Staying safe in a crisis

I’m still in crisis mode here, working on staying safe until I’m in a better head space. I haven’t worked out what’s triggered this mess – that can happen and it can take some time to put things together. The task at the moment is staying safe. I have at least one severely depressed part, which is new territory for us. Anxiety is also sky high, I’m struggling to eat (or keep food down), fighting off a cold and sinus infection, and feeling very unsafe about self harm.

If the mental health system was less toxic, I’d be in care. But because it’s such a mix of good care and abuse, it’s high risk. For someone like me with my diagnoses, it’s likely that I’ll struggle to get any care at all, and that’s not a struggle I have energy for. On one occasion previously when homeless, on the run from domestic violence, exhausted at caring for another mentally ill family member, and seriously suicidal I turned up to ACIS and asked for help… I was told that I had a better chance of surviving alone than I did with their assistance because they do not treat people with DID well.

So that leaves me with trying to manage using my own resources and networks, to create something as safe as I can in my own life. I shut down to the bath if the self harm impulse is overwhelming. I’ve borrowed two bags of books from the library. This gives me something else to focus on. Sometimes they’re a useful escape. Sometimes I read things that help me in some way. There needs to be something to ease that dangerous, frantic despair, the kind that has you running into the night looking for anything that might make you feel differently. I also have movies to watch, preferably long involved ones I already know. The flavour of the week is Harry Potter movies.

Sleep and food are critical. If they are both interrupted I will degenerate into severe dissociation and borderline psychosis. I’m fortunate at the moment in that I’m sleeping. Keeping food happening is more challenging currently. When you’re very anxious your digestion shuts down, the thought, smell, and taste of food becomes unappealing. If I force myself to eat I will vomit. So I have to find small, filling meals of things that tempt me, where the smell or texture don’t turn my stomach. Sometimes this means I eat the same thing every meal – like a bowl of cereal. Sometimes this means I need a different flavour and texture for every meal for a while. This gets very difficult if you’re not well enough to drive and stock the fridge. I need to drink enough fluid that I’m not dehydrating.

I need to keep enough admin going that my life doesn’t crash. This one is hard. I’ve cancelled almost every appointment this week. I’m getting by at the moment. Yesterday I was up to cleaning all the rotten food out of the fridge. I’m keeping up with feeding the pets and sorting out the cat litter tray. I’ve paid my bills. I’ve actually contacted people to cancel appointments instead of just not turning up. I’ve taken the dog to the vet when she was ill. I’ve removed all the clothes and linen the cat has peed on to a big pile in the laundry. I try not to think about all the big things worrying me about my life plans for the next few months or years, or I become hysterical. The goal is just one day at a time. Today I’m hoping to buy milk, cordial, and maybe hang out with some friends this evening if I feel safe enough to drive and have a chance of passing for normal.

I try and stay in touch a little with other people. Facebook can be good for this, if you’re comfortable with that and know how to use your privacy settings. It gets hard to communicate. I’m mixed up. I stood at my kitchen window yesterday and simultaneously felt rigid, bitter despair about my life, and simple childlike joy. That’s hard to explain to other people. In between jags of the kind of distressed crying that we never see on TV because it involves a truly horrifying amount of snot, I look fine. Maybe a bit tired and jumpy. I spent 5 hours yesterday morning trying to work out how to reply to a text from Rose asking me how I was, while she got increasingly concerned. Don’t do that. We’ve since decided that an empty text with an asterisk in it means ‘I’m not about to kill myself, but I’m not very good and I can’t think straight enough to write to you. But I am awake and alive.’ In between thinking about dying, I’m okay, just very flat and tired. There’s even been some confusing but welcome good hours where someone happy turns up. After the first few days I’ve stopped hoping that this means the whole mess is over and getting devastated when I go down again. I also have to be careful because when I don’t feel like a complete mess, it’s easy to over reach and take risks I actually can’t afford to manage at the moment.

I’m short fused and low on tolerance. It’s important to stay away from people and situations that stress me, whether that’s unwelcome advice, overbearing cheerfulness, people who don’t get that I’m touch sensitive when stressed, whatever. Kindness goes a hell of a long way, as does feeling like it’s okay that at the moment, you’re a useless friend and a mess.

I need to not listen to the internal chatter that says things like “You’re just lazy and weak and pathetic and useless and looking for attention and could snap out of it if you really tried”. It helps when I can share that with someone who doesn’t believe it. There’s a sting in being able to confess stuff like this with someone who can say ‘well so what if it is true? I still love you’ and bring you an icecream.

I need space to be honest. My journal, a shrink, friends, somewhere I can pour out all of how messed up I really am feeling, instead of sticking to how I am being told I *should* feel in the hope that will help. Even if that means pouring out pages of reasons I’m a failure or why I hate myself. I need to be damn careful not to drown any one person in this stuff, especially not anyone who’s already vulnerable themselves – or anyone’s who’s inclined to argue about it instead of just being kind, because I might throw things at them.

I need to make sure if I can that at least one other person knows what’s really going on so that if it turns out that my assessment of where I’m up to is really off, someone else will step in.

I need a backup plan and other options in case this doesn’t work. In my case at the moment if next week is still bad I’ll be talking to my shrink. I also run a scale of stress-reduction behaviour according to degree of harm. So for example at the moment I’m struggling with a strong drive to self harm. I’m managing this using distraction, writing, wrist poems, hanging with other people when I don’t feel safe to be alone, and long baths. If I become seriously suicidal and can’t get help, I’ll change focus and let myself self harm if that reduces enough stress and generates enough dissociation to reduce the risk of a suicide attempt. I keep shifting the goals as I need to. If I’m having a good day I try to connect to my networks, get urgent admin done, and go somewhere nice. If I’ve fallen apart I consider that if I’m still breathing at the end of the day that’s a success. In the middle there is an attempt to self care and reduce stress with as little damage to myself, my relationships, and my life as possible.

On that note I’m going to fill a water bottle and watch the Order of the Phoenix.

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