This is not a post I thought I’d write. Actually more hoped I wouldn’t write. The UK is back in lockdown. Our 3rd. I won’t go into the politics of it, that’s been covered a lot.
With each lockdown there has been new challenges to get through. I’ve found my tolerance for other people has deteriorated dramatically. I’ve felt more and more alone each time. And my support system feels more and more depleted each time.
With regards to other people, they make me angry. Anger is an emotion I struggle to cope with so it’s an awful place to be in my head. I want to scream and shout at the selfish people who keep putting us back in this place of lockdown because they can’t do as they’re told. I want to shout at those who get too close not only because they shouldn’t, but also because it scares me. People scare me enough as it is. The pandemic and lockdown just add to this.
Loneliness is another aspect of lockdown that gets to me. I can message people but it still doesn’t feel enough. I live with people but sometimes that makes me feel lonelier as they don’t understand what I’m dealing with inside. I don’t like a lot of physical contact but there are some people I just want to hug. I miss them so much. The thing is I’m also finding myself getting anxious about talking to people. Zoom groups are feeling harder than ever and I feel so detached.
The reduction in support is also feeling more of an issue. My contact with mental health services has been depleted and I’m struggling. I feel like I have nowhere to turn at the moment and more things I use to keep me well ish are disappearing.
So yep lockdown 3.0 is set to be a challenge. I’m trying so hard. I’m looking at skills I can use from DBT to help me get through. I just need to get through it. The thing is I’m a paradox and the thought of “normal” scares me too.
Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering.
Tomorrow is my 31st birthday. Every year it gets to me. Every year there are so many mixed feelings involving it. This year is no different.
My birthday has always been raised to that “it must be special” level by my parents. Especially my mum. I always have to want to do something for it. It has to be planned in advance. It has to be forced. In my experience this has led to let downs and feeling that it’s not that special when it’s mine and things go wrong.
The thing is you can’t control everything. You can’t control illness. You can’t control other people. You can’t control world events. When I was small I had all those parties with my class attending. I always found them overwhelming and would more than likely end up in tears. I wasn’t exactly great with the whole friendship thing. I liked people. I played with people. But it was like an obsession with a different kid each week. Now I know some of that is normal (I’ve taught children) but I was obsessive. But I never let them into my feelings or thoughts. It was all about them. It often ended in tears.
As I got older the parties trickled off and it would be things like bowling or swimming. Finding a group of friends wasn’t hard. I spent time with a particular group most of the time. But I was not in the inner circle. It was an odd number group so you know who was often on their own when the whole group was there. They all had best friends within the group. I didn’t. It was hard work. Feeling on the outside at your own birthday sucks.
Then I got to 18. Yup turning into an adult. By then I was at sixth form college. I had made new friends. I felt more comfortable with them. I invited a fairly large crowd from different classes to go out. I guessed I wouldn’t get everyone as my birthday was the Friday and we started our A levels on the Monday. But people said they’d come. I was looking forward to it. The day arrived. Then they all but one dropped out. I’d got a large table booked at a pizza place and it hurt walking in there with one friend and saying things had changed. In the end it was another guy from college’s 18th the same day so we joined him in a club with all his friends. This hurt more.
After that I decided I didn’t want to do the celebrations with friends thing anymore. No one cared. No one wanted to celebrate my existence and by that time I was wishing I didn’t exist anyway. Birthdays were meant to be special for people. Obviously not in my case.
Don’t get me wrong I did little things to celebrate but I’d rather do small things or just things I enjoyed. This didn’t please my mum. She wanted to make it a big deal always. Not that she didn’t ruin it from time to time. And the days after with her made up for it.
The first thing I did for my birthday that I truly enjoyed was for my 21st birthday with my best friend. We went to Brighton for the day (not on my actual birthday but that was the reason). The weather was atrocious but I didn’t care. She made me feel special. We laughed and had fun. We took random pictures and created the story we’d burnt down Brighton pier. (long story but fun). I loved it.
After that birthdays got tricky again. I started working full time and that always takes out some of the fun. (Why do we buy the cake?). And then I became really unwell mentally. I mean I’d had mental illness there a long time already but this was when it took everything from me. My existence was not to celebrate but proof I was still alive when I didn’t want to be. I was a failure.
And this is where it is still at as well. I think of the failure to die over and over. I don’t want to live but this is pushed on me. Why should I celebrate me when I hate me? And others hate me?
There is also a selfish side. I love making people feel special on their birthday. I want them to know how much they mean to me. I rarely get this on my birthday. I do have a few friends who will send me cards and presents. And I’m so grateful for that. But I will see those who just forget. I will feel like that 18 year old all over again. I hate myself for feeling that way. I hate how self centred I am. I should be grateful for what I’ve got (and I am) rather than focusing on those who just ignore it.
At the end of the day I’m not special. I should not be celebrated. My existence is a burden. Not a pleasure. I don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to celebrate my failure. But I also want to feel special in some weird paradox. I have so much hatred for these mixed feelings and my selfishness.
Please be aware that some of the content below may be triggering. There is discussion of suicide and self harm. I’m safe. This piece was originally written several days before publication. The content has not been edited.
Today I was told I need to learn to live with my suicidal thoughts for the rest of my life. It’s made me question a lot. It’s caused a number of emotions. I can’t lie that it hasn’t left me in a bad place.
I understand that living with an illness is something a lot of people have to do, physical or mental. I’ve always been fairly sure that mental illness will be part of my life continuously as well. So why has this hit me so hard? Why? I feel I should be OK. I’m not.
I think at the moment my mental health is particularly poor. Suicidal thoughts are there an awful lot of the time. Sometimes it’s continuous. Dealing with them seems near on impossible in a healthy way. Self harm is my go to. It’s far from ideal, though currently I’m not trying to stop the self harm (there are many reasons behind this). The idea of living with the thoughts forever just makes the feeling of wanting to die stronger. Why would I want to live like this?
But that wasn’t exactly what was said. It was that I need to learn to live with them and I guess I should think about what that means. Is it reducing their frequency? Or their intensity? Or the hold they have over me? Or does it mean I push them down and try to ignore them until I explode? (This last option seems like my current approach). I don’t know.
As some may know I’ve done DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) skills training. Not the full DBT programme as is suggested but the basics of the skills. I also go to a DBT peer support group which helps me apply the skills to my situation. It’s been helpful in some areas. But dealing with suicidal thoughts has not been one of them. The distress tolerance skills seem great, when I’m not in a crisis. I’ve tried them in crisis mode and it has not helped me de-escalate the situation. I know many people find them helpful to stop impulsive behaviours but I think that’s the problem for me: my attempts are very rarely impulsive and the desperate need to do something can linger at its height for a very long time with nothing seeming to bring it down. Believe me I have tried.
So I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve recently heard I’ve been put on a waiting list for individual therapy which I’m truly grateful for. Maybe it will help. But the thought it may not is there. I feel so guilty that it’s there. I know I am lucky I will get these 16 weeks at some point. But I’m terrified of failing and being in the same situation. A hopeless case.
That’s exactly how I feel. A hopeless case. Someone who will never improve and will be fighting forever more. Someone who, if they live, will be old and mad. The worst thing to be in this world when you need help. I can cope with the idea of being on medication for life, if I feel it will help me have a life. But the thought I’ll be suicidal forever is something I’m not sure I can live with. Why live when you want to die all the time?
I realise I’m probably overreacting (notice the probably, I’m not 100% about this at all). But in some ways it feels like a kick to just get it over with. To be gone. To stop being a constant burden to everyone. Because if I’m going to be suicidal forever isn’t that what I’ll be? (If you’re suicidal you are not a burden, it’s how I see myself).
At the moment I’m still processing this. It was said to me eleven hours ago. I don’t know how or what to feel. Apologies.
This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.
Control is the thing I crave most in my life. I’ve known it for a while but it’s taken a while to admit it. A lot of what I do is about trying to retain some control in a life that constantly feels out of control. It’s also about managing the feelings of being out of control. The problem is I’ve gone down what people would call negative routes to deal with this.
The reason I think I need the control is that so many people have taken away any control I should have had. People have taken away control of my body and my life. Little decisions don’t feel like mine to make. My life doesn’t feel like mine.
The things I use to feel in control include self harm and hair pulling. They are not the only things I have used or do use. These are just the most regular. Food has been something I’ve used to feel in control (I do not have an eating disorder nor been diagnosed with one, this was just a period of restriction). Alcohol was another thing until it took control of me. I also feel some of my suicide attempts have been an attempt to be in control of when my life ends among other reasons.
I also can see my need to be in control in other situations. When I sit in a room with others I try to be first in to choose a seat that I feel safe in. I’m constantly early. I plan things meticulously. If I’m creating things I find others input hard to deal with. Relinquishing control on things and allowing others in is hard. I’d much rather do things myself. It’s things I’m trying to work on.
So what are your tips to deal with the need for control? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Please be aware some of the content may be triggering. Please take care.
A paradox: a person or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
I love the word paradox. I think it’s one of my favourites. I don’t know where I discovered it but it totally made sense to me straight away. I am a paradox a lot of the time. In my mental health, in the food I like, in my interests, in my personality. Most of the time I don’t mind this. I feel it makes me that little more interesting. I have found others who are a paradox too and they’re awesome, interesting people. But sometimes it means that in certain situations I’m not taken seriously.
I mentioned that I’m often a paradox with regards to my mental health. What I meant by this is that my behaviour is often contradictory to my thoughts and feelings. This can mean when I’m in distress I’m not taken as seriously. I can understand this to an extent but as most people with a mental illness are good actors anyway it should be thought about.
Take this morning. I’ve been actively thinking about suicide. I feel so low and useless. But with my care coordinator I laughed at a couple of things and had a sense of humour. This made it seem I was better than I was. It was contradictory, a paradox.
I also felt I was worthless. Then I had an email about helping review mental health factsheets and put myself forward. I feel I’m rubbish at what I do yet still I try to do more.
Being a paradox can be interesting but it can also be highly frustrating. Sometimes I want people to understand and see I’m not OK without me saying. This doesn’t happen as I can laugh and joke and still feel depressed. People don’t take my reactions to questions and comments saying I’m suicidal seriously. I’m dismissed by professionals who can’t see that I’m really struggling because my actions aren’t always in line with my feelings.
Also I can feel extremely suicidal to the point of making plans but still be doing things that suggest I’m still going to be around in time. The thing is this doesn’t mean my suicidal thoughts are any less serious. I still am desperate to die and can even make an attempt on my life despite future plans recently made. This is the reality of being a paradox.
I think there needs to be more awareness of paradoxes in mental health. It can leave people isolated when their actions go against what people expect from the mental illness. The truth is mental illness comes in many guises and this needs to be recognised more widely, especially with regards to those of us who are a paradox.