mental illness

A slump, also a TMI coping mechanism

I’m in the middle of a depressed slump right now, it’s been pretty much since I finished at my Christmas temp job on Boxing Day. Maybe since before because Christmas itself was pretty miserable. I’ve been tired and when I’m left to myself I just surf the net for hours on end (I’m going to really miss it when I go back to my flat). I don’t do anything useful.

(TMI about porn and masturbation below the cut)

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An anxious day

CW: in depth discussion of my fear of germs

 

Today I noticed extra anxiety, extra handwashing etc. I think it has to do with being congestred and stuffy from my cold, and not being able to think straight. Now this evening I just found out I’ll be losing internet next monday when my flatmate moves out (we don’t really talk so I didn’t know she was moving out).

 

That caused extra anxiety because I have really bad associations with being alone with myself without the internet to distract me. The internet functions more like ‘company’ than a DVD or music. It’s so sudden and I’ll have to set up my own contract, which I don’t know how to do, but even so I’ll be left without internet on monday at least (after that I’m at work again). I have 2 days off from tomorrow which is nice as I need to rest up and get over my cold but no internet on monday is troubling me. I’ll have to plan something to do, like a plan I’ll stick to.

 

Illness causes anxiety because it makes me more vulnerable, even though it’s just a cold. I feel miserable too. I can’t even look forward to going to sleep because my nose is so stuffy. Sometimes I hate living apart from my boyfriend, but then I remember that having other people around is really germy and bad and its much safer to live alone. I love him so much and he knows a lot about my anxiety problems but he doesn’t know how afraid I am of the prospect of living with him on a daily bases, purely because of the germs and how much close contact we will have. I can spend a day with him, spend several days together, but in reality I’m so scared of germs I would probably live alone, with my own kitchen and everything (only thing I currently don’t have to myself other than the washing machine) and be so lonely but feel ‘safe’ from the germs. I don’t think he knows how bad it is. One day he will have to know though as we do plan to live together. I know I should probably start CBT again but its been so long and its so hard to fit NHS therapy around my job. My counsellor was so caring, so kind, even though he was learning and didn’t always know how to proceed. I don’t care if we wasted any time doing things like exposure which wasn’t necessarily helping the underlying cause of my problems, alongside things that really were helping: just having someone I could talk to about these things where I didn’t have to be ashamed of myself helped so much. I hope if I do go back then I can have him again. (Maybe he has left though. 😦 )

 

 

 

 

The next few days

Today I’m planning, in a sec, to go to Caffe Nero and use this last free coffee voucher, get a takeaway one and take a walk down to the wood and fields, where its beautiful and quiet. Maybe I shouldn’t because my stress headaches are not helped by caffeine but I don’t care. *takes paracetemol*

Tomorrow is when work starts again. I don’t know how that will go. I haven’t heard back from anyone about the hearing. One to two days my ass. Even accounting for working days only it’s been 4 days now. Boss will not be there, Phyllis is not timetabled to be there according to the rota I was emailled weeks ago, but my experience tells me she probably will be there because she always is. Goody good. The tension between us is very high, especially as after my meltdown she suddenly decided to get all faux caring and its incredibly awkward and not convincing at all.

Friday- also work. I hate Fridays because we have to deal with Saturday Guarantee service and customers complaining about being offerred it.

Saturday- not work. But it is My Interview! This is Christmas temp work I’m applying to, which is why I’m not as cautiously optomistic about my potential ticket out of this place as I’d like to be. Swapping out permanent work for temp work is not a good idea, in normal circumstances, and I’m kind of angry that I’ve been driven to consider it. If I get one of the temp roles, apparently there is 1 full time position available but there’ll be several competing for it. And if I don’t get it, I’ll be exhausted from Christmas, facing unemployment and having to apply for jobs in a desperate state which is always horrible. I’m scared of this happening. A temporary fix for an uncertain future. 😦

If tomorrow is somehow amazing enough to undo all the horrible shit that’s happened then maybe I will stay. But how could that really be a case, with an immature asshole for a boss who takes advantage of his staff? My paycheck for this month is already going to be a disaster with all my absences, so I should be happy that I’m doing 5 day weeks until the end of my current rota, but since my hours were supposed to have been reduced (4 day or less weeks) for my mental health, I can’t believe I have so many 5 day weeks back to back. I brought this up with my boss, who said ‘but you didn’t want reduced hours! You screwed up your face and said you didn’t want reduced hours!!’ Ok, well first of all, thanks for making me sound like a child having a tantrum, you asshole. Secondly, yes, initially I did not want reduced hours. Because I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t handle a standard full-time 5 day week, which is what I have been ingrained to expect to need to do my entire life. Not being able to handle that is a scary step. But my mental health got worse, and I finally argreed to take the next option to help myself, and have my hours reduced. I remember agreeing to this very clearly. My boss is pretending that this never happened. The reason he is doing this is because shortly after my hours were cut, a full-timer left. Without her we are short staffed, and the hiring process is very slow. So suddenly, even though my mental health has not got better (the opposite really) I’m back on full time again, and only get gaslighted when I bring it up. God, I hate my boss. I hate him. And I hate my job.

Today. Tomorrow. Wednesday.

I was signed off from work last week. I went to the doctor for an emergency appointment, got the letter and took it down to show Phyllis, who was running the branch at the time. Then I left. Coincidentally a friend was in town that day and he took me for a cup of tea. I told him ‘I feel like someone took a one-two punch to my brain’- not that it hurt but it felt stunned and disengaged.

Two days later was the grievance hearing. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, several weeks have passed since I first contacted HR. I was seen first, on my own, and gave a long statement with a note taker. I got to read the notes afterwards and there were errors which I corrected. However it was awkward because the woman who wrote them was sitting right there so even though some stuff didn’t get into the notes at all I didn’t add it, only edited stuff that was there.

They said they would interview Phyllis and Boss (good I guess), also all staff currently in the branch to get their perspective (not good). I don’t want to know what some of my colleagues would say about unstable Mossy and her emotions. Then I was told I would hear back in a couple of days. I’ll have to ring my parents house later to see if a letter has arrived. Nowhere has my current address as I’m not sure how long I’ll be here, my landlords see this flat as a temporary place.

I spent the weekend with my boyfriend and it was wonderful. I’m back home today and the emptiness has sneaked back in, I feel so alone. I eat foods like cup noodles even though they don’t fill me up and give me a dry mouth afterwards, because the only other thing I can make is toast and I want a hot lunch. I don’t want to touch food with my hands too much. I have to go back to work on Thursday and that’s the shortest time in the world. I want to work on my costume for MCM Expo May 2016 but I can’t concentrate for more than half an hour at a time. I’m drinking too much coffee and getting headaches. I’m so tired. I don’t know how to work any more and I don’t want to face my colleagues. I used to put myself 100% into my work and now I’m the post office colleague who emotionally exploded and ruined her reputation, that my boss will use as a cautionary tale and disclose my mental health situation to new staff after I leave.

Gone

Yesterday evening I felt seriously weird, off my meds type weird (even though I’m not). I’m having the tail end of it today. I’m only ok today because I’m not at work but tomorrow I am, a long, long day with Phyllis as manager. She is bullying me. It is workplace bullying. I call it that now to make myself remember that its not fair. Pretty much all my colleagues are actively on her side or are ‘not taking sides’. She is not my manager but she is frequently acting manager and she has power over me. I cannot avoid her. None of my colleagues seem to care. Work is really messing me up right now. I had an angry spell at work yesterday. I slammed the office door in front of customers and broke down crying in front of the new girl who must now feel really confused and intimidated. I know that angry people can be really scary even if they aren’t directly angry at you. I feel terrible that I’m doing this to her and even my colleagues who took her side shouldn’t have to deal with a coworker who is taking their anger out on the doors.

I need, so badly, for someone at work to tell me its not normal how Phyllis treats me. But no one will. I hate them all. I have to leave my permanent, fulll time position (that is like gold dust these days) for temporary Christmas work because this job is destroying my mental health. I’m fed up with thinking about dying all day.

In my worst mental health times I always find myself listening to Therapy? (a band, the question mark is in the band name). A few years ago I marathoned their Infernal Love album over and over and it was the only way to calm down. Now its just one song, Gone. This song is not a masterpiece, its just two chords and some simple lyrics. The singer could even sound like a Nice Guy lending an ear to try and get into her pants if you interpret it that way (though its not explicit or anything, the singer doesn’t have a specified gender either). It’s just the chorus

hang on, it’s gone

hang on, it’s gone

hang on, it’s gone

the violence buried away

that always gets me. They repeat ‘the violence buried away’ over and over and its so calming. I love songs with repeated lines because sometimes you need to repeat a thought over and over to make it sink in. Infernal Love’s closing song 30 Seconds ends with the repeated line ‘there is a light at the end of the tunnel’ sang louder and louder.

Though it sounds like something is being suppressed, to me ‘the violence buried away’ sounds like something violent from inside being released in a non-violent way, buried and calmed until its neutralised. With someone always there. While I listened to this song I tried to draw my boyfriend and I holding each other. We need each other so much but we are both mentally ill and sometimes we trigger each other when we reach out for help. In my picture I tried to draw us holding each other and being held equally. I have to be responsible and not dump it all on him when I’m in trouble inside my head. I called the Samaritans the other day during work bad times and the woman on the phone just let me talk and let out some of these feelings I have about work. I was able to go back down and carry on. I almost made it till the end of the day but in the end I did get sent home, an hour before closing. I still regard this as a victory tho.

I won’t share my picture because it wasn’t very good. You can hear Gone here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO5hMGRNN04 Warning: it has mentions of self harm and abortion.

Italk involves the police.

Trigger warnings: discussion of self harm, domestic violence.

Dear friend, reading this. Be careful. Did you know that if you use the italk counseling service, and you tell them about one time 6 months ago your dad made you feel unsafe, they will call the fucking police?!!

Ok I admit, I was naive. I’m a middle class white cis girl who grew up in what was, to all intents and purposes, a good family. My parents were not dogged by social workers, because they had money and they were married and my dad had a stable job and we were securely housed. Instead we went to family counseling. I’m not saying I never learned to keep my trap shut about stuff, but I never had to actually put this into practice. I was never in danger of being put in care. I was physically disciplined as a child, but I don’t consider myself to have been physically abused (note: this is up to individual preference. Some people consider all physical discipline by parents to be abuse, and that’s up to them. Trust me, I’m sure they have their reasons).

I already know not to tell counselors if you’re thinking about self harming. Because they’ll call the police, and you could get committed for something that, for many, is a coping mechanism. (note: I am not one of them. And self harm may not be a healthy coping mechanism, but being committed is likely to be a billion times worse.) But apparently it never occurred to me that the same thing could happen to me in this situation.

Ok, I’ll tell the story of how it came up. Basically my counselor asked me if anything in my past was maybe affecting the way I am now. I told her it was, in my opinion, affected by 3 things: 1. depression is on both sides of the family through my parents, 2. R’s emotional abuse, and 3. growing up with an angry father. I explained my family dynamic, where my father loses his temper and my mum makes sure everyone tiptoes around him. I have his temper, and it’s one of my biggest regrets about myself. When I move out and away from his influence I plan on working hard on that temper. My upbringing wasn’t abusive but it did make me the person I am today, and that person gets angry in a similar way to how her father does. That’s why I brought it up.

She asked more questions and, inevitably, asked if my father had ever hit me. I told her that me and my siblings were smacked by both parents, rarely but sometimes in anger, as in the parent doing it didn’t seem to have full control of what they were doing. (I don’t want this to become a debate about physical punishment for children, because I have only one cultural perspective myself and it’s a very privileged one. But if you are a parent who physically punishes your child, surely the most important requirement is that you are calm when you do it? What if you hit them and can’t stop hitting them because you’re so angry?!) I also told her about a time 6 months ago. No one outside the family knew about it until then. Basically we’d been driving home from Newcastle all day having been at a family funeral. My dad was probably tired and cranky. I don’t remember what made him so angry, but I remember my brother was involved in some way. Possibly he got involved in a disagreement my dad and I had and it annoyed me because he told me to calm down or something. At some point in the conversation, whatever fragile grip my dad had on his temper broke and he completely exploded. I was at the top of the stairs, and he came charging up them at top speed, shouting his head off until he was right over me (me curled in a ball screaming and crying by this point) and for the first time in my adult life I thought he was going to hit me, but he didn’t. Then he stopped as suddenly as he’d started and went away. He’s a big man, and I’m a small woman. It was very scary.

Later I talked to my mum about it and mentioned I was frightened he was going to hit me and she was shocked. (I should note she witnessed the incident in question.) ‘He would never hit you!’ Um, well he already has, when we were children. ‘But that’s different! Smacking children is different!’ Hmm, yeah, ok. Seriously I never get when people make that claim. Why do children, at a stage in their life when they’re smaller and weaker, make sense to hit but not your adult offspring? Why do people who (they claim) would never hit an adult, find this ok? But my point was, the boat has already sailed on ‘he would never hit you!’ How was she so sure that my dad, who everyone could tell had gone straight through ‘lost temper’ and out the other side, would not hit me given that he was so clearly out of control? Did I not have the right to be scared of that possibility, even if it was just a possibility? Well apparently not, according to her. As you can imagine this discussion was very frustrating. And the incident with my dad did leave to me resolving to move out, then and there. (I’d like to admit that, in practice, I just went back to my normal living at home self, feeling too scared to even look for places in case they were all too expensive-I live in a very expensive area-or I couldn’t handle the logistics of everything. The actual moving out I’m doing now came much later.) My dad returned to normal, as he always does. It’s disconcerting, but of course a relief, because honestly he is very rarely like this.

I told this to the counselor. I made it plain that I did not feel in any danger from my dad any more, despite having felt so briefly at one point 6 months ago. I assured her, after some prompting, that I would call the police if it happened again. (I doubt I would but I know a leading question when I heard one.) I thanked her for listening to something that no one outside the family knew about. We made another appointment. I thought that was the last time we would talk about it. The next day, I got my phone out of my locker after work to find 3 missed calls. The first was from a private number. The second two were from italk. I had a voicemail from the police (the private number), asking me to call them back about my dad. The other two were from italk asking me to call and ask for the duty practitioner. It was obvious what had happened. I rang italk, both panicky and furious. The duty practitioner advised me to call 111 and answer the police’s questions so I could get it resolved. I did this, and the person on the phone told me they’d call me back later in the evening. Apparently it wasn’t enough that I said on the phone that the police had been called without my knowledge and I did not want to pursue anything further with them in any way. This entire time I’m panicking that they’re going to call my dad and let him know anything’s happening. I’m terrified of the very idea of that, and not just because he would be so angry (though that is a factor) but also because my parents, both of them, apparently have no idea what was done was wrong. They’d think involving the police was ludicrous. And in my opinion, they’re right!!! And they’d think it was my idea. Which it absolutely, certainly was not. Later that evening, a policeman called me from his car, which was outside the house. ‘Can we speak to your dad?’ OH MY GOD NO YOU CAN’T. My family never found out why there was a police car there, I doubt they even noticed thank god. But what on earth would the policeman have said if I had put my dad on??! My dad probably doesn’t consider the incident in question to be of much significance (lucky him). That would have been a fun conversation afterwards.

I know that italk counselors have to report back to a supervisor after a session, so I’m guessing one of two things happened. One, that my counselor relayed the whole thing back and missed all the parts about me being sure I’m not in danger and feeling safe at home, so it sounded worse than it was. Or two, that my counselor did relay those things but the situation I described, despite having happened 6 months ago, hit some sort of secret combination of italk factors that mean they have to call the police according to their policy. Either way, I don’t want to blame my counselor because it may not have been her fault, but I can’t help but feel extremely wary of talking to her any more. I was given no clue that the police might be called and was left in a state of panic when they were. Also, in the rest of the session, I got the impression that they won’t be able to help me anyway. I approached italk before with a specific problem and got some help, but it seems like if you don’t have something specific in mind and want someone to talk to they are at a loss. I told them about my anger problems at work, they told me they don’t do anger but emailed me an anger workbook. (I didn’t like it much). They also sent me some stuff on assertiveness which will be a long read but well worth it I think.

I have my next appointment tomorrow. I’m trying to think of good things that came out of this because I think tomorrow I will ask her if I can be discharged from italk. I would also recommend that all my readers from the UK are wary of this service, especially the phone appointments. Calling the police without warning is very scary for someone who is already mentally ill. Or anyone who might be in an abusive home. What if it causes ramifications for the abused person by escalating the abuser into anger? It makes me scared to think of that happening to someone.

Maybe I’ll write another post tomorrow after the appointment.

More job hell

I didn’t make it through Saturday at work. I started out ok but then I had a couple of passport form customers that sucked. First was a woman who swore in my face throughout and interrupted me while I explained something with ‘ok can you hurry it up? I have to be somewhere!’ So I bashed the paperwork through and handed it back, but if she comes back for the second check and there’s errors and she says ‘why didn’t the first woman tell me about this?!’ I will be extremely pissed off. Why do they come to use this service when they don’t have time? It takes time!!

The second was a woman who insisted on being seen by me immediately. We have a special counter for passports where you can queue there instead of the main queue, and my colleague (just the 2 of us on the counter) was already doing a passport while I was free and waiting for the inevitable Saturday rush. But as I was free she decided to come over to my counter, and cut me off during my explanation that she’d have to wait for my colleague because I had to be free to serve people wanting shorter transactions. She said ‘I’ve been waiting half an hour!’ (it was 10-15 minutes maximum, they think we don’t notice these things but we do) ‘and I had to wait half an hour to collect the form the other day as well!!’ (great, now they are saving up all the other times they waited to hit us with as well.) So of course I checked her form, thinking it was better than insisting and maybe being accidentally rude like I often am. But I was still not happy with how she acted. And of course a queue was building up while I did it as my colleague was still busy. But then afterwards, my colleague starts insisting that I should have tried harder! By saying exactly what I actually did say that didn’t work! What am I supposed to do, say it again? I felt like such a spineless pushover then. 😦 I really wish my colleagues wouldn’t do this whole ‘you should have said’ or ‘why didn’t you say’ thing. It’s too late once the customer’s gone. Just leave it. Plus she’s the same one who makes comments about me being angry and stressful to be around. If I hadn’t been able to keep a nice tone in my voice and this woman got offended then wouldn’t that have been a problem for my colleague too??

After that I could feel myself starting to get wound up. The tiniest thing infuriated me. Like I couldn’t open a box of forms first time so I ripped the card angrily and dropped the box and forms fell everywhere. Luckily there were no customers waiting and my colleague was in the office so no-one saw. I picked them up and shoved them away at top speed. But a fresh wave of customers was there and I was feeling worse than ever. I was convinced customers were picking on me all the time. I felt snappy but also sensitive and weak. One customer, an elderly woman, got shirty at me for asking if she was using a credit or debit card (we check so we can inform customers there’s a charge for credit cards, also the system doesn’t work if you select the wrong option) ‘it’s just a card why do you need to know!!’ I ended up getting sucked into an argument which I regret. After she’d gone I thought ‘that’s it, if I can’t control my temper with customers I have to go home, it’s only going to get more stressful towards midday and I will only get worse.’ Luckily it turned out there was one of my colleagues in the building who wasn’t timetabled but came to work by accident. He was in the office doing some uni work. He’d already refused the offer of a short break-covers shift but I went up there and pleaded with him to cover me. Which he did, he’s so kind. So I went home and spent the day not looking at customers and not hearing the inane things they say and the hurtful words and unfunny jokes and not having to ask the same questions over and over again or deal with queue complaints or have to put mail out when there’s a queue with everyone looking at me. Then it was yesterday and today off (timetabled) but I’m back tomorrow and I have 4 full days and a half day. And my least favourite colleague will be back from holiday. And the boss will be back too. I can’t be even slightly angry in front of him, I’m already on the verge of getting in trouble because I tend to argue back to customers instead of walking away. I wish I could control my emotions better. This is really serious. My job does not allow people to half arse it, my boss is always watching and he expects 100% from us at all times. There is no back room I can hide in to be away from the customers. Apart from my breaks it’s customer face to face time, all the time. I hate it.

Thinking about OCD

So, disability support tumblr had this great tagging idea where illnesses/disorders that are also used as shorthand words in English can be tagged ‘actually such-and-such’. Today I saw a post about OCD and it made me decide to check out the ‘actually OCD’ tag for the first time. There’s some lovely stuff in there. But also a lot of people who are reaaaally angry about self-diagnosing. Partly I can understand because of how OCD is used as a shorthand for ‘neat’. But mostly I hate it because they are different things. It’s totally valid to be angry that someone says ‘oh it’s my OCD coming out!’ when they line up all the notes in the till the same way (happened last week at work), but that’s not a self-diagnoses, it’s someone using the name of your illness flippantly.

I do not have an official diagnoses, but I can remember when I started to think in terms of myself having OCD. I started doing CBT a year ago to deal with a phobia. Every month or so the therapist would give me an OCD test in the form of a questionnaire. It wasn’t called an OCD test but it was separate from the general mental wellbeing test, and the questions all linked to a type of OCD. Do you feel there are good and bad numbers? Do you wash and clean obsessively? Do you check things many times to make sure they are locked/closed? It was 1-5 with 5 being most applies to you, and I scored fairly low on all but the contamination related ones where I was answering high. The point of the test was not to diagnose me. I don’t know what my therapist did with the results because I didn’t ask, but the stuff I was working on with my therapist was related to contamination fears. My GP has also talked in terms of my obsessive-compulsive behaviours regarding contamination, germs and sickness. But no one has said ‘you have OCD’.

Does that invalidate everything else? What would change if someone said ‘you have OCD’? I’m already well aware of the option of CBT, and though I’m managing fairly well without it right now and this winter was a ‘good’ one, I will go back when I need to. I’m also aware that my OCD is mild, and I’m very lucky in that regard because I can manage it with my rituals. I also consciously feel myself saying ‘it’s ok’ when I feel on the brink of my rituals going to the next stage of extremity. For now, at least, I can stop that happening. I have a support system (family, partner) that I’m privileged to have. What I want to know is, as long as I acknowledge I have a mild form, does it hurt anyone if I talk online about my rituals and compulsive thoughts in the context of OCD? I can’t be the only one who knows the relief of finding out there’s a way to talk about these things without it being ‘just Mossy being a worrier’. It’s not just me who is like this! How could I give that up even if no one has give me the diagnoses?

I’ve had several work colleagues do the ‘I’m a bit OCD’ thing. In reality I know they aren’t but I just wish so much I knew for sure, if there’s even the off-chance that they really do have it (people joke about disorders to deal with them right?) so I won’t be the only one and they might understand it. That’s how I really feel, not anger.

About self-diagnoses again, I want to say a couple of things about tumblr. One is that many people on there have written wonderful things about the larger implications of being completely against self-diagnoses and how this intersects with racism, classism, sexism and many more factors. I won’t do them the dishonour of recycling their words here, it’s all there on tumblr so be sure to have a look, and if you already know then this is the reason I’m not mentioning those factors here, but they are very important. The other is that tumblr has one of the most welcoming communities towards being neuroatypical I’ve ever seen. May anyone reading this always find the right places and not the upsetting ones.