On letters… and spilt milk.

On letters… and spilt milk.

I’m having a problem with letters. I won’t be more precise, but I’ll tell you this: each week I receive around 6 letters from a certain company. The problem is, they’re sending me so many that I’m far too stressed to understand a single one

Stressed about letters? How lame, just ignore them!

“You think that’s lame? Wait till you hear this!”

Ever heard the phrase Don’t cry over spilt milk.? Well I used to do that… literally. I couldn’t cope with even the smallest of things going wrong, and if I spilt milk or dropped my phone or lost my cigarette lighter (I’ll bet more people will understand that one) then I’d have a little break down.

It’s something called Emotional Dysregulation and is a symptom characteristic of BPD. 

What does it do?

The brain is a complicated place to be, or even to read about, so I won’t go into this in much detail. Basically, there’s a part of our brain that regulates emotional responses and mine doesn’t work properly. So while you’re brain can tell what a reasonable level of emotion is in any specific situation; mine gets a little overenthusiastic.

For example:

You take a wrong turning in your car en route to a friend’s house. What do you do? I’ll go home. When I get home I’ll probably buy cigarettes or lie in bed crying and binge watching Gossip Girl or something equally disgraceful.

 

How do we deal with it?

In order to react reasonably to a situation, we have to be incredibly conscious of our emotions, and this takes a lot of practice! Personally, I use mindfulness to take note of everything I feel. If I feel sad I’ll trace it back and try to figure out what caused the emotion. Once I figure out what triggered the emotion I try to solve my everyday riddle: Is this a reasonable response? 

It doesn’t mean that unreasonable reactions vanish when I pinpoint them, it’s way harder than that! But it does mean that I can take note and change my physical actions which stops it from spiralling out of control. I did a course in a slightly claustrophobic, hot therapy room to practice this stuff but it was worth it.

 

If you don’t want to sit on a lumpy chair in a room of strangers…

  • Mindfulness – it helps you to focus on the moment and hide from any worries about your future. It also helps you take note of your feelings without judgement.
  • Keeping a diary – I had a recovery journal for 2 years, it really helped me to monitor my emotions and their causes. Once you know what has a negative effect you can steer clear of it.
  • Be patient – If you’re struggling with this it isn’t going to get easy overnight. Give yourself time and give yourself a break!
  • Self care – look after yourself! Grab a colouring book, have a bath or watch a movie. Do something that might cheer you up, it’s worth a try.
  • Get help! – you’re not the only one, and you don’t have to deal with this by yourself! Go get some help.

 

There are loads of apps and websites that offer help with mindfulness Be Mindful is just one them. You could also speak to your GP if you need some extra support.

Marked.

Marked.

Elizabeth glowered at the mark on her forearm. She slipped across the lounge to the crumbling mattress she shared with her brother, kissed his cheek and studied his sleeping face. At the age of sixteen she had seen countless victims to cruel destiny: including her mother ten years ago. She’d raised Marnie alone since then. Now she’d expired. She found her phone and returned to their lumpy armchair.

“Lizzie?” Her friend slurred.

“Dolly, I’ve got a crisis.”

“No time for a crisis… schedule’s full. Tomorrow?”

“It’s the mark.” Elizabeth snarled.

“Five minutes.”

 

Seconds clashed together as they shoved the next moment into place. Elizabeth patrolled the rattling windows as adamant on living as her mother; but determination hadn’t helped her. A crash on the door scared Elizabeth from her seat. Dolly slunk in and locked the door. She grabbed Elizabeth’s wrist, turning it toward the pale slither of light.

“Not good.” Dolly breathed.

“I need to live, for Marnie. Can’t leave him alone.”

Dolly gnawed her thumb and flicked pink hair from her eyes before speaking.

“People see that and kill you – there’s rules! But kill someone, death mark goes to them.

The air froze. Stifling the oxygen, suffocating her. Exchange her life for a stranger… She couldn’t do it.

Elizabeth stole through the moonlit streets in search of supplies. She slithered through shadows to Peace Street. The shell of a home had become a hive for criminals and the biggest food store in town.

A man advanced from the darkness, hurling her into the wall with forceful steps. She felt the bulk of her pistol and aimed. Fired. The gun kicked, slamming her backwards and cracking her head against the wall. As blood poured from the gash in her head she watched her death mark fade.

 

 

Pain and Disclosure.

Pain and Disclosure.

Those who self harm are often seen as silly or attention seeking, when in fact many of them are just hurting inside and to them it seems like a logical reaction. In fact, I expect there are many people out there who self harm without realising it: people who drink too much after a hard day, or use promiscuity as a way to feel loved and valued. None of these things are wrong, but they are all dangerous, and mean that you’re closer to understanding self harm than you think.

There are lots of reasons people self harm (or have in the past) and you’d probably get a slightly different answer from each one of us. Some people think they deserve the pain because they don’t like themselves, others want the immediate relief it can give you because it releases endorphins which produce an adrenaline rush. This makes it addictive and hard to stop.

For me self harming was all about control. As part of my illness I don’t have much control over my emotions, so the pain was one thing I did have control over. It was when I learnt to truly value myself and practised regulating my emotions that I was able to stop.

Many people who deliberately injure themselves don’t tell anyone what’s going on, possibly to hide their true pain and seem okay, or as it was with me – I didn’t want to get in trouble! I’d like to start by offering a bit of advice if you’re struggling to ask for help or simply tell someone that you’re hurting yourself.

  • Firstly, I’d advise you to pick someone you know well, and trust. This may be your parents, a sibling or even a friend. It doesn’t really matter who as long as you feel comfortable talking to them.
  • Pick a good time when you know you won’t be interrupted, probably don’t tell someone in the middle of a coffee shop, cinema or when they have to get their kids from school in twenty minutes.
  • You could try practising what you’re going to say, or sending a text or calling if you’re more comfortable telling someone that way.
  • What do you want to happen now? Do you want them to help you stop? Or did you just want it to stop being a secret? If you figure this out and tell them it’ll help you feel more in control.

 

If you’d like more information, or help with self harm here are a couple of websites that I found quite helpful:

Self Harm UK

MIND

Trapped.

Trapped.

The engagement party is going surprisingly well so far. Mariam is dancing with her friends on the far side of the room, her dress fans out at her ankles as she spins. Her smile is jubilant, my baby sister with a smile brighter than the sun ready for the wedding she never dreamt about.

I am standing, as I always do at parties, in the back corner with the food. I’m not eating it, my stomach is doing somersaults, and any of those delicious snacks would only return to the party looking much less appealing if I tried. That witch is here: I know this because when she enters a room she brings with her a general air of iciness, that freezes the oxygen in the room and suffocates the joy.

There are things I’d love to do to this woman that would probably give my Catholic parents a heart attack. Murderous things. Things that would put me in jail for a very long time.

“My dear boy. May I have a word with you?”

Damn it! She’s approached while I was too engrossed in her imaginary murder to notice. I have little choice but to follow her now since we’re in public, I should have been more vigilant and avoided more successfully.Outside the wind whistles loudly, making its presence as an eavesdropper known.

“I’m not giving you any more money.”

If I’m surprised at my own confidence I don’t know what the word is for her reaction. It’s complete shock. Her eyebrows shoot up to the top of her forehead almost enough to sit on top of her head like a surprised cartoon, her vivid green eyes open wide and her painted lips drop open revealing her expensive whitened teeth.

She composes her face into her standard cruel smirk before continuing in a threatening low tone, like the humming of trains on their tracks.

“But my dear boy. You wouldn’t want you father to hear about that little incident with you and your… friend… James would you?”

She’s right. I categorically do not want my dad to hear about my ‘friend’ James. She smiles then, a sickly sweet smile that is honey laced with poison. She knows she has me ensnared. The thing is, I’m running out of money to give her and soon it’ll reach the point where I’ll have to do something else my father would picture as unsavoury in order to keep up the payments.

“I’m not giving you any more money.”

I’m calling her bluff, and she knows it. I am just an ant, and she is a vicious human being with her foot suspended over me.

“Well that’s just fine dear. I’ll continue to enjoy my son’s engagement party and begin planning my speech for the wedding – it’s bound to be an interesting one!”

Malice sucks all the colour from the world and mutes all sounds to a muddled blur of white noise. As she vanishes carelessly back into the party my thoughts are laced with a deep red anger. I will never see beauty again while that woman is around.

 

I found this scenario exercise online and really enjoyed doing it. The brief was to write a scene set at an engagement party, where the mother of the groom speaks to the brother of the bride.

The ups and downs of an Up.

The ups and downs of an Up.

Ideas buzz around in my head. They race into one another, crash with the loudest explosion like fireworks and spin off again. None remain in place. Not for long enough to make sense anyway. They’re somehow filled with the promise of hope and I feel compelled to share this with someone, this exciting new venture which I don’t quite understand yet. When someone is here the words tumble from my mouth with no interruption from me, the worlds are thrilled and enthusiastic to be in the world.

But there is no one here so they dance loudly in my mind. I tingle with possibilities and fidget in my bed, the thoughts are dancing and I can’t sit still. It is as though the very oxygen around me twinkles and sings. I see every twirling speck of dust as it shines in the lamplight and hear every silent sound.

So I switch on the light and write. The pen skates over the paper, too fast and my arm aches. But still I write. My mind is in control of me and I’m merely its prisoner. My breath is jumping out in ragged gasps of excitement. My heart is flooded so much joy that it overflows from me into any task I undertake and any conversation I have. I rejoice in the golden heat of sunshine of the percussion of raindrops.I close my eyes to relish the rumbling belly of thunder or the beautiful pink warmth of sun on my eyelids.

I smile at everything and everyone because love has breached the castle of my heart and holds me hostage. All humans must know they are loved and I have to be careful not to hold them too tightly. But I want to. I am no longer whole on my own or perhaps I am more than one. It seems I possess the love of a thousand and it is too much to bear. So I must shout it to the world – YOU ARE LOVED!

I have to move. Dancing or clapping or spinning around. Remaining still is no longer an option. The love and joy will burst out of me if I do not move. I must laugh and shout and dance. I grin so much that my face aches. If I saw someone hurting right now I would give them my whole world.

But maybe they wouldn’t want it. Maybe I’m too much. Too clingy. Too smiley and annoying…

 

One of the most common symptoms of BPD are the mood swings. We sometimes have these multiple times a day and they can last for a few minutes, hours or even a day or two. I wrote this when I was trying to sleep and couldn’t because of an inconvenient up-swing at bedtime, and thought that by posting it here you would have the chance to get inside my head and understand the illness a bit more. People can think we put these mood swings on for attention, but I want everyone to understand that this isn’t the case – we find them just as irritating as you do!

Information from MIND on BPD.

Grey Clouds

Grey Clouds

Take One.

I’d been at school less than thirty seconds before I saw the dreaded sight in my classroom. She stood with her mum, a stupid fake tear rolling down her cheek and lips quivering; they call them crocodile tears and I can see why – for me, her tears are dangerous. My teacher looks concerned, his baby-shaved face pulled in at the centre creating train tracks of worry between his bushy eyebrows.

I wondered what it was this time. Last week someone had stolen a water balloon from the Science cupboard and I’d got the blame. Another time they said I’d kicked someone and a cross dinner lady with sharp, angry eyes followed me all lunch time, arm in arm with the auburn haired liar.

Rain poured out of grey clouds that gathered overhead. I wondered why they wanted to be here, I definitely didn’t! But I was glad they came because their fat drops of water were useful for hiding the smaller, saltier ones falling out of my eyes.

 

Take Two.

I’d been at work less than thirty seconds before I saw the dreaded sight through the glass walls of the boardroom. Alex stood there: jet black suit and condescending salmon tie to remind all spectators of his sexuality. I never cared who he loves, or what gender they are, but since I rejected his advances it seems he’d rather come to work if I didn’t arrive. My boss stood to attention opposite, his hair holding so much wax it stood straight with him and his pale cheeks the colour of the aforementioned tie – probably a reaction to some sort of awkward accusation he would now have to deal with.

I wondered what it was this time. Last week he’d found homophobic notes (written in his own swirling hand) stuck on a post-it on his desk; of course I’d been blamed. Another time some of my paperwork had been stolen and I’d spent a week catching up under the steaming angry glare of my boss.

Rain poured out of the sky to knock on the windows as though it was requesting entry, I couldn’t see why it’d want to come in here – I’d rather be anywhere else. I looked at my busy desk and its coating of papers which were today’s workload, it seemed like a desert island with the surrounding desks a hostile armada. I wondered how long I’d survive.

 

I saw a writing exercise in a magazine where you change a detail in a story and see how its impact changes. I thought it was an interesting opportunity to compare bullying in school with the same situation as adults in a workplace. The first take is a personal memory and the bullying I faced at school was harmful to my development and a horrible experience. Luckily I haven’t been bullied as an adult, but from this exercise I can see it must be terrifying.

Advice for children and parents

Advice for adults

 

Grandmother’s Inventory.

Grandmother’s Inventory.

Why it was there I don’t know, but there was a spring weight crouching on the ground among the roses.  My Grandmother had been a strange woman but I can’t think why she would have kept such an old, rusted and clearly broken weight… and as to why she kept it in her garden, well that’s a whole other question.

It was slightly hidden by two frayed feathers, and perhaps she’d forgotten it was there or something. I pursed my lips together and squeezed my eyes into tiny slits on the emotionless mask of my face, I’d never know now. All of the questions I had for my Grandmother would remain unanswered forever.

Once composed I scribbled Spring Weight into the inventory and impulsively bathed it in yellow highlighter ink. As I looked up from the page a moose wandered into the garden, or else I imagined it, but I swear I saw its one ear twitching and a space where the other had once been. It smiled at me, or so it appeared, with soft doughy eyes that clearly wanted something.

It jumped at the road of an aircraft thrumming overhead, and ran away without giving me another look. The aircraft engine filled the air with its sound as it soared past, lower than usual in the sky and as I watched its blurred grey shell shoot through the air I wondered whether the plane was her’s too, she certainly had her fair share of odd possessions.

I turned back to the inventory and scribbled MOOSE .

 

I did this exercise at ‘Neptune’s Last Stand’ Creative Writing Group. It’s a quickfire writing exercise where we have to incorporate a random selection of objects or words into our writing. You can find more information and writing from the group here.