It’s been a long time since I wrote. Indeed so long, my name has changed from Mason to Ford!
Basically, I’ve not written because I thought I was coping well and I was happy and could think of nothing worth writing about but the build up and aftermath of my wedding have shown that maybe that’s not quite true. Don’t get me wrong – the wedding was everything I could have ever dreamed of and my husband is the most wonderful man in the world but the stress leading up to the day and what it represented really got to me.
First of all, I stopped taking my medication because I got it into my head that if I was taking them, I wouldn’t experience the day to its emotional maximum. Not my smartest ever idea because I forget that my anxiety rockets whenever I decide to wean myself off them.
Secondly, with my fear of giving up independence stemming from many things in my past, including an abusive ex, I guess I was afraid. I kept drinking too much and generally acting like an idiot for a couple of months beforehand. My heart was pumping too fast constantly and I really began to dislike myself and feel I didn’t deserve the happiness my relationship was giving me. But my husband is worth the fear and helps me battle my negative self. My BPD had me mood flipping like crazy between approval seeking, impulsivity, self-hatred, vulnerability and disassociation. I could feel my healthy self (much like my dress in the pic below) unravelling and I was clinging on to my sanity by a thread. It proved to me that I’ve not been taking my therapy seriously – I’ve not been working hard enough to actually improve myself between sessions and I think I’ve been quite flippant about the whole process. Now I know, at least, exactly what I want to tackle but this therapy trial I’m on is nearly over. I think I’ll look for something more afterwards.
But the wedding was amazing and I’ve felt so much more secure since. But I need to learn from how badly I was feeling and realise that I still have a lot to tackle. I’ve also struggled with my anorexic thoughts of late. On the build up to the wedding, the stress caused me to lose weight, and putting that back on since is a battle I’m winning but with a loud anorexic voice screaming at me for being greedy all the while.
I’m getting there – I’ve come far – but I do need to be more aware of my triggers and my pitfalls. I’m just so lucky to have married the man who can help lead me step by step to a healthy future.
Today was the first of my 18 month of schema therapy for BPD assessments. I know I’ve mentioned before how odd I find this whole part of the trial. I think it’s because I’m not sure what they are measuring and how I’m coming across.
Because I feel a little depressive at the moment I feel like I really struggled with things today – it all felt a bit sluggish and in slow motion. This assessment consists of hundreds of questions ranging from how often you’ve thought about killing yourself in the last three months, if you walk in front of traffic irresponsibly, how much alcohol you drink, how lonely you feel, if you prize yourself above others, if your friends are supportive, if you can see things other people can’t, if you think you’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve kindness, if you hurt yourself, if you forget large chunks of time, if you forgive yourself your mistakes, if you purposefully destroy the good things in your life…and this goes on for two hours, the same question rephrased and it pokes and prods at every weak spot, emotional issue or insecurity you might have. It’s exhausting. And without any feedback or explanation about this, it’s really unnerving.
We get the same questions every six months and I suppose the idea is to see that schema group therapy, as a therapy model, is improving our mental health and quality of life. Except sometimes I feel like I answer the questions the same every time – not deliberately, just that maybe things haven’t changed for me.
Then after this avalanche of questions, we’re asked to draw a complex shape, which is taken away and then a while later have to redraw it from memory. Mine sucked. If my memory was supposed to have improved, then I’m not the participant patient they were after!
Basically I’m just expressing my dissatisfaction with this assessment process. I know I signed up for a trail and I’m part of research – but I’m also a person and I’m always left feeling a bit shaky and disillusioned about my progress. I think I’ll have to suggest a debriefing session for future participants.
Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – so come on folks – get talking.
There are plenty of us out there with mental illnesses and so many people are made to feel ashamed because of it. Well, it’s time to stop that. Please. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. Try to understand what someone is telling you. If someone seems sad, ask them why. If someone seems lonely, give them the time of day. If someone seems scary to you – maybe try to understand what is causing them to behave like that. We’re all people. We all do stupid things and we all struggle with the burden of our own thoughts. Some just more so than others.
This week I’m trying so hard to battle my ‘problems’. OK, it’s not something to be ashamed of but I want to be responsible for myself. I want not to hurt people and I want not to hurt myself. It’s hard to admit it but maybe I want to be happy and maybe that’s OK. So that means really focusing on my BPD – why it’s there and how I can learn to live with it better. It means not wallowing in it and taking control – owning my feelings and learning from my past.
Fancy joining me?
It goes without saying that mental health problems are going to affect your relationships. They change the way you see and interact with the world so it’s inevitable. And obviously it’s going to differ massively from person to person and lately I’ve been interested in how other people have maintained friendships with their own problems and if relating at all is difficult – for me, I’ve always found it hard.
Looking back to when my problems really became apparent: anorexia. With my anorexic voice in my head there was very little room for anyone else’s and people getting in the way of my routines coupled with my lack of personality due to a lack of energy, I found friendships hard. Some people battled to stay in my life. Others less so. What was interesting though is that it must have been seen as a very ‘glamorous’ illness. When I was in hospital people came to visit and vowed to love me and be worried about me that I barely heard from again since once I became healthy. Yuck – who needs friends like that?
Now, with my ongoing BPD, there are people who I have drifted from. My anxiety can get in the way, I can be flaky with arrangements, I can feel dull, inferior and like I add nothing to a relationship. I feel selfish and like a ‘bad person’ unless I put everyone else first. And then I get overwhelmed and so cancel everything and feel disgusted with myself and too ashamed to press the friendship further. I have friends that are safe and those who aren’t and I totally don’t blame people for losing patience with me as I can do too.
And although I may have lost friends to my problems, I’ve also gained many. Through my various treatments and in other walks of life, I’ve met other people who struggle and it’s always such a relief to be able to talk to someone who understands first hand where you’re coming from. Sometimes these friendships can become unhealthy or difficult if your issues clash or are too similar, but often they are rewarding and some of the closest friendships I’ve made.
Anyway, that’s my ramblings but I’m interested in what other people have felt about friends and mental health too. 🙂
Part of therapy – surely every type of therapy – is recalling memories, often traumatic or sad. And we all know that individual memories are very often unreliable (the way we interpret things, what we forget, etc.) so when a therapist is making you probe around in the gloom at the back of your mind, how much of what you uncover there is real?
For example, in a past relationship I have various memories of my ex standing over me and shouting while I cringed, cried and quivered in a heap on the floor. What I don’t remember is how I ever ended up there. It seems baffling to the person I am now that I would put myself in that position. I’m not an overly dramatic person – I don’t fling myself about for attention. Was I trying to make myself seem vulnerable so he would stop? Was I so overwrought with sadness that I collapsed? Was I having a panic attack? Was I pushed? How and when did I get back up?
I have one memory of a more recent time when I was so upset I almost fainted but I can remember that so vividly, so it’s odd how murky these memories are when they seem so significant. But back to my point – what slant does therapy make me put on them? I’m told it was an abusive relationship so it’s easy to look at these images and see a victim, thrown to the ground. But I jut don’t believe that happened. Yet I could so easily paint this full story, with thicker and thicker layers until it becomes truth.
And that’s what worries me sometimes about therapy – how true are my memories? How much can therapy that looks back at your past ever be accurate and is it possible that it could do more damage than good?
This weekend I saw a great friend of mine from my time as an inpatient at the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders at Seacroft.First of all, I want to say I’m so proud of the people who I saw at their worst in that place who have come through to have careers/children/happiness. Such strong, brave women who I will always have the greatest respect for. Whatever else happens in our lives – we can all be proud to have overcome such a horrendous demon.
Secondly though – my friend had found some videos we made on her phone in hospital and they were awesome to watch. They were of friends giggling and having fun despite the surroundings. OK, we really shouldn’t have been filming on the ward because there were some very sick people in there who had a right to anonymity – but the memories were so happy. It was like watching teenagers at boarding school – though we were older and lacked many privileges. We were hugging each other, showing off our bedrooms, posing, laughing, racing wheelchairs – just finding fun and happiness in a difficult time.
I’m not glamorising being hospitalised for eating disorders. Believe me, I have some grim memories too – the fear, the depression, being watched in the shower, having to use a potty, not being allowed outside, the pain and humiliation…but I’m just in awe of the strength of people. The ability to find joy in unlikely places – that we can endure and we can push ourselves through so much crap. We can overcome trauma and we can still smile.
Sure, people can be horrendous to one another, but people can be amazing too. Thank you to everyone who gave me sunshine in that time – you know who you are. 🙂
One of the strangest things about our Schema Therapy is the assessments. Every six months we have a round of assessments that look at how much money our mental health problems cost us, how it affects our relationships, view of ourselves, mental capacity, ability to look after ourselves, etc. We even had to do a DNA test right at the beginning.
Today’s assessment, however, was about the therapists and people in the group and I guess it looks at how they are influencing our recovery. One of the things we get asked to draw a picture of our main modes (punitive parent, vulnerable child and healthy adult), their relationships to each other and then to write the names of the other group members and therapists close to the modes they bring out in us. Considering the last blog I wrote (about wondering if my therapist is avoiding me), it’s very useful.
This time round I drew (in stick men form only – my artist skills are limited!) my vulnerable child bigger than before but with the punitive parent holding her arm and whispering poison in her ear. The healthy adult stood further away reaching out for the child but not quite getting there. But he was also bigger than before (why my PP and HA are male and my VC is a female is a question for someone else to ponder). I think mostly I gave my therapists strong positions near the HA but with my individual therapist near my vulnerable side since I’m afraid she doesn’t like me. Something I’m encouraged to bring up with her. Hmm…
But it is progress – I think I know who helps bring out my healthy sides and who makes me more anxious and afraid. I think I’m more aware of my child modes and how I use them to try and influence (eek – manipulate?) people. I know how much responsibility I need to take, for myself and others – even if I don’t always act on it. I know where I want to go, basically, and I have another year of therapy to get me there.