Mommy Transference at Work

It’s been almost two months since Nikki left. At first, I missed her intensely, thought about her constantly, was counting the hours and minutes and seconds until she’d be back, but I was stable. No self-harm, no suicidal ideation.

Then I crashed. Like a piano falling out a twenty-storey window. It was loud and dramatic and I ended up in pieces at the bottom. Without Nikki around to catch me and protect me and parent me, I glommed onto the first mother figures I could find, and I can’t make myself let go.

Unfortunately, those mother figures are my managers at work.

***

There’s Carol. Frighteningly competent, matter-of-fact but with a sharp sense of humour. Two teenage children, boys – she invited me to go camping with her family last year. I’m completely in awe of her, and I so badly want her to think well of me that I get tongue-tied whenever I talk to her. She’s the human resources manager, and she’s told me I’m precious, beautiful, intelligent, hard-working and good, but she was also the one who sat me down and told me I was coming across as arrogant and my colleagues were complaining about me.

There’s Sam. Only been with the organisation about a year, and I feel less intimidated by her. Has a teenage son with major mental illness, and is fascinated by brain plasticity and optimistic about healing. The level of detail I’ve shared about my issues is way out of proportion to the depth of our relationship. Over the last fortnight, she’s started calling me “dearest“, and “hon“.

And Kim. The manager of the internship program, the one who’s known me and believed in me since I was an undergrad law student with no work experience. Her brother killed himself in front of her – this stuff is re-traumatising for her, but she still sticks around. Calls me “love“, “bubba“, “my angel“. The first time I had surgery and she was visiting me in hospital, she said “I wouldn’t let one of my kids go home in this state, so why would I let you?“. Later, when she said she had too much on her plate and she could be my friend but she couldn’t be my mother, I was humiliated at the implication that I was expecting too much from her, and crushed.

***

It started with the overdose.

I’d been in a downward spiral for days. Not going to work, not even getting out of bed. I couldn’t make myself do anything, and that made me anxious, and that made me even less able to do anything. So, I texted Kim, and asked if she could pick me up on her way to work the next morning. That way I’d have to get up. Inconveniencing Kim by not showing up on time and making her late would be even more anxiety-provoking than getting up and going to work.

Except I impulsively decided to take thirty times my normal dose of anti-psychotic, (knowing it wouldn’t be fatal), and I did not show up on time. I slept through all fourteen of my alarms. And they panicked.

When I woke up, I had missed call after missed call, and a bunch of texts. The last one was from Sam, and it said I had half an hour to get in touch before they called the police.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I felt so stupid. Why was I so fucking useless I couldn’t take myself to work? Why was I so fucking useless I couldn’t get out of bed on time? Why was I so fucking worthless? I called Sam and told her I was fine and I was about to start work on a report, but I felt so young and guilty I couldn’t put up my normal professional front, and I was slurring my words, and she worked out something was wrong.

It didn’t take much convincing for me to tell her how many pills I’d taken. I wanted to give her a better reason for scaring them than just I’m a useless cunt and I slept in.  I felt about four years old, and she was talking to me in the kind of tone you use with very young children.

Can you unlock your door? I’m sending someone around to check on you.

I heard Carol’s voice in the background, muffled, and then Sam came back on the line.

Rea, have you cut yourself at all?

Nooo.” I was disappointed with myself – I wished I could say yes.

Carol’s voice in the background again, then another question from Sam.

Have you done anything else at all?

It was one of those crazy frustrating moments where I just wanted to shake myself and yell at myself to snap out of it. Rationally I knew that I hadn’t, completely 100% knew, but the part that was running the show genuinely felt unsure.

Don’t think so.

You don’t think so?” A pause. “Can you have a check and see?

I thought for a second. “I’m fine.”

You’re fine,” she repeated in a cooing, baby-talk tone, presumably to pass my answer on to Carol. “What about your arm? Is your arm okay?

Yep.”

Yep. What about your legs, are your legs okay?

 

She kept running through and confirming different body parts, and part of me was going I’m a 26 year old woman with a law degree what the fuck is happening, and the rest of me wanted to be babied even while I found it ridiculous and embarrassing.

What about your neck? Is your neck okay?

While the rational part of me was saying internally ‘Yes, of course it is, it’s fine‘, I was standing in front of the mirror, examining it, leaning in close to check. Then the intercom rang.

Do you know what that noise is? That’s your door.”

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, no. I put her on mute, and started taking pills as fast as I could swallow them. The same thing I always do when help is on the way – make sure I’m really fucked up enough to need it. Things had gotten so out of control so fast, and this was the only thing I could control.

Rea? Rea? You have to let them in, hon. You need to let them in. Go and push the button for the intercom.”

“Rea? Rea? Rea?”

“Rea, it’ll be okay, just go push the buzzer and let them in.

I could hear Carol telling the police that I wasn’t responding, but I didn’t know what to do. My mind was running frantically, trying to come up with a way to undo it all. To go back to 8am and get in the car with Kim and drive to work and listen to her nag me about whether I’d eaten breakfast.

I’m fine, Sam,” was all I could come up with.

I could hear her brain working, trying to come up with a new angle to convince me. “Well, just let them in so they can see that you’re okay, and then it’ll all be okay. But if you don’t let them in then we don’t know you’re okay.”

I caved, but it didn’t matter – they’d gotten into the building anyway, and they were on their way up.

I’m going to stay on the phone, okay? Will you leave me on the phone so I can be here if you need me?

The whole conversation makes me cringe, and I want to block it out and hold it close, both at the same time. But that part – that part makes me feel warm. She wanted to stay with me.

***

That afternoon was beyond awful. The police called the paramedics, and they decided not to schedule me, and I was pitifully relieved. But the sedative effect of the pills took all control away from me.

I had a psychiatrist appointment in the city, and I woke up five minutes before it started. Getting up and walking downstairs was a struggle, and I kept gagging in the back of the Uber. By the time I walked into the building, I was staggering like I was drunk, and I crashed into the wall and then collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t get up. My face felt hot and my arms were tingling and I thought I was really going to die.

This is rock bottom, I thought. Oh my god.

Lawyers from the chambers in that building were walking past and stepping over me, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t keep my mouth closed, and I couldn’t think of anybody I could call. I just had to lie there.

After fifteen minutes or so, I managed to stagger the four steps into the lift, and once I reached the fourth floor, I stepped out and collapsed again, so close to my psychiatrist’s door I could have reached out and touched it. It was another ten minutes before I could get up again.

***

I didn’t go in to the office the next day, but I talked to Sam on the phone. She tells me she feels closer to me, and she feels like she got to talk to the real Rea for the first time.

I don’t want to dump this stuff on you, though.”

There was a moment on the phone where I just got this gut feeling that you’d gone – I thought you’d slipped away, and the way that felt…” She trailed off.  “Anything is better than that. I’d do anything to prevent that.”

***

Things kept getting worse.

It’s heartbreaking for me to see you like this,” Kim says, while I’m lying on the couch in the Story Room at work, unable to get up and sit at my desk.

We’re deeply worried about you,” Carol says, after pulling me into a private office to ask me why I have steri-strips holding together a cut on my face.

Everest isn’t the only one who loves you,” Sam says, holding me while I sob and tell her she has to keep Everest if I die.

One night, when there’s nobody else around, I take out the rope I bought specifically for this purpose, climb up onto a wobbly desk chair that’s missing a wheel, and hang myself from a bracket in the wall. The rope leaves friction burns on my neck, and even though I cover them with concealer the next day, people notice.

***

A couple of days ago, Carol and Sam left for a week-long visit to one of our remote program sites, and the childish intensity of my feelings was terrifying – I had to literally bite into my tongue to stop myself saying “I don’t want you to go“. When I found Sam had rushed to the airport without coming to say goodbye to me, I was crushed.

But I wanted her to check on me, the little parts whimpered. I wanted a hug goodbye. 

Yesterday morning I had to text them both to tell them I’d be working from home – that’s the deal. If I don’t show up and they haven’t heard from me, they call the crisis team.

Are you okay? Is there a particular reason for working at home today?” Carol texted back.

This is where I fucked up. I could have kept a balance between honesty and boundaries, and told her I wasn’t feeling great but I was able to work as long as I could stay in bed. But those baby parts have no fucking boundaries. They hurt, and they need mommy to know that they hurt.

Nope, not okay. Mostly working from home because I can’t get up, but also am not safe being in the office atm. I am being productive and have talked to [boss] about priorities for today and tomorrow.”

Reading that makes me want to kick myself in the face. I hadn’t told anyone about hanging myself in the office and the massive triggers I was facing there and I desperately needed someone to hear that things were really not okay, but I knew that sending that message was just feeding an unhealthy dynamic. I knew, and I sent it anyway, because I so desperately needed to not be alone.

She called me immediately, and tried to convince me to go to the emergency room. I didn’t want to, so she gave us both half an hour to think, and then she and Sam called me back on speaker, and spent twenty minutes coaxing me into a safety plan for the rest of the day. We agreed I’d work for an hour, then I’d go out for a walk, and I’d text Carol a photo so she knew I’d got up.

Okay, so that’s the plan – you do that, and then we’ll talk again later this afternoon, okay?

You really don’t have to do that.

Yeah, I know, but we want to do that,” Sam said firmly, and Carol chimed in over the top of her.

Yes, we want to.” And I felt held, and a little more stable. I showered, and I went out. I texted Carol a photo of the McDonalds sign [“This is what you meant when you said to go outside, right?“], and sent Sam a couple of photos of the kittens.

They didn’t call.

***

I cried on my bathroom floor for hours last night. I thought about taking myself to hospital, but the thought of going alone…I didn’t want to do it. I wanted Carol or Sam to take me. I thought about texting Kim, but it was late, and I was afraid she’d say no. Or say yes, even though she didn’t want to. A couple of weeks ago, on a really bad day, she’d offered to take me to the hospital, but made it clear that she’d just drop me off, she couldn’t stay – she had to work on a scholarship application with her daughter that night. And it stung. She’s not my mother, and her daughter comes first. But it stung.

I feel very alone. I know there are millions of people in the world who feel the same way I do. Who’ve hurt themselves the way I have, and worse. But in my therapy groups, in my friends who self-harm, I’ve never connected with anyone who understands what it’s like to spend hours breaking your own wrist. To burn yourself badly enough to need surgery. To smash your head against the wall hundreds of times until you’re bleeding from your eyes. To have done two of those things while you were still a child. I’ve hurt myself so, so much. It feels like too much.

I climbed into bed with Everest, and she curled into me with her head on my chest. I kissed her nose, and told her I loved her so much, and that everyone knew how much I loved her, and they’d make sure she was okay.

And then I took an overdose of Panadol.

(Which I almost immediately threw up. I’ve taken so many overdoses my body anticipates the nausea before it even comes. I can still feel the chalky taste of the pills in my mouth.)

***

There was no way I was going to the office this morning, but I didn’t want to tell Sam and Carol that. I wanted to be petulant and sulk. I’m not your friend any more. Making them chase me, though – no. I was grouchy with them, but I didn’t want them to be grouchy with me. So I sent a short text: “Staying home today“.

An hour or so later, Sam called me to check in, in a casual ‘I’m assuming everything is okay’ kind of way, and we chatted amiably for a couple of minutes. Until I threw another.fucking.dramabomb.

Is there anything you need from me before I go?” she asks.

It would be good if you or Carol could refer me to the crisis team,” I say off-handedly, and she’s startled.

What’s happened?

It doesn’t matter.

It does, it does! Okay. You’re very – well done, okay? Have you taken something?

 

We go back and forth – I’m cagey, trying not to over-share, and she’s insistent that I tell her what’s going on.

Don’t be shame with me,” she says firmly. The way Aboriginal people speak about shame really resonates with me – it’s not something I feel, it’s something I am. Every piece of me is consumed with it, wants to disappear into myself, hide. I’m so mad at myself for being so high maintenance. I’m not worth it; I’m a waste of space; they should just fire me for causing so many issues.

I tell her. Carol calls the crisis team multiple times, and they refuse to get involved.

***

I don’t know how to make myself stop.fucking.disclosing.everything. I have to have better boundaries, but it’s so hard to put that cat back in the bag. Especially when they’re actively encouraging me to reach out to them. I’ve made some feeble attempts to be more professional and take a step back, but:

I don’t want to keep holding you guys up. I know you’ve got lots of stuff you need to be doing.”

You’re not holding us up. I don’t want you to feel like that. We want to make sure that you’re safe. That’s the priority – us supporting you as best we can.”

How can I not crumble?

Mommy Transference at Work

This Is Beyond My Capacity For Radical Acceptance

When I turned up to therapy on Tuesday with ligature marks around my neck, Nikki kind of freaked out. The night before I’d choked myself with a rope until I was coughing blood, so I suppose I can’t blame her.

I barely spoke. I just sat and looked at my hands. Nikki commented that they were shaking, and that I looked fragile.

“Do you need a hug?” she asked gently.

I shrugged, and didn’t look up. Yes, I needed a hug, but not from her – too intimate, too much contact (and I’m taller than her: too weird). I wanted her to sit next to me, maybe hold my hand or rub my back, but I didn’t want a hug.

She told me a story about getting sick while she was travelling in India, and going to get a hug from Mātā Amṛtānandamayī, the ‘Hugging Guru’, “and bloody hell, if you can’t give someone a hug, it’s a ridiculously sad day. Because you know, part of me went ‘Appropriate? Not appropriate?’…I feel like giving you a hug. Probably boundaries…fuck boundaries.

She pivoted straight into asking whether she should be calling an ambulance, or the crisis team, or one of the Jewish mamas from work, or my brother, so I didn’t get a chance to respond. Which is just as well, because I had no idea what to say. I wanted comfort so badly, but I couldn’t ask her to sit with me, in case she said no – after her comment a few weeks ago about how weird it would be if she was sitting there holding my hand, the risk of rejection or uncomfortableness was too high. But I didn’t want to say no, either, in case she never offered again.

In the end, instinct ruled the day. I was standing, ready to leave, and she was looking at me, obviously reluctant to let me go, and then she started swooping in, her arms out. She got one hand on my shoulder before I twisted the rest of my body away and threw up an arm to block her, saying in a panic “I don’t want a hug!

Fuck, I hate that I did that. She had to go out on a limb to offer it to me, and I didn’t want to push her away or make her feel uncomfortable, but fight or flight just took over.

I refused to promise her that I’d be safe that night. I don’t think she has any idea what it’s like to be me – I can’t ever promise that I’m going to be safe, because I don’t know. Even if I’m feeling okay, in half an hour something could trigger me and I could be slashing my wrists in the bathroom. I’m never more than a step away from the precipice, and that night I was right on the edge.

Twenty minutes after I left, she called me. I didn’t pick up, because our phone conversations never go well, and the only way it was likely to end was with me feeling worse than before.

When I listened to the message, I could tell from her breathing that she was walking home. She reminds me to eat something, to cuddle my cat, and that I can call her up until 10pm if I need her to phone for an ambulance, and she tells me she’s going to call the crisis team, because if I can’t guarantee my safety that’s what has to happen.

And I’m fucking pissed. If it’s so clear and certain it has to happen, then why not tell me to my face, instead of calling after the fact, just like you did last time? If you’re that fucking worried, then why not call the ambulance yourself instead of making the crisis team do your dirty work?

I walked the 4km from Nikki’s office to home, because she asked me to, and I felt a little better after being out in the air. A few hours later the crisis team called, and I ignored it. They sent me a text message saying they were coming around with the police, and I rolled my eyes. Yeah right: I’ve heard that one before. Good luck with those empty threats.  But there was still a little niggle of fear in the pit of my stomach.

A little before 10pm, the intercom buzzed. At this stage I was just delaying the inevitable, but I still couldn’t bring myself to let them in. I don’t want these strangers in my fucking house. A few minutes later there was a banging on the door, the kind of banging that’s quite happy to keep on banging for as long as it has to. I’ve subjected my neighbours to enough over the years, what with the hysterical screaming and the police and the blood trails down the corridor and the constant smell of cat urine, so I open the door.

Two male police officers, and two female crisis team staff. I’m sarcastic, and evasive, and too cocky, because I’ve had the crisis team come over while the rope was still lying in the middle of the floor and they did nothing, so I’m confident I’m safe.

I’m wrong. They schedule me, they call an ambulance and they take me to hospital.

They search my bag, they search me, then they take all my stuff away from me and lock in a plexiglass cabinet, where I can see it but I can’t have it. They take my blood and give me a cup to pee in for a urine sample. After a couple of hours of sitting uncomfortably, debating with myself and cursing myself for not planning ahead, I ask permission to change my fucking tampon, and the nurse accompanies me to the bathroom (like I haven’t been here enough times to know exactly where it is). It’s all invasive and intrusive and humiliating and I need to be in my (suddenly less) safe home in my (suddenly less) safe bed, but I don’t have a choice, so I step outside myself and make myself be numb.

The doctor and the nurse and the psychiatrist ask questions, but I don’t speak. Can’t. Won’t. I’m overwhelmed and angry and scared and refusing to speak is the only control I have left.

I’m in emergency, in the same little box-room I was in last time. Last time, when I smashed my head against the concrete wall thirty times, until the nurse came in and yelled at me to stop. Last time, when I sat and sobbed hysterically for hours, eventually resorting to wiping my nose on my jeans when nobody brought me a tissue.

One of the nurses comes in with a printed copy of the poetry she found in my file, hoping it will comfort me. The poetry Anna used to read to me. It’s an incredibly sweet gesture, and also the worst possible thing she could have done. She leaves it on the floor, and I want to tear it in half, hold a chunk of the paper together and cut my arms with it. But I don’t want to risk getting the nurse in trouble, and I want to go home.

A few hours later, I’ve calmed down enough to be ready to talk. I want to ask the nurse whether Candeece is working, and if she’ll come see me.

Almost a year ago, the last time I was admitted for an overdose, she was my doctor, and when I had a total meltdown in January and was scheduled for the night, I got the chance to thank her. My upper arm had been a mess of cuts, and she couldn’t keep track of which ones she’d already anesthetised, and I wasn’t speaking so I couldn’t tell her, but she never got frustrated or impatient, just apologised every time she hurt me. Some of the cuts were spurting blood, and when she put the needle in, it sprayed up into my face. I flinched, and squeezed my eyes shut, and she wiped it off gently with a cloth.

That was enough to cement her in my mind as a good, safe person. I need a good, safe person right now, and I want to ask for her. But I can’t. I wait for the nurse to come back in, and I try to ask, but I can’t get any words to come out.

I sit sideways on the bed, with my back against the wall and my boots on the sheets. The nurse offers me pyjamas, but I refuse. I don’t want to accept that I’m staying here for the night. She lets me have my phone back, and I play games, look at tattoos on Pinterest, and a bit after 1am, I give in to the temptation to send Nikki an angry message.

“The crisis team showed up with the police – apparently my psychologist told them that I tried to kill myself last night. I told them that wasn’t true, but apparently my psychologist told them I was going to lie to them, so they didn’t believe me. They scheduled me and took me to hospital and apparently I’m stuck here at least for the night.”

My battery doesn’t last long, but there are lights and alarms and people screaming, and I don’t want to try to sleep. Almost idly, I look around the room, thinking of ways I could hurt myself. I’m holding a half-full Styrofoam cup of water, and an image pops into my head of jamming my mouth and nose into it and trying to drown myself.

As bleak as I feel, I have to laugh.

Eventually I lay down, and at around 6am, I drift off to sleep.

I wake at 7am, and I talk. To Nurse Q, to Doctor W, to Psychiatrist Y, to Psychiatrist Z. And then I wait. Nikki texts mid-morning, tells me she knows I’m probably very angry but my safety is really important to her, and calls a couple of hours later. I am very angry, and I don’t pick up.

They let me leave, and I go home and go to bed.

She calls again around 7pm on Thursday, and her voice message sounds a little defeated. I’m still mad, but I’m not enjoying it, and impulsively, I decide to call her back. The conversation is awkward – her son is on her lap, and she talks to him intermittently – but I hang up feeling more okay.

This morning, I can’t get up for work. It’s been almost two weeks now, and I’m rapidly running out of sick leave. Impulsively, I decide to take Nikki up on her offer of a session. There isn’t anything I want to talk about…I just want to be with her, and be comforted.

And she’s sweet. She’s lovely. She starts with a rapid-fire of concern: “What’s up? What’s happening? Are you okay?“. She asks if the crisis team called me last night, like they were supposed to, and when I shake my head, she flips out and says that she’s going to call them tonight, “because that’s fucking shit!“. She says she regrets letting me leave on Tuesday, and she should have put me in a cab and taken me straight to hospital.

At the end of the session, I’m standing near the door, waiting while she packs up the office to leave for the day. She’s standing on tiptoes, sliding the box of kinetic sand back into the cupboard, when she says:

So I’m going to say it now because it’s going to be extremely obvious, if it isn’t already – I’m pregnant.

Everything goes numb. This is my worst.fucking.nightmare. This cannot be happening right now. This is so far above and beyond my capacity for handling bad things right now. Oh god, fuck. 

Oh,” I muster, and she laughs. “I didn’t notice. Congratulations!

She talks a bit as she continues to potter around, about how they’ve been trying for years, that she gets really massive when she’s pregnant so it could be a bit confronting, that she’s not due until April but she wants to reassure me that she’s barely taking any time off, she’ll probably only be gone a couple of months, and all I can think is: Don’t cry. Don’t you dare fucking cry. 

This Is Beyond My Capacity For Radical Acceptance

Groomph and Meh, With a Side of Sulking

I’m mad at Nikki for calling the crisis team, and I’m mad at the crisis team for being shit, and I’m mad at myself for being impossible to help. And I’m a little mad at Albus for pooing in my toiletries container, but that’s a different story.

Last week, right after they had actually visited, it didn’t affect our session at all. I wished she hadn’t called them, but I didn’t feel guarded or closed off from her.

That shifted over the weekend, when I was googling suicide methods until I found one that ticks all of my boxes, and broke down in tears thinking about tucking myself into bed for the last time, and holding Everest in my arms while I died. I don’t want that to happen, but I’m afraid it will. Before, I would have felt some comfort knowing that on Tuesday I could tell Nikki how awful things were, and even though she couldn’t do anything to change it, she would care, and I wouldn’t have to be the only person in the world knowing just how dire things were getting. But now that I know she’s going to call the crisis team, I can’t talk to her about more intense suicidal ideation.

And I’m MAD. I’m mad that she’s left me alone with this pain and this fear and sadness. I’m mad that she passed me on to the POINTLESS crisis team who show up, see the noose ON THE GROUND, and do NOTHING, just to cover her ass because legally she has to call them, but she hasn’t tried to find me any ACTUAL help, like the community support program I’ve found in my area, or the public system she SAID she’d try to get me into.

I’m MAD that she isn’t as invested as Anna, or Jen, or Serena. I’m MAD that she didn’t really make an effort to find out how I felt about the crisis team coming, or whether it was going to put me at more risk of hurting myself. When Anna contacted the crisis team for the first time, she called me a few hours beforehand to talk about my anxieties around it, then arranged a text check-in after they’d come, and called again the next day to make sure it hadn’t sent me off the edge of a cliff. And I feel betrayed and alone and sad, because I trusted Nikki, I shared so much with her, and it feels like she’s taken that trust too lightly. That she knew passing me on to the crisis team was a big deal, but she didn’t really get it, and she didn’t really do anything to try to protect our relationship.

I couldn’t talk to her today. Going in, I knew that closing off from her would just hurt me more, but I couldn’t summon any part of me that wanted to share anything personal with her. Towards the end she asked me if I had “one foot out the door“, and I just shrugged.

I wasn’t trying to punish her by refusing to talk, and I wasn’t even feeling angry with her. I know that legally she had to do it, and I know that she struggled with it, knowing it would affect our relationship, and she was chastised by the crisis team for waiting three days to contact them instead of doing it immediately. I know she didn’t do anything wrong, but the trust we had is gone.

I’m going to go back and try again. I’ll try to open back up to her, and hope we can connect again. But next Tuesday feels like a long way away.

Groomph and Meh, With a Side of Sulking

Flora the (Good?) Fairy

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The first time I call the crisis team, I hang up as soon as someone picks up the phone. I take a breath, laugh at myself internally, then call again and leave my name.

When I get a call back 10 minutes later, it’s Flora, and I’m relieved. I wouldn’t say I like her, exactly, but I know her, at least. She’s done all my home visits, before I figured out that I’m allowed to refuse, and some of my you-still-alive? phone calls. I last saw her in January the day after I was released from the hospital, and she seemed concerned though a little unsure of what to do with me.

She doesn’t give any indication that she remembers me, but I know she has my file in front of her.

What can we do for you? she asks, businesslike.

I’m looking for a psychiatrist and I haven’t had much luck, I tell her, so I was hoping you could suggest some for me. 

There’s a long pause. Ohhhkay, she says slowly. Umm….now….was there a specific requirement?

I’m feeling awkward, and confused, and embarrassed. Yeah, I’m looking for someone who does psychotherapy, I force out. There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to tell her, like I want to see someone who can see me long-term, who will let me bring Everest, preferably who has some experience with dissociation or self harm or something relevant to me, but I already feel like I’m demanding something I’m not entitled to just by calling and I can’t bear the thought of being even more demanding by outlining a whole list of things I want. Anyway, the words won’t come out.

And have you spoken to any of your current service providers to see if they’ve got any suggestions? she asks, and I immediately start welling up with tears.

I don’t have any. 

What about any psychologists? she asks, and I’m annoyed. First, didn’t I just answer this question? Second, Anna got in touch with them to let them know she was quitting – that’s the whole reason for all the weeks they spent trying to get in touch with me.

My psychologist left over a month ago, and she told me to get in touch with you guys…she got in touch with you as well….I’m stumbling, not sure what to say.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she says, part acknowledging and part dismissing. So have you tried the leaders from the DBT group? 

I’m confused – why would I have asked for a referral from the leaders of a group that finished over two months ago and had no provision for ongoing contact? – but I still feel like I’ve done something wrong.

No, I haven’t.

Okay, she says. I can’t think of any names off the top of my head, but I’ll give you a call back in about fifteen minutes. 

She does, and she gives me three names and tells me that if these don’t work out, to get my doctor to call them for some more suggestions. (What I hear is: we don’t want to talk to you.) I’m polite and express gratitude I don’t really feel, then hang up. I’ve already gone into a tailspin of shame and self-loathing and panic and I’m picturing blood oozing from my arm.

State the facts, I tell myself, remembering the DBT skills. I called the crisis team, they asked me some questions, and then they gave me three names of possible psychiatrists. That increases the shame – they gave me exactly what I asked for and I’m still upset. Why do I expect so much from people? Why did I think she would offer me more support than that, after the weeks I spent dodging them?

It’s 9pm and I’ve been in bed all day, asleep for most of it. I still feel exhausted.

Flora the (Good?) Fairy

I’m Being Petulant (And It Doesn’t Become Me)

I still haven’t spoken with Anna, or Aisha, or Jen. And the mental health crisis team is still pursuing me.

They started by just calling and texting me. I didn’t answer. They escalated to coming to my apartment building (but couldn’t get in), leaving me letters, and voice messages saying that if I didn’t allow them into my home to speak with me, they would call the police. (They didn’t.) They threatened to contact my family, then called one of my friends to see if I’d spoken with him, and openly admitted they were breaching my confidentiality by even contacting him.

This makes me angry, on a number of levels. The worst part is, I know my anger isn’t really justified, so I don’t even get to self-righteously enjoy it. Somebody (either Serena or Anna) referred me to them, and so they have to take some steps to check in on me. But I hate that I have no choice but to engage with them; that a normal person can refuse to pick up a phone call they don’t want to answer, but I can’t. I hate that even though I know they have female staff, every phone message and request to come into my home has been from a male. I hate that there’s no way for me to text them back to decline their offer of services, even though they can text me, because I find talking on the phone anxiety-provoking at the best of times.

Today, when I was on my way out to meet with my boss, a man was standing at the front door of my apartment building, banging loudly. I opened the door and smiled at him, and he apologised and went inside. A minute later, he literally ran at me in the street, having belatedly realised that the chick covered in scars was probably the person he was there to see.

I said: “I’ve got somewhere to be“, and kept walking, and thank god he didn’t keep following. But it upset me a surprising amount; I was fighting back tears, and feeling panicky, like my home wasn’t safe anymore. It’s usually a place where I can hide from the outside world, but now the outside world is coming in.

I know I’m being ridiculous about this. If I called them, spoke to them like a mature adult and allowed them to make a home visit, they would probably stop pursuing me. But I’m being petulant because I don’t want to and it’s not fair.

I’m Being Petulant (And It Doesn’t Become Me)