Triggers

Triggers are something that gets made fun of a lot. I think people started using ‘trigger warnings’ for things that seemed quite trivial to a lot of people, and it took the meaning away from the word. Now, if you talk about triggers, people think you’re being over sensitive. They don’t realise that for a lot of people triggers are a very real, very scary and very awful thing.

I have a few triggers. I grew up in an abusive household and have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). There are things that ‘trigger’ me and put me back in that mindset, the mindset of being in danger, powerless and terrified. Things like shouting, not even directed at me, just in the same area, causes me to freeze up. It become harder to breathe. My heart starts racing. I can’t think. My body kicks in the fight or flight reflex and pumps me full of adrenaline. Any kind of confrontation is the same. I sit and shake for ages afterwards. Shouting, certain gestures, even being in my childhood home, are all triggers. Unfortunately, I still live in my childhood home, something that contributes largely to my poor mental health.

Triggers don’t only come from PTSD. There are also things that can trigger mood swings. For example, tonight I was feeling pretty good, better than usual. I had a long, busy day at work, so I hadn’t had time to dwell on my thoughts. I got home and was watching my current favourite tv show. I went out to get a drink of water before bed and my little brother made a comment, something he thought was a hilarious joke, about how he and my mother were going to get me a garbage skip for Christmas.

Now, this might not make a lot of sense, but let me explain. My room is always messy. I’ve tried to keep it clean and tidy, but so much of the time finding motivation to get out of bed is too difficult, let alone to clean. I have bursts of energy and I’ll clean for a while, then it’s like getting hit in the face, and I just can’t do it. I also learnt when I was younger that if my room is messy my father won’t come in here, which means it’s safer. My bed is right at the opposite end from the door and there’s an obstacle course separating the two. In a house where I often hid in cupboards for hours to avoid him, that kind of safety is highly prized.

But why did that joke hurt so much? Well, it was like a slap in the face. I was so cheerful and happy and then BAM a reminder that I’m not good enough. A reminder that they talk about me behind my back, they make jokes together at my expense. I know all this, but it’s still not nice having it through in my face, especially around this time of year when everyone talks about how important family is. What really sucks is they wouldn’t have any idea how badly it effects me. How I went into my room and cried and cried, while they laughed. What’s worse is I don’t think they would care. I’m just being too sensitive. And that’s where the issues really come in. People don’t understand that when you have a mental illness, you’re not going to react the same to things. Teasing might just seem like teasing to some people, but to others it’s soulcrushing. It’s not being too sensitive, it’s reacting to something that really cuts deep. But because they don’t experience the same, they can’t understand it, and they don’t like it when you “ruin” their joke. They expect you to laugh along, and when you don’t, they get offended. We’re not allowed to get offended. But they are.

In my last post I talked about suicide and how I deal with those feelings. Triggers are different. They’re often unpredictable and difficult to avoid. They hurt. People judge. It sucks. But being aware of triggers is very important. There’s not a lot I can do when someone around me yells. As I said before, it makes me freeze up. I have learnt that repeating the phrase “It’s okay, you’re safe” outloud to myself does help, but that’s only once the trigger, or what my brain sees as the threat, has been removed. Dealing with triggers is something I’m still learning about. I recently got the book The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk which was recommended to me by a psychologist I was seeing. She thought it might help with the triggers, learning how the mind and body stores the traumas. I haven’t started reading it yet, but when I do, I’ll make a post about it. I’m hoping it will be good, that it will help.

As always, I feel a bit better after writing. Still crap, but that seems to be the norm at the moment. Probably due for another medication switch up, but that’s another post entirely. So, I guess this is where I say goodnight and settle down to sleep.

Goodnight.

 

 

 

Image credit: https://www.concealedcarry.com/safety/should-you-modify-your-carry-gun/

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Depression and Suicide

Suicide is something I think about a lot. I’ve had bad depression for most of my life. I didn’t start getting any kind of treatment until I was nearly eighteen and most of the coping I’ve done on my own. It’s not something that’s easy to talk about. It’s not something people want to talk about. I’ve tried to bring it up with people I’m close with in the past, my mother, friends, etc. but it’s amazing how quickly they want to change the subject. If you ever want to test someone’s thinking speed, bring up mental illness and they’ll have a topic within seconds.

Something that I hate is the taboo around talking about mental health. It’s something I could go on about for ages. Recently a friend of mine brought up the fact that she had been at a fast food drive through and the girl serving had self-harm scars. She asked us, two other friends and I, if we thought the girl should keep them covered. I wanted to say no. No, she shouldn’t have to keep them covered, she shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of them, how does that help?! But it’s confronting, and I know that I keep evidence of self harm covered up as much as I can. I recently had someone notice something I had burned into my ankle and it’s like this wave of “Play it cool and lie” came over me. I don’t want people to know I self harm, even if I haven’t done it in weeks, months, years. I don’t want people to know because it makes me seem weak, and because I’m ashamed of it.

Shame. That’s a big thing with mental health. And I don’t mean “Oh, isn’t it a shame…”, I mean that horrible, burning shame that you carrying around with you. Because people can’t know. They can’t know that you cry yourself to sleep. They can’t know that you hurt yourself. They can’t know that every day you think about whether it wouldn’t be better to just rip the bandaid off and end it. And this shame that forces you to keep it all in, also convinces you that not only to people not want to know, they don’t care. It turns the rational thoughts of “It’s confronting and they’re struggling to respond” into “They don’t care about you”.

I can remember confiding to my mother once that I didn’t think anyone cared about me. She told me that I had convinced myself of that. I didn’t have to. If you were to ask me who in the world cares about me, I would answer “Nobody”. Not to be dramatic, not to be attention seeking, or self pitying, but because I truly don’t believe it. I can rationalise, I can tell myself that of course people care, but that is what I have to convince myself of. It’s not that I’ve talked myself into believing that no one cares, or that I’m alone, that’s like an inherit thought. That’s just how I feel. I can sit here and go through people I know in my head care. My mum, my sisters, my friends. But could I honestly believe that they care? No. That’s mental illness.

Mental illness is exhausting. Not just forcing myself to get out of bed, to go to work, to smile and laugh and pretend, that’s actually easy compared to just existing with myself. At work I have distractions. People coming and going, things I have to do, problems to solve. That’s the easy part. The hard part is when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, or when it’s quiet and still and my thoughts can just do their thing.

Mental illness is isolating. I work in an office with a lot of people. I would see at least a hundred different people a week. I see friends regularly. I live with my parents and my little brother. I have people around me all the time. And I feel so disconnected from them, I might as well be on a different planet.

Mental illness is tireless. It’s like trying to swim against a rip. You push all your energy into just staying afloat, but it doesn’t let up. It just keep pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and eventually you have to make a choice: do I keep swimming or do I sink? Which one is easier?

For the people around me, it’s easier that I keep on swimming. That effects them less. No one wants to have to deal with a suicide. Think of what that would involve. Police. Medical staff. Funerals. Getting rid of possessions. Having to tell people that hadn’t heard.

For me, it’s easier to sink. It would be so easy to just end it, just to give up. There are methods where it’s just like falling asleep. No more tears, no more heart stopping panic attacks, no more terror, no more depression. Just sleep.

So why don’t I end it? Well, firstly, because it’s biologically ingrained in us to survive. Go to the edge of a cliff. You’ll feel your palms and the bottoms of your feet start to tingle and sweat, your stomach will clench, you’ll tense up. Your body is literally fighting to keep you alive. It’s really hard to override that instinct. Secondly… Well, no, I think that’s the only reason. I haven’t got the energy to override my human nature screaming at me to stay alive, even though I’m miserable.

Now, you might be thinking, why don’t you do something about it? That’s one of the things people say if you do force the conversation upon them. One of my friends, who knows quite well I’m medicated and have seen psychologists, said that once and I wanted to slap my palm against my forehead and say “Oh! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that! So simple! I’m cured!” but I didn’t, because I’m not an asshole. I do, in fact, do things about it. I go bak to my doctor to reasses the medication I’m on whenever I feel like I’m getting worse. I want to see a psychologist, but I work with all of the ones in my city, and have no way of getting to another town to see someone else. There are psychs in training at the uni I can see, but I don’t want to be the one that turns them off being a psychologist. That’s not entirely true, I just want to see someone with experience, someone who has gotten people through this kind of thing before.

I also have management strategies for when things get bad. I have specific songs that I put on that make me feel happy. I go for walks. I distract myself. But those don’t always work. If it’s late and I’m trying to get to sleep, and all of a sudden all I can think about is how much I’d rather be dead than anything else in the world, what then?

Well, then I get up and blog. I put on one of my happy songs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sywP3aVNUpY), I cry and type until my head pounds, my face is wet and my wrists are all crunchy from being held wrong. Then I check the time and realise I need to be up in a matter of hours and I don’t have time for this shit. Then I sign the blog off, post it and go to sleep.

Goodnight.

 

 

 

(Image credit: https://leisurethings.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/lets-talk-depression-and-leisure/)

The Battle for Bed Sheets

As anyone who has ever shared a bed knows, there is nearly always a battle for more bed sheets. I’ve shared beds with my sisters, my friends, and partners, sometimes single beds, sometimes double beds. Space hasn’t been that much of an issue, but the sharing of bed sheets is.

The other day I was having a Down Day, which is what I call it when depression starts to win in the battle with me. As I was thinking about life, death and mental illnesses, I realised how similar The Battle for Bed Sheets is to the battle against depression.

When I sleep I pull the blankets around me as I roll from my back onto my stomach, effectively cocooning myself. Also not leaving a lot of spare blankets. This is fine when I’m sleeping alone, but as soon as you put someone else into the mix, I become a “blanket hog”. It got to a point with my ex-partner that we would have separate quilts because both of us were blanket hogs (although he was worse, just saying).

If you imagine the scenario with the blankets representing Happiness and the person I’m sharing a bed with being Depression, then it looks very similar. I try to roll over and surround myself with Happiness, while Depression wants to take it all for itself. Unfortunately, in this scenario I can’t get separate Happinesses for us to have, we have to share.

I’ve spoken about depression before, comparing it to a little creature. I like to picture depression as something physical, because it makes it seem easier to fight that way. Picturing it as a problem, like bed sheet sharing, helps me put it into a different perspective. A friend of mine once said that he always says “I have depression, depression doesn’t have me”, because it makes him feel like he has control. This is just a different way of coping with it.

I’ve recently been having a lot of Down Days. This happens sometimes, I start to lose the battle, I lose grip of the bed sheets and lie alone in the cold feeling resentful. It’s often very tempting to give up completely, to relinquish the bed sheets and accept that I’ll have to sleep in the cold. It seems easier than having to pull the sheets back and fight to keep them. But then you lie there, cold, miserable and isolated and you remember why you’re fighting.

You’re fighting because bed sheets are warm and comforting. You’re fighting for all the people willing to share their Bed Sheets with you (in this case I mean happiness. Although, possibly also literal bed sheets). You fight because when you win and get those sheet back then you’ll feel satisfied and accomplished. And every time you win a fight you get to add that to your Achievement Pile, and the bigger that pile gets, the harder you can fight because you have a whole pile of wins that remind you that you can do it.

Mental illness is a difficult battle, something that people often don’t know that you’re fighting. I know a lot of people who think that when they ‘lose’ to depression, whether that means they failed a class, they lapsed back into old habits, they self-harmed or whatever it is, that means that they’ve failed. Set backs like that can seem like a failure, like you’ve given in, but they’re just set backs. It’s not the end, the battle goes on and you can keep on fighting.

If you’re having a tough time, there are lots of resources available to you. I’ll list some below:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.sane.org/

https://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/

www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Remember, if you or someone else is in danger of hurting themselves you can call the emergency line (000 – Australia, 911 – USA, 999 – UK, etc). You can also take them, or yourself, to the emergency department at the hospital.

 

Image credit: http://www.prevention.com

Depression: My Reality

There are probably thousands of blog posts about depression. It’s quite a common thing to suffer from, but everyone describes it slightly differently. I’ve spoken to a few different people who also have/have had depression and they all experienced a little differently from me. Sometimes I’ll read a post and identify with it almost completely and other times I’ll understand what they mean, but it’s not exactly what I’m going through.

I’ve had depression since I was about ten years old. At thirteen I started self-harming. At fourteen I told my mother about this, she told me not to be such a drama queen and to grow up. At fifteen I got called to the school counselor’s office because my grades had dropped and some of my teachers were worried about me, my mother told me never to speak to them again because CPS would take me away and that would kill her. At seventeen I finally manage to convince my mother that this was serious for me to need professional help. At seventeen I tried to kill myself. At nineteen I left the country and discovered a lot about myself. At twenty-one, after a year and a half away and nearly two years of not self harming, I returned home. At twenty-one I started cutting again. At twenty-one I want to kill myself again. At twenty-one no one in my family wants to acknowledge this. At twenty-one I am alone.

My depression centers around my family and my upbringing. I have something called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) from growing up in an abusive, highly stressful environment. My stress levels are at a constant high, which means when something stressful happens, instead of going into High Stress Mode, like a normal person would, I peak into Panic Mode. I’m on anti-depressants which help a little and I have been seeing a psychologist, which has helped a lot.

I’ve had depression for nearly 12 years now, more than half my life. But I’m not used to it. I don’t think it’s possible to get used to it. It’s like living with a little, sad creature all the time. Every time you’re feeling good the creature pokes its nose onto your shoulder and weighs you down. When you’re already feeling down it crawls onto your lap and holds you there. Whenever someone says something the little creature scrambles their words, putting a negative spin on it. “They’re just saying that because they feel sorry for you.” “They don’t really mean it.” And sometimes when you’re just coasting along it tells you other things. “I bet if you killed yourself no one would care. How long do you think it would take anyone to even notice if you were dead? No one would cry at your funeral. No one would even go.” And then something bad happens. “See? You’re worthless. This was all your fault. You did this. Why do you even bother? You’re such a failure.” When I was thirteen I discovered that by cutting myself the little creature wouldn’t talk for a while. The more I cut, the less it talked. “If you want me to go away, you know what to do.” And after I realised that, I realised there was one way to make it go away forever. “Swallow the pills. Step in front of the train. Cut a little deeper. We’ll both be better off for it.”

This little creature is something that I deal with every day, but it’s also something that I can’t get a handle of. It seems like every time I do it evolves and changes. Becomes something new and trickier.

Depression is difficult.

Depression is painful.

Depression is exhausting.

It’s even harder alone. Depression is hard to talk about. People don’t want to hear that I want to kill myself. They don’t want to see the cuts on my arms. It’s confronting and awkward. But that makes it a taboo. If we don’t want to talk about it, it just becomes harder and harder to get help. We need to be able to be open about it, to accept that mental illness is a real thing that real people suffer from and that by opening up about it, it will make the fight easier. For everyone.