Well, it’s been a while.
Truthfully, I haven’t had all that much to say. Things are somewhat turbulent: inwardly, outwardly, and in all of the grey spaces in between. However, I suppose I owe it to my sanity to start writing out some thoughts again. I originally started to write this as a means for family and friends to keep up to date with how I’m progressing as well as trying to explain what the fuck is going on inside my head, but I’ve somehow managed to gather some other readers along the way through various sources. Thank you to all of you who have read it that have got in touch in one way or another to give me your thoughts and praise on speaking openly about my experiences – particularly those who I never thought would even give it a read! So, I also owe it to you all to make an update.
I began to write about my experience of the type(s) of therapy I have been in receipt of, all well as about my diagnoses and how these impact my life. In summary, I have had CBT (with ERP for my OCD) as well as EDMR and have remained unmedicated throughout this. I have now been discharged by my local CMHT* and am no longer receiving therapy for trauma. For the latter, I’m looking into what other options might be available to me as I’m feeling like I’ve been left out in the cold slightly.
My experience of CBT with Anxiety and Agoraphobia has been overall positive, although I still continue to work on this in my own time as much as patience will allow. It’ll be an ongoing process, but I feel in a much better place in dealing with my anxieties and my issues relating to being outside. I’m getting back into being able to go out, and have been going out alone which may not sound like much to the average Joe (or me, pre-December 2016), but I’m actually pretty pleased with myself. I wouldn’t say I’m back to my full abilities, and there are still times where I have been out that I feel that familiar rush to the head and the resulting waves of nausea and sheer panic… but I’m dealing.
CBT (with ERP) for OCD has been interesting. Anyone who knows me on a personal level will know I’m a stubborn fucker to say the least – that’s not even an exaggeration, I was recently told by a friend that I’m “the most infuriating little shit” they’ve ever met, and I couldn’t agree more. I found this process really difficult, and I was quite reluctant a lot of the time to put my full effort into it. With having a somewhat addictive personality to start with, trying to stop compulsive behaviour seemed like an impossible task and that was quite a disheartening realisation on my part. I think in truth, I was scared. I knew what I was doing (obsessive personal washing/cleaning, obsessive scratching/scrubbing of skin, avoidance of human -particularly male- contact) from the start; I recognised the behaviour was odd and frankly, damaging both physically and mentally. Yet, it was a relief to me. I needed it, as it the time it was my only coping strategy for what had happened to make me feel this way. It’s taken a lot of time and energy, frustration, anger, and upset amongst others on my part (and my lovely friends who have helped), but I’m getting a pretty good grasp on how to counter my intrusive thoughts and compulsions. I still find myself going to react sometimes, but I recognise the thought process and know how to break it down now to deal with it better. Recently, I’ve been exposing myself to travelling on the Underground system again to help with my Agoraphobia, and how found this to be very triggering for my OCD. So many people and hands, and no way of escape if someone touches me. True despair. With extreme cases like that, I have to back away or remove myself from the situation momentarily to almost psych myself up. But it’s working, and I’m getting there.
Now, I’ve saved the worst for last: PTSD. PTSD is the worst fucking thing I could ever imagine experiencing, and I think anyone that is reading this (I know a few of you who are) that has experience of this will understand. Before my diagnosis, I ignorantly kind of thought of PTSD as something only Military and Service people experienced. I mean, what else could be so horrific to trigger that kind of response in a person? Well, unfortunately now I know. I’m going to be brutally honest to say, I’m not coping at all with this. In fact, I’m struggling. CBT was soon found to be a direction of treatment that was not working for me whatsoever, so we moved on to EMDR. I struggled to take it seriously to be honest, and if you’ve got an idea of the process you’ll get why. It sounds crazy, and I had little faith that it would help. Yet,weirdly, it did. I don’t know how, and I can’t really explain it, but I felt a disconnection between my emotional responses when recalling the event. Sadly, as most good things do… It came to an end. My sessions were up, having already been extended to try this treatment. So now I’m looking into my other options which you would think would be easy… Alas, not so much. I’ve reverted back to struggling; I’m trying as many self-help methods as I can, I’m involving those closest to me for help, I’m talking about it but it still isn’t doing anything. My flashbacks are still so intense – sometimes they don’t recall the event, sometimes I just relive the emotions of it and that can be just as if not more traumatising. When I do sleep (as most of you know I’m a long standing chronic insomniac, shout out to my ten year anniversary!) I’m woken by nightmares, voices, sounds, smells that are so vivid I can’t tell if it’s happening all over again. What do you even do with that? I think I’ll always experience these to an extent for all my days, but I would just love more than anything to be able to cope with it.
My personal life is somewhat upside down and inside out. I don’t really know what is happening with that. I’ve made a lot of mistakes with people due to my erratic behaviour which I only understand and can reflect on when I’m baseline, but by then it’s too late to do anything but accept the damage I’ve done. It’s a horrible feeling, but I deserve it. I’m eternally and cosmically grateful to the wonderful people in my life who I have tried and tried to push away to spare them from dealing with all my madness, and yet somehow they’ve stayed. They’ve stayed only to tell me they’re not going anywhere. I can recall a conversation from a couple of weeks ago in probably one of my bleakest moments with one of my most very best friends. After a particularly low and rough time, I decided that there seemed no other option for me than to give up. Yes, I’m talking about what you think I am – and before you say it, yes I know how stupid and selfish that was so do spare me the lecture! I can assure I’ve had it ten times already from various sources (YOOHOO, HI FAMILY) but in truth at that time there really did seem like no other option and to be in that mindset is an incredibly complicated and lonely place to be. So, failed attempt done and dusted and back at our house feeling pretty embarrassed and worse for wear, I was having a bit of a pathetic sob next to one of my best friends to who, I was yet again trying to push away only to be told by him, “Give yourself a fucking shake, I’m not going anywhere no matter what you say or do”. That has, and probably will stick with me for a very long time to come.
Following the events of the beginning of the year, I’ve found myself feeling like a burden to a lot of connections in my life and whether rightly or (most likely) wrongly, I’ve had to let some go for what I believe to be their sake. I’ve done a lot of this in very mixed mindsets, but by the time I feel a little more placid the damage is done. My behaviour has become increasingly complex, particularly with those I feel most strongly about, and if I’m honest I can’t really seem to explain it. In one of my last therapy sessions, I asked my therapist why on Earth I engage in this kind of self-destructive behaviour. She replied with the theory that due to my daddy issues (don’t worry Phil, not you, but didn’t we all already know that?) my subconscious fear of abandonment has left me feeling like I need to end strong emotional attachments with people before they have the chance to leave me – AKA, the ultimate defence mechanism. Now, it remains to be seen whether that is true and I’m unsure how fully I believe it (although others seem to agree with it completely), but I can certainly understand and appreciate the idea. Regardless, my actions have been truly regrettable in this respect and why I really, truly love and respect the people who fight back at me with the determination to stay. But, a thousand times over – I’m sorry, I am, for what I’ve done in the moments that I’m not sure who I’ve been. It doesn’t excuse it, nor does it solve it, but I’m truly sincerely truthful in my apology to the individuals that this applies to and know that if I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat.
I called this post “Movement” because that’s where I am really. I don’t know if I’m moving forwards, I don’t think I’m moving backwards, but there is Movement and that’s better than being stuck still. I’ve been reading The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath lately. I’ve always loved her, but with my circumstances in relation to Mental Health, I really do feel an affinity with her and her writing. A particular quote of hers that I came across struck a chord with me, and found a sense of comfort in it:
“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”