Friday, 11 January 2019

Opening Pandora's Box

You do not honour yourself by denying aspects of yourself.  To accept yourself fully, you have to accept all aspects of yourself.  

The next week in hospital I almost never left my room, I set up some art stuff, and the only time I left the room was to go to art on the following Wednesday morning.  I also didn't eat a thing the first 10 days or drink very much.  I was so overwhelmed with what was happening I was in shock.  I couldn't function let alone eat or drink.  I barely spoke to anyone.  

When I saw the Dr again she put me on more medication.  After opening up a bit about some of my past I seemed to have opened Pandora's box.  The memories now would not stop flooding in, memories that I really didn't want to be having.  

I remember one night lying on the bed in absolute terror, I had woken from a bad dream and had a very distinct feeling that someone was getting into the bed on top of me.  I was frozen in fear, the flight or freeze reaction left me paralyzed in my bed.  So she gave me something to help with the ruminating, and I had stayed on the sleeping pill.  It worked until about 2 am, then I was awake and restless until about 4 or 5 am when I would doze off again.  It was torture.  
Into my second week one of the nurses came and sat with me and got me talking, and I was put on xanax 4 times a day, as well as a different PRN to help with the feelings of anxiety.  

Day by day it got better.  I remember making those first few phone calls to extended family to let them know where I was and what had happened, I hated having to admit it but it was also good for me to not hide it anymore, any of it.  Everyone was really understanding and supportive, and I slowly started to trust a few people in hospital as well as trusting that I would get better.  I don't think I actually believed I would for about a month, every meeting I had with my team the first questions out my mouth were always how long will I be in here for, and when will I be better. 

I eventually stopped asking after 6 weeks, and I think that was when I realised that there was a very faint light at the end of the tunnel.  

The horrid thing about staying in hospital for 9 weeks is that you become dependent on the routine, so the day they told me I was being discharged from the acute unit and sent back up to the day hospital I had a panic attack.  I had spent a lot of time wishing I could go home, now that I was I was terrified all over again.  

The same thing happened when they discharged me from the day unit, it was panic stations all over again, and I was living in terror trying to adjust to my new life.  Once you have opened the box and faced everything that's in it, it can't be put away the same way as before, you have to find a new route and a new way of getting around all the obstacles that come flying at you.  

That doesn't mean I came out cured, and able to cope with everything, and not drink and smoke or over eat, quite the opposite happened.  A week after being released the freedom of it all hit me and I realised I could drink again.  I had started smoking while I was in the acute unit so I continued promising myself and my husband that I would give up soon.  I never gave an exact amount of time.  

The problem with the drinking this time was that I had a lot more stuff to run from, and so at the end of every day I found myself reaching for the bottle, most nights I was drinking two bottles.  I switched from red wine to prosecca telling myself it was a good move because the alcohol level is less, but the sugar content is higher.  That and I wouldn't have to share any with my husband because he doesn't drink it.  The weekends we started drinking whiskey or for me vodka and whiskey, sometimes gin and whiskey.  I tried not to drink the whiskey but when I ran out of vodka I would always have a bit of whiskey too.  I was wishing my days away, waiting till I could have my first drink, and every morning I would tell myself today will be different, I won't drink, or I will only have one and make it last.  

Nothing worked, in fact bargaining with myself made it worse, instead of pouring just a tot of vodka I would pour bigger tots, because if it was going to be my only one then I might as well make it a big one.  The problem was it was never one. 

On the really bad nights I would stay up drinking all night, and then sleep most of the next day.  I would make very poor judgement calls, and in a few instances I have landed up phoning the hospital in tears in a total panic and full of anxiety, or calling the Samaritans, just to have someone to talk to.  They were all always very supportive.  I am lucky enough to have gone to a hospital with the after care and support is second to none, and I am lucky to have the Samaritans to call too.  Without these two life lines I don't know where I would be.  

The problem with going home when I did was that my emotional pain was so high, it was hard to breathe sometimes.  It was causing me to have massive panic attacks, and I was always anxious.  I felt completely broken.  From doing a bit of research I realise now that the drinking was only making these feelings and attacks worse, at the time I put it down to being completely broken and weak. 

I will never understand why I self harm, maybe through this blog I will find meaning, find out why I do it, but when I came out of hospital there were lots of things around me that enabled me to self harm, and self harm I did.  I have two favourites, cutting and scratching.  I was cutting nearly everyday, and when I was drinking the cutting was really bad, but in a horrible way it helped, it helped to feel physical pain instead of emotional pain.  I had no one to stop me, and so long as I wore long sleeved tops most of the time they were hidden, or so I thought.  It's amazing how many lies you tell yourself, and amazing how you believe them.  My Dr knew what was going on as did my husband, and some of my friends could see what was happening.  My Dr tried not to highlight it too much which was probably the right thing to do.  

I know at the time I felt worse than when I had gone into hospital, but people kept telling me I looked better and sounded better.  I think at the time my emotional pain was so high every day that I felt broken inside.  

Thursday, 10 January 2019


I wander how other people deal with being triggered.  

I am really struggling this evening, I have this sick feeling in my stomach, and my body feels cold but my hands are sweaty, I think posting my previous post triggered me, and I am also slightly terrified of others reading my posts.  It's the first time I am putting myself out there, but more importantly it's the first time I am being honest with myself.  I won't recover my life if I am not honest with myself.  

So I am sitting at home this evening wandering how to cope, I am not drinking, I am not smoking and I can't find my xanax, so I decided to post another blog.  Three in one day.  I am trying to keep myself busy.  

I am on a fair bit of medication which I have been on for about 10 months.  After being admitted to the day hospital I was there for about a week and a half and I was finding it really tough, I was an emotional wreck, and I couldn't function in my own life.  So there was one night I came home and all I wanted to do was hurt myself.  I hadn't done any self harm in over two years, well no significant self harm, or so I thought.  Substance abuse is considered a form of self harm, so I guess I have been self harming for a long time!  Anyway this night I didn't want just a drink - I wanted to actual cause physical pain, all in an effort to stop the emotional pain.  Emotional pain has to be one of the hardest to deal with, nothing seems to cure it, it's there when you least expect it, and I haven't found a way to smother it yet.  So I phoned one of the nurses from the day hospital like I'd been told to if I felt overwhelmed.  They were lovely on the phone, and I was given some advice and I felt better for having spoken to someone.  It didn't stop me from coming down the stairs and finishing off a bottle of wine, I didn't see this as self harm, but rather something that I had gotten into the habit of doing, and I had had a hard day so why not reward myself with a glass of wine (a bottle).  

The next morning I woke up a bit fuzzy, but dreading going into the hospital.  I felt like a naughty child.  It wasn't long before I was called into a meeting with one of the nurses, and they said they had spoken to my psychiatrist and my team and they all felt that I would be better off in the acute unit, which meant staying in hospital, something I had promised my son I would do everything to avoid, and here I was not even two weeks in and I was failing.  This is what I told myself anyway.  In truth, going in was my only option left to try and get help, and save myself from myself.  It took me a few hours of crying and a call to my husband JJ to agree to be admitted.  It was a very low day.  

I remember driving home to pack a suitcase.  JJ was working from home so he would be able to drop me off as soon as I was ready to go.  He sent our son round to a friend and I came home and packed my bag, and before I knew it we were on our way back to hospital.  One of the nurses was waiting for me at the front door when I got there, they had called to see where I was because we were delayed in traffic.  I think they also thought I might be a flight risk.  I think I was.  Being shown to my room and being shown around the ward is all a bit of a blur, but I sank to a new low.  I was in shock being in the day hospital, this was so much worse.  To make it worse it was coming up to the Easter weekend, and I was going to be in hospital.  I wasn't allowed to unpack my bags until the nurses had come in and checked for contraband.  Basically anything that I could hurt myself with, they even took my scarf.  This is one of the worst things, watching someone go through your bags removing things they see as a threat.  

Once they were done I sat on the bed and burst into tears, I was broken, I was ashamed of where I was and what I had done to my life.  I suddenly realised I hadn't told anyone outside of my immediate family and two friends what was going on, I had been so overwhelmed with my own life I hadn't thought about anything else in weeks.  For the first time in a long time I didn't even have energy to think about work or anything, I was officially broken.  

I remember walking into the shower room, it was a full wet room with a toilet {no toilet seat or lid} in the corner and a small basin.  No taps, everything was operated by buttons.  I decided to shower, so I turned it on, locked the bathroom door and locked myself away for about an hour.  I was just sitting on the floor in the shower for that first hour.  

I remember lying on my bed and nurse coming in to say hello, she was apparently from the same country as me, I nodded without saying a word and rolled over.  I couldn't muster up anything for my fellow countryman at this point.

At some point someone came to offer me food, I said no.  Then someone else came to finish off my admission to the acute unit.  She was lovely.  I couldn't get through talking about what brought me here without breaking down.  I was asked if I would stay the night - I said yes, in my head I said no way, but what was I going to do?  

They gave me a sleeping tablet that night which I was so grateful, because if they hadn't I doubt I would have gone to sleep at all.  

The Survivor

I am a survivor.  What does that even mean.  I am not 100% sure yet, but I know it means that I don't want to be defined as a victim.  I don't want to be defined by my past.  

How do you process your past, how do you get over childhood trauma!  I thought I had all the answers, I thought I knew what I had to do.  Maybe I did know some of it, but I didn't know it would be so hard.  I didn't know it would take so long, and I didn't know how much of my life had to change in order to make room for healing to happen.  

I was sexually abused as a child by two family members, I was sexually assaulted at 13 by a family friend.  I was raped as a teenager, and sexually assaulted as an adult, twice.  I come from a home where alcohol was abused, my parents fought often.  Fueled with alcohol these often became violent fights.  My Dad physically beat my Mom and my Mom physically beat my Dad.  My Dad physically beat my brother, and my Mom physically beat me.  Coming from Zimbabwe being beaten by your parents was not out of the norm, but my brother certainly bore the brunt of excessive beatings, more so than me.  

This time last year I would never have been able to write any of that down.  Well maybe one or two lines, but then I would have deleted it, because it would have been too real.  I was living a life where these things didn't happen to me, occasionally after copious amounts of wine I would cry and be so depressed and anxious the next day, I would blame work, my husband, life in general, but never bring up the past, or the excessive alcohol.    It's like being in a swimming pool trying to keep a float under the water, no matter how hard you push it down, or how deep, when you let go it's going to surface.  So my problems did surface occasionally, but I would stuff them back down and pray that this time they stayed down.  

I think I have struggled with depression my whole life, not all the time, but it has always been there.  

So what changed, what made me finally seek help.  In February of last year after a night of drinking I wrote an email to one of my abusers, accusing him and basically asking for an apology.  I will never forget that week.  I started phoning family members telling them about my abuse, and trying to find out if it had happened to anyone else, surely I can't be the only one right?  I was so angry.  I had finally reached rock bottom.  I sat in our office on the phone to the Samaritans crying my eyes out, I had realised I couldn't live like this anymore.  For the first time in my life I truly realised what it felt like to want to die.  The emotional pain was so intense I couldn't breathe.  I felt trapped, like I was caged up inside and there was no way out.  I was being tortured by my memories, and I didn't know how to stop them.  

I woke up severely hung over the next day, I can't remember if my son went to school that day or not, but half way through the morning I phoned my husband in tears begging him to come home because I wasn't well.  He came straight home and I went to bed.  I stayed in bed for most of the week.  I did phone my GP to ask what I could do with these intense feelings, I couldn't go on living with this beast inside of me, I was being eaten alive.  She has always known there was something about my past that was haunting me, but I had never told her everything.  Between us we found a hospital, and arrangements were made for me to meet up with the nurse manager of the day unit, they agreed I was a good candidate and that they felt they would be able to help me.  

I started in the hospital on the 29th March 2018.  I will never forget that day, as I start there being admitted answering questions, crying my eyes out I kept thinking, how did I get here.  I don't know what I thought or what I expected, I can't remember, but everyday for a week and a half I would walk through those halls like a zombie, suffering from depression, wandering what I was doing there, wandering how I got there, and not quite believing I could get better.  I felt trapped in my mind, but I couldn't tell anyone.  I told the basics, talking in detail was beyond me at this point.  I was too emotional, I couldn't get it all out without crying my eyes out.  

I remember the first time I met my psychiatrist, the first time she said the word trauma - I think my whole body went rigid and I felt like being sick.  Surely my childhood wasn't that bad.  Trauma belongs to war vets, or people who suffer serious injuries in a car crash, it couldn't be applied to my past could it?  
I remember sitting in group sessions thinking I don't get it, what am I meant to be doing, what am I meant to be achieving, nothing seemed to be working.  My psychiatrist put me on one medication, stopped one then added another.  

I have this analogy that I use now.  I went into that hospital thinking they were going to remove all the hurt, they were going to take my abuse and keep it, and I was going to walk out the door free from my past.  I was still in denial.  In reality I walked in with a backpack worth of issues, and when I was eventually discharged three and a half months later I left with a few suitcases worth of issues.  I had pushed some of my memories so far down that I didn't remember them.  But now that I had sat down and started to look at them, more and more came flooding back.  I was being triggered all the time, I was remembering all the time, I was ruminating all the time.  I was stuck, I couldn't focus, I was distant and distracted all the time.  I felt like I was a zombie blindly walking through my life only just managing to get the basics right.  

The Start

Memories from childhood are funny things, and it is through reading books like the choice by Dr Edith Egar that have made me want to document my life, and work through my life experiences.  

I am 39 years old, I can’t believe I will be 40 this year!  I didn’t picture 40 like this. I am not sure what I pictured, but I am far away from any of the dreams I ever had as a child.  

I am currently a stay at home Mom who used to have a part time job, and will need to find one again soon! I have been under a psychiatrist for the last 10 months, I drink too much, I smoke occasionally, I self harm occasionally, and I take painkillers occasionally. Occasionally is a funny word right - just how often is it? It sounds better than every day, or far too often right? I don't do all these things daily, but I do them far too often, occasionally still sounds better. It's amazing how the mind works, and how easy it is to lie to yourself, and not only lie to yourself, but you believe the lie.

I am Mom to one beautiful 9 year old boy.  He is my world, he is funny, bright, kind and very eloquent. He is the second thing I got right. The first is my husband, and we have been married for 13 years. I am very lucky to have a patient, kind and caring man with a whole lot of patience to handle me over the years. And there has been a lot to handle.

I met my husband in 2001, in London. I was wild when we met, a real party girl, keeping up with the boys and proud of it too.

Now I am a 39 year old in recovery. I am recovering from childhood trauma, depression, PTSD, self harm, substance abuse, overeating and bulimia. I am overweight, obese even and I need to start being brutally honest with myself if I am to keep recovering, if I am to heal and improve my quality of life, and the quality of life of my family.

Why write a blog. I can't write it in a diary for fear of my son picking it up and reading it, or worse, my husband. I know he knows a lot of it, but not everything! But before I can be honest with my family, I need to get down and dirty and brutally honest with myself! That's why.