Realisations from the past that will always be relevant to me and maybe others…

Last night, I was looking for an email from a few years ago, and I came across the following. Before you read it, let me explain…

Sometimes when I am relaxing at night, just before I go to sleep, I’ll have these random realisations. If I can’t write things down, I forget I’ve had them by morning. So, I often email myself if these realisations happen… and that’s what this was about.

I can’t even remember what was going on for me at that time. But I do remember the frustration I’d been feeling with certain people.

Wanted to share it in the hope it somehow helps someone else. ❤

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Kerri Jones
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 2015, 02:38
Subject: Trust own intuitive thoughts/feelings.
To:

Trust your own intuitive thoughts/feelings.

You see traits of yourself in others clearer; that’s frustrating, probably because it takes you back to times when life felt unbearble. You feel helpless because you have no control over the people you see these traits in. You know what might help them but you can’t force them to try; recovery begins when that person wants it to begin. Maybe because they reach their limits, they have a good support network or they stumble across happiness (as they will have done before), that maybe feels a tiny bit better than ever, or lasts a tiny bit longer than before. When that happens, there comes a point where you are able to appreciate it more than you ever have before and it engulfs you. And it engulfs you so much that it becomes you. As those happier feelings grow in strength, frequency and length, they soothe the angrier, more sour feelings. The addition of positive feelings neutralises some of the pain and negativity inside. Initially, there are more negative feelings than positives. But the positives carry on dripping in until eventually there are equal amounts of each. Equal amounts means one can overpower the other – positive can take the spotlight and push negative away or vice versa. In time, eventually, positive is twice the size of negative. Positive is mainly the one in the spotlight, and can, on the majority of occasions, push negative into the darkness. Ideally, negative would disappear completely, but that is not possible. For me, positive will win the spotlight at the most important times, without pushing negative away but by performing for negative. Accepting and acknowledging that negative is there keeps their relationship calm and peaceful. If either tries to deny the other then they start to battle. What you resist, persists. Don’t resist your feelings, always allow them to exist. Don’t act on your feelings without first taking time to think your actions through, as well as any potential consequences of your actions.
Always remember for every action there is a reaction. You cannot control others’ actions or reactions but you can control your own.

Choices. Just; choices!

I came across this meme on Facebook earlier and thought it was very apt. At the time, I had just been having a conversation about my recent changes in attitude. The fact that I’m striving to improve myself, be healthier, look after myself more. And that all this work I’m doing is “for” me; nobody else is asking these things of me; they are things that I am hoping will improve my overall health and general wellbeing. And I have realised, nobody can do it “with” or “for” me. People can encourage me, support me and give me feedback but ultimately it is only me who can do it. Because I am the one who is making these choices, with choices being the operative word.

Everything we do, we choose to do. We “choose” to eat to survive or to enjoy the taste etc. We choose to go out, stay in, drink alcohol, smoke; basically everything. I know some people may argue this, some people have said they don’t “choose” to work and they “have” to work to earn money to survive. That’s a fair point, however you’re still choosing from those 2 potentials; do you choose to work to survive, or do you choose not to work and risk the consequences of that whatever they may be. You choose the lesser of the evils, but that doesn’t mean the lesser evil will be a great alternative.

In moments of desperation, when my world had crashed down around me and almost buried me alive, I ‘chose’ to hurt myself. The only options or choices I could see at that very moment were: I hurt myself right now to relieve the feelings or I kill myself to permanently stop the feelings. I could never see other options in those situations, where I can now (for example, an alternative option could have been I could have tried to tolerate those feelings a little longer, reminding myself that they were thoughts and feelings and they could not hurt me). So I’ve realised (just now by writing this very random post), that problem solving is quite important, in order to try to see the other choices you have. Opening up your mind, slowing down your thoughts, reassuring yourself. Maybe then try to take a step back from it for a few seconds and consider your options. That 10 or 20 seconds when you take a step back and assess the situation properly, could potentially distract you enough to really reduce your urges or feelings. That is not easy, but try just by reminding yourself every day to use that 10 or more second step back from things so you can gather yourself.

Well now you have a choice to make. Try the above or don’t try the above. Further choices along the way, if you do try, do you give up after 1 failed attempt or do you keep practising until it gets easier? If you ignore the above, is there anything else you can try that might help? Or would you choose not to end the cycle at all?

All choices that come with their own consequences; positive & negative. Which is the lesser alternative? Is that a lesser alternative for the short-term? Or is it the lesser alternative for the long-term? Sometimes we have to choose harder options in order to improve things for the long-term. That means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, making choices we might not usually make and trying things that might fear us to death.

Choices choices choices 🙂

The power of music in mental health!

Music has always been a big part of my life. I have always loved having music on in the background and find it easier to concentrate more when I’m listening to music, strangely. I realised how powerful music is in mental health when I was in the deepest depths of depression. More specifically, it was when I was practising mindfulness. I used to work with an online counsellor, who once tried to ‘ground’ me (bring my level of emotions down to a manageable level) by using music. She asked me to try sitting or lying in a comfortable place, with my favourite music on. I then had to try and focus on one instrument only throughout one of the tracks. I tried and tried and tried; it was bloody impossible at first to get through a whole song just focusing on one thing and drowning all the others out. I presumed I’d be drawn to piano sounds as I love listening to it. But oddly, the more I did it, I started to notice the voice was the most captivating to me. Once I’d got the hang of it I would do it every day with different songs to ‘train’ my brain and get used to being mindful; which is basically, focusing on something in the here and now, forgetting about past or future thoughts/feelings etc. Eventually the practise paid off and I’m pro at it now, with the singer’s voice being the one thing I focus on.

I then started to focus on what the words were in each song; questioning what each artist was trying to say, and noticing the feelings each song evoked in me. Sometimes, once I’d really understood the song through the lyrics, I really felt like somebody else out there knew how I felt. Other times they helped me to pass through emotive times without self-harming. Artists I really related to most included: Birdy, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, The Script and Professor Green. It still makes me laugh to myself that all those artists sing similar styles, then there’s Professor Green who raps!

Anyhow, what I learned is that I leaned towards songs that matched the feelings I had at that time. Sometimes the songs kept me feeling depressed, but I wouldn’t change that if I could do it again. They may have kept me there a little longer, but I didn’t feel alone because somebody else out there completely understood. I would allow myself, through the music, to sit and ‘be’. I could tolerate certain emotions based on what music I had on. One example of what might have ‘kept’ me feeling gloomy would be Birdy and her music. It’s a lot about having been hurt, which most songs are I guess, but her lyrics really represented my feelings.

A verse from Birdy’s song “Wings” really touched me and I’d spend ages listening to this song over and over again. That verse said:

Under a trillion stars
We danced on top of cars
Took pictures of the stage
So far from where we are
They made me think of you

The song, how I’d interpreted it, was about loss and missing somebody. Wishing so hard you could have them back and the pain you feel when you know you’ll never see them again. But there was one Birdy song that just blew me away. At the time I found this song, I was working on my inner-child. A lot of my problems stemmed (in my opinion) from the hate I had towards the “little Kerri”. And when I became unwell, I would feel like the little me was trapped inside my body, fighting to get out, but I wouldn’t let her. So internally I had this battle going on. And i don’t know if it was the intensity of the emotions or if it was something else, but I physically felt that battle inside. I was in pain physically, I could feel movement inside me and I was genuinely convinced she was running round inside my body. Looking back, I realise I did actually experience those physical sensations, but I interpreted them differently because of how intense they were. Like, my stomach would churn, but it would churn so much it felt like something was actually in there. My chest would pound so much, it felt like something was trying to punch its way out. My body would tremble so much all over that it felt like there was something in my veins, getting around to every single inch of my body. To try to explain the ferocity of it, the physical feelings were such that I actually felt like I ‘needed’ to stab myself in the stomach to get this ‘thing’ out of me. Safe to say, I was admitted to hospital on this occasion, and it’s great to say I didn’t harm myself too seriously. Well, I was on about songs. The following lyrics helped me to connect with my inner-child. The song was like a conversation between me and her; two separate people as I saw them then. The first paragraph of the lyrics are me talking to ‘little Kerri’. Her response is the last paragraph.

Remember once the things you told me
And how the tears ran from my eyes
They didn’t fall because it hurt me
I just hate to see you cry
Sometimes I wish we could be strangers
So I didn’t have to know your pain
But if I kept myself from danger
This emptiness would feel the same

I want to tell you that I’m sorry
But that’s not for me to say
You can have my heart, my soul, my body
If you can promise not to go away
I ain’t no angel
I never was
But I never hurt you
It’s not my fault
You see those egg shells, they’re broken up
A million pieces, strung out across the ground

So, the power of this song helped me have that conversation internally. I realised that the little me had done nothing wrong. She was bad, evil or spiteful like I’d always thought of her. She wasn’t a monster. She was a young child trying to survive. And all she needed now was for me to look after her. After listening to this song a million times, I wrote to my inner-child and expressed how I felt. I then wrote as my inner-child to myself, and let her express her feelings. They then began to understand one another, and realise that they were safe with each other. And slowly, little Kerri became part of me. “She” is no longer a person in herself; she is a part of who I am. And I have accepted her thanks to this song.

There’s a lot more I could give you on this, so let me know if you wanna read more about this stuff. I have loads of examples of how music has made a difference for me like above. Music is something a lot of us take for granted, but if you use it wisely, it can become really helpful in your own life!

Borderline Personality Disorder: We found love in a hopeless place; literally!

Relationships have always been a sticky subject with me. To be quite honest I’ve always preferred being single, and even as a teenager, was never really interested in finding a boyfriend (or girlfriend for that matter). This was possibly a lot to do with previous experiences in relationships; I usually always gave in to my partners and they usually had full control of the relationship. Even if that meant I wasn’t happy; their feelings were always put before mine (which I believe is called ‘subjugation’ sp?).

I’ve had a number of relationships, some short term, some long term. Nothing ever too serious. The fear of commitment was far too much for me. I much preferred being on my own, enjoying ‘me’ time at home on an evening, not having to check with your partner before agreeing to go out in case they’ve made plans for us etc. And I very clearly remember discussing this in a group setting about 2 years ago; “I don’t ever want to get married, I don’t want kids, I’m happy as I am and that’s that”. Anyone dared suggest otherwise I’d freak out.

There was one person in this group who I considered to be a friend. We’d not long known each other, but I instantly felt comfortable around her because she was just so laid back and chilled out. I admired people who were like that; because it was something I could never be… I did not “chill out” and was always on the go, worrying about something, feeling tense. I could never have the attitude of “don’t worry, it’ll be fine”. Being friends with her really helped me to be able to start doing that and now I’m so laid back I’m horizontal at times. I don’t worry half as much as I used to. I don’t stress about the little things like I did.

We were very good friends and I could tell her anything, with her feeling the same about me. I didn’t have any ‘feelings’ for her in the beginning. And, in my mind, I was ‘straight’; the thought of being in a relationship with my friend who also happened to be female just never entered my mind. Then eventually, just before Christmas 2014, I realised I was falling in love with her. I did have feelings for her and I loved her and wanted to be with her. You can imagine, I was pretty dumbfounded at this point; what the feck do I do now?

At first I tried pushing those feelings away. It was scary to think I might be falling for a female; I wasn’t ‘gay’. The feelings grew stronger and after finally discussing it with my CPN, I managed to work through my anxieties and fears, before coming to terms with the fact that actually, you really can’t help who you fall for. Never in a million years did I expect I’d be settling down with someone of the same sex, but it’s happening.

We told family and a small selection of close friends just after christmas 2014, and have been together since. I can honestly tell you, I have never been in a relationship like this and it certainly isn’t dysfunctional. In almost a year of being together we’ve not had 1 single argument. We talk things through, we’re honest at all times; if I piss her off she’ll tell me (in a kinder way) and vice versa. There’s nothing we ever need to argue about; if we disagree about something we’ll discuss it and work through it or agree to disagree. I absolutely love her to pieces, she is my world. I’ve never met somebody before who I felt I could spend all my time with and always be happy. Of course, we both have our own time too as that’s important, but I much prefer being in her company. She has, at times, carried me through the past couple of years, and I’d be utterly lost without her. And now I think, so what if she’s a female; I love her and she loves me and we are happy together. It’s taken a good few months for me to be able to finally tell the world we’re together, because of my fears of what other people would think mostly. But in all honesty, our happiness is much more important, and I don’t want our relationship to be a secret anymore. She is my world, she makes me laugh, I feel safe with her, she treats me as an equal; all the things I’ve never had in previous relationships.

You genuinely just cannot help who you fall for. Love came along when I least expected it, and has brought me a long way in my recovery from mental illness. I don’t think anyone needs to be out looking for ‘the one’, I think they’ll find you one day when the time is right for both of you!

I graduated from therapy

Well, strictly speaking, I’ve got 1 last 1-2-1 session next week, but I had my last group session today and although it was hard knowing I won’t be going back into that kind of supportive environment, it was exciting too. The prospect of a lie-in on a Thursday got the better of me!

In all seriousness this is a huge deal for me. I never thought I’d be able to say that I’ve reached the end of therapy, after 9 full years in services, and feel excited about it. If you read my post about attachments, you’ll hopefully understand a little more about how strong my attachments were with mental health professionals (in particular) who were working closely with me. To finally completely let go of those safe attachments, and that safety harness, is the scariest thing to think of, and admit to. For some strange reason, up until recently, I found it so difficult to just tell it how it is. It just wouldn’t happen for me, until I’d started to develop personally, in my recovery. I was talking to my CPN in my 1-2-1 about 3-4 months ago. I said something (but have no idea what it was) and I realised at that moment that there was a change in me. Literally, out of nowhere, came reels and reels of complete honesty about my life. I admitted to things I’d never even be able to admit to myself, and from that point I felt completely amazing. It is so hard to describe what happened that day, in that 50 minutes, because it’s something that’s never happened to me before. Nothing has ever made me feel as good as I did, and have, from that day. Simply because I stopped pushing the true thoughts/feelings away, and I said them out loud which acknowledged them for the first time, comfirming they were in fact very real. I explained my attachment issues with professionals and admitted that I was terrified of being discharged; instead of persistently repeating “I’m not worried about being discharged at all” (whilst secretly shitting my pants). I admitted that, for some reason, I found it hard to give the professionals all the information they needed, in order to be able to support me better. Instead, I would drip-feed them information, try and hold it all together, until a ‘crisis’ would occur which would usually end up in a hospital admission. I was aware at the time that I drip-fed, and I couldn’t help it. It was my way of keeping myself safe I suppose, and I think now that it’s something we all do to a degree. Not a lot of people go around being 100% honest every second of every day about how they were feeling, we have to build up trust with people and learn when it’s ‘safe’ and appropriate to express our thoughts/feelings. It just takes different amounts of time for others to start trusting people, and I guess the more you’ve been let down by people in the past, the longer it’s going to take you to build up that trust with somebody in the future. It’s a really ‘simple’ psychological defence mechanism that keeps us safe from other people.

While it may take somebody a long time to trust if they’ve been hurt previously, it can sometimes be the opposite too. For me, I’d sit there wanting to honestly answer their questions, (are you having urges to self-harm? Are you safe? Are you feeling suicidal?) and the real answer would come into my head, but they heard the complete opposite to whatever that was. The answers to those questions at that time, by the way, would have been no, yes & no; but the real truth at that time would have been yes, no, yes. Is that confusing to you? I’m chuckling now at the thought of you going to and from the questions to match the answers. To sum up where I’m at now, if I was having urges to self-harm, wasn’t safe and felt suicidal, and I was asked those questions, I wouldn’t lie. I’d be able to express my true feelings in a way where other people could understand them better. Rather than, saying I was fine and then an hour later taking an overdose or hurting myself in some way. It really sounds so simple to me now, but you know what, when you’re in that ‘place’ you feel completely and utterly paralysed by your emotions.

Tolerating the intolerable feelings; what is the worst that could happen?

Tolerating feelings and emotions is something I’m still trying to get to grips with. This is a mammoth task for anyone at times, but is something people with borderline PD often struggle with. The inability to tolerate certain powerful and overwhelming emotions can cause a number of problems, such as anger management issues, self-harm (as it can alleviate overpowering emotions) and impulsive behaviours (sometimes behaviours that can put people at risk) such as wreckless driving, binge eating, over-spending, promiscuity. The reason behind these problems usually stems from a persons inability or unwillingness to tolerate how they feel. The behaviour usually leads to a dramatic change or shift in their feelings. Some of the feelings that can come from these unhelpful behaviours could be numbness, feeling free, feeling more in control or a feeling that you deserve to suffer (these are just a few examples and everyone is different).

For me, I avoided sitting with those overwhelming emotions usually by self-harming. Self-harm was the only way I knew how to change or reduce the intensity of my feelings.

For example, if I felt angry it was usually very intense and I had a strong feeling that I would completely lose control of myself. So once I’d harmed myself, the intensity of the anger reduced (like it was releasing my emotions) and I then felt in control again. This was a vicious circle I was stuck in, and it was only when I started trying to tolerate those emotions that things started to change: i broke that cycle. I remember lying in bed one night feeling extremely angry over something. I was so angry I wanted to punch something or scream and shout. Then came the self-harm urges, but I talked myself through it. If I lay there and kept myself as still and calm as possible I could focus on reminding myself that feelings come and go. That the way I felt at that moment would not last forever. And even though I felt like my whole body was about to explode, I could reassure myself that it was just a feeling and it could not harm me. Eventually I must have calmed down, because I fell asleep. Of course when I woke up, those intense feelings had subsided and the situation felt less overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really difficult thing to do, to sit with these horrible emotions and not act on them, but they do pass off eventually.

During times where your emotions are overwhelmingly strong, try to tolerate them, and ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen right now’ – most of your answers may be irrational fears (ie when I felt I was going to explode it was important to reassure myself that this was a feeling that couldn’t harm me and my body was not going to explode).

The truth is, you have to be prepared to try new things and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Nobody likes that, but if you don’t challenge your thoughts/feelings/behaviours they won’t change or improve. You also won’t learn about your strength, but we can all be very strong when we need to be. We, as humans, tend to push through things and move forward. But the only way you can start to move forward is by clearing your path of any barriers or by finding or creating a new/different path for yourself.

Give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?

Coming to terms with, and accepting difficult adjustments in life

A lot of my friends and family know a lot about my mental health because it’s been something I’ve always tried to be open and honest about. Fewer know about the physical battle I have with my body.

In 2007 I had glandular fever; which the doctors only picked up on 6 weeks after I’d been infected. I’d spent that whole 6 weeks to and from the doctors, feeling achy, sore and tired. So once I got the diagnosis I felt a bit better for having a valid reason for being in pain and so tired. When other tests came back normal, I felt like the medical staff didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me, and it was only with pestering them that they finally did viral blood tests and found glandular fever.

Months and months went by and I was just feeling more and more tired. I would sleep almost every day until late afternoon, after briefly trying to get up in a morning and soon realising my body was still tired. Months soon became a year, and by this time I started to get painful swellings in my hands. I also constantly felt tender all over – like I was bruised all over but there ware no bruises there. Eventually I was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue & Raynaud’s Disease.

Over the years I’ve tried numerous medications and then was told by the pain clinic that they were running out of options with regards to medications. The consultant suggested Tai Chi had benefits with fibro, and also referred me for 6 sessions of acupuncture. Physio also recommended TENs machines, so I got one. A year on and I’m still doing tai chi, taking regular painkillers, exercising gently daily etc. But around Jan 2015, my pain started worsening again. Flare ups were lasting longer and coming more frequently. Time between flares was also reducing. I have deteriorated more this year so far, than I ever have since diagnosis.

Most days now, I can’t get through the day without a nap. If I don’t nap, or at least lie down, my body starts to feel so achy and weak, and I start feeling sick, my head feels all fuzzy and I can’t think straight. If I try to push through it, those feelings just get worse until I start vomiting and feel like I’m about to collapse. Then I have no choice but to rest.

I could have the best nights sleep and still never wake fully refreshed. I have to drag myself out of bed and fight soooo hard to stop myself cancelling whatever I’ve got on and going back to bed. If I did that, I would literally never be able get anything done. What I’ve had to figure out, and it’s took me about 6 months to work out, is when do I need to actually listen to my body and rest. It’s been so difficult trying to work out if I’m exhausted, or exhausted exhausted; pushed to my limits or beyond kind of exhausted. Do I want to go back to bed because I’m not motivated enough? In which case I have to push myself to stay up and get things done. Or is it that I want to go back to bed because I actually do need to rest? In which case it’s really important I do, otherwise I’ll make myself ill by overdoing it.

Overdoing it being the next difficult thing I’ve had to work out. If I overdo it one day, I won’t know about it usually until that night or the following day. This is now one of my indicators – I know I need to rest if, the day before, I had a particularly long, busy or strenuous day. I know that my body will then take a few days to fully repair itself (I say fully, I mean back to how it was before overdoing it). So it’s tricky to know how much is too much, when the signs only develop 24 hours later. It’s pretty much been trial and error. People told me to try doing things in short bursts with regular breaks; a common one being do 10 mins of an activity, followed by 10 mins rest and so on. I found this hard, so I made up my own ‘system’ and plodded on.

Somehow I’m learning what “too much” for me personally, is. And I can usually always tell the difference between my “everyday exhaustion” and my exhaustion exhaustion.

The most difficult part for me, and something I’ve struggled with a lot, is coming to terms with the changes in my body. I often say I feel like I’m trapped in the body of an frail old lady. I can’t do things like I used to be able to. What’s even harder about that, is I’m still in my late 20’s; I never expected I’d be so physically limited at this age. People in their 50’s+ have spoken to me about their struggle to come to terms with the fact that they are ageing; that their bodies can no longer do what it used to be able to do. Exercise can become more demanding, health can deteriorate, tiredness kicks in quicker, body aches and pains etc. Looking back on those convsersations, I can completely empathise. It’s so hard to accept that you might never to be able to do certain things that you once could, or even if you can, it may not be with as much satisfaction or enjoyment because of pain, tiredness or other problems.

The fact is, at the moment, my chronic fatigue and fibro pain are debilitating. I am having to really adjust my life to be able to reduce my symptoms as much as I possibly can. I cannot begin to explain to you how hard that is, and the amount of times I’ve sobbed my eyes out because I just don’t want to believe it all is unreal. Thankfully, the tearful outbursts are not that often. Mostly I try to just get on with it. I get told off by people around me for doing too much sometimes, but I am really trying. I always swore that I would never let my physical problems stop me from doing anything, so it’s hard when, for example, I need help with housework, because I don’t ask for help and keep trying to do it myself. One day I’ll learn, but for now I’m still learning too many other things.