Teetering on the edge

Sometimes I feel that I want to disappear for a while. It might be better described as wanting to hide under my duvet from the entire world. Without having to call in sick or explain my absence from life to anyone.

I think today it comes from exhaustion. It is my first week back to work after half term and I always find that first week back so tiring. I have been going to bed early and resting each evening but it just doesn’t seem to ever be enough. I am like a bath without a plug unable to fill up with water.

I think of all the things I should be doing each evening; marking papers, texting friends, walking my dog, admin for the podcast, keeping up with the news and so much more. Even writing that list feels exhausting and I remind myself it can all wait.

I am learning so take care of myself. Not to be selfish, something I get so anxious about, but to give myself what I need. To be patient with my mind and body. However it is so much easier to say or type that to actually do. I still feel guilt, shame and more guilt.

I should probably mention I also came off my fibromyalgia medication. I am currently having a better time with it and so wanted to try being off the medication. I have been slowly lowering it and last week was the last dose to stop, however that means I am also in mild withdrawal. This is probably not helping my fatigue.

I also feel on a precipice. On my tip toes on the edge of a cliff. One way is anxiety and depression and the other is peace of mind. I want to stay safe on the ground but the wind is keeping me on a teeter. Maybe my want to hide is a coping strategy to stop me falling over the cliffs edge.

I am trying to be calm. I have been meditating each day but I cannot seem to find the peace I have before, even last week. I feel like there is a laser light show in my mind, one I cannot control. Thoughts are so fast I cannot catch them so I have no idea their content. I crave an ordered filing system and receptionist to help me.

A big sigh, a long nap, a holiday from life and a large mug of tea. Is it too much to ask for?

Tomorrow is a crazy day at work too. At my school we have one day a half term set aside for the whole school to learn personal, social, emotional, and well-being topics. As prescribed by the national curriculum. This means as teachers we are given lessons and students to teach on different topics all day. In the past I have taught anything from managing money, sex education, to bereavement and so many more topics. I won’t know the students I will have until tomorrow and did not know the topics until today. My control freak brain was already struggling, maybe this is why it feels so on edge this evening in this mental world.

A snow storm of pain and anxiety.

I do not like snow. I mean I do not mind it to look at, from inside. It is pretty and it glistens. I do like seeing the way it sits on tree branches. But that is it, that is where my like ends. Aesthetically pleasing but nothing more. I would love a picture of the snow much more than ever being in it. For all my fantasies from the books I read, I never wanted to go to Narnia.

There are several reasons that it gives me anxiety and makes me shaky. Firstly, I broke my arm a few years back in the snow. I slipped at the end of my garden path. One minute I was standing and the next I wasn’t. I knew it was broken before the X-ray. It hurt so much but it repaired as broken bones do.

Yet I have also had good memories in the snow, I was a nanny in Switzerland, I played in the snow with the girls and was sat in a jacuzzi surrounded by snow. But I was warm and it was sunny.

adventure cold cross country skiing dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The biggest problem I have with the snow is the cold. Cold sets off my Fibromyalgia, it is my biggest trigger. The chill when you step out of a bath can set it of, so you can imagine what snow does. The cold seeps into my bones. Last year when it snowed I had a duty outdoors at school then a walkabout (helping teachers with behaviour issues) around the site. Although wrapped up I still got very cold and it triggered a flare up that lasted weeks.

I do try to prepare, I wrap up warm and wear my snow boots. As soon as the temperature starts to drop I wear my thermal leggings and socks under my normal clothes. I avoid outdoors where I can. This year I even asked my mechanic to pump up my tyres as I did not want to try to do that in a cold garage. I just know it would result in me being in pain. Hands, wrists and legs are my biggest pain zones.

beautiful beauty blue eyes bonnet
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I also feel judged by people around me. I have to explain how I know what is best for me to avoid certain situations, or to explain my growing anxieties.  Today I had to try and explain, to a collegue, how being outside as I have to move around to being outside for a longer period was different and so could cause my pain. It makes me question my own belief and knowledge of my own condition.

My anxiety does also heighten as a precaution and of course the cold might not cause a flare up. However, do I want to take the risk? We all know that pain is not nice, dealing with it is mentally draining and physically exhausting. Especially when it could last for so long afterwards.

However, I also have to be aware that the fear of pain can cause pain itself. I know this too and so try to avoid this as well. Pain is so subjective and psychological. It is not just physical. Pain can be the bodies reaction, a defence mechanism as well as a result. Not because ‘it is all in my head’ but because our brains are clever and they know the best way to get what they want. To save us or control us, pain is a tool the brain uses.

I have often said ‘pain is my game, it is my life’. As a fibromyalgia patient I am in pain everyday, to varying degrees. I have studied it, lived it and tried to understand it. This does not mean I know everything, far from it, pain still trips me up and surprises me. Mine is also subjective to me. However, I have always believed that ‘knowledge is power’ and by knowing my pain, the best I can, does help me control it as far as possible.

So back to the snow. I know it is not going to kill me. It might not even cause me pain this time. But I know I will deal with it each day, as this is my life in this mental world.


My Floatation Experience: relaxed, calm but bruised

Today I tried a flotation tank. I was led to a room with a large oval pod that reminded me of something out of a science fiction novel. An escape capsule from a spaceship under attack. As the lid lifted I smelt the murky salted water I saw inside.

flight sky earth space
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Around the room there was a shower, towels, ear plugs and a hairdryer. It was not cold or hot. Clean and well equipped with anything I needed to prepare and to get ready for the world afterwards.

A friend had treated me to this experience and I was nervous. Mostly worried I would feel claustrophobic as the lid closed above me. She went first, sensing my nerves. I had an amazing back and neck massage, while I waited for her verdict.

She had survived and said it was nice. A bit weird, she admitted she got a bit bored. She reassured me, she still thought I would really like it. She reminded me how I love a bath. She smiled encouragingly, as I was led to the floatation room.

Inside, I changed into my bathing costume and showered to wash off the oils from the massage. I pushed the button and the lid automatically lifted in front of me. I stepped into the tank, neck cushion in my hand. The noises were muffled by the complementary ear plugs I had stuffed into my ears.

Sitting down I slid my feet forward and laid back. As the water was highly salted my body floated with ease. I took a deep breath and pressed the close button. No turning back now, off to space.

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

It was a little claustrophobic at first. I left the little red light, that was glowing at my feet, on and reminded myself I could get out anytime. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was in the pool on holiday in Antigua. A happy place for me, hot and sunny.

The music started and my hour began…I tried to push thoughts away and meditate. Focusing on my breathing, I pictured the blue of the sky, listened for the sounds of waves and felt the warmth of the sunshine. I think the smell of salty water helped my imagination.

I thought about a lot of the things, at first, things I am worried about at the moment. I actively had to accept the thought and push it away. Eventually my mind went quiet and, as I focused on my breath, I relaxed.

My limbs felt weighted and I needed to move them occasionally to check they still worked. I thought of each limb slowly relaxing, the water taking my weight with ease. I could have been anywhere; my mind imagined drifting over the middle of a lake, lost in the waves of the ocean, or dreaming in that infinity pool at the top of a Sri Lankan hotel, I once stayed in.

couple under hut beside sea and infinity pool
Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

It was relaxing and I enjoyed it. There was a significant reduction of bombardment on my senses, it helped my body to disassociate from the world. This is called Restricted Environmental Simulation Therapy. Some people describe feeling as if in a trance. Emptying your mind is meant to improve focus and mood. Some even experience hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.

Although new to me, floatation tanks date back to the 1950’s. They have been linked to helping with several medical issues; from stress, PTSD, anxiety, to Fibromyalgia, which I suffer with. There is no current science to back up these claims, and lots of people’s accounts come down on both sides. Like most things, it is probably down to the individuals experience and response.

I do feel better from it, I feel relaxed and calmer than I did before. I would recommend it for a relaxation experience. We bought our vouchers from the lovely website Groupon and paid the discounted price of £28. Prices seem to vary, similar to booking a massage.

I do think my mind got to a place of meditation, or even trance nearer the end of the session. Maybe if I did it again my mind would learn to focus quicker. I did feel my mind was much clearer than it was during my massage, a time I used to contemplate the world and put it all to rights in my mind.

My body also feels, on the most part, in less pain than before. I say mostly but that is not down to the floatation. This is because I did the ridiculous thing of slipping as I stepped into the shower, after my tank experience. I ended up on the floor with the shower step hitting the back of my legs as I fell. I think the oils from my massage came back to bite me, literally on my arse. Left a little bruised, a little embarrassed but glad no one was there to witness it.

Here is my relaxed, calm but bruised life in this mental (and sometimes slippery) world.

Letting Myself Cry

Dear teenage Becky,

I know things are hard. It seems like no one loves you or cares about you. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders before you should. Your mother is mean and yells, she tells you that you are not worthy. Your siblings and father call you ‘cry baby’, ‘lemon head’ or ‘melon head’ as you cry a lot. But you have every reason to cry and be sad.

Crying is absolutely fine. Cry away the sorrow of your childhood. The abuses and bullying you have to endure. Cry for the people you lost; loosing Nan and Granddad, when you were 14 and 15, was tough. Nan was the one person who seemed to understand your plight and then she died. It is ok to be sad about that, it is not blaming her. She had to go she was sick, you gave her permission to go, to gain relief from all her pain. But you have no relief from your pain.

You held back tears when people died believing you had to be strong for the family. You hold the family up, like the adults should. It is honourable, but you also have to look after your own feelings. Let out the tears. Bottling them up leads to pain, causing some of the migraines you suffer with and flaring up your fibromyalgia.

Crying lets out toxins and relieves stress. It is a natural bodily function that you should have and do. It expresses so many emotions from happiness to sadness (Wikihow – Cry and Let It All Out).

I know you do cry a few tears, for others and for happy occasions. You well-up at a wedding, when a baby is born or watching a romantic film. But you should also cry for you. Let out the pain and hurt from your own life story. You have suffered, and people have hurt you. You deserve those tears for you.

As an adult, I find crying almost impossible. I wish I was there when you started to hold back the tears to tell you “It is ok, let them out”. To counter the bullying and stand up for you. To come up with a witty comeback to the names they called you. I mean really ‘melon head’ what does that even mean? They were not the most intelligent of names.

Finally, also know that if you cry you are not your mother. I know she cries at every whim, at every argument and that she uses it to emotionally blackmail everyone. But when you cry you are not doing it with malicious intent, your tears are pure. Crying does not mean you are her. I know becoming her is your deepest fear, but you never could be her. You will come to learn and accept this in therapy.

With all the love and support you should have had.

Adult Becky

(Still no tears but I am working on it, in this mental world)

When emotional stress becomes physical pain…

I have spent the day in my pyjamas with a migraine. I am a chronic sufferer of migraines, have been for as long as I can remember. Through therapy and reading books, like The Mind/Body Prescription by John E. Sarno MD, I have come to understand some of my migraines and fibromyalgia pain is linked to my current stresses and past traumas.

So, is this migraine a stress migraine? Well, tomorrow I am meeting my family for our Christmas get together, so highly likely. It is not like I was actively even thinking about this event, looming ahead, and yet it has been stressing me out. Last night I couldn’t sleep and tonight the same. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, nauseous and my eyesight was blurred. This physical reaction comes deep from my subconscious, from a past of trauma and a present of the same.

You might think this is an overraction or you may be thinking ‘What the hell did these people do?’.

Well, either way this is the reaction I have. These days it is more about seeing my sister, Kirsty, although it is worse as this will be alongside my mother. So lets start there, my mother is a narcissist and I am her scapegoat. She will never see or understand the impact she has had, she believes she loves me and always has, I believe that is true but her actions said otherwise. I wear a bracelet everyday to remind me I am worthy and what I do is enough – it literally says ‘worthy & enough’ – to try to counter her abuses which shaped my self-esteem. I have told her about the trauma she caused me, well some of it, and she has apologised (with her usual justifications). The big change is that I no longer let her treat me badly and she has mostly adapted her behaviour. However, I am also learning to accept she is never going to change and therefore I have to stop expecting that change.

My sister is the bigger issue at the moment. I do not have a relationship with her beyond presents and family celebrations. We are polite to each others faces but that is it. To me she is toxic, narcissistic and unkind. I have chosen to separate myself from her, but this is new. I have spent 30 odd years of my life trying to prove to her that I love her. I have done everything I could to be the ‘good big sister’, to go the extra mile and beyond. However, the hoops she set for me to jump through got higher and higher and I finally realised she was never going to believe me.

This is the sad part of narcissism; often they just want to feel loved but don’t feel it when someone shows it to them. So they pick a new thing the person can do to prove their love and when that doesn’t work another and another. I could do it no longer, Kirsty is not able to love me for who I am and see that I love her.

Last Christmas this accumulated in me saying ‘No’ when she asked me to collect her (and her boyfriend, Lighty) from London and take them to our brothers for Christmas Day. Neither drive and there were no trains, but we are also talking about a journey that is usually 25 minutes to being 2-3 hours. I did offer my sofa bed if they came down by train the night before, but she did not want to spend time at my house with me. I suggested a hotel room near my brothers, or staying at our parents. From her point of view I did not want her at Christmas as this was my way of excluding her, to her I was being unreasonable and it was not a huge request to ask of me.

This last year was then filled with disputes like this; annoyed at me for taking my brother’s family on holiday and not inviting her (I was paying and could not afford to take her too not to mention her not wanting to spend time with me). Telling me off for having to work the morning of my dads 60th Birthday party and using this to say I did not love him enough, and so many other similar moments. These are twisted and manipulated to make me seem evil, conniving and wicked.

I know there are two sides to every story and she definitely has a different point of view. Maybe this is what worries me so much, as her view of me as a person seems so awful. A person I would never want to be.

I recently found out that, on a weekend visit to my brothers, my sister had a massive argument with my sister-in-law (Tash) over me. It started out so nice, my sister asking how I was and my sister-in-law saying I was good, expanding to include I was still seeing my therapist and had a dip after out holiday but I was overall okay. Apparently my sister and her boyfriend took this as I was clinically depressed and my sister-in-law was not taking it as seriously as she should have been. Why was she not more worried about me? So Tash pointed out to my sister, she has spent time with me and supports me so knows I am okay. It was pointed out to Kirsty that if she really wanted to know how I was she should talk to me. The argument went on and at one point I was even blamed for it happening. Kirsty and Lighty went home and this should have been the end to it.

But, Kirsty then messaged my best friend, Sydney. She asked from a place of concern how I was, as Tash and Aaron had described how I was not taking care of myself and exhibiting serious depressive traits. She asked that this not be mentioned to me as she did not want to change our relationship or alter the one I have with my brother’s family, but was concerned about me.

I am sure she does, on some level, care about me and my well-being. But she is also the one who does not want to have a relationship with me. I have offered to discuss things, I have apologised and have wanted to talk. I was knocked down and Kirsty said she was not ready, I respected that. I said to her that ‘this door is always open’ and that she just needed to let me know when she is ready. Yet she complains that I have not approached her to discuss and apologise, not that she wants me to. She wants to keep me continually trying to prove my love but that is exhausting and never going to actually change anything.

I have also got to the point where I am not sure I do like who she is, or at least the last Kirsty I knew. I do not know her now and would not profess to, but the last Kirsty I knew could not forgive, be open, listen and understand. She pushed me away and keeps me at arm’s length. She is also now acting like this with Tash, our sister-in-law and our brother, both who have much less to do with her now. I find this sad for her, I feel sorry for her and what she might be missing out on.

Stress ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’ (Google Dictionary). 

So tomorrow by definition stresses me out. I do not know what will happen. Will remarks be made about my mental state? Will I have to defend myself? Will there be an argument? Will I be blamed? Or will everyone pretend we are one happy family – which is so exhausting and also not good for my mental health but it is good for peace. I can bite my tongue to some extent. I usually busy myself with the nieces and nephew or helping with preparing food but why do we subject ourselves to this? Should I avoid these situations? Should I keep trying with her, as she is my sister? Should I confront her or avoid her?

So many questions on how I should act and what I should say. I feel there are no answers, I just need to gauge the situation and go with it. I need to try to hold in the anger and smile though it all. It is just one afternoon. I think I am trying to convince myself more than any readers out there.

I will report back soon so you know how I coped with my life in this mental world.