Tag Archives: Grounding techniques

Chaotic Cancer: A Family Member’s View: First Chemo

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

This is my view of living with someone who has cancer as someone who has a mental illness. It is my personal experience of the chaotic cancer ride.

A milestone is the first chemotherapy session. It was something we had waited for, for quite a while after diagnosis, or so it seemed. We had a lot of cancellations and changes before the first session took place. Because if the chaotic nature of everything this has taken me some time to write.

Mum had to go to a specialist hospital in London for the first session. This was about an hour’s drive from where we live. It was tricky logistically with having to go up in the days before for blood tests and covid swabs. It was also tiring for my mum.

The stress of the first chemo was immense. It was all so sudden that it came together after all the cancellations and changes. The panic kicked in the night before mum had to go. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared. But I didn’t feel I could show it. I decided I needed to just push it all down. I couldn’t deal with the overwhelming feelings. I needed to just be practical. It was probably not the best idea but how I could cope.

Chemo for mum took a long time. They had trouble with her veins and other things. Plus having three different drugs meant it took all day. She was exhausted by the time she was done and home.

At first, after the chemo, mum didn’t feel too awful and then it hit. She wasn’t sick but felt it. She was very tired and this made her frustrated. Her mind often went blank. It was a difficult time to be at home. Life was just very stressful. I was struggling. I didn’t know how to describe my feelings or what was going on in my head. It was all extremely overwhelming. I didn’t talk to anyone really about how I felt as I didn’t have the words. I just said I was tired, which was true as well.

After the first chemo you think you understand what could happen from what you’ve been told but living it is so different. And if one more person tells us to think positive I think we’ll all scream.

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Chaotic Cancer: A Family Member’s View: Tests

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

I explained this new little series in an earlier post ➑️ Chaotic Cancer: A Family Member’s View: Intro

So with diagnosis you think the next step is treatment but oh no there is an endless round of tests and appointments to deal with. And it’s stressful for all involved.

A lot of these appointments and tests happen at the last minute so it is extremely hard to plan things around them. Things get changed at the last minute and the term chaotic is very apt.

For someone who needs routine and control this has been extremely hard for me to deal with. It’s not easy for anyone but this has added to the stressfulness of the situation. I can feel the anxiety in me about a change in routine. It’s selfish I know. Or that’s what I’m telling myself. What’s my anxiety to my mum’s cancer?

Having a lack of control over the situation and life in general leads me back to my reliable coping mechanisms. Not good ones. Self harm is back. And honestly I have no shame about it. I know I need better ways to cope. But currently don’t have the time.

For anyone going through this, how did you cope with the appointments? My phone calendar has never looked so full and I think that is the only thing giving me any sense of control, having all the dates in there.

Feel free to share your thoughts, tips or ideas in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

When Emotions Overwhelm

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Last week after a while of not feeling anything or pushing emotions down I was suddenly overwhelmed with them. It is an experience I know many people with a mental illness feel at times, especially those who have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

I don’t understand my emotions most of the time. Identifying them is an extremely difficult thing for me. When they overwhelm me this is harder to do and harder to deal with as well. People will ask what’s wrong or what you’re feeling and not being able to explain it is so hard to deal with and seems to add something into the emotions that makes it all the worse. I feel I just want to be a “normal” person for a while.

Those with a BPD diagnosis find emotions are heightened. They are often described as being emotionally like third degree burns victims without an emotional skin. It’s like touching wounds when we feel emotions. The pain of them is strong and this can be felt physically in the body. And by god is it painful at the extremes. When most people would have a small emotional response, ours tends to be more intense or bigger. Therefore when a person without the diagnosis has an event that causes them extreme emotional pain, well for those who have a diagnosis of BPD it is just unbearable.

When the emotions overwhelmed me I just wanted to tear my skin off. I wanted to hurt myself to an extreme extent. I wanted to escape it all. Death felt like the best idea but I felt trapped as it wasn’t an option. This added to the distress. The hatred for myself is strong. It’s always strong but in that moment it was extreme. It was unbearable and I could not even work out what I was feeling.

This happens more often than people realise. A lot of the time I just hide away. My friends cope with a lot. I feel sorry for them. I hate what I do to them. They deserve better. I try my hardest to not inflict myself on them but in the moment it’s harder. This isn’t the healthiest way to cope.

I don’t have much advice for coping. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) offers some skills for dealing with distress. These include the TIPP skills and STOP skills that are detailed in the images below. However it can be hard to remember to do this when the emotions are so high. It’s like they are blinding. It could be useful to let someone close to you know about the skills so they can remind you of them.

If you have any other tips for coping with overwhelming emotions then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Being Invalidated

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

“To invalidate means to cancel something or make it void, as if it never happened. In invalidate you see the word valid which means true or correct. When you invalidate something you are making it less true, less official, or less correct.” (vocabulary.com, March 2021).

The meaning above can be applied to things you experience. It can be caused by other people and events. It can make you question your thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and reactions. It can make you feel awful. And people sometimes don’t even realise they are doing this to you.

When you tell someone that what they feel isn’t justified or to just stop feeling that way, then you are invalidating the way they feel. You are telling them what they are feeling is not true and not correct. Yes, you may not have felt that way in that situation but everyone is different and that doesn’t mean that what that person is feeling is invalid.

It’s important we think before we speak. It’s what might feel like silly things that can have an effect on other people and cause them to feel invalidated and it can start when we are children. What we are saying may to us sound reassuring but it ccam invalidate the child. Saying to a child who is nervous about an exam that they shouldn’t be is invalidating. Instead saying you understand why they feel that way but you feel like they are well prepared so it should go well is acknowledging their feelings as valid while reassuring at the same time.

Some mental health professionals could also do with understanding the power of invalidation. Telling someone that what they are experiencing is minimal or not that bad can have lasting effects on everyone and especially those with a mental illness. It can cause them to deteriorate further. On my write ups from the psychiatrist appointments it would often say my self harm was superficial and it would make me try to cause myself more harm as I felt they weren’t taking me seriously. I’ve also heard of people with eating disorders who are told they are not thin enough being made sicker.

I know that although having a diagnosis can be a burden I felt it a validation for what I was/am experiencing. It made me feel that someone could see that something was wrong and I needed help. However this means professionals need to be careful about removing diagnoses from patients as it can add to invalidation. You are taking away the validation you gave them. There needs to be a conversation and careful explanation.

It is possible also to invalidate yourself as well. This is harder to stop doing, I know I do it a lot. It’s important for us to try and allow ourselves to experience our feelings and acknowledge them. This is easier said than done though.

So when speaking to anyone try to consider their feelings and not cancelling them out. We all need to think of how our words and actions impact on others.

Therapy 2021: Session 4

Date of session: 26/01/2021

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Before this session I had homework to do. I left it until the last minute due to feeling ill and tired most of the time. I also knew it would be hard as it involved identifying emotions at some level. This is an area I find hard and frustrating. I also had to build a new safe place to use to do this. This I resented. I did it the night before.

At the start of the session, as always, I was asked how I’d been over the last week. I said about the pain and tiredness. She asked how I’d been doing with the self harm and I replied I still hadn’t self harmed since before Christmas. She was pleased with this. I am less so at this time. She also asked how my dissociation had been which I always find hard to answer as I’m not always aware when I’m dissociating. I explained a couple of things and she said it sounded more like acting mindlessly rather than dissociating. I’ll agree to disagree here but hey ho.

We then moved on to look at the new safe place I had created and went through all its sections and the different senses that related to it. I won’t discuss my safe place at this time as I’m not sure it is a wise thing right now. She was happy with the place I’d created and the use of senses. She then asked about emotions and feelings in the body. This is where I had difficulty and this made me feel uncomfortable and annoyed (anger and annoyance I can identify, though not always accurately in others). She now wants me to keep going through the safe place when I’m not stressed to see how it reduces feelings and calms me. Then move on to practicing it when I think of a mildly irritating scenario. At the moment I’m in a constant state of anxiety so we will see how we go.

After this she wanted to discuss next steps. She had, had her supervision meeting and discussed about doing further trauma work with me now I wasn’t self harming (a prerequisite I had been given). It was now decided it was still to unsafe to do the trauma work online due to my high score on the DES (Dissociative Experience Scale) as she wasn’t in the same room as me. I understand this to an extent but it feels like I have to somehow get better so I’m the right level of ill. I can’t be too ill, but I can’t be too well.

The above led me to having to make a decision. We could do another couple of sessions winding down and then leave it until face to face was an option or I can join a trauma information group in March for eight weeks and next weeks session would be my last individual session. I explained I would have to consider the timing of the session and how it would impact on my family as its a two hour course. I had some less than pleasant comments in response that left me incredibly upset, including “the group will go ahead with or without you” and “you’re lucky to be offered this so soon”. I don’t dispute how lucky I am, I just needed to consult others as I’m not the only person it will effect. She knows of the difficulties at home. I was told to just be assertive.

After the session I was in tears. I felt some of the comments were unfair. I had not turned it down flat, just explained that I wasn’t sure I could do it due to the issues in my family. But then I was an awful person. I feel now something that may be paranoia but also may not be, which is that this has all been to leave me without support and the world knowing how awful I am. I’m still not feeling great in regard to this. I have considered emailing the psychologist but I’m also scared too. It has triggered a lot of feelings of fear of abandonment.

I have managed to arrange that I will be able to attend the group of the offer is still open. We will see what happens next week.

Winter Self Care In Lockdown

I know we are quite a bit into winter but as I’m in the UK we all know winter is going to be here forever more (yes I’m exaggerating). So I thought I’d put some winter self care together and that which is appropriate for a lockdown.

1. A warm drink

Simple maybe? Maybe not. The thought of making a hot drink for some feels insurmountable when times are hard but if you can it may make you feel better. Even just an ordinary soft drink is good as well. I’m not one for hot drinks myself so understand if you don’t want one.

2. Snuggle in some blankets

If all you can do is keep yourself warm and comfortable it’s still self care. It’s nothing to feel guilty about, your comfort is important. Enjoy the blankets.

3. Watch something you’ve wanted to

Whether it’s a boxset binge or a film you’ve been meaning to watch, make the most of the cold weather and the instruction to stay indoors and watch it. Remember you can always pause something if you can’t concentrate for long. I often watch episodes or films in bits as I can’t keep my mind on things for long.

4. Something creative

If you feel up to it then what about something creative. Drawing, modelling, painting. I’m currently doing a painting by number that really helps me with my anxiety. Even a jigsaw or lego is creative. Do what you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be perfect or put on display.

5. Reading

I read quite a lot but I know it’s not always easy so there is the option of listening to an audio book if you feel that would work better.

6. Nap

Naps are amazing. Have no guilt in giving your body what it needs.

So those are a few ideas from me. Obviously there are lots of different things that you can do. Do what is good for you. Remember self care isn’t selfish. It’s something we all need.

Therapy 2021: Session 3

Date of session: 19/01/2021

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Since my last session I have felt incredibly unwell mentally. My anxiety has been through the roof, especially with regard to the homework she set, and I’ve had many flashbacks. I’ve not slept particularly well and felt very sick. This is where we started the session.

My homework had been to wish for my psychologist to get ill everyday. This made me feel particularly ill. It was to prove to me that I have no control over people getting ill. And I understand that and rationally know its true but I’m not there on an emotional level yet. The psychologist had not been ill, or at least she told me she hadn’t, and tried to reassure me. It had also brought up ideas that maybe this had been to prove how evil I am as well. The psychologist started to think maybe this had been a step too far too soon. We may go back to this at a later date.

The main point of today’s session was to create a safe place for me to go to mentally in my mind. This didn’t go particularly well and I think the psychologist saw this. I do feel I should have been guided better with my choice as its far from appropriate now I look back at it and at the end of the session it was suggested I might try somewhere else that is calmer. I feel because I was being asked to use emotions to find the safe place I misread it all. I find emotions so hard to place. I was totally lost with it.

I’m trying so hard in these sessions. I’m continuing not to self harm. I know it’s going to be more difficult before it gets better but at the moment I’m struggling. I feel so alone. I feel noone can understand this. Feeling constantly on the edge of panic is exhausting. I’m so tired right now.

Therapy 2021: Session 1

Date of session: 05/01/2021

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Today was the first session of the new year after having a two week break. Its been a hectic break that has brought up a lot of issues.

Before Christmas it was decided that I would try and stop self harming. I haven’t self harmed since the day before our last session on the 16th December 2020. That means I havent self harmed for three weeks. She was pleased with this. I have struggled with the anxiety this has brought me.

With an OCD element to my self harm, it means stopping creates anxiety especially surrounding the health of those who are special to me. I believe if I don’t harm myself they will get ill. This has been tested greatly as my mum became unwell and was hospitalised only days after stopping. My friends son has also been unwell and this has added anxiety of whether I’ve caused his illness.

Within the session today we discussed this and did an analysis of all the times my mum has been unwell and whether my self harming behaviour could of been related. Obviously, when you look at it rationally, it turned out it was just a 50/50 chance. Rationally my self harm wasn’t having an effect. Also she pointed out that I was trying to manipulate the facts to fit with my thoughts or as she put it “your OCD”. It has given me a lot to consider. I can see the rationality but believing it is hard.

We also did a questionnaire to start working towards trauma therapy. As I have experienced dissociation she wanted to see how it effects me. The questionnaire we did was called the DES or Dissociative Experience Scale. It was interesting to go through as it made me see that maybe some things I experience are dissociation rather than normal. I didn’t get the results today but will discuss next session.

I don’t know what the sessions ahead will involve but I’m sure they won’t be easy. Thanks for all the support I get. I feel I’m learning a lot.

What I’ve Learnt In 2020

2020 has been a hellish year for pretty much everyone. A global pandemic seems to make life difficult, who knew? But I’ve learnt a few things in 2020 and I thought I’d reflect on them.

1. I have amazing friends

OK, I’ve known this a while but it’s become even clearer this year how amazing they are. We’ve supported each other so much and I’ve known they are always there for me. I love them dearly.

2. Random acts of kindness are special

I’ve tried to do some random acts of kindness this year to cheer people up. I’ve also received some too. They have made me feel so special. They’ve brightened some of the darkest days.

3. Lockdown birthdays suit me

I loved having my birthday during lockdown. The lack of pressure to do anything was awesome. It’s the most relaxed and perfect birthday I’ve had. I want that every year please.

4. Validation is so important

Having someone agree about something I am experiencing has happened a couple of times this year, especially linked to my mental health. I had a psychiatrist who agreed with me about my depression getting worse and a psychologist who could see OCD behaviours and thoughts. The validation made me feel like I wasn’t just looking for the bad but that what I was feeling was real.

5. A smile can make your day

Here I’m not talking about just receiving a smile from someone but actually starting off the smiling. On my walks with my dog I have taken to smiling at the strangers I pass and have mostly been rewarded with smiles back. It brightens my day just a little and creates a little human contact that I can cope with.

6. You can’t make eye contact on zoom

This was something pointed out to me by my DBT peer support group’s facilitator. It is impossible to make eye contact as you are always looking at the wrong bit of the screen. Even if you both stare straight ahead it won’t work as you then can’t see the other person’s eyes. This is information I have imparted to many people since. They’ve all had their minds blown. So thanks Sally for that info.

7. I do actually need physical contact

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who needs physical contact before but hugs from friends are something I’ve really missed. Being in their presence, even, is something I miss greatly. Just to be with those people is so important to me. I also missed hugging my nan for all the months I couldn’t. Having that back is so special. I appreciate those hugs.

8. Pets are amazing

Again I knew this already but this year they’ve really stepped up. My dog has kept me going out and in some kind of routine. My cats are just loving and have entertained a few people on zoom (especially when they scare the life out of me, try to eat the laptop cable or knock a pile of stuff to the floor). Also having cat cuddles during and straight after therapy has been awesome. I now do not want to do therapy without a cat. When it becomes face to face again the cat is coming with me. That would make them look I’m sure.

9. I can draw

I’ve always tried to draw and never felt any good at it. Then just before lockdown I did some art things with a group I’m part of and it started to make me wonder if maybe I could draw. During lockdown I decided I’d try it out and began drawing every day. To begin with I’d draw animals and cartoon characters for friends, family and their children. Most was simple. I then developed it further and I feel like I’m getting a lot better. I’ve even shared some of it on Instagram and Facebook.

10. People are mental health aware but…

This is probably going to be the most negative one. With lockdown there has been a lot of talking about helping people’s mental health during these times. People are showing they are aware of needing to look after their’s and others’ mental health. But it has become clearer that we need to make people mental ILLNESS aware now. People may understand mental health, they don’t all understand mental illnesses and what it’s like to live with one day to day. There is a long way to go with. This means that instead of a mental health awareness week/day we really need a mental illness awareness week/day. We need people to see the difference between mental health and mental illness. I plan to write more on this in 2021.

So 2020 has definitely been a year of learning about others and myself. I’ve deliberately tried to keep the negative out of this list (believe me there are many things I’ve seen this year from people that have shocked me in a bad way). I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt so feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I’m aiming to be busier on all these platforms.

Lastly I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read, shared, commented or supported me in any way. I really do appreciate it and wish you the best for the years to come. You’re awesome. Be kind πŸ’š

Therapy 2020: Session 16

Date of session: 16/12/2020

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care πŸ’š

Today was my last session of 2020. It was also meant to be the last session of this course of therapy but that has changed and will be now continuing in the new year.

Yet again the anticipation of the session was overwhelming. In all honesty I’ve just felt incredibly tired since last week and no idea what else I have felt. I’ve not really had the time to investigate what I’ve been feeling either.

Today we looked again at the stopping of self harm. To do this we looked again at the motives behind it and how I feel when I try to stop. The huge anxiety it gives me. This made her more sure this was now an OCD behaviour. We looked at intrusive and obsessional thoughts and how they relate to my thought patterns. I did get a little frustrated that I wasn’t being understood.

Because of looking at this as an OCD behaviour it has meant we are going to look at a certain way of combating this. I think it was called habituation and changing the way I see it from a need to a want. We looked at what is classed as a need and what is classed as a want. It did leave me feeling guilty about my self harm. There will also involve a behaviour experiment about what might happen if I don’t act on the thoughts.

Part of the habituation means giving up the self harm and riding out the urge and the anxiety it causes. This feels scary and my anxiety started to creep up just talking about this. It was edging on panic. The thought of losing the self harm is scary. I’m terrified. I have to log everything about how I feel, what I think, what I do to distract/help myself and how long the anxiety lasts. Apparently anxiety shouldn’t last more than 40 minutes. This is not my experience but we shall see.

This time of year is hards for me. Part of me wants to say this isn’t the right time to stop but is it just another excuse? I’m dreading later on when I don’t do it. Will I just be a failure either way?

I have two weeks to see how I go. Two weeks until another session. I hope not to be a burden to others. I’m hoping I don’t compensate with other behaviours I use to ease anxiety. We shall see.