Chip Away Boy

I once had a dream that I was trying to read a book about dissociation but all the words had been tippexed out. This is such a succinct and perfect depiction of my situation that I’m a little in awe of whatever it is in the brain/psyche/soul/universe that creates dreams. One part of me is trying to investigate and understand what is going on, while another is busy blocking and blanking out all access to awareness and information. Sometimes I start to notice what is happening as it is happening, but often the noticing itself is eaten up by the encroaching blankness. I don’t get as far as thinking “Oh it’s happening again”, it’s more like “Oh it’s -“ BLANK. I come back to consciousness some time later, confused, vaguely aware that I am missing something vital, but not sure what.

All I can do in the face of such a powerful process is to chip away at it, to keep making efforts to acknowledge my experience – not just that it is valid, but that it exists at all. This is why I have decided to start blogging again even though, to be honest, it would be much easier not to. Because I noticed that there was a disconnection between time in therapy and all the other time. It was starting to seem as though I was only able to access feelings in therapy and then, when I left therapy, I was simply unable to remember and reflect on what had happened in therapy. The only way I know how to tackle this is to write about it, and through writing about it make it real, and available to all of me both in the present and the future. I am in desperate need of more communication and connection between selves. The current arrangement simply can’t go on.

So, therapy this morning. It was a difficult but important session. We brought some bogeymen out of the basement and started to look at them. Dissociative Identity Disorder. False Memory Syndrome. All the arguments and controversies about them. These things are twisted up into the fabric of my thoughts, so that I cannot make an assertion without a counter argument cutting me down, so that I cannot feel an emotion without an accusation of lying, faking, making it up. I end up mute and unable to move in any direction. I was able to articulate some of these problems today, and in doing so the sense of being mired in impossibilities shifted a little. I started to see that I need to face up to these things, to find a way through them, and to feel that maybe I could. It is unsustainable to continue to exist while constantly doubting the reality of that existence, while trusting nothing. And yes, I know I have almost certainly realised this all before, and almost as certainly I will have to realise it all again in the future. What can I say, I’m a slow learner.

Something else. A gathering clarity that I cannot continue to be in contact with my family. I’ve just written several sentences about this, and then deleted them. It’s too difficult right now. It makes me feel sick. I’ll have to try again later.

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So what am I now?

I don’t seem to be mad anymore. At least, not in a dramatic, overwhelming way. I don’t know how it happened, or why, so I can’t claim credit for it. I’m not on medication, so it’s not that. I don’t understand it, and so I don’t know whether madness is now firmly in the past, or might feature again in the future. This is rather a strange state to be in.

And the reality is that while no longer obviously mad I do feel in some way profoundly disabled. Which sounds rather dramatic, and possibly is. Get a grip, say the voices, sort yourself out, take some responsibility, try fucking harder. I do keep trying (but obviously not hard enough!) I keep trying to look at what is happening, examine and analyse it, so I can come up with strategies to address it. But somehow it keeps slipping and slithering away. This is the problem. Do you see? Perhaps you don’t, it’s hard to describe and explain. But I keep being thrown further and further out, into the outer circle of consciousness. It is impossible – or seems to be impossible (just try harder!) – to reflect on my life, and to in any way accept or adapt to it, or to change it. Of course you can change it, just take control! But this, it seems, is what I cannot do. I am in the distance, knowing that I need to do all the ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ things in order to feel well, and yet somehow being unable to reach through into reality and command myself to change. What a narrative of victim hood! Just fucking stop it! Just fucking change! I don’t know why I can’t. I make plans, I make vows, I feel as determined as ever. But it seems that in me is some grand refusal, to live, to feel, to think, to respond, to engage. So everything is designed to make me as unaware as possible, to parcel me through time without letting me be conscious of the waste and tragedy of my life. And all the time, time is passing, and my fury and despair at the meaningless passing of time is parcelled further forward into the future in some vain hope that I will never have to feel it.

I don’t know. I don’t even know if this makes sense to anyone (and another part of my mind distracts itself with writing a book that no one else will ever be interested in, and the waste – the waste is astonishing). Sometimes I wonder if I am suffering some kind of cognitive impairment from the years of medication, but I don’t know how to assess that or how to heal it, if that is what it is, and if it can be healed. Sometimes I wonder if I should take medication again, if that would spark some alteration in my brain. And sometimes I wonder if I made an unwitting deal with the devil, and all that vast impersonal energy that used to surge through me and I feared would fry me, came at a cost, and now the bill is due. Oh how inconceivable seems that energy now, when I inch from day to day trying to persuade myself to do this, that or the other, in the hope it will bring me a sense of well-being I haven’t felt in months, perhaps years, I can’t even remember, because I am unable to reflect on or lay claim to my past, my mind glances off it, into some contemplation of abstract principles that I will never articulate because my voice rusts and my body rots. Sometimes I think that I will, with my undefined pains, my moments of forgetting how to breathe, and my persistent fear of choking, be one of those people who is all of a sudden diagnosed with an illness and dies within days. I think, to be honest, I would welcome that. Better luck next time, maybe? And if no next time, all the better.

I don’t know what to do. I have no faith in the fantasies of psychiatry, I don’t trust mental health services of any kind and I am not currently overflowing with chaos or scared of suicidal impulses, so don’t really qualify for anything anyway. I go to therapy but even there my frustration follows me. I am in the distance again, willing and exhorting myself to relate, to communicate, to engage, and finding my body sits wooden in the chair, and my hands clutch crayons but can’t commit to marking the page, and responses to questions are formed and then argued down inside without my mouth making a sound. Something needs to change. I need to change. I know this, I know the urgency of this, and still, somehow, the wretched and desperate time goes past.

Once there was a wild horse . . .

I noticed that it’s World Poetry Day, so I thought I’d share one of the first poems I ever wrote, aged about six. It’s also where the title of the blog comes from.

 

Once there was a wild horse

who ate sweet grass that wasn’t coarse.

He slept in a fairy glen at night

where glow worms glowed with shining light.

He was sleek and slender.

The look on his face was tender.

He was as black as young seals

though he only had grass for his three daily meals.

 

Clear signs of early genius, huh? 😂

A Small Blog About Small Steps

So much I want to write. So much I don’t. And I don’t and I don’t and I don’t. Happens with pretty much everything I want to do. I get incredibly stuck and can’t seem to change. How do you change? It’s a question I have often pondered. Because however determined I am, however fired up I am, however clearly I understand what I need to do and why, however much effort I put into it, I end up falling in a heap and failing. Again. It gets so you don’t even want to talk about it, because what can anyone say? You’ve got to try harder. You’ve just got to make yourself. You’re the only one who can do it. You’ve got the power. That’s the kind of thing they say. (Or, if you work for the Crisis Team, you might yell “YOU NEED TO GET OFF YOUR LAZY ARSE AND DO SOMETHING TO HELP YOURSELF!” Yeah, that was really useful advice, absolutely made me feel better about myself, utterly enabled me not to feel suicidal, thanks for that!) And if you try to examine and talk about this pattern of failure, try to figure out what might be happening, you get told off for “thinking negatively”. If you would only think positively ALL THE FUCKING TIME everything would be lovely and fine. See, knew it was my fault! I’ve even been told that if I stopped worrying about becoming unwell, if I stopped thinking about how I might become unwell, how that might happen, how I might recognise it, and how I might prevent it, if I only BELIEVED HARD ENOUGH that I would never become unwell, I would never become unwell. See, still my fault! But if something keeps happening, and I’m talking about experience of a pattern played out over decades, doesn’t it make sense to think about how you are approaching changing, and why that might not be working?

In this context I was interested to read a book recently about ‘kaizen’, which is the principle of creating change through small steps. Very small steps. It makes a lot of sense, and clarifies and expands an approach I’ve already been using, because it’s the only thing I’ve found that fucking works. For instance, I’ve always had difficulties keeping my house clean and tidy, even though I LIKE a clean and tidy house, even though I KNOW I like a clean and tidy house, and that having a clean and tidy house reduces my paranoia and anxiety. Even knowing this, it’s hard to do. I end up frozen, paralysed, feeling worse and worse, more and more of a failure. The more I try to drive, motivate, and, frankly, bully myself into cleaning and tidying, the more frozen I become. And then I feel like a failure. Again. I’ve found that the medicine for this is to do just do one thing. One thing, one tiny thing. If I can just do one tiny thing, often I find I can then do another. And if I stop when I start to feel tired or reluctant instead of trying to push myself through it, I often find that after a break I can do another thing. And that all those things add up, and I start to feel better, and I start to be able to do more things. It works with art too. I really want to make art, I have all these ideas in my head, and making art makes me happy. Despite knowing this I still face enormous internal resistance to actually sitting down and making art, and then I get sad, because I’m wasting my life and not doing what I really want to do. But to say to myself “just do five minutes” or even “just sit down at the table, maybe glue one piece in the mosaic pictures you’re currently making” – that opens up possibilities, that makes it easier, that might lead to me doing ten minutes, or doing five minutes today and being able to also do five minutes tomorrow. I still find it hard to have faith in this approach because I have all these ideas about how you need to work hard, and if you’re not working hard you’re not worth anything, but the evidence from my experience is that doing things this way ultimately enables me to achieve far more than trying to force myself through some regime of desired activity. And failing. Again.

Anyway. I’m sure this all seems obvious, and you’re probably all doing it already. Despite being allegedly intelligent I can be incredibly slow and stupid about things, especially when it comes to dealing with myself and managing my life. But the book I read about kaizen made sense of some of my recurrent failures. Essentially, when you try to impose a big change on yourself you activate the flee/flight/freeze response in your brain, because big change is scary. This is why resolutions so often fail, diets don’t work, plans to exercise regularly end up with you back on the sofa. If you can just do a small thing – ask a small question, think a small thought, take a small action (and if you’re having to push or beat yourself into taking the small action you’ve chosen, make it smaller, make it easy), appreciate a small moment, give yourself (or someone else) a small reward for something small – you bypass that response, and you may just find that by accepting very gradual progress you have made significant changes without stress or self-flagellation.

As I said, you all probably understand this already, but I offer it up in case there’s anyone out there like me, trying desperately and repetitively to change their life, knowing what they want and need to do, and still falling in a heap over and over again, and feeling that they are therefore somehow weak and worthless. You’re not. You’re just human.

A small blog that turned out to be not so small. But if I hadn’t told myself that it was okay to write a small blog, I might not have written a blog at all. That’s kaizen.

 

Reconnecting – A Very Small Blog

I have not blogged consistently for a very long time, but I would like to. Writing goes on in my head, but never makes the page, and that causes some sadness. There are things I would like to say. There are opinions I would like to elaborate. Also writing helps me make sense of my experiences, functions as a memory for me, and enables to meet my other selves.

I have learnt lately the value in doing a little, maybe just one thing, not overwhelming yourself with huge tasks and long To Do lists. In order to be able to write this at all, I had to say to myself that it was okay to just write a little. Then maybe, sometime later, I will be able to write a little again, or even eventually more than a little.

So I am trying to reconnect with writing, and the blog. And I am trying to reconnect with my life, and all the many parts of me. Disconnection, and the blankness and paralysis and silence that come with it, have dominated my life for over a year. This in itself feels a profound disconnection from my previous life, from the extremes and exultations that often led to chaos. So I find myself facing a new world, and having to find ways to live in it.

I have some ideas about how this state has come to be, but this intentionally small blog is already quite long enough, so I will return to those. The hope is that in having broken the silence, and written a little, it will be easier to write again.

 

Help – need opinions

I am writing to request a new CPN/Care Coordinator. Since the recent reorganisation of services I have been seen by [redacted], but it is not working for a variety of reasons.

The first time I met [redacted] she said to me “I have lots of experience dealing with your sort of issues.” But this was while also claiming “I don’t know anything about you”, without having read my notes or even knowing my diagnosis, and without asking me what those issues might be. It’s clear that she has a model of mental illness and distress and was intent on making me fit within it. She also said, at an early meeting, “I don’t know anything about you, but I expect you’ve experienced trauma”. Again, this was trying to fit me into a model without actually finding out anything about me, and, quite frankly, I feel this level of simplification, prejudice and assumption, is dangerous.

In subsequent appointments she has tried to push me into doing ‘Recovery focused work’, offering various things we could do e.g. the Recovery Star. What she fails to appreciate (because she has not taken the time to find out) is that I have been in secondary services for over ten years, and struggling by myself for many more years before that, so I have investigated and explored many different ways to approach my difficulties. Some things I do find helpful – I utilise the practice of mindfulness and other approaches I have discovered through my extensive independent reading about Buddhism, regularly, and find them helpful. Others are just too simplified, and too infused with the damaging principles of neo-liberalism, for me to take them seriously.

I tried to raise these concerns with [redacted], in the hope that we could begin to develop a genuine relationship, but she immediately said that I could be discharged from services entirely, get my medication from my GP, and just call Duty if I needed help. I experienced this as a threat – comply with my way of doing things, or have all your support removed.

I know it is possible for me to have good, supportive relationships with health professionals, because I have had several in the past that have been instrumental in improving my life to the extent that it has been, but I do not think I can form such a relationship with [redacted]. I have currently been out of hospital for nearly a year, which is the best I have done since 2013, and I am anxious to maintain this and to avoid another admission. Having a good relationship with a CPN/care coordinator is an important part of this. I want someone who is willing to get to know me, to understand (or at least be willing to learn about) some of the ways my diagnosis (Dissociative Identity Disorder) affects me and my life, and offer the kind of compassionate support I have experienced in the past, so I can make progress and hopefully eventually move beyond needing professional support and be able to manage my life myself.

Drama Therapy / Therapy Drama

I have some longer posts writing themselves in my head, over and over again, which I know will drive me crazy until I get them out. Yes, the urge to blog is back. But first – this week/yesterday.

Yesterday I put on a fine display for my therapist of just how chaotic I can be. I hadn’t slept at all for two nights, and wasn’t exactly sure whether or when I had eaten. Hadn’t taken lorazepam or zopiclone, since I had none, and hadn’t drunk any alcohol either. Had been reducing quetiapine and down to 150mg a night, which has no discernable effect. So none of the substances that keep things quiet and shut things down. Was rapidly descending into a state of gibbering and grimacing. Very loud internal chatter on a whole variety of topics from chicken pox to computer games to colour genetics, with a bit of reincarnation and a few unsolved murders thrown in. Utterly failing to actually achieve anything, since I simply couldn’t organise thought into action.

But I made it to therapy. Walked too fast there, and the noise of the world was mixing and conflicting with the noise within. Sat down and the fun started. Violent shaking, exaggerated face-twitching, involuntary movements (hands fidgeting away in the air), staring, stuttering, random talking (“There are 38 species of insect that are solely dependent on the ragwort plant . . .”), even more random laughing (because my life is irrational, nonsensical, ridiculous).

My therapist took it all in her stride. The more I see her, the more I show her, the more I let her see, the more I am gradually reassured that I am not too difficult, too mental, too much, that she can handle this/me.

She’s also just so fucking kind. Walking down the stairs to leave I was shaking and wobbling and kept having to stop and shut my eyes. She said “I’m worried about you walking home, please will you let me make you another cup of tea.” Took me into the kitchen and sat me down and sat with me a while. Kept saying “I really don’t want you to worry or feel bad about this, it is fine, it really is okay.” Made me promise I would go home via the shop and find something to eat. Offered to go to the shop with me if that would help. Said she would check in with me today.

I did come home via the shop, but I couldn’t keep my promise, because I then discovered that I’m pretty much broke. Stood by the cash machine a while rubbing my face and trying to think, but simply didn’t have the mental capacity at that point to do the necessary sums and equations re what was essential and what I could afford. So just came home. Made yet more tea. Took 500mg quetiapine – as I said I’m trying to reduce it, but sometimes needs must. Suddenly realised I felt frozen. Put the heating on, wrapped myself up in blankets, curled up on the sofa, and eventually managed to fall sleep. Wow, I really really needed that.

Kit the Git woke me up at 3am. You know how it goes – he pats my face and purrs in my ear, I try to hide under the duvet, somehow those persistent paws still come sneaking in, eventually I give up and get up. Made coffee with the last of the milk and managed to force down some toast. Feeling rather fragile and exhausted but a whole hell of a lot steadier and saner. Today I need to tackle the shopping problem, do some laundry, get in the bath. I’ll be okay.

I haven’t blogged for ages, but there have been various posts floating round my head, waiting for a time when I have the mental energy to actually write them.

One is about the whole big diagnosis debate. I have things to say about that, though whether I actually will say them is another matter.

One is about my personal internet history. I guess I’ve been thinking about the days of email lists and bulletin boards, and how they just inevitably died a death. And Twitter is not what it once was. And maybe the blog, which was once so important to me, is in its death throes right now. And maybe that’s okay. Things change, the world moves on.

But I can’t quite let it go. I still hover around Twitter, sometimes participating, sometimes not. I have friends there, friends I don’t want to lose, not being a person in general who had many friends.

So I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the right thing is to do. Knowing only that I care deeply about some of the people I have met on Twitter and through the blog, and not wanting to lose that. Because it’s not as though my life is bursting full with people wanting to know me.

I had therapy today. I now have therapy twice a week, at 8.30am on Monday mornings, and at 2.45pm on Thursday afternoons. And I don’t know how or if I’m going to be able to afford this, but I wanted to try it, and it seems like a good thing, so I guess I’m going to have to figure out a way to afford it.

Today we talked some about my previous experiences with the psychologist I had. And my therapist said that we all are welcome (which is not what I felt with the psychologist), and she also said that this kind of therapy was long term, possibly years. And a little suspicious part of me presented an argument that she just wanted to keep her income stream going, but most of me knew that yeah, the kind of therapy I need is long term, and yeah it might take years.

That’s kind of hard to take on board. But I think it’s a reality I  need to accept.

And maybe, having written this, I will be able to write something else, sometime soon. Or maybe I won’t. I guess we’ll see, and you should watch this space.

Things

Good things. Bad things. Yet-to-be-decided things. Bit of a random assortment.

Cats first. Definitely a good thing. Waking up with Kit curled next to me, purring, is just – nice. Really nice. He’s turning out to be quite an affectionate little beast. Kaboodle remains wary and stand-offish, and recoils in horror when I try to touch her. I suspect she may always be a bit that way inclined, but I love the little noises she makes as she runs from room to room, a constant commentary of squeaks and chirrups.

And I can buy as many catnip mice as I like, but Kit’s favourite toys remain the paintbrushes he steals from the art room. There are paintbrushes everywhere! Perhaps he’s trying to tell me something? Start painting again Sage! Kaboodle seems to prefer crystals and shoes. She’s a New Age cat with fine taste in footwear.

And, through the cats, I seem to have a new friend. Which is good and scary all at the same time. You know, there’s all the old stuff, which my CPN calls my “cognitive biases” – just, why the fuck would anyone actually like me and want to spend time with me? I don’t understand! But I’m going with it, and accepting invitations.

My landlady came round. I had the house really clean and my essential oil diffuser on. She was pleased. She thanked me for taking care of the place, she said I was a good tenant. I currently feel like an enormous fraud, because everything is in a bit of  a mess again, but I’m also determined to get it tidied up. It’s very important to me these days to keep my house clean. I lived in utter chaos and squalor for so long, and there was a huge amount of shame attached to that. A friend once yelled at me that I was DISGUSTING. The worst thing was that it was true.

Another thing that happened was that my new friend came round and as she was parking her car my neighbour was coming home and he commented on her parking – because of course he would, that’s what he’s like – but then he said I was “the quietest neighbour I’ve ever had”.  And that was good, it was reassuring, because I have an ongoing anxiety that I am somehow too noisy and disturb everyone and they all hate me.

So those are things. Some not-so-good things are that my eating is getting decidedly out of control. There’s been a lot of throwing up lately, and I’m feeling a little desperate. Although I’ve told MH professionals about this before, several times, they don’t seem to have picked up on it as a problem. At least – they never offer me a chance to talk about it, and I’m too ashamed to bring it up again. Therapist guessed though, and she said it was fine to bring it to that space.

She also guessed about the drinking. Which I probably ought to address. Just not today. But I’m getting embarrassed about the amount of alcohol I’m buying from the shop down the road, so I need to do something. Go to another shop, probably. I’ve just been in full-blown flight from the realities of my life. I’ve been diving into alcohol and other substances, I’ve been plunging into books and things to watch. Unconsciousness is the answer!

Except it’s not. Not really. Not long-term. I know that, but right now I’m deep into avoidance. Don’t think and don’t remember! Just survive, and eventually you’ll die, thank God!

Therapist gave me a stone to hold during the last session on Friday. Then she said I could take it away with me, and use it to remind myself that she doesn’t perceive me as evil. A primitive kind of magic, but a powerful one. I have the stone with me now. But there are so many doubts – because how can she be sure?

She’s away next week. I’m telling myself this is okay, this is fine, but it seems such a long time until I see her again. When she sent me the email telling me she was going to be away, she also let me know that she’s going to be away one Friday in late September, but on that occasion she can offer me a session on the Thursday. It freaked me out. Like – to think about September/October. And yes, I’m going to be living here, I’m going to be living here a while, and I’m going to be going to therapy, I’m going to be doing that a while too. And it made me wonder how I would be, how I would feel, what would be happening.

I am running out of things (yay, everyone breathe a sigh of relief!). Just one more – I think I may have found some voluntary work that would suit me. I’m going to talk to them on Thursday. Just that I need something, something to organise my life around. I think it would help to have some kind of regular commitment. Because at the moment I have endless empty days, and although I have many projects I want to get into, I seem to mostly be paralysed. Which really isn’t great.

 

 

 

 

Therapy

So some of you may know I’m having art therapy. This may create an impression that I am creating elaborate images of my conflicts and problems. I know some people can engage in art therapy in this way.

But it’s not like that for me. For me, the work is about being to express myself in any way at all in the presence of someone I don’t entirely trust yet.

Today I went in angry, frustrated with my inability to control my life, to do what I want to do.

We talked about that a little, then she suggested we try some art making, using watercolour, which is hard to control.

She gave me a brush, and brought over a piece of paper, and moved some water near me. I picked up the brush and dipped it in the water. She suggested we make marks just with water, so they wouldn’t last. I still hesitated. She asked if she could hold my brush with me. And slowly, together, we began to put water on the paper. Sometimes she was directing the brush, sometimes I was. This brought up such a mixture of feelings in me I couldn’t speak, and had to stop.

Then I just went really small. There’s no other way to describe it. I was rocking in my seat, and then suddenly taken over by shaking. She gave me a cushion to hold onto and I clutched it for dear life. She asked if I felt scared or sad and I heard a high pitched, childish voice say “Both”. I felt like I wanted to cry, except I don’t know how to cry.

She kept talking, in her soft voice, reminding me where I was, and that I was safe, while I rocked and shook.

Then the session was approaching its end, and she started to bring me back to the present, to an adult self who was able to leave, and carry on with life. “I don’t want to go”, I said. And I didn’t, I wanted to stay with her, with her voice and her acceptance, and the sense of safety she offered.

“Yes, it’s hard to stick to timings”, she said, “but I will be here next week, and I will be here for as long as you want me and need me”. And I was able to come back, to hand her the cushion, to say good bye and thank you, and walk out the door.

That’s the kind of art therapy I’m doing.