Going Out Of My Mind

I haven’t been in a good place. Hell, I feel like I’m barely hanging on.

I’ve been dealing with so many flashbacks, and so many things are triggering me. I’ve discovered even more triggers. They’re fucking everywhere lately!

In group on Tuesday, I skipped the first half, which is usually just the check-in anyway. I saw my OT before group and told her that I’m going home (we didn’t have a session that day). She encouraged me to stay, but I felt like I just couldn’t. I was walking to my car when panic set in, and I realized I didn’t want to go back to the house. I’m walking out of my safe place, only to go to a place I desperately want to get away from. I went back, but sat outside in the coffee shop for the first hour. I just needed to be alone in that moment, while being in a secure, comfortable environment.

One of the psychiatrists at the clinic led the group on Tuesday. I don’t really like it when he runs it, because he’s so clinical, and it feels more like school, sitting in a boring class. I like it when the OT’s run the groups, as they make it fun and interactive.

During the break, my OT wanted to talk to me. She asked me what was going on. I told her that I didn’t want to sit in on the check-in’s, because firstly, it was a big group that night, and secondly I didn’t want to talk. (There was something that had happened that day before the group, but I didn’t want to talk about it. And I still don’t. At least not in the near future). OT said that I didn’t have to talk, but that it’s good to be there and just listen to other’s, because it helps with not feeling alone with our struggles/problems. She’s right of course. But what I didn’t tell her was that I was terrified that if someone said or spoke about something that was triggering, it would send me into full-blown panic attack mode (I didn’t have my Ativan with me, as I had forgotten my bag at home).

I just didn’t feel like talking that day. I barely spoke to my friends who also attend the group. One of them asked me why I’m so quiet and distant. I told her that I’m just tired. I wish it was just that.

I’ve been advertising my photography business, posted adverts on bulletin boards in the shops, but nothing has come from it. I feel like I’ll never get out of this situation I’m in. I’m trying so many different things, and I’m just so tired of problem solving when nothing seems to be working. I’m tired of fighting. I feel like I’ll be stuck forever. I don’t see any hope for my future right now. Everything feels hopeless and pointless. I feel useless.

To add insult to injury, I had a wisdom tooth removed two weeks ago, and developed “dry socket” recently. Look it up on Google if you don’t know what that is. The pain is excruciating. I wake up a few times during the night to radiating pain that just doesn’t stop, and keeps me awake for another hour or two. Prescription pain killers barely work. Give me Morphine please! This is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It’s a little better today, and I only woke up once last night, so I’m hoping that’s a sign that it’s finally healing.

Having two of my other wisdom teeth removed a couple of years ago was traumatic enough, but this is so much worse. That was a walk in the park compared to this time. I never want to see a dentist again in my life! I had to go back to her yesterday so that she could pack the socket, but she first had to clean it out, and that hurt! She told me that unfortunately she couldn’t do anything about the pain while doing that. Before I went in to go see her, I took a double dose of one of my benzo’s (not the Ativan), and I was still terrified. She told me I might have to come back, and have it done again, as it’s just palliative treatment and not a “cure”. Afterward, I was so light-headed and nauseous from the stress and anxiety that I almost passed out, and had to lie down on the waiting room’s couch for about 20 minutes. In that moment I didn’t care what anyone else might have thought. Any other time, I would have.

I told my dad last night that I’m not coming into work today, as I’m exhausted and need to try sleep a little and I couldn’t concentrate with the pain. He told me it’s fine (thankfully), but then said that I’m making the pain worse for myself. “Stop thinking about it”, were his words. Stop thinking about it? Are you fucking kidding me? It feels like my face is going to explode at any minute, but I mustn’t think about the pain. I would give anything to be able to not think about it.

Emotional pain and physical pain don’t mix. Physical pain already makes a person feel miserable. Add in depression and anxiety, and it’s a disaster.

I have no appetite. I have to force myself to eat, and then it takes me an hour. I dread breakfast, lunch and dinner time. I feel like crying when it comes time to eat. Which seems overly dramatic, and it probably is. But that’s how it is for me at the moment.

Talking about crying. When I think about tomorrow, the weekend, the week after, etc, I just want to cry. I don’t feel like there’s anything to look forward to. I wish I could cry. But I just can’t. I never know what’s worse. Crying so much and being tearful the entire day, with the smallest little thing setting it off again, or not being able to cry, even though I desperately want and need to. I guess it depends on which state I’m in at that moment. This time I really want to cry.

During hard times, I usually think “I could really use (therapist) right about now. I need her.” But this time is different (and a first). While I would like to see her now, I think I want/need a friend more.

I’m struggling so much, and I don’t know where to turn. Or who to turn to.

But I just want to die.

This has been a long post, but I needed to get all this out.

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Protection And Running Away

This is a follow up from my previous post.

After I had written it, and gone to sleep, I had a nightmare.

Before I get into the dream, it needs to be said that most of my dreams over the years have followed a similar theme. They all involve me protecting others (or myself and even baby animals). Running away from someone, a group of people, or something (like a natural disaster).

In this dream, that person was my step-father. He was hurting my youngest little sister, and throwing her around the room. She was so tiny. Just a little toddler. It broke me seeing what he was doing to her. So I picked her up and ran. Suddenly there were other people with us who I was also trying to lead to safety. We climbed and jumped over walls and roofs, and crawled through barbed wire fences. Trying to stay out of sight of the monster who was hunting us. There were security camera’s, so it was even more important for us to avoid being seen. There were wide open spaces, which made us especially vulnerable. Other spaces were difficult to get through, as there were plants and trees surrounding us. We came across a house here and there, but I knew they weren’t safe to run into. That the people who lived there were in on it with my step-father. Every time I thought we were in the clear, I’d find that it wasn’t over, and he was catching up to us.

Suddenly a SWAT team appeared. They were helping us escape. But then we understood that they weren’t there to help us at all. They had their own agenda. Now there were more people after us. One of the guys running with us, picked up a dead snake, and told us that the SWAT team had been fooling us. Why a dead snake, and what that has to do with anything, I have no idea (some of my dreams have featured snakes- I don’t know what that represents). At the end of the dream, when I finally thought we were really safe this time, as there were normal people walking around, I realized that we were still in danger. I felt trapped.

I woke up crying. And I realized just how much my past has affected me, and shaped my life. For the first time, I can acknowledge that I haven’t yet fully dealt with it. I always tried to run away from my past. Pretending that it didn’t affect me. But now I realize just how much it actually did.

Once I was fully awake, I felt a combination of anger and deep hurt. I’ve always tried to be the protector to everyone. To take care of others. I took on that role. But who protects me? Who protected that little girl? The people who were supposed to protect her, didn’t, or couldn’t. And for the first time, I’m feeling the extent of that pain.

I could never truly connect to that part of myself until now. I’m grieving for that sad, lonely, and scared little girl. For the teen who had to deal with so much.

Those uncried tears, are finally being released. The hurt with nowhere to go, is being experienced and channeled. The secrets with no one to tell, are now being told.

It’s too painful to feel all at once. But the door has been opened, so I can begin to walk through it.

Going Back To The Old Me

Before starting therapy, I pretty much kept to myself. My feelings, my thoughts. They belonged only to me, and I didn’t share them with anyone. I was always the shy and reserved one. It protected me. It worked for me. Yet at the same time, it didn’t really work. It might have sheltered me from rejection, but it also ate me up inside. I tried to open up a few times, but just ended up getting hurt. Further reinforcing that it wasn’t safe to reveal the deepest parts of myself.

Even in primary school, I was a shadow. When I tried to make friends, and join the other children, I’d just get mocked, teased and called horrible names. So eventually I stopped trying. What was the point. I still remember the day I got my first friend. I was eating my lunch on a step, overlooking some children playing. A girl came to sit next to me and asked my name. We shared my lunch, and from that day we became best friends. I think she was the first friend I ever had. I was never allowed to go visit her at home though (my dad was very controlling- “only protecting me” in his words- when I actually needed to be protected from him). Then we moved to a new city again, and I never heard from her, or saw her again. I didn’t want to get attached to anyone again after that, and I don’t know if I ever did, as I can’t remember the next year or two.

I went to go watch the sunset on the beach today. It’s one of my favourite self-soothing practices. Usually it makes me feel better. It brings me peace. I feel at one with nature, and like I’m not alone in this world. But tonight I just felt this deep sadness the entire time. At first I didn’t understand why, and just tried to push it away. To be mindful of the beauty surrounding me. And then it came. Memories of the same way I felt so often throughout my life. Memories of moments where I felt so alone, with so much sadness buried deep, but that I couldn’t express or verbalize. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to show emotions. Both my dad and then step-mother hated any display of emotion, other than happiness. But I was hardly ever happy, so I had to pretend that I was. When I went to my biological mom every second weekend, I watched my step-dad hurt her, and occasionally my little sisters as well. I couldn’t show my fear and hatred toward him. I couldn’t protect them. I was scared he would hurt them even more, and that he’d hurt me too. But he never did. I think he was scared of my dad. He was very cruel to me though. Men (monsters) like him, usually are. He also hated displays of emotion. It was a trigger for him. So there were many tears left uncried. So much hurt with nowhere to go. So many secrets with no one to tell. That pattern has followed me ever since.

It was only when I started therapy in March last year, that the pattern got interrupted. Opening up to my therapist felt amazing. She didn’t judge, she didn’t tell me to “stop being a baby”, or get angry with me for expressing my feelings. She didn’t punish me. I felt safe with her. Since then, I’ve become more open to more people. Only to a certain extent though. I knew what to share, and what to keep hidden. Every now and then though, I’d become brave and say more than I should.

In group on Tuesday, I was in a bit of a manic state (I had been in that state for a few days already). We had the usual “check in”. I was a bit late, as I had to go pick up a friend, so when I got back to group, the check in was already underway. Other than the usual check in, we also had to pick an animal that represents us, and tell the others why we chose that animal. When it was my turn, and started sharing, I got interrupted by one of the guys. He argued with me about the correct name for the animal I had chosen. I was so embarrassed and just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to make it known though how I really felt in that moment, so I argued back. And then I just shut down and let the next person share. It’s taken me a while to start opening up in group. But now with this, I feel it’s not okay to do that anymore. I’ll still connect to the few people I’ve really grown to care about, before group, during the break, and afterward. But I don’t want to open up during the group anymore.

Jasmine and I spent the day together yesterday. Usually when I’m with her, we speak openly about our thoughts and feelings as they come up. But this time I couldn’t. I pretended that everything was okay the whole time, that I was happy. I have to pretend with the dad and current step-mother anyway, so it’s easy. Easy to pretend, difficult to deal with internally.

I just don’t want to be vulnerable anymore. My blog is my space to be open, but in the offline world, I want to stay away from that. I had a great therapy session on Wednesday. But then on Thursday, my manic phase was over, and I went straight down into the depths. And since then I’ve been feeling this need to protect myself from the world.

My younger parts, especially, have been struggling. They need me to take care of them, protect, and love them. They can be vulnerable with the adult me. They only need me. This song is my message to them. It just seems to fit.

Selene

I just sat down at my computer right now and thought that I want to write a post. But then I realized… I don’t have anything to write about. There’s nothing that I really want to say.

Something just popped into my mind. Let me tell you about “Selene”. I’ve never told anyone about “her”. Not even my therapist, because it sounds completely crazy. Besides, it’s never come up.

I don’t know if Selene was around when I was a kid. The earliest memory I have of her is from my late teens I think. I just remember walking down the street one day. I was scared of something. I can’t remember what, but I still remember the feeling of intense fear. Then suddenly I felt this powerful presence beside me. The fear instantly disappeared and I felt this sense of protection. I didn’t need to see her to know she exists. She felt really familiar… Which is why I say I don’t know whether she was around earlier than that memory.

I was still a Christian back then, but knew that this wasn’t God, an angel or anything like that. She wasn’t part of that spiritual world. Selene felt different, separate to all of that. I can’t explain it.

She’s powerful and invincible. When she’s around I feel like no one and nothing can harm me. I feel strong and empowered. Safe. I don’t experience her internally, but on the outside. Like a physical presence right next to me. Close. The way a bodyguard stands next to a public figure.

Sometimes it seems like she just shows up for no reason. I can’t even understand why she’s there in those moments. And why she’s not around when I want her. A lot of the time she shows up when I’m feeling very anxious or afraid of something. Most of the time, it’s at night. My worst time of day. Which is why I try to stay up as late as I can. Because as soon as that light goes out, I feel vulnerable for some reason. She can be there from a few seconds to a few minutes. Although, there are two moments that I remember sensing her presence when I was in terrible emotional pain. Just sitting with me on the bed and the floor. Most of the time, she’s just this powerful, strong being. My protector.

It’s not a regular thing. Months can go by without her. She showed up again this week. And I don’t even know why. In the moments when she shows up, one part of me experiences her as completely real. The presence I feel is real. The logical part of me is aware that she’s not really real. I’m pretty sure she’s just a construct of my imagination. A defense mechanism? But yet, she’s real. Does that make sense?

Well, it seems I did have something to say after all. Even though it’s something that might well see me getting more meds to add to my collection, and send some of you running.

It’s Over

I haven’t posted about what’s been going on with the situation I mentioned in my post “A Hostile Takeover“.

As you know, my step mother’s parents were going to stay for two weeks, possibly even three. Instead, they decided to only stay for just over a week, leaving on Monday morning. Writing this now, time seems fragmented. They left this past Monday, but I got confused, thinking it was the previous Monday. I don’t know what’s been going on with my mind. I’ve been feeling so out of it lately.

While the parents were here, I isolated myself a lot. I felt like I didn’t have the strength to put up a front. I didn’t care that my step mom’s parents hadn’t seen a lot of me since they’d been here. I didn’t care if they thought I was being rude. I’m done pretending. Of hiding behind a smile and jokes. I didn’t care that I “should” be making an effort to get out and do things, to make conversation. I just wanted to be alone. I wanted to be holed up in the room and not have to see anyone. Except for sessions with my OT and group.

I was a bit depressed. But it all came down to over stimulation due to having so many people in one house. Constant voices, too much energy. So I took it easy. I didn’t force myself to do anything. I just told myself “you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. But it might just help you.” I read something a while ago that said studies show that speaking to yourself in the second/third person, has more of an impact than using “I”. So I was gentle with myself. I did things I didn’t feel like doing, things that I usually enjoy, but I did it slowly, and didn’t force it too much. If I read, I would have to reread the same paragraph a few times just to make sense of what I was reading, but I did it anyway. Little bits at a time. And then on Sunday I woke up feeling so much better. I was ready to be around people again. I felt even better when I heard that they were going to be leaving the next day.

Needless to say, I was relieved when they left. But I also felt a little guilty. I felt like a horrible person. I can’t change anything though, so I tried to have compassion for myself, instead of beating myself up over it.

It’s so nice to have my own bed and room back again.

Anniversary Already?

Logging into WordPress on Wednesday, this popped up in my notifications:

Wordpress

Time has certainly flown by. I started this blog when I left my emotionally abusive partner of almost 4 years. I was moving from the city I had called “home” for those years, and driving to the city I’m now living in. It took me 3 days to get here, and two overnight stays at guest houses. It was during the second evening that I decided to start this blog.

I felt so alone during this time. Alone, scared and unsure about what lay ahead. This blog helped me process my feelings and thoughts, and it still does. I’ve never been one to express my emotions to others, or try to explain the thoughts in my head. So this blog has been really good for me. Just getting it all out there is therapeutic.

When I first started writing here, I didn’t think that I would even get one follower or reader, and now I have 324 of you! How did that happen? When I first started getting “likes”, comments and followers, I felt a little overwhelmed and frightened. It suddenly became very real. After all, I was revealing my soul to the world. I was exposed and vulnerable. I like to believe that part of my newfound ability to be more open in expressing myself, has come from writing these posts. Of course, therapy also played a big part in the “new” me.

I’ve always struggled to keep up with anything. I’d always start off excited about something, but then I either get bored, discouraged, or another idea or project would consume my mind. So this is a big achievement for me. I’ve managed to stick it out for a whole year! There have been a few days where I wanted to delete my entire blog and just disappear from the online world. But you guys have given me a reason to not give up on it. Knowing that a lot of you relate and find encouragement in my posts.

I want to thank all of you for the support, encouragement, and inspiration. I consider a lot of you friends and family. You give me the strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights.

I’m also thankful to my therapist for encouraging me to keep up with my blog, and for taking the time to read my posts.

Thank you.

A Hostile Takeover

I’m an introvert.

When I spend too much time with a person or people, I start getting frustrated. Even with my friends. I need time alone. I don’t want to spend every weekend with people. Sometimes I just want to spend time with myself. Being lazy, watching TV, reading, studying up on things that I find interesting (such as psychology). There are many times where I crave closeness though. And it comes at the worst possible times. When everyone else is so busy with their lives that they don’t have time to spend with me. I tend to fall into a depression then, and feel unimportant and rejected. I’ve never actually had anyone hold space for me while I was going through a difficult time. When I really needed someone, just anyone, I was alone. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m so attached to my therapist. She’s helped me through a lot of dark moments. When I had no one, she was there. She was (and is) my person. I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll find that person who will walk with me through it all, and let me do the same for them. Through both the good and the bad.

Right now I’ve withdrawn into my shell.

I had to photograph a wedding on Friday. I’m a photographer but I don’t do weddings. But I made an exception in this case, as it was a small wedding and I know the bride. I was terrified. One of the reasons I don’t do weddings is because it’s the one event that you just can’t mess up on. You don’t get a second chance. And I just don’t have the confidence that I feel every other photographer has. I wanted to cancel every day for a week, wondering what the hell had come over me in accepting the job. But when I make a commitment, I stick to it, even if it hurts. Besides, it was a job, and I desperately needed it.

It was so stressful. And now I’m working on the photo’s, before putting together the package that they selected. I’m going to be working on it for the rest of this week. At least I enjoy it. All that anxiety had built up over the week, and now that it’s over, I’m exhausted and just want to be alone.

The photo’s came out better than I expected, but less perfect than I wanted. People keep telling me my photography is really good. But no matter how many times I’ve heard that, it just doesn’t stick. Unfortunately our brains have a negativity bias. The bad sticks, while the good seeps away quickly. It’s automatic, as the brain has a high sensitivity to negative stimuli. Fortunately, it can be changed (with a lot of hard work). You can read more here.

When I’m doing a photo shoot, I pretend to be confident, calm and collected. One of the reviews I received said “she was professional, calm and comfortable”. If only this client knew how I was trembling inside, feeling like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking photos. It’s the interacting with people that I struggle with. And the fear of messing up.

In other news, my stepmom’s parents are here for the next two weeks (and they might even stay for 3 weeks), and I’ve been exiled from my room. I’m now staying in my step brother’s room (he’s sharing with his sister- obviously in separate beds). There are now 8 people in the house. It’s crowded, and noisy. I want peace and quiet when I wake up in the morning. To be able to sit outside and not hear twenty voices. I’m not a morning person. I have my own bathroom in my room. Now I need to share one with the kids and my uncle. I can’t shower when I want to, I need to schedule it around when they want to shower, and then I’m stuck with lukewarm or cold water. Even the kids get preference over me, which is frustrating.

I think of it this as a hostile takeover, hence the title. See how I blow things way out of proportion? It’s a talent of mine.

In our last session, my therapist used a REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) “technique”. It goes something like this:
My beliefs: I should have my room to myself. I should have all my stuff around me. I mustn’t let this upset me so much. I must get over it. She’s helping me eliminate the words “should”, “have to” “must”, etc. So I’ve been trying to re-frame those thoughts. Instead of “I should have all my stuff around me and have my space to myself” I’ve been saying: “I would prefer to have my room and space to myself, but they’re not going to be here forever. I’ll get my room back when they leave. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, and yes, I’m annoyed about it, and I get to feel that way”. It’s the anger that I’m trying to replace with less destructive, intense emotions. So I’m practicing this (my homework).

Wish me luck for these next few weeks!