daily life

Family meltdown

What do you do when everyone in your family is mentally ill?

My sister and I have tried to support our mother our whole lives. When she becomes ill, though, the stress can become too much for us – and for my sister in particular, the pressures of caring for someone make her ill.

We have fallen out, as we always do, because I feel I shoulder most of the responsibility. I tend to get stuck in when a problem arises, but because I have chronic ill health, I burn out very quickly. The cycle keeps on repeating and the answer I am given by observers is ‘Well, don’t do so much, then.’

It’s difficult to pull away if you suspect your mum isn’t taking her medication regularly, or is at risk of a fall. So I want to be there for her when she is not well.

I sent my sister a couple of plain-speaking emails about how I see things panning out over the next ten years as mum gets older and more frail: how both of us need to find ways to cope better.

As she pushed back and became defensive, I got irritated. I told her I was tired of her always putting her needs first, over anyone else’s.

Her response has been to block me. I am no longer able to call or text, and she enlisted my own partner to channel emails through him, something I have put a stop to as it is completely inappropriate.

She has also accused me of being abusive. Her accusation is excessive and unjust. Having read my emails back several times, I know I’d be happy to show them to anyone to demonstrate there is no abuse there whatsoever. Frustration, yes. Impatience, definitely. A lack of respect, absolutely. I told her I’ve lost respect for her, and she continues to demonstrate why.

Am I supposed to go from here as, effectively, an only child?

I feel that during exhausting family situations, my sister only makes things worse. Am I better off not dealing with her?

 

 

daily life

Sunny day

Trigger warning: I’m very depressed. If you are too, maybe read something more uplifting elsewhere. If you want to join me in my black hole, read on…

It’s beautiful outside today.

Spring is here, but I feel like I’m not invited. There have been many times I’ve emerged from winter with no enthusiasm for the sunshine or the flowers that start appearing. I see daffodils, crocuses, buds on the trees, and none of it registers.

The birds sing away, but it feels like they are singing despite my existence, and, of course, they are. The whole point of Sebastian Faulks’ bestselling novel Birdsong is that birds are oblivious and sing on through war, through birth, through death. They just sing, on and on and on, with no regard for humans or the terrible things they get up to. So I can’t hear the birds and feel like they symbolise new life or anything. I put food out for them though. On a good day, I enjoy seeing them arrive at my bird feeder. I know they aren’t my friends, but I can enjoy their pretty plumage from afar.

Spring makes people happy and I tend to go around in a daze because I can’t be happy, or share happiness.

When depression and dissociation is this bad, I wonder what can be done.

Do you keep forcing yourself to go out into the sunshine? Is there a moment when you feel the warmth move from your skin to your heart?

I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling anything. I tend to stay inside because it’s a nothingy sort of a space, and it suits my emptiness.

You can’t force happiness. You can’t force joy.

There is, though, in everything that lives, a stubborn drive to continue, no matter what. I am reminded of a crocus that used to appear every year by our front door when I was a child.

It grew through concrete.

daily life

Stronger together

Today I put on my red shoes.

I thought about the men who abused me: men who were violent, bullying, manipulative and cruel. Not all men. But enough. Enough to drink together in a bar and laugh at what a pushover I was, how weak I was, how easy it was.

I looked at my red shoes, my favourite shoes, and I looked in the mirror.

I imagined myself standing before a group of women at the next table in that bar, and I said to all of them – the girl who was abused, the student who was raped, the young woman bullied at work, the mother just trying to cope, the disabled woman on her own, the older woman with a broken heart, the writer, the survivor:

You  will never, ever let a man do that to you again.

You will heed the warning signs next time.

You will stick up for yourself.

You will fight.

You will be strong.

And all of them, all of those women, young and old, raised their glasses.

And the men fell silent.

There are millions of women who don’t feel that strong today; women who may still be in a terrible situation. Let’s think of them. Let’s be strong for them. We are stronger together.

Happy International Women’s Day.

daily life, therapy

Too many labels

The discomfort I feel at the current thinking behind my diagnosis is reaching fever pitch.

They keep trying to stick me with new labels and I keep resisting. In particular, I’m resisting Borderline Personality Disorder, because it’s such a bullshit concoction of ‘symptoms’.

Symptoms of what? It’s not an illness, is it? So what is it then? It seems to me that it’s a marker used by the medical profession to flag up difficult, volatile patients who are:

  • usually female
  • have suffered trauma
  • aren’t afraid of sticking up for themselves.

I know I have PTSD, that’s been confirmed. I am wondering about bipolar disorder, but then I think that PTSD and depression covers it just fine.

Anyway, the more I resist, the more of a tangle I get myself into.

Here’s where I’m at with my current thinking, inspired by disinterested psychiatrists and their lazy assumptions:

  • I have gone into a manic reaction (bipolar 2, cyclothymia) with rapid-cycling moods lasting several days at a time. I can’t sleep and am overthinking everything (bipolar, borderline personality disorder).
  • I feel hopeless and worthless (depression) and these feelings keep coming back (recurrent depressive disorder).
  • I have been feeling a lot worse since they started sticking new labels on me (reactive depression, generalised anxiety).
  • I got really angry at my clinic a month or so back when a psychiatrist cancelled on me, claiming I had previously said I wouldn’t see her (borderline personality disorder). I told them to go fuck themselves (borderline personality disorder).
  • Since then, I have been reluctant to engage with psychiatric services because I feel so worthless and am scared of being disliked (avoidant personality disorder).
  • I have retreated into myself and prefer the company of my imagination (schizoid personality disorder).
  • I have become quite fearful of attending my psychotherapy sessions because I’m worried about what is being said or thought about me (paranoid personality disorder).
  • I’ve had nightmares and outbursts at home, usually triggered by a remark or something on tv about abuse, and I’m totally exhausted and numb (complex ptsd).
  • I jump out of my skin when someone walks in the room (ptsd, anxiety, social anxiety) and oh yeah, I keep cleaning the kitchen (ocd, anxiety).

So, what label do you think they want to stick on me today? Therapy starts in an hour or so. Let’s see what they have to say.

daily life

Out of sorts

There are too many days where I feel at odds with the world.

When you are out of sorts, you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy: ‘I’m going to have a shit day’ turns into exactly that. People react well to good humour and a relaxed nature, less so to someone who is irritable, snappy, hyped up and aggressive, even (on a really bad day).

What is hard to get across is that if you have a mood disorder or PTSD it is really hard to know how you are going to wake up, or how things are going to pan out after that. Often you are also sleep-deprived, or the sleep you get is really poor quality.

It’s not so easy to cheer up, or snap out of it, or make an effort, or any of the other things non-depressed and non-traumatised people tell us to do.

No, a walk won’t fix it. No, I don’t want to go for coffee with a friend. Listening to music won’t fix it either, or going to see a film because both of those can clutter up an already cluttered head.

Those days where I feel at odds with the world, I stumble through not quite knowing what to do to make it better. I feel wound up and extremely anxious, overwhelmed and like seeing people is the last thing I want. I wonder whether I should avoid everyone altogether.

I was told recently that the avoidant behaviours that go with PTSD can be much harder to treat than the flashbacks, involuntary memories and dreams.

Is this true? It seems hard to believe. I always thought that as my flashbacks aren’t all the time, or nearly as severe as other people’s, that I was less severe in general.

But at a recent asssessment for non-NHS treatment (I’m weighing up whether or not to go for specific, targeted trauma work rather than the analytical psychotherapy I’m getting at the moment) I was told that I scored very high for phobic traits.

I avoid all the people and all the places to do with a relationship that ended in trauma. Unfortunately, that’s all my local places and many of my former friends. I don’t even go to my local supermarket. I feel like I haven’t been living where I live… it’s like I mentally moved out four years ago. This leaves me very isolated and unhappy. It’s also very hard to talk about with a therapist.

I suppose avoidant behaviour is learned, and as such is difficult to unlearn.

My attempts to manage my condition(s) do feel pretty ingrained. I have a ‘way of living’ rather than a life.

I really want to get my life back, and the person who went with it. She wasn’t perfect, but she was nothing like the distrustful, antisocial, exhausted and miserable old woman I seem to have become. And I’m not even that old!