avoiding all sedatives, also trying to avoid alcohol. The benzodiazepines aren’t meant to be used over a long period of time. I’ve been prescribed them on an as-needed basis for 11 years now. I like to think I’m not addicted or dependant as I can go over 6 months without having any, indeed one new Dr sent me to a drug dependency clinic following my request to have my prescription filled. They said that I have no signs of dependency, although they did diagnose me as BPD. I know that after intensive use they make me more anxious, my anxiety level will be low but I’ll want to ‘pop a happy pill’ to make that feeling go away. Indeed, if I took one now I would feel better. I’d be able to focus on my work. But I’m not going to. If I do then I will just keep taking them, and right now, although it would help I don’t need it. I am not doing well but I am safe. I keep the diaz and nitraz for when I am not doing well and I am not safe.
So other than a whooping case of ‘anxiety’ that I won’t treat with medication, I also seem to be suffering from incredible self doubt (which made me put the anxiety in inverted commas, because come on I’m not really sick am I? I’m just putting it on surely), a terribly short temper, a minimal ability to concentrate on things, a phd that needs doing and time is ticking away, a garden full of crops that are rotting and being eaten by slugs, a house that is being utterly neglected, a social life that is being utterly neglected and intrusive thoughts that tell me there is no way to put anything back together.
I’ve asked to see my psychiatrist again. I don’t know if he’ll even see me. Last appointment he said that I could come off of the fluoxetine as it isn’t doing anything and he didn’t think I was clinically depressed. In a slightly manic week I went cold turkey off the prozac (and all other medications I take, because drugs are bad and if I just stop them all I’ll be able to think clearly again and everything will be nice and happy and rainbows again right???), that was maybe June-ish. I’m now doing a lot worse than I had been then. I might ask my GP for the menopause again, that was the one treatment I was given that actually worked for me. Or at least I think it worked. I don’t trust my memory at the moment, I don’t trust much at the moment. Maybe I should be adding paranoia to my list of current symptoms. Fuck.
I wish I could know what was a symptom and what wasn’t a symptom. What is my flavour of crazy. I wish I could know what was wrong with me so I could treat it. So I could be ok. So I could just be a normal girl, with life stress, a dysfunctional and broken family and body image issues. But I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get there. I don’t think that I will ever not blow up in rages, not run away and hide, not be a self harmer with suicidal tendencies, ever not need to have a bottle of diaz in my bag in case I flip out, ever not have to be constantly distracting myself from the horrors that play inside my head on loop. I honestly don’t ever see a future where that will be.
But for now I just have to worry about today, this hour, this moment or I will be overwhelmed. And in this moment I am not doing well, but I am safe, so let’s call that a small victory.
Dans – off to try very hard to read some very boring research papers from the 90’s and try to get this PhD one tiny step closer to being done
No idea if that was the kind of post the questioner was after. As always, if you have any questions you would like to ask anon: http://ask.fm/Danscrazycatlady
Talking with a friend today. We brought up my CBT.
To be really honest I don’t know if it is helping. Currently we are working on a diary of what I do each day and a thought diary. If I get bad thought I write down the situation, write down how I am feeling, wrote down the logical thing to do about the situation, writing down what I did and finally how I feel now.
Is any one else doing CBT? Does this sound like what you do? When I am bad but not bad bad I can fill this out completely. I usually am able to see what I should logically do, but aren’t able to do it. and the feelings following that are much the same as the feelings preceding it. When I am really really bad I can’t complete it. I get to the what I should logically do and the page gets filled with swear words, horrible, horrible things before descending into scribbles, things being thrown and potentially some form of self harm.
My friend mentioned free-writing. This is something I did when I was much younger, before I even knew what free-writing was. It was pretty much the same. On the bad but not awful days I could do it and sometimes it even helped me work things out. On the bad times the free-writing would just descend until my thoughts got more and more violent, more and more graphic.
I was looking for a fan fiction on my hard drive the other day and I can across one of my computer free writings. I have to admit it triggered and scared me. There is a part of myself that is so full of hate and loathing directed at myself that I am scared to even acknowledge its presence. It’s always there at the back of my head, I hear the comments, I get flashes of the thoughts but for the most part it stays at the back. When free-writing it seems to come loose.
In a way I know I’ll never get past it unless I face it but it truly scares me. I think I might try and dig out some more of my free-writing tomorrow and see if there has been a time it helped or if it has always been like this. I am so tired of being scared of my own head, of my potential actions.
Just wondering how CBT works for others, and if others with extreme anger issues have found a way to make free-writing work for them.
And if you had any burning questions you wanted to me ask me anon http://www.ask.fm/Danscrazycatlady
I had wanted to post some bits about the garden, about the knitting, about a recent trip to Finland but I’m in the pit again.
Since coming back from my holiday on Monday the urge to self harm, hurt and fade away have been strong. Surprisingly I didn’t get the urges whilst away, maybe it’s habitual – hell I know it is at least somewhat habitual, maybe it’s being back in the environment, back in the real world.
When I was diagnosed as rapid cycling bipoar I would call what is happing here ‘cycling’. If someone asked, although that tends to be rare, I would say I was cycling. Now that the diagnosis has been changed to borderline personality disorder I don’t know what to call it.
I am everything and nothing right now. I am giddy and happy and horny. I’m dancing, singing and making plans. Big plans. Let’s take on this thing, and this thing, and I’ll finish my chapter this week and start on another and do lab work, and do the garden, and get ready for camp, and tidy the house and take care of the cats. Why don’t I cook a dinner from scratch. I should take up writing again. Read more. Go out more, need to go out more. Just come on let’s rock this.
But I am confused and distant and lost. I go to the sink and just want to crawl into the cupboard beneath it and hide. I shower and end up on the floor sobbing, hoping that no-one hears. I feel like my insides are being ripped in two and I don’t know why. I want to hide. I’m scared to leave my bed in case I hurt myself. I think over and over and over again of the ways I could hurt, the ways I could make it all go away. And I don’t want those thoughts, but can’t seem to stop them.
I feel like I have lost my place in life. Like I have screwed it all up and there is no putting it back together. Like if someone clicked their fingers and I was gone everything would be better, for me and everyone else. I feel like a ghost. Like I shouldn’t be here. Like I’m not here. Like I no longer belong. I don’t want to be close to anyone, I just want to be alone, to hide away alone.
I feel like I am part of everything. I call it my ‘spiritual feeling’. Deep inside I feel it all. I see the season changing, I see the land around me and I ‘feel’ it all. I feel like I am a part of nature and nature is a part of me. Like I can feel the pulse of the land, see the beauty and the cruelty of nature. I see it all. See the pain and joy of life, those who have touched my life. I see the lack of reason in it all, nature is indiscriminate.
It doesn’t sound possible. To feel elation, depression, isolation and inclusion all in the same day, let alone in the same hour. But that is where I am. In such a ‘mixed state’, to borrow a bipolar term, that I don’t know what is happening.
I’m not sleeping now, but I’m not really working. I’m tired but I won’t sleep. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I won’t. And I don’t know why I won’t, just that I am unlikely to go to bed tonight. I have so much potential but am useless, I’m part of everything and nothing. I don’t know how to move forward with this. I don’t know how to deal with this, how much longer I can deal with this. Had the old realisation today of how long this has been. Minimum of 18 years of feeling this way, of dealing with this, trying to treat this and trying to heal. I have spent longer living with mental illness than without.
I keep trying to make things ok but I must be doing something wrong to still be dealing with this shit. Fingers crossed for some non-mental health related posts soon.
I was over on Elefriends and someone posted asking what your perfect day would be. I wanted to be able to go back to my answer and thought I’d share it here:
I would wake up next to my husband without the dark clouds. The sun would be shining outside and my cats would be in the room. I’d get up shower and dress without hating my body. I’d have breakfast and I would clean the house. I’d go into the garden and mow the lawn, weed the veg patches, harvest fruit and veg and plant things. I’d do laundry and see it hanging out. I’d make some lunch for my husband and I. I would do some knitting and some reading, maybe bake something as well. I would go horse riding then come home and cook a fully home made dinner with food we have grown and raised. I’d curl up with homebrew and my husband and watch TV or a movie. Then we will go to bed. I’d feel happy, relaxed and loved. And all through the day there will have been no tears or uncontrolled emotions or intrusive thoughts. I would fall asleep easily and happily.