Moons and moving forward

I think maybe we are going to be okay.  I say ‘we’ meaning me and the parts, not K and I – I’ve kind of always known K and I will be okay again at some point, I just couldn’t imagine the system (myself) ever being okay within that dynamic. I sometimes wonder if it is dissociation that means I can’t ever imagine feeling suicidally low or totally emotionally overwhelmed or anything else difficult when things are more stable, or if this is a normal part of the human experience. I used to split a lot, so when things were difficult that was all that existed, but quite often now I can hold onto the fact that things will feel better even though it’s hard to believe when everything feels so awful. Either way, at the end of the session today we admitted to K that we felt a little bit cosy (I think this is our word for safe and connected, a kind of snuggly feeling like a cuddle is inside us) but just a little bit. And she said a little bit sounded good to her and to take it into my heart, and that we will keep working on that together until we feel all cosy (but we don’t need to worry because it will just happen). I definitely feel like we’ve reached her a bit this evening, although I have the sense it will drain out relatively fast because it wasn’t that tangible. That is okay though. We are okay. All of us.

Young parts were very present right from the start of our session today. Whilst we were breathing together at the start of the session I could feel their excitement bubbling inside me, could sense them rushing around excitedly and knocking into each other, bursting with all the things they wanted to tell K and bursting with just being there with their cuddly toys and about to finish watching the film we started last week with a blanket and tea on the sofa in front of a log fire. I knew if K could see them she would say ‘not too silly’ the way she does to her dogs, because really they were being very silly. When I told K what was happening inside she said that after the long period of silent shut down, particularly the past few sessions, it was very good that they felt able to be there and express how they were feeling. It did feel nice to have them back to be honest, things had been very quiet!

K and I spoke a little about seeing my sister yesterday and all the painful memories and feelings it brought up, but I don’t want to write about that now as I cried a lot in my session and I don’t want to go back there tonight. And we spoke a little about work as well. I had some frustrations and some triggers around ending my probation last week. I submitted my application (there are two enormous forms and a statement to write, evidencing that I’ve met all the criteria and targets) a couple of weeks ago and was told I would hear by December 13th, but for reasons outside of anyone’s control it will now be mid-January before I find out if it has been accepted. There is also the chance that my application to end probation early (my 5 years is officially up at the end of December next year, so just over a year away still) will not be accepted because whilst I’ve easily *met* my targets, I might not have been *quite exceptional enough* to justify my appointment being confirmed early. My new Head of Department will write a statement, and him and our HR lead had made some suggestions on how to edit my form to make certain things sound better and demonstrate areas where I’d excelled as they felt I had undersold myself at times, but there is still a huge panel of very senior people from right across the institution who must approve it – those people don’t know me or all I’ve done, only how I look on paper. I just kept looking through the forms after he left on Friday seeing how much I’ve achieved and contributed to the department and external agencies over the past 4 years and felt incredulous – and disheartened – that it still might not be enough.

In the meantime someone who doesn’t give a shit about many aspects of our job, or about collegiality, is going to be promoted early I heard from the HR man on Friday, because her research profile is so strong because she has focused on that and not cared how much she fucks up other stuff. She has done nothing to contribute to the department and aspects of her work are crap because she doesn’t care, so she has created extra work for others. It makes me so annoyed because I just want to be off probation and not have to spend another year doing so much and making myself ill, and it makes me mad because I want this for the sake of my mental health and not because I care about status or impressing others (once I’m off probation I will probably disclose my disability, but until then I definitely don’t feel able to). And it’s not even really about comparing myself to others, because actually I would rather have my integrity and goodness than be that other woman who is so driven by success that she can’t let herself care how others are experiencing her or whether she is letting people down, it’s just that I am aware that I’ve said yes to a lot of things I perhaps didn’t need to (and definitely didn’t want to) because one of my survival strategies has been fawning and people-pleasing. And I’ve also spent a lot of time pursuing things which turned out to be a waste of time, things that I took too long to walk away from once I realised they weren’t going anywhere, because I didn’t want to upset people or make them think badly of me. So it seemed on Friday as though, yet again, attachment trauma was fucking up my progress and making work harder than it needed to be.

Anyway, on Friday evening I was feeling quite upset and triggered that it is still 6 or 7 weeks till I hear but also that even then I might be made to wait until either I’ve done something “truly exceptional” or my official 5 years is up, but since then I’ve spent some time processing and trying to work out what is needed first. There are some really powerful lunar phases coming up, and I was looking at each one and thinking about what the energies of that time will bring to my life or help me to release and let go of, and how it all fits with this delay, and I was thinking that although I do now feel ready to end probation and become more senior on a professional level, I’m not sure the lessons from this experience have fully sunk in yet on a personal level. It feels like there are some old beliefs and patterns that need to be released first. And I was also trying to work out how to make sure I don’t push away the very thing I want and deserve by focusing on how much I need it and how bad things will be if I don’t get it because that scarcity mindset is one that attracts more scarcity and negativity. And I realised the key is in being grateful for all I have now and the fact that despite my mind’s best intentions to tell me otherwise, I am able to keep going as things are, with some minor adjustments, for a while longer. And if I don’t end probation and get promoted, along with a nice pay rise, in the new year, things will be okay – I can afford the mortgage, therapy, food, Nina’s swimming, some treats – all is fine and will be next year too, whatever happens. So now I am just working on the assumption that I won’t end my probation early, not in an ‘assuming the worst to protect myself’ kind of way, but in a law of attraction ‘things are good right now and I want more of the same please universe’ kind of a way, and this whole shift in perspective really helped me get to grips with what is going on for me around work and what I need to take from this time (apologies if you’re not a spiritual person who thinks in terms of energies and vibration – 7 years ago what I’m writing would have sounded utterly bonkers to me I know!)

I was really aware of an internal shift last Wednesday, as though I had turned a corner and for the first time in a long time making it to December 13th felt like a possibility. To be honest my mood has still been very low and I’ve had suicidal thoughts since then, but things don’t feel totally unbearable and unmanageable and I feel more present and more accepting of how things are in my life right now. I’ve made it through the worst at work now I think, for the time being at least. So I plan to use the next few weeks to really work out what important lessons I’ve learned about work and my own capabilities and capacities this past few months, and to do some releasing and attracting rituals on each of the upcoming new and full moons to make sure I let go of the things that have held me back and set some intentions around what I want to bring into my life and act on in 2020.

I still maintain that ultimately the career I am in is not suited to a person with C-PTSD and almost-DID, but I think there are ways to make it more manageable in the short-ish term whilst I pay off debts and work out what to do. I actually looked back through my emails and I saw I first flagged serious concerns about my workload and how I would manage in the period from the start of September till mid-December back at the end of July. I was told something would be done but nothing changed, and of course I left it because I’m on probation, but also because I want to be capable. And I was asked to apply for funding for a project back in March and I agreed even though I knew I wouldn’t have time whilst I was on probation and had targets to meet and it is this project (which doesn’t even count as part of my targets for probation) that has been utterly screwing me over since June and has meant I couldn’t spend the summer doing the ‘exceptional things’ which would have meant I could come off probation early. There are other examples and it feels really important to see what I’ve been doing and how it hasn’t always served me, and to make sure that as I move into the next phase of my career, even if it’s a career that won’t last forever for internal and external reasons, I am really clear over the aspects I can control and don’t say yes to things to please people or be visible when I could say no, but only when they are in my best interests from a career and well-being perspective.

So even though it has been a horrible, horrible term so far, and isn’t over yet, and even though the delay is frustrating, I think I am gaining some valuable lessons and it is important I internalise them before I move on. I really hope I will do this so that when my application is considered by the panel on 6th January I will be successful because it is the right time for me and because less of old habitual patterns and ways of being will be carried into a place where they would no longer serve me.

Flat

This has been by far the worst week I’ve had this year. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried this much. Every minute has felt like a struggle, feelings of overwhelm and despair nearly always present, and somehow having to keep going at work and look after Nina (and not worry her about my mental state). It’s been tough, to say the least. After working a 12 hour day without a break on Wednesday I ended up a total crying mess at home after picking Nina up from swimming. I couldn’t call The Samaritans or anyone because Nina was here of course, but it was bad and so hard not having anyone to turn to. And knowing work just keeps going without any respite (I’ve been working the equivalent of two whole days for free each week the past couple of months, with the number of extra hours I’m doing, so no wonder I’m struggling) is a horrible reality to be running alongside how bad I feel.

Yesterday morning I woke up still exhausted and wanting to die and had already cried multiple times when I got to work at 8.30. Another long day where I had a visitor I had to entertain all day alongside my normal workload and tears of overwhelm were never far away. I arrived at work in tears again this morning but it ended up being a slightly better day, I think in part because I was resigned to working all of Sunday so the pressure was reduced a little. I also had some space to catch up on stuff a bit in my office without too many distractions which was kind of stabilising.

On Monday in my session K and I talked about work demands but also about how this current crisis is attachment-based. She said she thinks I’m not getting anything at all from my therapy at the moment because of the level of disconnect I’m feeling, and so it is leaving me feeling completely untethered and dysregulated and is making me feel completely emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope. It made me so sad when she said that because she’s completely right of course. For more than two months now it has felt like I don’t know her and haven’t been there. I leave and my session hasn’t touched me at all. I can’t take in any of the good she’s giving me. There was a Tuesday morning a little over two weeks ago when I’d reached her a teeny bit the night before and felt more capable of all I had to do, but that slipped away so fast and left me empty and dysregulated again. K said how for a long time I was getting so much from therapy and it was regulating me enough to mostly regulate myself during the week. And then her house move and the fears it brought up happened. And now I feel as though I’ve given up on connecting, resigned to this horrible barrier my mind creates between me and people I love in case they go away. I don’t even really notice that therapy isn’t helping me lately, but K is completely right.

And this week I’m so aware of how living a life where there are less relational triggers leaves me feeling isolated and depressed, but too much social interaction leaves me triggered and over-stimulated. It’s a no-win situation.

I just want to reach K and to have her support to help me deal with this fucking awul time at work. I don’t know if it’ll ever come back. Miffy, a 5 year old alter, is holding tight to the connection and K says it’s really good that she remembers and holds it all, but I feel nothing and it’s like I’ve never even known her. Living like this is so hard and I don’t even know when it will get better, with fucking Christmas and the anniversary of Jess dying approaching. I think it will get better than this but I don’t think it will be for a while. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Trying to find an article

I remember quite a few years ago reading an article about how when abuse starts very young the inner critic becomes merged with the core personality. K said last week about my internal world being very harsh, and she mentioned my inner critic being very strong (not a term she’s used before, though I’m obviously familiar with it), and it got me to thinking how I don’t hear a critical voice, there’s no internal dialogue, it’s like this is how I am (links with OCPD I guess). I don’t hear judgement and so on of what I’m doing, but I can see how I operate from this place, like it’s how my personality is formed.

I don’t know how much sense this is making as I’m exhausted, overwhelmed and dissociated beyond belief, but I’d really like to find this article again (it may have been pods) or something similar and see if it said anything about how to work with this issue of the core personality being merged with the inner critic. If any of my readers have any ideas or links I’d love to hear from you!

As much as she needs

Last session I read K what Lucie wrote at home the week before, after a session where we had done a sand tray around what it was like after released from hospital following our suicide attempt. At the end of the session K, as always, asked what I could take from the session, a word or a sentence, to carry into the week with me.

Me: What Lucie needed after the hospital she can have now.

K: Yeah, definitely.

Me: Even though it was a long time to wait.

K: Yeah, and she has that now. Lots and lots of it. As much as she needs.

Those words warmed my heart and thawed some of the barrier my mind has put up between K and I. They are really the reason we left feeling a glimmer of connection last week, even though it fell through the hole in us within 24 hours.

This is what Lucie wrote the week before, because K had asked what she had needed after being in hospital, and she hadn’t really known.

When I came out of hospital I needed someone to hold me. No one touched me. I sat on a chair at Sally’s with my arms around my knees and no one touched me. I was a million miles away from everyone. Inside I was shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. I needed comfort, love, touch. I withdrew further and further, shame curling tighter and tighter inside me.

Now I had to deal with all the things that caused me to need to try and kill myself – constant pain, the break up with Paul, abandonment and isolation – and the fall out from this and what it had done to my friends too. 

I hid the pain so well. Even back then I knew I was the world’s greatest pretender.

I returned to work on the Tuesday, 36 hours after I was released from hospital. The taste of charcoal lingered with the body memories of being unable to breathe [I’d had to have a chest X-ray after I was admitted as I was struggling to breathe at all]. My stomach cramped and felt sensitive. People constantly wanted to know I was ‘okay’ but I WASN’T OK. Every minute I wished my attempt had worked. I felt smothered and invisible.

NO ONE CARED HOW BIG MY PAIN WAS.

I drove drunk twice to buy painkillers. I turned up at Paul’s house an embarrassing, shameful mess and begged him to let me sleep on his floor so I wouldn’t be alone. I would rather make someone despise me than be alone with what was inside me. A week later I tried again in my room, but just threw up on my carpet and passed out.

Life carried on. I went to work every day. I started a creative writing course. And 9 months later I found out I was pregnant and a whole different story begins…

When I was in hospital I needed K because she would have seen me.

A nurse asked me “Why would you do this when you’re so beautiful?”

Those words erased all my pain. Every single fucked up thing that had taken me to that point became invisible. I was erased.

I had no Mum, no hope, no future, chronic and debilitating pain, and no one could see me.

It’s not the same as losing a Mum to have never had had one. I was estranged from my Mum then too and no one had any idea what it was like. I wasn’t dealing with losing my Mum but with the pain of never having had one. Not having a Mum turned me into such an embarrassing wreck. A crying, drunken mess who no one wanted to be around.

My pain was invisible. I tried to hide it because when I told people they got angry with me. Or withdrew. Or invalidated me telling me I needed to start eating meat or eat more chocolate. Mum got angry with me for being in constant pain. She told me I was selfish for having a headache all the time.

And my pain made people feel helpless. Tom left me because of my pain. It made Dad worried and unhappy. I had to keep the pain hidden because when I told people how much it hurt it scared them.

MY HEAD HURT ALL THE TIME.

And I pretended it didn’t, or not too much, because I wanted to protect others from feeling helpless. And because I so didn’t want to be in pain all the time. I wanted a life and to be happy.

I used to look in the mirror incredulous that my head hurt so much I had to go to hospital for IV and intramuscular pain relief and yet there was no visible mark. And my feelings were huge.

I was invisible. I hid but I was also ignored. I wanted to have fun with my friends but the pain in my head eclipsed everything. And the pain of being abandoned was already killing me. But inbetween these things I was happy, I was just controlled by forces I didn’t understand and the echoes of things from long ago. 

K would have believed how big the pain was.

I needed to be held. I needed someone to hold me and stroke my hair and smooth my forehead. I needed someone to sit with me until I fell asleep. And I needed someone to tell me I was multiple and to help with the pain I carried. I needed K.

And thank goodness she is here now.

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Not binary

Things continue to be very difficult. I put a ‘please do not disturb’ sign on my door at work on Friday and so apart from two meetings did at least manage to get quite a bit done. But I still felt very fragile. Such big stuff being absorbed and integrated at the moment. K and I did a phone session on Friday after work, but the end of the call hurt because it came unexpectedly with a three minute warning after it felt like we’d only been talking for 10 minutes. She said we could work for longer if I wanted to, and I did want to, but spending even more money just seemed silly so I said no. It was one of those days where nothing was going to be enough, but at least I’ve explained the bulk of the OH appointment and the meeting with my AL, so she’ll have some idea what is going on tomorrow and we won’t have to go through it all. And it helped me make sense of where I am and why it brought up so much pain making the disclosure at OH on Thursday.

I said how I’d realised after our session on Monday that it’s not that I think what happened to me as a baby was my fault, but that how my body has responded is my fault. And now I know why I get pain and other symptoms I should be able to stop them. She seemed genuinely confused that I would think this. And I said I knew it wasn’t rational or true, I know that somatisation and emotional dysregulation and my central nervous system going into hyper-drive all happens automatically, but this is the core and implicit belief I operate from. And we know where this comes from. When I was 20 and was about 6 months in to the constant head pain my Mum used to scream at me for being selfish for having a headache all the time. And she told me in my mid-20s I talked about my physical symptoms too much and would make my boyfriend at the time leave me. I mean I’m sure the shame comes from long before this time, but the way she behaved about my chronic pain is one of the most painful things I can remember experiencing. She even said she hoped the neurologist would find something actually wrong with me, so that then my head pain wouldn’t be her fault! She’d rather I had a tumour or something organic than something that she knew was because of the way she had parented me.

K talked about how my poor nervous system is shredded and shot to  pieces, and how if a baby has no safe holding, and is screamed at persistently and experiences prolonged abuse, and cannot express its emotions because it is unsafe to do so, then of course all the feelings will become internalised. I remember reading an article about how the neural pathways that cause chronic pain like mine are set in place before an infant is 9 months old. I told K this, and that I know it’s not that baby’s fault that our body is like this, but regardless I still hold enormous amounts of shame and fear over my pain and nervous system dysregulation. And I got so much better for so long after doing Mickel Therapy 7 years ago, so it is hard not to blame myself for things not being okay energetically and from a pain perspective now – I must be getting it all wrong again. Things are different, the fatigue is not like it was, the symptoms are never as long-lasting and entrenched, but right now the familiar feeling of dragging through treacle with a brain full of cotton wool is a too frequent visitor. And whilst I know there is joy in my life I just can’t access it. Every single thing feels like way too much effort. And voices in my head that are not mine whisper throughout the day and night that suicide is the only way out. I won’t act on these voices, but they tell me how bad parts are feeling, that these voices are back again after a long time of not needing to say these words.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve ended up in such a demanding job, and how it would be easier if it was just a pathological thing where I’ve been so driven due to a need to succeed and prove myself and get external validation, but that’s not really accurate. In many ways academic success, and how much joy and fulfillment I get from my work, has been my saviour. Even in my early 30s when I was doing a lot of drugs, my PhD studies kept me on the edge of a hedonistic and chaotic world that a huge part of me was desperate to belong in. I think it’s partly why the realisations I’ve had recently have brought up so much grief and resentment – I haven’t ended up in some high-powered and meaningless job in a drive to succeed, I’ve ended up in a career I absolutely love where I am doing something that really matters and makes a difference, and I am not cut out for it. It hurts so much because something that has brought me so much joy and excitement and has so often left me inspired and full of self-belief is making me ill at the same time. If I were to have to walk away my life would be poorer. Lots of people talk of walking away from stressful careers and not looking back. It would not be like that for me. And I hope more than anything that I can find a way to make this work more sustainable for me. K reminded me when I was struggling with anxiety and overwhelm over how much I have to do over the next six weeks that I always get through and get everything that needs doing done, but she also said how pleased she is that I’ve finally started the dialogue at work because we’ve seen me struggle through relentlessly for years now and it just isn’t good for me to keep going like this.

Thinking this through lately I can see a lot of links with the past and how there have been times when I’ve been so happy, but still plagued by this lingering darkness inside me. One of my alters, Lucie, wrote something a couple of weeks ago after she’d come out and spent some time talking to K about the time we were hospitalised for a suicide attempt. She wrote about what she had needed after that time, and I want to write it into a separate post, but some of it stands out as being relevant to this stuff I’m working through with regards how much joy there is in my life and how all that I still struggle with doesn’t cancel that out. Lucie had told K that back then she needed someone to see what was wrong with her and that she was multiple and that was why she felt fine one minute [apart from constant head pain] and plagued by horrifying and intolerable feelings the next. And she wrote after that session how she needed someone to see that her first class Law degree and ability to get up and go to work every day wasn’t because she was “fine” but because she was fragmented.

The problem is this darkness that has always lingered in me, a darkness that no amount of light can erase. A darkness that means no matter how happy I am there is still pain and blackness. When I started university I was the happiest I’d ever been – new friends, not being bullied for being clever, being able to join social justice societies and talk about current issues and  academic interests, away from Mum, finding a place where I was free, where no one knew where I was and what I was doing, being free to be me at last without fear of ridicule – and yet I self-harmed more than ever and drank myself to oblivion nearly every night. I was happy but out of control. I fell in love but the darkness wouldn’t leave me alone. The happiness wasn’t an illusion, it just couldn’t cover up the past. It’s the same now – no matter how good things are there are shadows and demons that live in me. I am split.

Back then Lucie needed someone to tell her what was wrong with her. She needed someone to see the parts and talk to them, someone to hold the baby and stop it screaming inside her head, someone to see she was both – broken, but also living a successful life with friends and hope and a future,that one doesn’t cancel out the other. It is not binary. My life isn’t and never has been either/or. I have always had a huge capacity for joy, excitement, adventure, laughter, friendship. My life is not a fake. I am not a narcissist hiding behind a false front (which of course is one of my greatest fears as I see how much dissociation is needed to keep me living the life I do). I am so many of the things people think I am. It’s just that I am also so many things that I never share.

I truly don’t know how I will ever begin to tell people more of what I struggle with and need, but this evening I took a friend and another swimming parent up on their offers to take Nina to and from training on a Monday evening so that she can do one of the key sessions that she’s always had to miss because I’m not back from therapy in time to take her and I can come home to an empty house. Maybe this is a step in the right direction of acknowledging to myself that it is not my fault I am how I am…

 

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