Changes and Choices

There have been a lot of changes in my world lately.

The first one and the big one was moving house. Which is internally approved of by pretty much everyone. The Cosmic Sage did good. Maybe there’s something in this whole praying-to-the-universal-energy business after all? I mean, I joke about it, but we did get everything she asked for. And that’s not easy in a housing market that discriminates against those on benefits.

Then there was ending with the psychologist and starting art psychotherapy. That wasn’t much fun, and this is where the choices come in. Because various professionals keep suggesting I see the psychologist again. I don’t think they grasp that the art therapy is real therapy and not just some “therapeutic” colouring in. I did see the psychologist once – or someone saw her – it was all make up and heels and cheeriness. Then I read the discharge letter she’d drafted, and got angry with how much she’d misunderstood. That was bleak. But not unfamiliar. Story of my time with her, really.

Then OT left (I wasn’t sorry), then Lovely CPN left (I was sorry), and now I have two new workers. New CPN seems intelligent and emotionally sensitive, but I am perturbed by her references to the “work” she wants to do with me. Compassion-focused bullshit, I gather. Will probably involve a “self-soothing box” at some point. Ick. So I’m withholding judgment. New OT happened to meet Sage one day and was very enthused by her “level of insight” and “strong sense of self” (ha!).

There was a meeting. I was mute and stared at the floor. New consultant told me that she’s leaving too. Lucky I don’t have abandonment issues, isn’t it?! So there’ll be a New New Consultant, and I’m slightly concerned that whoever it turns out to be won’t be quite so willing to give me ample quantities of drugs. That would be a bugger. The only other thing I came away with from the meeting was some waffle about “keeping doors open”. At this point your guess is as good as mine.

But the big difference in all this is that they’re all talking openly and upfront about DID, asking me questions about it, wanting to know about it. New consultant is going to make it official and put it in writing. I kind of need that, because I’m still playing games with deliberate blindness and denial.

And this is why I think that however much parts of me want to see the psychologist again, I should stick with the art therapist. Because she gets it far more than anyone else ever has. She’s the real deal. She notices what’s happening. She sees/feels it. And so many parts want to talk to her. If I could only let them. Because I’m still caught up in trying to stay in control – even though my life demonstrates to me over and over that I can’t – because I have such a fear that if I let all the crazy out I’ll end up in hospital again. I have a horror of it. I lie here on my sofa often, in my warm, quiet, safe house, and I just experience such gratitude that I am not locked up.

I am not locked up. And I never want to be locked up again.

And I can’t think of anything else important to say.

Rage Against Recovery

“Are you enjoying your art therapy?” she said.

I shook my head, partly in answer, and partly in disbelief that a mental health professional should have so little understanding of psychotherapy. In what universe is exposing your screwed up self to another FUN?

But this is the world of Recovery, in which any vaguely pleasant or rewarding activity can be dressed up as therapeutic. So there’s therapeutic art, therapeutic gardening, therapeutic baking, therapeutic kindness to others. And from there, of course, it’s not such a leap – and this is already well on the way, inveigling itself into government policy  – to the concept of therapeutic employment. You can see the appeal. Cut the benefits bill and solve the growing mental health crisis in one fell ideological swoop.

And if these dumbed down “therapies” don’t work? The blame is easily located in the service user and their poor “coping strategies”. Treatment for mental health problems is increasingly merely instructions in how to live. Eat healthily. Exercise. Practise sleep hygiene. Make a self soothing box. Embrace mindfulness. But somehow simultaneously also distract yourself. Always distract yourself.

The message is consistent: We don’t want to witness your pain. We will bat it straight back to you. It is your individual responsibility. There is no healing to be had. You just have to learn to deal with it better. You have to learn to manipulate your thoughts and emotions into a more positive and acceptable mindset.

And if you express your doubts, if you dare to speak of your experience of decades of attempting to make these changes and failing, and your growing suspicion that these changes aren’t the magic answer, if you assert that these strategies don’t work, you are accused of not believing hard enough, you are told you must keep trying. The failure to recover from mental illness is an individual failure, a lack of determination and character, and labelled, more and more, as a personality disorder. You’re not trying hard enough to be good.

Enough.

Current theoretical frameworks of Recovery consolidate the grand fundamental denial of the traumatogenic nature of capitalism and current culture. Mental illness is built into the system, those who suffer (and there are increasing numbers of us) are collateral damage.

And while we are busily trying to fix ourselves, through diet or meditation or yoga or CBT or crochet, we are conveniently distracted from naming the real sources of our distress. Make no mistake, the Recovery doctrine has a political agenda. We are economic units, to be judged acceptable or otherwise by our productivity, and the prime focus of mental health services is to so adjust us that we better fit the mould. That is the measure of their success.

It drives the pain, the deeply human response to the inequalities and injustices in the world, underground. It “works”. I no longer phone the Crisis Team because I have given up hoping that someone will hear and acknowledge my brokenness and despair, because I am tired of being told to make a cup of tea and watch television, because I am sick of the assertion that the problem somehow lies in me. So am I “better”?

I am the child who believed in the power of poetry and was advised to pursue a career in advertising. I am the adolescent who believed that God had forsaken her, because all around her was the message and the pressure that to really succeed was to be attractive to boys. I am the twenty-something who was haunted by anniversaries of war. I am the thirty-something who ended up in and out of psychiatric hospitals, tormented by visions of a planet in pain.

I will not “recover” until the world recovers – and I can’t see that happening any time soon. For now I hold my coldness and anguish close to me. It is, at least, something real, and in this culture of consumerism and illusion I cherish the real. And it moves me.

I have a voice. I vow to use it. When the world ends you will find me singing there.

 

They Should Be Black

All my technology is failing me. My laptop won’t switch on, and won’t reset. The computer game I bought to fill some hours requires a code, but when I feed in the only code I can find in the documentation it tells me it’s not valid. My phone refuses to do more than vibrate, so I am missing most of my calls and messages. All the various chargers I have bought for my chromebook work only intermittently, and not for long. My new, and allegedly smart, TV doesn’t support Amazon Video, so I am unable to continue bleakly distracting myself with Law & Order: SVU . My superstitious paranoia convinces me that all these things are messages from the universe, external reality reflecting my internal state. And I feel completely unequipped to deal with them. Faced with these difficulties, I give up.

Yes. I give up. I have reached a dead end of the soul. It’s not just that I don’t have the energy to fight any more, it’s that I no longer have any faith that fighting will change things, or is any kind of answer. “You have to try”, my occupational therapist said. I nearly told her – and part of me dearly wishes I had – to fuck off out of my house. I am in a kind of rage, resisting the recovery doctrine she is such a proponent of, deeply resenting the parts of me that are so damn eager to be good, that have in the past chattered away at her about mind maps and coping strategies, knowing that this pleased her.

I am not good.

But she sees those parts as the real Jane, the well Jane. She doesn’t want to talk to me. I am just an illness, a low mood that must be battled with, altered by hot baths and bracing walks. I am just a thought process that must be changed.

When will someone understand?

I fear that no one will ever understand.

There is art therapy. I keep going, because I am all out of other ideas. But the forces that blank me out and shut me down are so powerful that I don’t know if anything can ever be different.

My psychologist broke my heart. It will be a long time before I dare to hope again.

I resist hope. Hope is dangerous.

There was a moment, during the art therapy session on Friday, a moment when my mouth spoke one of the voices in my head without any blockage or intervention. “They should be black”, it said. It was a moment of connection, between the inside and the outside of me. On the walk home that connection kept kind of sparking in me, and there was an urge trying to move me to unpack the art room and make the image that was forming in me.

But I didn’t. And I haven’t. And I don’t know if I can.

 

I have a complaint to make against Life

Ok, so I am trying really hard to tick all the healthy, wholesome boxes here.

I am eating. (Cold soup and dry porridge, but it’s FOOD, right?)

I am drinking water instead of beer.

I am not taking drugs, psych or otherwise.

(At least, mostly I’m not . . .).

I am even participating in social activities.

I should be fucking skipping radiantly through a fucking meadow.

AND I FEEL LIKE SHIT! Sick, achy, exhausted, and itchy.

I demand a refund!

Friday/Saturday

Selves have been chattering at me all night. No sleep.

My fault really. I’m trying to quit the quetiapine coma habit (not least because I only have one “sleeping dose” to last me till next Thursday, and I have to admit that while the lack of consciousness is bliss I don’t much relish what it does to my  heartbeat before it knocks me out.) So, of course, I also lose the quetiapine induced internal quietness that consumes the vast part of the following day (And really I want to be doing more than sitting on the sofa staring blankly into space for hours. Though it is quite peaceful.).

Friday started well. I had a letter from the DWP informing me they were no longer going to pay me ESA. Luckily stand-in CPN (Lovely CPN is currently off sick) was visiting so she called them for me. I wasn’t too sure about her to start with, but after she looked at the letter and said “Bloody hell, they’re buggers, aren’t they?” I decided I did like her after all. They say it’s somehow happened because I changed my address, and that my payments should continue as normal, but I don’t entirely trust the machinery of the system, so I won’t rest easy until a week on Monday, when I find out whether that’s true or not.

Then in the afternoon I went to my first art therapy session. I walked there in snow, and back in snow. The walk takes twenty minutes. I stood waiting outside the door, staring at the time on my phone until it was exactly half past two, then rang the bell. Didn’t want to be early, didn’t want to be late. I can see this is going to become a ritual.

The first thing she did was make me tea. And then we sat and talked. I’m not sure I can summarise what we talked about. Perhaps it’s more important how I felt? There was a distinct wariness to start with, an expressionless face and an inner watching, an assessing, a questioning. What is this going to be like? Have I made a terrible mistake as I have been intermittently stricken that I have, nearly overcome with the desperate urge to call Sarah up and beg her to take us back, complete with promises to “work hard” and “be OK” and “be a good girl”? Then a gradual relaxing into the conversation, even some smiling (though no eye contact, obviously.)

We talked quite a bit about blogging, because I’d asked her in an email if she minded whether I blogged about the sessions. She’s going to draw up a “social media contract” for me to sign. Essentially though, I am free to share my experiences if I wish, and she won’t go googling, though if I ever wanted to bring some writing with me, that would be fine. She just asked that I not identify her, to protect other people she works with. Slight problem there, in that I have previously, at least on Twitter, been open about where I live, and so people could, if so inclined, do a quick internet search and figure it out. There isn’t exactly a proliferation of art therapists in the city. Not sure what to do about that.

There were some slightly tricky moments – mention of dissociation (la, la, la, fingers in ears) and trauma (la, la, la, fingers AND thumbs in ears), but she did check with me whether she could “say the words” and I said yes, so okay. Difficult questions about why I had been in hospital, which I kind of fudged. I didn’t really want to get into the whole “I took an overdose that I have no memory of taking” etc, because I still harbour a fear I will scare her off, though I have so far imparted a fair amount of information about just how dysfunctional I can be and she seems to have taken it in her stride, which is reassuring.

There was more, much more, but I think this is enough for now. I left feeling quite cheerful, and with a sense of relief in me that I have an appointment next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, same day, same time. I have been craving that structure for so long.

(And as I said earlier, chattering about it all night.)

 

Smashy Ragey Sweary

I need SOME outlet. Fuck the new rules. I’ve always been a rule breaker.

I feel very on-my-own, very slam-the-door-and-lock-the-world-out.

I can’t tell you how strongly I am tempted to stop engaging with mental health services. I keep wondering, what are they actually FOR?

“Try mindfully curling up under a blanket” FUCK OFF!

“You’re normally such a lovely friendly lady”. NO I’M FUCKING NOT! THAT’S NOT ME!

But they don’t get it, and I don’t think they’re ever going to get it, and I can’t be fucking arsed to explain.

Me

Earlier, sitting in the park with a coffee, watching dogs and listening to birds, I felt profoundly alone. That sounds like it should be a bad thing, but it felt pretty good, in a fierce kind of way.

Me. My life, my body, my boundaries, my choices, my responsibilities, my future.

Things are changing, both internally and externally. It’s good. It’s necessary.

Taking a Break

The urge is strong just to disappear. Delete the blog. Deactivate the Twitter account. But that might make people worry about me, and I don’t want people to worry about me. I’ll be okay. I don’t really, at this moment, know how exactly, but I know that I will be. And I’ll probably be back, at some point. In the meantime, if anyone wants to contact me, my email address is sagesilksmudge@gmail.com

Take care x

So . . . this book.

It’s serving a purpose just sitting on the table.  There are selves who keep whispering “trauma-related dissociation” to themselves as they try to get used to the idea that this applies to them. Others, having already looked through the book, are engaged in discussions and debates. Some have major reservations and are busy highlighting various problems and concerns with it. Others are excited and are fantasising about how hard they will work on the included exercises.

Self after self comes into focus in my mind for a few seconds. And for the short time they are there I have access to their memories and sense of identity and I feel a dawning understanding. Yes, I recognise you now. I get it – you’re a self! It’s like I’m in darkness and someone keeps illuminating different areas of my environment. I never get to see the whole picture all at once, but I’m just beginning to remember that there is a whole picture, not only the fragment the light hits.

 

We bought a book

Not that that is exactly unusual in this household, where we have only recently and with much difficulty arrived at an agreement that no parts are allowed to throw other parts’ books away, because it led to a ridiculous situation where books were being bought and thrown away and then rebought several times.

But this book represents a shift in the internal landscape lately – or maybe just the beginning of a shift. The buying of it is another action that has rather surprised me, just like the things that were spoken about in therapy did, because I was all mired in depression and hopelessness and paralysis and doom, and yet it seems other parts have made a decision to take on more of a role in the way things go for us. I feel I am  being led by them at the moment. I wait with interest to see what they get up to next.

The book we bought is called Coping with Trauma-related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists. It’s causing quite a stir. But a good stir though, I think. And a stir that is so complex and elaborated and loud that it becomes impossible to avoid awareness of it. Which is also good. Because it keeps bringing me back to the truth: we have DID.