I have complex post traumatic stress disorder (cptsd). I am currently living on benefits and am constantly in limbo. My week consists of a tightrope walk of nerve. I have shame; for not working, paranoia of what people think of me, and a need to please and be liked. I have come up with coping mechanisms of how to cope, and am slowly working towards a state where I can BE MYSELF.
On a Monday I have therapy. First thing in the morning, I walk across town, past all the traffic heading into town, people off to work, school and universities. I walk because I means I have control. No traffic jams to make me late, no bus not running to timetable, no roadworks causing diversions. I leave an hour and a quarter before my appointment, menacing that I usually arrive to the centre at least 20mins early, usually with a coffee in my hand. I can’t cope with being late, and I can’t cope without caffeine in the morning. One reason I gave up smoking in my early 20s was because it ruined the taste of coffee.
My therapy has been going on for just over 6month, and is called EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) therapy. Where through internal imagery and a an external stimulus ( a pen or light are most commentary used), traumatic memories which are being held in the wrong part of the brain are moved and correct, placed into the place they belong. It is coupled with compassionate reframing, helping me understand why things are the way they were, and how they were not maybe as I perceive them.
As you can imagine, over an hour of therapy is exhausting, I try and see a friend for lunch after, but have recently found that I just need sleep. I go home, and curl up on the sofa with the cat, and doze the day away. letting the processing settle in, and not worrying too much about anything.
Tuesday is a day of two halves, as I have to pick my daughter up from school in the afternoon, after her weekend with her dad. The morning usually starts late, as Tuesday is usually my only day where I can lie in. I love sleep, and my body usually wants between 9-12 hours sleep a day (which with a young child is just not possible without losing my evenings.) So I get up late, drink coffee, watch Channel 4 morning programmes, play silly games on my iPad, and relax. I usually leave the house at just before 4 to grab some supermarket shopping before picking my daughter up from her after school art club and head to Wetherspoons for tea. We have one tea out together every week, as it means that we get to catch up on the weekend, talk about school and generally enjoy each other’s company. It’s time I cherish.
Wednesday and Thursday can be interchangeable quite often, as school is 8.50-3.10. We have to be up by 7, but this doesn’t stop my daughter waking me up at any time after 5.30. Being on my own, I offer cuddles, suggest she reads a book, and if it’s after 6.30 she is allowed to watch something on the iPad until I’m able to pull myself out of bed. As I’ve said before, I need coffee and sleep to function, so mornings can be a struggle. I am irritable and mean in the morning, and it is definitely worse in the winter. Once I’m up, I’m usually in the kitchen for upto 1/2hour. I make coffee, sort breakfast, unpack and repack the dish washer, clean down the sides and wash up bits and pieces. I then sit down and enjoy my coffee. The rule in the house is, “don’t ask me questions, don’t expect me to do anything until after my coffee”. Then it’s a case of getting school uniform and clothes sorted, grab a shower, and put makeup on if I get time!
Sometimes I go into Coventry, meet up with friends, do some writing, draw or take photos. Other times I go home, veg in-front of the telly and play games. It all depends on my mood, the weather, and what I need to do. This might sound like an easy life, but down time is really important to my health. I get tired quickly, but if I do nothing I end up miserable. If I do nothing, then I end up in destructive behaviour. I pick at my skin, I strip my nails, I overspend online, and generally undo all the good work that I have. These are forms of common self harm that many people do, there is a good blog here if you want to eat more on the subject.
I am rubbish at house work, and have no motivation. I used to be obsessed with cooking, and even retrained as a Chef when I moved to Coventry, but with my illness and living situation I find it difficult to do. I also have the challenge of feeding a 5 year old, who generally wants pasta or pizza to eat. this means that if I want anything else I have to cook twice. Usually I just pimp my food with spicy cause or jar delights such as capers, jalapeño or olives to change the flavour of the same old. Sometime I miss lunch as I am on my own and just forget. On my own myself care slips, when my daughter is around, I always eat, I always make sure stuff is clean enough, and she always leaves the house in clean clothes and well fed. I should give myself the same courtesy, but I don’t.
I used to think of myself as an extrovert. But now I have found that I am an ambivert, a blend of both extrovert and introvert. This means sometime I feed off social situation, and people make me happy. Other times I need to be on my own. This is difficult with a child, especially one who is a pure extrovert, She loves spending time with me, and wants to always be busy or have cuddles. I refuse to push her away, and have tried to explain to her about how I feel, but she doesn’t really understand as she’s so young still. But I try to enjoy all my time with her, as she is a wonderful child, and I only have her 3.5days a week as I share custody with her dad who I split up with last year.
After school on a Wednesday/Thursday, activities depend on energy, weather and mood. Sometimes we watch telly, sometimes we do craft projects and others we go to the playground. tea is usually simple, and bedtime is always 7pm. By 8pm I’m free to relax, play games, watch tv and wind down.
Friday is the day I work on my new project with my friend. I usually spend the morning catching up on bits from the previous meeting, before heading to her house for lunch. We usually talk for about an hour about the project before setting the weekly tasks. then I have to dash to school. After school, Friday usually means a play date, either at the park, over cake at a local cafe of round at a friends house. My daughter loves Fridays at school, as it’s “fish and chip” day, and she has dancing at lunch time. This usually makes her more excited and bouncy then usual! Bed time is less strict as she doesn’t have to be up early on a Saturday, so we usually have some time to chill out after tea before readying stories.
Books are really important to me, and I listen to audiobooks every day. I love fantasy and magic, and am a huge Harry Potter fan. I also love a good thriller. I use my audiobooks as part of my distraction and productivity. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, even when I’m not. I listen when I’m walking, when I’m washing up, and it helps me when I’m lonely. when it’s a gripping book, often I will listen instead of watching telly. I listen to books that are new, ones that I’ve listened to before and old favourites again and again. This has passed onto my daughter who loves stories, especially Harry Potter. She is being read the books at bed time (always one short book, and then a chapter or so. Stories are a great way to escape, a great way to learn and a great way to broaden your mind. they have saved me so many times, and I am so glad my daughter loves books as much as I do.
Saturday is a flexible day. I used to always have it without my daughter, but missed out on seeing my friends with kids from other schools. I always try and make the most of trips out on Saturdays I have my daughter, catch up with friends and enjoy the day. When I don’t have my daughter I can find it a lonely day as people are either working or with their kids, and the centre of Coventry is too busy to be comfortable. I often want to go to events on Saturday nights, but when I have my daughter this is not possible as I don’t have a regular babysitter.
Sunday morning is usually when Cathryn Dad picks her up, and as much as I miss her, I always look forward to her going so I can relax. I know she has a great time with her dad, and likes spending time with him. I forget sometimes that she doesn’t just live with me and visit him, she lives with him as much as me!
Sunday’s I always try and get out, wether this is just to the supermarket, or to Fargo village. I try and do something.
This is the week that never happens. Something comes along and sends me into a spin, I don’t cope with conflict, stress or criticism well, and I am my biggest critic. I have a very strong inner dialogue. It’s not voices in my head, it is where I have conversations with myself. I have conversations as if with others, and sometime struggle to remember if people have said things, or if it was an internal conversation. I assume thing that are thought of me are negative, and that people don’t like like me or are judging me, so I always work extra hard for people to like me, and try to prove my worth. This can come across as “try hard” or just too much. And generally I think I over share, and try to justify myself….like in this blog. I am learning to just be. I am learning to take it as it comes, and coping mechanisms to not justify myself. My self worth is not based on others opinions and maybe one day I can be in a constant mental state of being ok. Between my therapy, medication and my personal work on mindfulness and grounding techniq , I hope to get there soon. When I am stable I really really look forward to being able to work again. That is the dream.
The Mighty, online forum for mental and Chronic health: link
TLC Foundation, online advice and help for skin picking: link
EMDR wizard, excersices I use in grounding and well as info on the treatment; link