Progress

So I finally realised that even though S makes me happy, it’s ok and good to be happy without him. Like an epiphany. Other people have probably known this for a long time, but it’s one of those things you need to realise yourself. I need to be happy myself because I can’t always rely on him to be there. This year (year abroad) I have so many opportunities and I really need to take them, and just enjoy the year. I can still be me without him.

I think I never really got that because when I was with the ex he made it so he was all I had. And it was suffocating and controlling but I didn’t know it wasn’t normal. I don’t want to be “S’s girlfriend” I want to be Ellie, who is also S’s girlfriend, and a friend, and a student, and a climber and and and…. And now I’m allowed, and I’m going to allow myself to be me.

Don’t want to jinx it but…

Things are going well. Really well at the moment.

I’ve moved to the town where my school is where there is a bit more civilisation and I’m starting to settle in. I really like my new flat, and I’m enjoying my job in the school too. Everyone has been so friendly towards me and it really does make a difference, without that I would be very lonely here.

I would say at the moment I am not depressed. I still have my down days (doesn’t everyone?) and I know there are still lots of issues, but I’m working on it. I am starting to catch my thoughts and challenge them. For example, Sheep cancelled our Skype meeting because she was going out (last minute decision), my initial thought was “she doesn’t want to talk to me because I don’t matter to her. She doesn’t like me.”, but I recognised that and challenged it: Why wouldn’t she want to talk when she is one of my closest friends? I know she cares about me because she is always there for me, and she made me a lovely cake and leaving card when I left England.

That’s a shallow example, but just shows how one tiny thing sets my mind off on it’s negative thought train, and how my self-doubt puts a lense over how I see things.

The only negative I have to report at the moment is the screaming/nightmares. I was on a school trip last week and shared a room with another teacher. Apparently one night I screamed once, cried multiple times, and talked to her (although I have no recollection of this – I was asleep!) It’s really strange, and in that case it was quite embarrassing – I’ve only been here a few weeks, and they don’t know about any of my “issues”. Luckily the teacher was ok about it and didn’t really question me. But this makes me wonder how often it does happen, as nearly every time I’ve shared a room with someone over the last few months I have screamed or something similar. Except with S… I’ve only screamed once in the night with him, and sometimes mumbled the odd scared whimper, but in general I don’t tend to have these nightmares when I’m with him. Maybe it’s because I feel safe? Who knows.

I want to go to the doctors about this when I go home (to England) but I don’t know if there’s anything they can actually do about it, and if there isn’t then I don’t want to waste their time. Does anyone know of anything that helps stop these night terrors (or whatever they are!?) or even what can cause them? Then maybe there are things I could change to prevent them!

But despite that, things are really falling into place at the moment – and hopefully they will stay this way. I am starting to feel like there is a way through my “issues”, and it will take more time, but I can do it. Recently I have caught myself having positive thoughts, and tonight on Skype I even told S “I’m happy here.” I mean I miss him – a lot, and my friends and family too, but I am still in touch with them all so it’s not too bad, and I know I’m going home for a visit in a couple of weeks, but everything is going well. When I first found out I was coming here, to this small remote town, I was really upset, really worried, but now I’m glad I’m here. And the small place has given me the opportunity to get to know people more easily, and also the opportunity to speak lots of German, as in a small place like this people don’t speak much English (compared to in a big city where a lot of English would be spoken!)

I hope I’m not jinxing things by writing this post. I have held off writing this positive post for a while – just in case it turned things bad! But here it is – a positive post from Ellie!

Now I’m off to bed, and tomorrow I get a lie in as it’s a national holiday tomorrow so there’s no school!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

The end

It’s done, finished, over.
Today was the end of CBT for me.
It wasn’t a proper session, just a concluding one – questionnaires about the service, reassurance that if I need to come back after my year abroad I can.
Looking at a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 was the worst I felt, where am I now? And where is recovery?
No one feels good all the time so 100 is not recovery, It’s perfection (which doesn’t exist). We settled on 75 as acceptable – as recovery.
And where am I now? It’s hard to say because my mood varies a lot. I think I’m somewhere around 50ish, maybe up to 60 at times. But when I feel low it goes down a lot, not to 0 though, so its still not as bad as it was.
So take 55, and 75 is “recovered”… It’s not that far away.

I know I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to deal with along the way, but I’ve certainly made progress.
The fact that I’ve started some mindfulness shows improvement – mindfulness is not generally used for people who are severely depressed because it involves thinking about the negative thoughts, and would not be easy when someone is that low.
I still have my downs (and ups) but It’s better than a constant down.

Now I feel strange. CBT is done, over. It’s just me fighting my battles now, A has done her bit. I guess I was hoping by the end I would be magically better (100) but it didn’t happen because it doesn’t exist.

I feel kind of empty. Scared, and alone. Now what do I do? What if…

I can’t believe this was the last session, now it’s time to cope on my own.

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.

Ellie’s little think (and ramble)

Today I went to the doctors. It seems like I haven’t been in ages! Last term I was going every week (not an exageration) but I think this was only the 2nd or maybe 3rd time I’ve been this term (and the term is nearly over now!) That’s progress in itself, I haven’t felt the need to go because things have been improving.

Over the last month or so I have felt a bit worse again and had a few wobbles. But I’m still a lot better than I was, so maybe recovery isn’t a straight line all at one gradient, it seems like it has its ups and downs, and times when things seem to stay the same for a while. But looking back, things are SO much better than they were, and I’ve come a long way this year.

I also got a copy of the letter from the psychiatrist (that I saw in February) to give to my GP in London when I get home. So obviously I had to read it… (Ever tried having a letter that is about you and not reading it? No thank you!) I thought it might upset me a bit, it is the reality of how things are (were?) in 4 pages. Written without compassion or explanation, just the bare bones of it really… And it was difficult to read. I had a little cry.

And then I had a little think, because these kind of things do make you think. One thing about this letter was that it had an actual diagnosis. It says depression and anxiety with post traumatic symptoms. And in that one sentence, it brings validity to what I am feeling. Someone else’s words shouldn’t be worth more than my own experience and emotions, but somehow it is. Sometimes I still think that maybe it isn’t that bad, or I’ve been overreacting to normal emotions. Sometimes I still doubt that it’s all real. But this man knows his stuff, and he is saying it’s real.

But since February things started to improve, little by little. Sometimes there were big changes, sometimes tiny, almost insignificant changes. And still now, I have my wobbles, and I have my little victories, but most important of all I have hope again. Hope that things can change and get better, hope that I can do this!

Well this is all sounding a bit positive and progressive isn’t it?! Time to add some worrying (because otherwise this wouldn’t be an Ellie post!)

I got an email back from the school I am going to in Germany today. I emailed them yesterday, in German. My “Betreuungslehrerin” (mentor teacher) emailed me back today, in English. So now I’m stuck; a decision that probably wouldn’t phase most people, but somehow any decision gets me into a flap! I’m just not good with decisions. So do I reply in English? Do I reply in German? Do I do half and half? (No Ellie, that is ridiculous!)

And what about living arrangements. She mentioned that in the past sometimes the assistant has found a flat in the town, sometimes lived in the nearest city (about an hour away) or she said I could live with one of the other teachers… Too much choice, too many decisions! I’ve decided not to reply today, but I’ll think about it and try and get out of this anxious worrying. Because really, whatever decisions I make – English or German, town or city, alone or with people, it’s not that important. And living arrangements can be changed if it doesn’t work out when I get there…

So time for Elllie to take a deep breath, and CALM DOWN.

Talking of breathing, I must do my meditation for today! And that’s another thing I want to blog about.

I’ve also been trying to plan my dissertation. As I’m doing psychology, we have to do an experiment so need ethics approval. I’ve been working on my ethics proposal today, but have been stopped in my tracks as there is a large flaw in my experimental plans… I have a PC and not a Mac. I have never seen this as an issue before, but apparently the software that I was planning to use for testing in my dissertation which measure reaction time does not exist on PCs!! (I mean seriously, come on!!) So there has been a lot of rushing around, panicking, and emailing my supervisor… hopefully we will sort this out soon! The problem is that next week is the last week of term, and I’m leaving Lancaster then so won’t be able to organise these things once I’m gone!

(Once again, breathing may be useful here!)

So little time, so much to do! In just over a week I will be leaving Lancaster until after my year abroad! Scary stuff!

Edit: I have just seen that I have passed the 200 mark on followers! Wow!! 🙂

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

Tear-free CBT

That’s right people, I got through a whole session of CBT without crying today! There were a couple of moments where tears weren’t far away but no crying today. Not that it’s a bad thing to cry in therapy, but it’s exhausting. Today was definitely easier than the last session, but I guess that’s because what we talked about wasn’t as painful today.

We spoke about how I have grown up, and why I have always felt this need to do everything perfectly.

My mum had to work and work to prove she was good enough. When she was at school she wanted to be a teacher, from the age of about 11. She did her O levels and A levels, and had to retake some, and she was told she’d never become a teacher. But she did it, she got her grades, went to college and became a P.E teacher. It’s so sad that the thing she wanted to do for so long became one of the things that made her ill. And now she lacks the confidence to teach again, doesn’t want to go back there. My dad is a very hard worker too. He always gives everything 100%. He is the person who gets into work early and leaves late. And so you see my parents have both been very successful and they want the same for my brother and I, and that’s why they always try to push us to do our best. Unfortunately in my case, with a mixture of family pressure and going to a school where everyone is very bright (like a grammar school), I ended up feeling that I will never ever be good enough.

And I also realised that maybe part of it is that I’m trying to prove that I’m good enough, trying to prove that going to college wasn’t a bad idea. I left my school at 16, much to the dismay of my parents, and went to a college to do my A levels instead of the school 6th form. But I did it, I got my grades. I went to uni, I finished my first year with a first… Maybe I feel like if I get a first I’m proving that college was a good thing, that I wouldn’t have been better off going to my school’s 6th form. But the thing is, it’s done now anyway. Maybe I would’ve done better at 6th form, maybe I would’ve done worse, or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. We can never find out.

We also talked about mindfulness. A says that I am getting much better at identifying the negative thoughts as they happen, but now we need to focus on the here and now – ignoring the past and future, so that I can react in a suitable way to these negative thoughts.

I explained the cycle I spoke about in my previous post. How S said something as a joke which made me paranoid, then the paranoia made me scared he was going to leave me, then I realised I was overreacting, so I was scared he was going to leave because I worry so much… And on and on and on.

As we are coming to the end of the CBT sessions, A said it would be good to do some work on mindfulness, and that is something I can use after my sessions have finished, to help me.

According to Wikipedia*, mindfulness is the focusing of attention and awareness, based of the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It says mindfulness can be useful in the treatment of pain, stress, anxiety, depressive relapse, disordered eating and addiction.

It appears, from the definitions to involve bringing attention and awareness to the present moment where thoughts/feelings etc. are acknowledged and accepted.

A handed me a pen and asked me to look at it while she talked about it, asking questions (which aren’t to be answered.) What does it look like? Are there any marks on it? What about writing? Does the nib have any ink on it, or any marks?

At one point she asked me to hold the pen by my ear and listen to it when shaking it. At this point I thought “well, this is a bit weird!!” A said that is an example of when your mind wanders and thoughts go to other things rather than focusing on the pen (in this case).

This week’s homework is to do the “bodyscan” each day which is a guided mindfulness practise, involving listening to a CD (Kind of like meditation I think). I’ll be writing about that as I go along too!

So today’s session was quite helpful I think. I’ve made some realisations about my perfectionism and where it comes from. And I’m starting to accept that it’s ok not to do everything perfectly (because in most cases perfection doesn’t exist.) We also talked about my little experiment from last week – actively giving 80% (rather than 100%) to see what happened. You might remember, I did it when climbing. I decided that instead of pushing myself hard to finish the route, I would just come down and try another time, and the world didn’t end 😉 (In case you were wondering!) A said she thinks the key to all of the stuff with the ex is anger, and that when I am ready to access all of the feelings, I will be able to feel this anger that’s been locked away for so long. It also explains my anger outburts, which are almost always disproportionate to the thing I am actually angry about. (Like when I went completely crazy shouting at my housemates over the bins situation… but it wasn’t actually about the bins, it was about everything that has made me angry ever!) Anyway, progress is definitely a good thing, so I’ll let you all know how I get on with the mindfulness this week!

*obviously the source of all knowledge!

CBT – week ?*

This week’s CBT was on Monday. I filled in that horrible depression questionnaire (as I do before every session) and I realised how different it looked to when I started. A few months ago, every question would be answered with a 3 (nearly everyday) but now there are some 1s, some 2s and some 3s. It’s slow progress, but still progress and that’s what matters.

We discussed my exams and how they have gone. Some went ok, one went terribly and one went quite well. And I told her that I have accepted that I probably won’t get a 1st this year. And that’s ok**. I’m starting to look at things a little bit more rationally, and a little bit more “normally” but there’s still quite a way to go.

I told A that the ex and his new girlfriend are having a baby. We talked about it. About why it bothers me, about why it hurts and the thoughts it has brought up. I have to do some homework for my next session. I have to write a letter***. It’s going to be hard but it needs to be done.

I’m worried that I’m going to run out of sessions before everything is sorted in my head. And then what? Once I leave Lancaster for the summer that’s it. No more A, no more CBT, no more help. Once I go to Germany… who knows what happens if things go downhill again.

We sorted out my sessions for the rest of the term. It’s scary how little time there is left.

I don’t know what I’m going to do once the CBT finishes. There’s no point in thinking about that yet… but it is going to happen (and it’s going to happen quite soon!)

After my CBT session I went for a walk in the park with S. It was nice and sunny (for a change) and I really like that park. It’s probably one of my favourite places in Lancaster (or maybe anywhere?)

I feel like there was something else that I was going to write about, but I can’t remember now… That’s irritating.

* I have lost count of weeks, and I think I might not have written about some sessions… oh I don’t know!

**Kind of… The perfectionist side of my brain disagrees but I’m trying to be RATIONAL here!

***I will write about it/maybe even put the letter on here, but probably with a password.

CBT – week 10

After 4 weeks of no CBT, I went back to see A again on Monday morning.

We talked about my easter holidays, and I filled in the depression and anxiety questionnaires again. My scores were much lower, a big difference from the last time I saw A. Something is changing, and I still don’t know why, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

I am still having down periods, and with exams coming up the stress is starting to build up already.

I am trying to do regular exercise so hopefully that will help with the stress! I’ve managed to go to the gym 3 times already since I got back (last Thursday) and I’ve upgraded my gym membership to include the climbing wall – so I will be giving that a try on Saturday! 

We talked about how things are, and I said I feel a lot better. I am having a lot less thoughts about self harm/suicide, although they are still there sometimes. But it’s progress.

I feel like I am more able to be sociable, and although the anxiety is still high, I feel a lot more comfortable around people and less need to hide away. 

Next monday I won’t have a CBT session, instead I will have an exam! (Lucky me!) We have moved my CBT to Friday for next week, and we will be talking about the hardest issue, which I still can barely bring myself to talk about. Next week’s CBT session might be in a password protected post, we’ll see.

Last night I got upset before I went to bed. I had to call S in the end because I was really scared and I didn’t know what to do. He managed to calm me down and make me stop crying, and he wasn’t even angry that I woke him up. I am so lucky to have someone who is always there for me like that. I’m not sure why I was so scared or even what I was scared of, but I think maybe it was to do with thinking about what we are going to talk about next week.

Last night I think the ex was in my dream (nightmare?) I have a vague recollection of him saying he cheated on me all the time when we were together, but I can’t remember anything else. I’ll never know if he did or not, he’d never admit it and I don’t trust anything he says. It doesn’t even matter anymore.

Now I am off to bed; I’ve got a lot of revision to do tomorrow. And by that I mean I have to learn the material for the first time, because when we were learning this stuff the first time was when I was feeling awful, and I slept through lots of lectures. At least it’s something kind of interesting – my first exam is cognitive psychology, and tomorrow I’m making notes on Long Term Memory.

Good night,
Lots of love,

Ellie xxx