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 ­čÖé

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┬áto 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┬átrust 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?