Watching through my fingers…

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog front. Clearly we’re all under some pressure, but I’ve also been dealing with some bonus pain. I’ve had episodes of awful symptoms which signal that my pancreas may be acting up again. It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with pancreatitis and I am scared of a comeback.

The pain triggered some really desperate memories. It also gave me lots of time to ruminate on how PTSD never stops giving me unpleasant surprises. The nature, frequency & severity of my reaction to trauma stimuli is forever changing. In my (also unending) quest to de stigmatise mental illness I thought some recent triggers might be worth sharing.

Waking up in the middle of the night to pee is not a thing that I do except during pregnancy. I’m a hold ‘til morning girl. The frustrating sensation of leaving a comfy bed & stumbling to the toilet in the dark is one I associate with pregnancy. Sitting on the toilet half awake looking at my painted toes I had the trauma version of de javu. My body remembers this. The exact emotion. The precise thoughts. I’m ok, but I know I won’t be getting anymore sleep. I’ll be distracting my head from going back there. Lying still in the dark would be asking to feel things I don’t want to feel.

Sometimes to occupy my mind through those sleepless hours I watch crap tv. Ideally something I don’t have to concentrate on. Mildly entertaining 90’s sitcoms work a treat. That is until the wife in King of Queens is unexpectedly pregnant & then just as they’re getting happy about it, not pregnant anymore. Numb viewing to uncontrollable sobbing in 20mins or less.

A fun park adventure with the rascal is momentarily derailed when someone calls me his Mummy. I smile, correct them & return to my role of bad octopus pirate. I feel the impact, but I look steady. Until much later when the memory of all the babies who’ll never call me Mummy knocks me flat.

I wake up bloody because my period has started in the night. I’m not inconvenienced I’m terrified. Those cramps ripping through my pelvic region signal disaster. It takes a bit of time to centre myself in the now. Repeat, ‘I’m ok’ over and over as I drag myself through a shower. Tampon, comfy clothes, paracetamol. I’m almost calm by the time I return to tackle the bedding. I’m genuinely shocked when the sight of blood on sheets sets me trembling. I was devoting all my attention to not getting sucked into one trauma hole that I forgot about another. I have to sit on the floor but I’m still watching an old iteration of myself. Younger, sicker me is ripping bloody sheets from an entirely different bed. More than the sheets are stained. My body is raw & dripping. I feel as exhausted now, in my healed, safe body as I did then in that recklessly butchered one.

My stupid period tracker with its stupid unwanted alerts. High chance of pregnancy. Such a simple sentence triggers such complex crazy. The stress and hope of trying. The heartbreak of failing. The unwanted reminder of how few of these high chance days may be left. Fleeting recollections of disappointing perfunctory sex and an even more disappointing man. Wearily buying tests. Angrily buying tampons. Wanting the monthly reminder to be over and fearing that end. Wrap it all up in a hollow ache in my middle that never leaves, but echoes as I read those words and you have my condition.

My ridiculous cat managed to injure his paw and now I must try to keep dressings on until it is healed. If you know anything about cats, you’ll know what a challenge this is. I have experimented with various ideas none of which preserved his dressings for long. I started thinking he needs a sock & then remembered I had some baby socks. They must have belonged to one of my nieces or nephews. Baby bits and pieces will end up in your hand bag/pocket after a day of auntying. I seized upon the long lost sock as the solution. I didn’t feel sad or even link the tiny item to anything painful until I started trying to put it on my cat. Then from nowhere I was flooded with too many feelings. I love my boy, he’s wonderful. Still, I couldn’t avoid the fact that he’s the sole recipient of my mothering.

A character in the book I’m reading is trying, with difficulty, to explain why she feels guilty for various past events. I feel as though I have taken a deep breath & inhaled fictional strife. My own twisted guilt is equally hard to comprehend. For me, self reproach is as essential as oxygen. The chord of perplexing guilt could catapult me into a multitude of memories. This time I land flailing in the aftermath of standing up for myself. I can feel the certainty that so recently fizzed go flat. That overwhelming sense of this must somehow be my fault returns. I feel angry about all the shit I put up with, but I still can’t fully convince myself I’m not to blame. Now I’m full of guilt for events long passed. Today is ruined as I attempt to untangle things that never made sense to begin with.

Triggers lurk. Sometimes entirely unexpected things stir up pain. It can be fleeting or set off a chain reaction. I have adapted to a life with booby traps. I often appear untouched, but only because I work so incredibly hard at hiding the mess.

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Pretty things…

I’ll never live in one of those perfect show homes. I hate the idea of constantly redecorating, I’m messy and I like too many random bits. When it comes to interiors I tend to sod the rules & just do my own thing.

I call it homey. I’m sure others may have other adjectives. As usual, I couldn’t care less. It all feels like me and that’s a thing I wanted to carry that onto my walls. Amongst the many photographs I want to hang art that means something to me. The best way to accomplish that is buying from independent artists. Not only do I get a special piece, but I can support talented & amazing people too.

Home is a feeling in a background of multi coloured bubbles

My latest is from the gorgeous Robyn Boyle. A beautiful artist & person, Robyn was offering a limited number of reduced price portraits to raise funds for art activism. I snapped one up and was amazed when she produced this stitched drawing. The frame I ordered has been delayed, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share this.

Portrait of man wearing glasses.  Black thread on white paper

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Welcome to my nightmare…

I didn’t sleep last night (shocker, right). Actually, I did kind of sleep. I was so dog tired by 11pm that I decided to try going to bed like a normal person. I read for a bit and much to my relief, I fell asleep. For about 45mins.

I was awoken by the first nightmare around midnight. By half three and the fourth nightmare I had given up on the idea of sleeping. Nightmares are the part of PTSD that I don’t really talk much about. Maybe because they are an intermittent problem. Probably also because it’s not something that people (in my experience) take seriously. Responses to my attempts to discuss my nightmares have ranged from vaguely dismissive to full on belittlement.

I think when I say nightmares people hear bad dreams. You’re probably thinking of anxiety dreams (teeth falling out, failing exams, getting fired etc) or standard scary dreams (trapped somewhere, being chased, really bad person creeping around your house horror movie type stuff). Maybe you’re even imaging those childhood bad dreams that are terrifying in ways that are incredibly specific to you. All of which are horrid, but not at all debilitating. I suppose I do understand why folk say things like ‘well, they’re not real’ or ‘as soon as you wake up it’ll be gone’; that’s their experience. Oh, how I wish it were universally true.

Creepy face

PTSD nightmares are a whole other thing. They are related to trauma. For me, they often mirror my flashbacks. Sometimes they’ll get creative and go abstract. I’m trying to get some rest and my mind will just be replaying amplified versions of the most distressing moments of my life. My head is a terrible editor; it just rapidly cuts from one horrendous image to the next. All of which are graphic. Blood and dead babies are the common denominators. They’ll begin in a very realistic & upsetting fashion and degenerate into gruesome bloodbaths (sometimes literally).

Blood splatter

As I mentioned the nightmares are a sporadic problem. They almost always have a trigger. That can be a really tiny thing that I possibly didn’t even pay that much attention to until it starts becoming a pivotal detail in my dreams. It can also be a major life event. My nightmares are usually accompanied by & linked to flashbacks in my waking hours. They always come in clusters. I never have just one upsetting dream. They plague me every time I close my eyes. All of which adds up to a significant disturbance.

The torment doesn’t melt away when I regain consciousness. There’s always more to come and it is real. Every scene is drawn from my reality. I end up scared to sleep and just as scared to be awake. I can’t be alone in this because nightmares are close to the top of every PTSD symptoms list. Any psych evaluation or questionnaire will ask about them. Yet, I don’t see much discussion of the topic. I include myself in that. It’s an aspect of my mental health that I feel really uncomfortable being honest about. I don’t know exactly why we’re all so tight lipped, but I’d bet stigma plays a part.

Sleeping ly

It’s always the messy parts of mental illness that we shy away from. Anything that feels uncontrolled or dark or too close to crazy is glossed over. Those who haven’t experienced it don’t want to think about. Those of us who have don’t want to deal with judgement. Where the nightmares are concerned I think there’s also an element of feeling stupid. Kids get frightened of bad dreams. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that you should be able to handle it. Especially when that’s the message the world is giving you.

I’ve yet to discover anything that’ll chase the dreams away. Sleeping pills aren’t helpful because they make the nightmares more vivid. Thankfully they occur less frequently than they used to. Keeping quiet certainly isn’t helping. Perhaps if people knew what I was referring to when I say nightmares they would be less patronising. A little empathy can go a long way, but you have to understand someone’s experience before you can offer that.

Truth will mess…

I’ve scaled back my ‘social engagements’ of late for various reasons, meaning note worthy outfits have been sparse. If I’m not in my jammies I’m doing medical nonsense or carry on with the little ones. High fashion has not been my go to.

Upping my #ootd game on my mind I planned something cute, did my hair & painted face. Then I made the stupid mistake of waiting until the end of a baba filled day to take any pictures. The rain wrecked my hair, I look frazzled and I’m really not loving how my arms look. I was going to abandon posting this look, but then it occurred to me that this is life. Flabby scarred arms, crumpled clothes & tired everything are reality. All the things you do to make the mess are worth more than the perfect picture anyway.

ly h KerrBaby playing

Close up eating broccoli ly h KerrBabies lunchingly h kerr rumpled

T- Shirt – Forever 21

Dress – Hearts & Rose

Shoes – Primark

This week I have been mostly…

Been having too many feelings. It’s been a busy old time on the emotional front. There have been a bunch of triggers that I’m not going to go into, but the result has been a pretty messy me. I’ve done what I always do when I don’t think I can trust what I feel; retreat whilst I decode. I’ve spent a lot of time with myself listening to music that either comforts or acts as a conduit for those emotions. Thus I present, all the tunes that I’ve been hitting repeat on.

Teenage Talk by St Vincent is simultaneously sweet & deep. It’s wistful sound is definitely aided by the harpsichord & the fluid tone of St Vincent’s voice. The song pours over you like tequila smoothly warming your insides. The lyrics capture the both the nostalgic way we view the past & the reality of why our youth is so alluring. As the song says, our teenage years were before we made any terrible mistakes, but our golden days are also probably much more mundane than we remember. I like the hope that realisation brings. Simpler isn’t always better.

I first heard Strangers on Graham Norton, which is probably a sign that I am very old, but the nevertheless I instantly loved it. I just really like the sound of Sigrid’s voice, so I suspect I’ll like anything she releases. The changing tempo of this one is very pleasing. The sort of ‘anti romance propaganda’ of the lyrics paired with heartbeat like bass is incredibly appealing. I’m loving it.

I’m mostly loving this next song because if I close my eyes when I listening it transports me to warm blue waters & floating peacefully. After a few listens of Lana Del Rey’s, Get Free the lyrics sunk in & spoke to me. Being ‘crazy’ can feel like being stuck on a ride that you can’t get off. Even in recovery I often need to remind myself that sometimes I can press stop. I like the imagery of stepping out of the black & into the blue. I also very much enjoy sinking into depths of its instrumentation.

You know sometimes you hear a song & it feels like it was written just for you? That’s how I felt when the first time I listened to Lorde’s Liability. In fact, it took me quite a few plays not to cry. In describing her own very different situation she perfectly summed up how I feel about by interactions with other people. Through a combination of mental illness, physical illness & just being a pretty weird person I have learned to feel that I’m difficult to love. The lyrics of this song sum up my internal thought process perfectly. I’m the kind of person who can be exciting & different. My weirdness seems fun, my crazy a little wild, but the novelty always wears off. In the end the whole package is trouble. I’m too hard & my charm wears off. In short,

‘I’m a liability. A little too much for everyone’

For a long time I was completely convinced that summation was 100% correct. Then as I got stronger I began to believe that maybe it wasn’t true at all. Man, that negative voice in my head is strong, though. So, honestly sometimes I still feel like liability is a spot on description. Sometimes I think it’s only half true. Other times I just can’t decide what’s true at all. Regardless, it’s a beautiful song. Soft piano based sections spelling out sadness. Extended phrases that almost make you run out of breath as you rush to complete them; just like the panic you feel when you realise someone is leaving you. It’s a stunningly painful song. That leaves you hurting in all the right ways.

Snowy trees viewed through a window

The Guillemots are incredibly underrated. Their songs invariably hit all my spots & I don’t feel amazing now is no exception. From the second the song starts the music & lyrics are expertly entwined. The slowly rising chords are the perfect aural interpretation of the lyrical plea for help. The beautiful honesty of just admitting, I do not feel good is refreshing. The combination of wanting to be left alone, but also really needing someone to take your hand and make it ok is too familiar. The surprisingly hopeful note in such a despondent song is again emulated in the introduction of steel dreams to the orchestration. It lifts the song onto another level & has me hitting that repeat button time & again.

‘Just take my hand & stop the moonlight fading

Just take my hand & lead me up the stairs

Just take my hand & make me feel amazing,

‘Cos I don’t feel amazing now…’