Painful Contradictions in Mental Health Treatment

I’m having a contrary time at the moment.

On the one hand, I am feeling incredibly awful – dealing with dreadful anniversaries, and a whole host of guilt, shame, self-hatred and fear that go with them.

On the other, I had the most positive CPA I could hope for today in terms of recognition of the work I am putting in to my placement (& the intensive therapy that is part and parcel), the progress I’ve already made, and everyone’s hopes for the positive trajectory of recovery they are currently predicting.

This second point is also making me guilty that I can’t “just be positive” and focus on the blessings of the help and support I am currently receiving that led to as yet unheard of positivity from everyone at the meeting (including myself). But here I am feeling overwhelmingly sad for all I’ve put those around me through and struggling to cope with that guilt.

To try to help get through, I was searching for a positive quote to paint as a reminder for myself, and this one struck a chord…

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“Because you are alive, everything is possible.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Just Bee

What my Occupational Therapist is trying to convince me to do

Hold On Pain Ends

Today’s Occupational Therapy activity was stone painting. I made something I need to try to convince myself:

Hold
On
Pain
Ends

A Gift From an Amazing Crisis Nurse

It’s a small gesture but in this situation means more than it seems and definitely more than she realises. 

Compassionate Other: The Muggle’s Patronus (Or How to Create Your Own Source of Compassion)

A brilliant nurse in my crisis team has recently been on a Compassion-Focussed Therapy training course and met with me the other day brimming with ideas. 

Self-compassion is something that feels entirely intangible and unachievable for me, so we’ve got our work cut out, but thankfully she’s willing to give it all a go with me regardless! I’ll share some of the different exercises as I embark upon them… first up is creating a ‘Compassionate other’. 

The notes I took from our session explain this as: Try to come up with a ‘compassionate other’ based upon the following…

  • this other will have the three core elements of compassion-focussed therapy: courage, wisdom and dedication
  • humans are fallible, so don’t use a real person, although you can think about which characteristics of real people you find comforting/safe/helpful and incorporate those 
  • could be a person, an animal or a mythical creature  [I like the thought of a protective mythical creature, like a dragon or a unicorn, personally]
  • use this compassionate other to counteract negative self talk

As drawing things helps me, we decided that maybe the best place to start was drawing this potential compassionate other to give me a visual prompt. Humans don’t feel at all safe to me, so I knew straight away mine wouldn’t be in the form of a human, and very quickly my mind jumped to mythical creatures and, more specifically, dragons. I thought of this dragon as being both gentle and strong, comforting and protective, and something that I could carry with me wherever I go…thus, the ‘Palm Dragon’ was born!

I think he’s rather sweet, but you can tell in his eyes that he can stick up for himself and for what he believes in, too. Now I just need to narrow down and foster his compassionate traits, and see if I can somehow implement him into coping mechanisms to counteract the never-ending, overwhelming negative self-talk and intense self-hatred.

I’m hoping this concept can also be fostered into something protective or safe-feeling that can be carried with me for other uses: my idea of a Muggle’s Patronus (for anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a Patronus is a “guardian or protector, which takes the form of an animal…one of the most powerful defensive charms…a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope”.

I’ll fill you in when I get further along creating and cultivating my compassionate Palm Dragon. I’d love to hear of any of you have already or will now try to create one for yourselves, too!

I am NOT broken

“But I’m so irreversibly broken” – a constant refrain of mine. I’m so terrified that I’ve been broken so completely and for so long that there’s no coming back…and, in fact, nothing to ‘get back’ to as this all started before adolescence; I’m scared that there stopped being a ‘me’ after childhood, and the ‘me’ that could or should have developed during adolescence couldn’t and wasn’t allowed to. What if there isn’t and can never be a ‘me’? What if this is all there is?

An awesome crisis nurse has been trying to help me work through this, having heard this fear from me constantly and tried in earnest to persuade me that I’m not broken, that nothing is irreversible, and that there really is a ‘me’ that should have hope for a whole and happy future. She set me the task of producing a piece of art to try to remind myself of this and I wanted to share this with you all, as I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

So, this is a reminder for anyone struggling with their : you are NOT broken. It can be so hard to believe this because poorly brains can be so convincing about telling us we are hopelessly beyond repair. So, so hard. But if my art helps in any way, please feel free to print off a copy for yourself and, as the aforementioned awesome crisis nurse always says to me: “Say it until you believe it”:

I Am Not Broken - doodle chronicles.jpg