Thoughts on social distancing and isolation

I’m so sorry I haven’t written in so long; I took the blog offline for a while because I got a bit paranoid about people reading it and became completely convinced people I knew were reading it even though I hadn’t shared it with them.  I’ve since changed the domain name and *hopefully* if anyone was, then they won’t be able to find it now but I don’t know how they would have found it anyway and tbh, it was probably just me being over-paranoid anyway!

SO…back to blogging.  I’ve really missed it; it’s one of the only ways I can try to actually make sense of my brain in a way that other people can understand and maybe relate to, and I miss that connection.  Which is especially true now we’re in the middle of social distancing and self isolation!  It’s a weird and disconcerting time for everyone and I’m swinging between being kind of relieved that for once it’s not just me feeling lonely, anxious and guilty all the time but then feeling really guilty for thinking that and just generally overwhelmed by the whole situation- again, like most of the world!

It’s weird that in one sense, not much has really changed- I was signed off work for two weeks before lockdown started anyway and it’s not like I had a particularly active social life (or even one at all).  But I had school and it was the hope of going back to school that had kept me going while I was signed off, and the idea of schools closing before I could go back felt really horrible and disorientating.  I know that a massive proportion of the country are feeling similar with schools closed and exams cancelled, teachers are feeling disorientated and kids are stuck without the structure of school, and for many Year 11s and Year 13s, they didn’t even get a chance to ‘leave’ school properly.  So in the context of that, how I’m feeling really doesn’t even compare to how a lot of people will be feeling at the moment but for me, it was the loss of hope and possibility of structure, purpose and social contact that really got to me the most.  And it’s still so, so hard to deal with.  I’ve set up a website of fun activities, quizzes and puzzles for kids off school to try to keep them entertained and I’m updating it every day but it still doesn’t feel ‘real’ or like there’s any actual point to it.  Trying to focus on it as a distraction and purpose but it’s hard when I don’t know if any kids are actually using it!  It’s Purple Jedi Activities if anyone’s interested ūüôā

It’s hard to work out what’s going on at the moment because before coronavirus took over the news and lockdown started, I was already having issues with medication, mood swings, anxiety and paranoia and the current situation really hasn’t helped.  It’s been going on for months- I started to feel rubbish again just before Christmas and it got progressively worse up till February when I kind of hit a massive low and just felt horrible, guilty and lonely all the time but so much that it hurt.  I had a couple of overdose attempts (which I’m rubbish at anyway- both times I panicked afterwards, tried to throw up, felt ill later and went to A+E) and have been having a lot of issues with mental health services recently because I “make people anxious” and it’s a “barrier to treatment” but I honestly don’t mean to and it’s making me feel so shit and trapped.  Long story; I ended up increasing medication to the point when I felt genuinely stoned and spun out all the time which wasn’t safe, was signed off work and have been trying to get the right balance of medication since then.  Currently on a mix of vortioxetine, quetiapine, pregabalin, lorazepam and zopiclone and trying to find the right amounts of each one so that I’m not too hyped, panicky or suicidal but can also function relatively OK day-to-day.  Really tough!!

But anyway, that’s just background :/ I think even without the Covid-19 situation, I’d be a bit all over the place atm but now it’s like the world has honestly gone nuts.  And for once it’s not just me!  It’s crazy to realise it’s a global issue and that the majority of the world is feeling scared, overwhelmed and anxious atm which is weirdly reassuring as well as a bit scary in itself.  For me, the hardest parts are the lack of structure which leads to feeling chaotic, ‘vertigo-y’ and like there’s no point, and the isolation which leads to intense loneliness and feeling cut off from everything.

One of the things I really struggle with is the idea that people will totally forget I exist if they don’t see me, and it’s so so hard not to keep contacting people I care about all the time to check.  And it’s SO BLOODY LONELY isolating on your own and not knowing when you can see a real person again.  I’m not a physical contact-type person but right now, I could really, really use a hug and I need it so much it actually hurts- my whole body is physically aching and tingling with anxiety and loneliness. And that must be a million times harder for people who are used to physical affection!

I realised recently that one of the main criteria for diagnosis of BPD is ‘fear of abandonment’ and being isolated on your own feeds into it- it really does feel like you’ve been abandoned by everyone and everything and I’m having to keep reminding myself that it’s a global situation and not just ‘me’- support groups stopped because they had to with social isolation not because they didn’t want me in the group, I’m not on the school rota v often because they’re limiting staff in school not because they don’t want me in, people aren’t messaging back because they’re overwhelmed and scared like everyone atm or busy with other things not because they hate me, social distancing was not introduced because I’m too intense and people need a break from me! I know it sounds over-dramatic, self-centred and ridiculous (which it is) and I know that rationally but it feeds into the main idea that people just don’t want you around which still really hurts and makes you feel rubbish.

One of the other criteria for BPD is ‘chronic feelings of emptiness’ which I’ve always referred to as ‘vertigo’ and it’s so, so intense at the moment without any real purpose or connection.  For me, that’s the part that leads to pretty much constant suicidal thoughts because there really is no point and I’m so scared people I’m close to will forget about me, and it’s so hard to manage.  But I can’t act on any of it atm anyway because I don’t want to put any extra pressure on the NHS by having to go to A+E so feeling really trapped and rubbish.  Which I’m trying to channel into more positive distraction but is leading to a lot of negative behaviours which I hate but tbh if it means I’m not overdosing or ending up in A+E then it’s not the end of the world.

The other overwhelming feeling atm is guilt.  Which tbh isn’t just atm- I feel guilty A LOT of the time anyway but it’s constant now and literally taking over most other feelings.  Part of it is justified- I know I can be too intense and needy and although I really try to manage it and not keep contacting people, I am still ‘too much’ when I talk to people because I honestly am feeling so horrible so much of the time and it’s hard not to let that show.  But I keep apologising and trying to let people have the choice if they let me contact them or not, but I still feel shit for being like this in the first place.  I really am trying to change it- I’m doing a lot of online courses in Food and Nutrition, Health and Social Care and some self-help courses for BPD which challenge viewpoints and behaviours but it seems to be taking a really long time to see any change at all which is frustrating and I just wanted to be a nicer, less draining person.  But at least one positive to social distancing is that people don’t have to put up with me in person any more!

One of the other issues I’m finding hard (and links to guilt) is feeling like everything is my fault.  This is something I’m challenging a lot atm- I know rationally that I am not all-powerful and I definitely didn’t start coronavirus or create the crisis that the world is in at the moment, but I still feel really, really guilty that people are dying all over the world and it feels like I should be doing more to stop it.  I’ve signed up for NHS volunteers and for social care volunteering but haven’t heard back yet, and I’m aware I’m a drain on NHS resources even without Covid-19 pressure which makes me feel really guilty.  I’ve been in touch with CMHT, ED services and the crisis team a lot over the last few weeks because I genuinely don’t feel safe in the house on my own, partly because of intense suicidal thoughts pretty much every night, partly because of medications making me feel stoned or spun out and partly because I’m still getting occasional extreme mood swings which can make me really impulsive.  But they can’t do much atm- they’re not admitting any new inpatients because of the pandemic and all they can really suggest is to keep a mood diary, have a crisis plan and take lorazepam which I’m doing but it still doesn’t feel safe a lot of the time.  But I’m still trying!!

The last issue I’m going to talk about here is the idea of feeling chaotic, out of control and scared which for me, is a big trigger for eating disordered behaviour which I’m trying SO HARD not to fall back into atm.  It’s taken 20 years and some v direct honesty from a couple of friends to get into a ‘healthy’ eating routine and I really, really don’t want to lose that.  So I’ve literally made a timetable to structure the day around a ‘school day’ with set mealtimes which I have to stick to.  And it feels so much safer because it’s not my ‘choice’ and apart from a couple of really horrible, chaotic days, I’ve pretty much managed to stick to it.  Will share it here in case anyone else finds it useful ūüôā

 

But even though the world is chaos and scary, there have weirdly been some positive effects!  Which I’m trying to focus on and see as proof that things can change…

  1. Thanks to necessity for medical appointments, helplines and crisis calls, I can actually make and receive phone calls now without getting panicky!  Which is a HUGE thing for me.
  2. I have several friends who are amazing and some of whom put up with sometimes ridiculous texts or calls.  Several being a BIG change because before I’ve only managed to keep one or two friends at a time and now I have a few!  And I’m really trying to believe they won’t forget I exist just because I haven’t contacted them in a few days…
  3. Social media is not all paranoia and anxiety and with only close friends, can be an absolute lifeline.
  4. I can go to the supermarket only twice a week, buy more food at once without being convinced everyone will think I’m a greedy, lazy bitch and actually keep the food in the house without bingeing on all of it!!  Which, as someone who used to only be able to buy a day’s food at once, is a BIG change.  Mostly helped by my equally intense fear of germs meaning that I’m genuinely scared to go to the supermarket but I’m still taking it as a positive!
  5. I now wash my hands in a normalish way.  Which again is a big thing- I used to have to use 2-4 pumps of handwash and sometimes 2-4 more depending on if they ‘count’, and careful not to accidentally hit 13 overall so sometimes even more but now, thanks to restrictions on how much handwash you can buy, it’s 2 pumps ONLY and they both necessarily count.  And it’s amazing how much less anxiety I have now about washing my hands!
  6. I bought a weighted blanket to help with anxiety and needing a physical ‘hug’, and I’ve never slept so deeply in my life.  OK, it’s still not for very long and not always at night but it’s seriously amazing!
  7. Focussing on Jedi living is actually a lifesaver atm.  I won’t go into it too much now because I’m planning a whole post on it later on but there’s something really grounding about connecting with a Force greater than yourself and trying to really focus on quieting your mind and letting go of attachments and fear.  I know it might sound a bit weird but it honestly does really help.
  8. I have never spoken to my little cousins on FaceTime so much in my life (or ever, in fact)!  They’re all off school and bored atm and it’s so nice to connect with them, watch them play lego/do crafts/just hang out.  Living in England while they’re in Scotland means that sometimes I miss out on my little cousins growing up and it’s so nice to connect with them properly now.  Feels like I’m actually in Scotland with them!

Anyway, this post is a lot longer than I’d intended so will leave it here ūüôā REALLY hope everyone is managing OK and sending lots of hugs to anyone else self isolating on their own.  It really is hard and can feel like it’s never going to end but IT WILL and reach out to as many people as you can ‚̧

Positive psychiatrist appointments actually exist!!

This is a bit of a random post because it’s not based around any particular ‘theme’ or event (although to be honest, not many of my recent posts have been!) but thought it was worth a blog post anyway because for me, it’s pretty massively significant. On Monday, I had an assessment appointment with a new psychiatrist which I was really nervous about and not expecting much from it (usually I just get told that because of autism, they can’t help). Amazingly, it was a weirdly positive appointment!! She was very direct and honest which I need, and ridiculously thorough to the point that the appointment took nearly two hours and she’s making another one to finish it off.

The most amazing thing was that she actually didn’t just write everything off as autism- she thinks that personality traits (specifically ’emotionally unstable personality disorder’ AKA borderline personality disorder) are more of an issue at the moment and wants me to read up about it more before the next appointment. AND she’s willing to actually work with me on it!! WOW. Have been reading about it and literally it’s like someone read my brain. So weird and amazing to read about other people experiencing the same sort of thing and to have an actual, real ‘reason’ for feeling the way I do.

This book in particular is amazing:

It’s a really detailed and well-written ‘guide’ to BPD and writes in detail about all the different symptoms, thought processes and behaviours without judging or sounding overly negative or stigmatised about it which a lot of the articles I’ve read have been. It actually made me cry to read it because it made so much bloody sense. Even obsessions, being too ‘intense’ and issues with keeping friendships! I could literally quote half the book in this post but am going to focus on a few pages that I found really, really useful.

This page is incredible. It sort of links to something a friend said to me a while ago that you can’t ‘get rid’ of obsessions or extreme emotions, you just need to learn to manage them and this book explains it in such an amazingly positive way. And it even says that learning to manage the intense feelings will eventually mean that they are less intense which would be an absolute miracle!! Having had 19 years of feeling like I’m never going to be able to deal with it, it really seems like an unreachable goal but definitely one I’m willing to work bloody hard to achieve. Honestly, if I ever manage to be able to deal with intense feelings and obsessions, I think my life would be relatively good and I’d be ‘normal'(ish). New life goal!!

There’s even an actual link to eating disorders in the book! And the really amazing thing about it is that I can totally relate to how it links BPD and ED, much more than I can relate to most ED-specific books or articles. For me, it’s always been about managing extreme emotions and obsessions- low enough weights actually stop them completely which was why I was desperate as a teenager to lose weight. The main reason I binge isn’t for the actual ‘binge’ part; it’s because throwing up helps to shift the intense vertigo-y vacuum inside my stomach. Apart from exercise, that’s the only thing that actually helps with it and gives me a sense of relative calm.

Similar to above, restricting your diet can make you feel calmer and more in control. I can relate absolutely to this page and although i know it’s stereotypical ‘ED’ to be about control, mine has always been more about not eating certain foods or food groups than the weight itself. That came later and only because I realised it stopped intense feelings and obsessions.

The hardest part of the whole autism/BPD mix for me is making, keeping and managing social relationships. I lose A LOT of friends from being too ‘intense’ and I’m constantly scared that people are annoyed or upset with me, find me too annoying, boring or clingy, or don’t want to be friends with me any more. It’s bloody hard not to keep texting friends to check and I used to do that a lot, which would lead to friends asking me not to contact them any more. Now, I’m a lot more aware of it and it really is a relief to read that other people experience the exact same thing and I’m not just a paranoid, intense, horrible person. I can also relate to wanting to just give up on friendships completely but the intense loneliness is too hard to deal with. Makes you feel like you’re trapped in a cycle of paranoia and loneliness that you can’t escape from. But this book says that this is one of the symptoms which you can learn to manage through DBT and awareness which seems too good to be true but am DEFINITELY willing to try…

The last page I’m going to talk about is about self harm. When I read this, I had to re-read it because it described exactly the thoughts and urges I experience on a regular basis. It honestly is an intense self-directed anger and hatred that makes you want to literally scrape your skin off and rip out your flesh which gets channelled into cutting or hitting depending on the situation. When it’s overly intense, it can get to the point where you want to disappear or not exist which can lead to (for me anyway) overdose of medication but I always end up throwing it up ten minutes later because I don’t actually want to ‘die’, just not exist or more specifically, for the intense feelings to not exist. It’s like wanting to kill a very specific part of you (I’ve been calling her ‘borderline bitch’) which I hate and would do anything to get rid of.

The other really positive aspect of the appointment is that I’m changing medication!! Coming of quetiapine which has caused horrible side effects and increasing aripiprazole to make up for it. Really, really hoping it helps!! Anyway, would DEFINITELY recommend this book to anyone who has, knows anyone who has or is interested in BPD/EUPD- it’s an incredible book ūüôā

Explanations and Anxiety

Seem to spend way too many posts apologising for not writing recently! ¬†But yeah, it’s another apology post…sorry!! ¬†Haven’t been feeling great again recently and got ridiculously intense anxiety at the moment which is HORRIBLE and getting in the way of basically everything. ¬†Kind of a long story and won’t go into too much detail but in brief: went to GP, got prescribed lorazepam (on top of sertraline, quetiapine and aripiprazole) and it really didn’t agree with me, was hallucinating and losing hours at a time with no memory which isn’t great when you work in a school, back to GP and got signed off work for a week to stabilise, having pretty major anxieties at school and panic attacks so not in lessons at the moment and doing lots of office-based work instead. ¬†Not fun and genuinely the worst anxiety I’ve ever had. ¬†No idea what’s triggering it but it’s horrible.

I’m trying to see it as Voldemort entering my mind again which for me is the only way really I can make sense of it. ¬†I wrote about this a while ago in¬†Occlumency¬†but basically I try to imagine the negative thoughts and horrible urges as Voldemort planting thoughts in my brain like he does with Harry in Order of the Phoenix, and it’s not actually ‘me’. ¬†Which would be a massive relief because I hate this part of me SO MUCH but I’ve recently lost some very close friends by being too negative and self-critical so I can’t even bloody hate myself properly because of it which is making me feel horrible and trapped. But anyway, back to Occlumency…

I’m trying to focus on the idea that the thoughts aren’t actually ‘me’ which should (in theory) make me feel less guilty about them and be able to challenge them more easily. ¬†I’m really not there yet but that’s the aim, and then I can start to ‘close my mind’ to them the same way that Harry tries to with Occlumency and the mental exhaustion he feels is definitely something I can relate to.

I know this isn’t the most interesting or groundbreaking post; I’m genuinely feeling rubbish and shaky pretty much constantly atm and EVERYTHING is making me cry or have a mini meltdown so I’m kind of impressed it sort of makes sense at all! ¬†Will try to write more detailed posts when my brain is less fuzzy and jittery…

Comfortableness and Chaos

This is a bit of a weird post but it’s something that a few people have mentioned to me recently and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. ¬†It’s not a particularly easy topic to write about so sorry in advance if this post makes even less sense than my recent blog posts have done but I think it’s important to address and try to process properly.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend brought up the idea of ‘enjoying’ having mental health issues. ¬†My first thought was ‘no fucking way!’- it’s bloody horrible having part of your brain that constantly criticises you and tells you what you should/shouldn’t be thinking or doing to the point where it’s so confusing and exhausting that you have no idea what ‘you’ think or feel any more, and I really hate feeling ‘too much’, intense and obsessive all the time. ¬†But there is a (really guilty) part of me that does feel sort of ‘comfortable’ with rules and criticisms which are often easier to follow than trying to work out what’s expected in ‘real life’ and it definitely feels safer with something keeping you in line, limiting greed or selfishness and (to an extent) you know where you stand with it even if the parameters and rules keep shifting.

Around the same time, another friend asked me if I ‘liked’ the chaos of intense emotions and relationships which is something I really struggle with but is ironically something I seem to be drawn to as well- I do become obsessive about pretty much anything I’m interested in and I know I have to regulate myself a lot with any sort of social relationship because I can become too clingy or intense without realising it, and often it’s with similar types of people which can lead to very intense and volatile friendships which usually don’t last very long. ¬†But I think the two things kind of link- to an extent (and I hate admitting this), the ‘chaos’ is also kind of comfortable because once it’s at that point, you know it won’t get any more intense and you know what you’re dealing with whereas ‘normal’ friendships are a lot more confusing and hard to manage because you’re constantly scared of becoming too intense or annoying without realising it and the other person not wanting to be friends any more. ¬†This is something I’ve been working on A LOT over the last few years and *touch wood* I seem to be a lot more able to make actual friendships (rather than one-way annoyingness) than I used to be although it’s still pretty new and I’m still really nervous about messing it up.

I think I can say for certain that I definitely don’t ‘enjoy’ having mental health issues- yes, there are aspects that are ‘safer’ or feel more comfortable but overall there are way more negative aspects that I’d do basically anything to change or get rid of. I don’t like diagnoses because I think they’re limited and limiting but if I could wake up tomorrow and not have autism or personality disorder traits, I’d be willing to change anything to achieve it and I really am trying even if it doesn’t seem like it. I know everyone has aspects of life that are difficult and that life is never perfect but it’s the intensity of it that I hate and how it impacts on other people as well as just me.

Of Mice and Men- thoughts and reflections

Sorry for not keeping up with massively regular blog posts ūüė¶ been feeling v negative and rubbish over the last couple of weeks and haven’t had anything particularly positive to write about, and since this is meant to be a constructive (and honest) recovery blog there didn’t seem much point in writing about feeling horrible and down. ¬†It’s nothing major, just end of term rubbishness and a build up of feeling lonely and negative which I’m definitely working on but taking more time than I’d hoped.

I know this is going to seem like a bit of a random blog post but we’ve been reading Of Mice and Men with Year 9 at school over the last couple of months and I’ve found it really hard to read and talk about with the kids, and it’s got to the point where I feel rubbish for the rest of the day every time I’m in Year 9 English so I wanted to try to think more about it and process it so that next time we do it in class (this time next year), it hopefully won’t be as much of an issue. ¬†Plus I think it’s been adding to the general feeling rubbish recently which I really don’t like so want to try to work out why and how I can manage that better given that it really is just a fictional book! ¬†Quick disclaimer: I am going to talk about the whole book so spoiler alert if you haven’t read it and MASSIVE trigger alert for anyone affected by learning difficulties, autism or emotion regulation issues.

I read it for the first time last year when we studied it in class with the kids. ¬†It’s an easyish story to follow- set in 1930s America, there are two main characters called George and Lennie who work on a ranch to try to save enough money to get their own farm. ¬†George is a sharp, smart man whose ultimate goal is to own his own farm and live off the land and his friend/travelling companion Lennie who has a type of learning disability (it’s never really explained) and who is absolutely, 100% loyal and devoted to George. ¬†George protects Lennie; Lennie would do anything for George. ¬†But Lennie also finds it hard to recognise, manage and control his own emotions which is ultimately what gets him into trouble even though he doesn’t recognise it at the time. ¬†At the end of the book, Lennie gets into so much trouble that he is going to be lynched by the men on the ranch so George shoots him in the back of the head (without him realising) as an act of kindness and to save him from a much more painful death.

When we read it last year, there were lots of bits of the book that got to me- Lennie accidentally killing small animals by petting them too hard (made me feel really guilty), Candy’s dog getting shot because he was old, Lennie being left out because he didn’t have the same ‘urges’ as the other men (they go into town to play cards, drink and pick up women leaving Lennie behind), Lennie hurting Curley without meaning to because Curley provoked him and building up to the end of the book which is genuinely traumatic to read and makes me feel like someone’s physically punched me in the stomach and is twisting my insides into vertigo. ¬†Even though I know what’s coming, it’s still a visceral feeling and makes me shake and my eyes sting, and it’s hard not to cry even though I know I can’t in front of a class of 14 year olds.

In the last couple of scenes, Lennie is approached by Curley’s wife who is a seductive, lonely woman and who invites Lennie to stroke her hair. ¬†Lennie likes soft things and strokes it. ¬†I can’t remember all the details because I avoid reading this part of the book as much as possible (one teacher I work with is amazing and always warns me when we’re reading this part of the book so I can do work somewhere else for that lesson) but basically she shouts at him to stop, Lennie panics and holds tighter, he tries to stop her shouting but she’s trying to get away and he accidentally breaks her neck. ¬†Then he runs and hides in the brush (near the river) because that’s where George told him to hide and wait if he got into trouble. ¬†George hears about what has happened and goes to find Lennie. ¬†He knows that if the men on the ranch find him first, they will rip him to pieces so he makes the decision to shoot Lennie himself in a humane way so that Lennie won’t suffer or even know anything about it.

Last year, the bit that got to me the most was Lennie accidentally killing Curley’s wife- he genuinely didn’t mean to and he was actually trying to AVOID trouble at the time. ¬†He told her repeatedly to leave him alone and that he wasn’t meant to be talking to her but she kept on talking to him, and finally he lost control completely which really, really wasn’t his fault. ¬†It’s hard when you know that a situation isn’t safe and you need to escape but you can’t- it’s a horrible feeling and the more trapped you feel, the worse it gets and something builds up inside you until eventually you ‘snap’ and can’t control it any more, and it really is like an ‘animal’ urge takes over. ¬†I used to get like that a lot when I had more regular meltdowns and it really is horrible- you don’t really remember much about the actual experience but it’s horrible and exhausting. ¬†All I know is that I’m suddenly screaming, sweating massively, crying, pulling my hair out, banging my head against the door/cupboard/floor, biting or scratching myself or ANYTHING to try to get rid of the crazy intense emotion that seems to have taken over completely.

The only way to get rid of it is for the other person to leave you alone completely but that hardly ever happens and it’s genuinely horrible because you can’t speak or express anything coherently, and you know you’re acting totally irrationally but nothing seems to make sense. ¬†Thankfully I don’t experience it much any more but it still happens occasionally and I really, really hate it. ¬†That’s how I’m guessing Lennie felt at the time when he accidentally killed Curley’s wife, and the really horrible thing is that I can imagine how easily it could happen- I’m a 5 foot 4 relatively small woman who’s not that strong but Lennie in the book is described as massive and very strong, so I can see completely how easy it would have been for that to happen if he felt trapped and panicky. ¬†And I also know how horrible and guilty I feel after having a meltdown and that must have been multiplied a million times for Lennie, especially as he’s worried he’s going to lose his only friend who means more to him than absolutely anything else. ¬†So it’s a really, really horrible part of the book to read.

Weirdly when we read it this time, it was actually the next scene that got to me the most. When Lennie’s waiting in the brush, he starts to hallucinate and the visions he sees and hears are horrible, negative and critical. ¬†It’s like his version of the ‘bitch in my head’ and some of the things they say are almost word for word what the bitch in my head says (and is saying on a pretty much hourly basis atm), and that was really surreal and hard to read. ¬†The line that gets to me the most and that I can’t get out of my head atm is when the giant rabbit that Lennie hallucinates keeps telling him that George is going to leave him. ¬†This is the quote from the book:

“Well, he’s sick of you,” said the rabbit. “He’s gonna beat hell outa you an’ then go away an’ leave you.”

“He won’t,” Lennie cried frantically. “He won’t do nothing like that. I know George. Me an’ him travels together.”

But the rabbit repeated softly over and over, “He gonna leave you, ya crazy bastard. He gonna leave ya all alone. He gonna leave ya, crazy bastard.”

Just typing it makes me cry and I’ve got mega vertigo even thinking about it. ¬†Because it’s so bloody true, and I know it’s not just people with learning disabilities who can relate to that. ¬†I know I’m not the easiest person in the world to be friends with- I’m too intense, clingy, overly sensitive and even though I try not to act on it, people always get fed up with me and I hardly ever manage to keep close friends because of being too ‘much’. ¬†I lost my closest friend a couple of years ago (wrote a few blog posts about it last year- see¬†Friendships and mindfulness¬†and TOO MUCH EMOTION¬†especially) and since then I’ve realised that it’s pretty much impossible to form and keep close friendships because I’m always going to lose them, which is horrible and hard to accept but it’s definitely safer to recognise and try to accept it than keep losing friendships that I’ve accidentally got too attached to. ¬†But even though I can recognise that, it doesn’t stop it hurting and definitely doesn’t stop the paranoia about it which is particularly intense atm because of losing another close relationship a few months ago, and reading Lennie’s hallucinations which basically mirror my own ‘voices’ and paranoia was a bit too intense and surreal, especially as I’m already feeling more vertigo-y and rubbish than I was this time last year.

The other part of the ending of the novel that really got to my both last year and this year is George shooting Lennie. ¬†Last year, it got to me because of the more obvious reason- however ‘kind’ the action is, Lennie is being killed because he is ‘too much’ and can’t manage his own emotions, and I could identify with that way too much. ¬†When I read it for the first time last year, it made me feel rubbish and horrible because of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, people were fed up with me and it would be better for everyone if I didn’t exist and I still had those feelings this year but it was lot more intensified and with the added complexity that reading it a year on, I actually felt almost envious of Lennie and then felt massively guilty and horrible for feeling that. ¬†It’s really hard to explain and I feel really weird and guilty for trying to put it into words, but I do feel very, very jealous that Lennie has a friend as close as George is and who is willing to put his (Lennie’s) needs above his own feelings. ¬†I hadn’t really thought about George’s perspective on it before but we had to discuss it in class and he must have felt massively conflicted and guilty for effectively having to kill his best friend and probably the only genuine human connection he has. ¬†In class, the kids had to come up with what they thought would happen next (George gets his own ranch, George meets a girl and settles with a family, George continues to work at the ranch etc) but my main thought was that George would now be totally alone and probably wouldn’t be able to deal with the guilt and loneliness, and I honestly think he’d probably use the gun on himself. ¬†Which makes the ending of the book doubly sad and horrible to process.

The hardest thoughts I have about the end of the book though are definitely the horrible jealousy about Lennie and George’s relationship, and particularly Lennie’s death. ¬†Because at the moment, I’m totally aware that I’m constantly ‘too much’ for people and the only way that seems to work to manage that (the over-emotion, mood swings and obsessiveness) is through food and weight which annoyingly also seems to end up affecting other people and there genuinely doesn’t seem to be a ‘safe’ solution. ¬†I’m not saying I’d ‘do’ anything about it because that would also be ‘too much’ and affect other people (especially given that I work with kids) but Lennie is lucky in that he has a friend who is able to see the bigger picture and act in a way that is probably the safest and most humane way for him in the long term, and saves him future suffering. ¬†Obviously I know that that isn’t a practical solution but I really hate how it feeds into negative thought spirals that are so hard to manage.

I can rationalise the thoughts and I know it’s not a practical or helpful way to think but it’s been HORRIBLE recently trying to manage this amount and this intensity of negative thoughts about it while we’ve been reading the novel and especially having to watch the film (the ending twice). ¬†There was one lesson where I was feeling particularly rubbish already and genuinely couldn’t hold in crying which was really horrible and embarrassing, but luckily only one student noticed and he didn’t make a big deal out of it. ¬†It’s still really getting to me though and I can’t get the ‘rabbit voice’ out of my head. ¬†It’s pretty much how I feel about relationships in general- I know they’re fluid and not permanent but it’s so hard to actually accept that, and sometimes it seems easier not to get close to people at all because you know they’re going to get fed up with you, but at the same time it’s horrible and lonely when you don’t have any ‘real’ people contact outside of working with kids. ¬†But also better than losing close friendships which is the worst feeling in the world so a bit of a no-win situation! ¬†Which is maybe the point of the book?

Trying to end on a positive: even though I know that friendships often don’t last, it’s something I’m trying really, really hard to work on and awareness definitely a big step towards that. DBT skills are also really, really helpful in managing interpersonal relationships and wrote about that last year in a blog post called Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare with DBT skills– please read for more info! And will include a list of things I learned from that here because it’s definitely something I need to revisit:

1 Take every friendship at face value.  Don’t overthink it, make assumptions, have unrealistic or idealistic expectations, or make any judgements at all.  Try to take the friendship as it comes and use mindfulness or grounding techniques to manage anxiety.

2 Friendships are fluid and changing. ¬†There is no such thing as a ‚Äėbest friend‚Äô or ‚Äėforever friendship‚Äô, however amazing that would be. ¬†Enjoy the relationship when you can but don‚Äôt have any expectations that it will last forever. ¬†Practise ‚Äėbeginner‚Äôs mind‚Äô (seeing every experience¬†as the first time you‚Äôve experienced it, without any preconceptions or judgements) and don‚Äôt overthink it.

3 People change and that’s part of life.  If a friendship ends, it might not have anything to do with you whatsoever- the other person might have changed or moved on and THAT’S OK.  Growth is part of life and people move on at different rates.  That doesn’t make it any painful, but taking away the guilt or self-criticism will help you move on from it a lot more easily.

4 Be open with people.  Honesty and openness in relationships is the most important part of a healthy relationship and will reduce anxiety more than almost anything else.  Anxiety and particularly paranoia come from uncertainty and thrive in self-doubt or assumptions.  If you’ve got a gut reaction to something- check it out.  Don’t let it spiral into full-on paranoia or depression because then everything’s skewed through a fog of thoughts and judgements and you’re likely to damage the relationship without realising it.  Sounds cliched but if the other person’s worth being friends with, they’ll be honest with you.

5 TRUST.  This is one of the hardest ones for me and there’s different ways it’s relevant to friendships but the some of the key points are to trust that the friendship will still exist even if you’re not constantly contacting the other person, trust that the other person will be honest with you, and trust that the other person really does want to stay friends with you.  I find all of these really hard, especially the last one, but they’re so important and I think they get easier the more you do them…  It really relates back to the mindfulness idea and I’m trying really, really hard to use that in my current friendships.

Either way, I’m really, really glad we’ve finished reading it for this year and I don’t need to think about it for another ten months! ¬†Definitely not my favourite book but need to keep reminding myself that it was written in the 1930s and things have changed and improved A LOT since then thankfully…

Hope24 2017

WOW!! ¬†Ran the incredible Hope24 race last weekend and it was AMAZING ‚̧ just as awesome as last year (see¬†Hope24: a 24 hour run in Newnham Park, Devon). ¬†It’s a 24 hour race held in Devon and is my absolute favourite running event of all time- it’s got everything: day and night running, awesome scenery, woodland trails, bluebells, friendly and inclusive atmosphere, really well organised, technically challenging running but also suitable for beginner trail runners…basically everything you could want in a running event! ¬†MASSIVE thanks to Danny Slay for organising it ūüėÄ

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Started off a bit of an eventful weekend and wasn’t sure I was even going to get to Plymouth! ¬†Had had a bit of a rubbish week last week moodwise- several meltdowns, a pretty major paranoia attack and two panic attacks meaning that I hadn’t slept much at all during the week, and was really looking forward to 24 hours of just running. ¬†I left the house Friday evening to get the train to Birmingham and then to Plymouth, but just as I got to Birmingham Moor Street I realised I’d forgotten to bring medication with me. ¬†Sometimes that’s not a massive problem and I can manage a couple of days without it but given how unpredictable my moods and thoughts had been last week, I was a bit nervous about risking three days without quetiapine in particular. ¬†Luckily I was a bit early into Birmingham and went to a pharmacy to ask for advice; maybe not the best idea because the pharmacist basically told me not to go to Plymouth until I’d gone to a walk in centre to try to get a prescription or A+E to see a mental health liaison if they wouldn’t prescribe antipsychotics without a psychiatric report, but I really didn’t have time to find a walk in centre before the train and I didn’t want to waste A+E time. ¬†So I bought some herbal sedative tablets and some Nytol, and hoped that would do as a temporary measure until Sunday. ¬†Running’s a pretty good mood stabiliser anyway and I was going to be doing A LOT of that in the meantime!

So I finally got to the station and tried to get my tickets via the mobile app but it wouldn’t open. ¬†Don’t have the energy to go into it now and the whole thing seems a bit blurred and surreal because of panic, so am going to copy and paste my FB status from Friday night:¬†“NEVER try to book tickets with Cross Country online!!! ¬†Bought them in advance online because it was so much cheaper than the crazy expensive train fare, and it said I had to download the app to get the ticket in the ‘My tickets’ section. ¬†So I did but the app wouldn’t let me sign in even though I reset the password, deleted and redownloaded it several times and tried two different email addresses.

Then I thought I could use the website to get the ticket texted to my phone but after nine attempts of ‘Sorry, your request cannot be processed. Please try again later’ I decided to go to the ticket office at New Street and ask them. ¬†The first woman I spoke to and showed my phone looked at me like I was stupid (although to be fair, I probably looked ridiculous since I was shaking and trying not to hyperventilate or cry by that point) and said it wasn’t anything to do with her, she worked for Virgin not Cross Country and I had to phone the Cross Country helpline.

By this time it was 40 mins before the train and was starting to panic a bit, and I called the helpline. ¬†The first person I spoke to couldn’t understand anything I said (I couldn’t breathe properly and was stammering) and I felt horrible, and he kept repeating ‘I need to know the best way to help you’ over and over which made me feel worse, and I said sorry and hung up. ¬†Did some ‘breathe box’ exercises and tried again, but the next person couldn’t understand me either and put me on hold before I could try to explain properly.

Was really panicking by then and tried for a third time, but the guy on the phone said he couldn’t do anything and that I just needed to redownload the app. ¬†I tried to explain that I’d done that several times and that it wasn’t working, but he kept saying that he couldn’t help and I had to keep trying with the app, then he put me on hold without warning, and the phone cut out.

Was so so panicky by that point, 15 mins before the train was due and went back to the ticket office. ¬†The woman said she couldn’t help and that I needed to keep calling the helpline, and I was so shaky, hot and dangerously close to crying by then that I just said thanks and went out again. ¬†Then I really did start crying and hyperventilating, and started doing the breathing again and pinging a hair tie on my wrist to try to calm down.
There was a woman standing with a Virgin uniform near the ticket machines and I went over to her, and tried to explain the whole situation which was pretty difficult since I was trying really hard not to cry too much, shaking and couldn’t speak properly. ¬†Luckily she’d seen me going in to the ticket office a few times and on the phone, and she was so so nice and calm which REALLY helped and was so amazing of her.

She looked at my phone and said she would talk to the train manager and explain that the app wasn’t working, and took me down to the platform. ¬†She was genuinely amazing and talked about her own experiences with trains/buses and how frustrating it can be, and made me feel like I wasn’t a totally weird freak for panicking like that which was so so nice of her. S he spoke to the manager who said it was fine just to use the confirmation on my phone, and I got the train OK. SERIOUSLY relieved and so so grateful to her!!

If anyone knows a woman called Sarah who works for Virgin trains at New Street station, PLEASE tell her how amazing she is and that she deserves a pay rise!! ¬†Seriously don’t know what I’d have done if she hadn’t helped, and she was so amazing, calm and kind even though I probably seemed like a more of a weird, panicky freak than I usually do! ¬†Am so so grateful and going to drop a box of chocolates into the station next time I’m there.”

So I finally got to Plymouth (!) and found the B+B I’d booked. ¬†It was late so the woman had left a key in a plant pot for me which was a relief because I didn’t have to speak to anyone (still jittery), took some Nytol and went to bed. ¬†Found it hard to sleep and I’m not sure if it was because of nerves, anxiety, excitement or lack of quetiapine (or a combination of all of them!) and semi-dozed until it was time to get up. ¬†Then I started to get seriously excited about the run, ate porridge and packed my CRAZY amount of food for the tent:

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Had the usual ironic giggle at the fact that I always have peanut butter during ultras (MONDAY MORNING PEANUTS!! ¬†This won’t mean much to anyone who didn’t happen to be inpatient at WB in the mid-00s, but the apparent normality of a bag of salted peanuts at 10am on a Monday morning before going to the gym is something I don’t think any of us can forget!), and waited outside for a running friend to pick me up and give me a lift to the event (THANK YOU again!). ¬†One of the things I absolutely love about ultras is how incredible the people are- even people you’ve only met one at an event a couple of years previously are like family, and everyone’s so amazing and accepting. ¬†Then I set up the tent with food stores and lots of extra layers (turned out to be essential!!) and wandered round to the start line. ¬†There were a few people I recognised from last year and from other events which was really nice, and started to get really excited about the start. ¬†The atmosphere was incredible ūüôā it’s the most inclusive race ever and people are so lovely, and the supporters are amazing without being overwhelming which is also incredible.

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The first mile was pretty much the same as last year’s course: a ‘gentle’ uphill to the top of a field, although it looped round and up this year instead of straight up which was a nice change and gave your legs more time to adjust. ¬†There were sheep and lambs like last year, and the views from the top of the hill were incredible. ¬†I was lucky to meet up with a woman I got to know during the run last year and who is incredible, and we ran the first couple of laps together which was really nice (thank you!!). ¬†It was so nice to catch up and really didn’t feel like I’d only met her once a year ago, felt like we’d known each other forever! ¬†Made the first couple of laps go past really quickly, and I decided to use the third lap as a ‘photography’ lap because the scenery was so amazing.

After the hill, the course went through a woodland trail with lots of bluebells which was so pretty and my favourite part of the course. ¬†There was a short section where you run through tall trees and it feels surreal and magical, like running through an enchanted wood of some sort. ¬†The path was easy to run on (at that point) and there was a heavy woodland air that you could feel as well as breathe, and the smell of bluebells was incredible. ¬†Could run that part forever! ¬†Then the path opened onto a short stretch across a field and back into the woods, although the second woodland stretch was more ‘busy’ and less magical stillness than the first one. ¬†The trees were smaller and leafier with branches bending down towards to path or overhanging, and it felt like the kind of wood you’d make treehouses or go for long walks in. ¬†It was a bit trickier to run because of roots and rocks but there were bluebells everywhere and it felt like you were really in spring. ¬†So, so pretty!!

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After a mostly downhill wooded trail, the course looped back around a relatively flat pathway before back up onto wooded trail again and spilling down the hill towards the campsite.  I loved the last mile: undulating wooded path along the side of a hill with glimpses of the tents through the trees then running down an open hillside towards the campsite.  Really did feel like coming back home at the end!  After that lap, I made a quick pitstop at my tent (which felt like a sauna and my peanut butter had melted!), ate  few spoonfuls of PB and grabbed a few cereal bars for my water pack.  Refilled water then back out for another lap of awesomeness.

I was feeling pretty amazing by this point: getting into the rhythm of running, loving the scenery, connecting with God and my Granda Sam through bluebells and trees, and best of all the bitch in my head seemed to have taken a nap and was nearly totally silent throughout the whole run!! ¬†The last few races I’ve done, she’s been a bit quieter but still annoyingly there, but for the first time in probably about six months she seemed to have shut up completely and my brain was relatively quiet for the first time in AGES. ¬†It felt AMAZING; I could think more clearly, everything seemed slowed down and manageable, and I felt calm and connected with everything instead of jittery-hyped or detached. ¬†It really was an incredible feeling. ¬†I decided to put Bowie’s Lazarus soundtrack on my iPod (I saw the musical last year and it was the most amazing stage show I’ve ever seen, even if it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time) and ran continuously until the album had finished. ¬†And then amazingly, the meaning of the music started to make sense and it felt like Bowie was actually talking to me through the lyrics and the way the actors sang the words. ¬†Won’t bore readers with too much pseudo-significant Bowie, but some things seemed really important:

  • Your only reality is your own. ¬†You just need to come to peace with your own thoughts and learn to accept them without having to react or act on them.
  • Sometimes the most helpful and influential people in your life only exist in your own head.
  • Judging yourself is so much worse than other people’s judgments. ¬†People are selfish and inevitably caught up in their own lives- any judgment on you is a passing comment whereas self-judgment is a poisonous seed that can control your mind from within.
  • The only true way to escape the reality of life is to fully accept it. ¬†Any attempts to escape or numb it only lead to more suffering.
  • “We can be heroes. ¬†Just for one day.” ¬†The second part of that quote is the most important part: anyone¬†can be a hero in any given moment if you only focus fully on that particular moment and don’t¬†have the pressure of trying to be a ‘hero’ for a lifetime. ¬†The ‘we’ is also important: ANYONE can be a ‘hero’ if they learn to make peace with their own mind in order to escape its control. ¬†And that’s pretty much my mantra for running: accept the run for what it is, try as hard as you can but don’t put pressure on yourself to achieve any particular time/distance, relax into it. ¬†Metaphor for running and for life!

Anyway, Bowie aside…!! ¬†It started to rain towards the end of that lap so I put on my first layer of waterproof, ate a cereal bar and carried on. ¬†Unfortunately the rain got gradually heavier until by the time it was dark enough to need head torches, it was pretty much impossible to see properly and I was on my fourth layer of waterproofs. ¬†That lap was genuinely terrifying :/ I could hardly see at all (my headtorch isn’t brilliantly strong to start off with but my glasses were covered with rain so really hard to see through, and it was very, very muddy). ¬†The first part of the lap wasn’t too bad going across the field, but going into the woods was very, very muddy and hard to navigate. ¬†I was slipping all over the place and trying not to fall by grabbing onto tree branches, and tiptoe/climbing rather than even walking! ¬†It was so, so scary on my own, and started to panic which really didn’t help because I was genuinely convinced I was going to die of saturation, hypothermia or falling in mud.

Then halfway through the lap (and thankfully before the main downhill part of the route), I met a running friend who had walking poles and a VERY strong headtorch, and asked if I could stick with him for the rest of the route. ¬†He was amazing and basically let me walk right behind him so I could see where he’d put his feet, and pointed out any roots or rocks with his poles. ¬†Made such a massive difference and felt so much safer with someone else there. ¬†I was starting to have a bit of an ethical dilemma about what to do: I REALLY didn’t feel safe carrying on with that amount of mud and poor visibility but I felt too guilty to stop until it got light, and I knew that if I took a break, I’d never get going again. ¬†I was feeling really trapped and stuck, and still wasn’t sure what to do by the end of the lap but thankfully when we got back to the campsite, the race had been postponed because of the conditions. ¬†I had genuinely never been so relieved in my life and felt like crying with relief!

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They said they were going to reassess in an hour, so I went back to my tent which was SOAKED- the inside was about as wet as outside with rain and condensation and I was FREEZING. ¬†I couldn’t stay inside the tent any longer so I took my blanket and hot water bottle to where the friend who’d given me a lift had a gazebo and a FIRE with other runners from his running club. ¬†I sat as close to the fire as I physically could in an attempt to warm up, and made some porridge which tasted amazing. ¬†Then we found out that the race organiser had made the very difficult decision to postpone the race until it was light (5am) and would be safer for running. ¬†It must have been a very, very difficult decision to make but absolutely the right one. ¬†Most people went back to tents (or home if they were local) to get some sleep, but my tent was so wet and cold that even being in it felt like I was going to die of hypothermia and I couldn’t stop shivering so I went back to the main marquee.

Got chatting to some amazing people in the marquee including the race organiser’s partner who was INCREDIBLE. ¬†She was lovely and so friendly, and we work in similar jobs so had a really nice chat about that (and I ranted a bit about fidget spinners which had been driving me up the wall all week at school!). ¬†I was so so cold and she let me sit in front of the heater, then gave me a buff and said I could curl up on a mat in the marquee which was so so nice of her and amazing; I had my blanket so curled up like a hamster with the hot water bottle and the buff made such a massive difference to the amount of heat I must have been losing from my head. ¬†Thank you so much!!! ¬†Stayed there till the race restarted, then went back to my tent to drop off the blanket.

It was so, so hard to motivate to start up again because it was still freezing and wet, but I put on my hoodie (which was still damp but had been in front of the heater so not too bad), got a coffee and decided to walk a lap to see how I felt. ¬†After a mile or so, I felt a lot better and started to get back into the running again. ¬†Early morning is my absolute favourite time of day and the sky was so clear that you’d hardly believe the weather from the night before. ¬†It was still very muddy and slippery (although I only fell over once!), but a lot better now you could see properly. ¬†Running through the tall tree woods with early morning mist felt like a newborn Narnia, and the stillness was incredible. ¬†The damp in the greener woods made it feel like the world was coming back to life, and you could hear birds tweeting and lambs bleating. ¬†Seriously amazing feeling! ¬†Felt so ‘real’ and connected.

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The hardest part about the enforced break was that the cold and damp had made my muscles seize up a bit, and one of my knees was a bit ‘creaky’. ¬†It got better as the morning went on though, and soon it felt almost summer-like hot as the sun came out properly. ¬†My body doesn’t deal particularly well with temperature extremes and coming up to midday, I was starting to feel a bit ill with hands and feel still freezing numb but my body starting to overheat, but I’m not sure how much of that was linked to two days off quetiapine (I’d had similar symptoms when I stopped taking it last year) so I took some paracetamol and Nytol, and that helped a bit. ¬†The buff was amazing and really helped to stop my head from overheating! ¬†Definitely going to use it again next ultra…

The last couple of laps were hard because by then, I was totally exhausted and feeling the effects of no sleep and the damp cold. ¬†But I was also feeling amazing; my brain was still quiet, I hadn’t had any obsessive or paranoid thoughts for nearly 24 hours and I was feeling calm and connected. ¬†I even managed to finish on 13 laps which would usually be an absolute NO for me (12 or 14; odd numbers are unlucky and 13 is about as bad as it can get) which meant that ironically I came 13th place out of 148 female solo runners which I was MASSIVELY happy with. ¬†Feeling a bit edgy about the 13 laps now though and thinking it as 65 miles doesn’t help either because it’s still an odd number and it’s 13 x 5, but at the time I had the horrible thought that I shouldn’t finish on 13 and needed to push for 14 but amazingly it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t bother me that much, which was amazing in itself. ¬†Although if I lose a friend or really upset someone this week without realising it, that will be why… ¬†Need to be super careful and I am being; have taken my usual anti-paranoia precautions on social media so I *touch wood* shouldn’t do anything stupid or impulsive. ¬†Still can’t believe I ran 13 laps!! ¬†Also really cool because last year I ran 16 in 24 hours and we lost 6 1/2 hours this year because the race was postponed, so actually ran ‘more’ in the time than I did last year! ¬†MEGA achievement for so many reasons ūüôā

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MASSIVE thanks to all the organisers and marshals for such an incredible event, and to all the awesome people I met over the weekend and who were so amazing and supportive. ¬†THANK YOU ALL and can’t wait till next year!!! ūüėÄ

Lent Day Three- tough day :/

Day three of Lent and starting to really struggle with feeling full ALL THE TIME.  Found it really hard to motivate to getting out of bed this morning :/ felt totally drained and disgusting, like someone had sapped all my energy and replaced it with heaviness and sludge.  Not nice!!  I literally had to force my body into moving through the motions this morning- coffee first, shower, putting on one item of clothing at a time and really had to concentrate to make sure I actually remembered everything.

Was running late so didn’t really have time to think about porridge which was probably a good thing- made instant porridge and ate it quickly because I hate being late for work. ¬†Didn’t even have time to think about eating when I wasn’t hungry and it was only halfway to work it suddenly hit me! ¬†But by then I was stressed about being late, feeling anxious and trying to manage lots of ‘rule-type’ thoughts which always seem worse when I’m late (radio volume on an even number, swallowing even number of times, making sure I could see exactly half my left eye in the rear view mirror, not looking at the clock at 8.13 and when I did accidentally, having to look at the clock even more times on 8.14 etc) and didn’t have enough brain space to worry about the porridge too.

When I got to school, I had a pretty full-on morning with some of my favourite but challenging classes and I was so exhausted by breaktime that I actually really needed the banana energy boost. ¬†Was really busy again right up to lunchtime, and didn’t have time to worry about how I was going to manage the baked beans and bread. ¬†I was so, so nervous about it- partly the logistics of making and eating it (is it OK to eat food with a knife and fork at lunchtime? and is it OK to do that in the staffroom?) and partly in case someone commented on it and that would make me feel even more anxious and self-conscious, but luckily it’s Friday today and not many people around (lots of staff are part-time) so there were only two other people in the staffroom anyway. ¬†I decided not to risk toasting the break because getting the toaster out and plugged in would draw attention to it and I was nervous enough anyway, so I had bread with cold baked beans.

I felt really sick when I started to eat it and felt full almost immediately, and I really wanted to just eat the beans and leave the bread but I know that would be cheating and would defeat the point of following the meal plan, so I forced myself to eat a few beans at a time then cut the bread into small pieces and ate them too. ¬†Felt like I was going to explode by the time I’d finished and my stomach was bloated and uncomfortable, which was really horrible. ¬†I had a horrible, intense urge to throw up and was very close to going to the toilet but the bell rang and the child I work with in the afternoon was waiting at the staffroom door so I couldn’t. ¬†I felt really trapped and jittery but Friday afternoons are one-to-one work with a child I mentor so couldn’t do anything about it which was really, really horrible.

Then the bitch in my head started up, saying I shouldn’t have eaten it and didn’t need it, beans are OK on their own and bread is another meal in itself so I’d basically had two meals in one which was really, really greedy especially after the banana at break, feeling full is my body’s way of telling me I’ve eaten too much and I was really selfish for ignoring that and eating anyway, I’m a disgusting bitch and that’s why people don’t like me… ¬†I couldn’t challenge her with a child in front of me and ignoring her isn’t really an option because she just gets louder, so I dug the staffroom key hard into my hand (inside my fist so the child couldn’t see) and bit my tongue, and the pain helped to distract enough that she started to quieten down a bit.

It’s a pretty intense afternoon doing one-to-one work which really helped to distract from how I was feeling. ¬†The lesson went OK but way too quickly (I love working intensively with kids because takes so much energy and when I’m jittery-hyped, it’s a great way to channel it positively and the kids really seem to respond well to that), and I stayed late after school to write up notes to try to calm down a bit before going home. ¬†I still felt really bloated when I got home and it’s the first time I’ve seriously considered missing food from the meal plan. ¬†I felt SO FULL and horrible, and I’d got pretty bad heartburn as well which really didn’t help. ¬†I couldn’t face a yogurt so ate some dates instead (needed an energy boost) and played Minecraft for a while to try to distract from feeling sick.

I hate evenings- my mood and energy levels seem to crash and it’s hard to focus on anything properly. ¬†Friday evenings are the worst because I don’t even have school the next day and my anxiety’s really high without structure, and because I don’t ‘have’ to do anything which is really difficult to deal with. ¬†Had to force myself to eat tea again and felt even worse afterwards, and I just wanted to binge then purge it all out, stop feeling so disgusting and bloated and escape form my body for a while. ¬†But I’ve decided to follow the contract for the next 37 days and that means NO BINGEING, and I can’t break the main rule. ¬†My brain’s been spinning all evening :/ trying to manage intense binge urges while the bitch in my head is screaming at me for messing everything up, being a disgusting lazy bitch, making myself even more fat so people will think I’m even more selfish than they already do etc is bloody hard and I am EXHAUSTED.

Still feel like my stomach’s forcing my clothes to stretch and I’m so scared none of my clothes will fit by Monday. ¬†What if I genuinely have nothing to wear? ¬†What if I get so fat people don’t recognise me? ¬†What if the kids say something? ¬†Feeling disgusting and so horrible, and it’s really hard trying to rationalise it and stick to the plan. ¬†Only three days in and it’s BLOODY HARD. ¬†But I managed two years as an inpatient on a much more difficult diet than this one (WAY more food and variety) and didn’t die, so I know rationally that it IS possible. ¬†Just need to keep trying…

National Poetry Day 2016

Yesterday was National Poetry Day in the UK and I forgot to post a poem, so posting one today which is partly influenced by the Bad Girls convention I went to last weekend and which I’m in the middle of writing a blog post about.  Hope you enjoy it!

“How does hate swing through fixation into love, or something like? So if she drives by in the
family car I want to part the traffic
like a sea for her-“
– ‚ÄėClodia‚Äô, Tiffany Atkinson
 
There are times when the body
doesn’t make sense. A sudden heart-
jolt, stomach-swoop at the wrong time,
obsession you don’t want to start.
How does hate swing through fixation into love?
 
I know that I shouldn’t like her.
She’s so smart, strong, complex and free:
everything that I’m not. And yet
why do I need her to need me,
or something like? So if she drives by in the
 
pouring rain, I’m in the road, soaked.
She’s in the blueprint of my mind,
my default thoughts, pulling feelings
like gravity. If I’m behind
her family car I want to part the traffic.
 
It’s visceral; my blood beats with
emotions I don’t understand,
a vertigo of confusion.
Love-hate crashes like waves on sand,
like a sea for her.

Quick apology post!

Hi, just a quick post to apologise for the fact that I haven’t posted in months! ¬†had a bit of a rubbish summer, decided to try to come off medication because I was fed up with the side effects and feeling rubbish for relying on drugs which really wasn’t a good idea and my mood started swinging from totally jittery-hyped to wanting to not exist on a nearly daily basis which was exhausting and nearly lost any friendships or close relationships I actually have. ¬†So I’m taking them again and have just about settled back into ‘normal’ or whatever that means when you’re on high doses of psychiatric meds! ¬†But I feel ‘real’ again, my mood’s more stable and I’m nowhere near as paranoid as I was over the summer so definitely a good thing. ¬†And am hoping to get back on track with blogging! ¬†Sorry again for disappearing off the face of the blogosphere ūüėČ

Horcruxes

Just a short post today because my brain is frazzled, I’ve been awake pretty much consistently for the last four days, got up at 2am this morning and keep needing to remind myself where I am, why and what day it is! ¬†Been a bit of a stressful week, feeling rubbish and getting meds withdrawals (on day five without them) so actually writing this feels like processing thoughts through peanut butter but I really want to get one last Harry Potter post in before the Cursed Child release at midnight tonight!!

So, Horcruxes. ¬†I realise this is a bit of a random topic to write about but the more I’ve been thinking about the bitch in my head and how I’m trying to manage her constant arguments and influence, the more I’m realising that it’s closer to the concept of Horcruxes than I’ve ever thought about. ¬†It’s taken a while to conceptualise the horrible thoughts, urges and brain arguments as anything other than just ‘me’ being a horrible person and for the last year or so, I’ve seen it as a ‘bitch in my head’ (see¬†Inside my head‚Ķ¬†for a proper explanation about that) and she has direct access to my thoughts, feelings and urges which I need to identify and try to manage, and one of the ways I’ve found useful for that is through¬†Occlumency¬†and other strategies from Harry Potter which I wrote about in¬†Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, Part One: HARRY POTTER.

Thinking about that made me realise that the bitch in my head is actually close to a Horcrux- a part of someone else’s soul which is evil and sometimes takes control of my thoughts and emotions in a way that I don’t like but, importantly, it ISN’T PART OF ME. ¬†This is really, really important as a way of conceptualising it which has taken a long time to actually accept and try to believe- when I have paranoid, obsessive thoughts about other people or about myself, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a horrible person because I try really hard not to act on the thoughts/urges and I don’t want them in my head, and that means that there must be a ‘me’ outside of those thoughts/feelings/urges that ISN’T weird, obsessive or horrible and that’s the part I want to keep and is actually ‘me’.

Not sure if that makes sense? ¬†I started to realise it after a conversation with a friend I’ve known for years but don’t get to meet up with that often, and who is someone I really look up to and trust. ¬†We met for coffee a couple of months ago and she was talking about spirituality and the idea of a ‘still space’ inside you which is the part you need to connect with and that doesn’t judge or anything like that, and I really liked the concept even if I still don’t fully understand it. ¬†When I knew her ten years ago, she recommended Paulo Coelho’s books which I read and loved, especially Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes which taught me that it’s OK to be different and not fit in, and that ‘normal’ is relative and actually conformity is the worst thing people can do because it goes against the natural ‘self’ and who you actually are. ¬†There are so many amazing quotes from those books and I’ll list a few which I found really useful at that time (and still do now):

“You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you.”

‚ÄúHaven’t you learned anything, not even with the approach of death? Stop thinking all the time that you’re in the way, that you’re bothering the person next to you. If people don’t like it, they can complain. And if they don’t have the courage to complain, that’s their problem.‚ÄĚ ¬†(THIS IS SO IMPORTANT AND TRUE!)

‚ÄúWe all live in our own world. But if you look up at the starry sky – you’ll see that all the different worlds up there combine to form constellations, solar systems, galaxies.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWhen I took the pills, I wanted to kill someone I hated. I didn’t know that other Veronikas existed inside me, Veronikas that I could love.‚ÄĚ ¬†(Kill the Horcrux, not yourself)

‚ÄúAt every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThat‚Äôs why I‚Äôm telling you: don‚Äôt get used to it, because it‚Äôs very easy to become habituated; it‚Äôs a very powerful drug. It‚Äôs in our daily lives, in our hidden suffering, in the sacrifices we make, blaming love for the destruction of our dreams. Pain is frightening when it shows its real face, but it‚Äôs seductive when it comes disguised as sacrifice or self-denial. Or cowardice. However much we may reject it, we human being always find a way of being with pain, of flirting with it and making it part of our lives.‚ÄĚ ¬†I’ve put part of this in bold because when I first read it aged 19, I could identify with it so strongly and wrote an intense diary entry about it which I’ve since lost which is maybe a good thing but I would be interested to re-read it. ¬†Definitely worth a blog post at some point…

Having written out those quotes, I really want to re-read Paulo Coelho now and I think it deserves several blog posts of its own! ¬†But the point I’m trying to get clear in my head is that ten years ago, the realisations I got from reading Paulo Coelho probably set the framework for the way I’m thinking about the bitch in my head and Horcruxes now, and it’s amazing how your thought processes can grow and develop over your lifetime. ¬†The recent conversation with my friend (which was actually one of the first proper conversations I’ve had with her in ten years which is pretty incredible considering how much I’ve learned from her and how much she’s influenced how I view my life probably without even realising it) has helped to solidify it and she mentioned some more spirituality-type books which I’m going to read and hopefully be able to learn from… ¬†I really like the idea of connecting with a part of ‘you’ which isn’t the obsessive, paranoid part and I think it’s similar to the way you sort of ‘zone out’ in a good way during long runs and get an amazing feeling of freedom and calm- trying to learn to manage that without having to run 40 miles first!

Sorry this is a bit of a rambling post, brain really not focussing clearly at the moment but I wanted to try to explore a bit the idea of Horcruxes and how Occlumency can be useful in trying to stop the direct access to thoughts and emotions. ¬†It links to Paulo Coelho because it’s a lot like mindfulness- focussing on the present, trying to ‘close your mind’ to paranoid or obsessive thoughts, not fixating or focussing on them. ¬†Harry uses mindfulness consciously in Deathly Hallows when he tries to stay fully ‘present’ as a way to stop Voldemort being able to access his mind and to manage pain or intense emotions that aren’t his own, and this is really useful to learn from and apply in a DBT-type way to managing thoughts or intense emotions from the bitch/Horcrux in your head. ¬†Will try to expand on it when my brain’s a bit more functional but wanted to introduce it as a concept! ¬†Hope at least some of it makes sense ūüôā