Nightmares

**trigger warning – abusive relationship and sexual stuff**

I suppose it was inevitable after the post I wrote last night that I was going to have nightmares. I was scared and on edge. I had memories haunting me.

I spoke to S on the phone before I went to sleep, and it made me feel a bit better. It made me feel safer, and after putting my phone on charge, I snuggled up in my duvet with my heffalump. (Yes I still sleep with a cuddly toy! *embarrassed face*)

For some reason a memory of things with the ex came into my mind last night. We had been arguing, I can’t remember what about. As usual I was apologising. He picked up the bread knife and started cutting his arm with it. I’m scared of blood, maybe this is why I’m even more scared of blood. He scratched him arm over and over with the knife so it was bleeding. He said that’s what I’ve done to him. I was scared.

I can feel myself dissociating as I’m typing this. Each memory seems to link to another. Him threatening to overdose on paracetamol. Me screaming and crying and begging him not to. It was all my fault he said.

I suppose this is what is going to happen. In CBT we are working through traumatic memories, and it’s bound to remind me of more. Of things that I had forgotten. This is why it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

Last night apparently I screamed twice. About half an hour apart. I woke up scared, but couldn’t remember why, or what had caused it. I don’t remember screaming – like last time I was asleep.

Then I went back to sleep and had more nightmares. They seemed to follow me all night. I don’t feel rested. I feel exhausted and scared. It’s nearly 12pm and I’ve only just got up. I have to be somewhere at 1, I need to get ready, need to get going. I have to be ok.

I can’t remember all the details, I never do with nightmares. I can remember being with the ex. Him being with someone else and me begging him to come back to me. I told him he could do anything he wanted with me. He made me suck his penis, forcing me to go deeper so I was gagging. We had sex and as I was in pain, he carried on. I felt used, embarrassed, hurt. But I told him he could do what he wanted, and he did. So he didn’t do anything wrong, right?

And all this leads me back to my feelings of shame around sex. When I was with the ex I didn’t even seem to realise that I didn’t have to do sexual stuff whenever he wanted. It was like I thought it was his right. I used to use sex to solve arguments, anytime he was angry I’d “make it up to him”. And I didn’t know this wasn’t a normal relationship. I feel so stupid.

I just want to hide. I feel so sick, so ashamed, so scared.

I just want all of these thoughts and memories to stop.

Scared

I’m so scared of so many things.

I realised that S is the only one who makes me feel safe. When I am scared I just want him to hold me and I know it will be ok. But he’s in London and I’m in Lancaster so for now I just have to be ok by myself.

As time goes on and I start to come to terms with things that have happened, I am realising how fragile I am. I don’t feel safe. I notice I am always on guard, always on edge. Everytime I see a car like his*, I panic. Even though I’m in Lancaster and he isn’t. Even though I know he’s not here. Even though he probably doesn’t even know or care where I am or what I’m doing. I’m so scared that he’s going to come back and hurt me.

I’m going to bed to hide and hope that he won’t haunt me tonight in my dreams. Sometimes I dream of being with S, and wake up feeling safe. Sometimes I dream of being with the ex, and wake up scared. I wonder if that’s what I was dreaming of when I screamed in the night.

Good night,

Love from Ellie xxx

*the ex

CBT – Week 3

Today’s session was interesting. I cried a lot, and I don’t really know why.

Today was an introduction to trauma work. She looked at the forms I had filled in, which I talked about in my last CBT post, and said “it’s definitely trauma isn’t it?”

I don’t know if this was a horrible realisation as it is accepting that things happened, or strangely calming, as it somehow justifies how I’m feeling.

Then we looked at grounding techniques and safe space. These are in preparation for next week when we will really start the trauma work, with retelling.

The grounding technique is basically making you aware of reality, where you are, and that you are in the present.

A said I should look at the walls – the colours, what is on the pictures. I should press back against the chair so I can feel it against my head and back, and tap my feet on the floor to feel that it is there. It is a strange thing to do, and if anyone had ever told me that I would be doing this, I would’ve laughed. But, strange as it is, it does help.

For homework this week I have to practice this. A also said it can be used when I am feeling anxious, and when I am dissociated to bring me back.

The safe space was difficult. The idea is that you picture a “safe space”, where you can go to in your mind and feel safe there. I had to close my eyes or look at the carpet and think about a safe space. A asked questions like “is it outside or inside?” “what is the weather like there?” “what does it smell like?” etc. but they were not questions to be answered out loud, just thought about.

I found it very hard to imagine this place. My thoughts kept interrupting, and with my eyes shut I kept feeling dizzy, or like the world was shaking.

Afterwards we talked about it. We talked about my favourite place. It is somewhere in Malta, and A said I should try to use that as my safe space.

That’s the other bit of homework – to practice getting into my safe space.

A said I should try to practice everyday. I need to be able to go there when we are dealing with the trauma memories, to feel safe again afterwards.

Today’s CBT was quite different. I am worried for next week, where I will be bringing memories to the surface on purpose. Even filling in the trauma questionnaires last week had triggered memories I had forgotten about. I can see that it is going to be a long journey, but hopefully in time, it will be worth it, and I will get better.

A letter

**Trigger warning: Talks about an abusive relationship**

Dear the Ex

I can’t believe what a mess I am in.

When you left me I thought I would never recover. I thought I would never find someone else. I thought I’d always love you. I don’t though. I hate you now. For everything you did to me, for the pain you put me through and for the way you’ve ruined my life for so long.

I am determined to get through this, because you are not going to win this time. You controlled me and my life for far too long and I’ve had enough. Even though I never see you, never speak to you anymore, I am constantly reminded of everything from the past.

Imagine how it must feel to have flash backs of someone who supposedly loves you holding you up against a wall by your throat. Imagine how much it hurt when someone who supposedly loves you breaks up with you and gets a new girlfriend the next day. You tossed me aside like I was nothing. And now I am nothing. And it’s all because of you.

Three years we were together. I was weak, you were manipulative. I let you control me. I let you turn me into a shadow of who I used to be. I lost my friends, I left scouts, I even moved school for you. And for what? To be bullied, taken advantage of and hurt.

I really wish I never met you. You were trouble from the start. I wish I had opened my eyes and seen what was going on. Everyone else could see it wasn’t healthy, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought they were just trying to ruin it. That’s what you said anyway.

And then when we split up, you carried on using me. You told me you loved me, you told me that you wanted us to get back together one day. You were already with M but you carried on sleeping with me. You told her you were out with your friends when you were really with me.

At first I thought you meant it when you said you loved me. I thought the thing with M meant nothing. And then you told her you loved her. I became a woman possessed. I was obsessed with it. I needed to show her what you were. You told her I was crazy, I was jealous, I was trying to ruin your happiness.

Maybe I was. At the beginning I wanted you back. But then it became more than that. I didn’t know M, I didn’t like M, but I needed to protect her from you.

I told her about how you treated me. I told her that you were manipulative, abusive, messed up. She wouldn’t listen. I told her you were still sleeping with me. She wouldn’t believe me. And you threatened to kill me.

She wouldn’t listen. You lied, you both lied. Said you had split up. Said that it was my fault. And then I found out you were still together. After everything.

And then I went to uni. I got away from you and your manipulative ways. I thought so anyway. You wouldn’t leave me alone. Kept texting and calling, and messing with my head.

It took me a long time to be strong enough to cut you off. I did it eventually.

But I still didn’t feel better. I thought maybe if I saw you, if I spoke to you then I could get some closure, and that would be the end of it. But that didn’t help either. And everytime I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt – I used to give you chance after chance. You always messed it up. You always did something to hurt me. When I tried to ignore me you would threaten me, you would say you’d show people photos of me naked, you said you would kill yourself if I didn’t talk to you. What choice did I have?

So then I realised that was it. I needed to cut you off completely. And no it didn’t erase the memories, and no it didn’t stop the flashbacks or the pain, but it’s stopped you creating anymore horrible memories for me.

If you could see the state I’m in now, I wonder what you’d feel. Maybe you’d be proud; you really did mess me up good and proper. Maybe you’d feel guilty? I doubt it, but maybe. Maybe you’d be sad, ashamed of what you’ve done. Or most likely, you’d laugh. You’d tell me I was making it up – depression isn’t real, that’s what you’d say. I’m exaggerating it, I’m pretending. I’m fine, really, I just need to man up.

But I’m not fine. And it’s your fault. You caused all this. The depression, the anxiety, the panic attacks, flashbacks, feeling of emptiness. And guess what, you ruined my relationship with S too. We split up, are you happy now? Because I’m too much of a mess. Because I can’t be in a relationship. Because when someone gets close to me I get scared. And after all those times you treated me like shit and called me a slut and used me for sex, I’m scared to have sex now, or anything like it. And even though S said he didn’t care, I felt useless. Because that’s what you taught me – it’s all about sex. And this is all your fault. But even now, you’d tell me I was making this up, that it was my fault, that you did nothing wrong.

I am so angry at you for everything you’ve done. I made excuses for a long time, but no more. You are a horrible person. You only care about yourself and getting what you want, you just stayed with me “until somone better came along”, remember that?

I know I need to let this go. It was quite a while ago now. We split up over a year and a half ago. But I can’t forgive you. I can’t get closure because you won’t admit it. And now I’m stuck in this vicious circle – anger, sadness, fear, and round and round and round I go.

I wonder what you’d say if you ever read this. You won’t so it doesn’t matter, but I wish I could know what your reaction would be. You probably think I’m pathetic, you probably are deluded enough to think that all of this means I still love you and I’m not over you. But I don’t love you, I hate you. You’re the only person in the world I really hate. I can’t even explain how much damage you’ve done, but what’s the point anyway, you don’t care.

And the most embarrassingly horrible thing about it all is that YOU ended our relationship. After everything I did for you, after turning me into a robot, YOU ended it. You left me with nothing. And I don’t even get the dignity to say that I escaped, because to be perfectly honest, I probably never would’ve ended it myself. I was trapped. Too scared of you and your threats. How dare you.

What a great first relationship that was. Thanks a lot.

Ellie.

CBT – week 1

So I’ve finally got round to writing about the CBT which started on Monday.

I’ve decided I’m going to create a page on my blog which will have all my posts about CBT on, in case anyone is interested!

So, let’s start from the beginning.

For those who don’t know, CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Mind says:

  • CBT is a form of talking therapy that combines cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy.
  • It focuses on your thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes (your cognitive processes) – and how this impacts on the way you behave and deal with emotional problems.

The point of CBT is to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they interlink, and then change negative thought patterns, which will in turn change feelings and behaviours.

CBT is a therapy which is used for many conditions, including depression, anxiety, anger, drug/alcohol problems, eating problems, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder and many more.

So, now we know what it is, I’ll write about my first proper session.

~ ~ ~

I arrived at the hospital and signed in. My appointment was at 9am so they were running on time!

We sat down and the therapist (A) asked how I had been etc.

For “homework” I had been asked to create a timeline of my life. I did this, and we went through it chronologically, looking at different life events and how they have affected me and my life, and how I have come to be where I am now in life (needing CBT).

What I thought was nice was that A said she isn’t going to look at my CBT book. So I can write in it, and tell her about it, but I don’t have to worry that anyone else is going to read it – because they aren’t.

So I guided her through my life, quite quickly, but stopping at particular events.

She wrote down some things to come back to, for example my relationship with the ex.

She said that in future sessions will can individually speak about each issue and try to work through it. This seems very logical, but is not an approach that the counsellors I saw last year took. They seemed to try to deal with everything at once, which just meant that nothing got dealt with!

This week for homework I had to identify and write down negative/difficult thoughts which I have.

Here’s what I’ve found this week:

  • I needed an extension for coursework so I must be a failure/useless
  • I should just give up and go home
  • Didn’t go to the gym, so I am useless/lazy/fat/ugly
  • I didn’t go out when everyone else did, so I must be boring
  • No one cares about me
  • I don’t have (m)any real friends here
  • I must be really boring/horrible if people would rather go home/be by themselves than be with me.

 

And back down again…

**Trigger Warning – Suicidal Thoughts**

Today has not been good.

I got up (just about) and got to my 9am lecture. It was boring as hell (statistics) but I made it. Then I went to my lab, where we had to listen to her lecture for 3 hours!! Again, boring, but I made it.

I went to the doctors. I was sitting in the waiting room. There were lots of babies and young children. That was a trigger in itself. And then when some of the babies cried, I started crying too. Too many painful memories. Too many “what if”s…

By the time I got to see my doctor (over 20 minutes late) I was feeling really really rubbish.

When she asked me how I was getting in, that was it – I was off, in floods of tears (again).

I told her I’m frustrated because nothing is helping. How my mood is all over the place and is so unpredictable. About not being able to concentrate and feeling worse because of my weight. About just feeling awful.

She asked if I have people I can talk to. I do, but I don’t want to. I don’t want people knowing just how bad it is. Then they would worry. So I drip information. Different things to different people so no one knows the extent of it.

I told her I don’t want to do this anymore and I can’t see an end to this. She said that things will get better in time. I’ve given it a year and a half, and things are getting arguably worse.

I can’t tell people, my doctor included what I think about. They will just worry and I’m not worth worrying about. I can’t stop thinking about dying. Ways to die.

Everytime I see a speeding car, I’m so tempted. Seeing the frozen canal… so tempted. The tablets, the knife….

But don’t worry. Because I’m “low risk”. This is because I don’t want to hurt my friends and family. I don’t want them to have to go through my pain. So just for them, I’m still here.

But the real truth is. If it didn’t affect anyone else, I’d be dead by now. All I cling on to, all that is keeping me safe is that I don’t want to cause other people pain.

Why can’t I look after myself?

I just want something to stop the pain.

All productivity for today has gone out of the window. I’m in bed, pajamas on, stuffing my fat face with chocolate raisins and probably going to have a sleep after this.

I can’t do my work. I have so much stuff to do and I can’t do any of it.

Am I just lazy? Why can’t I do what everyone else can do?

I’m sick of getting extensions for my work. Do you really think an extra week is going to help me? No it isn’t. It’s more time, but the work is still not going to be any good. Not compared to how I could do, if I was feeling good.

I’m drowning in despair and I can’t see a way out. What am I going to do?

I’m going to let everyone down. I have a social tomorrow for the society, I don’t want to go. I have work to do; I don’t want to do it. I have lectures and seminars, and I don’t want to go. I just want this all to end. Too much pain here.

And all of this triggered from seeing a couple of babies.

I’m pathetic. I want to give up but I don’t have the guts. How pathetic is that?

Anxiety, depression and perfectionism – intertwined

Yesterday I went to see Matilda (the musical) up in London. It was great and I went with one of my best friends (Monkey) and her family, which was lovely.

But parts of it brought on anxiety. If you are not familiar with the story, it features a horrible, abusive headmistress of the school (Miss Trunchbull) and the parents of the main character (Matilda) are also horrible, selfish people.

I don’t think it was so much the storyline which brought on the anxiety, although it did bring to the surface some memories of things with the ex…

But there were several instances where there was loud sounds, flashing lights and I felt disorientated, and anxious at these times. I have noticed that sometimes when there is loud noises/lots of people/flashing lights that it brings on anxiety, although I’m not sure why.

Maybe it is because I feel disorientated and there is too much going on.. Who knows!

Another example of this was today at work. I was in one of the aisles, and it suddenly got really busy and I felt really trapped and as if everything had got louder than it really was. I have had this feeling several times at work, and always under the same circumstances (busy aisle – too many people and too much noise.)

Luckily I have been able to control it by focusing on my breathing, and in some cases I have been able to leave the aisle in question.

It is really bizarre… I did think that my main issue was depression, but it seems that anxiety is more of an issue than I thought.

I think it is very common for the two (depression and anxiety) to exist alongside each other, and they probably fuel each other as well.

Having been in this anxious state (which has definitely not been helped by my rising stress levels over different things!*) I have now bitten all my nails off, which is sad because I thought I had cracked my nail-biting habbit. Every so often, I get stressed and I end up biting them.. Grr!

So all in all, things are not great at the moment.

I had a day or so where I felt quite optimistic, and have done quite a lot of my work (but not all of it, and it’s probably rubbish anyway..) but that seems to have disappeared now, and I am back in the gloomy worry of whether I can finish this year or not. This morning I had a bit of a melt down… Spent about an hour hiding in my room in the dark, and crying, because I feel like I’m never going to get my work done (and even if I do, it won’t be good enough.)

Having read what I have written here, my perfectionism is glaringly obvious, and it seems incredibily irrational, but at the time it feels like the truth, and feels like there is no way out of this gloom. Even now, rationally, I know that this is irrational, but that doesn’t stop my brain telling me all these things… like how I am useless, a failure, and I can’t do what other people on my course can do, therefore I am not clever enough, and must be useless.

Damn perfectionism….

*Coursework for uni, worrying about going back to uni, stressing about the amount of weight I have put on, the fact my clothes are mostly too small now… etc.

Attack of Anxiety

The anxiety in general hasn’t been too bad, however every time I think that one problem is gone (anxiety) it seems to pop back up!

I do avoid situations in order to prevent anxiety, and I do get easily stressed out – some of the things I need to work on in CBT I think!

But, the other day, anxiety appeared – out of nowhere, and reminded me that it is still a major problem, and shouldn’t be ignored!

Some of my friends went back to uni the weekend that just went, so we went to the pub on Friday for a goodbye meet up.

We went to my local pub, where I frequently go. I often see people from my primary school, which is fine, but I was not expecting to see who I saw this time.

We (my cousin and I, as we arrived first) walked in, and being a Friday, it was quite busy. We walked around and eventually found a table. Just as we were about to sit down, I looked up ahead of me, and saw a large group of people who went to my secondary school.

I have not seen any of them since I left after year 11, and I never wanted to see them again. I have friends from my secondary school, but these people were definitely not my friends.

It was the “popular” group, who used to make my life hell. They would shout stuff at me, and I always felt incredibly uncomfortable around them. They were the people in my year who acted like they owned the place, and I can not explain the anxiety which came over me upon seeing them.

My first instinct was to get up and leave. Preferably leave the pub, or at least move away from them. But they had seen me, and I didn’t want to give them ammunition by walking away. So I sat down, and tried to forget that they were there. They did notice me, I could see them looking at me. I even heard a couple of comments. They were not directed at me, but they were about me, and loud enough for me to hear.

Luckily for me, they left not long after we arrived, and once they were gone I started to relax. My heart was beating fast and I felt disorientated. I wanted to run, and yet I couldn’t.  Once they had been gone for a while, my heartbeat went back to normal, and I was slowly able to calm down. My other friends arrived and we chatted, had a few drinks and it was nice.

But this was a reminder that I can’t escape from the past. And the things from the past are still haunting me…

I am relieved to say that my ex was not with them, even though he did used to be friends with a couple of them. I think if he had been there I wouldn’t have been able to stay, but he wasn’t, so I could.