TW for non-specific mention of self harm
I have been given so much support over the last week. (Originally that sentence said “more support than I deserve this week” so I had to go back and rewrite it – I wish someone would invent the therapy equivalent of a spellchecker that would automatically correct invalidating and self-deprecating statements to positive self-affirming ones.)
It’s been a hard week, and frustratingly, half of what’s been hard is completely in my head. Yes, the crisis plan finished last Tuesday, so I no longer contact Anna when I’m intending to act on self harm urges, but that doesn’t mean that anything in my life that would trigger me to self harm has actually changed. In the four months we had the plan, I only contacted her three times anyway, and all three ended with her calling the police. A bunch of uncomfortable men in uniforms standing in my bedroom asking me where I bought my artwork is really something I can do without.
My trip home to see my cousin and her kids last week was taxing, though not quite in the way I expected. I knew the kids would cling and cry when I left, and ask me why I couldn’t stay. What I didn’t expect was the honest, connected conversation with my cousin about her social phobia, about the way her parents spoke to her when she was a child and how her mother shamed her father for his depression, about how isolated she is and how frustrated she gets with my oldest niece. There are probably two people in the world she’d have that conversation with, and the other is her husband. Her trust in me brought our connection alive again, and the more connected we are, the more guilt I feel about betraying her. She still won’t get help from a psychologist, even if I pay, even if I go with her, and I had to do something to protect the kids, but I’m doubting whether it was the right choice.
And my army has rallied. Last Wednesday, I spoke to Aisha in the morning, and then spent most of the rest of the day barricaded in my bathroom, telling myself I wasn’t allowed to come out until I’d harmed myself severely, but struggling with the physical pain in a way I never have before, to the point that I ended up screaming. I reached out to Jen via text that night, and despite having four kids, two dogs and a new puppy, she got back to me just before midnight, checking if I needed medical help or support and asking me to touch base with her the next day. Which I did, but not in the way she expected. I’m experiencing major inner cringe as I write this – my friend had an appointment with her in her capacity as a chiropractor, and suggested I come along, so I did. A whole new level of gatecrashing. I sat in on their appointment, then my friend basically demanded that she see me before her next patient, and she was incredibly gracious about it and did. It wasn’t that helpful in the “wow I feel better” sense (unsurprisingly since at the time I was having a bad reaction to a new medication I’d forgotten I’d taken) but it was really reassuring to see her and know she was still there. I felt a little like a child sitting on the floor playing nearby while her mother chats with friends. I didn’t really want to talk to her, I just wanted to be with her.
From the same friend who took me to Jen, Aisha heard that I was struggling, and sent me an email on Thursday to say she was thinking of me and sending me a big hug, and then reached out again to offer me an extra session on Saturday, which I took gratefully. Again, it wasn’t so much about the content of what we discussed as it was about reminding myself I’m an adult now, I have support now – I’m having experiences which are scary but I can talk about them with someone now.
I saw my GP on Friday, and she was the same lovely mix of completely unhelpful advice and totally warm support that she always is. She’s just not good at talking to me about emotional issues, but while my injuries were being dressed, she sat next to me on the bed, bumped her shoulder playfully against mine then leaned her head against me and said “You can come every day if it helps“. When we walked back through reception, she called out cheerfully to her receptionist “Who can we cancel so Rea can come again on Monday?“, then stood rubbing my back while we made another appointment. After I left, she texted me to say “it was really good to see you today – didn’t realise I’d missed you until you left“. Her level of affection for me does make me anxious, because I feel like I always have to be “on” to make sure I keep it, but I feel very cared for with her.
I am so lucky. And it still doesn’t stop me dramatically spiraling when I get a response that isn’t what I hoped for. Last Wednesday, the awful day, I texted Anna to ask if we could set up an appointment for the next week (the good old scheduling excuse), when really I just wanted contact with her. Thanks to Rachel, I at least considered just saying I was struggling and wanted some kind of nurturing from her, but the whole point of the crisis plan ending is that we don’t have an agreement for that any more and I just couldn’t. She texted back three options, two of which were impossible (which you SHOULD KNOW, Anna, why don’t you have my schedule memorized?) and the other option she knows I hate (we refer to it as the Devil’s hour). And I totally flipped.
Why didn’t she check in on how I’m doing when she knows this is a bad day for me – hell, two weeks ago she wanted me on 24 hour watch today! Why is she offering me session times she knows I won’t want -is she trying to stop me coming in next week? She doesn’t even care about me. I hate her. I hate her!
She asked whether my appointment with the new psychiatrist had been scheduled for that week, and then asked if I was going to follow up with them or if I wanted her to do anything about it. By now, I was petulant, but still passive-aggressively reaching out.
“Thanks, but not right now. I can’t cope with anything else at the moment, I’ll think about following up next week.”
A couple of hours later, she responded “Really sorry to hear things are tough. If you need me to ring that Dr I will.”
Of course, what I read was: “I am not providing any support other than calling the psychiatrists office. End of conversation“. I felt so angry at her for abandoning me and fell into that place of despair mixed with rage, and immediately turned it against myself: “Anna hates you. Anna doesn’t care about you. You’re such a stupid bitch.” And plenty more.
Even at the time, I knew (again, thanks to Rachel) that I wasn’t communicating in a way that was going to get my needs met. And yet I was still triggered as hell when they weren’t. I think this is the negative side of having so much support offered by Aisha and Jen and my GP – when it’s not forthcoming from Anna, it feels even more punitive. Which isn’t fair to Anna, because everyone gets to set their own boundaries.
And then I was in tears tonight. I thought I was so secure in my relationship with Jen that I couldn’t be triggered by any perceived rejection, but I was wrong. This morning I took Everest to my appointment with my GP (at her request), which made me think that maybe Jen would be open to me bringing her too. Tomorrow morning I’m taking Everest to my office and will have to go straight to Jen from there, so I texted her to ask if Everest could come too. Why not, right? The worst thing she can do is say no.
Turns out the worst thing was harder than I expected. When I read her reply I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me: it was a moment of pure shock.
“Hi Rea. Apologies, but no pets in the clinic. Thx. Jen”
Innocuous, right? BUT IT’S NOT. She never uses my name in texts – she always opens with “Hi there” or something similar. And she never signs off with her name and it feels weird and distancing and the whole tone just seems off. So I’m spiraling into a mess of criticisms for texting her last week (even though I checked and I’m allowed), for showing up without an appointment, for being too much and inappropriate and crossing boundaries and needing to be put in my place.
Part of me knows that this is crazy. That I’m talking about a woman who offered to come to my house last year to throw out my pills to make sure I wouldn’t overdose. Who has offered for me to stay at her practice all day when things are really bad so she can keep an eye on me and make sure I stay safe. Who texted me back on Christmas day even though she was in the hospital with her teenager daughter who had just broken her leg. That she has four kids and an incredibly busy practice and that even if she is or was frustrated with me, it’s temporary and it’s okay. But it’s not okay. It hurts. And it’s so frustrating that even though my army prove time after time that they care and they’re there for me, it only takes one little perceived misstep for me to fall off the edge.