I want to start by expressing my huge dislike of writing titles. This is entirely irrelevant but it is my most frequent thought when I start writing a blog, or anything that requires a title.

My other thought is always that I am going to stop being a student in September and I have no idea what I will change my blog name to. “The Crazy Ex-Student”? Imaginative. Or just “The Crazy Ex”. That makes my blog sound very intriguing, but it would be very disappointing for people who realise I am not in fact blogging about being a stalker-ish ex-girlfriend. I guess I could pretend.

I have a list of things I need to do which I am avoiding. My GP gave me a referral to X-Ray so I am supposed to have been for that, but I am avoiding it for reasons I do not totally understand. She also gave me sleeping tablets thank the Lord.

I have been thinking about leaving university early. Probably because I feel like there are a lot of things going on right now and it is like each “thing” is a brick whacked on top of my shoulders, and getting rid of some of these bricks would be nice. But it probably would not solve anything. I mean my masters is not crucial to my life. I did not decide to do it because I needed to do it. I decided to do it because I wanted to, and because it went well with doing the day treatment. I wanted to be more than a patient and it allowed me to be. But then I got kicked out of treatment so that is no longer a relevant factor. But I do love university and my research, I am just finding progress is very slow and I feel like my work is substandard right now (but I also know my idea of substandard is normal people’s standard and I could achieve a decent enough grade and quitting will make me feel rubbish).

I would guess that university is not my problem and I am just making out it is one to myself, to feel like there is a solution to how things are. “Functioning” feels challenging right now and I suppose leaving university would make me worse.

I have started running, which is to be honest, amazing. I did long distance running as a kid and then stopped because of an injury, and then developed my eating disorder so it just stopped being something I did. I have wanted to start again for a long time, and have made a few attempts but I do not think my heart was in it (or rather I was super unfit and did not want to push through it) and my anxiety about being outdoors in front of people made it near impossible. But I started again, and it is going well. I have done 5k each time which is not far at all, but I honestly thought I would manage a kilometre the first time I went out, and then probably lay down and die. And I survived so 10/10 for Natalie. The third run was supposed to be a walk with maybe a 2k run as an “extra” because I was stressed and hiding indoors. It turned into a 5k by accident.

Hey who knows, by September I might be calling myself ‘The Crazy Runner’. I cannot quite imagine calling myself a runner right now, but I would like to hope by September I do. If I manage to actually stick with running I will be pretty surprised and very happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It has been one of ‘those’ weekends

I guess I should know by now when things are deteriorating. It had been happening for a few weeks. I should also know by now that a holiday plus a bank holiday plus being alone would make things escalate. I guess sometimes I hide from the facts and hope that if I cover my ears enough and ignore the signs, it will all be ok.

And it is all ok. I am sat here writing this because things feel safe now. I can see now, that in many ways, the last four days could help me forward. But it does not mean it had to be that way. That I had to go through what I have just been through in order to make progress or feel ‘better’. I could have chosen to intervene sooner, but I succumbed to the darkness and it could have turned out differently. It is turning out ok. I have “survived”. I am taking positive steps now, but there was the risk this would not be the case.

I know. It sounds like I am talking in code. And I am. I do not really want to publish the in’s and out’s of what I am talking about, for a multitude of reasons. Let’s say, I was not in a great place between Friday and today. It was horrible, but one of the worst parts is coming out of it, and thinking “Girl, why did you put yourself through that? Why have you just thrown away four days of your time?”

Because everything stopped mattering. I stopped doing my university work, so I am behind my schedule I created for myself. I have messed up my sleep routine, which was not exactly great to begin with. I have damaged myself, physically and emotionally. I have withdrawn from people and just, life. It happened slowly, over a few weeks. It was not that bad at the start, it became gradually worse and then suddenly bad. It is hard because I should have taken myself and my thoughts more seriously before it got worse, but I just hoped it was going to get better by itself, somehow.

I entered a really dark place, and I do not know where it would have gone if I had not picked myself up. I mean, I guess I do know where it would have gone, but I don’t want to say it.

The ‘thing’ that broke the self-destruction was a dream. It was not an interesting dream. It was a very boring dream, if we are defining exciting dreams as being beyond the realms of ‘normal’ life. I never used to remember dreams or nightmares often. But since I have been on nicotine patches I have started to. To be honest, it is mostly a bad thing, to remember my dreams. But not last night.

I dreamt I was starting back at work. I am returning to where I did my internship for 5-6 months part-time. I dreamt about that. It was my first day back I think, or definitely first week or two. I was sat at my desk doing some work, and then a staff member came to talk to me, followed by one other, I think. We were just chatting about work and stuff going on, and I was laughing and happy.

I woke up this morning thinking about it.

It felt like a reason to fight.

So here I am. Fighting.

It has been a positive week!

I was dreading Monday. I had three appointments; my uni support worker (who is amazing so that was fine), a private counselling assessment, and my university supervisor. It turned out well. The counselling assessment was easy peasy. I am not sure what my expectations are, nor how this will go, but I can say that compared to an NHS mental health assessment it was pleasant, not at all overwhelming and it left me feeling optimistic – they are now in the process of selecting a counsellor to work with me.

The mental health team I am under expect to know EVERYTHING. They want to be in the loop. They want to know about university, my eating, my sleep, my family, my self-destructive behaviours, hospital admissions, friendships, activities… you name it. Not telling them something is usually interpreted as not engaging, as avoiding being open and honest and overall as a negative way to be. Counselling seems (so far) much more relaxed. It felt like I could say what I wanted and that I did not have to say anything I did not want to. Due to it being non-NHS they do not have access to my lovely medical notes; it feels completely in my hands what I choose to disclose and talk about. It feels like starting fresh with a blank slate. There is a key symptom/behaviour that is always central to my NHS treatment and is everyone’s top priority, and yet I did not even mention it in my counselling assessment. That is not to say I will not bring it up, but it feels like it is up to me when I do. I feel like the control is completely in my hands as to how I use the counselling. Counselling, at the end of the day, is not specifically for people with mental health problems. Anyone and everyone can have counselling if they feel they want, or need, to.

The appointment with my university supervisor was much more productive than I was expecting in more ways than I could have anticipated. I thought I was going to leave feeling confused, overwhelmed at how “bad” I am at work, and stressed. I was anxious about it being the first time I have been into university since my decrease in, lets say, productivity and my hospital admission to the acute psychiatric ward in January. I actually left feeling extremely clear on what I am doing next, feeling a bit better about some of the areas that have not been so great (i.e. presentations), and much less worried about what people are thinking about me, to the point that I feel more relaxed about doing my presentations now. It is amazing what talking can do compared to avoidance!

I went to my Mum’s that night, which is the first time since Christmas (which did not end well, understatement). I had a good time; we went to see Beauty and the Beast (if you can get over the singing, it is a very good film! I cried, but I cry at films more than I do life), we went out for lunch and I spent lots of time with my cats, which is basically my favourite thing about home. I also had a meeting with a police detective and she is now going to come to Leicester to see me again, and I met up with my best friend of 21 years!

I came back to Leicester early on the Thursday and had another strangely productive day; university work, cleaning, the gym and the doctors. Friday, the same, plus an appointment with my support worker again. I also managed to face up to a medical issue I have been avoiding. I was referred to orthopaedics and I am seeing them on Monday. I do not want to deal with the issue, but I also know it is not optional.

Thursday evening things got especially positive. I did an internship in January/February. It was just for 6 weeks. I missed the first 2 weeks, but managed to make up most of the missed hours. I absolutely loved it – everyone was saying how much happier I seemed. I think they saw the difference in me more than I did. It was all pot luck; I applied through a scheme at my university. They found the placement for us, and they paid for it rather than the placement paying. I was lucky because I was placed in the kind of place I would love to work for, working with really amazing people, doing really amazing work (campaigns and communications for a charity) – the “feel good” kind of work. Basically the dream.

Well, they emailed me asking if I am interested in working for them part-time for 4-5 months! I did not have to think about the decision at all. I have been looking for part-time work as I miss the structure of the internship and although I can survive financially without a job, the extra income would be useful. I have been applying for a lot of retail jobs, and while I would have been happy doing that because I am usually happy doing most things, working in campaigns and communications is without a doubt just beyond perfect. It is a “career” job, rather than just a job. I actually cannot even put into words how lucky and honoured I feel. I still kind of cannot believe this opportunity has come up. I keep kicking myself; I spend so much time being hard on myself and thinking that I am never going to get where I want in life and I often self-destruct because I do not feel like I can achieve what I want to achieve and then here we are!

I am worried I sound dramatic. To some people it might sound like “just” a part-time, temporary job, but to me it is everything. I care so much about their work and the campaign. It is all so ridiculously perfect for me that it is unbelievable, including the fact that it is part-time and temporary.

I just feel like I could not have asked for a better thing to happen to me right now, than this, and I never expected it at all.

I have also learnt something from this experience. Towards the end of 2016 I was in a very self-destructive place which resulted in the hospital admission in January. I could have carried on as I was, not done the internship, and not be stood here. I could have missed those amazing 5 weeks, and never met the people I did, or felt so inspired as I did. I would have missed out on an opportunity that made me realise I actually want to work next, rather than continue in education (and I was 100% sure I wanted to continue in education). I would have missed out on the route to this job.

I did not miss out because I fought to get myself out of hospital, rather than turn into someone who spends their life as a “patient”. I forced myself to be brave and do the internship. At the time I had no idea just how much good it would do me.

There are a lot of lessons in this, lessons that are definitely going to stick with me.

When you say “they hate me”, do you really mean you hate yourself?: Avoidance and (lack of) Mind Reading Abilities

I think I believe I am a mind reader and I absolutely without any doubt know what people think about me. And usually that is that they hate me.

I use the word ‘hate’ loosely. I do not mean they seriously hate me or despise me. When I say I think someone hates me I usually mean:

  • They think I am a bad person
  • They are sick/tired/fed up of my “issues” and sick of me/sick of hearing about me/sick of having to deal with me
  • They think I am annoying, a drain of their time etc.
  • They do not exactly like me
  • They are judging me on my “issues”

There have been a huge number of examples of how I have felt this way over a number of years, and I can recall my previous psychiatrist telling me that I am not a mind reader and that maybe I should give people a chance, and let people form their own opinions of me rather than doing that for them. In that sense it sounds quite unfair that I assume what people are thinking, because in some ways I am almost judging how I think they think or feel. And on top of that it can lead to me avoiding said people to either a) not make them any more fed up of me, or b) the whole thing where I would rather reject someone first than hang around to be rejected by them.

Just lately there have been a number of examples of this, and I am becoming acutely aware of it because I have both been able to vocalise feeling this way in some examples, and also been given information that suggests the opposite of what I think. (And the fact there has been a number of examples in a short space of time). What I mean is, either I have asked the person if they hate me in a jokingly but not joking manner, or someone has told me something that has been quite the opposite of “they hate you.”

I have to admit that often despite a severe amount of evidence to suggest people do not hate me, these lessons often serve no real purpose. For example, in December I saw my mental health team and I was quite upset and feeling very much like they were very angry and fed up of me, which I translated to “they hate me”. I was given evidence on the contrary, and in said appointment I felt reassured. But come the next day I was straight back into “they hate me” mode. However more interestingly, I saw them again in March and received said reassurance again, and this time I am able to hold onto it much more than before. That is not to say that I have not felt annoying when I have had to speak to them over the phone, but the ‘hate’ bit has been a bit weaker.

My learning whatever mentor (I do not really know what her title is) from my university came to the appointment in March. On the way there I asked her to look out for “any signs that they hate me.” I wanted her to sit in the appointment as an outsider and see what she thought, of which I thought the outcome would be very supporting of my views, although I did add that perhaps they would act differently with her there. Looking back it was ridiculous. The two therapists that were in my appointment are absolutely bloody lovely and I feel awful looking back now at just how suspicious I was of them. Act differently? What was I thinking? That they would “act” because my mentor was there? I think I just thought that maybe my mentor would come to the conclusion they do not hate me, and I would then be able to argue back against that by telling myself that they were just pretending for her sake.

Thinking I know what other people think, and being so suspicious of peoples motives, really is not the best quality I have. It is actually unfair on others and I was yet again surprised today to find out when speaking to someone else, that a person I thought really, really hated me/judged me, really does not.

I think the obvious answer as to why I fall into this way of thinking is what most people will conclude; that I transfer my feelings about myself onto other people. I feel reluctant to agree with this, but then the obvious answer is quite often the answer. I feel insane guilt for my behaviour sometimes, albeit related to not managing to do things i.e. university work, meeting friends etc. or my self-destructive tendencies. I feel bad, guilty, ashamed and disappointed in myself, and I assume everyone else feels said things too, and therefore that they think I am a bad person aka they hate me.

It is a vicious cycle because feeling bad about myself leads to me doing more things that I feel bad about. I avoid university because I feel bad at not being a good enough student, and then avoid university even more because I am scared to face people and feel bad about being bad. I think my mental health team hate me because of my behaviours, avoid contacting them for support because I think they hate me, and then end up engaging in said behaviours even more, leading to more hate and more avoidance. And the same goes for a lot of situations including with friends and family.

Feeling bad about something quite often has no positive outcome. Even with other situations; I feel bad about not going to the gym/not doing a task, and then feeling bad about it makes me even less likely to do it, leading to feeling even worse. How fun!

My best advice in these kind of situations is:

  • Get yourself some actual evidence rather than evidence gathered from your so-called telepathic powers. When your reason for someone hating you is “because they do”, that does not cut it. Ask them. Discuss it with someone else. Give people a chance!
  • DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. Feeling bad about something is just going to lead you to feeling worse in most cases. Very, very rarely I will find motivation through being disappointed in myself, but it is rare, and it does not usually last.
  • Remind yourself of what a truly “bad” person is. For a start I reckon most “bad” people do not worry about being “bad”. I mean, what even is the definition of bad? I don’t know, that is open to interpretation, but struggling with university work and struggling with self-destructive behaviours does not make you a bad person. It makes you a person who tries very hard but is having a rough time.
  • We also have to look at why we are so bothered about other peoples opinions. I spend more time worrying about the opinions of people I know in a more “professional” relationship, than I do about the opinions of people I know more personally. This is a whole other issue/blog post. But remember that you need to try and focus being much more concerned about how you feel about yourself, because that is what is ultimately important (and if you work on how you feel about yourself, it is quite likely you will begin to stop thinking that everyone else hates you – I had not thought about this until typing it, but it makes sense!)