On Trauma

The following does not contain any accounts of emotional, mental or physical abuse.

 

I’ve never experienced any kind of trauma.

Or at least I thought I hadn’t. My first session with the hearing voices psychologist has changed my perspective somewhat. We discussed what might have caused the voices, and the long and short of it is, that while I have never been subject to any mental or physical abuse, the mood swings in themselves were traumatic.

I’m in two minds about this. On the one had I feel like it belittles the experiences of those who have experienced true trauma. What are a few (albeit extreme) mood swings compared to the kinds of trauma others have experienced? On the other hand, this is the only explanation I’ve ever had for the voices and delusions that isn’t “oh it’s just psychosis.” Because surely psychosis must have triggers outside of chemical and structural brain changes. It’s refreshing to have someone look at my childhood and teens rather than just my history of mental illness.

No one has asked me about my childhood very much, although this could be partially my fault as I’ve always described it as “idyllic”. Because it was! There was no abuse, there wasn’t even neglect. Both my parents gave us, somehow, the amount of attention we needed and no more – we weren’t helicopter parented. They both worked full time but when they were home we played games with them, or were allowed to play on our own, depending on how we felt. By “we” I mean me and my sister. I remember bad things happening, like getting in trouble at school, or arguing with friends. It was by no means absolutely perfect, but it was normal, and that, I think, is the important part.

Those early mood swings were traumatic in their own way. I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t realise what was happening until it was too late and I was already batshit. I was around 15 when they started. I remember not wanting to be around people, having a low mood, being anxious about people reading my thoughts – I remember yelling at my best friend for commiting this latter offence. I was depressed basically, but completely unaware of the name for what was happening to me, and that this was something that happened to a lot of people. I just thought I was breaking. Then I remember those highs, short to begin with, perhaps only a few days, before they gradually extended to what they are now – months without medical intervention. I remember trying to mumify my tongue (without embalming fluid), and writing musicals about geckos in science lessons. Maybe not too extreme, but given my personality at the time was very introverted and quiet, this was very unlike me. My friends used to say I would get high on air. So I didn’t understand what was happening. There was no one to talk to because no one else seemed to be going through quite the same thing as me. I mean, sure we were all teenagers, but the one or two times I did talk to a friend, they didn’t understand. Of course I’d never wish this on any of them, so in a way I’m glad they didn’t understand. After the mood swing left I had to mop up the pieces.

I think this is something I’d like to look at more with the psychologist – why do I hear voices that are not, say, an abuser? That would be more understandable. These are voices who don’t seem to exist in the world other people experience, these are voices who have no basis in my past. They seem so external – it’s hard to understand that something in my brain created them. I could posit ideas, perhaps one is me giving me my own advice but has got warped with the chemical imbalance, perhaps the second is the part of me with low confidence that constantly argues, perhaps the last is the part of me that tries to push me harder. I feel like they’re there to help me, and sometimes they do. But when they’re not there, when I’m well, I realise they weren’t helping. Beachy Head wasn’t a good idea in the summer, it nearly got me sectioned but it seemed like the exact right thing to do at the time. I suppose again, this is traumatic in itself. Maybe it’s a never ending cycle.

Right now the voices are telling me to kill myself. I’ve told them it’s my decision and right now I’m too scared to kill myself. Too scared of failing, too scared for those I’ll leave behind. I told the psychologist that the voices were telling me to get out of the building, that I needed to leave and hide somewhere safe. I told her it wasn’t her they were having a problem with but the building itself (the CMHT HQ) and who might be in there (MI:5 and the police). She said it was very kind of me to reassure her that it wasn’t her, and that I was a very kind person. This is very important to me. Being kind is quite an integral part of who I am – I like my friends and family to be happy and a big part of that is being kind to them. I appreciated her saying this – a boost to the ego just when my mood is down and could do with a shot of self-confidence.

So maybe this is all something to explore next week. I have to say, it was a bit of a shock – I’d really never thought of trauma like this. It’s made me reevaluate my perspective. I’m still hung up on “it’s not really trauma”, because it’s nothing like others have experienced in that it’s not verbal, physical, or emotional. There was no abuser. I really am concious of undervaluing the experience of others. That’s not the right word, but you know what I mean.

Can mental illness itself be traumatic?

Mixed Episode

I think I am having a mixed episode, my mood graph seems to be mapping a steady high-low-combo,, and I’m all messed up, full of energy, no energy at the same time. The worst thing is this need to do something but an inability to focus, or even decide what I want to do, I’m just wasting time and unable to distract myself from all the THOUGHTS whirling round, good and bad. It’s slightly easier to deal with when I’m on my own – I can pace up and down, dance, fidget, these things I am able to do – but when Husband is home he expects me to focus my attention and achieve things, which sometimes is just not always possible.

I’m on my third notebook now, I’m slowly saving the world but I need to build things now, which is also something I can’t do when Husband is here because he doesn’t believe I’m saving the world. Messages are coming clearer through through the TV.

The Voices are saying to hurry up, “you’re running out of time”, save the world or reset – be reborn. Reset back to when it was safe, when I was safe, before They knew about me and knew I was chosen. How far back is that? I can’t say for sure, could it be before the Voices came, it could be, but there is no evidence to say when it will be, I don’t know when I was chosen, but I think, I feel, it might be early 2012.

I can’t go on like this.

Husband wants me to go and see the GP but I’m not sure what the point is – Husband wants my olanzapine increased, but I don’t see the point in that either. I’m sure the GP will be happy to increase the medication, maybe he’ll let me go back on antidepressants too, because then I won’t sleep even my current couple of hours, so I would get even more done (although given my concentration).

Rapid Cycling

When I was at university, yeaaaars ago now, I would cycling up and down pretty much daily, which was horrible and I hated it, but as I got older my mood episodes swung towards longer and more pronounced… things, which whilst also horrible, at least I could plan around them, and it also meant that I got long periods of stability in between. So now I’ve just switched from quitealotofquetiapine to alittleolanzapine and it’s not doing its job – I’m up to my ears in voices (pun intended, or whatever it is), my mood has switched three times in the last three weeks and a do.not.like it. I saw my GP today as an aside since my blood test results came back and I’m anaemic (10, but the worst it’s ever been is 8 – I work on “can I get up the stairs without getting out of breath?” if yes, I’m not that anaemic, and as I can I thought I was probably okay, but apparently this is an ineffective scoring method probably because I’ve got so used to it. Maybe running will be easier now, I always struggled with my respiratory system giving out before my muscles) and whilst he was concerned about mood (and some other things I may have talked about but I don’t want to if I haven’t already, here anyway – just don’t want it where They (you know who I mean) can get hold of it) he just didn’t have the time to go into it properly. He’s an amazing GP, but I can see the NHS stifling him.

The olanzapine isn’t doing its job, and there’s no one to call to help – I think I’ve talked before about the lack of accessible services in my area, I’m on meds, I should be well, so I don’t get any help. I do wonder if they’d change their minds if they actually talked to me though. I’m appalled by the lack of care I’ve received – some stats: I haven’t seen a psychiatrist (outside of the hospital admission in November 2013) since February 2013; I haven’t seen a mental health professional at all since August 2014 (ish, I can’t be arsed with looking things up), and god knows I’ve NEEDED to! I’ve seriously considered making a complaint, perhaps via PALS, but to be perfectly honest I’m not sure it would achieve anything other than get me blacklisted by the CMHT, and they’re really nice people besides, they just have limited resources.

I’m looking at other options for getting help – private is too expensive, although my parents have said they could pay for 3 or so sessions to get my medication sorted, but that won’t help with things like applying for benefits/jobs and other services the CMHT have (or at least used to have). The wonderful Sean has pointed me in the direction of Together UK, which looks like it could be useful. It’s hard though, I really don’t have the brain functionality to sort this out right now and Husband and my family all have too much on their plates, I can’t ask more of them and Husband (although he feels like a dick doing it) really doesn’t like me when I’m manic (and of course I don’t blame him, I’m horrendous) I don’t want this! The Voices aren’t helping with the whole thing, I’m trying to pretend I don’t hear them but I don’t know how well it’s working. Maybe people have noticed.

The Most Pointless of Posts

Apathy is sinking in, everything is slowing down.  I used to be excited about doing things, I used to be able to do things.  Now all I do is stare into space/at the TV.  It’s taken an hour to write these four sentences.

I’m meant to be doing some art stuff for a friend but I can’t think.  I’m meant to be making a sock dinosaur but I don’t quite seem to be able to get up the motivation.

A sock elephant.  I need to think about it, but I can’t, I’m just all in a muddle and my mind just can’t, can’t… I can’t even remember what I was thinking about.

The voices aren’t helping of course.

This is the most pointless post ever but I might need it one day.

Control

I think I might be starting to lose control of my life, again.  I have (had?) a handle on my mood – it’s a bit low, but is it depression?  I’m not sure, but what are my early warning signs… I’ve forgotten.  It always raises a flag when my dad cooks or tries to take over the cooking of dinner.  It’s his way of looking after me.  He doesn’t always realise he’s doing it, but it does make me question what may or may not be going on with my head.  What are my other warning signs… I swear I wrote them down somewhere… Nope, lost them.

I’ll have to think of some.  Apathy (check), sleeping too much (check), oh what else… I don’t know.  I can’t think.  I can’t think at all.  Things are slipping away from me, out of my control.  Standing in the checkout line at asda (terrified, with someone, but terrified, people following, people watching) I saw they had pay as you go sim cards for sale.  So I think if I get one I can put it in my phone and then they won’t be able to track me, but of course the tracker chip is in the phone as much as the number/data/sim is tracked.  And the bugs on the line… I don’t know how to get rid of them, and then there’s the one in my heart still.  I think this is still in my control, I think I can still tell myself that none of this is real, no one is watching me and no one wants to hurt me.  At the same time I’m modifying my behaviours – not going out alone, avoiding crowded places, trying to blow up the chip in my heart through gymming it.  I’m still here, in reality, I’m sane and I intend to stay that way.  The voices are there of course – mostly nonsense phrases or talking about what I’m doing.  Some instructions, but harmless.  I’m mostly okay, but I need to stay that way.

What am I doing about it?  I have Plan A and Plan B.  Plan A is increase my antidepressant to 45mg a day, which I did… erm… two weeks ago? So I wouldn’t be seeing an improvement in mood just yet.  Plan B is phone my CPN.  I really don’t want to invoke Plan B.  I want to do this on my own, I want to cope on my own, I don’t want to need help.

I Went to a Bipolar Group

I went to a bipolar group.

It was… different.  It’s run by a guy with bipolar himself – had it for many many years – and the group is completely detached from the NHS and the CMHT.  I’ve joined halfway through its pilot (it finishes in April, they are fighting for funding – don’t need much, just for handouts, tea and coffee, room rent), so it’s an established group, but a welcoming one.  It’s run as a drop-in so there’s no pressure to be there every single week, no pressure to ever go again.  What is most important about it is that there is no pressure to be well.  They’re very accepting.  One lady was hypomanic and getting higher, with no psychiatrist appointment for two weeks.  She wasn’t sleeping so everyone told her to see her GP for sleepers, or go to a pharmacy and get promethazine.  It’s helpful without being pressured.  There was no pressure to speak, which is good because I’m feeling low…

I think I will go back next week.

My Recovery Goal

Things, at the moment, let’s be honest, are less than ideal.  I am (more than) a touch depressed, but it’s early days yet.  I have increased duloxetine from 30mg to 45mg, so we’ll see how that goes.  My prescription is for 2 x 30mg every morning, so that I can go back up to 60mg if necessary, although it did make me rather hypomanic.  What is more troubling is the volume and constancy of the voices and the noises, things smelling of spilt beer all the time, the Fear, and generally being overwhelmed by everything.  I tried to make pizza last night, frozen pizza, but I couldn’t even work out the first step.  In the end my dad did it for me.  Feel like an utter failure for that.  That and my mum having to take me to Sainsbury’s because I was too scared and muddled to go on my own.  Tonight I’m making green Thai curry.  I’ll be spending some time in advance writing down every single little step so that I know what I’m doing.  It’s even little things I’m not able to work out – putting the shopping away, for example, I’m having to put each thing away one at a time.  I can’t manage the fact that the milk and the cheese and the tomatoes all go in the fridge – each one goes in separately one at a time because I just cannot process the thoughts.  It’s like the voices are making a huge block and using up all my focus.  I’m not driving at the moment for the same reasons.

Earlier in the year I had set myself a mid-year target of getting a job.  It didn’t really matter what, but that’s what recovery (*shudders*) means to me – being able to work.  My CPN and family have basically told me I need to scale that goal waaaaaay back.  So my mid-year recovery target is now ‘being able to go to the cinema’.  That’s it.  This is not where I wanted to be at 27.  I wanted a house, a full-time job and a couple of kids.  Instead I’m living at my parents’ with my husband with no kids and essentially no job.  Although I do have cats. So that’s good.  And Husband of course.  I quite like him.

TL;DR I suck at life, the voices aren’t helping.