Memories and places

I know I am rubbish at keeping up with blogging now. I have too much going on so maybe I should just stop altogether. But today I have something to say, so I’ll say it.

It’s strange how memories can have such a strong hold.

Sometimes when I walk down a certain road, or I’m in a certain place I get flashbacks, just because of the place.

But in Germany I don’t. In Germany I rarely have flashbacks at all, because there are no places to associate with bad memories here. Here I feel safe, I don’t have to be completely on guard all the time. It’s strange but moving away has been the most liberating thing. And now I don’t want to go back to my old life (but I will have to.)

At Christmas when I was feeling worse again I realised it has to be to do with the place. Even as I was on the train from the airport in Germany, I felt more relaxed than I had at home. It’s such a contradiction: the place where my whole life is, where my family, boyfriend and many of my friends are, is also the place where I feel the worst. Best and worst. It’s like an oxymoron.

I am making the most of feeling free here, feeling happy. But at the same time I’m scared, scared of what happens when I go back. Will it open everything up again? I’m too tired to fight it all again, I just want to live my life and leave those memories behind.

I need to make home safe again in my mind. Or maybe I need to move away as soon as I can. (But does running away really help? Sometimes it does…)

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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!! ūüôā

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

Painful hands and procrastination

My hands hurt, that is all I have to say really. I just got back from climbing with Owl, and although I enjoy climbing, today was not great!

I couldn’t do the route I was trying to do, my hands are in agony and I’m tired. But it was a pretty good workout. We spent a bit longer bouldering than usual, and tried some harder routes. That’s probably why I couldn’t do the route I was trying in top-roping (hands were already hurting after¬†bouldering!), but it’s still frustrating.¬†

Today I haven’t managed to get much work done either. Did a bit of German grammar this morning (what could be more exciting?!) but I really need to get into proper revision mode… the exam is on Tuesday!! What am I doing going rockclimbing this close to an exam?!

Since S left I have been feeling pretty down and my concentration is worse again. A couple of days ago the anxiety really kicked in (again), I was hiding in my bed for most of the day and I was really freaked out (haven’t worked out why though) but that seems to have subsided (at least for now.) I keep putting myself down, and usually I feel a sense of¬†accomplishment¬†after climbing which helps with motivation, but today I didn’t manage to complete the route so I feel like a bit of a failure. (Even though I know it was a hard route, and it was only the 2nd time of trying a route of that grade!)¬†

In other news, I have come to the conclusion that nice nails do not go with climbing. I painted my nails on Friday before I went out. Owl bought me a magnetic nail varnish for my birthday that makes a cool pattern so I used that. Now (Sunday) after climbing they are ruined… It’s to be expected. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to do them again now… (More procrastination! Wait until after the exam!!)

Sorry for the boring update, but I don’t really have much else to say at present. (Just having a little moan really!) After Tuesday when I have finished my exam I will have to start focusing on my CBT stuff… I’m sure I’ll have plenty to blog about then!!

Talking of after exams, I’m going to have to start planning my dissertation! I am doing some research into how EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing – A type of therapy often used to treat PTSD) works. Has anyone tried EMDR? And if so, how did you find it? (Would be interested to know if anyone feels like they want to tell me about it)

CBT – week 8

I managed to oversleep this morning, and woke up at about 8:20 (should have left my house at 8:15) so I had to get a taxi (again) – oops!

But I made it on time so it was ok.

A asked how my week was and I said not good. I have been feeling really hopeless and hadn’t managed to get any work done.

We talked about the work and how I am expecting perfection from myself when I am actually ill. I am pushing myself too hard and that is actually holding me back. I think that I can’t do all of it to the standard I want, therefore it seems hopeless and pointless to even try, so I don’t do it, and end up feeling like a failure anyway.

If I could accept that my best at the moment isn’t perfect, maybe I’d get further.

We talked about how I am a perfectionist, and will feel like anything less than a 1st is failure. A asked me: If you get a 2:1, will you have failed? And I thought about it. And no, of course that is not failing. I know that. And yet, I know I’d be very disappointed if I don’t manage it. A said maybe the perfectionism is me trying to make up for my past mistakes. And if that’s the case, then even getting a 1st won’t help – it won’t change what happened, it can’t change the past.

Then A asked if I had been feeling worse after doing the retelling last week about the strangling memory. I actually haven’t been though. I haven’t been having nightmares, screaming in my sleep or having flashbacks this week *touch wood*. So I guess that’s progress in itself. I felt kind of relieved after the last session because I had been able to talk about it, and nothing bad happened. A said something at the time that made a lot of sense – What is the worst thing that could happen? (and I said nothing really, it would just be scary) and Will it be as bad as it actually was? (No). And somehow after all this time trying to repress it, it turned out talking about it was actually kind of helpful, even if tiring.

We will be coming back to that I am sure, as I haven’t really finished dealing with it. But today we talked about the thing that I think is the root to my depression/anxiety/PTSD.

I’ve written about it here only once. And I ended up making it into a password protected post. I was paranoid and terrified that somehow someone I know would find my blog and read it. I might try and write about it again soon, because it might help and because I am trying to deal with it (finally) but I may end up with password protected posts again…we’ll see.

As next week is the last week before the holidays, we have decided that we won’t look at that next week because it will be 4 or 5 weeks until I see A again, and she doesn’t want me to end up feeling worse if we end up opening up the memories without having time to deal with them. I think that’s a good idea, but in a strange way I am looking forward to starting sessions again after the holidays, because I feel like once I can deal with this, I’ll be a long way on the way to recovery. (If that even makes sense).

So instead, next week we are looking at thoughts again. Thoughts that cause worry chains, but they are just thoughts and they don’t have to come true. Like about A crashing her car – it didn’t happen (of course).

So this week I am trying to take note of the thoughts that cause these worry chains.

So I’m going to be having a good long think about all this, and I’ll let you all know what I come up with. And today I feel like there is actually hope (again).

Sometimes having therapy on a Monday morning seems like a bad start to the week, but I do find that generally after my sessions I feel more hopeful. So maybe it’s a good start to the week.

Maybe everything’s going to be ok after all? I just need to give it (even more) time.

I have now had 7 sessions out of a possible 20. In a way it doesn’t feel like I’ve got very far, but in another way it feels like every week I’m getting a bit further, and all of these little steps will add up. It seems like now I have got to trust A a bit, and she is getting to know more about me, we are making more and more progress each week.

And the moral of the story is, give it a try. It might help (even if you were convinced it wouldn’t.)

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

P.S. I’m starting to notice a trend in my blogging/thoughts – the beginning of the week (following therapy) I am hopeful and things seem to be on the up, and then as the week goes on I seem to feel worse… Hopefully in time this will lessen and everyday will become a hopeful day!

There’s no magic wand

I knew that before. But I guess I was still hoping…

Today was my appointment with the psychiatrist that I have been waiting for for quite a while. 

I managed to get lost on the way, but found the place eventually, and even arrived on time.

We sat and talked for about an hour. He asked questions. I answered them. I cried. I cried more. 

He increased the dosage of my medication. I cried even more.

He said “There’s nothing you’ve told me that we can’t help you with” and then explained his “plan”. But I couldn’t stop crying.

He wants me to try a higher dosage for a month. If that doesn’t help, he wants me to try another antidepressant. And if that doesn’t work then he will try combining an antidepressant with an antipsychotic, which apparently can also be prescribed for depression/anxiety and can help with flash backs. He also said that after I finish my CBT, there might be other talking therapies to try.

So there are ways forward. So I should be happy? Relieved? 

I’m not. I am sad. Sad that there is nothing they can do that will help me NOW. Sad that getting better is months or years away. And sad that there wasn’t something blindingly obvious that we had missed, like another diagnosis which could be treated easily and would suddenly mean I’d get better.

I know there’s no such thing. I know it’s a long journey. I know people spend years and years fighting depression. But I want to feel better now. I could deal with ok, I don’t even need happy. I just want to be able to finish my degree, but I can’t keep going forever the way things are at the moment.¬†

I should be feeling more hopeful – there are things that can still be done. But instead I feel disappointed and let down. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but not this.

I just can’t stop crying.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic cure?

CBT – Week 6*

Today I went to my CBT session, and if you read my post yesterday, you’ll know I was feeling very anxious and scared about it, and really didn’t want to go. I decided to be kind to myself and got a taxi instead of walking up that massive hill for a change!

As suggested by some of you here (being the lovely and helpful people that you are!) I spoke to A about it, and told her that I had really struggled with writing down the memory, and about the flash backs, nightmares and screaming in the night.

She said we will wait a bit longer before we start the trauma work. In a way I am disappointed because I wanted to get it over with, but I am also relieved because I think it probably was too soon, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to deal with it very well at the moment. So instead we are looking at the thoughts which come with the feelings.

CBT says that thoughts cause feelings which cause behaviours, so in order to change feelings and behaviours, we have to change the thoughts. And that means starting by identifying the thoughts which cause the feelings. For example, I may think “I am useless” (thought) which will cause me to feel down (feeling), so I hide in bed (behaviour).

I need to become more aware of my thoughts so that I can start to counteract them with evidence. And realise that they are only thoughts, so they don’t have to be right.

A gave the example that even if I think about her crashing her car on the way home, it won’t cause it to happen! I said “That’s not very nice!”¬†

We will look at the thoughts that I identify, and test them, to see if there is evidence for them. It all sounds very scientific! 

I did some crying in my session (as usual) and A also said she thinks we need to look at the anger as well. As well as feeling upset/hurt/sad about the memories, I am also very angry. Angry at myself, angry at him, angry at anyone who didn’t do anything to help.¬†

Also this week I will be seeing my GP (tomorrow) and the psychiatrist (on Thursday) so it’s a very busy week for appointments! I am really hoping that the psychiatrist will be able to make the right diagnosis/es and hopefully work out the right medication for me! Although I’m pretty sure that he will say I have anxiety, depression (as previously diagnosed) and PTSD (which has been suggested but not diagnosed).

I asked A about my mood swings and tried to explain that even when I am feeling horrific, and at my lowest I normally manage to do things that I have committed to, like going to lectures, but that doesn’t mean I am ok, and it doesn’t mean I take anything in! I know that part of what they measure how bad things are on is your functioning level, but even though I appear to function, I’m really not. My memory and concentration are appalling, and I sit in lectures without listening to a word half of the time. She said that I need to make sure I tell the psychiatrist all of this, and that he will understand where I am coming from. Apparently he is very good** and is nice, so hopefully it will go ok on Thursday. I just want things to be sorted out and to start making progress.

So all in all, today was a difficult but kind of helpful session. AND afterwards I took the decision to go home and rest instead of going to class because I need to start looking after myself and stop doing things just because I “should”.¬†

*There was no week 5, in case you’re wondering where that went!

**Well I should hope so too!

Triggered

I can’t do it.

I don’t want to go to CBT tomorrow. I’m too scared to deal with these memories. Nothing can change them anyway.

I am disgusting. I am so ashamed.

I tried to write out the memory of new year’s eve and it’s so triggering. I can’t do it.

I’m never going to get better if I don’t deal with these memories but it’s so hard. I won’t be able to say it. It makes me feel like dirt. Like I’m nothing. I’m so stupid, useless, pathetic and a slut.¬†

I just want it all to stop. Tears streaming down my face and all I can think is I just want to die. I just want it all to stop. I can’t deal with it.

Why am I so stupid and pathetic? Why can’t I just grow up?

Do some work you lazy shit instead of just sitting there feeling sorry for yourself. You’re never going to even pass your degree at this rate, let alone get a first. What’s the point in any of this? He’s still controlling you even now, because you’re letting him. Just do something useful for once. You’re going to fail and you’re going to let everyone down. You’re just proving that you’re nothing. Give up. No one cares.

Blog for Mental Health 2013

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I was pledged by Ruby for “Blog for Mental Health 2013”. You can see her post about it here. I think this is an amazing idea, and so I make my pledge:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

My Mental Health

First of all, everyone has mental health, whether it’s good or bad!

I am currently fighting depression and anxiety (and possibly post traumatic stress disorder). A number of events seem to have led me to where I am today, including a horrible relationship with the ex. I have tried 5 different antidepressants and none of them have helped at all, so I have just come off the 5th one, and am no longer on any antidepressant medication (for now at least). I have started CBT therapy, and am writing about it on my blog.

Although depression, anxiety etc are horrible things to deal with, they have also helped me discover an amazing blogging community. One day I saw The Depressed Moose’s blog on Mind, and read his blog, and that was the day I decided that I would start a blog. Now, several months later, I am very happy to say that I have “met” a lot of lovely, strong and amazing people here. We all have our difficulties, we all struggle sometimes, but we pull together and look after one another. If it wasn’t for my own mental illnesses, I wouldn’t be here on WordPress.

Although things have been far from great over the last year and a half, I am glad to say that I am no longer in touch with the ex, and am struggling on through. I am not going to let him, or depression stop me from living the life I should be living. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all your hopes and dreams when you are feeling so low, but I know we all have to keep on fighting, and one day it will get better.

So what I’m saying really is that yes I suffer from mental illnesses, but I am still me.

I’m not the same me that I used to be, but that’s ok. Different things shape our lives, and eventually I will be stronger for going through this pain.

My pledges

I would like to pledge 5 others to blog about mental health and help other people in doing so (which these people already do!) I have chosen some of the blogs that I have been following for the longest, who are always helping other people here.

Garry, of The Depressed Moose

WeeGee, of How do you eat an Elephant

Bourbon, of Crazy in the coconut

Zoe, of Behind the Mask of Abuse

B, of Broken Little Bird

If you happen upon this without being pledged, I still pledge you.  Feel free to take the pledge!  Promote awareness!

~~

So you know what to do, I’ve copy and pasted the instructions below:

Please note: This is NOT an award, but an attempt to unite all mental health bloggers!

1.) Take the pledge by copying and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2013″.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

4.) Pledge five others, and be sure to let them know!

5.) And, as something novel for 2013, Lulu and I ask one more thing of you.

As you may have noticed,¬†Canvas¬†does not keep an official blogroll, outside of links to our authors‚Äô personal blogs. ¬†For something new and special to introduce¬†Blog For Mental Health 2013, and really build a sense of community ‚ÄĒ and show everyone how many of us there are, and how strong we are, coming together ‚ÄĒ we are launching a¬†Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll!¬† So, in addition to linking back to the person who pledged you, please include the link to the original post in your piece. ¬†As this gets passed along, link back or¬†click here and leave a comment¬†containing the link to your pledge, and we will put you on our¬†Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll¬†page! ¬†Show the world our strength, show them our solidarity, show them what we are made of. ¬†Take the Blog for Mental Health pledge and proudly display the badge on your blog!

 

Another mixed day (which ended with hope!)

This morning I had my statistics exam. I was worried about it because last time I tried to take it, I had a panic attack and couldn’t do it.

I did it. It was hard, my mind kept going blank. Anxiety was going wild and I couldn’t concentrate. I don’t think I’ve done very well, but I’ve done it, and that’s the main thing.

After the exam was feeling pretty down and rubbish. There were things in the exam that I had practiced last night on SPSS… could I remember them in the exam? No I could not.

So I came back to the house, had some lunch and got ready to go and do my volunteer training at Help Direct.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about it before, but it is a service which aims to help people with mental health/wellbeing problems to change things and make things better. I met the team there before Christmas when I had my initial meeting where we checked that I wanted to do it, and that I was suitable for the role.

Today I got to watch a session, and then afterwards we sent out the relevant details in the post etc. It was really interesting, and it filled me with hope for the future. I was terrified that I was going to hate doing it, and then I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

But so far, it was really interesting and enjoyable. I like helping other people, and this role allows you to see the progress people make which is lovely. So for now at least, my goal is still to work in mental health.

Ironically, the reason I want to work in mental health is because of my own experiences. Having watched my mum go through depression a few years ago, I started to be interested in mental illness/mental health. Now, dealing with depression, anxiety and possible PTSD myself, I want to do it even more. I have seen second hand, and felt first hand, how difficult things become where mental illness is concerned. I have seen how hard it is to get help, and seen that sometimes the “help” you are given is not helpful at all. So I want to help, and I want to do it right. So now all I’ve got to do is get better, get my degree, a heap of work experience, a doctorate… and taa daa… I can do the job I want to do, and help people!

(Bloody hell, that’s going to take a while!)

But the good news best news is that I have hope for the future again. I have goals, and aspirations, and I’m on my way. It’s going to be a long journey, but now I have faith that eventually I will get there.

Yay for hope!! ūüôā

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx