The Stigma Of Treatment

All the important people in my life know I struggle with my mental health. That’s old news. I’m not even overly anxious about sharing some of my struggles with the right people at the right time.

On the other hand sharing what treatment I’m receiving for my mental health is so much more anxiety provoking and worrisome.

I’m on three psychotropic drugs, and there’s plenty of judgement and stigma from people about that. I need these medications to function, if anyone has a problem with that, they can get lost.

I’m seeing a therapist weekly. At this point in time the therapist is a psychiatrist. In the past they’ve been psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors. Therapy is a really good way to help me manage my mental health. Again, if people have a problem with that, they can get lost.

Then there’s the inpatient psychiatric admissions. Five in the last two years. Most of them for about three weeks. Not all in times of crisis, but of great stress, and with multiple crappy coping strategies being used.

I’m heading for my seventh admission with the same doctor at the same hospital. I trust my doctor, and I trust the nursing staff. I know the admission will be helpful, they always are, but I’m scared to tell anyone.

I worry so much more about what people might think about me being in a psychiatric hospital, than being on medication, or in therapy.

Is it really that bad that I need to be in hospital?
Yes. Doing the same amount of work in therapy outpatient is impossible. Plus I’m stuck, again. DID chaos, and multiple shit storms brewing beneath the surface. That doesn’t even cover the issues I’ve had with mood (both hypomania and depression in the last month). It is that bad.

Can’t I just get over it? Isn’t therapy enough? Can’t they give you medication?
I’m doing the therapy, and taking the meds. I’m still struggling. As for getting over it? Get lost.

I know hospital is a safe place to crash land. I can be a mess, be emotional, struggle in any kind of way and it’s okay. I don’t have to keep it together. I don’t have to keep smiling. Staff are kind and supportive. I have time and space to unleash the chaos, work through it, and put myself back together again.

I’ve still only told a few people. I’m so fearful of their reaction to, and judgement of inpatient treatment that I stay silent.

I think the stigma associated with psychiatric or psychological treatment can often be so much worse than the stigma associated with a diagnosis.

It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s even more okay to get whatever help you need to be okay again.

Stuck

I’ve reached a point that I’ve reached many times in the past. A point where outpatient therapy isn’t working. A point where I’m fleeing the images I’m continually seeing in my head, the nightmares, the body memories.

Therapy involves talking. Talking about the flashbacks, the body memories, the terror, the fear, the anxiety. It means facing what I’m scared of and trusting my therapist to go there with me.

At the moment I’m running from all of that. Listening to what younger parts have to tell me seems okay in the moment, but it allows everything else to come up. Once that door is opened it’s very hard to close.

Talking about that in therapy leaves me sitting in an awkward silence. Too scared to talk about what’s really going on, but still frustrated at my fear.

Opening up that cupboard of painful, traumatic memories leaves me feeling overwhelmed. When that emotion reaches a tipping point I zone out. Dissociate to the point of being completely unresponsive. So unresponsive that I’ve been referred to as unconscious whilst in that state.

That unique ability makes outpatient therapy difficult. I’m desperate to talk about everything going on inside, but terrified of not coping, of losing control, of zoning out. Dissociating at the moment, to that extent, is almost guaranteed if either I or my therapist push talking.

That leaves me with only one choice. Another hospital admission. I’m frustrated and angry at it coming to this point again. I don’t want to be in hospital. I want to be okay. I’d prefer to stay at home in my own space, with my own things, and my freedom. Sure, hospital isn’t bad. It’s actually one of the most helpful things I could do right now, and the staff are amazing, but I still don’t want to do it.

I have a month or so until my admission. A month or so to try to get practical things organised for the time I’m in hospital.

Depending on how I cope in the lead up to this admission there may or may not be new posts. I’ll try to keep up with posting every two weeks, but prioritising self-care means this may not happen.

Our Sensory Toys

Over the years we’ve slowly accumulated a rather nice collection of sensory toys. These toys, often aimed at children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
and/or Sensory Processing Disorder, are also helpful for people with anxiety and trauma based disorders.

We have a complicated list of different diagnoses including both physiological and psychological. I’ve seen so many different doctors, specialists, therapists, and allied health professionals. All have given different advice and guidance on managing my symptoms.

When it comes to my mental health the things I’ve found most helpful are the ones I’ve discovered on my own, or suggestions from professionals that I’ve tweaked to better suit my needs.

No one every suggested sensory toys for grounding. Ever. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon them. Mostly they were fun toys. I knew I’d pick at skin, fingernails, and clothing when feeling anxious, so something to play with helped. Sometimes that meant taking a soft toy to therapy to hold and play with. Now I usually sit and run my fingers over the plastic bottle of Diet Vanilla Coke I have before/during therapy. It has raised bumps, lines, and the label, plus the lid. Lots of different textures.

At home I have more choice: a weighted soft toy, a fidget cube, two different tangle toys, and a weighted blanket with fiddle tags.

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Our collection of sensory toys: A weighted hedgehog soft toy, a fidget cube, two tangle toys (smooth, and textured), and our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket with our DIY fiddle tags.

Different parts have preferred items. The pastel tangle toy is Miss 12 G’s, but not the textured tangle toy. That hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet, but I quite like it. I close my eyes and focus on the texture of each piece, try to describe it, then picture it. The fidget cube is relatively new, and liked by several of us – Miss 5 likes the colours, Miss 12 G likes pressing/touching different parts of it in order (all about patterns with her!).

The big weighted hedgehog toy belongs to all of us. Not only is it weighted (I think it’s 1-2kg), but the fabric it’s made of is all different textures that can be touched, rubbed, ruffled, and played with for all different sensations. It’s comforting (the weight), and distracting (the textures) for all of us.

That brings me to our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket. I still have absolutely no regrets about buying it, and spending so much time sewing fiddle tags on. We still find the weight calming and reassuring, and the fiddle tags good for grounding like the sensory toys.
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Drifting

As I write this I’m dissociated. I’m detached from my body, from my emotions, from the world around me. I’ve tried drinking coffee, hoping that the caffeine kick will get me more connected with my body, but nope.

I’ve aimlessly don’t more chores than my body can usually tolerate all because I can’t quite feel my body, the pain, the deadening fatigue.

Grounding? I can’t think what helps. I can’t think what I’ve done in the past.

I’m drifting. Staring blankly into space before realising I’m doing so and trying to jerk myself back to reality, then drifting again.

I know self-harming would be grounding. The sudden pain would bring me back into my body. That’s not something I want to do, or something I’d ever recommend though!

I thought getting my brain working, writing blog posts, would help. It hasn’t. This is the third post I’ve worked on today and I’m quite rapidly becoming more and more dissociated.

Thankfully there isn’t anything that I need to do today. No work, no obligations outside of the house. I just need to eat, drink, and take care of myself.

There’s so many grounding skills I could try, but I’ve been here before and they tend not to make much difference.

  • Counting everything I can see around me that is red (or blue or yellow)
  • Drinking icy cold water quickly
  • Putting an ice pack under my feet (and focussing on the sensation, not dissociating from it)
  • Counting backwards from one hundred in multiples of three
  • Saying the alphabet backwards

Switching Isn’t Always Bad

We’ve been switching a lot recently. Multiple times a day on our ‘busiest’ days, and once or twice on the quieter days. Some nurses (we’re currently in a psychiatric hospital) don’t appear to be very comfortable with this.

This evening Miss 7 was out and had a conversation with our nurse. There was nothing particularly interesting about the conversation until the nurse asked Miss 7 how to get me, Life As A Committee, to come back.

Miss 7 said she didn’t know, but that I’d come back if they needed me. She also said I was tired and that was why I went back inside. I’d also ducked back in to give everyone else some space to write, draw, or otherwise express themselves.

One day another nurse expressed concern about me wanting to switch because of some uncomfortable feelings. It turns out those feelings were seeping through from Miss 19, and switching with her allowed her the time and space to do some journalling, and write a poem. Having the space to express herself eased the uncomfortable feelings, and when she was done I came back.

Please hear me when I say this: Switching isn’t always a bad thing. It’s certainly going to be of concern if a part/alter comes out who is suicidal or otherwise unsafe. That’s not an issue for us at this point in time.

Being able to switch so freely here means we’ve gotten a lot of work done with lots of different parts. Perhaps some nurses are uncomfortable talking to parts/alters, or perhaps they’ve been misinformed, but switching isn’t bad!