Doctors, Councils and Depression

March 9, 2007 at 6:31 am 5 comments

I’ve been feeling a mixture of weird and crappy these last few days. But I’ve successfully manipulated my sleep patterns to actually get stuff done. Since I’m on statutory sick pay, I’ve got a claim for council tax and housing benefit in. They wrote to me asking for more information, so I took it along to the benefits office yesterday. I also took the filled in form they asked for after taking out a liability action against me for my arrears. I’m fairly pissed off about that, actually.

Back when they sent me advice that they would be taking out a liability action, I went to see the citizens advice bureau. The CAB called the council and got them to agree not to take out the action against me, provided I pay £30 by the end of January and keep up payments thereafter. So, I paid the £30. Admittedly, I didn’t pay them anything in February, but it turns out they went ahead with the liability action back in January anyway. I didn’t think it was going ahead or I would have attended. I called the council to point this out and their response was “tough”. Still, since I’m on SSP and have no resources, there’s no money for them to actually have, so taking me to court would be something of a dead loss for them. We’ll wait and see what happens.

And today, I’m awake and ready to go to my doctor’s appointment, which has finally arrived after a week and a day. This is the appointment about my hand. Weird lumps on two of my knuckles. They’ve started hurting now, not huge amounts, but enough to cause concern. I’m worried it’s some form of arthritis, which is why I’m going to see the GP, rather than doing my normal waiting until something’s causing me agony routine.

The other night I started writing a rather meandering and self absorbed post. I can generally avoid cutting by waiting until I’m too exhausted to do anything other than sleep. That’s pretty much what I was doing then.

“Pornography just reminds me of the lack of anything even beginning to approach sex in my life. People remind me of the distance between my life and a fulfilling life. My dumb little tragedies bore even me. I want someone to tell me everything’s going to be OK. But there’s nobody here and everything won’t be. It feels like there’s a void inside me, where all the things from the life I’m not living should go.”

Last time I saw my psychiatrist they were insistent that there was some event that triggered my cutting. “You may not realise it, but I bet there’s something that makes you do it.” I’ve realised now what my response should have been: Nothing triggers my cutting, because the urge to cut is almost always there. I’ve just got very, very good at distracting myself. When I do cut, it’s usually after days or weeks of wanting to. Nothing triggers it; it happens when I run out of ways to tell myself not to.

But like I say, mostly I can put it off until tomorrow and then, when it is tomorrow, I can do the same thing again.

Oh, and when I called the psychiatrist back on Monday, the secretary told me they’d have referrals out in a couple of days. The mail won’t come for a couple of hours, but I’m sure there’ll be something from them dropping through my door, right?

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On Counselling Unrelated GP appointment

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. edelweiss  |  March 9, 2007 at 10:59 am

    It’s going to be alright!

    I’m a CAB adviser, and – in my experience – only survivors make it through the doors. I count it a great privilege to work there. It’s a brilliant organisation, full of wonderful volunteers, with very good resources, but it’s the clients who make it. It really is a privilege to sit alongside someone who is making difficult, painful efforts to sort their life out, or solve a problem that is really getting them down. I really look forward to my days there. I never know who I’m going to meet – a couple of alcoholics who are living rough and have had three children taken away, a Sikh man whose daughter’s arranged marriage has gone badly wrong, men who find it is the only place that they are allowed to cry, people dealing with physical disabilities that would send me to my grave, and endless fights against the state and big organisations. Lots of debt, problems with benefits, tenancy problems, employment and discrimination problems, of course. Fancy becoming a volunteer if you have time on your hands?

    I think you’re doing a great job of trying to deal with things.

    Deep breath. I’m not sure if your blog is just an outlet for your thoughts, or whether you really welcome comments, and what follows may, I am well aware, sound as if I am completely mad. I am, however, not.

    You said you’d read Eric Berne’s book – Games People Play. I wondered if you’d read anything about Transactional Analysis then? (Could suggest a couple of good books). I find the idea of three ego states (Child, Adult, Parent) very helpful myself. I’ve got a good Adult state, probably an over-developed empathetic, compassionate Parent state, but it is my Child state that trips me up. I find it helpful, when I’m feeling down, or feeling like indulging in unhelpful behaviour, to remind myself that these negative feelings come from my Child state and I do not have to indulge them because I am no longer a Child with such limited resources and options. My Adult is better and better at regaining control. Especially since I dipped into another type of therapy – NLP – and used a “Magical Parenting” pattern to comfort my Child. It’s not about blaming my parents, but about being kind to the Child who deserved more love and support than she got.

    My role in my family as a child was to look after everyone – my father is still a child himself at 75, and my mother didn’t have much love to give (being married to him cannot have helped). I am the elder sister. Certainly no compliments, no affirmation came my way. I have a bad habit of looking for affection from replicas of my father – exactly the sort of people who have nothing to offer me but tend to find my broad shoulders very attractive. Inevitable rejection follows (I get stuck on the Karpman triangle – read about this?) which hurts a lot. But I usually (actually, used to) go back for more, and more, and more, being the eternal optimist. Two father-substitute role models came my way and I will be eternally grateful to them (they have no idea how important they were to me); they gave me periods of stability. I’m married to a wonderful, kind man (my luck to meet him in one of the periods of stability), and have two beautiful daughters, but I have nearly ruined everything twice. I really needed to sort myself out – not the adult and parent bit, because I function very well in society generally, am a veritable pillar in fact – but the sad, neglected, lonely, hungry child bit that almost nobody gets to see. I’d shut that bit off so that I did not have to look at it. I’d been amazing good at that. Hiding it even from myself. My counsellor believes that some grief/bereavement work will really help to heal the lonely, anxious child so I have a weeks left of that, and I do feel better already. Just understanding where the feelings come from, occasionally being able to see myself as I must have been as a child and to feel the burden put on me and to feel for that child, has been so cathartic. I offer this as hope for you.

    Anyway. My problems are not your problems, and self-referencing can get to be a pain. But a desire to understand myself, perseverence, and lots and lots of books and two shortish periods of (good) counselling have really helped me help myself. I find sad music, music in a minor key, really drags me down, sets off the spiral of gloom, even if I hear it in shops accidentally. Even when I think I can go back to it, I find I can’t. Equally, I find that Radio 4 is very good for bringing me back to my Adult state, distracting me.

    Take care,

    Edelweiss

  • 2. experimental chimp  |  March 9, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Hm. From a transactional analysis viewpoint, most of my problems with my father came from him adopting a rather abusive parent role, while I was adopting an adult role from a young age. When I mimicked his behaviour (adopting a parent role), he reverted to a child role and responded with irrational fear. This would often lead to blazing rows, with neither of us backing down until the point of violence was reached.

    I had lots of adult role-models when I was growing up. My brother and sister are both much older than me (from my mother’s previous marriage). My brother took the place of a father figure and in some ways, I’m very like him. My mother and I usually communicated adult-adult. Indeed, from the age of 12, after not dealing terribly well with being bullied at school, I hardly ever adopted a child role, except in times of extreme stress (the only obvious time I can recall is after failing to kill myself). I don’t ever look for emotional support from others (possibly because I found that it didn’t do any good anyway). I find it hard to understand why people look for emotional support at all, although when people do, I’m often the one giving it.

    I don’t play games and it makes me feel horribly uncomfortable to do so. It took me a long time to realise that telling the truth in some situations completely confuses people. Like when I was at university, people would ask me how my course was, and I’d tell them (quite cheerfully and truthfully) that it was a terrible course, but rather easy. After a while I realised that when people ask you these kinds of things it’s because they’re giving you a chance to push your status. Refusing to do this without showing any signs of worry is incredibly discomforting to people.

    My ex told me I came across as being incredibly affected, because ‘nobody could really think that way’. Even when she knew that really was me, she sometimes wondered if I was playing a huge joke on everyone.

  • 3. Edelweiss  |  March 9, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    “irrational fear”. Why “irrational”? Isn’t it normal, rational behaviour for a child to be frightened in front of an angry, abusive parent?

    My roles were quite similar to yours (except I was frightened and did not retaliate – much more the adapted, compliant child) and I held it all together as the shiny adult who did not need anyone or let anyone close until my mother died (I felt only relief) and I had two small children and a husband too busy building a fantastic career. Then it all started to unravel, I think, and the neediness of the Child started to come through. I am not sorry about that: I don’t think it is good to deny your needs to the extent where you convince yourself that you don’t need anyone. I don’t believe anyone who says that either (unless they tend towards Asperger’s). How can you on the one hand say that you don’t understand why people look for emotional support and, on the other hand, clearly want to be loved? I’m sure you will say that there is no contradiction there, but that is not how it looks to an outsider. Sounds to me as if the empty, lonely, unhappy Child is doing a pretty good job of making his needs felt in spite of you.

    As for the honesty … that’s great, as long as it doesn’t turn into constant self-deprecation. It’s easier to like someone who is not always doing fantastically well – schadenfreude and so on. What was your family script? Were you allowed to do better than your father?

    Enough. We’re going out this evening with a lovely Christan couple who think Mars and Venus will make everything OK. They haven’t a clue and I won’t be able to resist telling them nicely. But they are lovely.

  • 4. experimental chimp  |  March 9, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    There’s no contradiction th… ah.

    I actually think I do tend towards Aspergers. I have a post about it over here. There’s a theory that there’s an autistic spectrum that people fit along (with neurotypical ‘normal’ people up at one end, low-functioning autism down the other, and Aspergers somewhere in the middle. On that scale, I’d place myself between high-functioning Aspergers and neurotypical.

    There’s a distinction for me between having emotional needs and needing direct support. I don’t really go after emotional support even when I’m in relationships, although I have found it’s easier to have someone to be strong for, than it is to be strong for yourself.

    One of my favourite quotes is the opening line of Anna Karanina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    My father was definitely rather irrational. There’s nothing remotely rational about being afraid of your twelve year old son. He was petrified several times after we’d argued that I was going to sneak into his bedroom and cut his throat. I’d never actually made any threats against him, even in anger. When I was nineteen, we had a row and I stormed out the house to go for a walk and clear my head. When I got back, the door was bolted (I had a key). After my mum let me in, she told me that my dad was afraid I’d get back and gas them.

    I can’t remember ever being afraid of my dad. Angry, contemptuous, frustrated, but never afraid. After we argued, I used to cry from the sheer unbearable rage at the unfairness of this oaf having the ability to control my life.

    I’ve got over my hatred of my dad. It’s much better now that I don’t live with him. I can manage visits home and civil conversation without getting into arguments. Partly that’s because he’s calmer now he’s retired, partly it’s because I’ve learnt that the best response is to say “OK, dad,” and walk away. And he can be quite caring in his odd way. I hate what he did to me when I was young, but I don’t hate him anymore.

    Your question: “What was your family script? Were you allowed to do better than your father?” I always knew I was better than him. It was a rather weird family dynamic. Everyone in the family knew (and still knows) that there’s something wrong in my dad’s head. He’s never been diagnosed with anything. It was an open secret that my mother only stayed with him for financial reasons. (That’s changed over the last seven or eight years. They seem to have a happy retirement together.) I grew up hiding pretty much everything from my father. My sister (who was living at home) owned a horse for several years when I was very young that we managed to keep completely hidden from him. My mum essentially ran her life with my father as a minor annoyance to be controlled and, where possible, ignored. For his part, he was completely dependent on my mum for pretty much everything. He was jealous of the time she spent on anything but him (he essentially treats her children as rivals for her time).

    The honesty was definitely never self-deprecating. That’s another game that people know how to play. What they seemed to find disturbing was that I was saying negative things as if they were positive. For example, the normal script would go:

    Q: How are you finding your course?
    A: It’s great! Challenging, but I’m learning so much. (heard as: I’m on this great course, which elevates my status.)

    or

    Q: How are you finding your course?
    A: It’s terrible. I’m not sure I can cope with the work. (heard as: I’m looking for sympathy from you. I suck, like me.)

    but what I was doing was:

    Q: How are you finding your course?
    A: As bad as I expected. I’m learning absolutely nothing. (heard as: Huh?)

    It confused people. It was honest, but it was entirely the wrong response.

    Have a nice time with the lovely Christian couple.

  • 5. Edelweiss  |  March 10, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Dear EC

    Beautiful brains are very, very complicated.

    Simon Baron Cohen, narcissism, personality disorders, mirror neurons. My book shelves are groaning but all I know, at the end of years of struggling, is that people view the world very differently. Sometimes, for a very short while, something can happen between two very different people so that it feels as if they are fused, become one, as if they speak the same languages, as if they “grok” one another. But for one of them, particularly, it doesn’t last and each returns to their own world, the ego boundaries back in place. Then it can feel as if the other person is shut behind a wall of icy, cold glass, unreachable. Only one of the two wants to break the wall down. The other knows he should feel something, but he doesn’t, Camus-esque. He is quickly bored. He doesn’t understand that “going out” feeling that drags you towards the Other, or, if he understands it, it is only intellectually, not in his gut.

    The frustration of trying to reach that person again is simply overwhelming. There isn’t even a dictionary to assist in translations. What one person feels is a mystery to the other. There is no common understanding even of terms such as “love” and “friendship”. Learnt behaviour is no substitute for the elemental pull towards another person.

    Perhaps the biggest favour you can do yourself is to accept yourself as you are, with all your strengths? I like the way you come across on this blog and imagine lots of other people do too. I do hope you read the book on Solitude, not because I think that is your lot, but because it is a very accepting book.

    I think I know someone very much like you in some respects. I want to weep for him often, but it wouldn’t make any real difference to him if I did. He is concerned about others, very, very intelligent. He doesn’t need anyone, but would love to be in a relationship (no contradiction there either, apparently). He almost never feels the need to initiate contact and finds the internet a very comfortable medium. He can see straight through everyone and tolerates no fools. I love his brain, but he scares me. But that is irrational, I suppose…

    I have learnt more from engaging with him than from any other person. He has challenged every view I hold (though many have withstood the challenge). He forced me to knock everything down and start again. He has also hurt me more than anybody else ever. And he doesn’t know what love is, and could not describe friendship except in terms of sitting next to each other in silence, lost in thought.

    People are different and there is no point trying to make everyone the same.

    Edelweiss

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?

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