A week to go

November 21, 2013

I move in a week. I was offered a housing association flat. It’s very nice. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it is a bit further away from the area I would prefer to live in but that’s it and that’s not a huge deal. It’s a secure tenancy, my own place that I can’t be chucked out from at the whim of a private landlord, not a high rise, it has huge rooms, it’s on the first floor which is perfect, my new neighbours seem nice, the bathroom and kitchen are nearly new, the rent is so cheap and I’ve had it painted and put in new flooring so it looks great. I should be so excited and pleased but instead I wish it wasn’t happening. I can’t find any enthusiasm for it at all.

I shouldn’t be so ungrateful. I want this to be over and just stay in my little flat without having to go through any of this. I’m worried I’ll hate the new flat and it was unwise to put all this money into it. I’m worried that I’ve forgotten really important things that I will kick myself about and that people will laugh at me about. I’m stressed and tired. I feel like I am haemorrhaging money. I’m worried I’m going to regret all these decisions that I keep having to make.

I need a plan of what I still need to pack so I can work out if I can have a day off. Still to do:

  • hall cupboard
  • last CDs
  • eight kitchens cupboards and one drawer
  • stereo and TV
  • desk drawers
  • computer
  • clothes and shoes
  • lamps
  • pictures

Plan:

  • Thursday: get delivery, clean out fridge and microwave, hall cupboard, last CDs and one kitchen cupboard
  • Friday: take shoes to charity shop, go to supermarket, wash landlord’s dishes, four kitchen cupboards, get O to get boxes down from high cupboard
  • Saturday: clothes and shoes, pictures, lamps
  • Sunday: take clothes and shoes, pictures and lamps to new flat
  • Monday: three kitchen cupboards
  • Tuesday: stereo, desk drawers
  • Wednesay: last loads of washing, TV and computer, finish up anything left over

 

I’ll have to push some of one day into another day if I want a day off. Also need to get the cooker delivered one day which will be a wait down at the new flat plus should clean the bathroom. This is more than I thought oh god.


I’m holding it together

July 20, 2013

Kind of. I’m doing a lot better. Been going out and seeing people. The last few weeks have felt like they lasted a long time and that I have done things in a lot of the days. I write them down in my mood diary on my phone. In the months over the winter and spring, the days and weeks just blurred past and I didn’t even notice.

I’ve been feeling self-destructive and have thoughts about hurting myself and sometimes about killing myself. If I think about the future, I still go down the old path of thoughts where I end thinking that I have no choice but to kill myself and that I should just get on with it. But it’s not every day and the last time I had a few days of thinking I should kill myself I was also thinking “maybe I have PMS, maybe this is just PMS” which is actually pretty new for me. This all feels pretty new and kind of unsettling. I don’t think I know how to cope with a more normal mood. That’s frightening. I have been stuck in this pattern with my thoughts and feelings out of control for too long.

Some of the things I’ve been thinking about is to bruise myself visibly, on my face. It’s attention-seeking. I want people to notice that I’m still struggling with my thoughts. I want them to tell me it’s okay to still be rough even though it’s been going on for so fucking long and that they believe me. I don’t feel anyone would believe me. I don’t really know what to say about what is still wrong just now.

I have so many good things. I have a new support worker and they are medium to long-term (in my terms, don’t know what they call themselves) so I feel like something good and safe is starting now. I’ve only had three appointments with them and I can already feel it steadying me and keeping me going. I can’t even say what it is about them that makes me feel steadier but something is. I’ve got back in touch with some of my old friends and nobody has turned me away and rejected me. They’ve all replied and said it was good to hear from me. I feel like D is glad to see me though I still hear the thoughts of “she’s not really, doesn’t mean it, just saying it to be nice”. I’m spending a lot of time with my sister and she seems keen to see me. She’s been suggesting meeting up and I don’t feel like I’m making her do it. I just went outside to have a cigarette (that should count as a bad thing but fuck it, I don’t feel particularly bad about starting up smoking again other than the money) and it was so nice and cool and breezy. I was panicking about the heat-wave and thinking I’d never cope with it but I’ve been coping and keeping going, at least to some extent. I didn’t give in to the panic entirely. I’m not totally hating myself, just mostly ;-) I actually mean that, I have some thoughts that are nice to myself. They seem to come out of nowhere. I found some bras that fit and make my chest look better which makes me pleased. I was feeling really lonely about being in my flat alone but I spent some time with a L is his flat, just hanging out, and got bored and when I went home, I was pleased to be home. I appreciated having my own flat with just me in it. I am luckyluckylucky. But is that all, you are so pathetic.

I had an appointment with my CPN today. I tried to talk about what is still wrong but it felt like she kept changing the subject away from it. It feels like she didn’t want to hear it because it was her last day before going on holiday and she just wanted a chatty, cheerful appointment. I need to watch that. She’s not my friend, she’s my nurse. If I have bad things to say then she should help me say it. I shouldn’t have to be chatty and cheerful to please her. I was seriously suicidal a few weeks and was back with the crisis team so it’s not that unreasonable for me still to have bad things to talk about. I’m afraid of what this means. But I’m not panicking about it, I’m thinking “I will watch out for this, maybe I can sort it out if it becomes a bad situation”.

See, I’m holding it together.


New flat

July 8, 2013

I’ve lived in my current flat for four years. I moved here after I split up with my ex-boyfriend. I was very ill, and the got worse, when we split up. I was in a city where I knew no one other than my ex-boyfriend and three hours travelling from the city I had lived before and wanted to move back to. It took me six months to find a new place to live and move into it. I was sleeping in the spare bedroom but was still having sex occasionally with my ex-boyfriend and he was still looking after me because of my illness.

I applied for benefits so I could get enough money to move out: deposit, first month’s rent, maybe a little bit of a cushion in case it took a while for housing benefit to start (had waited five and a half months for it a couple of years before). But I was turned down because they didn’t believe that I’d really split up with my ex-boyfriend and was still living with him ‘as if we were married’. I had stopped seeing the psychiatric services in the new city and stopped all my medication (except for some prn’s around the same time as I’d split up with my ex-boyfriend except for a social worker who tried to help me but said he couldn’t really do anything because I wanted to move to another city. I tried to contact this city’s homeless services but kept getting passed between two departments with both saying they weren’t the department to deal with me and I should contact the other. I stayed with my sister for a few days and she talked to them on the phone and couldn’t work out what to do either. The only suggestion I got was to go into one of the offices and ‘make a scene’ until one of them agreed to deal with me. My sister said she couldn’t come with me (something I still feel bitter about and should really get over or sort out with her). I could barely cope with travelling to see my sister and knew there was no way I was capable of ‘mak[ing] a scene’ so I gave up. Not seeing the psychiatric services or the homeless services while I was so ill and my life was such a disaster probably sounds like an incredily stupid decision but it wasn’t and I’d do it again looking back but my reason are another post.

I was an undischarge bankrupt too with the worst credit rating you can get and I was unemployed with no prospect of being well enough to go back to work any time soon. I felt a lot of shame about that (still do) and couldn’t face telling anyone about it. I thought that I had no chance of renting from a letting agency because I would fail the credit check and had no proof of income; every single one said ‘no DHSS’ or something similar. The DHSS hasn’t fucking existed for over two decades but the meaning was perfectly clear: no benefit scrounging scum. Private ads almost all said ‘no DHSS’ too and it turned out some landlords had access to credit checks too. I didn’t know that I could try to offer a guarantor and pay more month’s rent in advance to avoid the credit check and lack of proof of employment. So I thought I had to lie that I was employed and hope a landlord both believed my lie and didn’t credit check.]

I had pet rats who I wasn’t going to give up. They felt like the only thing I had left. So I need a landlord that didn’t mind pets or wouldn’t inspect too often. It’s actually not that difficult to hide pet rats and I’d done it for years in student accommodation despite having a 5′ by4′ by 3′ cage (happy ratties) for them.

Despite all these reasons/excuses for why I found it so difficult to get a new flat, the main problem was that I couldn’t make myself travel to the city I wanted to move back to and find a new flat. I was totally overwhelmed by my illness and by my situation and was paralysed by shame.

In the end, I only looked at two flats. The first was a nice flat but wanted a credit check. The second, where I live now, isn’t a particularly nice flat and is run down but the landlady didn’t ask for a credit check or proof of employment and didn’t do inspections. She gave me a short, illegal lease that included a clause that I had to fix the flat’s white goods if they broke down and other crap like that. It’s an expensive flat too. But my rats were safe and I was safe and it was done finally. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve realised what a desperate situation I was in and that getting this flat was a huge achievement. I made myself safe again. I got the benefits sorted out and had enough money. Safe safe safe. That six months is definitely near the top in my list of awful experiences.

I orginally planned to stay in this flat for about six months and find a nicer, cheaper flat. Haha-fucking-ha, here I am four years later, mainly due to apathy and shame. I’ve only finally applied to housing associations this year as the thought of explaining my situation to whoever I had to apply to felt impossible. I knew I’d sit in front of the person from the housing association and not be able to stop crying. I asked a couple of people to come with me to the housing associations and they agreed but I never actually made solid plans to go with them.

I hope writing all this is cathartic because I feel like shite now, typing it all out. It’s all pathetic excuses and I should just get a fucking grip and get on with it.

Now I need to make a plan about what I want to do next. I actually have a few options but I can’t work out what I want (which is something I can’t seem to do for anything). So here are my options:

1) stay in my current flat and wait for a ‘nice’ housing association flat

{} advantages:

* I’m safe here and while it’s expensive, I can pay the rent every month without going into debt and still keeping my (small) savings

* avoid the stress and cost of moving especially since I would want to move again into a housing association flat

* new lease is a standard lease from the government and protects my rights and gives me a two month notice period

* could spend this summer being well and building myself up without taking up this time with moving

* could change my mind about a private let later

{} disadvantage:

* most expensive option and has the most uncertainly about being able to afford the rent with the next round of benefit changes

* would spend my time on the waiting list in a flat I don’t like

* will take a long time, probably years

* have to apply to the rest of the housing associations (slacker)

2) stay in my current flat and wait for a multi-storey housing association flat then hope I can move into a ‘nice’ housing association flat

{} advantages:

* my own flat! I could paint and do what I want, have all my own furniture just as I like it

* I’m safe in this flat (god, it makes me cry every time I type safe) and I’d be super-safe in a housing association flat

* could have pet rats again (most common cause of pets ending up in shelters is because people get pets when their lease say ‘no pets’ and the landlord finds out, I’m not risking that again)

* I don’t know for sure how long I would be here but guessing only months

* would probably get a two bedroom flat (which I can afford) because of the severe shortage of one bedroom flats

* could spend this summer being well and building myself up without taking up this time with moving

* could change my mind about a private let later

* could move out of the multi-storey flat if I hated it and back into a private let then reapply to the housing associations

* not worried much about the stigma of living in a multi-storey or about the rumours that there is a lot of ‘trouble’ in them, walked around the building and the area looked nice and green and well maintained

{} disadvantage:

* big assumption that I could tranfer to a new housing association flat though the housing officer did say I could

* guilt of trying to ‘game’ the system by asking to transfer to a new housing association flat

* could be waiting years for a transfer, don’t know if I could apply to other housing associations too but bet I would start again at the bottom of their lists (I could just ask and find out for sure)

* couldn’t have a dog

* could hate being in a multi-storey and find it much more difficult than I thought

* risk of jumping, support worker thought it was a really stupid and risky idea

* housing association might not let me get a multi-storey flat in case I jumped (though think I could have a good chance of persuading them)

3) move into another private let and wait for a housing association flat (pretty much same situation if waiting for a ‘nice’ flat or a multi-storey flat)

{} advantages:

* would be spending my time on the waiting list in a nicer, cheaper flat

* turns out that the standard notice period for a short assured tenacy is two months, not one month, (how did I not know this until last week?! my new lease has this) and I could only consider flats with that notice period

* cheaper rent, could increase my savings and less potential problems with the next round of benefit changes

{} disadvantage:

* don’t know how safe I would be in a new private let

* new private let might be a disaster and I’d have to move again

* don’t know how long I’d have to stay in these new private let(s)

* stress and cost of moving at least once before moving into a housing association flat

* can’t change my mind and come back to my current flat

Is that all my options? It doesn’t look so confusing written down and I’m definitely leaning towards staying in this flat until a multi-storey flat comes up. The housing officer did tell me that getting a housing association flat isn’t supposed to be an ‘aspirational move’. The most important thing is getting my own flat. That would be so good. So fucking good! So safe!

Yep, I think I’ve decided: staying here until a multi-storey flat comes up. I’ll keep on thinking about it and maybe I’ll come up with more reasons. But I think they key things are that I would have my own flat and that I could change my mind about getting a new private let if I wanted to but I couldn’t come back to this flat if I moved to another private let.

Holy fuck, I think I’ve made a decision :o  This so isn’t like me.


Went to the GP

July 4, 2013

I don’t go to my GP very often, about once or twice a year, and it’s usually for physical health problems. Some people who have chronic mental illnesses have regular appointments with their GP about their mental health. My CPN has asked me a few times over the years “when are you next seeing your GP?” as if I was going to regular appointments so I wonder if it’s expected. My GP hasn’t suggested it to me and I’ve not asked him.

I’m kind of ambivalent about having regular appointments. I think it could be useful for my GP to know what was going on with me and keep track of things assuming he wants to do that. Also assuming the GP and the psychiatry services aren’t communicating well already. But it’s not like the GP is going to be changing any of my treatment. The whole point of going to a specialist, a psychiatrist for me, is to have them take over the specialised care of more complicated or long-term illnesses even though the GP is still required to keep co-ordinating the different parts of the care or at least make sure co-ordination is happening. I’m happy with the co-ordination that is going on and while I might be missing some of the subtleties that are happening, it makes no difference to what actually happens to me as far as I am concerned. Some people will want to be more involved and know exactly who, what and when. That was me ten years ago but not anymore. I don’t know if it would be useful for me to have regular appointments with my GP just to talk about my mental illness. I’m crap at talking about it so maybe more practice would be a good idea but would ten minutes once a month or whatever actually make any difference? I suppose it would be another excuse to get me out of the house which I could do with. These reasons are the ones I’ve thought about whenever the idea of regular appointments with my GP has come into my head, which isn’t often.

About a week ago, the backs of my thighs started getting sore (bear with me, I have a point… in four paragraph’s time) as if the muscles or something were too tight. It got worse so by Friday I couldn’t sit for more than a couple of minutes without having to get up. Fuck me, I never realised how much I took for granted being able to sit on a toilet seat. The pain was from my ankles right up into my bum in both legs. It wasn’t continuous and it moved up and down over hours. When I was lying down or walking, it felt like cramp or tightness with some throbbing and prickling or spiky feeling. If I walked more than about half an hour it got more and more painful and my legs started to feel weak. When I was standing still or sitting down, it felt as if a pole about an inch thick was being pushed into the backs of my legs. It would throb and get sharp pains so that I felt like I had to move or lie down. It felt painful whenever something even softly pressed into my legs. This was all only at the backs or slightly to the sides of my thighs and calves. When I looked in the mirror, there was a little bit of varicose veining in my right calf but none anywhere else. But I could see the raised, swollen ‘poles’ that were around veins I think. There seemed to be blue-ish lines anyway. The swollen bits were a good bit thicker than the veins and mostly I couldn’t see the actual vein. The swellings felt hot and springy.

So I asked Drs Google and Wikipedia who seemed pretty confident that it was phlebitis (not thrombophlebitis) and not anything dangerous like a DVT or whatever. I was thinking that since it was happening on both legs and from ankle to arse that it might be something systemic rather than a local problem. Meaning I might be able to palm it off on my medication! But to be serious for a split second, a medication side-effect made sense since the symptoms were so wide-spread.

I saw my CPN two days ago and I asked her to look at my legs and she didn’t see varicose veins other than the one little bit and could see the new swelling of whatever the fuck was happening. I said I thought it was phlebitis. She said perhaps I was right but perhaps Drs Google and Wikipedia wouldn’t mind if I saw a real doctor and perhaps I should go to my GP. I’d need a definite diagnosis to find out if it was a medication side-effect for a start. She also got hold of my psychiatrist who said he didn’t think it sounded like any of my medication was to blame but that I should go to the GP as I might need antibiotics. Drs Google and Wikipedia hadn’t mentioned antibiotics.

Of-fucking-course by the time I’d actually got to the GPs yesterday my legs were a lot better and there wasn’t much pain or swelling left by the time I saw the locum. She said it was definitely not anything serious and wasn’t sciatica, thrombophlebitis or DVT but it might be myalgia from the risperidone. It’s going away and as long as it goes away completely then I think that’ll be the end of it.

This is a very long story to say that it was actually really upsetting for me to go to my GP even though I was almost certain she’d say I didn’t have anything serious and that whatever it was would go away by itself. I didn’t want to go and made a lot of excuses to myself when this first started. I got pretty frightened at one point thinking that perhaps whatever it was that was happening might be permanent and that I would be stuck with it. I felt ashamed at the thought that maybe I’d damaged my body permanently. I felt better once I convinced myself it was only phlebitis but I shouldn’t have done that because I’m not a doctor and can’t diagnose myself. I even wondered if perhaps I had a DVT and if I’d been thinking that then I should have phoned the emergency GP or whatever it is you do then. I would have had to ask Dr Google again. This is all because I keep thinking of what will happen if the doctor starts tearing me a new one because I am fat. This isn’t some irrational fear: I’ve had doctors and nurses be horrible to me about being fat. Once I went to the nurse at my GP surgery to get my blood pressure checked (it has been high on and off ever since I had the problems with venlafaxine) and she did that but insisted on weighing me even though I said I didn’t want to be weighed. She was very disapproving and plain fucking horrible and I came out of that appointment wanting to take a machete to my body and cut the fat off it. That lasted for weeks and even made me think that I should let my eating disorder back into my life so that at least I could lose weight. It’s not just the horrible things that doctors and nurses can say that worries me, it is that I will cry. And cry and cry and cry and not be able to stop. Humiliate myself even further. So when I think about all that, going to a doctor seems a big risk and more of a risk than maybe having a DVT or having something seriously wrong.

This locum GP was really nice to me and didn’t once mention my weight or say anything at all about my size. I think if I’d been thin she wouldn’t have said or done anything differently. I probably wouldn’t have been in tears twice because I was so overwhelmed and freaked out about her even looking at me though. Reading fat acceptance blogs, tumblrs, etc, has been great for me in a lot of ways but I think it’s made me even more anxious about what might happen because I’ve heard so many bad things that have happened to people just like me. If I hadn’t read those stories then I’d feel a lot worse about what had happened to me I suppose. So maybe I should try to go and see my GP more often so I don’t get so anxious when I have to see him (or a locum) for something important. Haha, just read that back and realised I’m not counting my mental illness problems as important.

I’ve got an appointment with the crisis team nurse tomorrow and I think she’ll discharge me. It’s the third time I’ve had the crisis team this year. Or the fourth, I can’t remember. The last two times have been really helpful and I’ve felt the difference. But I can also feel myself starting to feel dependant on the nurse visits and worrying that I won’t be okay without them. I’m not attached to any of the nurses in particular, though the last two have been great, but it’s more the idea of “it’s okay that I feel so bad now because I can hold out for another three or four days or whatever until the next appointment”. That seems a bad path to be on. Most of me wants to be fucking free of all this and I can’t be until I’m okay enough on my own, or at least on my own most of the time. I’ve also just acquired a social worker somehow (I thought it was a one-off visit to do an assessment [personalisation?] to see if I ‘officially’ needed more support but she’s saying she’ll see me again, don’t feel like I can say anything about it) who has referred me to another support service. So that’s even more. I’m too proud as well. I don’t want to see myself as some kind of complete loser who has an empty life but I know my life is pretty empty compared to most people and it’s not like I like my life at all. I don’t want all this. I don’t want to be ill. I want to be free.


Confiding in people – part 3: psychiatric services and what happened in the last few years

June 9, 2013

I split my last posts Confiding in people – part 1 and part 2 because the are far too long.

By ‘confide in’, I mean talk about the worst of my mental health symptoms in particular suicidal thoughts and the things I am ashamed about in my life.

After I dropped out of university, I changed psychiatrist from Dr D to my fourth psychiatrist, Dr McL, which I found difficult at first but she became my favourite psychiatrist. She was a fat woman and was the first person to talk to me about fat acceptance though never called it that and I thought she was just kidding herself (I never said that to her).  She was the first doctor to take my eating disorder seriously and the first person at all to take the depersonalization stuff seriously too. I started to trust her and became less worried about having to censor what I could say in case she thought I was attention-seeking. She kept telling me that I’d get better, that I’d be okay and that I would work things out. I started to believe her made some plans for the future – I was going to do a part-time university course then either go back to university and complete a different degree or finish the open university degree. I thought I would be able to get a job from that. I had hope for the future again which was a lovely feeling.

Then I made another mistake and moved to a different city because my ex-boyfriend J had got a job there so was moving. The move itself was awful and I got ill again and had to withdraw from the open university course. I had to change doctors of course so a new psychiatrist, CPN and GP. But I was so ill that I got sent to the local version of the crisis team so had a different psychiatrist and nurse there first. The crisis team doctor was like my second psychiatrist and I felt like she thought I was the worst kind of attention-seeking, faking scum. That experience is a different story. I stopped confiding in any of the psychiatric services and didn’t trust them. What was worse was that my ex-boyfriend J didn’t believe how bad things were and told me it was just my illness making me think that way. He had been using that argument more and more in the increasing number of fights we were having. I felt very alone. When I got a bit better, I was transferred from the crisis team to the normal outpatient psychiatric department. I didn’t trust my new psychiatrist, Dr S, my new CPN or my new psychologist, B, at all and didn’t confide in any of them. I did start to trust B and begin to confide in her after a few months but that ended badly. Again, another story.

When I moved back to the city where I live, I had my sixth psychiatrist, Dr D. Fuck, already got a Dr D. This one can be Dr E. When I was younger I would walk into a doctor’s office and pretty much trust them straight off without thinking about it. That was just what you did when you went to the doctors: of course they had your best interests at heart! When I went to Dr E, I didn’t trust her at all and barely talked to her. I didn’t get over that, which she noticed (just changed all the “Dr D”s to “Dr E”s hopefully), but she did begin to repair my faith in doctors and never actually did anything bad to me or acted like she thought I was attention-seeking. Dr E moved jobs and I had a temporary psychiatrist, Dr P. When I first met him I think was a bit more open-minded than I had been for years. I was very ill again and I heard later that he’d been worried about me. He was kind to me and again, was repairing my faith in the idea that some doctors might be trustworthy and he never acted like he thought I was attention-seeking. In fact, he was more the opposite and I felt like he thought I was more ill than I really was but he didn’t insist I went into hospital the times he suggested it. He pissed me off the last time I saw him by insisting we shake hands (he was wishing me well) because I don’t like to touch people but that was the worst thing he did. I only saw him for a few months which I was sad about. Then I got my current psychiatrist, Dr H. He’s quiet and calm and has, so far, respected my decisions when I’ve said “no” to the crisis team and going into hospital. I’ve come to feel that I can’t trust a doctor unless they ‘let’ me say “no”. He’s also let me change some medications, even though he’s said that he’s not sure how succesful it’ll be, and that has made me feel more in control and like I can actually make some things happen. I like that he asks directly about “self-harm” as he puts it meaning self-injury and suicidal thoughts. Of course, I’ve lied and lead the conversation around past it. But I like that he asks because I don’t think I’d ever bring it up.

When I moved, I was also given my new CPN, M. I’m going to run out of fucking letters. I didn’t trust her at the start either. I thought seeing her was pretty pointless and that they were just checking up on me to make sure I hadn’t killed myself yet. Then I got the letter to see ATOS and holy fuck, I panicked like I have never panicked before. I phoned her at the outpatient department and I couldn’t speak I was so upset and hysterical. She came round to my flat straight away and… I can’t actually write about this just now because I’m too upset but she was the best kind of nurse and took care of me. She took me to the ATOS appointment. She made it okay and I got through it. So suddenly I trust her now. She was there for me on the worst day of my life and I am incredibly grateful. I don’t think she’d ever laugh at me or think I was a fake so I feel safe with her now.

It’s bizarre reading these posts back to myself. It sounds like I keep grudges and don’t talk to people about it which I didn’t realise. I still don’t know how to ask other people for help. I think that’s the shame: I’ll end up hysterically sobbing and unable to speak (I’m not over-reacting, it has actually happened). Also, I seriously still have the that ‘in denial’ thing going. The thought of “that didn’t really happen to me” keeps flickering in and out and puts itself between me and feeling like these things are my life. And how did I get onto a five thousand word rant of all this history from “I have a psychiatrist appointment on Tuesday”? Guess I’m still not too keen on psychiatrists.


Confiding in people – part 2: friends and what happened while I was at university

June 9, 2013

I split my last post Confiding in people because it was far too long.

By ‘confide in’, I mean talk about the worst of my mental health symptoms in particular suicidal thoughts and the things I am ashamed about in my life.

When I left home and moved to the city where I live now, I didn’t have any contact with psychiatric services. I went to university and my first year went really well. I felt like I fitted in so much. I loved being one of the hundreds of students and felt like I was just like everyone else. I had a boyfriend, I made friends easily and liked my student halls. As sad as it sounds, it was the best year of my life. At the end of first year I moved in my ex-boyfriend, R, which in retrospect was probably a mistake and I should have waited. He’d bought a very small studio flat with a combined living room and bedroom and the kitchen had nowhere to sit down. So if we were both in the flat then we were both in the same room. Each of us found that stressful and I found second year more stressful too I think. Or perhaps it was mainly my relationship and where I was living. As the winter started, I felt like I was getting depressed again and went to my new GP and asked to start antidepressants. So I started paroxetine. I hadn’t researched any drugs and just accepted the GP’s suggestion. But that didn’t worry me and I felt pretty in control of what was happening. But the paroxetine didn’t help a great deal and even though I asked for the dose to be put up, my symptoms didn’t get much better. By the time my end of year exams came around, I was badly depressed and very freaked out. My thoughts were very confused as well as all the depression symptoms. I was convinced I would fail all the exams. Ironically, I got distinctions like I had in first year… my perfectionism had made me over-work and I’d lost any sense of perspective at all. I’d never been very good at taking care of myself and by then I wasn’t looking after myself at all. I would work all night and have hardly any sleep only to sleep far too much the next week. I don’t think I was drinking alcohol but I was probably fucking around with my eating and not exercising or making time for socialising or any kind of relaxation. I hated my body. It was awful and it didn’t really occur to me to talk to my ex-boyfriend, R, about it. Or maybe I tried a little but then gave up. I don’t think I knew how to start to confide in him. Immediately after the exams I changed antidepressants: I came off paroxetine at the same time as starting venlafaxine. Paroxetine is now known for it’s particularly bad withdrawal. And venlafaxine is known for having difficult side-effects too. So that really didn’t help. As I was waiting for the exam results, everything seemed to fall apart. My ex-boyfriend, R, hadn’t know what to do with me for months and we were barely talking I think. I ended up going to one of my friends from student halls, D, and confiding in her how bad it was. Or at least some of it. She believed me and took me seriously and made the phone calls to see the emergency GP. She came with me and helped me talk to the doctors. I’m incredibly grateful to her and I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t believed me. But I’ve never in confided in her again. We’re still friends though we are less and less in touch. That is down to me not replying to her messages or making the effort to see her. I’ve made plans and then backed out so often because I couldn’t make myself go. She has kept trying to keep our friendship going over the years and I’ve been shit. I apologise to her but I keep disappearing over and over again. I’ve not been there very often for her at all. The only other time I’ve sort-of confided in a friend was by accident when I mentioned to another friend from university, S, about a suicide attempt. I didn’t talk about any details and was kind of shocked that I’d even said it. I remember that he thanked me for telling him. When things were particularly bad, I used to think about talking to one of my friends but I never actually did it. Just thinking about talking to them would comfort me though. I make friends easily as I’m (or was then) a classic extrovert. I’ve drifted apart from so many friends over the years just because I never get around to or can’t bring myself to get in touch with them. I’m still in sporadic contact with three friends from university. Plus even more sporadic contact with a few other friends. And I’ve made online friends then drifted apart from them too though I think that’s pretty common. I can’t ever bring myself to talk honestly about my symptoms to them and just talk around it like I do with my mother. Actually I did begin to talk about things more honesty with one gaming friend last summer. But I abandoned that MMO for a different reason and I’ve never gone back.

So I’m often not a very good friend either. Well, sometimes I am. I like to do things for people and I’ve often got the time and make the effort to do things for them that I can’t do for myself. But that’s only half a friendship really and I know it pisses people off that I either won’t let them help me or never ask them for help.

After that severe depression at the end of second year, I went straight back to university at the start of the next term. That was a ridiculously stupid mistake as I was still ill and still hadn’t really worked out what was happening. Plus trying to recover from the embarrassment of some of the things I did (like booking a very expensive foreign holiday in a pretty unusual place and going there for three days then coming home). I ended up having to withdraw from that year at university. But the person who was in charge of third year, Dr N, was very kind to me and I confided some things to her though I lied about the suicidal thoughts and said I hadn’t any. I’d been seeing the psychiatric services since seeing the emergency GP and had a CPN and a psychiatrist by then. The psychiatrist was awful, didn’t talk to me or explain things and swung between making me feel like I was over-reacting, attention-seeking and a malingerer or I was severely ill. I was very confused and while at first I’d talked to him as if he was my old GP, Dr I, I quickly changed and censored myself and started over-thinking and trying to work out what this new psychiatrist would think of me if I said this or what he would think if I said that. In a way I was being manipulative because I didn’t want him to think I attention-seeking and so only mentioned things that didn’t risk that. He sent me for an EEG and a head MRI because of the possibility that I had a brain tumour and I was terrified because I didn’t have any idea of what was going on. Even though I’d withdrawn from third year, I was still seeing the year head, Dr N, occasionally and I told her a bit of my problems with this new psychiatrist. She somehow arranged that I was transferred to a different psychiatrist, Dr D, who was an NHS psychiatrist but also involved with the university. I didn’t realise the behind-the-scenes politics or consequences of changing psychiatrists and it caused me a lot of problems a few years later. Different story though. I liked Dr D and trusted him a lot. Actually a few years later, I got overly reliant on him but again, that’s a different story. So I had two people who I was sort-of talking to and sort-of confiding in: the year head, Dr N, and my third psychiatrist, Dr D. I started to find out one of the problems with confiding in doctors or nurse though. Confiding suicidal thoughts meant that I ended up in hospital and while I found being sent to the hospital validating and reassuring in a way, it made me feel frightened, out of control and ashamed too. I was also still very wary of talking about anything that I thought risked Dr D, or my new CPN, from thinking I might be an attention-seeker.

I moved out of my ex-boyfriend R’s flat back into student halls and while we were supposedly still a couple and were having sex, I was putting the relationship behind me and starting to move on from it and from the trauma of the severe depression and having to withdraw from third year. R had told me before I moved out of his house that he had found my illness very difficult and that “[he] was never going through that again”. I felt guilty and ashamed and that was part of why I moved out and wanted the relationship to end. In the summer, I moved in with my friend D and some other friends. Actually, from when I moved out of R’s flat, the next year was a pretty good year for me. I was back at university and while I struggled with the course and ended up having to redo parts of it and having to sit my exams at the resist diet during the summer rather than at the end of term, I passed the year. I finally split up with R for good, after a year of on-off drama, and a couple of months later started another long-term relationship with J. He had been depressed the year before we got together and was starting to get better. It made me feel good to be helping him to get his life back together and I felt okay about confiding in him. I continued to confide in him for the seven years we were together, as my illness got worse and worse and I dropped out university and started to become the recluse I am today. We split up over four years ago and we carried on having sex until the end of last year. I kept on confiding in him up until about two years ago. That saga and rant is for another post I think.

Part 3 of this post is here.


Confiding in people – part 1: family and before I left home

June 9, 2013

(Trigger warning: rape)

I have a psychiatrist appointment on Tuesday. When I was younger, I used to prepare for psychiatrist appointments. I wanted to get the most out of them. That petered out years ago. I often think to myself between appointments “oh, I should say that” but then I spend a lot of my time sort of daydreaming that I’m talking to a random nameless person. Part of that is because I ‘ruminate‘ like a motherfucker, getting more and more stuck in the habit, partly because I am lonely and partly because I don’t confide in anyone these days. By ‘confide in’, I mean talk about the worst of my mental health symptoms in particular suicidal thoughts and the things I am ashamed about in my life.

I’ve rarely been able to confide in my family. I remember telling my mother the first time that I was having problems. I was 15 and I’d been a disaster area for years: I was badly bullied at school from about 7-15 and didn’t have any friends; my first (sort-of?) suicide attempt was when I was 12; I’d had disordered eating/eating disorder from the ages of 13-14; I’d replaced the eating problems with self-injury because I’d found that worked a lot better and had been self-injuring from the ages of 14-15 being very dependant on it in the last year and doing it every day; and I’d been having suicidal thoughts and depression symptoms off and on that whole time. I told my mother a very shortened version of this and didn’t mention the suicide attempt or thoughts or the eating problems. I lived in an isolated rural area where everyone knew each other and the only GP was a family friend. My mother took me to a locum GP who was a woman. I lied and lied when she asked me questions. I was frightened and finally felt in control by holding back my private information. My symptoms got worse, surprise-fucking-surprise. So a few months later my mother took me back to the usual GP, Dr I,  and I told him the truth. I was desperate by this time. He was very kind to me and it makes me cry to even think of it. I was exceptionally lucky in how he dealt with my self-injury. He never shamed me for it and made it make sense to me. He said that I did it because I felt so bad and didn’t have “the words” to say it in any other way. He gave me steri-strips and dressings and I took care of my wounds myself, like I wanted. It made me feel good to take care of my wounds and it was the only way I’d ever deliberately taken care of myself. I felt safe. He explained that what I feeling and thinking was this illness called ‘depression’. I remember feeling so relieved. Oh god, I was so relieved. It was like some tight painful part of me unclenched. He treated me for the depression with fluoxetine (this was around the time that Prozac first became famous/notorious in the media) and weekly counselling with him. He asked me if I wanted to go to the psychiatric hospital and I said no because the idea freaked me out and I knew that everyone where I lived would know. I think perhaps that was the wrong decision and I should have gone and had some formal psychotherapy. It might have stopped some of the things that happened to me later. I saw the consultant psychiatrist twice I think and I felt at the time that was mainly to reassure Dr I and I didn’t get much out of it. Maybe validation that my symptoms was actually real enough to ‘deserve’ seeing a psychiatrist? Dr I asked me I wanted to see the psychiatrist again and I said no. I didn’t think it would help and he respected my decision. I kept getting better and felt calmer and steadier. I made friends at school – started smoking and made friends with the smokers. But they felt like genuine friends and I felt like I fitted in. I freaked out a bit around the time of my Higher exams when I was 17 and I think that was when he increased the dose of the fluoxetine. I remember him talking to me quite seriously about how the exams wouldn’t go away and I had to do them or I’d regret it. I did the exams and got the five As I wanted. My symptoms went away again and I got my first boyfriend, R, who loved me and was kind and gentle. By the time I was about to leave home I was doing well and didn’t have much anything other than ‘normal’ stresses that I wanted to talk about. Ah, now I read that back, I realise it wasn’t true: I was raped a few months after I started the relationship with R and when I told him about it, he acted like I had cheated on him and was very hurt. It wasn’t a violent rape and I was very confused by what had happened and thought it was all my own fault. I still kind of think that though I know (sort-of) that it was rape because I hadn’t wanted to have sex with that man, didn’t even realise that was what he was making happen until he started, had tried to say no and he did it anyway. I didn’t mention the rape, or “that thing” as I thought about it, to anyone else.

When I started confiding in Dr I. I didn’t over-think it and just did it. Once I started it got easier though I can remember him having to encourage me and reassure me a lot (sometime about “making the most of this time where you can say whatever you want and no one else will ever hear it”). Then when I got better I didn’t really need him anymore. I don’t remember ‘officially’ ending the counselling. I think it just can of came to some kind of natural end which I was happy and content with. Same with the fluoxetine. I pretty much decided I didn’t want to take it anymore and didn’t need it. Dr I had wanted me to take it for at least a certain number of months after I’d got better (I think it was 18 months) and I’d done most of that but didn’t want to wait any longer.

I don’t think it even occurred to me to confide in my mother anymore once I started confiding in Dr I. It hadn’t really occurred to me to confide in her in the first place. I’d basically had a nervous breakdown (stopped functioning) when I was 15 and had told some of my problems to a teacher at school who insisted that I told my mother. When I was raped when I was 17, it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone possibly because I didn’t call it ‘rape’ until years later. I’m still uncomfortable calling it rape. But with any of the problems, it didn’t occur to me to talk to my mother. And I definitely didn’t want to tell my father. I didn’t want him to know about the diagnosis of depression, that I was taking an antidepressant and definitely in no way know about the self-injury. Since then I’ve told both of them small bits and pieces about my mental illness. Usually it’s about what medication I am taking and I tell them when I go into hospital. My sister, L, is three years younger than me and I actively tried to protect her from knowing any of this for years up until her early twenties. I can’t even remember how she found out about it in the first place but I don’t think it was from me. We both live in the same city except for two years when I lived in another city. When I came back here, I had split up with my ex-boyfriend and I was badly ill. I gave her keys to my flat in case I got locked out and in case I went into hospital and needed someone to look after my pet rats. I gave keys to two other people as well. I probably didn’t handle it well and just gave her the keys rather than asking. But she really, really hurt my feelings by being very cold and saying that she didn’t want to get involved in my mental illness or in any way end up as my ‘carer’. I don’t think she used the word carer. I think it was my mother who used the word carer when she brought it up with me a while afterwards after she’d talked to my sister about it. I think the first year I came back here, I made an effort to see my sister and keep in contact. She often didn’t reply to messages though that’s the norm in my family as we’re not close and I do that too. I remember being in her car after going somewhere and saying to her that I could really do with some company. I think was in a bad way with suicidal thoughts though hadn’t directly mentioned the suicidal thoughts. She said she was too busy and again, it really hurt my feelings. After that first year or so, I’ve considered my sister as off-limits and I keep away. In this last year, she’s asked if there was anything she could do to help a couple of times. It’s seemed like she wanted to spend more time with me. At the moment, I only see her when our mother visits which is 3-4 times a year. I’ve not made much effort other than a couple of times too. I don’t know, it’s a strange relationship I think. I am far, far too ashamed to talk to her directly about any of this. I can’t even imagine being able to say any of this in front of her without being in hysterical tears. It’s very painful. That’s a bit like my relationship with my mother too. Though my mother has been clearer that she’d like to be closer with me. But I’m much more wary of my mother and there are a lot of things I don’t trust her with. My father is often kind to me and asks if there is anything he can do to help. When I had nowhere to live after I split up with my ex-boyfriend, he offered to try to find me somewhere to live but never mentioned it again after that. I feel like he offers to help to make himself feel better rather than actually wanting to get involved. When I talk to him on the phone (not that often), he tells me that he loves me though and that he’d like to see me. He really upsets my sister by not making more of an effort with her. So I don’t take my father’s behaviour personally.

Through all this, I’ve not been a very good daughter or sister. I don’t think I know how to be a good daughter and I don’t think I’ve really thought about it until now. That’s kind of weird. I’ve done some things for my mother and father but probably much less than most people. I know I’ve not been a very good sister and I’ve thought about that a lot before. In particular, I’ve not been around much for any of the bad things that have happened in my sister’s life like her bad experience with a surgeon or her problems with work. I was about to type “when she got married last year, I didn’t do much to help” but I did do something and they even thanked me in their speech. It’s only just occurred to me now that it was probably strange for my sister when I moved to another city for those two years as I had been reasonably in contact with her before and then pretty much disappeared for two years. She came up to visit and stayed with me once and we both went, with my ex-boyfriend J, to stay with my mother for a week. I’m not sure I saw her other than that. So perhaps it was pretty jarring and unreasonable of me to disappear for two years and then come back and just expect things to be like before I left. Since I can’t imagine talking to her about this, I’ve considered emailing her instead but… I don’t know, I’m afraid of making things worse or just looking like an idiot. She has her own life that I’m not really involved in, that really hit home to me when I was at her wedding because I didn’t know many of her friends at all, so I don’t even know if I want to ask her to make room for me especially since I’m such a fucking nightmare with the mental illness, no job, no relationship, etc, etc.

Part 2 of this post is here.