Treadmill Tales 9/9/2017

They’re back … again!

I have missed this but it just hasn’t been possible to run on top of everything else lately. the last two weeks have been jam-packed with appointments – dentist, physiotherapist, GP, nurse, advocacy worker, NHS clinical psychotherapist for parts three and four of an assessment, voluntary sector trauma counsellor, dishwasher repair chap, new windows quotation chap (quoting for my landlord not me) and eating disorder support group.

I’ve also been establishing new routines to take into account my daily physiotherapy exercise regime, journalling – for planning/organisation plus recovery and self management, daily mediation, daily¬†‘Morning Pages’, daily connection with five friends by means of an online group chat, and a daily food intake diary.

I couldn’t remember what pace I ran at last time but I did remember that I ran for five and half minutes. I knew that I’d need to start slowly and build up again, frustrating but necessary. I wondered if I could do the same amount but in two shorter runs. I settled on doing two three minute runs. I settled on running at 4.2mph, I’ve just checked and my last was actually run at 3.7mph.

I ran for three minutes, I enjoyed it and I’m very glad to be back on the treadmill again but I’ve realised that three minutes was enough for today.

STATS
3 minute run
4.2 mph
0.19 miles

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An update, possibly rambling!

I’m a woman on a mission on today, to crack several sticky issues, but I wanted to bash out an update here while my cup of tea is brewing ūüôā .

Social care
There’s been no word from social work since the social worker who assessed me for social care in May, left to begin maternity leave at the end of July, despite my being told that I’d be allocated a new social worker. I’ve tried to contact the service manager, my ex-social worker gave me her details as she left, but I can’t get any response for her. A form did arrive in the post two days ago, from a different department, together with a letter asking me to supply the financial details requested in order that they can determine how much to charge me. This without my having been told that I would be charged. My next task today will be to complete the form. For the moment I’m putting the question of what happens if the decided charge is more than ‘buttons’, putting social care out of my reach, because that’s too scary to contemplate right now.

I still haven’t been told who will prove the care I’ve apparently been assessed as being eligible to receive (according to ex social worker), the terms of it or when I can expect it to start. Six weeks ago, my second choice of provider had apparently said that they thought they could support me but couldn’t confirm just at that moment. It’s proved impossible to find out anything more since. Sheesh, just writing about this is making me feel weary, so it must be a bagful of fun to read too. Apologies folks ūüôā .

Advocacy
I’ve emailed the local advocacy service this morning. My advocacy worker is now only available on Thursday and Fridays and so have asked for a meeting on either day this week, in order that we can discuss the following:
– Social work/care – I’ll ask if she will phone the manager when we meet – when she phoned earlier in the year there was immediate action. I could phone but I think the added clout of someone other than me phoning could make a difference. Also, I’m already under too much stress and both my interim therapist and my inner self care monitor (!) are urging that I lighten my load if at all possible.
– Complaint re crisis team – This is covered in this post, skip to the paragraph beginning ‘In September 2016’, to read the most pertinent bit. I have just two months left to get the complaint in. I’ve had to put it on hold with so much else going on.
– GP – I’ve lost such confidence since the crisis team debacle – not helped by my struggling to click with a new GP since my one left the practice last year. Her replacement is largely ineffective and the senior partner I chose to see instead, generally patronising but also, worryingly, dismissive of my mental health and won’t discuss it. I don’t know whether that’s due to his own ‘issues’ or whether he’s been influenced by the crisis team’s inaccurate conclusions.

Health
I’ve just called to make an appointment to see a female GP at my practice, having realised that I’ve consulted three male GPs during my five and a bit years with the practice and never had a good experience with any of them! Conversely, I’ve seen four female GPs there – all but one at least several times and all of those were excellent, only the one was dreadful (older, rude and crabby) and I opted never to see her again ūüėÄ !

My first choice is about to begin a month’s leave. I’m booked in for a double appointment with my second choice (only second because she works fewer hours) on Friday, 8th September, and have already asked if my advocacy worker can accompany me. I’ve been advised it’s worth having that support until I am settled with a new GP and until my complaint about the crisis team has been resolved.

Primarily, I need to speak to her about the new and different depressions that I’ve been experiencing, which I strongly suspect are related to the perimenopause. Despite having experienced episodes of depression for nearly 30 years, these are the worst I’ve experienced, because they are so … complete … that’s the only word I can think of to even begin describe it. It’s just MORE … than previous depressive episodes, possibly because my usual depression is ‘reactive’ – a response to a particular trauma or stressor – this stuff ‘just is’, as clinical depression often is, but with the added ‘quality’ of exacerbating my Complex Trauma symptoms. I lose all capacity for days on end and it’s as though I …¬†Tigger, grab life by the horns, heart set on living – have left¬†the building. I’m left entirely unable to connect to anything or anyone and actively suicidal … like never before (and I’m without support for that). It’s difficult to write about. It’s difficult to appreciate if you haven’t been there. Suffice to say it’s horrendous and I’m generally worried for my safety and very much hoping that the GP will be sympathetic and will work with me to find a way to manage this, and to get to the bottom of the myriad of other new symptoms that I’m experiencing lately, making it impossible to sustain even a semblance of life.

Time is of the essence
I’m trying to be as productive as I possibly can in the next two weeks, squeezing even more than usual out of every ‘spoon’, to get as much sorted as possible, because, if the establishing pattern continues, I’m likely to lose the next two weeks of my ‘cycle’, and spend it clinging onto life by my fingertips. Lordy, I do hope not, but I’m trying to prepare to try to mitigate the impact. The last episode alone cost me ¬£124 in appointment cancellations fees (dentist and physio) eating up the last of my little kitty from the Journalist’s Charity, and I haven’t even got my new specs because I had to cancel that appointment too. Oh my, I HAVE to laugh :-D, while I can, it keeps me going.

TTFN. Thanks for reading.

Heart x

 

 

ULTRA Jigsaw

The experience of trauma, particularly abuse, can fragment a life, and a person.

The process of recovering could be likened to tackling a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, the number of pieces or the complexity of the clues individually determined, as each individual’s experience of trauma is unique. Recovery too means different things to different people and can take many forms.

My recovery jigsaw is complex. I opened the box and tipped out 1000 puzzle fragments to be painstakingly pieced together. A combination of original and replacement pieces may be required if some are missing or too damaged to use. Rogue pieces may thwart progress appearing to fit in one place while their true location lies empty elsewhere.

The pieces are vulnerable …

The goal is a correctly completed puzzle, a myriad pieces picked up and put together to reform a whole. 

*****

Life as I knew it blew apart as surely as though a bomb had detonated within it. I lost my family, friends, my career, my health, and any semblance of normality. I was 30 years old. Subsequently, I almost lost my life too.

In the years immediately afterwards I met a woman, I’ll call her Eartha, at a community art project for people experiencing mental illness. My diagnoses then were Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. Latterly my symptoms and experiences have been neatly bundled under the term ‘Complex Trauma’ which, as I understand it, is variously described as Complex PTSD¬†(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or Complex Trauma Disorder.

I don’t remember much about Eartha’s particular circumstances but I do remember asking her how long it had taken her to get her life back on track. 10 years, she said.¬†I did a double take, stepped back in amazement, sank into a dramatic faint, and just about every other astonishment clich√© you might name.

I jest, but I was truly horrified. NO WAY was it ever going to take me so long. My career, dreams, passions, and goals -none of which were inconsiderable – were waiting, and they were becoming impatient.

I’m now approaching 50. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that almost 20,

years later, I’d still be struggling to compete that puzzle and stride forward into life again, much less that I’d yet again be fighting for my life.

This, is ULTRA Jigsaw: The Epic Endurance Event! It’s set to test my mettle, as though the original trauma weren’t challenge enough.

 So, why has it taken me so long?
Am I just slow and lazy?!
I’m actually very proactive, determined and driven.

I think the answer to the question of what’s taking so long is threefold.

I’ve been rebuilding my life on quicksand. I don’t yet have any firm foundations but that’s not for the want of trying.¬†For a number of reasons, I’ve ¬†lacked reliable consistent support. Mostly I’ve had to go it alone. The scale and complexity of the task itself is problematic.¬†

I was abused for decades.I lived in a situation of recurring trauma for more than 30 years, and then spent more than a decade in a damaging marriage on top of that.

I’ve been ‘free’ for just three years.¬†

I imagine that someone reading this might wonder why on earth I didn’t get out sooner. There is no quick answer but if I’m able to tell more of my story it will become clear.¬†

To be continued …

I did it!! (Day 1 of The Rest of My Life – Part 2)

 

smile-again

It’s out!

After trying to cram my usual three hours of bowel shenanigans due to my digestive disorder into a far tighter schedule … then contending with a bout of vertigo,¬†triggered by bending over to unplug my straighteners, that left me nauseous and staggering as though I were aboard a ship on a turbulent ocean …¬†I reached the dental hospital with five minutes to spare … time for another trip to the loo ūüėÄ !

My appointment took around 50 minutes and I was looked after very well by the attending dentist, assistant (dental student), supervisor and dental nurse; it’s a teaching hospital.

Despite having heaps of local anaesthetic and I do mean heaps – the initial doses and two further top ups – I lost count but something like eight or nine injections in total, I still had some pain. It was bearable – like bad sensitivity – except for one mercifully momentary movement. The wisdom tooth was a stubborn beast and there was grinding, cutting, stitching and rather a lot of blood. At the moment it was declared ‘out’, I truly wanted to whoop with sheer joy. I am so glad to be rid of the thing that gave me pain, caused smelly breath and eroded my confidence.

This is such a milestone. I am so delighted to have achieved it. I’ll write more at a later date about the earlier part of this week and the experiences I endured and why I am so incredibly proud of myself for achieving this¬†after what has been a terrible time. I am exultant ūüėÄ .

I feel confident that I’ve conquered my dental phobia having coped with numerous examinations, X rays, a filling, a difficult root extraction that involved removing a piece of bone, and now the extraction of a very troublesome wisdom tooth. I am two thirds of the ¬†way along the road to restore my smile. A smile that was robbed by the childhood abuse that caused my extreme dental phobia and a long battle with self neglect due to severe depressive illness. I am grateful for the professionalism and compassion of my new dentist and the staff at my local dental hospital.

Day 1 of the Rest of My Life 

I have an appointment at the local dental hospital at 9:15 this morning to have a wisdom tooth extracted.

This is cause for great celebration as reclaiming my smile after a lengthy battle with self neglect due to depression and a dental phobia ignited by the childhood abuse that I experienced. This appointment is not without its challenges not least the difficulties of such an early start when you’re a #spoonie and a potentially more challenging recovery for the same reasons, still I plan to celebrate being rid of this smelly, infected, horribly positioned beast at long last! 

EULOGY: A POEM

TW: This post features themes of abuse, trauma and suicide. It may make difficult reading, however it is, ultimately, hopeful. 

Support is vital in all our lives. Appropriate support is paramount to survivors of abuse and trauma, and people living with mental illness.

I’m both, and know many others in the same boat. It is¬†notoriously difficult to obtain – for reasons including, but not limited to, funding cuts; policy; limited awareness; and the constraints of symptoms and circumstances.

Last year I gained appropriate professional support for the first time, the resulting impact was life-changing.

Finally, I could do more than survive, more than fight, more than exist, more than toil, more than tolerate, more even than live. I could begin to thrive. I could, for the very first time be entirely myself … more than four decades into my life. I am rarely lost for words but¬†there are none to describe how that felt. There was intense, profound, unadulterated¬†JOY, but so much more.

In early April my trusted GP, the first to have seen and heard ME, relocated to a new city. A week later my housing support officer was withdrawn overnight, with only 24 hours notice.

At the beginning of that month I’d come to understand that now that I finally knew a sense of safety and some peace of mind, my mind was beginning to unlock trauma, pain, grief, anger, all yet to be processed. Also, thriving at last, I came to realise the extent of what had been stolen from and kept from me, for so very many years, and the impact of opportunities, such as motherhood, forever lost.

I must grieve. These¬†are necessary steps on the road to healing. It was a process I welcomed and was at ease with, as far as one can be with these things. It began happening at a gentle pace, but a deluge was be triggered.¬†On top of the loss of ¬†support and the ‘unlocking process’, unexpected and significant¬†stressful incidences occurred – not least the sudden re-emergence of a figure from my childhood, who then turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The combined impact was devastating.

My housing support had been approaching its natural end, with my housing crisis over, and related financial issues close to resolution. However, I was not in a position where it was safe for me to be left without any support. A phased ending to housing support and a supported transition to new support were required, to safeguard my well being and my safety. Instead, the ending of my housing support was extremely poorly handled and these measures, although agreed, were not implemented. A number of other vital assurances were broken and my trust betrayed.

Betrayal sounds dramatic. To have the trust of a survivor of abuse is a privilege, to willingly compromise it is to betray it and the person who gave it. For me, it triggered latent symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and resulted in an incidence of self harm. Such harm was never common for me, and had not occurred in many years. The betrayal of trust has also had a negative impact on my friendships.

I have now been without any professional support for more than nine weeks. I am presently unable to access any¬†because I am terrified to trust again. I know I must, somehow. I’m working on it. I’m working very hard.

A survivor of abuse is vulnerable in the extreme. Like abusers, there are many who will exploit that vulnerability to some extent, sometimes maliciously, often not, but instead as a result of carelessness. It’s likely, as in my case, that an abuser(s) will not be the last to betray a survivor’s trust. After damaging experiences of professional ‘support’, it took huge¬†nerve and a gargantuan leap of faith to try again last year, ten years on from my last encounters with support professionals.

I was experiencing my worst depressive episode for a decade and increasingly suicidal. I don’t lack courage and I’m commonly quite gung ho. Regardless,¬†I had to reach rock bottom before I dared allow a support worker into my life. I was blown away by the quality of the service, and it was good. It’s perhaps worth noting that I have a tendency to focus too much on the positive and be too grateful, so may not fully appreciate negatives.

As the impact of appropriate support was profound, so was that of the betrayal.

Eulogy is inspired by these recent events and my experience of them. It’s told from the perspective of a support professional. It describes how it was for me – only the death (by suicide) and the worker’s thoughts are imagined. It could have been my reality in its entirety.

I live to fight on …

I welcome comments and discussion. I’d¬†love¬†to hear from health professionals and professionals working in the field of support and encountering clients who are survivors of abuse and/or experiencing mental illness. This post is NOT intended to berate or malign those professionals in any way. I write it seeking only to be seen and heard.

EULOGY

To the funeral he came
Head bowed
Inside it a bell tolled

He felt guilt, yet he bore none
He cared
She knew and was grateful

Her suffering appalled him
He ached
Now she was at peace they said

She found peace with me, he thought
She thrived
She was happy then and safe …

Long buried pains sought freedom
Safe now
Let them come and be processed

And so the key was turned
Box unlocked
Fear not, now the time is right

She could not cry, could not feel
Pain unleashed
She longed to move through it

Freedom she knew lay that way
True healing
The hose not blocked, free-flowing

It came, drip by drip at first
She welcomed
Meaning was not always clear

Not all dots could be joined
Confusion hampered
Slowly her vision cleared

Sudden withdrawal, word broken
Triggers impacted
She braced and held tight

She alone would be enough
She doubted
Her tenuous grip weakened

Without safety net, she hung
Dam breached
Tears flowed, fears grew, hope died

Reinstate support, she said
He ignored
Amid increasing swell she clung on

Trusted support is vital
She pleaded
I’m at risk, no longer safe

You must understand they said
Protocol matters
We can no longer support you

He didn’t reassure her
Stayed silent
Had he cared? Did he still?

She longed to know safety
She tried
They misunderstood her now

They judged, her trust collapsed
Not seen
She couldn’t make herself heard

When it came she was ready
She accepted
The torrent swept her away

No lifeboat or rescue came
She drowned
Few knew it to be a loss

He came to show respect once more
She mattered
He remembered her light

For once he couldn’t cry
He swallowed
He endured, just as she had

He hoped she had known he
Liked her
Might even have been her friend

He wished she could have lived
Known it
Believed, enjoyed and thrived

She knew that, he told himself
Had to
Could not dwell, he must go on

He left, head bowed once more
Something stirred
Inside she smiled, he cried

Copyright ‘heartsetonliving’ May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asking for help in a crisis … or not!

I spent the majority of 2015 ‘in crisis’. Between¬†May and December I experienced my most severe depressive episode in a decade. It took me right off my feet, for the most part left me entirely incapacitated, and ultimately at risk of dying.¬†CRISISI only began to recover in the days leading up to Christmas. January saw steady improvement in my mood. I was thrilled to find myself alive,¬†having been convinced that I wouldn’t see Christmas because I had to die. I had hope again and, for the first time in my life, reliable, consistent support – which was to prove life-changing and to allow the final pieces of my life and self recovery puzzle to begin to fall into place.

February was rather more of a roller coaster of mood. I panicked as I first felt my mood decline, terrified of the depression taking hold and fearing I would be trapped in it again for months, or even years as I once had been. Depression can be paralysing.

Late last year, on a day when I was able to harness some capacity, I arranged to visit the local crisis centre – a voluntary sector project – to obtain support to build a crisis plan. It was a helpful appointment – my plan involved strengthening my fledgling support network and reaching out to speak to a worker at the crisis centre. The latter can be contacted by text, email or call … 24/7. A follow up appointment may then also be made for the client to visit the centre over the course of the next two days or a follow up call may be made to the client the next¬†day, if more support is needed. It’s a good service. There is only limited provision of a similar type throughout the UK, certainly nowhere near enough to meet demand. Commonly, someone experiencing a mental health crisis, certainly outside of ‘office hours’, is likely to find attending A&E, where resources are stretched and often not geared to mental health, is their only option.

I feel enormously grateful that I¬†now have¬†access to appropriate crisis support. I experienced a four year period of serious mental illness some years ago. There was no specialist crisis support where I lived at that time, only an out of hours GP service that was stretched and, I’m afraid, in no way sympathetic to mental health difficulties. Telephone helplines, such as those offered by the Samaritans, SANE, Breathing Space¬†(Scotland)¬†and Supportline,¬†although helpful, were no substitute for the services¬†that are now available to me in a new area. I believe everyone experiencing mental health crisis has a right to the best, free care – 24/7. We are some way from making that a reality.

So, what is a mental health crisis? If you’ve had one you’ll certainly know about it; they are far from¬†fun. Like those who experience them, they are varied and individual. A crisis might involve psychosis. For the uninitiated, that’s not where one wields an axe and becomes a killer as media depictions¬†might suggest, but rather where a person’s perception of reality becomes mildly, moderately or severely distorted. Read more here.¬†I thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had to experience it and have much respect for those who do. They’re not ‘loony’, ‘psycho’ or ‘sick’, but experiencing the symptoms of illness. They are as¬†deserving of respect and care as anyone experiencing serious illness. A crisis might involve suicidal feelings,¬†ideation and plans. Equally a crisis might involve loneliness, despair, fear or anxiety, impeding a person’s ability to cope or function.

For me, crisis is feeling suicidal,¬†whether those feelings progress to planning¬†to end my life or not, I don’t want to feel suicidal. As far as humanly possible, I want to avoid slipping that far.

Crisis prevention care is as vital as in-crisis care.

The increasingly stretched NHS is, in mental health terms, generally reactive rather than preventative, as limited funds mean limited resources and so limited capacity. In-crisis care is often woefully inadequate, crisis prevention nigh on non-existent. I was only able to access the support I needed when I was deeply in crisis, even after months of crying out to my GP for help with my rapidly worsening depression and suicidal ideation. The attitude was very much one of not to worry, you’ll be fine. When I described¬†finding myself assessing¬†elements of my home as means to end my life, my GP said that was OK, so long as I didn’t act on those thoughts.

No support was put in place to ensure that I didn’t act on them or to help manage and indeed, reduce¬†those thoughts. Only when a friend, sensing that a suicide attempt may well be imminent, telephoned my GP surgery insisting they take action, did appropriate mental health support¬†begin to materialise. My friend (at the time working away from home and 500 miles from the city where we both live) was correct in her assumption and may well have saved my life by at first listening, by continuing to listen until she was able to understand, and, once she did, by taking prompt and appropriate action.

Aside from a lack of appropriate sources of support, the symptoms of mental illness may themselves impede access to support. In recent months, despite¬†having confidence in my local crisis centre (at least my ‘logical brain’ does) and having received much encouragement to seek support from it and other sources, such as my GP and my housing support officer, I have been unable to do so while in crisis or once I begin the slide towards crisis. This is because my depression rather has its own mind and it’s not supportive of my well-being, darn thing that it is! Depression makes me believe that I’m a burden and that no one can or will help me. That’s not what you need to be thinking when you need to reach out for support to manage your illness. You see my dilemma.¬†I don’t feel that way unless I’m in the grip of depressive illness. That at least allows me to continue to devise and revise techniques to circumvent the obstacles to support.

I have made progress.

In February, with encouragement from my housing support officer, I was able to contact the crisis centre as my mood began to rise after a frightening few days of persistent low mood – although not so low as to ignite suicidal ideation. The contact helped strengthen my capacity to recover and continue to move forward. I was able to arrange to visit the centre two days later, in order to discuss my difficulty in reaching out as a mood slide or other crisis trigger occurs. This proved to be enormously helpful. I found my own answers, but having the time and space to discuss my feelings and thoughts around the problem with a crisis worker, is what enabled me to do so.

I realised that I had not been able to engage with either my crisis plan or my crisis/comfort box, despite working so hard to establish them to support me. In conversation with the crisis centre worker, I realised that I had been treating both plan and box as pariahs.

They reminded me of being in severe crisis – a terrible place to which I never again wanted to return – and so I shunned them.

I resolved to rename my crisis plan a rather more cosy support plan and to drop the word crisis from the comfort box. I also made a new, larger box and reworked the contents – a few of which are shown below. It includes, but is not limited to, the following.

  • Items for relaxation – such as a stress toy, herbal tea bags, a relaxation audio, a book and postcards to colour.
  • Photo frames to fill with images of the few who stood by me last year and remind me of the hope and support they offer me.
  • A soapstone heart and fluffy bunny – both tactile –¬†to aid ¬†grounding techniques.
  • Assorted toys and other items from my free and¬†brilliant ¬†Little Box of Distractions¬†to occupy and distract a stressed mind are also in there.

Someofthecontentsofmycomfort box

For the first time I feel confident about accessing appropriate support when I need it – in the form of contacting a supportive friend, the crisis centre or a specialist helpline, whichever is¬†most appropriate in the circumstances. I am somewhat less confident about accessing crisis prevention or in-crisis support from the NHS because of it’s failure to support me in the past and because of the limitations I know have been forced upon it.

Last week a mood slide was triggered by the unexpected discovery of a psychiatrist’s report from more than a decade ago. It details my poor mental state in the immediate aftermath of my disclosure of the physical and psychological¬†abuse I’d experienced in childhood and beyond. I had some horrendous experiences within the NHS in those days, the worst when I was verbally abused by a GP, who went on to admit his wrongdoing but which was subsequently covered up and I was hounded from the practice. A mental health charity backed me but said that without family, a supportive partner or friends to stand and fight with me, I had zero chance of redress.

I still fear being that vulnerable again and know I have still work to do to recover from it. My current GP who, since my friend acted, has improved her support and so has been slowly gaining my trust – the first to do so since that event 11 years ago – is leaving the practice next month. Starting anew with another GP will challenge me, but must be done.

Faced with this triggered mood slide and associated flashbacks and anxieties, I did not panic and so trigger a further slide (well, OK, I did a teensy bit). I calmly and mindfully worked to ground myself, helping to stabilise me, and reached out to friends, Twitter friends and the crisis centre to obtain the support I needed to begin to recover my mood and confidence.

HappyThoughtsJar

How I felt when I achieved this (delighted) is described on a sticky note held within the jar pictured above. It was made for me last month by that super friend. Her intention is that the happy thoughts collected within it can also help to comfort me at more difficult times.