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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

So I don’t blog anymore, but somehow when the shit hits the fan it seems that my reaction is to want to come here and write. As I said in my last post, I have been doing relatively well. No crisis team, visits to A&E etc etc. No lows so bad that I have completely crashed and ended up really ill – there have been dips, but they have just about stayed at a level I can deal with. The downsides are that emotionally I have felt very flat and numb, which I blame on the medication, and that despite being more stable, I have still not felt like I want to be here. But they have been passive, rather than active, thoughts.

Over the last couple of weeks this has been changing. Or couple of months according to www.ifnarky.com but let’s not do that because this is my blog, and I prefer to think of it as the last few days/weeks. Slowly at first, and then really fast the last couple of days. My mood has been crashing. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – it is my birthday on Monday, and long-term readers may remember that birthdays freak me out, as does New Year. Other things too, but those two particularly. So a little dip in my mood was almost expected. But it isn’t just a little dip. It’s a bloody big dip. More like a fall off the edge of a mountain style plummet. But. But but but, it is different. I am not going to be able to explain how it is different, because I’m not quite sure to be honest, but I know that it is different. For a start, I am feeling far less emotional than in the past. Again, I am attributing this to the meds. I know I am feeling very depressed because I have lots of the usual symptoms, but the one conspicuous by its absence is actually feeling, well, anything really. In terms of other symptoms, I’ve had some periods of dissociation, and the vast majority of the time I am feeling as though I am underwater – you know when everything sounds and feels blurry and distorted? Very disconnected and spacey. Which a couple of times has been quite scary when driving. Then of course, the biggest problem for me, the very strong negative thoughts that fill my head, urging me to kill myself. But all of this without really feeling any emotions? Strange. I can see how the lack of emotion can be perceived as a positive thing in that I don’t have the completely shit feelings, but it feels weird. And in a way it feels more unsafe, because I am not completely wiped out in the way I would be ordinarily – normally in really bad periods all I can do is lay in bed staring at the wall, but although I am tired at the moment from the busyness of my head, I am not wiped out in that way. Which means I have some energy, which kind of feels a bit scary combined with the thoughts. Which are largely centred around not wanting to be alive, and not wanting to be here for my birthday on Monday, therefore killing myself before then. The time pressure of that is not helpful in trying to deal with the thoughts.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my social worker. I had been very tempted not to go – I didn’t really want to talk to her, because although I like her a lot, I don’t find it helpful seeing her really, and I didn’t want to leave the house. But I went anyway. And within five minutes really regretted that. A little background – my social worker is pregnant, and will be going on maternity leave in September. The week before last she switched me from weekly appointments to fortnightly ones. As I said, I don’t find it that helpful seeing her, so I wasn’t too bothered about that, although I had told her it is a bad time of year for me, and that I therefore was slightly concerned about the timing.  But it was ok. So I didn’t see her last week, saw her yesterday. She asked how I was, I told her that I was struggling, that I was having strong suicidal thoughts etc. She told me that she had been speaking to the team manager and the psychologist that I used to see, and that they had decided that I would be ready to be discharged when she goes on maternity leave in September because I am doing so well. It was a ?!?! moment – I said I felt suicidal, she said I was doing so well that I was ready for discharge. Somewhat confusing. And to be honest I couldn’t take in what she was saying or think about it, because I was struggling too much with what was going on right now to listen to her go on about how brilliant it was that I am doing so well, and how exciting it is that I am ready to be discharged, and what a brilliantly positive step in my life this is. Maybe all of that is true, but really, was that the most appropriate time to bring it up? I’ve been under mental health services continually for 8 years, and it didn’t occur to her that it might be a good idea to have a CPA review with me, and whoever is involved in this decision, and discuss how I would feel about it? Or even just discuss it in an appointment? That presenting it as a fait accompli may not be the best way of doing it, and that when I have just said that I am really struggling seriously for the first time in over a year may not be an entirely sensitive time to bring it up?

This isn’t even a rant about being discharged. I don’t know enough about how I feel about that yet at the moment. I am trying not to give in to the thoughts and kill myself before my birthday. What I am ranting about is the lack of sensitivity, and basic common sense, displayed by mental health services. Telling me that when I had just said how much I was struggling was not a good idea. It was very bloody invalidating actually. Like she hadn’t even been listening to what I had been saying, because she was just waiting to get her good news in, which was very much presented as wonderful news. Does anyone else find this strange or is that just me?

So anyway, that hasn’t helped things. I didn’t need anything else to think about. I was already feeling shit. So today things have been even worse. I am really struggling. There are the thoughts. And then there is me. Not actually wanting to fight them. Even when things are better I don’t want to be here, so what on earth is the point of keeping going? That sort of thing. And this desire, which is actually stronger than a desire, more of a need, to not be here for my birthday. I don’t know. It’s tough. It feels incredibly difficult right now. And I just don’t know if I care enough to fight. Right now I feel like I don’t. And I want to stop my meds, but that is a whole new issue I’m not even getting into now, however related.

This is a horribly incoherent, mixed up post. I don’t write anymore. That is my excuse. Actually fuck it, I don’t need an excuse, it is my blog, and I needed to get my thoughts out somehow.

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>DWP and friendship

>I meant to blog earlier, but I didn’t know what to say. I feel like I have said it all. Multiple times in fact. I think everyone has grasped that I feel like shit and want to die. For anyone new, or who hasn’t picked up on the situation, that is it. I mostly write as a way of trying to get all of the thoughts out of my head, but they don’t appear to be going anywhere even when I do write, so it seems quite pointless from that point of view, and I am just really lacking motivation. There are a couple of specific things I wanted to write about though, so I will try and write about those, rather than just generally rambling.

I got a letter yesterday, which stressed me out. From the DWP, wouldn’t you know? It says, and I quote (anything in red is an addition by me),

‘Dear Bippidee (of course addressed to my real name, or it would just be weird)

We need to see you in order to discuss the benefits we are currently paying you because a query has arisen on your claim. What the fuck?! We need to ensure your payments are correct and it is important that you are available so we can discuss the matter further. What matter? I see no matter to discuss. Please fuck off and leave me alone.

You should note that where there is doubt about whether the conditions for entitlement are met, we can suspend payment of your benefit. Thanks. Please fuck off, again.

A Customer Compliance Officer, Mr Nosy Fuckwit (not real name) will be calling on Thursday, 24 February 2011 between the times of 9:30AM and 3:30PM. Please note we will not be able to state a specific time. Helpful. Thanks for that.

Some irrelevant crap like stuff they want to see, none of which I know where to find etc etc.

Yours sincerely
Mr Nosy Fuckwit
Customer Compliance Officer’

This fairly naturally sent me into a complete tailspin. Firstly, what on earth is there to query about my benefits?! The only thing I am claiming is old Incapacity, although due to lack of NI contributions it has always been paid as Income Support with illness/disability premium. I live at home with my parents, which they know, I have some savings that are within permitted amounts, which they know, I don’t work, I am not going out partying every day and claiming under false pretences. I don’t claim Housing/Council Tax benefit as I live with my parents. I am not even claiming DLA, which I have been told by multiple people I am eligible for. So what is there to discuss? What can possibly have been queried? I asked on Twitter yesterday, and also did some Google research, and it seems like they are essentially the overspill of the fraud department, and are generally sent around when someone has said you are making a fraudulent claim, or if they suspect you are living with a partner and have claimed you are living alone etc etc. A few people have said they occasionally make random checks, but I would seem a bad person to make a random check on, given that my claim is so straightforward to most people’s – I claim one benefit. I am not at all happy about them sending a man around to my house. I don’t want some strange man in my house making accusations that I am a benefit fraud. I don’t want some strange man in my house full stop. And them not being able to give a time is completely shit. I wasn’t planning to go anywhere, but it is very rare at the moment that I get to sleep before 6am. I will have to be awake by 9:15am in case they do come in the morning. And then what if they don’t come until 3pm. I am meant to stay awake all day having probably had 2 or 3 hours sleep, waiting for them? That won’t happen. And what if I wanted to arrange for someone to be here with me for support – are they supposed to stay for six hours?? It seems totally unreasonable. I tried phoning the number on the letter that it says to contact immediately if you are unavailable etc to a) find out what the hell it is about, and b) try to pin them down to a more precise time, for example morning or afternoon, but I got no reply. And it didn’t even go to answerphone. This stress was absolutely the last thing that I needed right now with how I was feeling. It actually made me even more determined to kill myself before then so I didn’t have to deal with it. I don’t know where my driving licence or passport are, I have no utility bills, I have no rent agreement – all of which they want to see. I have a bank statement. But I have two bank accounts and only have a statement for one of them. They will hate me. I just really didn’t need this stress. I know I have done nothing wrong and so I have nothing to be worried about, but my experience with the DWP has shown me that you have to be worried even if you haven’t done anything wrong, as they will treat you like a criminal regardless. Fuckwits.

Right, onto a nicer subject. Today the most beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived for me. It was from La Reve and I can’t say how much it meant to me that she had done that for me. It was completely unexpected, and nearly made me cry. I can’t believe that someone whom I have never met, and have only known a relatively short time, would want to do something so sweet and generous for me. The madosphere is a wonderful reminder of how many fabulous people there are out there, who really do care for others, and will do things to try and help. She knew she couldn’t stop me feeling like this, but she showed me she cared, and that meant so much. And does every time I get a supportive comment or email or tweet. It reminds me that people care, which is a really big deal when you don’t feel you are getting any care from the professionals, whose job it is to care. There will always be people who say it is a bad idea to talk to people you have met on the Internet, that you don’t know who they are, that you should never meet anyone you meet online, that talking to other people with mental health problems is a bad idea etc etc, but I have never found any of this to be remotely true. I started meeting up with people I met online, on theatre and dance messageboards, when I was 16, and have since met others from all sorts of sites, and whilst I haven’t kept in touch with everyone I have met from the Internet, I have met some of my closest friends online, and I can quite honestly say that I think it would be very unlikely that I would still be alive if it weren’t for people I have met online – both those in person, and those who have supported me on here. The support is absolutely invaluable, and I wish more people would realise how wonderfully supportive the Internet can be. Here is a picture of my beautiful flowers;

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>From the time when my dad moved out when I was 12, things continued in the same way for quite a few years. He would come over some evenings. He would come on holiday with us, and stay for a while over Christmas. At some point he started spending the weekends here. Then there would be times when I wouldn’t see him for a couple of months because of my mum or I getting upset about it all and cutting contact with him. Neither he, nor my mother, were seeing anyone else. It was a fairly strange relationship, as it was so uneven. My mum desperately wanted him back, and so everything was on his terms. He came over when he wanted, but if he wanted to do something else instead then he would, and my mum would get upset, which would generally lead to a period of her not wanting to see him. If she didn’t want to see him then I generally didn’t see him either. I hated going to his flat – I only did it a handful of times over a period of about 6 years. I didn’t like seeing that he had his own life away from us, and I didn’t feel comfortable there. So generally either he came here, or I didn’t see him.

At 16 I finished school and went of to 6th Form College to do A levels. It was a relief to leave H and co. behind – I don’t think I have seen anyone from my year group since I left school over 8 years ago, apart from briefly bumping into a couple of people, including her. Maybe she is a nicer person now. I hope so. I did ok in my GCSEs, but didn’t get the results I should have got, because I did no revision. That is something of a pattern for me. I think my fear of failure is so intense that I take it the opposite way and work on the premise that if I haven’t tried then it doesn’t matter if I have failed or done badly, whereas if I worked really hard and still didn’t do as well as I should then I would have no excuse – I would just be a failure.

Anyway, 6th Form College was a much better experience than school in many ways. It was literally 10 times the size in terms of student population, and obviously they were all aged 16 – 19, rather than 4 – 16 like my school had been, so there were rather more people in a year group at college – about 50 times more…. C was going to the same 6th Form, and I also knew a couple of other people, through performing, who were going there, but that was it. Oh, and a guy from my school, but I rarely saw him. In theory everything should have improved for me in college. I had friends, and obviously I was studying the subjects I wanted to etc. And in some ways it was great. I had some really good teachers, one of whom I am still in contact with now – he came to see me in Carousel. The main problem with it was that I didn’t want to be there. In the summer between finishing school and starting 6th Form, I had done a 2 week Musical Theatre summer course at one of the drama schools in London, and absolutely loved it, and therefore resented going off to study academic subjects when I wanted to be doing performing. I wished I was doing a Musical Theatre BTEC rather than A levels, so that I could be doing what I wanted to do. In retrospect I am glad I did A levels, and I don’t think my parents would have let me not do them anyway, but it resulted in once again my attendance being pretty poor, because I couldn’t be bothered with it, and so that, combined with not doing any work that didn’t absolutely have to be done, and not doing any revision at all, meant that I finished my first year with pretty poor results. I didn’t dislike college – as I have said, I had friends there, I enjoyed some of my lessons. I was very fortunate in that the Head of Music/Performing Arts seemed to think the sun shone from my arse, and so I got quite a few opportunities in that area. I was in the college choir, and got all the solos – I sung the Once In Royal solo 3 years running at the carol service (yes, I stayed 3 years – more on that later), as well as various other solos. I was always asked to perform in all of the concerts, and to record songs for the music tech students etc. In my 3rd year they did Les Miserables, and I pretty much got to choose my role, although that was actually a new member of staff directing that who had never taught me. We had a couple of auditions, and then were waiting ages for them to decide casting, and one day I asked if they had cast it yet, because I said I wanted to include it in my UCAS personal statement, and wanted to be able to say what part I was playing (oh the arrogance!) and got the reply, ‘well we haven’t finished casting yet, but I am assuming you would like Eponine as you sung On My Own in your audition?’ I said I would please, and that was that settled. College gave me a confidence in my abilities that school never had – in college there were 2000 people, all of my age, and yet I was the one who got the solos and the leads, and who the staff knew, even if they didn’t teach me. At school there was a lot of nepotism going on with casting, and so I never got leads, despite being the only person who regularly performed out of school (and regularly was cast in leads there). So college was good for making me realise I must be better than school had lead me to believe. My first year of college was fairly uneventful. I went to lessons some of the time, stayed home some of the time, did some of the work, didn’t do some of the work. I was still doing dance and singing lessons outside of college, and some shows, although I had started doing less by that time.

I had just started my second year of college, and so was just 17 when the next thing happened in my home life. My mum picked me up from the bus one day and was very upset – she had received an anonymous text message saying that my dad had been seeing someone for a year and that she should divorce him. It turned out that it was true – we never did know for sure who sent it, although the assumption was that his girlfriend (another 25 year old who worked for him) had got the number off his phone and sent it, although she denied it. Whilst he wasn’t living at home, and it was now 5 years since he had moved out, he hadn’t seen anyone in that time to our knowledge, apart from the initial affair, and had generally spent quite a lot of time at our house and with us. Of course in retrospect we realised that for the last year he hadn’t been spending weekends with us like he had been before that, and that he had been coming over less often, but since everything always had been on his terms anyway, we hadn’t really questioned it before. I was very upset – not that he was seeing someone, but that he had been lying to us for over a year. It really hurt me a lot, and I think made me lose a lot of trust in not only him, but people generally. I still can’t comprehend how and why he would lie like that for so long – it wasn’t like he was living here – they were separated, and had been for quite a few years. My mum was absolutely devastated. As I said, she always wanted to be with him, and this news was just too much for her. She refused to tell anyone – she wouldn’t even tell her friends or my siblings initially. She kept saying how ashamed she felt and how stupid she was for not knowing, and how if people knew they would laugh at her and think she was stupid. I think that for her too it was more about the secrecy, and not knowing than it was him seeing someone else, although obviously that hurt her too. Yet again, he broke up with her once we had found out. So we were back to keeping secrets (although we had never actually stopped) but this time it was just the two of us, as there were no siblings or friends or counsellors involved this time. And it really was role reversal – she was so upset, and had absolutely nobody to talk to apart from me, and so I listened to it all. Obviously I was older by this point, but she was really leaning on me quite heavily, and I couldn’t rely on her at all emotionally. And I started to crumble. Not in front of her. I didn’t let her know how much I was struggling. But I was struggling more and more. My mood was low and I started purging frequently.

I had a really great teacher at college who I started talking to. She was really supportive, and for a while I talked to her every week. I suppose really she was the first person I ever talked to about anything emotional at all – I had just never talked about feelings before to anyone. She was really helpful – without her I don’t know if I would have gone on to get other help. She listened, and she got me information and a self help book for bulimia. She was also the one who encouraged me to go to my GP to get help (who gave me anti depressants and referred me to the CMHT), and also to see the college counsellor in the meantime. I was very attached to her. I think my issues with attachment can be attributed in some ways to my relationship with my parents, although as I said before, even when I was very young I was very possessive with friends, so perhaps it has always been in my nature. But it was after my dad left when I was 12 that I started getting really attached to people. Never men – it has always been women, who I suppose I see as maternal figures, who I have become attached to. I feel like it should be men, since it was my dad who left and wasn’t there for me, but I suppose emotionally I wasn’t getting what I needed from my mum, and therefore begun to look for it elsewhere. There have been a number of people I have grown very attached to – wanting to be around them all the time, and for them to care about me and look after me, and I suppose essentially to parent me. It is weird because my mum and I have always been very close, and yet I have always had these fantasies of whoever it is I am attached to at the time (only ever one at a time) taking me home to live with them. But I suppose it is due to my mum not being there for me emotionally when I needed her, because she was struggling so much herself. Maybe that is why even now I find it very difficult to talk to her about how I am feeling. I think I can also attribute my eating problems to my parents to some extent. My parents have very different relationships with food. My mum is tiny, but eats a lot of food, a lot of which is crap, and by rights should be enormous. She rarely weighs herself, and doesn’t understand why I don’t just eat what she does – she can’t seem to comprehend that her metabolism is not normal. My dad is much more careful about what he eats – he is a healthy weight, but he weighs himself daily, and hates it if his weight goes up, and will cut out unhealthier foods until it goes back to where he wants it to be. As a teenager he used to frequently comment on my weight, and suggest that I should try to lose weight, frequently citing my career choice as the reason why I needed to be smaller. He doesn’t do that any more, probably because I haven’t been as big as I was as a teenager, although even then we were still talking healthy BMI range, just nearer the higher end of it. But he does still ask me how my weight is, and will make comments about what I am eating sometimes. As a family they (we?) are very sizeist – I have grown up with negative comments about overweight people etc, so I think that, along with comments about my own weight, coupled with a desperate need to feel in control of something when my life felt so out of control, was really fairly likely to lead to an eating disorder.

Despite my mental health problems, my second year of college was better than my first year in many ways. I think primarily because I felt safe there – it filled the same space for as rehearsals had when I was younger and my dad first left – it was somewhere to escape to. I suppose in a large part because college contained the only person I really trusted to talk to – at this point I had been referred to the CMHT, and at some point during the year had an assessment there, and was then on the waiting list for the rest of that year. My attendance was better, and although I was having problems concentrating, I actually did better than I had in my first year, although still not nearly as well as I should have. And then my second year came to an end, I had A Levels, and I didn’t have a clue what to do next. I was terrified of leaving college, because that was where my only support was. I had no plans to go on to university or anything. And in the end I just couldn’t face leaving. So I stayed on an extra year. I retook the first year of English Lit, because I had got 2 grades higher for my second year than I got in my first year, and then I took both the first and second year of Sociology at the same time, so that I got an A level in a year. I also worked part time at the college, as a Learning Support Assistant. Just before my third year started, I started seeing a Clinical Psychologist at the CMHT, primarily for help with my eating disorder, although during the year my mood got worse and worse, until I attempted suicide at the end of the year. This academic year was 2004/2005, and so was 6 years after my dad had first moved out, in 1998, and 1 or 2 years after we found out he had been seeing someone again, in 2003. During this time he had started spending more and more time back at home – staying there more often, and by some point in 2005 he was more or less living back at home, although he still kept his flat, and spent occasional nights there. But he was back home. The perfect fairytale ending right? And they all lived happily ever after….

I do not by any means think that my problems now are caused by my parents splitting up. As I said before, I don’t think things were quite right when I was even younger than that. But I do think it probably exacerbated matters. I find it really difficult to admit that my parents splitting up could have even contributed slightly to me having mental health problems now. What is the statistic – half of all marriages end in divorce or something like that? And people go through much worse and don’t end up with a slew of psychiatric diagnoses, which makes me think that either I must be really pathetic, other people must be really strong, or my problems come from absolutely nowhere, and it is absolutely nothing to do with my parents. I flit from one view to another depending on my mood. But I can see that L had a point when she said how difficult it must have been having to keep it all a secret, and having to try and contain my emotions to avoid upsetting my mum. That was difficult, and probably isn’t a typical experience of parents’ splitting up, although of course I don’t know for sure. I almost feel guilty for having mental health problems when I have been through so little in comparison to other people. Ok, my parents split up, but so what? That is hardly uncommon. And apart from that I had a good childhood. I got to do whatever activities I wanted, I had a good education, I was loved and looked after. I certainly was never abused in any way, or neglected, or anything else terrible. Nothing bad happened to me. And yet here I am, at age 24, with 7 years in the mental health system, multiple suicide attempts, multiple admissions, numerous CPNs and Psychiatrists and other professionals, medications, etc etc. I feel ashamed of myself for being so weak. For having these problems, when others go through so much worse and yet cope so much better. I really do feel guilty when I think about it. I don’t understand why I am in the position I am in, when there has been nothing serious in my life to cause me to feel like this. I can see that my teenage years weren’t perfect, but they were not bad enough to lead to this. So what is wrong with me? I have absolutely no idea.

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>A lot happened between the ages of about 9 and 12. My brother moved out, to move in with his now wife. Although obviously before that he was out a lot with friends and at work etc, I do remember being upset when he moved out. My maternal grandfather, who I was very close to, died when I was 9 or 10. I remember going to see him in hospital, but he wasn’t the person I knew really. And then he died. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because my parents didn’t agree with children being at funerals. I was sent to C’s house for the day to play. I have a vague recollection of playing in the garden with her, but feeling upset about my grandad dying, and everyone apart from me being at the funeral. My paternal grandmother died a few years later (I am very hazy about dates throughout my childhood). I hadn’t been close to her – she lived further away and I only remember seeing her about once a year. My mum and I went to see her in hospital, but I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember going. My dad was in Japan on a business trip when she died, and was still away for the funeral. I remember he wrote a poem which my mum read out at the funeral. I was allowed to go to that one. I suppose I was that bit older. I don’t remember much about it.

The main thing that happened in my childhood was my parents splitting up when I was 12. I remember that quite vividly. I remember seeing my mum upset a few times, and my dad comforting her, but I didn’t know why. Then one day, I was at C’s house, and my mum called and told me to come home. I didn’t want to because her cousins were there, and we were all having a good time, but she insisted. I went home and my parents told me that my dad was moving out. I was incredibly upset. I had absolutely no idea that there were any problems – it was completely out of the blue. My parents were the type of people who everyone expected to be together forever, so it was a complete shock. I remember getting very upset, and I remember my mum getting very upset. She phoned my brother and he came over. I was told initially it was just going to be for a few days, to give them some time apart, and I believed that. My dad took some things off and went to stay in a hotel. For some reason, they must have decided it would be a good idea if I went with him for the evening and went home later. I think my mum was too upset to look after me. So I went off to this hotel with him, and I suppose I went home later that night, although I don’t remember. I have only just remembered that he took me with him. Obviously it wasn’t just for a few days. He started looking for somewhere to rent. I went shopping with him one day and helped him buy things he would need – I remember choosing a duvet cover for him. It all feels quite surreal. Again, I am unsure why they thought it was a good idea for me to go shopping with him to buy things for his new home, when I was still being told it was temporary – it had just been changed from a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months. I was told at some point, I can’t remember when, that he had been having an affair with a girl who worked for him. I say girl, because that was how I thought of her. I think she was about the age I am now. It had been going on for some time, but nobody knew. As soon as he had moved out, he broke up with her anyway. I never met her.

My sister had been at university in Edinburgh, but was upset by my parents splitting up, and took a year out and moved back home. I am not entirely sure why it affected her so much, as it wasn’t her dad – my siblings have a different father to me, and although she always got on fine with my dad, she had never called him dad or anything like that – she never thought of him as her parent. But she did come home, and her attitude towards me had completely reversed. When I was a young child she had been besotted with me, and spoilt me. As I got older she was still very fond of me, and when she was living in London she used to take me there and we would go to a museum or something, and she took me to the ballet once, and the theatre another time. She used to buy me lots. I went to stay with her twice in Edinburgh. We were always close. But when she moved back for the year when I was 12/13 her attitude had completely changed. That was the point where she started having issues with me. She would say that I was a spoilt brat and a little witch and just generally wasn’t very nice to me most of the time. I certainly never, ever had any support or understanding from her.

Parents splitting up is nothing unusual – it is so common for couples to split up, and children just seem to deal with it. But I think in a lot of ways I didn’t. I think there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it was not a straight forward case of parents not getting on and fighting, one moving out, then getting a divorce a little later. In fact, that couldn’t have been much further from what happened. There had been no fighting, or certainly not that I had ever witnessed, and our house is not so big that I wouldn’t have heard screaming matches. The separation itself was I suppose unusual to say the least. Despite my dad having an affair, my mum still loved him and did not want him to leave. And they still got on. As I have already said, I was told initially that is was just going to be a few days, then that time period gradually extended. But it was always assumed they would get back together – this was just temporary, and there was never any talk of divorce or anything. I think that my mum had convinced herself it was temporary, which meant she could easily tell me that. However, as it was a temporary thing and they had not actually split up, that meant that we didn’t tell other people. For years. Obviously a few people knew – family, and a couple of friends of my parents, and C and her family. But that was about it. It was all very secretive. My mum was devastated by him leaving. She didn’t cope well with it at all. I remember her losing quite a lot of weight, and she is naturally very tiny anyway, and being prescribed anti depressants. She went to see a counsellor. They tried couple counselling a couple of times, but my dad was very against it, and so it only happened a couple of times. Apart from a couple of my mum’s friends who knew, and this counsellor who encouraged her to punch cushions, she didn’t really have anyone to talk to, so sometimes she used to talk to me. We were very close, but of course I was only 12, and I didn’t understand why my dad had moved out when my parents got on so well, and everyone had assumed they would be together forever. I never told anyone about my dad leaving. My mum worked where I went to school, so nobody there knew, until one day in a PHSE class when there was something about divorce etc being discussed and I had to leave because I was feeling very upset. My mum then told my form tutor, who said she would avoid talking about that in PHSE again, but still nobody else knew.

To everyone else we kept up the facade of being a happy family. I don’t know why. After my dad left, in some ways things didn’t change much. He used to come over and see us some evenings and weekends. He still came on holidays with us. He always came and stayed for the Christmas period. I have never had a Christmas or holiday without both of them being there, despite my dad not living with us. I have friends who I didn’t even meet until years after my dad who had left who thought that my parents were together, because my dad would come and stay when needed, and they would still do things together. My dad phoned every day and spoke to both my mum and I. The few people who did know that they had split up said how lucky I was that my parents still got on so well, and that he still spent so much time with us, but actually I think it was just really confusing. At first of course it just perpetuated my belief that this was a very short term arrangement. Later I didn’t really know what was going on. Sometimes there would be a period when either my mum or I would get angry with him, and refuse to speak to or see him, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. If I was still speaking to him but my mum wasn’t then he would take me out, although I only remember that happening a handful of times. If I wasn’t speaking to him but my mum was then they would still talk on the phone but he wouldn’t come over. If neither of us were speaking to him then obviously that was that.

One of my strongest memories of that period in the first year or so after he left, or perhaps longer, was of how incredibly distressed I used to get when he came over for the evening and then left. He would come over, and we would all be getting on fine, and it would just seem normal. And then he would leave. I think pretty much without fail this made my hysterically upset. I used to sob for hours. I remember trying to chase the car up the road as he drove away, crying hysterically. When I was really upset I used to lie down in the road outside the house. My mum used to try to get me inside in case someone saw me. She used to cry as well. We would both just cry inconsolably sometimes. And most of the time he was coming over at least a couple of times a week, unless it was a not speaking to him period. So it was an emotional time. It was at this time, when I was 12, that I first remember wishing I was dead. I wasn’t suicidal, and I certainly wouldn’t have acted on the thoughts, but I do remember thinking it.

I was also increasingly unhappy at school. Probably partly because I was unhappy generally, and partly because I was being bullied. Not badly – it wasn’t physical or anything. But I didn’t have any friends. I went to a very small school, with very small year groups and classes. From age 13 or 14 onwards there were only 5 girls in my year – before that there were maybe 3 more. One was H. The one who used to lock me in her bedroom when I was little. H was a bully – there is no denying it. When we were younger, up to the age of 11, there had been far more girls, and there was a little clique of popular girls, who could be quite nasty, and did tease her, although I always stuck up for her, despite her not always being nice to me. However, they all left at 11 to go to other schools, and somehow, when we started back at school in September, she was the leader of our year group. I have no idea how that happened, but she had a very strong personality, and somehow just took over. She didn’t like me. She made best friends with the one remaining girl of the clique who had previously bullied her – this girl was actually quite nice, but rather sheep like, and would just follow others. Throughout school from 11 to 16 I was very lonely. Some days would be ok, but other times I would just get constantly teased. I was very naive and young for my age, and one of the things H liked to do to embarrass me was stand there with everyone around her and ask me what certain words and phrases meant – about sex or drugs, or other things I just knew nothing about. Of course I never knew, and then everyone would laugh at me. And then the usual childish name calling. Despite not doing much in the way of work at school and perpetually leaving things until the last possible minute, I still did well, and so got the usual ‘boffin’ comments etc. And things like making sure I didn’t have anyone to sit with in class whenever possible, and obviously staying away from me at break and lunch times. Nothing major by any means, but all things that were upsetting and confusing to me as an 11 – 15 year old child. Particularly as some days she would suddenly turn and be nice to me and ask me to sit with her and things like that. I never knew where I was. My attendance rate at school got worse and worse. More and more illnesses – some real, some minor but exaggerated, some psychosomatic, and some just faked. I was at an age where I could actually stay home from school rather than go and spend the day in the sick bed, so it was even more appealing.

In restrospect, when I look back I am quite confused by some things that did, or didn’t happen. A lot of it feels very painful to think about, but I feel pathetic for thinking that, because so many people go through such horrific things, and parents splitting up should surely not have affected me at all in the long term? But when I was talking about it with L she pointed out that actually it was probably quite traumatic for me, as a 12 year old, to be in such a confusing situation, and to have to keep it all a secret. During the appointment, when we were talking about it, I would get little flashes of vivid memories, and some of them were really quite painful. I remember one day being at a friend’s house to play, and her mum was one of the few people who knew that my parents had split up, and I remember her asking me how my mum was and how she was coping, and me just desperately wanting her to ask ME how I was, and how I was coping. But nobody ever did. My parents obviously knew what a state I was in, as they saw it. My siblings never once asked how I was. And apart from that very few people knew, and those who did only thought about my mum – after all, it was her and my dad who had split up, not me. It was nothing to do with me. Except of course it was. But I never had anyone to talk to. My mum had her counsellor she used to go and see, and even my dad saw the counsellor a few times on his own, because my mum wanted him to, but I never had anyone to talk to. I was never asked if I wanted to talk to a counsellor or anything, and there wasn’t a school counsellor, and even if there had been I wouldn’t have been able to speak to them because it was a secret of course, and my mum worked there, which also ruled out talking to any teachers. I remember one time when I was particularly upset my mum asking if there was someone I would like to talk to, and suggested a couple of people I knew from performing. I said that maybe it would help to talk to this one girl (although in retrospect it wouldn’t have been fair – she is only 5 or 6 years older than me, so would have only been 17 or 18 at the time, although of course that seems completely grown up when you are 12) because her parents had split up when she was younger so she would understand. And my mum got very upset and started crying because I had said about this other girl having parents who had split up too, because of course my parents hadn’t split up – it was a temporary arrangement remember? And so she got very upset and left my room, and me talking to someone was never mentioned again. So I learnt to bottle everything up. Because actually, I didn’t have a choice. Of course I could talk to my mum, but that just resulted in her getting upset every time, so that didn’t help at all. I was angry with my dad. My siblings didn’t seem to care, or even think about me. And the few other people who knew would ask about my mum, but not about me. And there was no option of counselling or anything like that. So I learnt to put on a happy face, and started developing my happy mask. Looking back on it now, I don’t know why my mum thought that she needed a counsellor, and that my dad needed a counsellor, but that I didn’t need anyone. It seems strange in retrospect that she could see my lying in the middle of the road sobbing hysterically and not think I perhaps needed to speak to someone. But I think she was genuinely in such denial about the whole thing that it didn’t even occur to her. My dad had just moved out for a little while, and would be coming back, and so maybe she thought there was nothing to talk about. I don’t know. But I think that actually it would have helped me to speak to someone – both then, and further down the line. Because of course by the time I got older I had become an absolute pro at keeping my mouth shut and keeping everything bottled up, and not telling anyone anything, and never mentioning feelings or emotions, that I think I had become completely detached from my emotions and how I actually felt, and so consequently found therapy virtually impossible.

There is more to come in the saga of my parents’ relationship and my childhood/adolescence, but this is quite long enough already, and I am feeling vaguely emotional, although I don’t know why, so yet again I will continue this tomorrow….

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>I am really freaking out. I just did my middle of the night weigh in, and I was a whole pound heavier than the same time last night. I honestly don’t know how to deal with that. It sounds so ridiculous, because I know that really a pound is nothing, but it feel like an enormous amount. And actually, if I lose a pound I am very pleased, so I suppose I see it as a lot that way, and therefore gaining a pound also has to be seen as a lot. I was expecting my weight to be slightly higher today, as I probably ate a little more than I have been, and also, my weight was down 0.6 of a pound today from yesterday, when I had expected it to be about the same, or maybe down 0.2, so I did think that it might have gone up a little tomorrow, like maybe 0.4, and was bracing myself for that, but to see the number a whole pound higher than last night just really did make me panic. I just don’t know what to do. I haven’t been feeling good today anyway, and seeing that really did make me have strong suicidal thoughts. Which I suppose proves just how important losing weight has been lately in keeping me going. The ridiculous thing is, a week ago I would have been delighted to see the number I just saw in one of my middle of the night weigh ins, and now it devastates me. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t.

I do feel like this last week has been really tough. My mood has been getting lower and lower, and the suicidal thoughts have been increasing in intensity. Then the argument with my mum on Saturday hurt me enormously, and left me feeling very confused, and also like there was less to stop me from killing myself. I really have been desperately clinging on to my weight going down as something positive in my life that I could try and focus on and pour all of my energies into, to try and stop me thinking about suicide all the time, and to prove to myself that I wasn’t useless, and that I was suceeding at something. And now suddenly that has gone, and I am not quite sure where that leaves me. I feel like a failure for a start. And greedy and disgusting and useless. And I hate myself. I am really starting to feel quite strongly again that I just can’t cope. That I need to kill myself, and that actually suicide is the right option. I just don’t want to be here at all, and whilst I do always feel like that, the feelings are far more intense at the moment and I just don’t know if I can get through them, or if I want to.

Ironically I actually had quite a good appointment with L today. True to form I can only remember little snippets of what was said, but I did feel like she understood my point of view regarding the things I have been writing about this week. I think she often feels very restricted and frustrated by the system and the way it works. We somehow got onto the topic of Therapeutic Communities, and how helpful the good ones could be, but how it is virtually impossible to get funding, unless you are currently costing the NHS a fortune, as in lots of admissions to acute wards etc etc, and how someone like me, who just sees her weekly, would have next to no chance of getting funding. She said how unfair it is, and that I have worked very hard and am very good at not acting on my impulses all the time, but that doesn’t mean I am any less ill or am struggling any less than people who do continually self harm or overdose. Although that was possibly just her validating my feelings after what I wrote yesterday! But no, I do genuinely believe that she thinks that and understands how difficult it is for me, and I do frequently get the impression she is very frustrated by the confines within which she has to work. She also said to think about services etc that aren’t available, as she has started to include service deficits on peoples care plans (I think much to the annoyance of her manager!). Not that it will change anything, but I do really like that she doesn’t just accept things as they are, and does try and fight negative attitudes and problems with the system etc – whether it makes any difference or not is kind of irrelevant, I just think it is important that there are people out there working within mental health who are prepared to challenge the system and not just sit back and accept that things are shit. The more people who stand up and do that the better.

It is kind of scary how quickly my mood has dropped. I suppose that is what happens when you invest everything in one thing, in my case my weight, and then that goes wrong. I was feeling very low this afternoon, but nothing like to the extent that I am now. It is like I was at the bottom of a pit, and then suddenly the bottom dropped out and I fell even further. I honestly don’t know what to do. My suicidal thoughts had already started to reach the planning stage in that I was thinking in terms of days and times etc, but it feels that much more urgent now. If I get through tomorrow and Thursday then I will be ok until the end of the weekend, as there would be a lack of opportunity anyway Friday/Saturday/Sunday. And I think I can do that. I just don’t want to. I think I will try and call L tomorrow. Maybe that will help to calm me down a little. I don’t know what else to do.

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>I saw L. She said she had spoken to her manager as she felt I needed to see her more than once a week at the moment, and that he had given that the okay, so I am going to be seeing her twice a week for a while from next week. She said probably for 4 – 6 weeks and then we would review it. Nobody has ever seen me more than once a week before. Apart from when I have been in hospital, or under the crisis team, and that is a bit different. I have quite often had more than one appointment a week, for eg I usually see both L and N once a week, and in the past I saw my old GP, my CCO and a support worker all once a week. But not the same person more than once a week. I think it is a good thing. I am still really struggling a lot, and I would far far rather see L more often than be referred to the crisis team or something. Not that that was suggested, but I know some CCOs would do that rather than seeing someone more frequently themselves.

L also wants to take me to see some supported accomodation. I am not sure how I feel about that at the moment. Partly because of my complete inability to imagine the future I suppose. But also because I have always lived here. Apart from when I went away to uni, which didn’t last for long. Sometimes I am desperate to move out and get my own place, but I rely on my Mum for a lot. She does a lot for me. She is the person who will try and get me out of bed, and who will encourage me to shower and dress, and who persuades me to go to dance classes etc, and who gets most of my meals, and who looks after my medication when it is judged that I can’t be trusted with it etc etc. I am very reliant on her. Probably a lot more than I should be.

If my mum is away for any reason I end up self neglecting even more than I usually do. I don’t bother eating properly – I might grab something very quick like some crisps or a slice of bread or a bowl of cereal, but that is it. I think that is partly because of my eating problems – if my mum isn’t around it is a lot easier to restrict, so I often do, and partly because even if I am not restricting, I just don’t have the motivation to cook meals for myself. I suppose it is laziness really. I don’t know. It just seems pointless using up all that energy and effort on cooking a meal that I don’t even really want. But I am 23. I should be cooking my own meals. But I know I wouldn’t. I also don’t leave my bed without nagging. Again, I don’t see the point. The wall in my bedroom is just as good to stare at as the walls downstairs, and I have the added bonus of being cozy and comfortable in my bed. And not having to see anyone. But apparently this is not a good thing. L says I need to spend more time around people. It is apparently not good to be on my own, in my bedroom for 23+ hours a day. But I find it hard being around people. I feel like I have to put on a happy mask all the time, and I find that exhausting. It is easier to just be on my own. Then I can stare at the wall in peace.

My mum also keeps me safe to a large extent, although I doubt she even knows it. A lot of the time I don’t attempt suicide because I don’t want to think of her finding me, like she has on other occasions. Finding someone after a suicide attempt must be hard. It would be particularly hard if it was a successful attempt, but even with an unsuccessful attempt I think it would be harder to be the one who found the person than it would to be told that the person was in hospital following an attempt. I don’t want to put my mum through that again. I never have wanted to, but sometimes things have got too overwhelming and I haven’t seen another option.

So my mum does a lot for me. And I love her very much. But we also have a difficult relationship. The worse I am feeling the worse we get on, probably because I retreat more and more into myself and my room, and get very irritable and aggressive, and she gets frustrated. So we end up arguing. And shouting. And I get upset. And then I get more suicidal, because I think that the main person I am trying to live for would be better off without me. So that is difficult. And I often want to move out. I am 23. I feel like I should have my own place now, not still be living with my parents. Not relying on my parents to do everything for me. I often get frustrated living at home.

L first mentioned supported housing a month or 2 ago. She said she thought it would be good for me to live somewhere where I would be less isolated. I live in the middle of nowhere and don’t drive, and my parents are out at work every day, so as well as the time I choose to spend on my own, there is also a lot of enforced isolation. She said there was somewhere in the town, quite near the CMHT, where there were supported housing flats for people with MH problems, and maybe we could go and see them one day. She is now talking about different housing though. In a different town. She thinks I need more support than the first ones would offer. At the second place there is someone there all the time, they are staffed overnight etc, not just in the daytime, and they offer higher levels of support. They also do various groups (I think social rather than therapy) that they encourage people to get involved with, whereas the first one just has support workers visiting. She said they tend to refer to the first place when people are in need of accomodation, or young people who want or need to move out of home etc, rather than because of their mental health needs as such. Obviously it is for people with mental health problems, but they aren’t referred there primarily for the support. The second place is for people who are more unwell, who need more support to live on their own.

I am not sure how I feel about that. I have trouble accepting that I am unwell sometimes. I feel like I should just pull myself together and be ‘normal’, or I wonder if I am making it all up and there is nothing wrong with me at all and I am just pretending. I know I am not pretending really. I know how bad I feel. But I feel like I must be misleading people in some way for them to think I am ill. I find it quite difficult to get my head around at times. I think of supported housing as for people who are really ill. People who have proper mental health problems. People who have reasons for being ill. I don’t. I have no reason to feel the way I do. So maybe I don’t actually have mental health problems. Maybe I am just pathetic and don’t cope with life well.

Part of me wants her to change her mind again and think I am well enough for the first place. Because there is nothing wrong with me. But I am not sure how I would cope. Without my mum, living somewhere without that much support I would probably completely self neglect. And I would probably end up even more isolated than I am here, which would kind of defeat the purpose. I am not sure if I would bother with food or showering or getting out of bed or anything. I don’t bother much as it is – I only get dressed if I have to leave the house, and that usually isn’t very often. So from that point of view maybe the second place would be better. But I don’t want to be ill. She said people stay there up to 2 years, and then they help you find less supported accomodation, or just a normal rental. Does that mean I am going to be like this for another 2 years or more? I can’t cope with that. I am meant to be better by now. Definitely better within the next 6 months. Totally fine by this time next year. I can’t feel like this for another 2 years. I have already wasted over 6 years of my life on this. If I am going to have a life, ie not kill myself, I can’t afford to spend another 2 years like this. I don’t have time. I need to get on with things. Maybe I should just get a job and move to London. Stop all this illness stuff.

I just want to kill myself. I don’t want to be here. Everything feels too hard. I don’t want the play or dance classes or summer courses or housing or anything else. I just want to die. I can’t cope. It wasn’t meant to be like this.

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>I feel like a failure. In so many ways.

People say I am doing well because I am still here etc, but to me it feels like I am failing. I don’t want to be alive, and I am, therefore I am failing. I know we live in a society where suicide is seen as a bad thing (well actually, that probably applies to most societies to be fair, but that is besides the point) and selfish, and that it is therefore a good thing to stay alive even if you feel like shit etc, but it doesn’t feel like a good thing to me.

I feel like people think I am an attention seeker, or crying wolf, because I talk about feeling suicidal and how I am going to kill myself, and then don’t act on it. But when I say it it is because that is how I am really feeling at the time – I am not saying it for effect or anything. I have never said I am planning to kill myself unless I genuinely am. I feel like people now assume that I am not actually going to go through with it when I say I am feeling suicidal, and when I feeling this bad it is hard to feel that. I don’t want to say I don’t feel like I am being taken seriously, because it isn’t that as such, for instance I know that L does know how bad I feel. But when I am feeling really terrible and really feel like I am going to act on these thoughts I find it hard to think that everyone just kind of thinks I will be ok and get through it. Because sometimes I can’t.

I feel like a failure for my weight. For having let myself gain so much. For not having the will power to lose it.

I feel like a failure for not achieving anything in my life. When I speak to people I haven’t spoken to for a long time I feel ashamed of myself when they ask me what I have been doing. I have accomplished nothing since my A levels, and that was quite a few years ago now. People I haven’t been in touch with for a long time expect me to have been to drama school. I haven’t. Because I can’t even cope with getting out of bed every day, let alone doing 50+ hours a week at drama school.

I feel like a failure for not being a better friend. For not being able to support my friends better when they are struggling. I try, I really do, but sometimes when I am doing badly I just can’t cope with it.

I feel like a failure as a daughter. For having done nothing to make my parents proud of me. For seeming ungrateful and lazy and uncaring. I’m not really. I try, but it is so difficult living with feeling like this all the time. I love them very much. But part of me wants to push them away so they will be less hurt when I kill myself.

I feel like a failure for having been unable to do so many things I have planned or intended to do. For having dropped out of things I have started because I haven’t been able to cope.

I feel completely and utterly worthless.

And that is why I shouldn’t be here. Why I should kill myself. And why I am a failure for not having done so already.

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