Chasing dreams

I know what I want to do with my life. I know how to get there, but it’s going to be hard. And I don’t know if I can do it.

I want to be a clinical psychologist, which means once I graduate I need to get 1 – 2 years of relevant work experience, and then apply to do a doctorate in clinical psychology which takes 3 years. There are only about 500 places a year in the UK, one university alone (which has 24 places) had 650+ applications last year… And then if I make it onto the course, I’ve got to get through the course, which normally has 5 or 6 placements, plus a research project, and then obviously you have to pass everything.

But what if I can’t do it? What if I’m not good enough? Or what if I’m not strong enough? What if my own issues (depression, anxiety etc) get in the way? How many attempts do you give it before you give up and do something else?

I’ve been thinking recently maybe I should take an easier option. I’ve always thought about being a primary school teacher. It’s not really what I want to do, but I know I could do it – I guess I’ve seen it as a backup plan. I like working with kids and in a primary school there’s nothing too hard to teach, I can be creative, and primary school involves a lot of art/creative stuff. I’d quite like to be a primary school teacher I think, long holidays, working with kids, getting to make a difference to people’s lives. But it’s not the thing that I really want, it’s not where my passion really lies. But it would be easier. Because we always need more teachers, there’s always places going – especially as I’ll have a language, and psychology which involves a lot of knowledge about development of learning etc.

What would you do?

Strive for something you want but might never achieve, and might struggle with due to personal issues? Or go for something that would be ok, but easier?

I’m normally full of fight but lately I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. Only the best can make it into clinical psychology, and I’ve spent my whole life trying to be the best, but I’m not. Maybe it’s just setting me up for failure. Damn perfectionism. Of course I want the most competitive thing.

It’s strange. I’d like to go down both paths and see how they are, but of course I can’t. I’ll have to decide.

Just as a side note, I am in no way saying that a teacher’s job is easy or shouldn’t be valued. I think teachers are amazing, I’ve seen the work that goes into that job (my mum was a teacher) and I know that it wouldn’t be easy. But the entry route to teaching is easier, that’s all I mean by this post. I think maybe one day I’d like to be a teacher, but the thing I’m actually really really interested in is psychology, and especially mental health.

And another thing I’ve noticed… Although the careers of teachers and psychologists have a lot of differences, I have realised that there is a big thing in common – both aim to make a difference, to change people’s lives. And also, both would have the opportunity to work with children. I think I need a job where I’m helping people, I’m definitely the sort of person that will be in the job for the people rather than the money!

Why is it so hard to talk about?

Why is it so hard to talk about the “difficult things”?

I can write about them sometimes. I can plan what I’m going to say, I have the words in my mind but they don’t come to my lips. I can’t say them.

I’ve been having a lot of nightmares recently. Screaming in my sleep again while Footballer was staying. A week or two ago, S said I kept asking where I was, saying I want to be at home (in my sleep.)

A lot of the time I don’t remember the nightmares. Sometimes I wake up scared and don’t know why. Sometimes I just know I had a nightmare, and sometimes they are so vivid. I feel like I’m being haunted by these images. But it’s all too hard to talk about, the words just don’t come out.

The nightmares that week involved the ex. Raping me. And it all felt so vivid.

I was really really scared and anxious for days. I started writing this post not long after the nightmares but I couldn’t find the words time. I eventually managed to tell S that the nightmare involved the ex “making me do stuff.” But that’s as much as I could say, and even that took a long time.

So why can’t I say these difficult things? Like when I’m feeling suicidal, I can’t tell anyone, I just say “I feel low” or “I feel shit.” When in my head I’m screaming “I just want to die!” And when I’m talking about the ex, I can never explain what it was like. I can say he wasn’t nice to me, or that he treated me badly but it’s difficult for me to say more… it’s like I’m ashamed that I let it happen… How messed up is that? He treats me horribly and abuses me, and I’m the one that feels guilty and ashamed?

I try to tell S these difficult things sometimes. Often I just can’t say it, and he doesn’t understand why I’m crying or on edge or scared in the night. Sometimes I end up texting things because I couldn’t say it on the phone. The words stick in my throat and it’s like someone presses mute and I can’t speak anymore.

But I don’t want to be muted.

I have depression and anxiety and it’s hard. Most of the time I don’t look like anything is wrong with me but there is. I am very jumpy and I get scared and upset easily. And it’s not my fault. It is an illness and I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore. These things are just labels and they don’t make me who I am, but they do affect who I am and sometimes I can’t deal with everything that a “normal” person can. I think more needs to be done to raise awareness about mental illness because people don’t understand it – they can’t see it so they think it’s not there.

Since I’ve been writing this blog I have come across a lot of mental health bloggers, all telling their different stories. Sometimes they are difficult to read because people have suffered so greatly, but they are all strong people and we all have things in common so we can support one another. And all of this makes me even more sure that I want to work in mental health. I want to make a difference.

A good day

Today has been a long day, but also a good day. Today is Thursday, which is the day I do some volunteering at a day centre for people with mental illnesses. I also agreed to work this evening in the supermarket where I work so it was going to be a long day! Started at 9:30 this morning and didn’t finish until 9 this evening (other than a couple of hours between in which I had a nap!)

The volunteering went well, today we went for a picnic in the park and the ladies seemed to enjoy it (and so did I.) I am really enjoying my work there, gaining greater insight into how different mental illnesses affect different people, and just chatting to lots of different people. They are such a lovely group of ladies, and even though they all have their own stories and have been through various difficult things, they are all kind, friendly and full of life. It makes me really happy to see how they support each other and it also makes me realise I need to take a more positive approach to things sometimes.

After a lovely afternoon in the sun with sandwiches and games, I popped home for a bit for a nap and to get changed for work. Then it was off to the supermarket where I seem to spend so many hours of my life. Tonight I was on tills which I usually hate, but it wasn’t too bad. I had lots of nice customers and not many rude customers and the time went by reasonably quickly – this is the sort of shift I need more of!

I realised again today that I am feeling much more like me at the moment, like I said the other day. I have come so far from where I was, and even though things can still be hard at times, I am determined that I am not going to let things get bad again, I’m fighting this with everything I have. I’m feeling quite motivated at the moment, especially because my volunteering has reassured me about my future career hopes – I want to work in mental health, as a clinical psychologist eventually. I know it will be a long journey and it’ll be hard, and I know I need to get myself fully well before I can do it, but I am determined that I will do it! – I can and I will!

Mammoth

MammothToday I was feeling pretty low. I have been feeling a bit funny physically for the last few days – lots of migraines/headaches, feeling a bit faint/light headed, feeling really really hot… that kind of thing. And a combination of feeling bad physically and mentally is never good.

So S said he would come over after work for a bit to see me and give me some cuddles to cheer me up. And he did.

We ate some strawberries and ice cream and had some cuddles and talked and it was really nice. It sounds pathetic but it’s the small things that mean the most. I love the fact that  S can just come round and he gets on with my family and it is relaxed and I don’t have to be on edge (like I was with the ex and my family).

And as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, I am now in possession of a new elephant (or more accurately – a mammoth!) S brought me it from work to cheer me up (as he knows how much I love elephants!) It is a little fluffy cuddly toy mammoth and I think he’s really cute! Only problem now is that I can’t think of a name (but I’ve decided it is a him), so feel free to give any name suggestions! 🙂

While we were cuddling and talking I said “Maybe you do actually love me”, because I’m finally starting to think maybe it’s true. Maybe not everyone will be like the ex, and maybe I’m not unlovable – maybe it wasn’t even my fault. And he laughed and said “At least it’s a maybe now.” I know it’s stupid that I am so scared of getting hurt and that I really find it so hard to believe that anyone could love and care about ME, but these are thoughts which have been programmed into my mind for a long time – with the ex, and even before that with the teasing/bullying (?)

I am feeling more determined than ever that I am going to get through this stuff, and I am not going to let the ex win or ruin any more of my life. I can and I will get through these problems. I can and I will succeed and be happy. I know I need to deal with the anger I still feel about everything that happened, but maybe I can use it positively, and use it as motivation and incentive to keep going and stay determined. I can and I will.**

I am so happy being with S, he makes me feel safe and loved and happy. And I love him, I really do and our relationship is so much better (now that I’ve finally allowed myself to feel that way instead of being too scared to get close.) I think my depression/anxiety/general craziness* definitely does affect our relationship but he copes pretty well, and he is very understanding and helping me get through my issues.

Time for bed now, but tonight I am going to bed feeling happy and safe, instead of anxious and scared and paranoid (like last night).

Good night,
Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

P.S. Here is another picture of my (nameless) mammoth!

Mammoth toy

* I hope this doesn’t offend anyone – here I am referring to my irrational thoughts and behaviours, which could definitely be called crazy rather than the mental health side of things.

** This is one of the mantras from my list, and this one often comes to mind. When I’m feeling low or like I can’t do something, I think to myself ‘I can and I will’ and I feel more in control, more determined and more positive.

Trust

I’m really at a loss on what to do. My trust (or lack of it) is really becoming an issue. I just don’t trust S, even though he’s never done anything to make me not trust him.. he is kind and treats me well, we talk all the time, he doesn’t do anything wrong.

But I don’t trust him. I think it’s because of the ex (like most of my issues.) He treated me like crap, found someone else and left me. He lied to me, he hurt me, he made it impossible to trust. And now I don’t really trust anyone, and S gets the brunt of this.

I am constantly waiting for something to go wrong. He will get bored of me, or he will find someone else, or he’ll cheat on me or get fed up of dealing with this craziness… I am waiting for him to do something to prove me right – that I really am unlovable, that I don’t deserve anyone, that no one really cares and he doesn’t love me. 

And I know it’s insane. I know it’s paranoia and it’s completely irrational. But I just can’t stop. I don’t know how. And it’s pushing him away. The more I act like this, the more likely he is to do one of these things. If I’m constantly expecting him to mess up, maybe he will. Or maybe he’ll get annoyed. I know he finds it annoying that I am so paranoid, and it hurts him that I don’t trust him. 

And when I’m with him it’s the safest thing ever, but when we’re not together my mind just goes crazy. My overactive imagination goes into overdrive. I’m over-analysing everything he says and does. And I’m just waiting for something bad to happen. Because that’s what I deserve.

This relationship is so different to the one with the ex. It’s not all about sex. It’s not all about being controlled and lied to. It is safe and there is nothing wrong. But because of HIM, I don’t trust S. I just can’t. 

I really would appreciate any advice on this one. It’s taking a toll on me and the relationship. I’m so terrified of losing S and I want to stop pushing him away. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just can’t switch this off. 

He mentioned going away on a climbing trip with a friend (as an example), a female friend. And would it bother me? Yes, yes it would. I’d be going out of my mind thinking something was going on with them. And I know this is really controlling and paranoid behaviour but I just can’t stop thinking about him being with someone else.

I need to get through this issue and I don’t know how. S has always been very patient with me about all of this, but it’s wearing him out, I can tell. He can’t keep on putting up with this, and it’s driving me mad. I don’t have the energy to keep this up. I want to trust him, and I know that he loves me, I just don’t think I deserve these good things, so I’m expecting them to go wrong.

I feel sick and I’m completely on edge. It’s nearly 1:30am and I should be asleep. I want to speak to S but it’s the middle of the night and I can’t imagine he would be too pleased with a phone call now. I just want this all to stop. I’m in such a state. It makes me feel so low and I’m just so scared.

Sometimes I think I should just end it with S (before he leaves me) because I can’t deal with this. I feel like I don’t have any control, I’d never know if he had cheated on me or if he lies to me. As many times as he tells me he never would, and as many times I make him promise he would tell me if he ever did cheat, I still don’t trust him. I just don’t trust people.

I just want to be happy. 

Get off that train

**trigger warning – self harm thoughts**

The thought train/negative spiral, whatever you want to call it… It tends to run away with itself, until suddenly you’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, and paranoid thoughts become the absolute truth (in your mind)

Last night the situation arose (again), but this time it was a bit different. Instead of staying on that train, going down the track of paranoia, self doubt and anger, I stopped the train.

I argue for the sake of arguing, because if S gets angry or says something horrible, it proves that I’m right, that he doesn’t really love me, that I’m worth nothing… And I’m paranoid, if he wants to see his friends, its not because he actually wants to see them, its because he doesn’t want to see me, he is just trying to avoid seeing me. This stupid paranoid thought spirals. And when he said he is going to the pub with Sheep, (and didn’t invite me) my immediate thought was that I’m not invited, they don’t want to see me… he wants her not me. Even though they haven’t really made proper plans, just said that they will go on Wednesday, and we always go to the pub, the 3 of us, why wouldn’t I be invited? My brain is incredibly irrational.

But yesterday I didn’t get to my usual point, I didn’t get to the point of “well why are you even with me then, you should just leave me” (because I’m not worth anyone’s love.)

So even though it still went further than it should. The paranoid thoughts are still there, so is the self doubt and thoughts that I’m not good enough. But these are just thoughts, not reality. And I noticed that, and stopped it earlier than I have in the past. Little steps.
So now I just have to realise it before the arguments begin, but for now I’m taking little steps to make this better.

It’s strange. When I get these thoughts, I feel so angry and so low. My mood just drops in an instant, and I wish I was dead, I want to cut myself and the urges are so strong. And I feel so so angry, like I just want to scream and shout, and I hate him at that moment. All of these emotions are so strong, I guess that’s why I get carried away into the negative spiral. But then just as quick as it comes, the anger is gone. And I’m sorry, so sorry for being so stupid. And I don’t hate him, I love him.

I have so little control over my emotions, its scary. They are all just so strong, so quick to surface. Why am I like this?

When things go right & CBT

Things seem to be going right at the moment (not to jinx this!)

Today has been pretty productive:

For my psychology dissertation I am using a computer program to make the experiment (a dot that moves, pictures that come up, and it records reaction time etc.) So today’s first victory was making a dot move across a screen (no, I’m not joking!) It’s not quite right in terms of timing yet, but there’s a dot and it moves so I’m half way there with that bit!

I also had an email back today from my project supervisor, and he has only made a few suggestions for changes on my ethics proposal, meaning that with any luck I will be able to finish it and hand it in early next week (ahead of the deadline on Friday.)

I also had a response back from my old school about doing my research there, using the pupils as research participants, and they said yes!

I also rang work (I will be starting work again once I’m home for summer) and sorted out some hours, and they’ve said I can have a few days off in mid-July so it turns out I probably will get to go away with S afterall! 🙂

This week I have also heard back from my school in Germany and my mentor teacher seems lovely. And she’s sorted out somewhere for me to live for the first few weeks of my stay in Germany, so I will be able to find somewhere for the rest of the year when I get there!

More good news on the Germany front – apparently if you register at a university you can get a card that gives you free travel (bus, tram and train) around the region… this sounds amazing!!

And today was also my CBT. We talked about the progress I’ve made this week – about going out last Friday and Saturday and that I managed to think mindfully that I was safe, and in doing so actually enjoyed my nights! We also spoke about these negative thoughts, the next thing to do is to try and stop them when I identify them. At the moment I seem to have a negative thought (now I become aware of it) but then it turns into a negative spiral and I end up feeling really low, paranoid, sad, lonely (insert other negative emotions here!) SO as I become more aware of these thoughts, hopefully I will start to be able to look at the thought, accept it, but stop it (because it is a thought and not a fact!) and thus not “Put the same DVD on”/”Get on the negative thought train”/go into a massive negative spiral. It sounds so easy when it’s put like this, but in reality it really isn’t. BUT I am determined to continue to make progress even after my CBT is finished.* I have bought a book and CD about mindfulness, (but silly Ellie sent it to London instead of Lancaster so I don’t have it yet) so I will write about that when I get home and start using it. Apparently the book has a mindfulness program that you can follow (I think A said 8 weeks?) so that should be interesting (and hopefully helpful!)

On my way home from CBT, I bought a card and a box of maltesers for my friend (pres**) as it’s her birthday tonight, and I am going to her house later for predrinks (jelly shots? Yes please!) and then out to a bar/pub and our student club. BUT I am being nice to me (yes, really!) and I am saying that I will go to predrinks and the bar/pub but I might not go to the club if I don’t feel like it. I am very tired and have had a lot going on this week, so I will see how I feel later. Quite proud of this development – compromise: I am still not letting down my friend (because I do want to celebrate her birthday with her) but I am not forcing myself to go “out out” if I don’t feel like it later. 

Final good news for today was that I rang a Mental Health Centre where I am going to be doing some volunteering over the summer. Originally they had asked me to do Fridays (as it’s their busiest day) but unfortunately work said they can’t give me Fridays off (because it’s a busy day!) so I was worried about what they would say when I said I can’t do Fridays anymore. But the man (who I met in the easter holidays) was lovely, remembered me, and said it’s fine to do Thursdays. In fact he said Thursdays are the nicest day to be there, so that’s exciting! I will be volunteering at a mental health drop-in centre where people can come and chat, have some tea, do different activities etc., and Thursday is the women only drop-in.

Oh yes, and another good thing! Tomorrow I am off to Warwick to visit one of my best friends – Monkey. That will be great as I haven’t seen her since easter, and Leamington Spa is a really nice place as well!

So I probably won’t be back (on WP) until Monday as I’ll be in Warwick and socialising rather than blogging, but this afternoon’s plan involves a nap and catching up on reading blogs before I go out!

Lots of love,

(from a pretty positive) Ellie xxx

*Next week is the last session with A! Arghhh!

**Not sure if I have mentioned her before. She is called “Pres” as she is the new president of one of the societies at uni.

One step at a time

Sometimes I need to remember that it’s ok to take little steps. Recovery does not happen overnight, even small amounts of progress take time. I am one of those people who wants to achieve everything straight away. But I can’t. (Because no one can!)

Take climbing as an example. I have learnt in the couple of months that I have been climbing for, that progress takes time and that little improvements are good. Yesterday I went climbing, I tried a route I hadn’t done before and couldn’t do it, and I tried one that I had tried before and still couldn’t do it. I was talking to S and saying that I felt like I was getting worse at climbing (instead of improving) and  it had been a very unsuccessful climb, and that I only got a little bit further on the one I couldn’t do before so I was disappointed. He said, but you got further than last time, so surely that’s progress and not getting worse!? And he’s right. I know he is, but until he said it, it didn’t register in my mind in that way. Maybe I’m just too used to putting myself down.

And when it comes to recovery it’s the same. I feel frustrated and disappointed that I don’t magically feel better yet. I have tried to put a time limit on it (as in, I must be better before I go to Germany) but that isn’t a realistic goal. Yes, I am a lot better than I was, and I hope to make more progress before I go to Germany, but the chances are I’m still going to have some problems. These things don’t go away overnight, especially when it’s complicated and it has been building up for a long time.

I asked A whether the psychiatrist had actually diagnosed me with PTSD. I guess a part of me still feels that I don’t have it, how could I? My experiences weren’t bad enough… But what does that even mean? Who is anyone to say what events and experiences are and aren’t traumatic enough. I feel like I am a fake, that I’m being a drama queen and making a fuss out of nothing. And at the same time I know that this stuff did happen and did affect me. Maybe I just want some validation in the form of a diagnosis. If a doctor says it then it must be true. Don’t even get me started on the flaws in that, talk about irrational! Anyway, A said she will try and get me a copy of the letter that the psychiatrist wrote, and she said that when I’ve filled in the impacts of events scale (which is a questionnaire that they use to diagnose PTSD) my scores definitely indicate that I have it.

I want to stop the past from affecting my future. Most of the time I manage to fight against things – do things even though they scare me, try and succeed even though my thoughts tell me I’ll fail (because of the past). But when it comes to relationship stuff I’m a mess. It’s probably not surprising, given that my relationship with the ex was not only a long one (nearly 3 years) but also my first relationship. And so I find it hard to trust. I’m scared, terrified that S is going to cheat on me, and even more than that I am scared that he is going to leave me. He tells me that he’s not going anywhere, that I should trust him, that I am just pushing him away. I asked him not to let me [push him away], and he said it’s hard because even though we’ve been together a year and a half and he’s never given me a reason not to trust him, I’m still convinced something will go wrong…

So this is a reminder for me and anyone else with this tendency to forget to take things one step at a time… Progress is slow and it takes time but it will happen!

Lots of love,

Ellie xx

It can happen to anyone

**Trigger warning – suicide**

Mental illness can spring at any time, it can get anyone.

Recently, Stephen Fry, who has bipolar disorder, has spoken about a suicide attempt in 2012. Here is the link to the video where he speak about it.  He explains that there is no “why”, no reason, and just because someone “has it all” doesn’t mean they can’t be suicidal. As the president of Mind charity, I think it was really brave and good of him to speak out about this. Being suicidal is something that happens to a lot of people. There is not generally much awareness about this or mental illness more generally, and that does need to change. Frankie Sandford (a member of the band The Saturdays) is another celebrity affected by mental illness, here in the form of depression. This year she has become an ambassador for Mind, and earlier in the year her story appeared in some of the magazines (eg Cosmo, Glamour) to raise awareness of depression and how it is an illness like any other.

It feels very strange that a few years ago I didn’t know anything about mental illness/depression specifically, and yet in the last 5 years, my mum, myself, my best friend and a lot of other people I know have been affected by it. I used to live in a world where (I thought) everyone was pretty happy, strange how much that has changed in the last 5 years or so. And the more I know about it, the more I think that I probably have had some form of mild depression for quite a few years, probably at least from the age of 14, and based on a couple of memories, maybe even in primary school.

I got a text from my best friend (Artist) saying she’s going to drop out of uni because she’s been really depressed for months. I feel like the worst friend ever, I had no idea. She told me uni was much better this year and it seemed like she was happy. I should’ve seen it, I should’ve been there for her. I’m pretty shocked to be honest. She’s one of the ones who I always thought, do you know what, if I was as happy as her I’d be living the good life. She is always so sociable and seems happy, confident too. But this is a stark reminder that it can happen to anyone, anytime.

I feel really bad, I wish I’d been there for her more. I feel like such a bad friend. We are at opposite ends of the country when we are at uni, me in the North and her in Cornwall. It is difficult to stay in touch properly, but this really made me think… Don’t forget your friends, they might need you.

 

Work Experience rant

My housemate just received a letter confirming that she has been accepted to do some work experience over the summer. I’m happy for her – of course! She wants to go into law and obviously work experience is very important in that field. And the other day, my other housemate found out that he’s got an internship in the summer in the field he’s interested in, again I’m really happy for him. But… (of course there’s a but)

It reminded me of my frustration. I haven’t managed to get anything for the summer. I want to work in mental health, but can’t get work experience. I’ve contactless countless mental health charities, hospitals, everywhere I could think of, but the sad truth of it seems to be, that summer placements don’t exist within mental health. But without work experience I can’t get a job in mental health or do the next qualifications… It’s like a never ending loop.

Can’t get relevant work experience because I don’t have work experience, can’t get work experience because it doesn’t appear to exist… 

I’m coming to the disappointing conclusion that I’m probably not going to have much to do this summer. I really wanted to do some work experience, or at least get a job so I could earn some money, but can’t find anything.

You’d have thought living in the capital city of England I would be able to find something! But nope, apparently summer student jobs (particularly related to mental health) are not in London this summer.

And breathe…Rant over.