How should counselling feel? Mumbo-jumbo, questions and.. shit! 

Those who know me will know I am always open and honest in my writing and I don’t hold back; especially when it comes to mental health.

Towards the beginning of this year I decided to re-enter into ‘therapy’ after my GP suggested it could help me to come to terms with my deteriorating fatigue and pain. I self-referred, as per my GP’s advice, to the primary care service. Within a week of referring myself I had a telephone consultation with somebody, so I could explain what had been happening. This enables the service to then signpost or offer further support. I discussed my inability to come to terms with the fact that I cannot do what people of my age can do; as a result of physical and/or mental health problems. I cannot work, because every single day is different. I do not know how bad or good I may feel. I struggle to wake up to an alarm; no matter how early or late it may be. Some days I struggle to simply wake up and it can take me the whole day to ‘come to’. Those days, I rely heavily on Bex helping me out (I’d be lost without her). I struggle to concentrate for long periods of time. Sometimes I cannot concentrate on anything. I have slowly gone from being somebody who is super organised, to somebody who relies again, heavily on Bex to help me remember appointments. Sometimes, if not all the time, Bex will have to remind me of my plans for the day, several times. Only yesterday she had to remind me of something over and over again. And still, I need a reminder within 1 hour of that appointment because my memory just struggles so much to retain information. 

Anyway, back to this telephone assessment. After about half an hour it was agreed that I could benefit from some counselling. Initially, as with most places, I could have 6 sessions with the potential for a further 6 if needed. I was happy for my name to be put on the waiting list. Then she informed me that the wait was 6 months at the very least. Great. I actually genuinely understand that resources are stretched and I am not saying people should be seen ‘immediately’. However; my GP suggested counselling because I am struggling now, not in 6+ months. 

I knew at that point that I was going to have to look for something. After a bit of research, I found somebody that offered online counselling sessions; ideal for me. It means I can have counselling without having the added stress of physically going anywhere. Plus, it helps me to feel ‘safer’ having some anonymity. The cost of going private means I can’t have weekly sessions; which is the ideal. But, the way I felt at that time meant that every fortnight would still be better than nothing.

After an initial conversation online, with a counsellor, I kind of knew she was the right one. And I have to say; this is THE best therapy so far (and I have had a lot in my time). After a session yesterday, I got thinking about the process. I wonder why it works so well this time? What is different this time? How had it become that I felt great after each session? Was it to do with the counsellor, or was it to do with me? And is this how it feels when it really works? Is this what counselling should look like? And if so, why had it never looked like this before?

So many questions running around a tired, tiny brain. I have some potential ideas in response to those questions, which I will happily share with you in my next post. So watch this space 👍

Annnnnnnnd relax 😊❤

Dissociation, self-harm & compartmentalising

poem written by me in 2014 about dissociation

I came across this poem dated from back in 2014 that I wrote after an episode of dissociation. Reading it back now, isn’t triggering, but I can really remember the sadness and desperation I felt during that time. 

I would remember some of the time when I dissociated, but most of the time that I spent in that state is still a mystery. There were times where I’d wake up in the morning and find I’d hurt myself somewhere along the way, but often struggled to grab any memory of doing it. Only a few months ago, I found a ‘stash’ of blades that I never knew existed.

Knowing that at any point, there was a chance I could go into this state and hurt myself so much is terrifying. There were times when self-harm brought me out of the dissocisted state; not sure if that was a shock-reaction ‘cos I’d suddenly be thinking “wtf are you doing?” And I wouldn’t know what had triggered that incident of self-harm. When my mood was really low, I lived in constant fear that I’d go into a dissociative state and seriously harm or kill myself. That was more scary than ‘consciously’ feeling suicidal. At least when I wasn’t dissociated, I still felt in control of my behaviour. When i was dissociating,  the bits of it that I remember, it was like I was stood watching myself. And no matter what was happening, how I was behaving, I could only watch. I never knew how to get back to myself. It felt like my spirit had left, I was stood in my body, watching my spirit. In this poem, I describe an “out-of-control killer” trying to kill me. That killer, was also me. At the time, I thought that I was just seeing that because that’s what I was doing to myself. And maybe that is right. But here’s the psychological part that my brain’s just made sense of…

I was’t trying to kill myself, as a whole person. Maybe, I was trying to ‘kill’ or repress a part of me that I didn’t like… My inner child. I had unintentionally distanced my inner child from my adult part, because the adult me couldn’t cope with the overwhelming feelings that stemmed from childhood. My mind created different ‘compartments’ for the different parts of my personality and “I” shifted from these different parts, depending on events, environment, company etc. For example, the ‘adult Kerri’ was very sensible, professional when I needed to be, came across as quite confident. The ‘little Kerri’ felt very hurt, vulnerable, ashamed. The ‘punitive parent’ part of my personality was very hard on little me. Looking back, when I saw my inner child in my own mind, I despised what I saw.

Basically, if you look at the image I scribbled on the poem. The “adult” me, who knew right from wrong and wanted to be balanced and ok, is the one watching from a distance. The punitive me, who despised little me was the one who wanted to destroy that child I saw. The child I saw, was my inner-child.

When I started to try and acknowledge my inner-child and understand her feelings, it helped me to stop separating parts of my personality, and “I” started to become more whole.

Happy to report, no dissociation for over a year. In fact, no dissociation since I started to see my inner-child as a vulnerable child. Also, since I started acknowledging all parts of my personality, by being honest with those close to me about how I was feeling. For example, anger was a difficult emotion for me to share with other people. If ever I felt angry about something, I’d usually hide my anger. It would then build up inside and sometimes lead to self-harm. Now, even just saying aloud to somebody “I’m really angry at…” It helps, because I’m no longer denying my anger.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot by writing this. I hope it helps you to understand it a little. I do want to point out, everyone is different and I am only going from my own experiences.

Any feedback welcome 😊

Chronic Fatigue isn’t just about being ‘tired’, it’s about my whole life

“I’m exhausted” is all I say these days. I get so tired it drives me to tears; tears that are for more than one reason. I cry because I’m so physically exhausted I feel ill, and I cry at what that brings – it interferes with my personal, social and work life. Sometimes I have to let people down at the last minute because my energy has depleted before my day has even started. Even if I’d had a fab sleep, I could wake up feeling like I’ve been up all night. Some nights I am up all night. I hate sleepless nights, I’m always so bored. Nothing interesting on tv, most people are sleeping, even the dogs don’t wanna know. I usually spend the night lay in bed on my phone for an hour, downstairs for a bit, back up, then back down, all the way through til the morning. My phone will bing early usually, and when it does I get excited that the world is waking up. Might sound mad, but that’s how lonely I feel when I can’t sleep, especially when I feel like I could sleep. At the moment, regardless of the amount I sleep at night, I can’t get through a day without having to go and lie down. Sometimes I lie there for hours, other times I sleep for hours. Mostly I lie there feeling absolutely physically drained, while my mind feels foggy. Through the fog, every now and then, I am anxious because I have a lot to do and don’t feel like I have time to be lying in bed for hours. That, is the most frustrating thing. Knowing that the kitchen is a mess (still), that I’ve not hoovered for a couple of days (again), that I have emails and texts to reply to (that are almost a week old). When I’m feeling “exhausted”, I’m speaking literally. My body has just enough energy to keep me breathing at times it feels, and even breathing hurts during these flares, because of the soft tissue around my ribs. Those are the very bad days; which can last weeks actually. 

I was really made up that I did the 5k run last week. Then I was bounced off that high, right back down with a bang when I realised I wouldn’t be able to do it this weekend just gone because I was still in agony and my fatigue was keeping me in bed most of the days. So frustrating wanting to do things I can’t do anymore, or having to go at a slower pace than I’m used to. 

Anyway, if I am to try and remain positive, then I should try to stop looking at what I can’t do about it and see what I can do. I’ve noticed more recently that my imaginative and creative sides are becoming more prominent again. I’m getting more ‘light bulb’ moments with ideas that just pop up. Usually something I can do with the house. My most recent idea was to upcycle an old lamp I was going to get rid of. So I should try to encourage that more in myself at the moment I think, especially when I’m feeling this tired. It will give me something to do, isn’t too physically demanding, it can be an ongoing project that I keep going back to. I need to do something so I don’t go insane. And I don’t mean insane from boredom, I mean I need to do something, because at least I won’t then be doing nothing. Doing ‘something’ is better than ‘nothing’, for me anyway! 

Body image & eating disorders. Searching for something that doesn’t exist; perfection!

Body image is something that’s always been a problem for me, and most people I think. The majority of people have some kind of ‘problem’ area. For me, it’s my legs, bum, hips & stomach. Not much then? 

I remember when my problem with weight and body image started. I was at 6th form at the time, so around 16/17. Until this moment, I never worried about it. But one day sitting in the common room, I remember looking at somebody and noticing how thin she was. She wasn’t ‘skinny’ but she had a good shape; everything was in proportion if that makes sense. And I started to then compare my own body to that of others my age. This is why I now have problems I believe; because I compare myself to others.

Every individual is different, unique! Unless you’re a twin/triplet etc, there will be nobody with the exact same looks or personality as you. There is only 1 of you in the world. Yet we constantly look at others and wish we had ‘their legs’ or ‘their figure’. Why are we so desperate to look ‘perfect’ when perfection is impossible. It is impossible to be perfect to everyone in the world because there will always be people who disagree with your definition of perfect. And you’ll never reach your own definition of perfect because you’ll always want more. 

My problems with my weight became something I obsessed over, and when I first became unwell I started to restrict my diet in order to lose weight. However, during a psychiatric admission, one of the drugs they put me on increased my apetite and my eating went completely the other way. I felt I couldn’t control it, if I saw food I wanted it. I craved shit foods and the cravings always got the better of me. I piled the weight on. Eventually I had to come off that drug because of this. Slowly from then (that was 2006) my weight reduced. Then I was diagnosed with Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and found exercise hard on my body. I started to sometimes overuse laxatives or make myself sick to try and get as much out of my body as I could. I was so irrational at times, and when working with the eating disorders service, I was convinced I needed to lose more weight; despite weighing about 7 stone and coming in as very underweight. It’s only recently I’ve stopped fretting as much about food, diet and weight. I won’t weigh myself as I know this can act as a trigger. If I weigh more than I imagine I do it’s a disaster. And I know my weight is up at the moment so I daren’t.

I have always been somebody who is ‘picky’ when it comes to food. And if it comes to dinner time and I’m not hungry, I can’t eat. It makes me physically bork to try eating if I don’t feel hungry. I try to be ‘healthy’ but it is harder than ever now with all the fast food, ping meals and snacks. That’s me being lazy though and something I need to work on.

My point is, everybody at some point will understand what it’s like to be unhappy with a part of or all of their body. And when you focus on your problem area, the ‘problem’ becomes bigger; you are basically zooming in on that problem area and seeing more and more of a problem. 

I now try to focus on what I do like about myself. If somebody asked me what I like most about myself it would be… My eyelashes. Such a small thing, but better than nothing. So instead of looking at your problem area, discover what you like about yourself. Remember there is nobody like you; comparing yourself to others will simply lead you down the road to hell. It will drive you closer towards unhappiness. You can’t be somebody else, and no matter how hard you try, it will not change who you are! 

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 🙂

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!