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

Advertisements

Reflecting on CBT

I had my last session of CBT for fatigue this week. We were only allowed 8 sessions, but they have been quite spread out.

I found it really useful in some ways, but in others I am still dubious about using CBT to manage fatigue.

I am definitely more aware of how my fatigue, pain and mood are linked together. I have known for a long time that pain and fatigue cause my mood to be lower, but I came to the realisation that also my mood affects my pain and fatigue.

We looked at the “boom and bust” cycle, which is evident from my activity diaries. This is how it goes: I feel ok, so I make lots of plans and make myself busy (boom) but then it becomes too much, and I feel like I can’t cope, so I stop everything (bust). Then when I start to feel better, I start over committing to things to make up for my (perceived) failure, and so on and so forth…

Being aware of that cycle actually really helps. Even though that’s simple and anyone could see it, now I really understand it. It helps me understand my fatigue and also understand my needs. So now, when I’m feeling good and like I want to make LOADS of plans, I try to be more balanced. So, if I know I have a busy week, I try to leave the weekend relatively empty, or if I have a busy weekend, I make sure I have some weekends without plans. The ideal seems to be having plans on one day at the weekend and not the other, but that’s not always possible.

I think I feel more in control of my life than I did before. Now I am more aware of how certain things will affect me, I can sometimes control some of those things. I know that I will still make the same mistakes sometimes (hard to unlearn a life of constant busy-ness!) but I feel more in control and that makes me feel more positive about things.

The CBT helped me to change the way I think about things, and reminded me of the skills I learned before when I had CBT. I still find the thought traps really useful, I’m a big offender where they are concerned. It’s funny (in a weird way) that I have all these issues with anxiety and depression, because I spend a hell of a lot of time giving my clients advice and support for the very same issues I have myself.

Has anyone else had CBT for fatigue? (Or anything else actually?) How did you find it?

I’m planning to write several more posts on more specific things we covered in my sessions. I am feeling in a writing mood at the moment so I have lots of ideas for posts, just need to write them!

Love,

Ellie xx

Intrusive thoughts and distractions

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

*

*

*

*

*

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

Feeling stuck

Down. Low. Depressed. Sad. Feeling like shit. Whatever you want to call it, I’m there.

I don’t exactly know why but I’m feeling rough (more than usual.) The idea of getting up and doing another week of work tomorrow makes me weary. The idea of eating anything makes me feel sick. I can’t stop bloody crying, I am a mess.

I hate posting negative things with no purpose, but I thought it might help to let it out. I’m trying to look after myself and do things that help, but right now nothing is helping. The only thing I can think of is speaking to S, and that’s not a possibility anymore.

I just don’t have the energy to be ok anymore. I’m fed up, I’m so tired. I want to feel ok and I don’t know how. I know it comes in waves, I know it will pass eventually, but I also know that overall things are no better than they were last year, 2 years ago, even 5 years ago, and that depresses me.

I know I have a lot of positives in my life but right now I feel incredibly lonely. I still miss S every single day, I still can’t imagine finding someone who understands me the way he did. I don’t like being on my own.

I know I need to learn to be ok by myself. I know that this is my chance to figure out who I really am and all that jazz, but I don’t care. I would give anything to go back, even though things weren’t perfect between us.

Sorry for my negative ranting. I just needed to let it out somehow.

Love,

Ellie xx

CBT – core beliefs

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to be having CBT as treatment for my chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia, and as I am now half way through the treatment, I thought I’d give a bit of an update on it.

At the beginning, we did a pie chart of my problems. Highly featuring were depression and fatigue, and others were migraines, pain and anxiety. It was interesting to get a view of how much each issue was affecting me, and how they all link together.

We have been looking at my core beliefs and rules for living, and have identified my negative core beliefs – “I am not good enough”, “I am unlovable”, and as a result, one of my rules for living is “if I please everyone, it means I am good enough and people will like me”

But the thing is, I can’t please everyone. It’s not physically possible. I know that this is a deep rooted thing, it was probably already there when I met the ex all those years ago. I always had the need to please my parents, hence my preoccupation with getting a first in my degree!

During my relationship with the ex, that rule kept me safe. I knew that not keeping him happy would have consequences so it was important to do so. But then I was with S, and I had the overwhelming need to please him, it made me anxious and it didn’t work. It just ended up with him frustrated that I couldn’t make decisions, and me exhausted from trying to guess what would please him. That rule is not useful to me anymore, now it’s unhelpful and keeps me anxious and stuck.

Being able to identify this kind of thing is really important. I think the CBT has been useful so far, but there’s still a long way to go and only 4 more sessions to do it in.

I plan to write more posts about different aspects of my CBT as I go along. For today, I’m going to get an early night as therapy can be quite tiring. Every time I walk into the room suddenly I can’t stop crying which is exhausting!

Love,

Ellie xx

Back to reality

I went away for a few days with my best friend. We had a nice time and it took my mind off things. But now I’m back to reality… it’s horrible.

I feel lost and lonely and so tired. I am back to work today and it’s the last thing I want to do. Sigh.

People keep telling me things will get better but at the moment it’s all so new and raw. I don’t like reality. I want to stick my head in the sand like an ostrich. Only problem is, I’d have to come up for air eventually…

Love,

Ellie xx

Realisations and pain

I feel so broken. I’ve come to lots of realisations this week about my behaviour and my relationship with S.

I took him from granted. I relied on him way too much, to the point that I can’t regulate my emotions myself. I can’t self soothe because I never had to. And that dependency was something I learned from my previous relationship, the ex really broke me down so I lost all my confidence and ability to look after myself. That’s a long time ago now but it still has its effects. He wanted me to be dependent on him because that’s how he controlled me. Unfortunately I transferred this dependency onto S and I never realised until this week how serious and negative that was.

It’s hard for me to know what to do now; I feel lost. I don’t have a very good sense of self (another thing to thank the ex for!) I find it hard to know who I am and I tend to define myself by my relationships (a daughter, a sister, previously – a girlfriend) and my job, because I don’t know how else to do it. So now one of my major identities is gone, lost.

Unfortunately I think it’s one of “those too little too late” moments or “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” type things. I would give anything to turn back time and deal with things differently, but I can’t so I am going to have to live with it and try and learn from it.

I know my faults – I am very emotional and not good at regulating emotions, I get angry and lose control of my temper, I overreact and I get carried away with my thoughts, making up explanations which are usually wildly wrong. I put myself down constantly and have no confidence, I rely on others for my happiness. I pushed S away, and yet pulled him back, over and over (my therapist described it as the “I hate you. Don’t leave me” phenomenon). And all of it makes sense given my history, but none of it is S’ fault. None of it can be changed by anyone but me.

There is so much work for me to do on myself. Work I was hoping to continue while in the relationship with S, but plans have changed and I’m on my own now to work it all out. I’m glad that I’m still having counselling as this is helpful. I need to work on myself so that I never end up in this ridiculous situation again.

Feeling quite reflective today. Now it’s time for bed.

Love, Ellie xx

The evolution of my depression

When I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it was very much trauma related and I had flashbacks, nightmares, the whole shebang… (there were also mentions of PTSD from the Psych, which I am sure I did have). I was lost and depressed and I didn’t know who I was. My abusive relationship had taken my identity and confidence and buried them somewhere far far away. 

Fast forward over 6 years to today, I have dealt with a lot of the trauma. I still get triggered occasionally, but not multiple times a day like previously, and now I can walk down the street at home without being scared, and I can drive past the road sign that says the place name where he lived… all that “normal” stuff that used to be so hard and triggering for me. 

Now I have a different problem, my migraines and pain and fatigue have spiralled out of control. I wouldn’t say my depression ever completely went, but it was much more manageable, now I find a lot of my negative thoughts and depression and anxiety are around the pain/fatigue.

 I feel hopeless because I know that neither my migraines or fibro are curable (the consultants are aiming to help me reduce rather than cure the migraines, and to manage the pain and fatigue of fibro.)

Some days when the pain is bad or the migraines are bad and persistent, I find myself questioning the point of my life. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I want to live like this for another 60+ years. 

My biggest fears are now that I won’t be able to do things. This week has been hard, it has taken everything I have to get to work and do my job, and it’s only Wednesday. It makes me wonder how long I will be able to work full time for? How long before I have to give up my dream of being a clinical psychologist (training, if I ever get into it, would be intense and fulltime – balancing placements, studies and research)? I am going on a really exciting trip next year with the scouts, and I am terrified that I won’t be able to actually go. The aim of the trip is to build a large structure so will involve a lot of physical activity and it is at altitude.

Clearly I am not feeling very positive today. Some days I do, most days I don’t. It is hard for me to accept the way that my conditions are affecting my life, and that they will always affect me. I always had the hope the one day I would overcome my anxiety and depression, but this is different, I know that this won’t go away. And actually even my psychiatrist said that we are working to manage my symptoms as I have chronic depression. Pretty crap.

Ok, negative post done. I am working on something more positive which I hope to post in early December – I am trying yoga this month. Also, I have a physio appointment tomorrow and they are going to give me an exercise plan for graded exercise therapy as treatment for fibro. I’m really hoping it will be helpful! Will probably write a post about it to keep you updated!

Love, 

Ellie xx

 

The evolution of my depression

When I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it was very much trauma related and I had flashbacks, nightmares, the whole shebang… (there were also mentions of PTSD from the Psych, which I am sure I did have). I was lost and depressed and I didn’t know who I was. My abusive relationship had taken my identity and confidence and buried them somewhere far far away. 

Fast forward over 6 years to today, I have dealt with a lot of the trauma. I still get triggered occasionally, but not multiple times a day like previously, and now I can walk down the street at home without being scared, and I can drive past the road sign that says the place name where he lived… all that “normal” stuff that used to be so hard and triggering for me. 

Now I have a different problem, my migraines and pain and fatigue have spiralled out of control. I wouldn’t say my depression ever completely went, but it was much more manageable, now I find a lot of my negative thoughts and depression and anxiety are around the pain/fatigue.

 I feel hopeless because I know that neither my migraines or fibro are curable (the consultants are aiming to help me reduce rather than cure the migraines, and to manage the pain and fatigue of fibro.)

Some days when the pain is bad or the migraines are bad and persistent, I find myself questioning the point of my life. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I want to live like this for another 60+ years. 

My biggest fears are now that I won’t be able to do things. This week has been hard, it has taken everything I have to get to work and do my job, and it’s only Wednesday. It makes me wonder how long I will be able to work full time for? How long before I have to give up my dream of being a clinical psychologist (training, if I ever get into it, would be intense and fulltime – balancing placements, studies and research)? I am going on a really exciting trip next year with the scouts, and I am terrified that I won’t be able to actually go. The aim of the trip is to build a large structure so will involve a lot of physical activity and it is at altitude.

Clearly I am not feeling very positive today. Some days I do, most days I don’t. It is hard for me to accept the way that my conditions are affecting my life, and that they will always affect me. I always had the hope the one day I would overcome my anxiety and depression, but this is different, I know that this won’t go away. And actually even my psychiatrist said that we are working to manage my symptoms as I have chronic depression. Pretty crap.

Ok, negative post done. I am working on something more positive which I hope to post in early December – I am trying yoga this month. Also, I have a physio appointment tomorrow and they are going to give me an exercise plan for graded exercise therapy as treatment for fibro. I’m really hoping it will be helpful! Will probably write a post about it to keep you updated!

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?”