therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: mental illness

Toxic Faith: The traits of hyperreligiosity.

A post I wrote 2 years ago on hyperreligiosity has gained thousands more hits on my blog than any other post. Clearly a lot of people are Googling the term hyperreligiosity. But why? We must be experiencing a spike in instances of ‘religious mania’ and ‘toxic faith’ – so-called hyperreligiosity. As Western society grows more secular with each generation, on the world stage hyperreligiosity is something we as a world community must contend with on a regrettably regular basis. Yet this is a fact of life that it seems strictly taboo to allude to.

On an individual basis, people want to understand the condition, either as mental health practitioners or because they are more personally affected; perhaps it is a close friend, spouse, child or parent who is suffering with hyperreligiosity. I am not a mental health professional. For me, it is because somebody close to me has chosen to become ‘lost’ in religion for the past ten years which has led to the sorrowful reality of losing that relationship with them. It is a parental relationship which makes it especially painful.

The term hyperreligiosity is defined by R.S Pearson (the author of the only book on this specific subject so far to be published), as “when the outward forms and other aspects of religion become life disabling. It is the ill-fitting grasp of the role of religion and God in one’s life.” [i]

As I explored in this earlier post [ii], hyperreligiosity is very different from overenthusiastic piety. It is not simply an exemplified form of keeping up the religion’s key principles in an admirable fashion. It is essentially dangerous and destructive, producing nothing of social value.

Through my research I found some common traits of the hyperreligious. Individual sufferers may be affected to a greater or lesser degree by each of the following:

 
Disempowered by others
They may have undergone experiences in which they are disconnected from and disempowered by others, so they have devalued others and created value in the form of their own religious practice. Negative experiences with others can be turned into fuel for increasingly ardent religiosity. They are often extremely disdainful and intolerant of people with opposing beliefs, sometimes even believing that killing in the name of God can be justified. Isolation from others might also be reframed as a positive choice.

They live by finding favour from God
God answers prayers and cares about us. But the hyperreligious get stuck in this mode. They see their relationship with God as more important than anyone else’s and will do whatever they believe God is telling them. They will often punish themselves when they believe they have not lived up to God’s unattainably high expectations of them. They may have sanctimonious attitudes, berating others for not being as friendly with God as they are.

The chosen one
Hyperreligiosity happens most often when one thinks that they know the mind of God, even though this is specifically stated as impossible in many major religions’ sacred texts. They may view others as unworthy or inferior. They may think of themselves as special – the chosen one. There are psychological reasons why a person with hyperreligiosity needs to have the assurance that they know the complete mind of God. Perhaps part of it is to fulfil the psyche’s need for validation when it is not present in interpersonal and other relationships.

Spirituality gone wrong
What might start as a desire to be a spiritually-enlightened, virtuous person can descend into an isolating disease of the mind. Spirituality is the embodiment of virtue. Hyperreligiosity isn’t simply an extreme form of spirituality – it is quite the opposite. It proves an ill-fitting grasp of the role of religion and God in one’s spiritual pursuits. The hyperreligious cannot use their thinking faculties in the way in which God intended. Their religious devotions obscure any notions of how to be the spiritually-rounded person God wants them to be.

Life-disabling
There is no good outcome of being hyperreligious. The sufferer does not end up being ‘hypervirtuous’ or ‘hyperspiritual’ or a better person overall. Dedication to the beliefs of religion does not produce anything of personal or social value; to the contrary, it is in fact is often paralysing and very destructive. Mother Teresa for example could not be termed hyperreligious – the description does not fit with the deeds that she performed. Hyperreligiosity produces painful results in the way other mental illnesses do too.

Conspicuous in their non-materialism
The hyperreligious might not care about material possessions, and actively seek out material lacks. These conspicuous lacks of for example marriage and money – things that make life more comfortable and complete – supposedly leave more space in their lives for religion. It might also be a way of justifying certain attitudes or proving that they are different from others and don’t want what others want; their desires are of a higher order. Any residual emptiness is filled with religious fervour. However the hyperreligious can become double-minded: renouncing certain things as worldly and therefore unnecessary, then praying for them. The hyperreligious person is not a perfect model of consistency.

Belief that human life lacks value
Life, to the hyperreligious, may be just a meaningless, temporary state of being – merely a necessary and unremarkable part of the journey or cycle of life. There may be nothing intrinsically valuable or particularly interesting about a human life because our real life is the afterlife. When we realise that humans are created in the image of God then we can experience this elevated value in all human beings. The experience and value of just being human is denied by the hyperreligious and obsessional, sometimes to themselves and often to others. Denying the value of themselves is often the mirror image of another moment in their life when they deny the value of others.

Destruction of self-image
The general destruction of the hyperreligious person’s self-image may be what is inadvertently sought. The creation of the Thanatos state, the death impulse, is often seen as a desirable goal. At least, the dissolution of the self may be sought. This may go back to some previous unmet need which brings with it memories too painful to process or too early to remember. The inner reaction of those with the hyperreligious mindset may be obsessions and intrusive thoughts which try to create an excuse for not being allowed the human privilege for just being a valuable human being and having needs met.

Mental hallucinations

Projections can form in the mind that then direct the hyperreligious person. These figments of the imagination, believed to be God or angels could more closely fall under the heading of the demonic. That which is real and full of truth does not destroy or make suicidal. The voices do not have the best wishes of their object in mind. Psychiatrists see hyperreligiosity in someone having psychotic episodes or epileptic fits in which they experience God. There might also be a distortion in cognition that happens to people where they hear their own inner speech as voices from the outside.


References

[i] Hyperreligiosity: Identifying and Overcoming Patterns of Religious Dysfunction, by R. S. Pearson (Telical Books, 2005)

[ii] https://therapyjourney.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/hyperreligiosity/

hyperreligiosity

Living with borderlines: anger.

I first started writing this blog in January of this year. The very first thing I ever wrote was in regards to my anger problem:

“I am a very angry and aggressive person. I guess it would be true to say that over time, I have developed strategies for dealing with and managing this in front of other people. But often I find myself seething inside, with terrible bad feelings often mixed with neurosis and circular thought patterns.”

Back then, I didn’t know how bad things would get. I couldn’t have predicted my ever more violent rages, bouts of drunken grappling and harsh words spoken with the intention of wounding. Nor did I know how much hope I would eventually muster up from within, which would help me to face my demons. Being understood (albeit by a textbook) is a great relief.

I am thinking about anger in relation to borderlines – what makes their anger different, at whom it is aimed, how and whether it can be understood and what can be done to help them, at least as a damage-control measure. Of course, what I’m about to discuss will be a generalisation and for every rule there are a great many exceptions, but the following certainly rings true for me and was originally written about in greater detail by Kreisman & Straus in their book Sometimes I Act Crazy, about living with Borderline Personality Disorder, or surviving a loved one who has it.

What sometimes distinguishes borderline rage is its concealment and its unpredictability. Some borderlines supress anger, believing its expression will lead to what is most feared: abandonment by a significant other. It has also been said that depression is anger turned inward, and in fact BPD has a high rate of comorbidity with depression. However, interestingly there is a trend for anger to be less intense in those borderlines who are depressed, in contrast with other psychiatric patients, studies have shown, in whom high levels of depression are correlated with increased anger and violence. How can this be? Perhaps depression somehow diminishes the experience of anger, or maybe anger is a defence against depression. After all, both are associated with serotonin irregularities and are two sides of the same coin.

Aside from supressing rage, other individuals deflect their rage back on themselves and become self-destructive. For others still, anger is unplanned and startling. There appears to be no observable progression from minor incident to violent eruption. What is clear though is that borderlines feel angry much of the time, even when the anger is not expressed. Frustration and self-reproach can unleash rage which is often directed towards the borderline’s nearest and dearest. A study of male domestic violence perpetrators demonstrated that they had a greater likelihood of exhibiting borderline characteristics than control subjects.

Anger is one of the most enduring characteristics of BPD and intertwines with other criteria that define the condition such as mood instability, destructive and self-harming behaviours, unstable relationships, fear of abandonment and persistent sensations of emptiness. One study found that over a two-year period, intense anger remitted in only 7% of subjects in contrast with suicidal behaviour resolving in 54% of cases over the same timescale.

Anger for borderlines stems from frustration and as a preemptive measure to guard against perceived expectation of disappointment at a later date. This was how it was for me, if you can imagine a person who feels she is utterly empty, that everything is pointless and worthless, so get it over with already. In other cases the anger may be camouflaged by opposite behaviour such as attempting to please everyone, though ironically this fruitless quest only leads to more frustration as the need for reciprocal nurturing isn’t met.

According to the authors of Sometimes I Act Crazy, it is essential to understand that in some situations the borderline needs to be angry. This is quite a difficult subject to write about, much less to do, as it seems counterintuitive to encourage a person experiencing irrational anger to let it out. Rational argument, apparently, doesn’t work – logic goes out the window during a borderline’s debate. He may even switch sides halfway through. So what is the proper response to a temporarily insane person’s uncontrollable rages?

The advice given sounds very simple on paper but must, I fear, by almost impossible for anyone not noted for their Mother Theresa-esque appearance.

1. Understand
Anger usually is the outward expression of fear and pain. It is easier to be angry than scared. Anger can be a way of gaining control over an unmanageable situation. Anger might be used pre-emptively or in a variety of different ways.

2. Prepare
Borderline rage is like no other in its intensity, irrationality and apparent whimsy. But you can prepare for it, and learn to read the signs and the cycles, as you both begin to unpack the triggers of rage.

3. Communicate
Communicating with a furious borderline is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, empathy and self-control are needed. On the other, he must be made aware that his outbursts are unacceptable.

4. Don’t fight fire with fire.
Borderline rage feeds upon itself and off that of others.

5. Don’t tolerate anger.
If you show that rage is acceptable, this will only reinforce this idea in the mind of the borderline

6. Leave
If the borderline refuses to settle, take a brief respite until he calms down. Accept that change takes time.

It sounds a bit like training a dog, and it is just as absurd probably.

Right now I can honestly say that I have never been less angry in my entire life. I was an angry child that grew into an angry adult. I believe I have truly changed for myself as I continue learning how to appreciate what is around me, how not to feel everything is pointless and worthless and ugly. I am in love with nature, I love animals – even insects! I can control my moods far better now, in large part thanks to previous relationship issues being over. I know the beauty of the universe and the beauty that is me.

Living with borderlines: identity disturbance.

“If you can learn to accept disappointment yet maintain commitment, you are establishing an identity – because you are accepting yourself .” – Jerold Kreisman, ‘Sometimes I Act Crazy’.

Picking up from where I left off last time, I believe I may have Borderline Personality Disorder though I have not been in a position to seek a psychiatric evaluation yet. I know that just as you shouldn’t try to diagnose your own heart condition, it is not productive to set about finding out what’s wrong with your head. I however feel that I am acting bravely but cautiously, helping myself sort out a prickly issue without being convinced about anything. I could be wrong about it all – time will tell.

Reading the chapter on Identity Disturbance in the Kreisman & Straus book, Sometimes I Act Crazy, was one of the hardest because it sliced painfully close to the bone. ‘I don’t know who I am’ is something I’ve often felt in my heart. It’s even become a recurring theme in my artwork without my realising it. I put together an 80-page portfolio entitled ‘I don’t know what I want’. The diary that details my sexploits is called ‘I didn’t mean it’. And a beautiful Postsecret that I sent in back in 2006 read ‘I’m terrified of people getting too close… they may realise how empty I am’. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Just as borderlines’ perception of others whipsaws from glorification to vilification, their own self-image often oscillates between extremes. I have felt at times that I am the greatest artist who has ever lived, and at others, that I am thoroughly, laughably worthless, undeserving even of life.

The DSM-III definition of identity disturbance requires “uncertainty about at least two of the following: self-image, sexual orientation, long-term goals or career choice, type of friends desired, preferred values”. For me, I can honestly say that I currently struggle with all of these matters except sexual orientation. Knowing that I’m not the only one brings huge comfort and relief.

Like the case study in the book, I often feel I am borrowing a self from someone else. The subject in the example realises, due to the unwelcome attentions of others involved, that he unconsciously mimics his boss’s mannerisms, walk, even his accent. It is deeply embarrassing and hard for the borderline to identify, but when he does it only feeds nihilistic feelings of emptiness.

Theorists speculate that identity diffusion, or ‘splitting’ emerges from disruptions in consistent mothering. Healthy attachment to the mother figure from which individual identity develops is disturbed.  Deprived of acceptance from the most important figure in his life, the child perceives the world as unpredictable. The developing borderline, unable to connect past experiences to future occurrences, develops ambivalence and confusion. The security of feeling accepted by others is based solely on the present. To escape this anxiety-producing chaos, the child splits the world into ‘all good’ and ‘all bad’.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I can see this in myself and other close friends who have had difficult early relationships with their mothers. Everyone deals differently with the hand they are dealt, but this kind of early upset can, for some, sow the seeds of various identity disturbances.

This can take various forms. For one grouping, called role absorption, their very identity is defined in terms of a cause. Cult members reflect this pathology. Others experience painful incoherence which leads to a person feeling unreal or describing a false self. This is highly correlated with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Others who experience identity disturbance experience a lack of commitment and constantly change their educational interests, jobs and relationships. It is as if they are constantly seeking to define or discover themselves.

I would like to quote from Sometimes I Act Crazy, this passage on the subtype of inconsistency.

‘The individual transforms into a “chameleon”, whose opinions and values depend on who is in his company at a particular moment, much like the title character in Woody Allen’s Zelig [that I have mentioned before!]. He may assume inconsistent, even contradictory, positions. There may be a strong attraction to a controlling, charismatic figure who offers the hope of consistency.’ – Jerold J. Kreisman & Hal Straus

A few days ago I had a second session with H, my current therapist. I talked about my need to have faith in myself and that going to the US represents a massive step for me in trusting my intuition and asserting my own freedom for the first time in my life. After having been in a recent relationship with someone controlling and arrogant, who wanted to mould me into his idea of the perfect woman, my recovery takes the form of embracing who I am, and being sensitive to my desires. After all, I trust and respect myself and I deserve to satisfy my inner needs.

After hearing a little about the nature of my last relationship, and being involved with others in the past who sought to ‘rescue me’, H understood how damaging that was. It really meant a lot to me that she realised for herself what the upcoming trip represents to me.

We talked for a while about Borderline Personality Disorder and she mentioned that these disorders are very new. I wondered whether they are real – as surely everyone experiences such universal emotions and behaviours as anger, depression, impulsivity, changeability etc. H responded that it is the degree to which these behaviours disturb one’s life that makes one a sufferer or not. A very simple but crucial point.

I think the best advice I can give myself after reading this chapter is to talk to others, to step outside my comfort zone, and do things that bring me closer to who I really am. It is there, but it is covered in so much self-doubt, fear, neuroticism, laziness and confusion. I would like to join healthy groups which work toward a worthwhile goal. I would like to be part of a team. I would like to maintain perspective and consistency.  I would like to feel part of my community. As I open up to people – strangers, friends and therapists – I will feel accepted without needing to guard my words. When I realise gradually for myself that others value and cherish me, then this will go a long way towards cementing a firm idea of who I am to myself.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder / Borderline Personality Disorder.

Monday 25th August 2014

In my research on the internet I have unearthed information about a couple of conditions that I might have. I know, I know, I recently thought I might have psychopathic leanings but that was probably brought on by moments of excessive self-doubt and the unhealthy relationship I am (was?) in taking its toll and bringing out my worst sides. The reality of my being a psychopath is far from possible. I don’t lie very much or very convincingly and have a very developed sense of responsibility toward myself and others. Moreover I am too self-aware of own propensities which psychopaths are not.

More likely, it’s possible I have Intermittent Explosive Disorder. It sounds made up but it’s real. At the risk of pinning the tail on a scapegoat, I have been thinking more broadly about my behaviour in relations with friends, partners and my parents over the course of my whole life. I identify with all the risk factors for the condition.

  • Recurrent outbursts that demonstrate an inability to control impulses, including either of the following:
    • Verbal aggression (tantrums, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression that occurs twice in a weeklong period for at least three months and does not lead to destruction of property or physical injury (Criterion A1)
    • Three outbursts that involve injury or destruction within a year-long period (Criterion A2)
  • Aggressive behavior is grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the psychosocial stressors (Criterion B)
  • The outbursts are not premeditated and serve no premeditated purpose (Criterion C)
  • The outbursts cause distress or impairment of functioning, or lead to financial or legal consequences (Criterion D)
  • The individual must be at least six years old (Criterion E)
  • The recurrent outbursts cannot be explained by another mental disorder and are not the result of another medical disorder or substance use (Criterion F)

I have to get used to talking about my violence. It sounds so strange that phrase, ‘my violence’.  Looking at me, quiet as a mouse most of the time, it would seem inconceivable to a stranger that I have done the things I’ve done. Hit an ex in the eye. Rip an ex’s phone in two and destroy it with a hammer. Pull down friends in the street and sit on their backs, squashing their faces into the pavement. Yank J’s fingers back so far that they still hurt when he makes a fist ten months later. Leave red fingernail marks on J’s face. Punched him while he was totally off-guard. That’s not to mention the verbal aggression; I’ve called people, some of them strangers, awful things that express so much hatred. I’ve had the police called on me, been chucked out of a hostel, a student union, pubs and nightclubs.

A commenter on my blog voiced an idea that I might have Borderline Personality Disorder. I have done a little research on this too, including some online personality quizzes. Guess what, I score high on the symptoms on every test. This from Psych Central

Psych Central BPD assessment

Wikipedia says: ‘The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to rejection, and thoughts and fears of possible abandonment. Overall, the features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values, having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed and severe dissociation.’

Yup, yup and yup! I’m going to dwell on too much as them as diagnosis requires a psychiatric evaluation. Certainly something to think about. I think I would feel like less of a freak if I could have a label which would go some way to explaining my errant behaviour. All my life I have felt like there’s something wrong, but we’re told to ignore it, be happy and get on with things. I’ve been sweeping this under the rug for too long.

Blame, love & my violence.

Monday 18th August 2014

Exactly one year ago I wrote an entry in my diary, and put a reminder in my calendar for 18th August 2014. Today, I saw ‘J day’ in the calendar and after puzzling about it for a moment, opened up my diary and with a heavy heart had a look what I’d promised to myself twelve long months ago.

Sunday 18th August 2013

The meaninglessness here continues. I can’t find my stride here […] Spain leaves me cold (ironically). […]This isn’t for me somewhere I can thrive and make those important changes in life, because I am so dependent on someone else for the first time in my life. And that’s not a good starting point for a highly personal journey if that relationship isn’t full of support and encouragement and lightness, love and laughter. Which it isn’t. […]

The journey can’t start yet because this isn’t the place where I am to grow and change into the mature, calm and stable person I catch glimpses of from time to time. I remain absolutely sure that J can be my partner on this journey however. He was the one that convinced me I could be a better person.

I think I need to have a date in my mind where if things don’t get better, I get out. Why not a year from today. 18th August 2014, and if things aren’t already on an even keel, then I get out of it. If he hasn’t already dumped me by then, that is. He’s got very very close to dumping me more than once. Of course every relationship has ups and downs but this is ridiculous! We can’t even be ourselves around each other because we just f***ing argue all the f***ing time. […]

I just want J and me to be gentle with each other’s feelings and to be kind and considerate all the time. Not in an intense way, just to have quiet – silent – respect for each other rather than searing rage and contempt. Any small matter will set it off. It’s like a pressure cooker that’s ready to blow and just a little nudge on that valve will release a violent torrent of offensive build-up that rings in your ears and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for days and days and days. And like this, the wound never really gets the chance to heal. If it ever does, who knows, we might find that, after all, we aren’t compatible, or one of us doesn’t want the other one, but until a year’s time, I am going to keep trying, no matter what the emotional cost.

When I wrote that, I could not have comprehended how much worse things would get. I thought that what was happening in August 2013 was as low as we could go. How wrong I was. Back then I was blaming J as much as myself, convinced that if only he’d stop drinking so much or start listening to me more or stop being so oversensitive or if only we were in England, none of it would be happening.

How I’ve changed since then is that I realise the error is with me – it is always with me. I regret what I’ve done to us, making a kind, happy-go-lucky man who had already been through so much, into a monster. I regret having given in to my anger one too many times. Unfortunately it’s become clear over time that I’ve been unable to cope with life with my partner, without the readymade structure and meaning such as through being in employment. Living in a foreign and pretty unwelcoming land was also tough, or perhaps that’s just an excuse. I lashed out in every way I could and brought him down to my level every time. I nitpicked, criticised, provoked and twisted the knife. I carried on doing this until last week when our unexpected separation forced an end to my sick and disgusting behaviour.

Too many times I had been the initiator of violence. At the end of April this year we were in Belgium for a working holiday. I blogged about the aftermath but I never went into the details of what happened because I was just too ashamed. I punched him repeatedly in the face simply for having fallen asleep in the hotel room after a night of drinking when I returned with a kebab for us. I should have walked out there and then. Instead, I apologised profusely and beat myself up for weeks and still do. We moved on somehow, a testament to his caring nature, but I have no right to expect him to forgive me as I overstepped a boundary from which there’s no returning.

I am devastated and confused, I can’t function. I stare at the wall and can’t focus on any task, not that I have anything to do here. I can’t eat, I can’t think. I can’t sleep or concentrate enough even to watch TV. My only task, really, is staying as mentally healthy as I can, trying not to spiral any further into misery.

Putting things right.

Sunday 17th August 2014

 In seeking absolute truth we aim at the unattainable, and must be content with finding broken portions. – William Osler, Canadian physician

There are some things I would like to put right, before resuming normal transmission. It seems that writing this blog has got me into questionable moral territory with J, my partner. I have hurt him with the things I wrote in the last post which in his opinion were not an accurate reflection of the truth, and for that I apologise unreservedly. My intention through writing via the very public medium of blogging is not to injure someone else’s reputation, nor to strike out when I am hurt, nor to cause suffering and pain to anyone. But, I am aware that inadvertently I may have done all of those things.

I certainly don’t want to live through my blog and I am aware of some of the more unhealthy aspects of blogging such as caring more about your online life than the real world, the need to enlarge one’s readership, being wrapped up in your own story, appealing for validation and craving your truth to be as salacious and dramatic as possible.

I have a voice on this platform because I am looking to connect with others, yes, but first and foremost this blog is a journal of my hopefully improving mental health and spiritual awakening, anonymous and not connected to other online aliases or my real name.

For that reason, I stand by what I have written, for my last post was my interpretation of traumatic events in their immediate aftermath. Truth, as much as we would like to believe otherwise, is subjective, experienced through each of us differently due to our histories, filters, perceptions and all the other baggage we bring to the table. Our individual and highly personal versions of reality serve to confirm or challenge what we already believe.

So, without dwelling too much on what’s passed, here is my truth for what it’s worth. I have been a violent person. On more than one occasion, I have been the perpetrator of domestic abuse. As such, it was my duty to leave the relationship the very first time I struck out at my partner because violence in this context is always unforgiveable. 

But I didn’t leave after the first incident. Nor did I leave the second or third time. I begged for forgiveness – and J to his eternal credit gave me some semblance of forgiveness but, alas, the memory of unprovoked violence never really fades away. A lot of commenters on this blog have offered me support as I painted a picture of being the victim of physical domestic violence, even though I pointed out I was not the victim. I wish to point out unequivocally that I am not the victim of abuse. I never have been, in my current relationship or any other.

J sent me the following email, 3 days ago.

tj I just read your blog. Please stop spreading slanderous rumours. The truth is you were violent to me, yet again and I struggled to get away from you, you continued to rip my clothing and we wrestled to the ground, you tried to wrestle me to the ground and then I broke free actually, then i pushed you away from the door so i could get out. You repeatedly punched me with all your might in the face in Belgium when i was asleep and then repeatedly tried to punch me the first few mad contact in the face and neck, then you tried and succedded to claw me when I managed to grab your arms, i tried to calm you down, but you were in your very violent mood, even your father says you have a terrible anger and its well known that you hit people, thats why they avoid you, right?

I ask you to correct your blog to reflect the truth, and if you cant then to remove any implication that i was violent to you please. Its just not right.

I believe in some un healthy way you are enjoying this, its like a movie to you, well it isnt to me. I loved you very much and have been far to patient, tolerant and forgiving, thats why you think its ok to walk all over me.

I appeal to you kind nature, which i know you have in abundance wrapped up somewhere under all that anger from your childhood. Please remove the slanderous comments, it is not acceptable and you know that.

I really hope you are safe wherever you are and comfortable and continue with your therapy, it very admirable that you want to do so, but please stop punishing me.

You know I only ever want the best for you, but i cant put up with this.

J

J had been patient with me for too long, he’s right. Eventually he snapped because all his efforts were met with yet more rage and violence. My violence. All those promises I made that I would sort myself out, make resolutions to change, go to therapy to break my negative patterns, go teetotal, gain dominion over my emotions more effectively – they were all essentially hollow and did not individually or collectively do any good in repairing what I had already broken. How could they?

J’s mistake in his opinion was being too patient, tolerant and forgiving. I can’t refute that. His mistake was to carry on a relationship with an abuser that he could not trust and will never trust again.

I am sorry for all the damage I have caused. I am the one that has to live with myself knowing that I’ve broken somebody that I love. I have to live with the knowledge that I have continually struggled to control my temper and one day that might lead me to serious trouble. I have to live with myself.

On the edge of the world.

Something seismically awful has happened. I appear to have walked out on J and my entire world is spinning. To my abject disbelief I am writing this from a roadside café somewhere between Las Cabezas and Seville. I am heading to an Air Bnb room that I’ve booked in Seville. My satnav won’t charge in the car so I’m having to take regular pit stops to charge it, so I thought I might as well use the time to write.

We woke up today after having spent a bit of time sleepily talking and joking in bed together. J suffers from insomnia and I try to help him and to be patient. I made him a cup of coffee and he said I had ‘ruined it’ with too much sugar. We went from that small domestic non-incident to me on the floor of our bedroom within literally 5 minutes. He had thrown me to the floor and pulled my hair and then kicked me. He called me a ‘nutter’ because of my mental health problems presumably. He then came back in a few seconds later and dragged me onto the bed. He went to another bedroom.

After a few minutes of feeling total shock, I pulled my suitcase out from under the bed and packed. I wasn’t even crying by then, and I took over half an hour to leave. I was forcing myself to remain calm and not do anything erratic. He would have heard that I was moving things around and zipping up my suitcase etc.

He didn’t come for me. I filled up the car with petrol and went to the library to figure out what I was going to do, where I was going to go. I knew I couldn’t go back home, not yet. He had sent me a couple of texts – he wanted to talk and was worried about me, but no apology.

I am not going to enter into a conversation with him while I’m away but told him I need to know things will be different before I go home. I was distraught. I am not ready to face the blame that I know will be poured onto me. The blame I am subjected to is a backbreaking load, it is the force bearing down on me that reinforces every negative thought I have about myself: I’m not good enough, I’ll never change, I am right to hate myself, I can’t stop messing up, I am an evil and worthless thing.

Having said that, I am not going to play the victim. I probably did provoke him, I remember grabbing at his dressing gown when he was asking me to let him go, and it ripped. That was when he threw me down. I wasn’t physically hurt or anything. It just took the wind out of me in other ways. I can’t believe it happened to me.

What is so astounding and scary is how this situation escalated in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t as if we were in the middle of a heated disagreement about something fundamental. It was a little mistake. I know he likes sugar in his coffee so I thought a little extra would be even nicer. But he took objection to it after not sleeping well, and this is the crucial bit – my reaction, my attitude wasn’t positive enough and he despaired. I didn’t respond to the constructive criticism properly. I said something like ‘Well I won’t make your coffee anymore because it seems I can’t even do that right’. OK, immature I know, but what he did to me was an act of physical violence. I was scared. He’s a man and I’m a woman. What does that make me? What does it make him?

That last four weeks while we’ve been on Seroxat have been bliss. Up until a week ago we’d had hardly any disagreements and were happy almost all of the time. Then one day he lost it, got grumpy and started blaming me and I broke down in tears. Properly went bonkers. That was when I started to realise I was bottling up too much, being on the happy pills without an escape in the form of booze, weed, or even a good cry or a raging argument.

Since then, things have not been the same. We’re broken again. We tried to put a plaster over the crack but it got bigger. My mental health has also deteriorated. All I keep coming back to is, ‘I hate myself’. I thought I was so far away from all this bullshit. When I am on my own I regain a tiny bit of self-belief again. But I feel like I’m the size of a pea around him, ready to get trampled on and my spirit crushed. I let him allow me to feel like a stupid child as he’s always telling me what to do and how to do it.

I would rather be on my own lost in the outside world than stuck in his. His contains no healing.

love is all

An unpalatable confession.

I have to get this off my chest as it’s probably ridiculous but it’s been playing on my mind for a long time. I have been concerned that I display psychopathic traits, which would certainly go some way to explaining the difficult and confused mental states that I have suffered with most of my life.

I know there is some pressure especially on the blogosphere to put a name to one’s condition and to write at length about its causes, symptoms, progress and prognosis. This is of course a vital and commendable part of the healing process for those people. For myself too, I thought, as I undertake this journey of self-discovery and opening my eyes to the world.

This idea that I identify with psychopathic traits is unnerving and I don’t want to give it credence. However it is too disturbing to ignore and as far-fetched as it first seems, I must explore further. This is precisely the platform on which to do so.

The following list is Hervey Cleckley’s List of Psychopathy Symptoms and comes from Psychopathy Awareness but there are surprisingly few (read: no?) resources for those that think they might have a touch of the psychopath about them, or want to find out whether their inklings are just tough self-criticism or might be grounded in actual fact. I think this is a valid point – we talk about psychopaths as though they are ‘out there’ with the werewolves, but what about the psychopath in all of us, could we embody some of those traits ourselves without being out-and-out hell-raisers?

  1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
  2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
  3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.
  4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
  5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.
  6. Antisocial behaviour which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
  7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behaviour.
  8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
  9. Pathological egocentricityTotal self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.
  10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
  11. Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
  12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
  13. Fantastic and objectionable behaviour, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.
  14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
  15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
  16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way (unless it is for destructive purposes or a sham

Myself, I have aspects of the following 14 of the 16 traits, and I have emboldened the particularly prominent traits: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. I will go into a little more detail, but I’m itching under the collar here.

I can charm people and behave in a Zelig-like way that feeds off more conventional folk around me. In the past I had always sought sex without love and resisted a loving relationship until I was in my early/mid-twenties. At school I used to proclaim proudly that I ‘had no conscience’ thinking this was cool. More recently it has come to my attention that close friends agree I ‘have no moral compass’. I make the same mistakes over and over again to the point where it has become a joke between my boyfriend J and me. He has the patience of a saint.

And as for my behaviour when I used to drink, to describe it as objectionable would be extremely kind. So many times I have been surprised to learn that my friends are either laughing at me or hurt by things I’d done without my realising. I’ve flitted from one group of friends to another quickly, charming them anew because I can’t stand anyone knowing the real me. I was always terrified of people getting too close, in case they realised how empty I am.

I spent much of my childhood wondering why other people didn’t understand my genius  and I’d write stupid nonsense zines and unsolicited emails hoping that my incredible brain would be recognised if only I were in the ‘right’ school or could get to the ‘right’ people instead of the ‘sad losers’ that surrounded me.

I used to throw stones at my poor cat and hold her by her tail when I was only 6 or 7. For this I am truly sorry. I have never admitted this to anyone before and it makes me incredibly sad thinking about it now. Even though I was a little kid I should have known better. I’ll regret what I did as long as I live.

And lastly I have always struggled with the idea of having a life plan and assumed that in time, it would come. I am in my thirties now and I am still waiting. I have a mind block when I think about the big picture, anything more than a few months and even that is a stretch. I’ve never had a career or even a career plan, only a succession of jobs I don’t care about and am not good at, and wild dreams about what the next job could be. I fill my days living my boyfriend’s life plan and to a large extent letting him dictate what we do, what country we live in, what sort of people we are and whether or not I work or get on with any tasks. Supporting him is a happy substitute for doing any hard thinking myself.

I’m scared of myself. I know what I’m capable of and it’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes. I’ve punched boyfriends, one in the eye on Christmas morning so hard it made him cry and walk out, even though he was a plane journey from home. I punched the person that loves me while he was asleep only four months ago while we were on a working holiday. I have left scratches and bruises on people’s faces, some of them friends trying to have a fun night out with me. I have betrayed a friendship so badly by saying unspeakable things about my friend/flatmate behind her back knowing that what I said would get back to her. I’m talking in the past tense because I hope to God that this sickness is behind me.

I have been an abuser, psychopathic or not, it’s so hard to stomach and I am sorry.

Jealousy. Windsurfing. Dismantling the halo.

I really cannot fault the meds I am on. Seroxat has made me feel relaxed and content, brave and bold, happy and smiling and it’s quieted my mind. It is a wonderdrug for me as there are no side-effects that I can perceive which balance out the benefits. Of course there is a bit of me that wonders what the catch is – will it be impossible to get off when that time comes? Will I go nuts if I ever miss a dose? Will there be long-term health implications that I won’t be aware of for ten or thirty years? I don’t know and for the time being I am happy to continue taking Seroxat.

The brave new me went windsurfing two days ago – a traumatic experience that left me feeling depleted and disgusting. I went to Tres Piedras beach, just south of Chipiona, Cadiz. I had never windsurfed before, and it was one of those things that J and I thought would be perfect to get into for fitness and a bit of an adrenaline rush.

The instruction consisted of being taken a mile out to sea in a boat after waiting on the shoreline for twenty minutes. The ‘instructor’ told us in embarrassed English to step onto the board and hoist up the sail. Then he sped off in his boat, not to be seen again for a good half hour. I didn’t manage to get the sail up even once, though falling off it repeatedly into the deep water was strangely fun and even kind of exhilarating.

After a few minutes I was truly exhausted and took to straddling or sitting on my board waiting to regain enough energy to carry on. But all that bobbing up and down, even on a moderately calm sea, made me feel increasingly sick. I felt as if I must have been going green and retched a couple of times. It was the most bizarrely hopeless and helpless circumstance to be in, if I’m honest. It was so ridiculous it made me laugh in my delirious state. What was I doing? I was a dot on the horizon, much further out from shore than I could ever swim. I was lying on a raft, about to hurl my guts up. It was completely calm and peaceful. No-one would come for an hour and a half. It took the biscuit for strange situations.

Still I have to give myself kudos for going through with it and not bottling out. I’m not a thrill-seeker by nature and prefer sitting at home reading, writing, eating or watching TV. The night before our long-awaiting windsurfing lesson, I had a bit of a revelation which was embarrassing to admit even to myself. I was out at a restaurant with my boyfriend J and things were slightly fraught somehow, and I objected to his buying a bottle of wine for home then ordering a G&T at the restaurant (spirits measures are always so large in Spain and are always free-poured).

I just came out with it and realised as soon as I had said it that I’d been carrying it around with me for some time: I am insanely jealous of his drinking. There, I’ve said it! We do everything together and go through the same highs, lows, triumphs and disappointments being together practically 24/7. But he has escapes in the form of alcohol and marijuana. His relationship to booze is not entirely healthy, as he has the propensity to drink a tad too much, but he certainly doesn’t turn into a monster or become angry/ violent/ emotional/ riotous like me. He just gets more fun. He likes to smoke a spliff at the end of the evening. Nothing wrong with that, except that I’m quietly fuming that this pleasure is similarly unavailable to me. I’ve never even been stoned before. I’d only ever smoked it when I was blind drunk in the past. Now, with the hole in my lung and my aspergillosis, it’s off-limits.

It is incredibly childish of me I know but this is what my heart is saying and I have to make efforts to listen to it. J’s response was that my drug could be adrenalin – natural, safe and free. We would do extreme sports like windsurfing and ride rollercoasters (though he pooh-poohed the idea of me driving my car really crazily or learning to ride a motorbike – probably wise).

There is also the possibility of doing Seroxat recreationally, doubling my dose to 20mg or more one time, just for fun. I would really like this and am so craving the chance to lose my brain for a few hours. The saint-like lifestyle I have been living for eight months now is taking its toll and something has to give. Even Mother Theresa-a-likes such as myself should be allowed a little escape from time to time. I just don’t know what that might entail.

Life & the human transmission tower.

There was something that I learned around the same time I started taking my happy pills, which I think is partly the reason why my mood has been so positively altered recently. I became privy to a wonderful secret, something that everybody the world over knows deep down as a self-evident truth, but perhaps it helps if it is spelt out as truths so often are overlooked or shrouded in confusion.

I’ve been reading about the law of attraction in a best-selling book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (Sorry if I’m a bit slow in catching on). The Secret is the law of attraction. “Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you.”

The law is infallible, absolute and holds true to matter what. Simply, thought creates reality. Thought calls the law of attraction into action. Thought it not only creative, it is the most powerful creative force in the universe, more powerful than any transmission tower on earth. Your thought creates your life and creates the world. Once upon a time, thought created the entire universe from nothing…but that’s another story. Your thoughts create the frequency of transmission, a transmission so powerful it reverberates throughout the universe. Like things on the same frequency are attracted back. Change the thoughts and the frequency changes, and what is attracted back (what forms your life experience) is changed too.

We can each, individually and collectively, have whatever we want. Whatever we most desire we can summon it into being merely by thinking about it. However, focus too much on what you don’t want and you might find yourself unwittingly attracting that into your life as well. The law of attraction is impersonal and doesn’t see the “don’t want” that precedes what you’re thinking about. Focus on your mountain of debt and you’re affirming your money woes to yourself, and broadcasting signals that attract more debt. The richest people in the world have become so by focusing on wealth and having absolute faith and trust in that. They live and breathe their dream of wealth and do not allow contradictory ideas to take hold. They have attracted prosperity into their lives using powers that we all have. What you think, you bring about.

It’s such a wonderful, comforting and true philosophy. If there were a God, it would be simply the truth of these laws. We have such great power and we don’t even realise it, imagining that we are victims of circumstances, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I look at my life I realise how particularly with the plague of bad thought, it is so easy for it to spiral out of control. There is huge comfort in depression and other diseases of the mind, and it’s a constant challenge to resist their pull. If there were a devil, it would be the voice that says ‘make life easy for yourself, just stay in bed, everyone’s out to get you, what’s the point anyway?’

When I got ill four years ago, I attracted it to myself. I was depressed, miserable and negative; my life was closing in on itself because I let it. I wanted a way out, something to happen. So the universe gave me a disease which kills its victims when left untreated. I contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. To this day I have not been able to fathom how I contracted it. Beforehand, I was doing mad stuff like pretending I was lying in a hospital bed, dying of cancer or having attempted suicide. I was doing that kind of shit a lot – it would help me get to sleep at night. I would lie there for hours crying and wishing I wasn’t there anymore or wondering who would turn up at my bedside or funeral.

I was total crackers, and had something I term depression at the precise time that (according to the tests) my TB set in. This isn’t a coincidence, I know that now. At the time, it was blamed on everything from my giving up smoking, to the area where I lived having a high incidence of the disease. It has taken me until now to realise that I brought it on myself by my angst, fear of life, sadness and wishing for death.

I’m not perfect, and in fact I had a bit of an outburst yesterday that involved screaming and crying while my boyfriend was driving, but it was in response to something hurtful he’d done – and it was in being unfairly blamed that made me so mad. We are still very sensitive and will have incidents like that while the incredible damage to our battered souls is being repaired.

But on the whole once you know about the secret, you don’t forget it. I am harnessing what I now know and spreading it in lots of ways.

“Your life is in your hands. No matter where you are now, no matter what has happened in your life, you can begin to consciously choose your thoughts, and you can change your life. There is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Every single circumstance of your life you can change!” – Rhonda Byrne, ‘The Secret’.

A happy story from another planet.

It’s been about two weeks now since I started taking Seroxat. I live in Spain where it is called Paroxetina Cinfa and each day I take 10mg. We buy it over the counter here without prescription. My boyfriend J and I started the self-medicating process with 4mg per day and he still takes only 5mg. I have been upping mine a little every few days because I cannot perceive an effect, but I know it must be taking the edge off.

I had been warned about possible side effects including a metallic taste in the mouth and the flavours in food being altered, dry throat and the need to drink a lot more water, rushes, face ache because of too much smiling and feeling depressed even suicidal for the first few days or weeks.

Fortunately for me I have had none of these side effects. I haven’t strongly perceived positive effects like euphoria, I am not gurning my face off like I’m on E or anything like that – but being on Seroxat has certainly has kept a lid on my depression, panic and fear. I just feel more able to deal with my life now.

I am a lot less sensitive now too. It’s as if I am able to see the bigger picture at long last instead of getting bogged down with every last little detail. I can laugh things off easier, things that would have wounded deeply before.

I am laughing much more these days. Last night I let off an incredibly bad-smelling emission from my rear end, and my boyfriend said some funny things as he was so appalled, called me a foul-bottomed woman and made me stand outside. I laughed so hard even while I was on my own outside, I was bent double unable to stop the chortles and belly laughs.

OK so maybe this kind of thing is attributable to slight euphoria from being on the tabs – I’m incredibly stubborn after all and always refused to notice any effect even from alcohol and coffee! 10mg of Seroxat must be doing something, especially for me, someone whose system is not used to any kind of psychotropic medication.

In myself I am lighter and I’m far from being on the edge of tears. In the relationship, we have crashed a couple of times – this is when we hit a brick wall usually caused by oversensitivity or poor communication, but have got over it relatively quickly and generally nipped it in the bud. This is to be expected when we spend almost all of our time together, neither of us working, speaking the language or having other close friends. In fact we do very well to make efforts to get along so well despite our recent pitfalls, and I mustn’t forget to congratulate myself for that. Kudos!

I am considering upping my dose to 15mg very soon, as while things feel good right now, I know they can be just that little bit better. I would like life to be dreamier, not forever, just to feel what it’s like.

I take zero other mind-altering substances – no alcohol, no drugs. I would like Seroxat to be my little personal pleasure. I would like it to continue transporting me to ever-more exotic and special places.

Paroxetina