An overdue letter to my psychiatrist

This was on my to-do list for ages.  I sent it today.  For some reason, it seemed like a blog post too.

 

Hello

I hope you’re doing well.

You’ve been on my ‘to do’ list for some time…. I’ve been wanting to get in touch and tell you how I’m doing but there’s been ‘something’ holding me back.  I think that thing is still loitering somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but regardless, I’ve decided it’s time.

When I left you at the end of June last year, I was ecstatic; I felt like miracles could happen and life was turning for me.  I literally felt like a different person and I literally felt that I was seeing the world as new.  What had seemed to be surrounded by fog, seemed then to be suddenly able to be seen with a clarity that I hadn’t realised existed.  Or, had forgotten.

Initially I was very frustrated that my body was lagging behind my brain – every time I did something even mildly energetic or exciting, I needed to build in ‘recovery’ time – my body was still repeating the habit of hyper into hypo.  It’s taken a long time, and my energy levels (or lack of) are still something which I worry about, but they are so much better and improving all the time.

During that early period of ecstasy and excitement, I launched myself into my business.  I was certain that things were turning for me.  I’d beaten PTSD and so I was going to crush this self-employment thing and be a huge success.  I could do anything.  And then, I crashed with exhaustion.  Making the business successful wasn’t easy and it needed more attention and energy than I had to give it.  I started hiding from the things that needed doing, just keeping up the pretences of doing and doing enough to not get found out.  During that time I think I sunk into depression again, or something like it.  Being alone for most of the day (and nights) didn’t help.  Pulling myself out of that funk has been (is proving to be) very difficult.

I was going to write to you at Christmas.  I had some special ‘Chrismukkah’ cards made for my business and I was going to send one to you with a thank you note inside, for giving me my miracle.  But I didn’t.  Because I felt I’d been squandering my miracle.  I wasn’t a success.  I was still languishing in bed for much of the days and creating a fake bravado persona for when I was with others.

The beginning of this month marked the 7 year anniversary of the rape.  You know that in the past this date has caused me a lot of anguish, I’ve wound myself up into quite a state in fearful anticipation of it, really from the end of January every year.  This year it was March before I really consciously remembered the anniversary was approaching.  And I didn’t feel frightened.  I felt sad.  I felt grief for the lost years.  And for the first time I think I consciously allowed myself to move on and past.  I won’t ever be able to forget.  But it’s not got the hold over me that it had.  Thank you.

The business hasn’t worked – yet.  It will.  After the May Bank Holiday I’m taking a really interesting 6 month contract which will improve my skills & expertise as well as keeping the roof over my head.  I’m immensely relieved.  I also hope that the combined factors of routine/schedule and the company of other people will help me with staving off the depression which wants very little excuse to manifest itself in my head.

Anyhow, I wanted to write and tell you how I’m doing.  I’m doing good.  Thank you.

 

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My Struggle with Positive Thinking

Positivity.  It’s on my mind a lot at the moment.  Very likely something to do with the fact that I recently became an NLP Practitioner, which I tend to refer to as the cult of positivity.  For those who don’t know what NLP is, it’s essentially a set of tools which can help you to re-frame your reality into something more positive, and help you to achieve your dreams.  I’m excited to be an NLP Practitioner, don’t get me wrong.  It is a powerful set of tools which will help me to be a better coach, and I’m excited to be continuing to add to that toolset over the course of this year with Master Practitioner and Train the Trainer training coming up.

I’m also still suffering from depression.  In fact, after the marriage I had, followed by the rape and PTSD, I don’t think I remember anything more than fleeting happiness.  The days when I feel I can achieve my dreams, I don’t trust.  Something happens to burst the bubble.  Always.

(NLP would now be saying to me: “Always?”).

NLP helps you to deal with inappropriate feelings.  PTSD is only diagnosed 6 months after the trauma – almost as though it’s defining still suffering after 6 months as an inappropriate time to still be suffering. So, is 9 months after being discharged from psychiatric help as ‘cured’ from PTSD an inappropriate amount of time to still be grieving for the lost me?  The me I never really got to know (under all that depression from the marriage), the me that died that night, even if my heart did still keep beating?  Who defines inappropriate?

Depression isn’t a state of mind.  I can reframe my thoughts as much as I like.  The depression is like the foundation of my soul, it’s taken up residence in every nook & cranny and it laughs at my attempts to re-programme my mind.  I can (do) jump through the hoops, I can (do) feel momentarily brighter.  Living in the now, momentary matters, it isn’t nothing.  But the constant battle is exhausting.

NLP teaches you how to pull out of being in a ‘victim mentality’.  That victim has survived for the past 2536 days, somehow, clinging on through times I didn’t think I could. I choose to honour the part of me that was the victim, that froze, that gave up the fight, that through not fighting, survived.

So, I choose another way.  I choose to soothe the hurt.  To let it know that it’s ok to hurt.  It’s ok to still be suffering.  It’s ok to still grieve.  It’s ok to sometimes lie in bed and not fight the battle that day.  Every breath of life is a win against the monster who tried to take it from me.  Yes, there are only 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day – yes, this is the same as anyone else has, and they might do more with that time, achieve more, be more.  I am being what I can be.  And that is ok.  It is enough.

Reawakening

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but for some reason I’ve been putting it off.  I think I’ve just been wanting to let it settle on me, be a bit clearer about what I think about it all.  Because the world doesn’t really make sense, this doesn’t really make sense, not even yet, but it is getting clearer.  I suppose I don’t really believe it yet, not truly, but maybe writing it down will help me to start.

I’m starting to notice the signs that I’m better, it’s almost like I’m waking up from a deep, but deeply unsettled, dream.  Trying to figure out who I am, what I am, what I love, what I hate, how to be, post PTSD is no easy task.  I’m a new version of me, I’ll never be the person I used to be ‘before’ again (and I can’t even recognise her as someone who I used to know, but that’s ok as my memory is conveniently erasing it all anyway) and the person I became ‘after’ was a chameleon shell clinging onto the raft as it battered against the rocks.  The person I am ‘now’ is still being determined, a work in progress.  I’m consciously trying to create new habits and new experiences, to discover what the things are that I enjoy.  I’m experimenting with new sensations – smells & scents through essential oils, touch & the language of the body through massage; exploring my creativity through writing and through learning to sew; and the revelatory discovery that exercise can be fun (through cycling and swimming).

It’s now 4 months since I was discharged by my lovely psychiatrist, a full bill of health, no longer suffering from either depression or PTSD.  It’s been a very odd 4 months, with starting my own business, not having the routine of paid employment; I’ve swung wildly from over-doing it to days of doing very little at all, struggling to find the balance.  I’ve noticed that whilst my head is definitely better (breaking a glass on the floor doesn’t leave me in floods of tears, but I can swear, shrug & clean it up without a problem), my body is lagging behind.  I know my still-unfitness (despite lots of attempting to rectify) is a contributing factor, but the fatigue I get is definitely correlated to the exertions of energy – it’s as though now my head has unlearned the hyper-panic response, my body still needs to unlearn the hypo-disassociate response.  Whilst I’m not really in hyper at all anymore, my body is still associating exertions of energy (for example when I pack too much into a day, or over-do it on the attempting-to-get-fit front) with hyper and so crashing into hypo at any given opportunity.  I know it’s a habit that my body needs to unlearn – but when you’re lacking in energy, it’s really not so easy.

I’m very glad I’ve had the chance to take it when I’ve needed to, being largely in charge of my hours with the new ‘emventure’ – I really don’t think I’d have been able to do 5 days a week without crashing every weekend.  And I vowed that the point of the new business was to have the opportunity to find a different balance to life, to be able to look around me and see the world without letting it just fly by.  Of course, I’m nervous that I’m not exactly earning at the moment, and the money will be gone before I know it if I’m not careful.  I’m worried that whilst I believe in emventure, maybe others won’t and I therefore won’t be self-sufficient.  I know that my CV and past experience doesn’t get erased by trying to go my own way – but of course I worry that the job market is a very competitive place.  Keeping the belief in myself is key; keeping the belief that I am better, that this ‘remission’ will prove to be lasting, is key.

I’m about to face a very big test of whether my betterness is real.  I’ve faced some difficult tests (family relationships are improving, as much as they ever might) but this one is a doozy…  After the divorce and the end of the white-picket-fence dream, I didn’t know where to be.  I chose a place and it was in that place that I was raped.  Following that, I moved 6 times in 3 years, not doing much more than 6 months in any ‘home’.  Three & a half years ago, I found the flat where I’ve been happy, felt safe, felt like I’d made a home.  Economic times being what they are, and house-prices & rents sky-rocketing has meant that my landlord is selling my flat for an obscene amount and I need to move.  So, I’m moving.  This will be a test of epic proportions.  I’m staying in mostly the same area (I won’t need to change my doctor, my dentist, my hairdresser or my gym) and I’m moving closer to a friend, who loves the immediate area so whilst I don’t know it so well (yet), I’m reassured that I’m making a good choice.  The flat is smaller, costs a little more, is further away from the hustle of my current corner of the world, but it’s full of character, been done up new by the landlord and has a garden.  Rationally, it’s a sensible choice.  Emotionally, I don’t know.  Emotionally, I’m worried that the stress of moving, not so much because moving is stressful (although it is), but because of the past associations I have with moving will knock me off-balance.

Rationally, I know it probably won’t.  Over the course of all the therapy & psychiatric treatment, I’ve learned a great deal about how to ground myself, how to notice the signs I’m feeling overwhelmed and take appropriate action.  I’ve also got a lot more insight into how different scents can disrupt my senses and calm me almost instantly (which although first used by my psychiatrist, I’ve been using a lot more since then after having been introduced more widely to essential oils by a friend).  I have oils to diffuse, to inhale, to apply to my skin and feel safe.

Different to the past, as well, is the discovery that I like exercise, that it can feel beneficial to me.  Whilst I still maintain that exercise can’t overcome depression until your depression is ready to be overcome, I have found that some exercise can be fun (cycling, swimming) and when I do make the effort, I enjoy it and it lifts my mood.  In the days when I was fitter, it used to be a great way to manage my stress; I know that it’s a tool in my armoury when I need it and I can go for a swim, and a steam after.

So, I know it’ll be a test; but awareness is half the battle.  And I know that I have ways that have worked in the past, and will therefore likely continue to work, that mean I can rely on myself for support.  But I also know that I’ll still have the support of all my lovely friends who helped me get this far and aren’t about to disappear just yet.  In a ‘practice’ coaching session recently, I hit upon a very visual description for how my journey towards this reawakening feels – it was a very dark, stormy night, then for a long time I was in a fog, now that fog is lifting, it’s just a light mist and the sun is clearing the way for bright blue skies.