This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know. As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me, please respect my privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Learning To Fly

For a long time, I wasn't ready to fly. I didn't have the tools. I didn't know how to use the tools. I was afraid. I had reason after reason, and sometimes I believed that I didn't even want to fly. In DBT, I was given a harness and a parachute. They taught me how to operate them; which levers to pull, which buttons to press, which skills to use at which point. We did trial runs which sometimes were nothing more than bunny hops along the ground.

And then we walked, together, to that cliff. We stood there, us and our instructors, and we looked over the edge. I backed away. I wasn't ready. I was still afraid. "It's okay," they told me. "It's normal to be afraid." I wore my parachute and harness as I climbed down the ladder and fell to the ground. I had told myself I wasn't ready. I practiced more. Little jumps with soft landings.

As we climbed that ladder over and over, I watched as more and more of my peers took that step. I watched them swoop and fly. Their laughter drifted back through the wind, and I stood closer to the edge. One by one, my peers took that step I couldn't manage, and I watched them fly. Sometimes they stood where they had landed for a while, sometimes they climbed the ladder again for another dive. "Give it a go," they'd tell me. "It's the most wonderful feeling in the world." "I'm afraid," I'd reply, and they'd show me again how they did it. "You've got all of us to catch you," they'd tell me, "but you won't need us. You can do it!" And still, I wasn't ready.

I watched and I took small steps closer and closer to the edge, but never would I take the one step that would leave the cliff behind me.

I imagine my instructors despaired of me, at times. This wasn't a cliff they could push me off, to prove to me that I could do it. I had to take the step myself, but I wasn't ready. I had the equipment, now. I had the knowledge. I had some practice. But I didn't believe I could do it. I watched my peers do it, and it taught me that it could be done... but I still didn't believe that I could do it. They couldn't force me to take the step, all they could do was remind me time and again that they believed in me, remind me that even when I bit the dust on a bunny hop, I could get up and try again.

I didn't believe I could do it. I was still too afraid. I still believed, too often, that I didn't really want to fly; that I didn't need to fly.

Eventually, my instructors moved on. "This is as far as we can take you," I was told. "The rest is up to you. Either you'll step off and fly, or you won't, but we can't do it for you." Still, I wasn't ready.

My instructors left and in my sadness, I failed to notice the ladder they had left. At the top of the cliff, I tiptoed to the edge and looked over. I could see my peers in the air below, circling and waving, and their support echoed in the air. "I'm not ready," I wept. "I can't do this on my own." In my desperation, I clung to my parachute, to my harness; so tight that they began to rub and fray, so I removed them. The earth shook around me and I lost my footing. Without the parachute, without the harness, I began to fall and I landed, hard, upon a ledge I hadn't been able to see. My landing knocked the breath out of me, and I lay winded for a while, but I had learnt something valuable - I didn't die.

When I got breath back, I put my harness and parachute back on, and I stepped over the ledge.

My flight is errant. I stop off at a lot of ledges along the way, and sometimes I forget what flying feels like. Sometimes I forget what wanting to fly feels like. My parachute is still frayed, my harness chafes and I sometimes take them off for a little while until I remember again how much I want to fly.

My peers have their own flight patterns. Sometimes their flights are errant as well. From here, their flight seems so much smoother, but whether it is or not, I can't judge, and it doesn't matter. All that matters is that I'm finally ready to start flying. It's okay that my flight is errant. It's okay that it took me longer to take that step. It's okay that I'm still practicing. Maybe I'll always be practicing, and maybe I'll never really fly with the freedom others have, that's okay. I'm finally ready to fly, and I'll fly at the pace that is right for me.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
I made a mistake - so what? I don't have to punish myself forever for one bit of bad judgement.
Just because something is right for someone else doesn't mean it's right for me.
I am choosing to make healthier choices for myself.
It's important to take time to look at the positive things, but that doesn't have to mean pretending that there are no negatives.
Just because I caused my wounds myself doesn't mean I don't deserve proper medical treatment for them.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sanguine Saturday (finally on time again!)

Goodness, I'm finally back on time for a Sanguine Saturday post!

This week's Success Stories:
In the past week, I haven't had any alcohol, and nor have I done any self harm. (In the interests of pure honesty, I have to admit that I have done a bit of minor skin-picking, but it hasn't gotten horribly out of control at all.) This is the longest I have gone without either in months, and I've achieved both together!

After talking to the hospital drugs service people while I was in hospital, when I was discharged, I rang ATODS (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Services). I have an appointment on the 7th of May.

I used my DEAR MAN skills to ask for more information about a photography competition from the lady at the Art Gallery who runs the workshops I attend (run by Mental Health). Although she wasn't able to give me the information I wanted, she didn't mind that I had asked her, anyway!

I used my DEAR MAN skills at JB-HiFi and managed to get myself a copy of the Next Generation boxed set on rain-check for the current sale price.

Gratitudes List/Things that make me happy:
Knowing that when it comes in, I will have all three Star Trek series' that I enjoy.
I have amazing friends.
I have the opportunity to participate in the monthly art gallery workshops.
I heard back from Karakan this week and on the 10th of May, I will start with an "external support worker". (More information on this will probably come after my appointment with her.)
My skin grafts have all taken really well and the pain is rapidly diminishing from the donor site.
Giraffes. (I may as well just copy and paste this one every week, I know! But really, I am just very grateful, all the time, that they exist!)
Crafts and crafting supplies.
New slogan shirts! (Today I got a blue one with a pug that says "Cute AND Crazy!" -- totally perfect for me!)

Today's cheer-leading statements:
Whatever I feel is okay, even if I might not be sure why I feel that way. Maybe I don't have to find a reason for how I feel.
It's okay if sometimes I'm not perfect at using the skills. I don't have to be. I'm still learning.
I'm not responsible for how anyone else feels, or for their behaviour. I'm only responsible for myself!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: Letting Go Of 'The Blame Game'

Last week, as I sat ruminating over a phone conversation that had upset me, and thinking about my impending skin graft, I was startled by a 'flash of vision' in my mind's eye. Thoughts of the skin graft and what it meant, and "how did I get here" lead my brain to conjuring up an image of a photo, taken way back in the '80s when I was a wee, small thing. Unexpectedly, I saw myself as a child, through new eyes. I became aware of things in a way I haven't previously been aware of them. Suddenly I was looking at a photo of a child, any child; not the me-self in child form, but an actual child. I was watching that child, the one in the photograph, and I realised something that just blew me away. That little girl? She was a real little girl. She was just like every other little girl I've seen in my time working in childcare centres, at the shops, at the park... everywhere I go. She was born innocent, she was born whole. She laughed, she cried, she loved, she played, she had thoughts and feelings that were all her own. She had the same value that I attribute to all (other) children.

And she was me. I was that child. Once upon a time, I was that innocent little girl. There's a real sense of wonder and amazement there. On the other side of that, though, is a real sense of horror. Because that means I have to face something I dance around facing every now and then when it's all-too-obvious for one reason or another. If the reality of that little girl is that she was born innocent and with value, then the reality is also that what happened to that little girl wasn't due to anything she did, or said, or was. Ouch.

You see, holding onto the belief (Myth!) that I was to blame for everything difficult, unfortunate or upsetting in my life has allowed me to regain some semblance of control. I say that I don't want control, and I'll usually hand it over to someone else as soon as I realise I've got it -- but, in actuality, that's just another way to be in control, isn't it? Just like carrying the blame balances the issue of control. If I was the cause - my fault, my responsibility, my shame - then I have the power to change that. I may not know how, and the event may continue (further seeding the same line of thought), but as soon as I can work out how, then I can make it stop. And that's some faulty thinking, right there.

Life, as we all know, doesn't work that way. Good things, bad things, indifferent things happen. Sometimes they are due to our own actions or inactions. Sometimes they are due to someone else's actions or inactions, and sometimes they just are. There's one thing that is consistent, though, and that is our ability to take responsibility for our emotions and behaviours in reaction to the situation. Maybe a good first step is for me to let go of the 'fault' judgement entirely. Just to forgo placing blame anywhere, accept that it is, and deal with it, whatever that 'it' is, the best way I can.

One thing is for sure, whatever happened in the past, and whatever happens in the future, there's a world of opportunities for growth in it all.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
I have the power and the ability to cope with whatever life throws my way.
My emotions are acceptable. However I feel is okay, even if I may not understand why I feel that way.
What I think about a situation is just my perspective, but that doesn't mean it isn't okay to think that way. (I'm not sure on this one, so if anyone can yea or nay it, I would appreciate that a lot!)
I am not a bad person. I have value and worth, just like everyone else.
The urge to give in to negative coping mechanisms is just an urge. It is my choice whether I listen to that urge, but choosing to do so will only make my long-term goals more difficult to achieve.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sanguine SUNday (again)

As expected, I missed this week's Sanguine Saturday, but I'm home in time to post Sanguine SUNday, instead! I know my successes are a bit lacking this week, but that's okay. Sometimes there are times when just treading water is the best we can do.

This week's Success Stories:
I used my interpersonal skills to be honest with my mother about what was happening.
I used my DEAR MAN skills to ensure that nobody would be allowed in to visit me before I was conscious enough to protect myself. Just because the nurses didn't respect that, by leaving me vulnerable in that large room the way they did, doesn't negate my use of skills.
I used a combination of mindfulness and distress tolerance to manage my emotions and urges while I was in hospital.

Gratitudes List/Things that make me happy:
I have exceptional friends.
Soft toys.
Kind nurses who saw beyond the labels and took care of the person.
Giraffes. No, really.
Friends who leave giraffe-y pictures on my Facebook.
Snacks and books and all those little things that make hospital stays bearable.
Hospital food. Yes, I'm weird, but I like it.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
I am doing the best I can with my knowledge and my skills.
It's okay to tread water for a little while.
Other peoples' assessments of where I am at are not necessarily more accurate than mine. What I think about how hard I'm trying is what really matters.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Musings from Hospital

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about Borderline Personality Disorder, and unfortunately, many of these stereotyped images and misconceptions are just as active in the psychiatric care community as they are in the general population. One of these, the idea that someone with BPD is a shameless manipulator who doesn't feel guilt, forms the basis of a piece I wrote in the hospital.

You see, my first day, the day they gave me the graft, I had a rough few hours. As I came to, my body began to go into convulsive shakes from the anaesthesia. I could hear the woman asking me for my pain level, administering something, then telling me, "just breathe deeply, the shakes will stop soon," and I was trying so hard, but my body just kept shaking and shaking. Barely conscious, I was frightened, and the shaking was aggravating the pain from the graft. By the time I was wheeled into the 23 hour ward, I was in tears from the pain, and I was terrified. I'm someone who deals best with small spaces: I was in a huge, open room - given no privacy curtains, and every other patient in there at that time was male. To make matters worse, I discovered that the paper underwear they'd given me to wear had been cut off me.

I lay there, crying, for an hour before anyone thought to come to me. I asked again for pain relief, then I asked to have my bear returned. I was told I wasn't allowed my phone on the ward, that I was on the 23 hour ward and would be going home tomorrow. And then I was left. And during that time, I heard the nurses talking about me. At one stage, I heard them divvying up the patients, calling dibs on this patient or that, until someone chimed, "well, SOMEONE has to have the self harmer...!"

After another two hours, the nice lady I had seen down at the clinic came to me. She checked on me, let me know what was going on. I asked if I could please have the curtains closed, she explained why it wasn't possible but that she would let the other nurses know I was concerned about the lack of privacy. She did everything in her power to put me more at ease, and it worked. It's amazing what a little kindness, a little bit of humanity, can do. After that, I must admit, every nurse that I have dealt with, bar one scary lady here on the burns ward, has been absolutely wonderful.

I hear you asking, "How does that tie into misconceptions and guilt?", and the answer is quite simple. Those first nurses made assumptions about me based on the little bit of information on my chart. They decided that as a self harmer, I wanted all of this attention. I was only crying so that they'd give me attention - so they decided to combat it by ignoring me completely. I'm sure they had the best of intentions, but by ignoring me, all they did was exacerbate the situation. As for guilt... I'm fairly sure they "bought into" the stereotype that I was incapable of guilt for my actions. After all, I only wanted attention - why would I feel guilty? Why indeed?

Lying here in the burns ward, I am filled with guilt, with shame, with a deep sense of loathing for this person I am. In the bed beside me is a man whose tractor exploded while he was mowing. Has to hop to the bathroom. Across from him is a young fellow whose feet and legs are so badly burnt he uses a wheelchair to get around, and beside him is a man who struggles to eat, with an arm bandaged all the way to his fingers. And me? I have a couple of small grafts from burns that I did to myself. What on earth gives me the right to lay here, in this bed, surrounded by these people?

WISE mind reminds me that what gives me the right to medical treatment is the code of human rights. It doesn't matter that my wound is self inflicted; it matters only that as a human being I deserve treatment as much as any other human being... and yet...

And yet, and yet, and yet. The rationalisations of minimalisation and self hatred. Can I see the girl in the hospital bed through new eyes? See her as a person? I can at least try.

She looks tired. Not ready to sleep, just tired deep inside herself. She has books, toys, papers; scattered neatly around and she's writing on a pad, using a pencil. She lifts her arm to wipe a hand over her eyes, surprised to find moisture there, then winces slightly as her other arm goes to scratch her leg, aggravating pain that had been mainly dormant. She seems surprised often, always at little evidences of humanity in herself. Her eyes look sad, now that no one is watching; sad and old and tired, but she seems almost small in the bed. Her hand is bruised where they tried (and failed) to insert the anaesthetic needle and there's still a cord stuck in her inner elbow. It annoys her and she fiddles with it unconsciously between bouts of writing. She's restless, agitated, but she doesn't want to bother anyone. She knows, unlike the others here, she doesn't deserve this good treatment. She's no right to ask for anything.

No. I can't get enough distance to feel much compassion, still. Choices have consequences, these are mine.

Perhaps guilt is like a puppy. I've trained it to stand at my side; so many times I've worn it that it thinks, now, it's rightful place is on my shoulders like a shawl.

It is both easier and harder to think in here. It is both easier and harder to breathe.

I could have chosen to use my interpersonal skills, that first morning. I didn't: I couldn't see past the guilt, the shame, the pain. There'll be other chances to use those skills. I'll do better, on my next opportunity.

Cheer-leading statements for in the hospital:
The human rights charter applies to me. I have as much right to medical treatment as anyone else.
Just because I am a person who uses self harm to cope does not make me less of a person. I deserve to be treated with basic respect.
I do not need to drink. I do not need to self harm. I can choose not to engage in those behaviours.
It is not weak to be afraid. It is not weak to accept treatment. It is not weak to allow others to help me when I need it. It's not weak to admit when I'm in pain.
It's okay to allow myself compassion.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On 'Magic' and 'Fantasy'

There's a fair bit going on here at the moment, mainly connected to the one thing that I'm going to say now. I'm going to be away for a few days: ironically, the day after I posted about self harm severity and even mentioned not having had a skin graft before, my GP nurse called for the ex-surgical GP at the clinic to have a look at one of the wounds I made two weeks ago. A few days later, here I am - due for surgery tomorrow morning. It frightens me that I can sense myself reasoning it away even as I deal with the emotional and environmental consequences of what's going on. Another consequence of this is that I will probably miss Sanguine Saturday this week - I'll try to remember to write it on paper and post it when I get out.

I had a lot of difficulty focusing on the session I had with my counsellor this week. To be honest, I can hardly remember anything that happened during the entire session. I do know that we talked about magic, though, and that's what I want to focus on today. Magic and fantasy - two linked, but separate concepts, that may be part of what is, for me, part of being whole and healthy.

Although I know that often the words "fantasy" and "magic" are used interchangeably, I wish to differentiate them here. For the purposes here, "magic" is that sense of child-like wonder; the sort of curiosity and 'magic' of/in childhood beliefs such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. "Fantasy", in this sense, is someone else's created world - movies, books, that sort of thing.

While my counsellor and I were talking, I was planning out a collage in my head of all the things that mean 'magic' for me - I can't wait to be discharged from hospital so I can create it. I've a very solid view in my head, at the moment, of what it'll be. Purple, and blue, and pink. Fairies. Butterflies.

Magic and fantasy are important, but there does need to be a sense of balance. I have a habit of losing myself too thoroughly in both; a tendency towards losing complete track of what is real and what isn't. My counsellor and I talked about this, and we explored a little around what it was like growing up with a mother who was determined to keep that magic alive for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for the gift she's given me by keeping the magic alive - but I could have gotten along a lot better with my peers if I had been a bit more certain about what to believe.

You see, even in my teens, I was never really sure whether or not Santa Claus was real. My mother insisted he was. My peers insisted he wasn't. Caught in the middle, I didn't know who to believe. Now, I finally realise that in a way they were both right; the 'magic' of Santa is as real as you and I -- the fat guy sneaking into your house with a bag of presents, not so much. It would have been so much easier if my mother could have just said to me, "the magic of Christmas, of Santa, is real as long as you believe in it; I wanted to keep that alive for you as long as I could, but you're right, your gifts came from me".

Perhaps at some point soon, in my journey, there can be a place for 'magic' and a place for 'fantasy' without either of them overtaking the real world.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
Where I am at in my journey is where I am at. It's not 'wrong' to be where I am.
I'm doing the best I can with what I have.
I deserve as much compassion as I extend to others.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sanguine SUNday to make up for missing SSaturday!

Apologies for missing yesterday's Sanguine Saturday post. After spending Friday afternoon/evening at the hospital to get a referral for the specialist burns unit (more on that next week, when I know more), I spent Saturday cleaning at my friend's place, only to take her up to the Emergency Department for an infection that night.. and had our mutual friend, who was also there, faint at the time! I felt better sleeping over with the pair of them to make sure everything was okay, which meant I wasn't online to post.

This week's Success Stories:
I've done some Pleasant Event Scheduling.
I used my DEAR MAN skills at the hospital! Not only did I not offend or upset anyone, I even got my needs met!
I've continued doing well taking my medication.
By looking after my wounds, I have been doing at least something towards doing the right thing by my body.
I'm still here, still alive - and it's okay that sometimes that's the best I can say.
I am Facing my Fear some.

Gratitudes List/Things that make me happy:
I have wonderful friends.
I am lucky enough to live in a country where I have access to free medical treatment.
Giraffes. Because any animal that has a blue tongue it can stick up its own nose absolutely has to be cool.
Great music.
Watching the prettiest woman ever, on Skype, and being lucky enough to hear her voice as well.
Finding the prettiest blue giraffe charm in Spotlight today.
Giggles when people assume my friend and I are in a relationship.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
It's okay to be afraid. But being afraid doesn't have to mean I bow down to that fear and Avoid.
Just because my mother is unhappy with me doesn't mean I made the wrong decision. Sometimes no decision is right.
I have the skills and the ability to cope no matter what happens.
I am in control of my life. I have the power to make choices around my treatment and to decide (to some degree) what happens to me. I have the power and the ability to request female staff in certain situations that may be difficult for me!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kam kam, ruz be ruz

Today's title came from my dear friend Sonya. It's an Arabic saying that means "little by little, day by day", and applies primarily to this first section of today's post.

During a discussion about self harm (expounded upon in the bottom half of this entry), my friend bought a quote by Chuang Tzu to the metaphoric table:

Easy is right. Begin right and you are easy. Continue easy and you are right. The right way to go easy is to forget the right way and forget that the going is easy.

I got confused attempting to follow it, but once my friend explained that it was about finding your authentic flow (aka "your true gut knowledge") and going with it; and that when you authentically struggle (as opposed to superficially struggling), it means you are headed in the wrong direction.

It's an interesting idea, but requires you to be able to hear your true gut knowledge -- and I'm just not there, yet. I'm still trying to get to know who I am at all. I get lost on where I begin; I struggle to identify what is fundamentally 'me' and what is merely a by-product of the answers I give to please others or get urges/desires/'needs' met.

And, as Sonya pointed out, maybe that's what I need to be focusing on at the moment. Instead of trying to be this incredible, wise, "together" person, maybe I just need to take it little by little and concentrate on finding the basics of who I am, and once I know that, then I can refine who that person is.

As for the second part of my post, I'll spoiler this here and now. It is self harm focused, quite frank and mildly graphic.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was a difficult day. For the 4th time in just over a week, I needed stitches: my doctor was, understandably, not very happy with me. For the first time in his treatment of me, he spoke to me only twice. The first time, he asked if I was planning to do more to myself "at the moment"; the second, all he said to me was "remember what I said last time?", then he turned to the nurse and continued, "if she needs anything tomorrow or in the next few weeks, call Holly". He stitched me up without another word to me then walked out.

I admit, I don't generally interact a whole lot with my doctor at the best of times, and I've never actually 'needed' him to warn me that the anaesthetic will sting; or to check that I'm not feeling anything as he puts the stitches in... but he's never before neglected to do either.

I felt rejected, betrayed. I felt abandoned. My head understands that he needs me to get used to seeing other doctors, but all my heart saw was that he has effectively dropped me because I 'failed'. I recognise that my heart and my head are in contention, and I recognise that the truth lies far more in my head than my heart, but I still need to go that next step and bring the two to alignment. I need to find Wise Mind.

After I got home, I had a very interesting discussion with two of my good friends. We have talked before about my self harm, and my inability (unwillingness?) to admit that it is "severe". At this point, I'm uncertain about why I still do it - most of the time it brings little relief and I already know that it creates more problems than it solves. And still, I do it anyway.

I have learnt to reason my way out of almost anything, as long as others aren't involved. During DBT, my therapist and I butted heads over the self harm thing time and time again. She couldn't get her head around why I would seek medical attention if I didn't view my self harm as severe; and I do understand that to a point. On the other hand, though, I have seen first hand the effects of a nasty Staph infection -- and how easily it spreads. I'm not at all bothered by the idea of having such an infection myself (apart from the thought of the resultant antibiotics!). What I'm not comfortable with, though, is the thought of being responsible for someone else contracting it. And that, purely and simply, is why I show up time and again to get my wounds taken care of - because I know that if I don't, I do get infections.

But I digress; I was talking about severity and self harm. I justify it to myself, telling myself that I don't really "need" those stitches. I have never had a wound so deep that to not get stitches would endanger my life. I tell myself that my burns can't be all that terrible - after all, I've never required a skin graft. I've never broken a bone through self harm, I've never given myself concussion, never actually required immediate first aid. My head tells me that, the way things stand, my self harm cannot possibly be 'severe'. And yet... my heart says, "this isn't right".

If I don't feel pain, it's because (to my mind), I obviously haven't done enough damage. If I do feel pain, I am weak and pathetic - "anybody else wouldn't even blink at this". Somewhere in me I know this is wrong. I know that if you don't feel anything from a wound, it is generally a sign of nerve damage or at least of dissociation/disconnection from the body. I know this... but I can't get myself to see it as applying to me.

My head and my heart are in contention again, and ironically, if my friends' perceptions are accurate, this time it is my heart that is right. How did I get so desensitised? What will it take to open my eyes?

Today's thought challenges/cheer-leading statements:
If my friend chooses to remove me from her life, it does not necessarily mean I have done something wrong.
My doctor has not abandoned me.
I am not a bad person.
All things pass when we let them. This will, too, as long as I choose to allow that.
I can't change things I may have done in the past, but I can make different choices in the future.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Tuesday Choices & Easter Comparison

Two years ago, I had the most difficult Easter weekend I've ever experienced. For more months my sleep had steadily deteriorated so that in the months leading up to Easter, I was down to an average of 6-10 hours for the entire week. Over the four day long weekend, I house-sat for my boss and in a more than 78 hour period, I slept only a single hour - during which I had a nightmare. I barely ate. I was tormented by body memories, voices, hallucinations and flashbacks.

This year hasn't been easy, not at all; but it hasn't been the same as that year. I have been plagued with memories and flashbacks, but they have not been as constant. I've had some relief. Thanks to my Mirtazapine, I've managed semi-decent sleep. The hallucinations were minimal. Even my self harm, over the actual Easter break, has been minimal. There has been improvement. Some of it I can attribute to the lack of time -- in order to help both of us, I spent much of the long weekend spending time with a good friend who finished DBT with me. Being able to do that was invaluable, and I'm just really grateful for that. And some of it is just that I have changed since then. In some ways I am better, in others I struggle more; but that's the nature of change and the journey to recovery.

I had more I wanted to write, a lot more; I wanted to talk about how maybe I fight too hard; and about working at having a good outlook, and how having a good outlook doesn't mean nothing is painful; and I wanted to write about today, because it was painful and difficult and because it lead to things that have the potential for real growth... but all of those things can wait a little longer, because tonight? Tonight I'm making good choices for me.

Instead of getting drunk, I chose to give myself a number of tasks to complete before I was allowed to drink. First, I decorated the front cover of my diary/day planner, and made some plans to catch up with an old school friend. Second, I tidied my bedroom again. Third, I finished the Dream Catchers I had started so that I could send them to my best friend and her grand-daughter (the two most beautiful lasses in Scotland). My final task was to write in my blog; which I, as I said, had intended to do more on; however, in doing tasks one, two and three, the night wore on so that it is now after 1am.

I'm still hurting. My body is telling me it needs alcohol to function. I'm sad, hurt, a little angry; I feel betrayed and I feel abandoned. All of that applies, but I'm still making the choice not to drink tonight; I'm making the choice not to self harm tonight; and I'm making the choice not to overdose tonight.

Today's thought challenges/cheer-leading statements:
I am not responsible for my doctor's reactions or emotions. I am only responsible for my own.
This, too, shall pass.
I can survive this.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sanguine Saturday: Week Two

Oops, almost forgot to post today!

This week's Success Stories:
I used my skills to request a trial upped dose of my medication -- and got it!
I've been actually taking my medication, which means I've been getting better sleep (not great, still, but better).
I've done lots of Pleasant Event Scheduling, both on my own and with others.
I made a run of four days self harm and four days alcohol free.
I've been practicing a small amount of Self Care.
I Faced some of my Fear in a few different situations.
I've been tackling my thoughts and using lots of Thought Challenging and Cheer-Leading Statements.

Gratitudes List/Things that make me happy:
Giraffes. Giraffes are good.
Glow worms.
Shiny lights and glowing things and illusionary mazes.
Great friends.
Being able to read.
Moments of introspection, because those are how we learn.
The discovery of Grey's Anatomy.

Today's cheer-leading statements:
I can cope with what is going on for me at the moment.
The past does not have to determine the future. Who I have been is not who I will always be, unless I make it so!
Everybody makes mistakes. Making one doesn't mean I have no worth.
Ruminating is never helpful!
I am not a bad person.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Self-Destruct Sequence

Several days ago, my next entry seemed clear. I had it all mapped out in my mind - at least, in vague terms, I did. I knew what paths I needed to follow in telling about the last few days (eventful) and those to come (hopefully full of pleasant event scheduling). My best friend suggested "just write"; I had a tantrum and did, then deleted it all bar this section and started again with a topic in mind.

I've been making a lot of questionable choices again, the sort of choices that are too consistent, too frequent to be labelled as mere "slips". Those have their own consequences that I'm facing -- one of which was my GP's reaction. You might recall that he wasn't happy about Mental Health discharging me - he was even more unhappy when I turned up two days later requiring care for more new (and somewhat serious) wounds. He was, in fact, so unhappy that while I was still in with the nurse, he got on the phone to Mental Health. In no uncertain terms he was told what I knew he'd be told - they're happy for me to be discharged, there's nothing more they can/are interested in doing for me.

I took this information with me when I saw my CASV counsellor, and I spoke about my interpretation that "I'm less worthy than my DBT peers who have been retained/referred on to other services". Interestingly, my counsellor was angry on my behalf about the way things have gone in regard to that. She suggested I write a letter to the state head of health, and when I explained that I didn't feel there was any point -- I'm all too aware of the fact that this was only my perception of events, that I was choosing to see it that way, and that that meant it didn't really matter. At that point, she called me, straight up, on minimising. Yes, it is my perspective -- but that doesn't mean I don't have the right to feel upset about what transpired. I think we're going to work very well together.

The discussion with my counsellor lead us through a variety of paths and on to what I call my self-destruct sequence. There are lots of things that set it off, and lots of ways that being self-destructive comes into play, for me, but at the moment I'm talking about a rather specific sequence of events (which, incidentally, ties rather nicely in with my entry about self value).

It starts easily enough. Things will be going along - good, bad, indifferent. Obviously if things are going poorly, the likelihood of falling into this pothole is higher, but it often happens no matter how 'well' things are going.

The triggering event is generally a comment or an internal realisation. Somebody will offer a compliment, or tell me I'm doing well: things that are meant to reassure. Even if I at the time appear to react well, somehow it gets twisted inside me. Suddenly this good thing is not good: such begins sabotage and self-destruct.

Coming from a strengths based perspective, my counsellor admitted she'll find it interesting to work around this -- but it seems that it's a challenge that we're both up for. We're going to call it my gentle adventure to WISEness, and one of the things we're going to do is to look at me giving myself credit for decisions I'm making out of my WISE mind.

Since I'm very creatively focused, and do well with set homework, my task until our next session is twofold:
1) Begin gathering together materials on what my adventure to WISEness means to me; and
2) Try to make note of times when I have wanted to give in to self destructive behaviours and haven't.

Today's thought challenges/cheer-leading statements:
It's okay to look after me.
I'm not a bad person.
I can be there for my friends and look after my own needs as well.
I'm doing the best I can with the knowledge and skills that I have available to me at the moment.
Choosing positive coping skills doesn't have to mean denying that things are difficult at the moment.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Self Value & Accepting Compliments

"You have a really beautiful smile."
"What happened to your face?"
"I can't believe how strong she is."
"Her scars are hideous."
"I really love how innocent you are."

In our society, judgements are all around us. Sometimes those judgements work for us - they can help us to prepare for and protect ourselves; and sometimes those judgements work against us. When someone levels a judgement our way, we tend to call it one of two things. If it's a negative judgement, such as "her scars are hideous," we lean towards calling it an insult. If it's a positive judgement, we call it a compliment, and most people are generally glad to receive it.

Some people, on the other hand, are a little different. For whatever reason, compliments leave them feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, or downright afraid. I, as I'm sure you have guessed, am one of those people. In fact, this topic has come up for me several times over the past couple of days.

I've a friend who assumes if someone pays her a compliment, that person is lying. Another friend feels unsafe when someone gives her a compliment, as though the good thing will be taken away. A third friend finds them difficult because they're simply so unfamiliar. And me? Well, I find them difficult for a variety of reasons, most of which tangle together pretty thoroughly. For me, part of the big difficulty in accepting a compliment is that I am so thoroughly enmeshed in my core belief of myself as being worthless that if I am paid a compliment, my immediate thought is that I have somehow 'tricked' the other person into believing something about me that is false. As a person with a value system where honesty is quite highly rated, I find this very distressing.

In the past, my automatic reaction was to either 'do a runner' (thereby avoiding the entire situation), "fix" it by proving how wrong the person was, or at the very least, argue with them over why it couldn't possibly be accurate. As you can imagine, all of these paths rarely lead anywhere positive. I think the one major exception is that in attempting to argue with a particular friend, I was given a fantastic line that I continue to use on myself:

"If you argue a compliment, you reject the gift of it".

I cannot think of a more beautiful way to look at a compliment - and, of course, viewed that way, how can I argue? To prove the person wrong and "fix" the situation would also be to reject that gift, which leaves avoiding... but only in my old ways of dealing! In the new ways, there are other options. I can choose to actually accept the gift of that compliment, regardless of whether I feel it is true or not. I can choose to use cheer-leading and positive coping statements. I can choose to challenge my thoughts and beliefs about myself, including the belief that I am worthless, or that I am a fraud/liar because somebody sees something in me that I do not (yet). I can use the power of my thoughts to change my perception.

None of this comes easily, yet. I struggle, still, to accept that there is good in me -- but I'm learning that just because I don't see it, doesn't have to mean that it isn't there. If, right now, I still have to trust in others, that what they can see does exist, that's okay. I've had 27 years of believing I have no worth, of strengthening the hold of thinking based on the core belief of worthlessness - to expect it to change overnight is unreasonable. In the meantime, I plan to continue to make choices, as best I can, to work towards the day when I can say to myself, and with every fibre of my being mean, "I am a person of value"

And by accepting the gift of a compliment, when it is offered, that is exactly the message I am giving that little niggling thought that tells me I have no worth. "You are wrong. I have [compliment] going for me. There is worth in that. There is worth in me."

Today's thought challenges/cheer-leading statements:
Not having a quality 100% of the time doesn't mean I don't count as having it.
As I change my thoughts and the way I talk to and about myself, I am giving myself the power to change the way I act and feel about myself. It's okay to say positive things that don't yet "feel" true.
Making mistakes does not make me a bad person.
It's really okay to do things that are good for me. It's okay to look after me!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.