Another of my Great Aunts on my Mum's side died this past week. She was 91 years old. It gives me hope that I too can reach a decent old age before I die and have lots of adventures and achievements and fond memories to look back on.
It's been a strange week. I had a meeting with my psychiatrist and care co-ordinator and it was good to get some things off my chest, the biggest definitely being why were things allowed to get so bad that I ended up being sectioned. It's been written into my crisis plan now that I would prefer to be treated at home rather than hospital, which is what I was asking for repeatedly during that period before my last hospitalisation. I also received a diagnosis of complex trauma and possible high functioning ASD. I also learned that I was dissociating a lot and it wasn't psychosis. I have a lot of questions swirling around in my head, but I can't articulate them at the moment. I tried in the meeting but it was impossible. I ended up feeling pretty frustrated. From now on, I'm trying to journal and write things down when they come to me.
The next day it was the last Stabilisation group therapy. At the beginning I was daunted about doing it online but it's actually been ok. This week I was able to tell the group about yesterday and then others began to share their stories about their route to diagnosis and how complicated it can be because complex trauma also presents like - and I hate this term - Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. If that diagnosis doesn't sound like a direct attack on the poor patient, then I don't know what does! I felt good when the session ended and just realising that I am not alone is a huge relief.
Later on in the week it was good to chat through those couple of days with my care co-ordinator and my counselor. My brain has to process every bit of information in detail before I can file it away and move forwards in my recovery. I am so grateful to have both of them to talk to because I wouldn't be able to cope with my thoughts and emotions otherwise.
Work has gone mental since the Prime Minister's covid briefing last Monday evening. It's great to be talking itineraries again with clients, rather than refunds. Although, there's still a fair amount of crystal balling and I think that will continue for ages yet. I'm hoping but seriously doubting I will get to Turkey next month. I think I will postpone the trip to October and move India and Nepal to March 2022. This is what it's like isn't it, constantly pushing trips and events on and never actually getting anywhere or being able to do anything!
I felt sick Friday evening when I permanently deleted half of my Venice photos. I thought I could load them into Photos on my new iMac and delete them from the iCloud, but they completely disappeared from Photos, as I realised with a sickening feeling afterwards that I hadn't imported them properly into the program. When stuff like this happens, whatever it may be in life, I go into panic mode whilst trying to stay extremely calm. I don't like being in this situation and I don't want to talk to anybody. My problem solving skills have got better over time as I've taught myself coping strategies and skills, but I become obsessed with trying to fix the problem and won't rest until it's sorted. And if I can't sort it, I'll think about it until I've exhausted my brain. What I tried to do this time is to rationalise with myself that it was going to be ok and it wasn't such a big deal and I still had some memories of the trip. Talking about it helped massively too. I went through the whole evening with my counselor in my next session. She talked to be about how we react to things in life a certain way because of things that have happened to us in the past. She always asks me what the feelings are and then I dig deep to remember where and when I've felt those feelings before. Sometimes I can't do the work by speaking so she has loads of different ways to help me. I do a lot of art therapy and stone work and she bought me some stress balls. I think it's brilliant. I am learning so much about myself.
Week 3 of Stabilisation therapy was about soothing and relaxation this week. I want to aim to find one grounding exercise and one soothing exercise to put in my self care toolbox. More to follow on this.
Learning about the science behind trauma in Week 1 definitely helped me to feel less that's it's all my fault. I told my care co-ordinator and counselor that this is a massive revelation for me and I'm happy another weight has been lifted and I can inch another step or two forward in my recovery and understanding of my mental health. It often feels to me that this is all too big for me to cope with, so little wins are really important to me and I feel they need to be acknowledged and celebrated.
With the decluttering of my home, I'm also trying to put everything in its right place. Making the house work for me around the way I live my life. I've achieved quite a bit of that in the last week. It's been a very "moving forwards" kind of week and I'm very pleased with my progress.
However, it hasn't been without its hiccups. I hate change and I especially hate change if it happens suddenly and without me being able to control it. I'd ordered new Virgin Media equipment to upgrade my kit and I hadn't yet set it all up, mainly because my Tivo box still had loads on it that I'd know I'd lose. Anyway, on Sunday I woke up to no wifi or TV because Virgin had moved my contract / services over to the new equipment. Ahhhhhhhh I tried really hard not to get angry and instead set my mind to clearing down my old box making notes of the shows I wanted to re-record. It would've driven anyone living with me mad, but that's just me. I have to work through the problem step-by-step in my mind.
I've been working on a large multimedia canvas at home, which tells the story of my mental health struggles and is helping me to come to terms with stuff. I'd originally used the shattered glass from that incident in the autumn to depict the voices in my head, but my counselor said to me that it didn't sit right with her and she wanted to discuss it with me. At first, I got really defensive. I thought she didn't trust me not to use the glass again if I became unwell and I also had it in my mind that I wasn't getting it right, whatever it was. This is when I decided to journal my thought process from the conversation we had. I think this is where I find journaling really works for me. I was able to put down both of our thoughts in the order they occurred and then read it out in my next session. I don't always understand what people are saying to me in the moment. If I think it's important, I have to go away and ponder on the conversation to make sense of it.
This is an extract from my journal:
The art therapy I do in sessions has a holistic approach and the focus is on healing.
So if the voices are being depicted using the same glass I used to try and cut them out of my head, it's not healthy to have it on my canvas.
I need to let that go and use another medium to create the same effect - sea glass?
Sea glass was thrown onto beaches as waste glass and washed out to sea. It turns up on beaches years and years later rounded off and frosted, in essence, completely transformed into something beautiful.
Once I could understand what my counselor was trying to explain to me, I felt a lot happier.
My care co-ordinator said this past week that I was engaging well with treatment - meds, Stabilisation group therapy, no further A&E visits and harmful dissociation to report, sleeping ok.. She said they will look at extending my prescriptions to fortnightly rather than weekly now. Another little win to celebrate.
I tried to engage more in the Stabilisation group this week. I do find it difficult doing it online, but I guess we have to work with what we've got. We did a lot of different grounding work and talked about grounding with our senses in the session and discussed what works well for us and what doesn't. I know in sensory grounding, taste and smell get to the threat system the quickest, but these don't work so well for me. When I'm having a flashback or the voices are getting too loud and out of control, I use deep breathing. I've tried re-orientation grounding but it doesn't always work because my brain can't process very well when I feel distressed. Same goes with mental grounding - it's too difficult to concentrate. There are a lot of sensory toys on the market today which is great. I've realised that my strongest sense is touch and, looking back, it always has been. In hospital, I ordered some silicon earplugs but I ended up pressing the silicon between my fingers a lot to calm myself down. I've carried on doing that outside of hospital. I have some on my desk right now. It's very therapeutic. I also like the idea of a calm box. We had them on the ward during my first hospital stay in 2018.
I've finally worked out what my triggers are. This was stressing me out big time. Sleep deprivation, wrong medication and taking on too much. Another piece of the puzzle in place!
So the weather is confused at the moment - one minute it's 16 degrees and feeling like Spring and the next it's -2 degrees and snowing!
I've completed my yearly order of several hundred garden ready plugs this last week and my new iMac came a week early, so I had fun setting that up. I know Apple is wayyyyy overpriced, but they do make a lovely piece of kit and it will make working from home that little bit smoother with a bigger screen to work on.
I've become a massive fan of Ricky Gervais over the last few months, something I was not expecting. I watched his 3rd live show "Fame" the other night and loved it (I'm working my way through them), so have booked to see him in November for his 7th live show "SuperNature". I cannot wait. That's my birthday treat to myself. There's so much more to him than what the media and his critics portray.
The Stabilisation group therapy I had intended to start before my last hospital stay started this week. It's online which is pretty tough. I've never done any group therapy online before. When I had to start talking to my counselor over the phone this time last year, I was dreading it. I know it actually worked out ok and I was able to disclose things I hadn't ever spoken about, but it took time to adjust to a different type of session. The thought of having to keep my webcam on for safety reasons was daunting as well. I think it went ok. I enjoyed learning about the psychoeducation behind trauma and it's massively reassuring to learn that trauma memories are not stored in the brain like normal memories. I didn't know much about PTSD or C-PTSD before all this happened to me - like many people, I immediately think of war and soldiers - but it's so much more than that. We learned about our window of tolerance and how past trauma throws that off kilter. Every therapy I've done always comes back to the same things: sleep, exercise and healthy diet. I challenged this (like I always do) because these are the things that are often half heartedly prescribed when someone first mentions they are depressed. We all know what we should be doing, but it is bloody difficult when hitting a period of being unwell. I felt it was important to say that and to keep saying that. Those things only work when you can stabilise yourself back to some level of functionability.
We all get weeks like this I'm sure - I've been pretty hysterical and vocal with the CMHT. I'm incredibly frustrated I don't even have a working diagnosis yet, so I asked my care co-ordinator outright for her opinion. She thinks complex trauma and high functioning ASD. And you know what, just hearing her say those words gave me some reassurance and calmed me down because at last I felt someone was hearing me.
I had an interesting session with my couselor. We talked about OCD, anxiety and fear. I never viewed myself as having these things in any great degree before, but actually... You know when you get those enlightening moments in therapy, well, this was one of those sessions. And again, I felt that I was being heard properly for the first time in my life and somebody was at last helping me to understand myself better. It's incredibly empowering and such a relief, I can't explain just how much.
I don't want to sound like a pity party, I'm just telling my story. I am seriously missing travelling. Throwing myself into a completely different culture and experience is the great leveller for me. Travel is my reset button.
I guess one day at a time.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.