Friday, 6 February 2015

Back from my break

I am finally in a place where I have space in my brain to write. My life is going a lot better than it has in a long time. I am coping so much better, for a number of reasons, more on that later.

This is my first post in many months, more than 6 months. I was not able to write for a long time. I wanted to write, but forming my thoughts into words was too difficult for me. I was in a dark place for most of last year, dis-associative, overwhelmed, depressed, highly anxious, feeling very unsupported and isolated. I felt useless and like a failure. I found it very difficult to face reality and interact with people, even my own family (son and husband). This was hard on them and I felt guilty about not being able to be there for them as much as I would like. It was a tough place to be. I felt so locked in myself a lot of the time. A number of events led to me falling apart and withdrawing into myself. First my psychologist abandoned me at a time I really needed extra support and left me in a bad way, this was a professional I had seen for well over a year and had come to trust and believe they had my best interests at heart. Unfortunately this was not the case. The impact of this person's actions was heartbreaking and devastating for me. I was already not coping very well, then to have this person's unprofessional behaviour added to it, it was too much. It was very traumatic for me and I am still healing from it, more than a year later. For a long time I did not realise the full impact of what had happened, it took me time to process it and realise how bad it really was. When I finally processed it fully that is when it really hit me. I was further traumatised as a result. I had real trouble validating myself and believing that it was really that bad, especially when no one else really understood or got it or validated me. 

Then when I dared to share my story about what happened in a couple of ASD women's groups due to others starting threads about this psychologist, I was shut down, threatened, and basically told it was my fault. This further traumatised me. It was extremely hurtful and upsetting. In this state I had to seek out another professional to re-diagnose me in order to be eligible for disability. It was so difficult to come out of myself and find a professional who had the right qualifications. I had no choice though as I knew I needed the support and respite that gaining disability would entitle me to. I went to see a psychiatrist, who gave me the diagnosis I needed. I got paperwork filled in to apply for disability and sent away for that. Thankfully I got it.

 I was traumatised by how the psychiatrist treated me. I felt very dehumanised and picked apart, it was traumatic and upsetting. In particular in one session, the final session. I will never forget how traumatic it was. Prior to that session, things had been okay and I had been somewhat oblivious to how badly he treated me. My Mum told he that he always stared at me the way he did this session but I had never noticed it. She came to sessions with me, thankfully. This particular day he gave me an extra dose of medication (the same that I was taking) on top of what I what I had already taken. The medication I was on takes effect within 5 to 10 minutes. After taking it, I became more aware than I had ever been. I noticed how intensely and scarily he looked at me. I felt he wanted me to give eye contact because I was on the medication so I did and it was incredibly painful and scary. I became more mute as time went on. I left the appointment and was shaking uncontrollably, I felt really emotional and upset. I rang and explained this to him. Due to the fact that I was already traumatised by my previous experience with a professional, I did not manage this well at all. I withdrew further into myself. I stopped seeing the psychiatrist as I was far too fragile and vulnerable. I had to in order to protect myself. When I got home from the appointment, I proceeded to have a two day meltdown where I was crying uncontrollably, feeling incredibly anxious and unsafe. I could not get his eyes out my mind, they were so intense, piercing and I felt like he was bearing into my soul. It was a terrifying experience. I became paranoid that he was out to get me for awhile after that. It took me 3 days to finally feel somewhat calm, and even then I was not sleeping well or able to manage daily life well. I thought about how he had spoken about me in all the sessions I went to him, like I was some sort of animal to be observed. He talked about my behaviours in this distanced observing way. That upset me even more. I felt incredibly vulnerable and scared that I was an easy target for abuse and to be taken advantage of and treated bady and not realise. I withdrew into myself and found interacting with people really hard. I did not want to be treated so badly ever again if I could help it.

Things got really bad for me after this. I felt incredibly alone and isolated. I felt like I was in a glass box and could see my life go by, but wasn't really living. It was all just passing by and I didn't really care. My husband was worried about me and sought out organising extra respite for me through local respites. He did all the paperwork as I was in no place to do so. It took awhile to hear back about it and I did not get support until late last year, around September. We applied around May. During that time I was struggling on my own with little support, it was really, really tough. 

A bit later on there were three upsetting and hurtful interactions online which further added to the pre-existing trauma I was going through. It was too much. That was the final straw for me. I withdrew into myself completely. I withdrew from Facebook and focused on managing my own issues and not letting anything else get into my little bubble. I focused on my own healing and recovery. The break was very good for me. It was about 6-7 weeks. I started to feel a little happy once again and that things in my life might get better. I started to have a little hope again.

During my facebook break I sought out another psychologist and had a couple of sessions with her. The first one was ok. The second one was horrible and upsetting. My need to repeat things lead to it not working out with this psychologist. She did not understand me which led to me perseverating verbally with her analyzing everything I said to mean something I didn't mean. It was frustrating and upsetting. It became a vicious cycle of me repeating myself and her analyzing me. Me trying to correct her and explain myself and her analyzing it to mean something else. I was in shutdown by the end of the appointment and felt she was treating me like a child. I left the appointment and ran to the toilet and cried, sobbed uncontrollably actually. It was awful. I never went back to see her. So unhelpful and unsupportive. That experience did not help me to feel safe seeking out the support of professionals, considering my previous experiences. I did not feel safe enough to trust them, let alone open up to one. 

Even my Dr was not entirely supportive of me, in particularly regarding what happened with my previous psychologist, the one who treated me so badly, that broke my trust. She said I needed to let it go and focus on living my life, which at that point and the state I was in, was impossible for me. I was in a super sensitive, highly anxious state, so any hint of invalidation and non-support would upset me and trigger me. I would withdraw further into myself, feeling even more unsupported and isolated. It was awful.

I hated my life a lot of last year, felt stuck, and didn't know how to improve things. I had almost no hope that things would ever get better and that really, really depressed me. Every time I tried to add one small thing to my life, it would be too much and I would end up a stressed and anxious mess about it. Then I would cry about it and feel really frustrated. This was a vicious cycle for most of last year. I gave up in the end and just watched TV shows, that was about all I could manage. I did some basic housework, but barely any cooking. Parenting was really difficult and exhausting. I often felt I was failing my son. I did the best I could with the little I could give to him. The mess and chaos in the house added to my overwhelm and I felt helpless to sort it out. I struggled to connect with people, I wanted to interact online but found that really difficult. I couldn't put my thoughts into words. I wanted to connect and interact, but the thought of trying to put everything into words was way too hard. So I didn't bother. This added to my feelings of isolation and that no one cared about me and what I was going through. 

Thankfully I had a couple of real life friends who were supportive of me during this time, as best as they could be as they have issues of their own going on. One of them came to my house and helped me organise and de-clutter my son's toys, my sewing area and set up my own little calm down/happy space in the shelves above my bed. I was truly grateful for their help and support. It means a lot to me. Those things helped me feel less overwhelmed by the chaos in the house. It helped me feel less stuck. It made a difference in my life.

My Mum suggested a narrative therapist counselor to me, whom I emailed. She was away for a period of time and could not see me till later in the year. That made it difficult as I knew I needed support right there and then. 

I had several Skype chat sessions throughout the second part of the year with a woman who offered to help mentor me, she was studying psychology so offered them for free. These helped me, but I still felt really isolated and struggled to really explain everything that was going on for me. I did try to and I think she understood that things were difficult for me. I don't know what I would have done if I had not been able to chat to her, even though I was not always able to put all my thoughts into words and explain the depth of my pain and trauma, just being able to talk about stuff and feel heard, helped me feel supported and not so isolated. 

I was going to this mental health centre and had sessions fortnightly for awhile with a social worker there. She was really supportive and understanding of what I was going through, particularly with what happened with my previous psychologist. I found it stressful and exhausting having to leave the house and catch public transport to get to sessions though. Towards the end of last year, there was a change in funding and ownership which meant she was no longer working there, so I stopped going. I didn't have a relationship with any of other other workers staying there so didn't bother, I had no more energy to keep going.

While I was without much support all this drama came up online regarding my previous psychologist and another writer. It was extremely triggering and upsetting for me. I had been going somewhat ok until it all came up online. In hindsight I should have taken a facebook break and let it go, but instead I got sucked in and hyper-focused on it. I was deeply disturbed and traumatised by how I saw this psychologist threaten legal action, gas-light and try to silence anyone who told the truth about her and shared their bad experiences. I have since learnt of many more people who have been treated really badly by her, which is a relief that it is not just me. Very sad that so many people have to suffer harm from one person. Through this difficult time, I withdrew again and ended up in a triggered, anxious vicious cycle state. It was awful. I was angry and frustrated that I had to deal with this crap again. Thankfully healing came from the experience as I was able to connect with others who had similar experiences, which helped me feel validated and not so alone. Being able to talk about my experiences and not be silenced, treated badly and told it was my fault really helped me start to properly heal. That was huge for me. For the first time I was able to talk freely about what happened to me and not be silenced, victim-blamed or threatened. It was a relief.

Towards the end of last year I started seeing the narrative therapist and the respite support came through, which meant I have a disability support worker who came to my house. Those two supports have been life-changing for me. They came a bit later than when I desperately needed support as by the time I started seeing them but at least I got the support I needed. Between their support and me managing my energy better, having stronger boundaries and not allowing myself to get sucked into other's issues, that has really, really helped me to get into a better head space. 

My counselor is amazing! She is incredibly supportive of my journey, very validating of my issues my story, and trauma. I have sent her these two articles (throwing away the Master's tools and neurotypical psychotherapists and neurodiverse clients) and she didn't bat an eye-lid. In fact she found them very helpful in her journey of understanding me and being able to help me. That is when I knew I had found a good counselor who would support me and help me learn to cope better in a way and at a pace that suited me.

I started taking a couple of amino acid supplements known to help anxiety, stress and depression. Those really helped me. I noticed a difference after a month or so of taking them. I felt more clear headed, less overwhelmed, less anxious and less stressed. I felt like I had space in my brain to take the time to notice my feelings, triggers, and thoughts and be mindful of them. This hugely helped me to stop myself from heading into a vicious cycle triggered downward spiral. That, combined with what I was working on with my counselor (Acceptance commitment therapy - ACT), helped me take control of my out of control thoughts and emotions.

Slowly things have improved. I am coping so much better this year. I am extremely careful about managing my energy and what I take on. I have very strict boundaries about my interactions with people and will not allow myself to get sucked into their drama or issues. Thankfully I have not had much issue with friendships this year and when there is an issue I am able to see it clearly for what it is and not let it get to me as much.

Having better support has made a massive difference in my ability to manage my life and my recovery journey. Feeling heard, validated, understood and respected has really helped me to cope better. It has helped to stop fighting so hard to get what I need. I feel I can relax now and actually enjoy my life, instead of getting stressed about every little thing that happens and worrying that I will be treated badly, invalidated, misunderstood or taken advantage of. 

Here is to a better year for me! I am looking forward to living it and not giving a fuck about anything but what I can manage.

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