When you least expect it

I was on training today at work. It was based on Compassion Focused Therapy, and I found it really interesting. I can really identify with the model and I want to learn more about it.

I knew that a lot of it resonates with me, but I didn’t expect what happened. At work I have my shit together (most of the time anyway), and I don’t like to bring my issues to work, particularly in front of a group of colleagues.

We were doing a visualisation about the compassionate other. We had to imagine the “ideal” compassionate other – the characteristics they would have, it could be a real person we know or imagined. Obviously this threw up some stuff for me. The description of strong, caring and committed reminded me of S, of what S used to be to me.

He was my compassionate other, he made up for my lack of self-compassion, and obviously I don’t have him anymore. At one point I realised I had tears streaming down my face. I was getting panicky, I half ran out of the room, to the toilets. By that point I was hyperventilating, full panic attack and I couldn’t stop crying.

I kept telling myself I need to stop because I’m at work. I managed to slow my breathing eventually. Tried to get the tears under control. But the voice in my head, the self-critic, was so loud. It spiralled:

You’re pathetic

You are a failure. You can’t even get through training at work, how can you do your job?

You’re a hypocrite. You want to help others but you’re a mess yourself

You are alone and always will be.

You messed up your chance at happiness

You don’t deserve to be happy, you don’t deserve to be loved

No one will ever fill that space.

How can you be a therapist when you can’t even manage your own shit? You should give up.

Others must think you are incompetent, broken, a mess.

I hate you

You are a failure. You are not good enough. You are unlovable.

It was pretty intense. Some of my colleagues came to see if I was ok, I felt very embarrassed. I am absolutely mortified that this happened at work.

My brain took me straight to some difficult places. I thought about hurting myself. My self-talk was so negative, so critical, so angry – I know I would never speak to anyone else like that. It made me doubt myself in so many ways – professionally, as a person, as a friend, the list goes on.

I don’t know if I’ve written about this on my blog, but in September I am due to start training as a CBT therapist. Today I genuinely considered emailing them and saying i won’t be taking my place on the course. I’m terrified. If a 2 day introduction to compassion focused therapy training can do this to me, how will I cope with training as a therapist? Maybe I can’t do it, maybe I’m not doing as well as i thought I was.

I was not very self-compassionate today, which was ironic given the topic of the training.

I didn’t expect a response like that at all. I knew it might press a few buttons, but this was a physical response. I had no control of my tears and no control of my breathing. I got pins and needles in my hands and felt dizzy. It had been several months since my last panic attack, and I had almost forgotten how horrible they are.

This was nicely followed up with a migraine this evening. I feel exhausted mentally and physically. I’m trying to be kind to myself now… I am having a quiet evening, reading my book, had a sleep to try to get rid of the migraine. I have texted my therapist to tell her what happened, I want to talk about it in our next session: I clearly have issues around compassion, around attachments and around S (duh!!) which need to be dealt with.

Love,

Ellie xx

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Hello anxiety

Today I had to go to a presentation evening because I achieved an award through scouts. I was dreading it. It turned out to be so much worse than I expected.

Even though I knew most of the people in the room, I felt so anxious. Knowing I had to stand up in front of people and answer questions was anxiety provoking. Waiting for that moment was agonising.

I got through it. I found the whole experience incredibly awkward and was literally shaking, but I got through it.

Then someone came up to me and started criticising the way I run my cub pack. Because of my already high levels of anxiety, it really got to me. Instead of being angry, I was quiet. When she had gone I basically had a melt down in a cupboard. Tears and panic. And then I couldn’t stop crying. It really got to me. Cupboards seem to be my new place for panic attacks. Oh dear!

Now that it’s over and several hours later I have stopped shaking and crying (although my eyes still feel like they’ve been crying – you know when they feel dry and sting a bit?) I am feeling quite angry about the situation. I don’t really know why this person was there, and I don’t know why they thought that an award presentation was the best place to make me feel like crap, but for some reason it happened.

It really pressed my “not good enough” buttons. I worry that I am not a good cub leader. I know that I don’t manage to do everything all the time, but that’s because I have a full time job and a life outside of scouts that I have to fit in too. Obviously the last few months has been bloody awful for me, and I’m very aware that I haven’t been on top form in organising things.

Anxiety levels were really high this evening. It’s really sad because I had been feeling better than I have for ages this weekend until that. My parents said not to let her ruin it, but it’s really tainted the evening.

I kind of forgot how physical and how consuming my anxiety can be. I sat throughout the presentations shaking and feeling really on edge. I was unbelievably warm (not helped by the heater directly behind me!) All I could think was “I can’t wait for this to be over”, so I didn’t really get to enjoy it at all. When I had to stand up and answer questions it was really hard. I struggled to answer questions and when asked to say a simple sentence in german (it was relevant honest!), I couldn’t even do that, embarrassing!

Take home message – anxiety is still definitely something I need to work on. And the whole “not good enough” fear comes up in more contexts than I had realised. At least I can reflect on this now, and this is definitely an example I will mention to my CBT therapist this week.

Time for bed now, and hopefully tomorrow will be a less anxious day!

Love,

Ellie xx

Society

I feel like the break up is a reflection on me. That I’m not good enough, that I’m unlovable, that I will always be alone. But why?

Because society teaches us that we need a relationship to be happy. It teaches women that their role is to be a wife, have children etc. It teaches us that that is what we want and need.

The scariest thing for me now is that I might always be alone. I might never meet someone to share my life with. I wonder if that is because I’m lonely, or if it’s because society says I can’t be happy without a man.

I want to be happy in myself, which seems a massive feat given that in my almost 25 years of life, I don’t think I’ve ever been happy with who I am.

There is the old saying “you can’t be happy with someone else until you are happy in yourself” and I was always trying to avoid that one. I thought that if I tried hard enough, I could be happy in a relationship even though I bloody hate myself. It caught me eventually though.I’m on a mission to work out who I really am and to learn to love myself, before I even think about trying to find someone else to love and to love me.

I’m really struggling at the moment. The realisation that I am not getting the “move in, get married, have a family” happily ever after story with S is tough. Realising that he is probably going to have that with his new girlfriend is absolutely crippling. I can’t help thinking THAT SHOULD BE ME. But it’s not, and for reasons I don’t understand, this must be the right way forward.

I would never have learned independence if S and I were still together, it feels like a big price to pay though.

Love,

Ellie xx

Intrusive thoughts and distractions

Trigger warning: this post talks about vomiting, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

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This is a hard post to write because I haven’t said (or typed) this to anyone.

I think intrusive thoughts are quite common in many different mental health conditions, but lately I’ve been experiencing a new one.

Every time I eat, I can’t stop thinking about making myself throw up. I haven’t acted on the thoughts but it feels like it’s getting stronger. I know that it can quite easily become addictive, a form of self-harm I guess.

It seems like a strange thing to worry about because I haven’t actually done it but sometimes intrusive thoughts become so intrusive that you end up acting on them.

I am still experiencing quite strong urges to cut myself at times. I haven’t acted on those thoughts since NYE, but the scars on my leg remind me every day. Actually it’s probably the scars on my leg that have stopped me. I remember how fleeting the relief was, and how guilty and bad I felt afterwards, and then I do something, anything to distract myself.

That’s how I’m currently managing the thoughts about making myself sick. The problem is that every time I eat I feel sick at the moment. I am struggling to eat properly, and then sometimes I just eat a load of crap, and then afterwards I feel bad. A lot of distraction is needed.

The more I’m typing this the more I’m concerned about my current relationship with food. Things are particularly bad at the moment as I’m really struggling with managing my wellbeing; I am stressed at work and I am still feeling awful about S, he has a new girlfriend and that is really hard. Every instinct tells me to harm myself in some way, that I don’t deserve to be happy, that I am a bad person, that I am fat.

The intrusive suicidal thoughts are hard too. When I am experiencing that, everywhere I go I see potential methods of suicide. I fixate on how I could end my life, where, when, how. To bring myself down from those, I try to think about my friends and family, all the positives in my life. I say to myself “not today”, and that keeps me safe. Once I am out of that dark place, I can’t imagine how I thought that way, but I slip in and out of these thoughts quite easily.

In CBT last week, I had to fill in THAT BLOODY FORM (PHQ 9 and GAD 7 – measures of depression and anxiety). I put “several days” for the question on “thoughts that you would be better off dead or of harming yourself in some way”, so my therapist asked about it. I was honest and said I sometimes get thoughts about self-harm and Suicide but I don’t have plans to act on them. She looked back at my first form from before Christmas and I had put the same, “several days”, but in reality it should’ve been “nearly every day”. I wasn’t honest on the first one because I was worried I wouldn’t be allowed the CBT. I should probably tell her that next time.

I keep writing these long rambling posts which were not what I intended to write when I first started typing, but it’s probably good to get it out. Anyway, back to the topic – intrusive thoughts and distractions.

I have been managing to avoid the behaviours by distraction. I am getting better at texting friends if I am struggling (not necessarily about how I am feeling) or going downstairs to spend time with my family and dog, and that can help sometimes.

My other favourite distractions are YouTube videos, reading fiction, colouring, my bullet journal and my mindfulness meditation app (I’m up to 155 days in a row!) Another thing that can really help is writing – either in my journal or here on my blog. Sometimes letting it out is the most healing thing.

I hope my ideas might help others a bit. What distractions do you use when you are struggling with intrusive thoughts?

Love,

Ellie

Safety net

Scared of being alone,

Missing the way you smile

And how you touched my hair

Wanting to be in your arms,

To be in my safe place with you.

Safety has gone now, I miss him. (I just re-read that sentence, when I wrote ‘him’, I meant S, but saying I miss safety and that S was safety to me is just as true.) I am doing ok most of the time but sometimes I get an overwhelming wave of sadness. Today it was while I drove home from work, tears streamed down my face. No trigger, just the feeling of loneliness, emptiness. I know that it is for the best, I would never have ‘grown up’ and taken responsibility for my own wellbeing if he didn’t leave me.

I am trying to take control of my life now; I made a bucket list for 2018, I have started my CBT for fatigue (will write a post on that soon), I am focusing on the amazing friends and family I do have and even reconnecting with some old friends. I am really trying my best but it’s hard because I am terrified that I will always be on my own.

I miss S and our stupid in-jokes and the stupid names we called each other. I miss lying in bed cuddling while we watched a film and feeling safer than I have ever felt. I can’t imagine getting that feeling again.

I am 24 and I know that is young and there’s time to meet someone, I know it doesn’t mean I will be on my own for the rest of my life, but I didn’t plan for this – I couldn’t have planned for this. My plans and expectations for the next few years down the drain – hopes of moving out and buying a property *flush*, hopes of marriage and children *flush* hopes of safety and love *flush*

Seeing other people with long term relationships is hard, I have hit the age where people are starting to move in together/buy a place together or get engaged/married. It just reminds me what I’ve lost and makes me panic that it’s going to be too late for me. I know it’s silly but that’s how my brain goes.

He was my safety net in so many ways, and now he’s not there, free-fall is a terrifying prospect. But what if I don’t fall? What if I can fly instead?

Love,

Ellie xx

Dark place

Trigger warning: suicidal thoughts + self harm

I find myself in a very dark place. Everything that has happened these last few months has taken its toll. The work related stress, the fibro diagnosis, the break up, my grandma passing away… And even before any of that, my mood was creeping lower, after the 6 month period of being relatively stable. I feel guilty that the main thing on my mind is the break up. I desperately miss S, he is ignoring all contact with me, it hurts.

I don’t know what to do with myself. I can mostly put on a front when I’m out, when with friends or at work. At home the barriers are down, which to me indicate things are even worse… I am bursting into tears frequently. I told my parents I can’t cope. I’m a mess.

Although I’ve had thoughts of self-harm and suicide on and off for years, for the first time in years, I took a knife to my skin a couple of weeks ago and again today. It’s quite blunt so it doesn’t cut properly, more of a scratch, to make it sting. No danger, no drama.

The suicidal thoughts are scaring me now. They are getting more and more frequent and I find myself starting to make plans. If there was a way that I could do it without hurting others, I’d be gone. But there isn’t. That’s what I have to remind myself.

I’m in a dark place and I don’t know how to get out. I just need to try and stay safe for now, that’s the best I can do.

Love,

Ellie xx

Learning to manage 

I know that chronic illnesses have ups and downs. I know that there will be times when my symptoms are unbearable and times when they are barely noticeable. 

But this weekend it feels like it’s getting worse. I feel like my body has no resilience. I am living weekend to weekend. Yesterday I went for lunch with a friend and we went to the theatre. It was nice. It didn’t involve much walking or physical activity at all, yet I was still knackered when I got home. Yesterday evening my pain got worse than it ever has before. As in the generalised all over achyness as opposed to a specific pain actually caused by something (anyone ever stepped on a plug? Ouch!) 

Today I took my scouts on a hike. It was 6 miles. I am tireddd! When I agreed to do this, it was at a time when my pain wasn’t too bad. Last night I was not sure if i would be able to do it today. Managed to sleep and felt a lot better this morning. Not good, but better than yesterday. 

So I did the hike. I am bloody knackered. I don’t think I’ll do it again next year if things are the same. I’m disappointed. The fear I had last night was this is the beginning of not being able to do things. This is the beginning of limiting my activities, of not being able to do activities that “normal” people can do. That’s scary. It makes me sad. 

So now that I’ve overdone it, it’s time for self care…

I have just been through half of my wardrobe and thrown a load of stuff out, I feel exhilarated. For some reason, despite feeling exhausted, it felt like what I wanted to do. So I did. I am watching some random stuff on YouTube while I did it, just chilling. 

I have put a face mask on and it has dried and now my face looks all funny and shiny. I will peal it off soon 😊 I am about to run a nice bubble bath listening to relaxing music and then I’ll put my pyjamas on. Lovely! 

Hope everyone is having a nice and restful weekend and not overdoing it! 

Love,

Ellie xx

What if this is it

I’m afraid this is a bit of a negative one. Feeling sorry for myself this evening. The fear that things will always be this way is strong today. My physical symptoms are getting on top of me and being positive is too much today. 

Love Ellie xx
Like a vampire, avoiding light 

A slow and tired sloth 

There are a group of little creatures

Having a disco in my head. 

Their music thumping away. 

Someone has pumped my body full of lead

Limbs heavy 

Mind heavy 

A thought occurs to me, a whisper in my mind 

“This is the rest of my life”

Pain and tiredness

Feeling blue 

“What if this is it?”

Health 

Thought I would fill you in with my current health situation – I have some kind of fatigue problem. Also a lot of aching and pain. The doctors are investigating to try and find out what it is

Currently they are wondering if it is fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME). It’s all a bit scary because I know both are chronic so unlikely to get a full recovery. 

My mum has fibromyalgia and I see a lot of the same symptoms in me. It’s scary. I feel that I am too young, but that’s not how it works. It’s indiscriminate just like depression…

My appointment at the hospital is in August. I’m glad they are finally taking me seriously. It has taken a long time to get a referral. 

Part of me wants to know what’s wrong. Part of me is scared of what the diagnosis might be. 

Just a waiting game now

. I am also suffering from a lot of migraines but that’s a separate story. I am on the 18 month waiting list for the next treatment as none of the medications have helped. 

I feel like my body is against me. I am trying to get on with my life and work on my anxiety and depression, but when I am in pain it’s hard not to feel low. 

Love

Ellie xxx

New things

Too many new things can be overwhelming. I am visiting a friend at her uni this weekend. We went shopping and for lunch and it was really nice.

Then we went to one of her friends for drinks. They all knew each other (obviously) and I only knew my friend. This was a bit difficult, but I could cope and settled down a bit when I got talking with some of the others.

We played some card games. I realised I get irrationally stressed by these things… Maybe it’s like A says, I have this need to do everything perfectly – including playing card games apparently. We played a game called “cheat”, which involves putting down cards and saying what they are (you can either tell the truth or lie) and if someone thinks you are lying they say “cheat”, and if you are lying you take the cards, and if not they take the cards. It’s a fun game, but I find it difficult. I realised I feel genuinely guilty when I lie (even in this game) and so I struggle to do it. The other thing is that I’m terrible at lying – you can always tell if I’m lying. I look guilty.

After that we went back to my friends house where there was (is) a house party going on. There was loud music and lots of people (who I obviously didn’t know). They all seemed really nice and I had some good conversations but I felt pretty anxious and on edge for most of the evening. (Especially as the alcohol started wearing off).New people, new place, loud music… Not a good combo.

So now I’ve gone to bed and I hope my friend isn’t annoyed. I am tired but needed to get away.

I can hear my critical inner voice: “they all think you’re boring”, “monkey will be annoyed with you”, etc etc

Time for sleep, good night xxx