Struggling

I’ve been struggling a lot these past few days.

My sympathetic nervous system and good old Amy(gdala) thinks I’m in constant danger. My emotions are all over the place. For a couple of hours yesterday I felt completely empty, then another torrent of emotions.

Reading my previous post back, I’m aware that my current emotions will pass, but then what? It comes back again at some point. Like the ocean and waves, it’s never ending. Like I told my therapist today, using coping tools and skills is hard and exhausting.

My sensory system is even more sensitive lately too. Everything feels brighter, faster, louder, leading to me losing my shit much much quicker. Anxiety is a bitch. And my trusty benzo’s? Well, no effect, they’ve been pretty useless. Although I wonder if they haven’t actually been working, and I would have been even worse without them?

Thank whoever for therapy today. It was intense, and most of it a blur, but C was once again very comforting and helpful. We didn’t do much “work”, as most of the session was focused on helping me get regulated and become present, but I was exhausted afterward. I still am.

At the end of the session I got nice firm hug from her. I needed that so much. Hugging a stuffed toy just isn’t the same as close contact with another human. Just as an aside, we don’t always hug after sessions. It’s only happened about three times because firstly, sometimes I’m too ashamed/scared to ask for one, while other times I just don’t feel the need. I wouldn’t like regular hugs, because then it just becomes like a routine and while I thrive on routine, this is something different.

I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning. Just the thought of another day gives me a sinking feeling. I could take the day off work, but even that feels depressing.

They say struggles make us stronger, but it feels like the opposite is true. I don’t feel stronger. I feel weaker instead.

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Remembering Emotions As Waves

It still catches me by surprise how quickly my emotions can change from one minute, hour, week, to the next.

When I wrote my last post I was in a pit of despair which had rolled over me while doing some movement and muscle exercises (sensory integration stuff). Everything just suddenly seemed pointless, and didn’t have the strength or energy to stop the spiral leading me down a dark road.

Once I’m in that dark place, most of the time I can’t even summon up the thought that it will be over soon. I forget that our emotions are like waves, they come and go. You know, the stuff we’re taught in DBT. In those moments it feels like it’s never going to end. That this is it. This is life. This is me. This is how it’s always going to be and there’s nothing I can do about it.

When I’m not in that place where suicidal ideation is so strong, then I remember that this too shall pass. Then I can see the waves and am more able to cope with the emotions rising and falling, crashing and calming.

Here’s to riding the waves.

Why I Wish He Would Understand

I arrived in a state at my therapy session last week. It had been a crap day, with way too much sensory stimulation. There’s building going on next to my dad’s shop, and the store was in chaos… One of the really busy days. Phones ringing, everyone running up and down, loud voices, etc. I just couldn’t work, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t do much of anything but listen to my music with my headphones on and try to calm my nervous system down.

It ended up with me and my dad fighting again, because he couldn’t understand why I can’t just ignore everything and focus on work. I tried to explain to him again that I struggle to drown out sounds and the constant movement (which makes me nauseous as well) and I seem to lose the ability to use my brain for tasks. I would have thought that he would get this by now as it’s always been a problem for me, since childhood, and a source of lots of fights, tears, threats, etc. I was struggling to explain it to him in a coherent manner while in the state I was in, because for some reason even my language and speech are affected during these times of a sensory overload meltdown. Add in the frustration I was feeling with him not understanding or seeming to listen, and me being unable to communicate properly. I hated him so much right then and was glad when he left the office. I was done talking. I just couldn’t anymore. I was exhausted, yet still extremely riled up.

On a Wednesday I usually leave for therapy straight after work. As I was driving there that day, I couldn’t focus. I felt disoriented and confused on the road. For example, which lane I’m supposed to be in, road signs, other cars. See what I mean about my brain not functioning the way it should sometimes? I’m just glad I got to the clinic without any incident. And that the waiting area was empty and quiet.

I was still highly worked up in the session, and I can’t actually remember much of what went on. I do remember though my therapist asking at some point why I need my dad to understand. That question was on my mind for days afterward. Logically, I know he doesn’t understand and he probably never will, and sometimes I can accept that, but days that like one, I just can’t.

Why do wish he would understand, or at least try to? It would save both of us (and anyone else involved) a lot of drama. Because maybe then he’ll stop fighting with me over the same stuff, which just triggers me and makes me feel even more overwhelmed and less able to cope with the normal day-to-day of living and stress that comes with it. And he won’t have to be on the receiving end of a meltdown (or in his view, a tantrum). Case in point: On Tuesday my dad wanted me to go buy lunch. He wanted me to go to a place I absolutely hate. A fish shop. My first instinct when he asked me was to blurt out “but that place smells horrible!” before I could even realize what I was saying and stop myself. Usually this is the point where he will either crap me out for my “attitude” or “laziness”, or the more extreme version, fly into an instant rage. But this time he didn’t do either of those things. He simply replied “I know”, in a tone of voice that wasn’t threatening or triggering. When that happened, I felt myself relax, and willing to handle the few minutes of nausea I’d experience while ordering. That moment, where I felt validated in a sense, just confirmed why I believe it will be beneficial for the both of us if he would at least try to understand.

So yes, I went to that place to buy them food, and even though I was only inside for a minute or two while ordering (there wasn’t a queue, thank goodness), my clothes and hair smelled of the place. Fish and old oil. I had to double wash my hair and I don’t want to see that jersey and those pants for a while, even though they’ve now been washed. But, I survived. My dad’s words didn’t stop me from experiencing those nasty “side effects”, but it helped regulate my feelings toward actually having to go through it.

I know people can’t truly “get” things if they don’t experience it themselves, but relationships would be so much better off if we all just at least try to listen to one another and understand where someone is coming from. Why they react in certain ways. And yes, I know that applies to me with regards to my dad as well.

Where I’m Not A Burden

A few weeks ago I started volunteering at a local dog shelter.

I’ve been wanting to do it for months, but didn’t want to go alone the first time. I hate not knowing what to expect (it fills me with anxiety and/or panic), and therefore find it helpful to have a friend or someone else I know come with me so I don’t get overwhelmed. My business partner agreed to come with me, so I could finally go. Now I go alone, which I prefer, because I can control my time, what I do, and get alone time with the doggies.

It’s been really good for me. There are definitely challenges, because I tend to get attached to animals pretty quickly, and it breaks my heart leaving them behind every week. Especially one particular dog. My girl, Athena. Even though I walk different dogs all the time, I still at least play with her for a while every week, and might take her for a walk as well if I have enough time. I’ll add photos of her at the end of this post.

Spending time with these amazing creatures feels so good. It’s also my weekly exercise (I should exercise at other times during the week but it’s boring, so don’t). I might not be making a huge difference to their lives, but at least I can do a little. And that’s good enough. When I’m there, and with them, I don’t feel like a burden. I feel like I matter. At least to those doggies. I can smother them with love and they don’t push me away.

In one of our sessions when I told my therapist I was going to the shelter the next day to start volunteering, she was really glad to hear that, but told me to take different dogs every week so I don’t become too attached. But now she knows that’s just not possible (at least not yet). When I was telling her last week how badly I want to adopt Athena but that my dad won’t budge and doesn’t want a dog around, even if he doesn’t have to have anything to do with it, she encouraged me to continue going and not give it up despite that. She already knows me pretty well… That something like that (the disappointment at my dad not allowing me to have a dog while living with them) tends to de-motivate me from doing things that are good for me, or that I enjoy. I’m glad she said that because I have been wondering whether it’s worth the heartache of having to leave them behind when I go. But I want to do good in this world, and giving back to these dogs is one way I can do that. They deserve it.

Another reason I enjoy spending time with dogs is because it’s the one time when I’m out in the world that I don’t feel on high alert and sensory experiences don’t overwhelm me as much. Nothing else has such a soothing effect on me, other than a hug of course (which is always way too short anyway). I feel safe in the presence of large breed dogs in particular. Maybe it goes back to one of the family dogs we had when I was a kid. Her name was Cindy, a large cross-breed we had for about 5 years. She was my best, and only friend for a big portion of my childhood. I always felt safe and loved when I was spending time with her.

One Sunday when I got back from visiting my mom for the weekend, I couldn’t find Cindy anywhere. My dad told me they had put her down. She wasn’t sick, but she had bitten one of the other dogs. His theory has always been that the first sign of aggression signals that it’s time to have a dog put down (which I now know is bullshit). I was devastated. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. And his other dog, wasn’t even seriously hurt. She just had a little mark. I was furious, but of course didn’t express it in front of my dad. I’ll never forget that day.

There was another dog at the shelter, Apollo, who reminded me of Cindy, and I bonded with him the very first day. Last week when I wanted to take him for a walk, they told me that he had been adopted. It triggered this horrible memory of having Cindy just gone so suddenly without having had the opportunity to say goodbye. On the one hand I was happy that he got adopted and now has his own family, but a part of me also felt really heartbroken that day. Now? I’m just glad that he found his forever home.

I told A about my volunteering and she said it’s a good opportunity to work on my attachment. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but now I can definitely see it. A form of exposure therapy for people with attachment issues. Just wonder whether it will translate into human relationships? I don’t see why not.

Obsessions As A Coping Tool?

Throughout my life I’ve had various obsessions. Things I latched onto and that became the centre of my world for a while. It would be all I could/would want to think or talk about.

As a kid it would be a movie or an animated character, and the family dog Cindy. As a teen, it was a celebrity (won’t say who, it’s embarrassing). I’ve had an obsession with Jennifer Lawrence (which drives my friends crazy) for the past couple years, “replacing” my previous one. I’m the Wikipedia of knowledge when it comes to her. It’s actually quite sad. 😉

My current obsession revolves around dogs. It never really went away. Psychology (and Neuroscience) is also an obsession, but the world of dogs is now front and centre again.

Unlike the Jennifer Lawrence one, the Psychology is something that fascinates my friends and they don’t mind me talking about it endlessly. They’ll even ask me questions, which puts me on cloud nine.

I want to study Psychology. I want my own dog. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted these things. So it’s not just new stuff that comes up and become obsessions. I just go through these stages where I’m so psyched thinking about doing and getting those things that once again it’s all I can think about, and I want it now.

But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I’m not going to get any of those things in the near future unless something changes in my life. When I thought about that, I felt defeated and hopeless again. But yet my mind won’t stop or let it go. It’s like a compulsion. I have to read more, watch more, learn more, talk about it as often as I can to anyone who will listen, etc.

Why do I do this to myself? I’ve asked this question quite a lot, but I don’t have any concrete answers, other than that maybe it’s a coping tool? Because my mind is so filled up with these things that I don’t have time to deal with all the other shit. It makes me feel alive. It fills me with excitement. So I don’t see it as a bad thing. Sure, it can be annoying sometimes (and not just for others). But for the most part, it’s so worth it.

The Anger and Pain Again

It’s agony wanting so badly to kill myself, but being unable to because I don’t want to hurt a few key people in my life. I hate that I care. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could just do it and get it over with. And why the fuck do I care how it might impact upon my current therapist and the OT’s at the clinic? What even makes me sure they might be negatively impacted for even a minute? I don’t think they really care anyway. They see so many people, they can’t care about them all. Especially not those annoying, over-bearing types like me. That’s reserved for the good clients. The only person I feel cares is A. Well, she did anyway. I’m trying to hold onto the thought that she still does. Don’t want to go to therapy tomorrow, but I already know I will end up there anyway, because I’m so damn predictable. I don’t want to see her. I don’t want to see anyone.

I’m angry with the world. I want to burn it all down. I hate humanity. I’m not good with people anyway. I thought I had become better with them through the past few years, but apparently not. When I can’t even understand what a person is saying and end up saying stupid things that don’t even make sense. When I misread the simplest of things and can’t even concentrate on something someone is saying because I’m trying to maintain eye contact (which comes hand in hand with anxiety) to show that I’m present and attentive. Multitasking? It’s a myth. People rope you in, then once they’ve got you, rip you apart.

I’m angry with the god I don’t think I believe in anymore. He didn’t even help a child that needed him because her parents couldn’t be there for her the way she needed. So why would he help an adult who’s supposed to be more capable? I was brought up in a Christian family, so I knew how to pray. But according to some Christians, I obviously didn’t pray the right way, or didn’t have enough faith. The smallest little thing I prayed for, for him to send someone into my room one night to just hold me. I just wanted to be held and feel loved, but apparently that was too much to ask for. So the next person who thinks about sending me an email telling me to just give everything over to God and my life will be better, please, don’t bother. I’ve been down that road and it just caused even more confusion, guilt, shame, and pain.

Most of all, I’m angry with myself. For being the way I am. For feeling the way I am. For being a brat. Life’s not fair. No shit. It doesn’t owe me anything. And on that note, I don’t owe it anything either.

A Nightmare, and Trust

In a previous post I mentioned a recurring childhood dream that had come back. I had this nightmare quite a few times over the past two months or so. I spoke about it with my therapist two weeks ago, and thankfully haven’t had it again since then.

The dream is always the same, sometimes just with different characters and settings. Even though the end scene always takes place in a kitchen, the house or area is different.

It starts off with me running through a dark forest. I’m hungry, cold, lost, and terrified. There are people chasing me. The closer they get, the more their features start to change. They’re suddenly not human anymore. They’ve become monsters, and they’re trying to kill me. I find places that look safe and run into them, only to be greeted by more of these monsters. Among them are people I know or used to know. Even people I like or love.

In the final house I run into, I find myself in the kitchen. There I see someone else I know (a family member, friend, teacher, etc), with their back toward me, chopping vegetables. I feel a sense of relief, and start telling this person about the monsters and asking them to help me. As I get closer to this person, they turn around slowly, smiling. Their familiar face starts to change and distort, the smile becoming threatening and evil. Eyes glowing. I see the knife they’re holding is dripping with blood. I try to scream, but no sound comes out. This person, my last hope, and it’s gone. As this person lunges at me with the knife, I wake up. Sometimes the dream goes on, and I’m fighting this person who is now on top of me, strong and heavy. I realize that I can’t escape, but carry on trying to fight this monster off. I always wake up before I get killed.

I don’t know when these dreams showed up in my childhood, as that time of my life is fragmented, blurry, and a lot of it, forgotten. But I can certainly understand the context of not knowing who to trust, where to go for safety.

Growing up, I rarely felt safe. My parents got divorced when I was still very young, and whether I was visiting my mother on her weekends and holidays, or at home with my dad, step-mom and step-sister, I didn’t feel safe or that I could really trust anyone. There was shit going on in both households. We moved around a lot as well, and I went to quite a few different schools in different cities, each time moving further away from my mom. Back then, my dad and step-mom would tell me that my mom didn’t want me, so it shouldn’t matter. They made me believe that she didn’t really love me. And when my eldest younger sister came along, I got even less of her attention, and those words they would constantly feed me, just embedded deeper within me. It was only in my late teens that I learned the truth of the situation. So is it any wonder I have trust issues?

When I told my therapist about this dream she said that it makes sense that I would have that dream now. I’ve had a difficult time this past while, with certain relationships changing and ending. Having to build up trust in a new relationship as well.

What I’m wondering is why I have dreams and nightmares that I had when I was younger? Shouldn’t they be a thing of the past? A child/teen’s mind that changes and grows? Do any of you have recurring childhood dreams show up later in your life from time to time?