Fear of anger, fear of being myself

This week has been a mixture. Group was a tense one, with voices raised, and I get terrified whenever anyone gets angry. I have a quick temper myself, when I feel safe with someone, so this makes no sense to me. I guess it’s another gift from my dad.

I’ve been paranoid, I think. It’s hard to tell what’s real. Also, I’m living with some severe cuts at the moment that I did last week, which have been painful. Focusing on the pain has helped at times.

Individual therapy today was good. We talked about how I feel with my friends, that I always feel like it’s a fluke when people like me, I am always buying time until the real me slips through the cracks and then people will hate me. I know me, and I hate me. I guess I reason that others will feel the same.

A missed group

Yesterday I missed group therapy because I had bad tummy pains and felt very low. I tried to call to let the CMHRS know, but I was too anxious to get on the phone.

One of the group leaders called me later on to see if things are okay and I didn’t answer because I was scared, and I didn’t know what to say. It was the group leader I like the least, the male one.

Today, I made the decision to phone him. I tried to keep an open mind, reasoning that trying to talk to him might help my therapeutic relationship with him, which would in turn improve my experience of the group.

The phonecall went okay. I was honest that I’ve been finding things really tough. At one point I got frustrated because I felt like he wasn’t listening and I took a few deep breaths… he was trying to press home an important point that generally, I’m scared to speak in the group because I’m scared of what people will think of me.

He said he thinks I say helpful and thoughtful things and maybe I should push myself to speak more and my fears might not come true. I’m glad I phoned and tried to open up to him.

I’d like to push myself to speak more and learn to cope with it if people do judge me or are confrontational with me. But this week, this week I just felt that I could not cope with going there, what with being in pain and feeling so low.

I have managed to avoid cutting myself for a week and a half now. The video in my head of what I would do if I did still plays every day, and coping with that is slowly getting easier, I think.

Self injury and therapy this week

My self injury has got really out of control lately. My social worker has been working with me to come up with ideas of what I can do to avoid hurting myself, and yesterday was the first day in a while when I did not hurt myself.

Group was scary because there was conflict and this always scares me. I was able to say that I was scared.

I talked about struggling with something that had come up in my one to one session and I cried. I saw my one to one today and looking back on it, I think I was avoiding talking further on that subject with her.

My thoughts on ‘Bedlam’

As I commented to a fellow blogger recently, I was left feeling angry and anxious after watching last week’s episode of ‘Bedlam’. Bedlam is a four part Channel 4 series currently broadcasting about the South London and Maudsley trust’s mental health services (including Bethlem hospital). The first episode was about anxiety and OCD, while this second episode focused on the subject of ‘crisis’ and was all about a short-stay assessment unit. The unit staff decide if you go into a longer term inpatient ward or if you can go home after a short stay.

I think some things about the programme were good – that they showed some of how prison-like an inpatient ward can be, and having to deal with other people in difficulty when you are feeling so low yourself. They also, perhaps inadvertently, showed breaches of human rights that actually happen in hospitals: like voluntary patients being told they have to see a doctor before they can leave and being threatened with sectioning.

I found this really upsetting to watch because not only did I have that familiar feeling of claustrophobia and fear of being readmitted ever; it is also the case that I didn’t learn until recently how much ‘voluntary’ patients are lied to and not protected. As a so-called voluntary patient I should not have been told I had to see a doctor before I could leave. I should not have felt the threat of sectioning hanging over my head, stopping me from trying to leave despite what they said. I was not advised by anyone else involved in my care of my rights under the human rights act.

Because the way the system supposedly works is not how it actually works. If you sign in voluntarily you should be free to leave with no threat of sectioning and at any time of your choosing. This is a million miles from the reality. The nurses act like bullies and also all tell you you must see a doctor before you’re allowed to leave, won’t let you off the ward unless it is agreed by a doctor (even though legally they must let you through that locked door) and the doctor makes it clear that if you try to leave before they advise you you can, you will be sectioned.

The programme portrayed some things that I felt were misleading: it is a specialist unit that is not widely available in other parts of the country and the facilities look a lot newer and cleaner than places I’ve been. I also felt that it is told more from the staff’s perspective than the service user. The staff were on many occasions deliberately cruel (I witnessed them swearing at patients) when I’ve been an inpatient and in this they are all on best behaviour, it is not true to life. I also noticed that they dodged using the term BPD and only touched on personality disorders very briefly, which I thought was typical. Like Dominic, I was also originally given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and this was changed when I did not respond to medication.

Walking on eggshells

I left group this week feeling really angry. I struggle to get a word in edgeways. This is partly because of people interrupting and talking over each other, but it’s also my own issue; I find I need a few seconds of silence before I can speak. I imagine this hesitancy is another one of those gifts from my less than idyllic childhood.

My father’s unpredictable temper probably taught me to walk on eggshells. At times I’d do just the opposite, deliberately pushing him into losing his temper just so it would be over and I wouldn’t have to deal with it hanging over my head, the not knowing what would happen next. There were few ways I could take control over the situation, and escalating it to get it over with was the way I chose.

I’ve been told for years by my family, as a child but also since then, that the conflict in the family was my fault because of this survival strategy. That guilt and the belief that I caused all these problems is a part of my core, and something I am struggling now to put into perspective. My therapist has challenged me on this, but it is an idea of myself that snaps back into place at any opportunity. There are moments when I glimpse alternative points of view. I suppose I just have to build on those.

In my individual session this week I talked with my therapist about my frustrations in trying to get myself heard in the group, and we touched on how I’ve been doing (badly) in the aftermath of talking to her about something I’ve never told anyone before. I’m not quite ready to go into that here.

I also had phonecalls with the crisis line and my social worker this week due to my self injury, which was escalating rapidly beyond my control. I didn’t find the crisis line helpful but the talk with my social worker has helped me feel that there are things I can do in terms of harm minimisation. This means I feel less out of control, though things are tough emotionally right now. I feel a sinking dread and an irritability I can’t shake. It is painful to be around others.

Parental Propaganda

My parents just popped round, cause I haven’t seen them for “ages” (it seems a comfortable amount of time to me).

I noticed for the first time today that they slip little comments in all the time. They are subtly reinforcing their view of things. I don’t think it is a conscious effort on their part. Just something they’ve always done.

Some examples from today:
1. My cousin is doing community service for a recent conviction and he won’t talk to anyone about what he did, not even his dad. My father commented that I have always been able to talk to them about what is happening with me. I laughed and said have I? He said you have haven’t you? And I just sort of rolled my eyes. My mum didn’t say anything, of course.

2. I was talking about learning to drive and I mentioned that my driving instructor thinks I’m very hard on myself. “You always have been” my dad said. My mum and I didn’t say anything. I thought “have I always though? Since birth, with no prompting?” it was them that always told me I was no good.

It’s interesting that they (although maybe it’s mostly my dad, and my mum just stays silent) feel the need to keep reinforcing this idea that we’re a happy family, always have been, and my problems come from inside me alone.

My dad mentioned a conversation he had with his brother where his brother said “what about ***? You’ve got two daughters you know? You talk about  *** all the time, and never mention how *** is doing?”. I think my dad was trying to demonstrate that he mentions me, he seemed to think I should be pleased. All it demonstrated to me is that he talks about my sister a lot but doesn’t mention me unless prompted.

My therapist asked me…

If I was there to “dump my shit”, because I said that I wanted to leave the session feeling better than when I came in.

I replied that I want to be able to cope better, and isn’t that why I’m there? To which she said yes.

I keep going over the first thing she said. It felt like an accusation.