With a Snap of the Band

I have experienced different ways of (not) coping with my illness and the times where my dark thoughts overtake me. As I’ve said before I have locked myself in the cupboard for hours and hours. I’ve spent days in bed not moving. I’ve deliberately injured myself by scratching, hair pulling, hitting, cutting etc. I’ve even taken too many pills when I just wanted to make the pain stop.

Clearly these methods are not ways to cope, but just ways to escape. And I know they are very shitty ways to do it.

My current method of coping sounds a little counter productive (as it is sort of self harm) however it has been exceptionally successful. When I feel like I am losing control, when my thoughts are racing at light speed, and I feel like I am going to crumble I know I have to snap myself out of it.

I do this literally with an elastic band around my wrist. I pull it taut and let it snap against my wrist. I keep snapping it against my wrist as I try to get myself back under control. The sharp sting pulls my attention away from my thoughts, and brings me out of the downward spiral. Sometimes it only takes a couple of snaps, sometimes it takes a lot more. Sometimes I end up with bruising, but that’s only when the darkness has consumed me and I’m drowning in it.

Yes, I’m a little masochistic because I like the pain (I won’t lie, I’m also into a little B&D).

Yes, I know it’s dangerous to potentially give strength to the dark part of me that is convinced I deserve to feel nothing but pain.

But the stinging sensation, and the almighty snapping sound, grounds me and brings me back to reality. If I didn’t snap myself out of it with a physical reminder there is no way that I would be able to pull myself out of the blackhole of my thoughts. It’s especially helpful if I time each snap with a breath. I can control my breathing, and then my anxiety, and I regain control over my mind.

When there isn’t anxiety, only the depression, I write.

I’ve kept private journals since I was 13 years old. In them I write my thoughts and feelings – things that I cannot and will not ever share with the outside world. Getting my thoughts out on paper where I can arrange them into something that makes sense is a huge outlet for me. I generally only write in a journal when I am unhappy, or something is really bothering me.There are very few entries of things that I’d actually WANT to remember.

From time to time I’ve read back through my journals – and it’s very hard. Seeing all the dark places I’ve been to in my mind makes me really sad. But at the same time it’s actually therapeutic to see how much I’ve grown, and how much more rationally I cope with the dark times. There are far fewer entries of wanting to “end it all”. There is still a lot of self-hatred, and emotional self-abuse, and wanting to escape. However, the journal entries are spaced further apart – I don’t get as bad as I used to.

It’s not perfect, but I accepted long ago that it never would be.

The Trouble with Thinking Too Much.

I’ve said before I think a lot.

I am capable of sitting for hours constructing an elaborate story in my mind, replaying a past experience, or planning for a future encounter. I think about things to the point of over thinking them. At times I obsess over a particular train of thought. It’s like my mind comes to a complete standstill and I cannot move forward because my mind just goes over the thought in an endless loop.

At other times, it can be hard to keep hold of a particular thought, my brain jumbles them all up and speeds along like a rapid. I’ll spend so much energy chasing my thoughts as they flit from one subject to another, never getting the chance to process them.

Whether I’m stuck in a loop, or struggling to catch up to my racing thoughts – I have great difficulty in switching off. My mind is never at peace or rest. And this makes it difficult to get to sleep and near impossible to stay asleep for any length of time. As a result I have a massive sleep debt built up, and once every few months I crash from exhaustion.

In the lead up to the crash I reach the worst part of the cycle: the nightmares. If I had bad dreams of the relatively harmless kind – like being caught in public naked, or not being able to answer any questions in an exam, or some other benign humiliation I could stand it.

But I have gut wrenching, graphically explicit, shocking and horror filled nightmares. In my dreams I’ve routinely watched myself impaled with a huge pine post, gutted, decapitated, mutilated and other horror upon horror of scenario. I don’t wake up where normal people wake up – at the implication that something is going to happen.

Not me.

I watch the action as it happens, no censorship, no stylisation – just straight up blood, guts and terror. And then I wake up when it’s all over. When there is no point in waking up because the horror is over.

When I mention this to people I get asked if I watch a lot of gory movies, or TV, or video games or whatever. They think that something I’ve watched triggers the nightmares, which for many it’s a valid conclusion. I don’t typically watch explicitly gory things – mainly because I’m really rather squeamish and would be more likely to throw up or pass out rather than get scared.

Actually I really don’t watch much in the way of television or movies at all. I read a lot of book because I can really go wild with my imagination – books don’t force detail on you in the same way that a film or television show does. You have a lot more creative licence to envision a scene when you read a book. But again I don’t read books that would cause me to visualise something graphically violent because my imagination is just too good and I’ll make myself ill.

No the nightmares seem to be a manifestation of far too much energy being expended in thinking. I think it’s my minds way of forcing a melt down – a way of shocking me to the point where I just cannot think any more and my mind finally gets some respite and can rest.

The cycle is almost clockwork – over time my thoughts pick up in the speed at which they travel, and bring on the agitation, causing me to have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Then a weeks worth of nightmares bringing the sleeplessness to a critical breaking point. Followed by the crash, where I just fall to bits, and need to sleep for 2 or 3 days straight. And then after short period of mental lethargy where my thoughts are slower and clearer it all starts up again.

Where am I right now? Getting closer to the nightmares. i don’t have any clarity of thought at the moment. I’ve had difficulty writing this post because I can’t think straight. Everything I wanted to write flits in and out of my head faster than I can type (which incidentally is reasonably fluent at around 58 wpm).

I can’t really remember what the original intent of this post was – I know it was something about my thoughts working overtime but the specifics of what I wanted to say eludes me. This is a real problem for me I’m constantly trapped in my mind – and me being me it has a visual representation to go with that thought. When I picture my mind – it is a massive library complete with one of the old school cataloguing systems of index cards. The index cards are the markers or place holders for the books – and they keep everything neat, orderly and easy to locate. In my minds library the “books” are actually the specific memories or pieces of information I have stored.

However when my mind is in the state it is now – the library isn’t orderly and quiet. It looks as if a tornado has ripped through it – things everywhere, nothing is stored where it should be. The index cards have been thrown around the room, and sometimes rewritten so they don’t reference the correct data. The books have blank pages, ripped pages, and have been put back on the wrong shelves; if they are even shelved at all.

My mind is a complete mess, nothing is where it should be, and I can’t find what I am looking for.

The Origin of Me

In my past I have struggled with the inner workings of my mind. Time and again I was diagnosed with depression – bouncing between psychologists, doctors and counsellors. Each time I was frustrated by them wanting to find the point of origin – the singular event that made me the way I am. No matter how hard I tried to explain they were wrong, there wasn’t a place in time that “changed me”, they were convinced some terrible childhood or adolescent trauma had caused this trouble.

For years I floundered, no treatments were working. When it got really bad I would fall into self harm, and locking myself in the cupboard when I couldn’t cope with life. I took too many of my pills on several occasions and basically gave up on life.

But it wasn’t like that all of the time.

Sometimes I felt so good I didn’t need help, I was invincible, confident, ecstatic to the point of delirium. I’d make plans, huge life changing plans, act on a whim, spend money like I had an endless supply. I was reckless and would suddenly stop my medication because I felt so good I no longer needed it.

And then it would all come crashing down, starting the cycle all over again.

Finally I found a psychiatrist who recognised me for what I am. I live with bipolar disorder, and with a strict regime of medication, and psychotherapy I have better control. I have gotten to the point where I can usually identify triggers and predict when the pendulum of my mood will swing. I can function almost normally now, or at least give the illusion of functioning normally.

I’m still messed up, for many reasons, and not all caused by my mercurial mood. But at least I haven’t locked myself up in a cupboard for some time.