Heart set on dying?

I want to die. I really want to die. I just want this to end.

Those thoughts have been uppermost after months of waxing and waning. I’ve continued to fight but my ongoing deterioration is undeniable.

I long for someone to tell me to sit down, to say ‘let me do it’, to take the strain if only for a few moments, and for them to bring me a cup of tea and a sandwich. I long for someone to let me curl up under some ‘comforter’ and pour it all out. I LONG to feel connection to someone. I long to be heard. I long for kindness and support. I long not to have to do everything by myself, to be able to stop having to continually fight horrors alone. I long not to feel that on occasion I have to inappropriately ask support of people who should not be giving it, because I am desperate. Like the person you know only to nod hello to at work only to then find yourself suddenly having to ask them to wash your smalls or some other indignity – and no, I haven’t actually done that one. I long to be asked: What do you need? What would help right now? and to feel that the person asking was willing to try, amid their own limitations be they geographical, health or time or otherwise related, to try to work with me to make some progress.

At some point during the night, a friend on hearing of my suicidal despair told me to ‘stay with him’ and that we’d ‘try to find a way through’. Such powerful words when you’ve lost hope and need something to which to CLING. Those are just the words you need from friends at the worst of times. Certainly I was glad to hear them, only I couldn’t take comfort in them.

We have never met. We live many miles apart. We are online friends, although we have come to chat on the phone in recent months. I haven’t had the gut feeling that there is something to fear from the friendship and that it would be dangerous for me to proceed, as I’ve had many times in the last 15 years. I trust my ‘gut’ but have forced myself to ignore it since loss and illness narrowed my world to such an extent that I came to feel that this ‘beggar’ couldn’t afford to be choosy. Every time my gut instinct proved right but not before I’d paid the price for ignoring it. This friend, of last night’s words, and I have some shared experience and this friend undeniably has empathy. Although it’s a relatively new friendship, this person appears to have a good grasp of what I’m about and a reasonable grasp of my complex circumstances. Finally, after the last year, too many damaging encounters and friends who have betrayed my trust have left me unable to trust and connect. I can now only see that this friend, and any others, will come to stop caring.

One thing I know about you is that this isn’t your fault, more that it’s an unholy concoction of circumstances … You’re my friend and I’m very proud to know you. How can this friend – an ordinary bloke, said with no disrespect but a worry that perhaps I am under-estimating – say that where other friends can not? If older friends* – those in whom I can still feel something, could say words like this, the power would be extraordinary and could catapult me into new connections with some confidence. Does anyone understand what I mean? If people who have known me for years, who were once very close to me can’t say/act like that I matter, on top of the betrayals of family, can I ever really matter to anyone else? *They are now so very few, admittedly this is a very small sample.

It seems ‘crazy’ to think that when my abuse was first revealed more than 15 years ago and I became so very ill, I consoled myself with the thought that friends would rally …
I didn’t expect that I would lose so many of them because they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand and so rejected me, or found my situation too uncomfortable and so distanced themselves. I pushed away the stragglers who remained on the periphery, too terrified to confide for fear of more of the same. A few years ago I reconnected with one such friend lost in that way, someone I valued very much and trusted, but ultimately there is now only more distance. This is alienation in the truest sense, my situation and suffering (I hate to apply that word to me; it feels to reek of self pity) too alien to comprehend, and waaaaay too alien to ever want to embrace. I long for that ’embrace’, some connection. I belong nowhere …
It seems crazy because in spite of all that, deep down inside somewhere the desire for friends to rally still lives on.

Picture me, if you will, clinging to a perilously lofty cliff face with no safety lines and ever-crumbling hand and footholds, frequently flailing, slipping and falling, before grasping and clinging on again by the merest margin.

I want to let go. I want nothingness to engulf me.

Count your ‘pegs’, or whatever climbers call those things that they tap into rock, your ‘ harness’ and other ‘safety lines’, for me now, will you, please? Perhaps there’s a spouse or partner, a pet, a home of your own, children, a job, sufficient income, food in your fridge, connections and pleasures, colleagues, friends, wider family, history and memories, a safe place, a trusted professional. Things that amid stress, and even at the worst of times, to which you can cling and feel grounded, tethered, held in place – pinned to that cliff face even though you are terrified, even though your predicament is hellish, you are held in place. I ask this because in all these years I have never yet encountered any other ‘struggler’ without tethers. Plenty who can feel that they are without them, who can struggle to see them, yes, but no one without any in actuality. A GP once told me that those people never make it. I like to defy odds but in the last year I have feared I’ve been stupid in my dogged belief that I could.

Fantasies and fear are my only ‘tethers’. I want to write more on this but I’m flagging. I’ll try to do it in another post, except to say that in the absence of psychosis and with depression only rarely removing my rationale, I fear a suicide attempt failing and landing me in a worse situation. I’m not living, I’m existing, but I’m failing to die.

I live with the knowledge that if I were to go missing there is no one to notice or to raise an alarm, and that if I were to die it could be weeks before I would be found. I don’t dream up these thoughts to dwell or wallow or feel sorry for myself. They are facts I’ve been forced to face in the last couple of years. Realisation slow in the making but helped along by having to beg a near stranger to help me to get to A&E in December and the days that I’ve gone without food since 2015, either through lack of funds or lack of capacity due to illness to prepare something, because there was no one willing to help – for eight days at worst. It’s immensely difficult to lay bare these examples as the circumstances surrounding them are complex and there is much left unsaid. I fear misunderstanding and negative judgement.

I’d never heard those words before last night, not in all those years or the preceding years of abuse and trauma. Not one of the people I loved and cared about ever said those words or any remotely like them. I’ve said those words VERY many times. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I dealt with someone else’s suicidal crisis between 2011 and 2016 alone. I have quite a record and, given that I’m not a Samaritans volunteer or mental health professional, it’s probably a fairly unusual one. I jump in, a LOT, always hoping to make a positive difference but sometimes for misguided, even unhealthy, reasons, mostly a desperate need to try to prevent others feeling what I feel.

I have had not a single regret that I cut myself off from what remained of my family as it was only, and could only ever be, abusive. Likewise I have never regretted leaving my marriage a little over three years ago. It was dysfunctional, deeply unhealthy for the most part and has been described by others as sometimes being abusive; I find it difficult to claim that. The hugs were wonderful, as sometimes was the kindness and the connection, but the damage it was doing, ultimately to both of us, was too great. I am sad that illness and my circumstances have isolated me. I am angry that chronic under-funding of health and social care has killed many and severely worsened my own health and circumstances leaving me to suffer acutely, unnecessarily, and unable to ‘grab life by the horns’ and thrive. Again, that’s so difficult to say. Ultimately, I’ve been rendered housebound for the past four months – no longer able to leave my flat either psychologically or physically due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and issues of pain, fatigue and mobility.

Inside my mind I am as proactive as ever, as hard working, as determined, as enthusiastic, as ‘can do’, as ‘grab life by the horns’ but now mostly only when I unconsciously dissociate from reality. Reality that includes a sick body; a mind tormented by loss, grief , loneliness and desperate desire to thrive; hunger; and isolation so complete that I don’t know when I’ll next see or speak to another human, and I’m struggling to remember when I last saw someone. I am permanently online, often now too lost to connect to anyone but still ‘seeing’ the world, if only virtually, remains a sort of tether but one without comfort. Without it these past few months, I think I would already be dead. It’s kept me from completely losing my mind.

I hoped that writing this would provide some sort of catharsis. I have written it to try to let it out of my head. I have written it while trying not to try to hard, trying not to think of the audience or worry who might judge, feel offended or otherwise react negatively. Part of me doesn’t want to receive comments on this post but another part cannot allow me to enter my WordPress ‘dashboard’ and turn off that function on this post. I fear judgement and disdain. I fear troubling anyone. Another part wants people who know me to read this post, and wants to find ways to encourage that. I know I welcome questions and would welcome the attempts of others, especially my friends, to learn and understand. I am thoughtful and reflective and my depth of insight is frequently noted but I think I may currently lack the wherewithal to isolate my motivations, comprehend and marshal them in my best interests. Perhaps I am setting myself up for more hurt? Part of me feels that I should let people grow ever distant, set them free.

I have continued to engage with my online friend since we connected late last night. I am in the sitting room at my desk writing this post. I emailed my recently allocated social worker, ostensibly my key worker, around 8 this morning to let her know that I am in dire straits. I have been told there is nothing that can be offered right now, but I forced myself to ask her directly if there is anything at all  that she could do to help me at this time. Occasionally, pushing hard reveals that actually something is possible, but my experience is that pushing alone, however skillfully, is rarely enough. You’re easily dismissed when alone and without others to back you. I had to do something having failed to find the courage to attempt to kill myself. I’ve not yet received a reply but continue to compulsively check my email. She might even be on leave. The working day is all but over as I write this sentence, at any rate.

I could say more; I still feel compulsive urges to do so, particularly around the suicidal ideation, and also expanding on reasons for the dearth of support, in a desperate attempt to make readers understand. I shall refrain from doing so, and deploy my inner ‘Tigger‘ to publish and be damned.

Final note: I have just received a reply from the social worker. It is kind enough but offers no support, just tells me to keep keeping on by myself and reminds me of the usual crisis lines. I will try to write specifically about the health and social care support situation soon.

Thank you for reading.

Advertisements

I am awake and content to be so. 

I’ve woken this morning, for the first time in many days, without the feeling that I can’t bear to be awake.

This morning I did not so desperately clamour to again escape into sleep that I forced myself away from wakefulness and into a half sleep, punctuated by nightmares of the darkest variety. 

This is progress.

***** N.B. Hello again dear readers. It’s been a while since I posted, and there is quite a story a tell. It would be too large a task to try to bring you up to date all at once, and it would certainly overwhelm me, and perhaps you too. With that in mind, I’m going to do as a middle-aged American woman, with a passion for fly-fishing and a plethora of strategies for overcoming the overwhelming, once told me … don’t try to catch up, just jump in where you are. I trust that in doing  this the fuller story will, in time, unfold. This is likely to be one of many ‘bite-sized dispatches’. In the meantime, I’ll just say that it feels good to be back and that I hope you’ll encourage me in my quest to post regularly. *****

A new group … or Day 5 of The Rest of My Life

Today has been particularly challenging. I’ve been reeling from big news that I received yesterday. It’s triggered the pain of loss and exacerbated intense feelings of loneliness.

I woke very early this morning – sometime around six o’clock. Realising that I wasn’t about to get back to sleep easily, I set about being productive and wrote a blog post. Still the difficult feelings persisted although I continued to be productive but carefully pace myself, and also took time to relax. Around lunchtime, feeling worse, I took myself off to bed, in the hope that a nap might help. Sometimes it’s the only option to try to halt a complete mood crash and descent into crisis, when no support is available. I slept peaceable enough and woke around 3:30pm, at first slightly disorientated. My mood was still flat.

I knew what I must do and that is be productive again. I set the dishwasher going, refilled my water jug, took some painkillers, tweeted the link to my earlier blog post, brushed and straightened my hair and put on some make up before sitting down at my desk to write this post and send a couple of important emails.

I’m due to go out in a little over an hour. I plan to try out a local craft group. It’s held a short walk from my place, lasts just 90mins and there’s free tea and cake! I am so isolated and the more I can engage, #spoons permitting, the better. I am anxious about going along. My comfort zone is to be on top form in the company of others, which, in my situation, is quite frankly exhausting. The aim this evening is just to get there and try not to put myself under pressure to perform. The aim is to make that effort but not strain myself. After all, this is supposed to be about getting fun and engagement into my life!

Wish me luck!

 

Medication … miracle?!

TW: This post contains discussion of suicidal intent and a suicide attempt.

So, after stepping back from the brink, how are things now?

Well, by goodness, there is a LOT going on in my life, a great deal to manage and to process but I have some support and may yet have more to come. For the first time in my life that support is appropriate and reliable and it’s paying dividends. There remains a long and challenging road ahead, more of that in later posts, but the outlook is positive.

I have a long history of depression, I’ve lived with episodes of it for more than 25 years, since I was around 18 years old. Mine is always reactive and triggered by major stress. Alas, when you are survivor of abuse and trauma, life does rather tend to have more than its fair share of that!

I wrote about the attempt I made many years ago to end my life by suicide, here. It happened in the years immediately following my disclosure, to a GP and subsequently a counsellor, of my experiences of trauma, physical and psychological abuse within my family over many years. I was not well supported then and was lucky to survive the attempt. I was discharged from hospital with no follow up support. I tried to be proactive and so sought it out but soon realised there was nothing doing. I feel great dismay when I read accounts by others who are still having this experience in the 2010s.

Finding myself at risk of homelessness was at the root of the prolonged episode of depression in the year from December 2014, but there were other contributing factors. I had been pushing myself much too hard, for one. The prospect of losing the roof over one’s head would be stressful for anyone. As a result of my experiences of abuse, loss has loomed large in my life. I lost all my family, many friends and with those losses connections to my history. I’ve lost some memory. I’ve lost some hair (!) as a result of alopecia. I’ve lost my beloved career. I’ve lost my marriage and I’ve lost the chance to have a family of my own. I’ve lost health and fitness and I’ve lost a great amount of time to illness and recovery. A few things can be recovered, others are gone for ever, others can be replaced with a great deal of flexibility and endeavour. Throughout it all I have hung on to a home – there have been many of varying types scattered around the UK – this one is mine and mine alone and with that has come a fledging sense of safety. The threat of its loss became unbearable.

Depression threatened me again and as its impact intensified, I was disturbed to find that it was once again very difficult to access support, despite effort and honesty on my part. [I’d like to discuss this issue in more detail but will do so in a later post focusing on issues around suicide prevention.]

Medication was mentioned but I was very reluctant to go down that road. Having previously been prescribed various anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications over a period of four years. I never felt they had any benefit or served to ease my psychiatric symptoms in any way. The doses were regularly increased to no effect, in my view, except to ensure that I had a veritable pharmacy on hand at home. It was while on the highest doses that I made the attempt on my life all those years ago, by swallowing a massive overdose of more than 100 tablets.

I came off all medication in the year following my suicide attempt but continued to pursue counselling and other forms of psychological support that I found in the voluntary sector  and which were hugely beneficial to me.

When my friend made the call to my GP that brought me back from the brink, a few short weeks ago. medication remained the only treatment option on the table. I was told I would not be allowed to access further psychological support – such as specialised trauma therapy – on the NHS, without having first tried medication. My GP, whom I have known for 18 months, remained convinced that it could help me. Knowing that something had to change if I was to continue to stay alive and after lengthy discussion with my GP during an hour long home visit, I made the decision to try medication again.

I didn’t want to be able to accumulate medication at home, knowing myself to be at risk of suicide, so we agreed that I would receive my medication weekly and that since I am having difficulty getting out and about it would be delivered to my home each week.

After just two weeks on a relatively lose dose of anti-depressant medication, I realised that my mood had been steadily improving during the preceding seven days. Side effects were unpleasant at first but manageable with the help of my GP and they have subsided. We increased the dose after those two weeks and I’m due a final increase next week. My mood has remained stable and this is despite receiving some devastating news four days prior to Christmas and, additionally, having an encounter that forced me to relive episodes of terrifying violence in my childhood.

When considering whether to try medication again it didn’t occur to me that something is different this time around. Although I’ve been experiencing the most severe depression again, I have come a very long way in the intervening years and I’m in a very different ‘place’. It certainly seems as though the medication is doing its job this time – ironically, I am taking Sertraline which is the very first of the medications I was prescribed all those years ago. (That news very nearly had me running for the hills, I can tell you!) Perhaps the fact that I have moved on so very much, has made the difference.

A Twitter pal has been expressly wishing me miracles in recent months and continues to do so. It looks like that wishing worked 🙂 …. I needed a miracle and I think I got one … thanks LongJohn 😉 !

This cannot be fixed by relentless positivity and boundless enthusiasm.

I turned a corner again yesterday.

The previous three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – were incredibly difficult; hellish. Lying in bed in the early hours of this morning, trying to switch off and sleep, I found myself feeling as though someone else had lived those three days. I had some memories from those days and yet, in those moments lying in my bed, it didn’t feel as though the me lying in bed was the same me who lived through those three hellish days. I haven’t considered it as deeply since, I’m slightly afraid to do so.

I was certainly very depressed during those three days, triggered by further bad news about my financial circumstances that has, for now at least, eradicated all hope of avoiding becoming homeless in December – with nowhere to go or stay. It is a harsh reality. Coming after so much loss – almost entirely due to the abuse I endured in childhood and beyond – losing all family, friends, my career, previous good health, the chance to have children, my marriage, independence, a significant amount of memory, even a not inconsiderable amount of hair due to alopecia, and more related to those losses – the prospect of further loss is terrifying. More than that, it’s unbearable.

I’ve survived all the rest and coped, often alone, I feel unable to cope now. Finally I’m saying I can’t take any more. Despite intensive efforts, I’ve as yet been unable to find support to avoid this feared loss becoming reality. I need a miracle …

In that terribly depressed state during those three days and yesterday too, before I really started to emerge from it, I was more readily accepting of that harsh reality. I am generally a realist. I don’t tend to shy away from harsh realities or stick my head in the sand.

The me that has emerged, from those three days and more, is still very much aware of the horrid reality that I’m facing. It’s a me that is still very much depleted and strugging, but it’s not deeply depressed. That ‘not-deeply depressed’ me (something far closer to the essence of me – some might call that my ‘authentic self’) wants to go ‘Tigger’…

You remember? A.A. Milne’s terrific tiger with boing. He of relentless positivity and boundless enthusiasm. I’m a bit Tigger, certainly relentlessly positive and possessed of boundless enthusiasm, deep depression notwithstanding. Lying in bed last night, thinking as I was, I felt Tigger me, desperately wanting to find hope, desperately wanting to find a way to live.

With the best will in the world and despite having ‘where’s there’s a will, there’s a way’ as a life maxim, logic tells me that I cannot Tigger my way out of this situation.

My own collection: Tigger is the one with THE tail, much as I am the one with a heck of a tale. I'm increasingly afraid that my story cannot have a happy ending.
My own collection: Tigger is the one with THE tail, much as I am the one with a heck of a tale. I’m afraid that my story cannot have a happy ending.

Peace and Loneliness

I’ve been seeking peace of mind for some thirteen years, since my abuse came to light and I finally broke.  I hoped to find it with my husband, but the marriage brought more fear and sadness. There was also laughter, sharing and wonderful cuddles ( I shall miss those) but the shadow of that fear and sadness loomed large above two people who in order to be themselves could not be together.

Peace of mind to me means living free from threat and fear; it’s a sense of safety, security and wellbeing.

I’ve yet to find that but in the new life I’ve made in the three years I’ve spent living in my adopted city home, I have experienced happiness, joy and contentment. Above all I’ve found me and quite frankly that’s really something to shout about. The freedom, the contentment that feeling comfortable within yourself can bring is immeasurably marvellous; it makes my heart sing.

I have always been able to picture the real me or my true self, my authentic self, if you prefer. The abuse I experienced could not obliterate that image but it did severely compromise my ability to be me.

In the last two years I’ve lost a lot of weight –  much of that piled on some years ago in the aftermath of my initial breakdown – and it’s meant shedding a physical and psychological burden. I was trapped inside somewhere, by losing weight I’m breaking out. I no longer cringe when I catch sight of myself, in fact I often beam! Photographs are still difficult because of issues with my teeth – which I hope to soon address – and my ongoing alopecia. My hair loss is permanent, I am teaching myself to just ‘rock it’! At last I have the confidence to wear clothes that I love and finally begin to develop the sense of style I could always picture. Shapeless cover-ups are long gone. I’m experimenting with make-up – not to hide but to enhance and most of all for FUN. Last week, for the first time, I had my eyebrows waxed and I loved it! I did it because I wanted to do it; I felt pampered. I grew up being schooled to ignore my own needs and to believe that self-care was a bad thing – self indulgent, selfish, an unnecessary frivolity.

It took a lot of hard work to recover from an anxiety disorder and agoraphobia and until very recently I still found it difficult to go into small shops. I live in an area with a fabulous old fashioned style high street filled with independent shops – an artisan bakery, a greengrocer, a cheesemonger, a health food store among them. I was too fearful to enter them because their small nature, their intimacy, felt too exposing and left me with nowhere to hide. I felt I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t worthy of being there. NOT ANYMORE!! I stride out with a funky basket on my arm (bought some years ago and saved for just such a moment that I was determined would come) and away I go. Now in my forties, I’m beginning to live.

 ****

Yesterday was difficult. I felt acutely lonely. Those feelings began on Friday evening and I felt bad about being so affected on a day when I’d had a considerable amount of meaningful contact. I rarely get so much and usually would ensure it sustained me for days.

There was an appointment at the GP surgery with a nurse with whom I have connected. During my mammoth weight loss programme she offered, unprompted, to accompany me to a local pool to fulfill a dream to swim again after a gap of many years; to ‘hold my hand’. Her compassion and willingness to engage quite took my breath away. My burgeoning self confidence received a bonus boost. I haven’t yet taken her up on the offer, although I did buy a swimming costume last year, but I hope to do so later this year. I still have a lot to do and limited spoons with which to do it and have had to accept that I can’t do everything at once. She was pleased to see me yesterday and recognised me although we have only met twice, the last time some months ago. It’s a simple thing but being recognised, feeling a connection, means so much. I’d lived so very long in isolation having lost all links due to illness and the abuse. I have no family, having had to cut myself off from what was left of it because I was being abused. Friends had distanced themselves then disappeared, some outraged that I’d had a ‘breakdown’ believing mental illness to be not an illness but a weakness or character flaw. Others were suspicious, appearing to think I had ‘gone a bit weird’ claiming abuse that couldn’t possibly be, so dazzled were they by the polished veneer expertly laid over our family to hide the soiled lives beneath. For years it blinded me too. Perhaps others just didn’t know how to deal with me. I distanced myself from the few who remained fearing further rejection or ridicule.

Back to Friday and I arrived at a lunch date with a friend, buoyed by my encounter with lovely nurse and it too was lovely – another connection and growing friendship. Our conversation was lively and varied. Talking about my situation and the realities of Operation Fight Back (my endeavour to recover from a recent set back and continue my lengthy ‘rebuilding programme’, in the wake of my marriage ending three months ago) was, is, helpful. Without an outlet, pressure builds to dangerous levels. However, talking and sharing as oppose to silently getting on with it, brought my isolation into sharp focus. My friend talked about being ‘adopted’ by older friends following the deaths of her parents. I’ve long dreamed of that happening to me – that may sound a bit drippy! I’ve had little experience of relationships with a parent figure that wasn’t toxic. I feel the absence of healthy versions of those relationships. I don’t have someone to look up to, to turn to, to seek advice from, or feel loves, cherishes, knows and accepts me. That’s how it is, I live with it, I seek to keep developing myself and my life … then who knows what might happen? Still, sometimes that loss, that absence, that pain, punches me on the nose … really hard. Watching Sport Relief  that evening I was undone. It featured a report about a 92 year old gentleman’s sense of loneliness following the loss of his much beloved wife to Alzheimer’s Disease. I felt for him so much but when the television  presenter spoke of the terrible problem of loneliness among the elderly, I wanted to shout at the telly you don’t have to be elderly to experience terrible loneliness. 

I ran yesterday (stats at the end of this post) morning but that and the bare basics were all I could manage. I felt low and I was hurting. Texts from two friends later in the day offered welcome respite. I hung on and today dawned more brightly.  The *?!*?’* is back in its box.

Treadmill stats for Saturday:

12mins 20 – all run = 0.73 distance and 67.1 cals