therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: sense of self

Into the heartspace.

We’re bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that created this boredom that we see in the world now may well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing created by a world totalitarian government based on money and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no? – Andre, ‘My Dinner With Andre’.

Some time has passed since the last time I wrote on therapy journey. In that time, therapy journey has turned one year old, and a new calendar year has also commenced with haste. It has been a period of readjustment and coming around. It has been a time of cold winds and hot baths; long goodbyes and short days; high hopes and low pressure; a time for shining brightly in the dark. I feel like I’ve been gathering myself up, and expressing what I am in all that I do more clearly than ever before.

I’ve cast out the old. In a literal sense, I’ve got around to a task I’d been putting off for years, namely selling, giving away or throwing out hundreds of old possessions that I no longer need. This has been a difficult operation to get my head around, as many of the things I’m disposing of still fit, are current or have plenty of use left. But I’ve realised I simply have too many of these things – mainly clothes and accessories – and rather than hang on to them while they depreciate (and for it to cost me, in various resources, for the privilege), I made the decision that it would be better for them to find a new home while they still hold some value.

It’s been a shaming but humbling experience. From the spiritual side of my being, I can say with certainty that things don’t matter. But from the point of view of minimising waste, allocating resources efficiently, enabling others, sharing my prosperity and respecting the abundance of the planet, it has been important to me that my unwanted possessions go to homes where they too can find a new lease of life until planned obsolesce kicks in, as it inevitably will. I aim to live not only more frugally but with what I already have, which is perfectly adequate in every way. Items may need to be replaced over time but at a more ambling pace. It is my hope that while adjusting to less, for every new item in my wardrobe I get rid of two already in it.

I wrote on this blog some weeks ago about the awful situation that befell me when I unexpectedly ran out of anti-depressant medication. Recently I wrote a letter to my GP informing him of exactly what my predicament was. I chose the letter format to express this because I didn’t want to miss anything out, and one can be more formal and cogent in writing. It also served to express how cut off I was when I requested his help, as I was rebuffed contact by phone and email, leaving only the medium of fax which has been entirely useless for the past fifteen years. I was jubilant after delivering the letter, if only with the hope that the doctor thinks twice about prescribing this medication without a well-thought out weaning-off method worked out. It was my own fault however, to leave for an extended trip without thinking through how to resupply, but I naively thought it would be easy.

In that letter I was able to express some of my darker moments which while I am not proud of, were important to keep hold of during my recovery. “I had an episode where I became convinced that I would kill myself, not out of depressive thoughts but because I became paranoid that the drug was intended to kill me, control me and rot my mind and I would never be free of it. I phoned a couple of my friends and they talked me round.” I am more grateful to the people (and dogs) that surrounded me and comforted me, than to the medical establishment and its wider structure of red tape and loopholes which let them off the hook.

These matters are behind me now, thankfully. Tonight I took myself off to a local meditation group in its second week. This meditation aims to go deep into the heartspace, using sound and our ability to listen to our own heartbeat to focus on emotion. This is in contrast to breath meditation in which mental thought is channelled or invoked. We allow our inner processes to interact with the outside. But we wore earplugs, so all we heard was within ourselves.

Others reported peacefulness, space around them, seeing flowers and wanting to smell them, being enveloped by a cushion that turned liquid. I have to admit that during the powerful 45 minute meditation, I didn’t feel anything profound, no vital energy bubbling up within, nor visions nor even a clearing of the mind. I felt acutely aware of my body and of time passing. I didn’t “go” anywhere. It was beyond me, a beginner, to give into the fullness of the meditative experience, especially one that wasn’t guided. We are meant to learn about our inner nature but I only learned that my energy is not settled in this place. It is shifting, it is unsettled. No matter what I do to gloss over the fact – and I am not consciously aware of it, but I found out tonight that it is wanting to return to a place that is more home than this one.

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

Seroxat. The Crash. Harness the Power.

My aim for today (as it has been every day for the past few days) is to have a nice day, without any tears. I have been crying every day. Today I realise I have nothing to be sad about. I have all the tools to change.

I made a start with my research and found out there are four main types of often-used mental health medication. These are antidepressants – to combat depression and anxiety. Secondly antipsychotics which treat psychosis and mania. There are benzodiazepines which treat anxiety. And lastly mood stabilisers are for bipolar disorder.

Looking at the list of symptoms I am not even sure what if any mental health condition I have and I’m not about to perform a self-diagnosis. All I can say is that I recognise some facets of every condition but my symptoms aren’t strongly aligned with any particular one. I guess the only condition that I know I have had in the past, and still feel to this day, sometimes very intensely, is depression.

Before I managed to get very far down my research route (I had been putting it off for some reason), I had a chat with my boyfriend, J, and he was extremely helpful in recommending an antidepressant to me. The drug is Seroxat and it’s an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) which NICE recommends as SSRIs have fewer side-effects than other antidepressants.

According to the NHS website, Seroxat is used to treat anxiety, depression, panic disorder, OCD and PTSD. However, somewhat startlingly, some people “may find that it intensifies depression and suicidal feelings in the early stages of treatment. These people have an increased risk of self-harm or suicide in the early stages of taking Seroxat”. The tragicomic irony is not lost on me.

On paper, the drug is certainly viable for me. I have heard glowing reviews from J, who is very responsible in matters such as these. I have all but decided I will give Seroxat a go. But here’s the rub. I don’t live in the UK at the moment and so I doubt my GP back home will prescribe a drug to me knowing that I won’t be around for follow-up appointments and monitoring (and she already knows that I live abroad, as my respiratory consultant communicates with her). But it just so happens that in the country where I live, Seroxat is available over the counter.

It makes sense. I will medicate myself, with diligent research and close attention to my mental state, of course. I will err on the side of caution naturally and take slightly less than I think I can get away with. I can’t wait for the experiment to begin!

Something needs to change. I have a problem but I am by no means beyond help. Even day to day my mood is different and I wake up with incredible positivity some days which sometimes sustains for quite long periods. Life’s natural changes also contain healing within them. But I would like a break from what I call The Crash which brings with it so much pain, anger, confusion then remorse. The Crash with its endless, fetid aftermath is repulsive enough for me to resolve that enough is enough.

My new counsellor (!) my boyfriend, told me last night during a pep talk to Harness the Power. When I get the thought that I must control my emotions, it can actually be counterproductive as I end up shutting myself down and denying my feelings which only forces them out later in a violent outburst, like what happened on Robot Day. If I could only acknowledge the power of emotion, and convert it to productive ends.

The other takeaways were enjoy every moment, that’s what life’s for; be true to yourself, be kind to yourself and take consideration for those around you; you’re allowed to do whatever you want!

Robots in disguise.

Last night, at the end of a very difficult day, I inadvertently hit upon the root cause of some of my persistent upsets. I had spent the entire day behaving like a robot in an attempt to put the kibosh on those negative feelings that control me. It was an extreme version of the mantra to “act the way you want to feel”. I’d been reading about Gretchen Rubin’s attempts to do just this, and for her, happiness ensued. I wanted to feel thick-skinned, unshakeable, buoyed from within. I wanted to rise above the contingent circumstances of the everyday that constantly threaten to capsize me. I wanted to act in a generous way to my partner – apologising when I misunderstood or made a mistake rather than flying off the handle defensively as is my wont. I decided to stay quiet on the whole, waiting for my turn to speak not butting in or veering off-topic.

Unfortunately my efforts to be calm, considerate, polite and detached backfired hugely. J chided me for behaving like a robot and begged me to stop it. I could see it on his face, he grimaced with displeasure as I apologised for upsetting him and berated myself for the hundredth time that day. So that approach clearly didn’t work as no-one wants to be around a person who’s putting on a childish act. He would like me to be happy and light not to oscillate between one drama and another. And when I think about it that’s absolutely right; one of the traits I most admire in him is his steadfastness.

At the end of Robot Day I became very tired and realised (too late of course) that I was frustrated. I had almost managed to keep up the act for an entire day but at the very last moment, when I was halfway up the marble hill to Bedfordshire, J called me back saying it was rude just to disappear without so much as a by your leave. I had already squeezed every last drop into the day’s exertions so of course I lost it. I snapped. I can’t remember what was said but vitriol poured out. I stewed for a couple of minutes then headed upstairs in a stink.

I came down a few minutes later and apologised and this time I was me, not a robot. All I could say was that I was frustrated and didn’t know how to express myself. This was the root cause that I had been trying to arrive at for quite some time.

My communication is a problem. My verbal communication is slow, unintelligent and inarticulate. I write very well but I do not speak with authority and I’m unable to command the attention of my listener(s) in a conversation. As a result, I stomp my feet and shout “Hey! Listen to me! I’m talking!” which has the exact opposite effect of capturing the attention of my audience (my audience consisting of my boyfriend, J, nine times out of ten). As a result of that, I am thwarted and frustrated because I wasn’t able to get my point across effectively and the reaction of my audience was unsatisfactory. Often I just give up expressing anything. My communication needs are not being met. J has a habit of expressing one of these sentiments as a response to my best attempts at verbal communication.

“I’m sorry, what was that, I was thinking about something else”
“Do you think you could actually get to the point?”
“Anyway, back to what I’m talking about…”
“Do you mind rephrasing that more clearly?”
“I got lost halfway through”
“Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah I know all of that!”

And worse are the physical gestures that accompany his responses, such as turning away, looking out of the window, looking at his phone, sighing, avoiding eye contact, making a gesture which says “And…? Hurry up!” These gestures scream impatience and lack of interest loudest of all.

Most – and I really do mean a majority – of things that I say are interrupted and talked over. That is very hard for me to admit even as a very submissive sort of person by nature. I must do something to redress this balance and my suggestion was that when our communication needs are not being met, we have to say so by stating that that is the case. It’s very simple. Just say the words, “I feel frustrated by this communication”.

I am a person accustomed to silence and lack of talking for the most part. That is how I grew up and fashioned myself especially whilst single. I like art, reading, running, sewing, writing, listening to music, watching films and other solitary pursuits. I find myself in a full-time relationship with someone that crowds my head with constant speaking. Most of it is lovely talk such as exciting ideas, plans, stories, anecdotes, facts, friendly advice and hard-won experience being imparted. He is so gifted at painting a picture with words and he’s a great role model as a communicator for me as my verbal communication level is very low.

But this constant talking from him requires a reaction and complete attention from me which saps my energy. The fast pace of his thoughts (while not manic or anything like that) is very difficult for me to keep up with as I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. I lack the mental headspace to contribute something original or interesting to the conversation as I need much more time to formulate a thought and turn that into a cogent sentence.

I spend way too much of my time in tears and it must stop. Redefining the type and quality of communication that we each need in the relationship might help to stem the feelings of helplessness and frustration that lead to dark nights of the soul.

Contemplation, medication & frustration.

I can scarcely believe that only a few short weeks ago I had the frightening complacency to write, as a concluding remark to a comment on the subject of therapy on a practitioner’s blog, “It’s traumatic to say the least but I have the sneaking feeling that ‘it’s working’ – whatever that may mean.” I really had the suspicion that the good relationship I had with my last therapist was enough to have changed me permanently. “I talk, she steers. She interprets, I listen. I confess, she challenges. She provokes, I contemplate,” I mused, smugly.

“I cannot overstate how different I feel now”, I enthused, daring to believe that all my problems had been magicked away by a few sessions of psychotherapy that in reality barely skimmed the surface. And in all truth, even a more sustained course of therapy is no panacea.

I realise now that with much sadness that my problems aren’t going away and I am looking at the possibility that no amount of positive thinking, therapy, being in love, moving to a different country, giving up alcohol, giving up having a job, and having ongoing physical health issues are going to change that. Yes all these things have happened in the recent past. Recent enough for them to take root but still to be novel, uplifting or humbling.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up trying to be positive, but so often I am defeated by my simple inability to change. However, despite stubbornness, stupidity, immaturity and self-sabotage, whatever the reason, I am trying and I need to reassure myself of that. In my mind I am truly trying as hard as I can to be better, cleverer and happier but it doesn’t come across to the person that I am trying to improve myself for. My partner. I seem sarcastic when I try to be sincere. I seem absent-minded when I try my darndest to be smart. I smother when I try to be pleasant. I get angry too often and it grates. I am quagmired by frustration, self-loathing and anger and it is so horrible.

So in a last bid attempt to regain some kind of control over my temper and inner feelings of anger I wonder whether prescription medication would be the way to go?

I haven’t researched the specifics yet but I am aware that it’s certainly not to be taken lightly. I aim to use the Rethink website as a starting point. The sorts of issues that are swirling semi-formed around my head are of side effects, possible dependency down the line, and the risk of greater upsets before I find the right drug for me. I also foresee issues with my GP not being willing to prescribe a psychotropic to me – I speak from experience having gone to my doctor as a depressed 19-year old, begging for antidepressants and a “little bottle of confidence” as I wrote in my diary at the time. That was years ago. He didn’t give them to me but listened with kindness and referred me for counselling.

It’s funny, I’ve been on medication almost continually for three years now. In that time I’ve been treated for pulmonary tuberculosis twice followed by an invasive lung infection which I will have until it is cut out of me along with the cavity in my lung where it hangs out. All the time I wished for a time I could stop being on meds. In fact, I elected to stop taking my triazole antifungal for my invasive aspergillosis only a few weeks ago because I thought it might be affecting my mood. Just one of life’s little ironies I suppose.

make it work

Therapy is no magic wand.

The therapy is continuing in lots of different ways. I’m growing and learning in ways I never thought possible and reading lots though mostly from other blogs nowadays rather than books. What I’ve learned in relation to the traditional model of therapy is that it’s only useful when I’ve believed it to be useful. That is, I, the patient, determine the usefulness of the therapy. It works if I say so.

I adopt a multi-pronged approach, and have become something of a therapy junkie throughout my journey. I have been asked by various friends and other therapists recently whether therapy is “working”. I really don’t know what to say. It clearly isn’t, because all the hours I’ve spent talking to therapists haven’t changed my behaviour in certain situations.

It took me months to find the therapist, G, that has helped me the most – by that I mean the one who I feel most comfortable with, I respect as an individual, and whose advice, analysis and agenda I most value. What I am basically saying is that I like her as a person. We get on well. We can hold a conversation.

In this way I find solace in a relationship that society says can cure me of my psychological ailments; my mental and behavioural stumbling blocks. We have preordained roles and sometimes resort to stock phrases. Like doomed lovers conducting an illicit affair, there is no preamble and no outro to our encounters, it’s straight to business. The validity of the therapeutic transaction is confirmed by the exchange of money – an amount that isn’t to be sniffed at. Afterwards I am left confused, traumatised, enraged sometimes, comforted that someone understands other times… but there is never any question that this therapy is an  unequivocally Good Thing.

I wouldn’t say I have any doubts about the therapeutic process, even if the intervention is nothing more than offloading to a nice person who understands and challenges me. I worry that surely therapy is the end of the road. If it doesn’t “work” then what else is there to try? Happy pills? Joining a cult? Self-flagellation? Going back to my bad old ways?

Where my doubts lie are in myself. I embrace therapy and I know I’m doing it right because it’s painful afterwards, the psychological equivalent of being punched in the stomach. It’s a similar feeling actually, like the wind’s been taken right out of me. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far I have not turned into a very tasty dish. I’m still bitter in just about every way imaginable. I’m still angry, it’s right there, bubbling beneath the surface like lava in a volcano.

Yes, deep psychotherapy has helped me understand the causes of my upsets, and makes me very sad in fact as I come to terms with a wasted childhood. But as far as its ability to make me a better person – the person I was always meant to be, before being consumed by negativity – the progress is patchy. I continually mess up, and have recently reverted to appalling behaviours that I thought were behind me.

More recently though, there has been a glimmer of hope. I have been the shining beacon that is going to help myself out of the darkness. I am in the process of making myself more resilient, empathetic, grateful, humble, forgiving and loving. It is in my power alone.

I’ve been told by someone in the blogosphere to relax and observe whether I’m resisting or allowing each moment. Go general. Find soothing, relaxing thoughts. Be easy on myself. Have fun. Take deep breaths. find things to appreciate. Don’t resist the present moment & don’t resist life.

I would like to do all of these things and keep doing them until they become second nature, regardless of the setbacks and endless barrage of feelings I contend with. I would like to experience enough constant faith in myself that even a rough patch with my partner doesn’t derail it. At the moment my entire happiness seems to be dependent on our relationship. J’s also very sensitive (though sometimes seems incredibly insensitive as a coping mechanism), so everything rubs off on him and is exacerbated ten times. That is how we got ourselves worked up into such a lather before.

Learning self-belief and acceptance are so important to individual happiness. I’m doing very well with my previous resolutions – calmness, sobriety, my own interests, not using the language of blame, and sitting above the situation in hand – and over the weekend notched up gold stars on each. I stood up for myself in a very calm and inclusive way, and realised as I spoke what is important for me as regards my life goals.

I’ve got more therapy tonight with G – my last session before I leave the country for up to 8 months. I am looking forward to discussing my issues but I hope this is the end to some of my more unproductive introspection which I acknowledge can lead to unhappiness and resentment of the status quo.

There is no magic wand, there is only belief.

May Resolutions. Being more boring.

Enough time has passed for me to accept and try to move on from the weekend’s poisonous events. Knowing that I can’t unf**k the goat, I can at least do everything I can to prevent my pattern of idiocy to perpetuate any longer.

I have done this coming to terms largely away from J, on my own and with other people, as it’s the only way I can right now. I don’t want to talk to him about any of our issues for fear of causing an upset. I believe that if I can get things sorted in my own mind, my behaviour will be nice which in turn will lead him to be nice. Then maybe we can talk but only when we’re really strong again.

I have come to realise a few things in general. Call them resolutions. Firstly, I must be calm. There is a long, painful recovery period from my abusive behaviour for both of us. I am so shell-shocked I could have behaved like I did that I get into beating-myself-up mode, which means my already battered self-worth goes through the floor. I go into a sort of denial where I expect sympathy because I see myself as the victim. It’s strangely f***ed up.

Secondly, I must stay off booze. It doesn’t agree with me. It makes me aggressive. And seeing as I don’t start feeling that I have had too many after two or four or five, it’s safer to avoid it altogether. I have recently been made aware of alarming incidents that happened years ago that I genuinely could not recall. And it wasn’t just once or twice, it was every time. My friends dreaded being out with me. I did not know that…

Next, I must retain my own interests in order to boost my sense of self. In an intense relationship, it’s all too tempting to dissolve yourself into the other, seeking validation from just one source. It seems absurd even, to devote time to friends, new experiences and hobbies that take you away from the relationship you’re trying so hard to fix. The relationship becomes a full time occupation and everything else is just a distraction. This isn’t healthy.

Number four, when a situation progresses into a conflict, I should explain how the matter in hand affects me. I can explain how this is against my values or I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that, instead of nitpicking, criticising or attacking. Sentences should start with “Right now I feel” rather than “You always… You’re such a….”

The fifth point is to do with my boyfriend in particular. He has been known to twist the knife and to wait for a reaction. He’s a great one for picking fights and winding people up, particularly girlfriends. He likes the drama of conflict (I am exactly the same!). I guess we both like it for the same reason: it reminds you that you’re not dead. I actually want to be more boring! Maybe that means staying in more, watching TV, cleaning, reading, sewing. Maybe that means agreeing with him instead of rising to the bait. Maybe that means taking a step back and observing a situation rather than being tangled up in it and powerless to see what’s actually going on. So that’s a tricky one to summarise so I’ll just say I hope to be boring, agreeable and somewhat detached.

I cannot ask my boyfriend, or anyone else for that matter, to change. I can only work on changing my perceptions and behaviour. I can change how I let the outside world affect my inner state.

To this end I attended by first CBT session on the NHS last night. I had been waiting for three months, but I realise my problems have not changed a jot. I only have time for one session before I leave the country and will therefore have to wait six months or so until I am back to arrange a course of sessions. However it was still useful. The therapist drew three bubbles, the emotion I felt during the incident, the thoughts that were going through my head as a result of that emotion, and the behaviour that is manifested by the thoughts. The chain that we seek to break in the CBT process is between (irrational) thoughts and behaviour. I was challenged, which is very important to my recovery.

I was given two online resources I can use while away. They are Moodgym and the Centre for Clinical Interventions.

When I return here in a few months, I hope to continue with the CBT which deals very much with the here and now, and concurrently to take the NLP/ Biodynamic/ Integrative Arts psychotherapy approach in which I can address childhood issues. I’d like to think of recent events as minor speedbumps, not proof that I am beyond help.