So long, 2015…

New Year 2016

And so we come to the end of another year, the third year in which I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety.  2014 was a bad year (see here), and I hoped that 2015 would be less cruel to me.  Looking back now, it’s been a year of mixed fortunes, deep lows and some relative highs, but thankfully without the drama of the job loss and relationship break-up of 2014.

The year started as 2014 had ended, with me in the deepest, darkest place of my life.  Plans were already underway for me to be admitted in January to the local mental health in-patient unit for electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).  I found out much later in the year that if I hadn’t agreed to a spell in hospital, I was going to be brought in anyway because of increasing concerns about my functioning and my ability to care for myself and my daughter.  Eight weeks and fourteen ECT treatments later, I emerged from hospital and I have to confess that I can’t say much about my time in hospital or the period just before because my memory has been significantly affected by either how ill I was or by the ECT itself.  I have some ‘memories’ that are like still-images, and I ‘remember’ some things that I have been told by others.  I still have flashback memories of the ward itself or the staff, but they are very strange, incomplete memories that I struggle to understand because the actual memories are not there for me to re-live.  I wrote a lot while I was in, much of it very repetitive and incoherent, and all it tells me is how ill and how distressed I was.

After I came out of hospital, my mood went up and down a lot.  I had an initial high for a few weeks, reflecting how glad I was to be home and with my little girl again, but then there were inevitable downs.  There have been more battles with medication – I was eventually told that it was unlikely that any antidepressants would work for me and so no more were prescribed.  I managed to get back to helping out in the local primary school a couple of hours a week, to some minimal socialising in safe places with safe people. and even went to a wedding in the summer.  We got a puppy, adding to the chaos in the house, but with the idea that she would get me out and about more. I took my daughter on two summer camping holidays in Scotland, and while away took the chance to meet up with a friend from my college days who I hadn’t seen for 18 years.   To observers I was making good progress: not a steady linear improvement, but on balance, probably more good than bad.

And then in September, things took another turn for the worse.  I had been waiting 6 months for an assessment by clinical psychology, but the assessment itself involved me bringing up and reflecting on the most difficult relationships and events in my life, and I took a massive downturn in mood, severe enough to warrant referral to the Crisis Team.  I became acutely suicidal again for the first time in months, and I also self-harmed.  I took a small overdose requiring a visit to A&E and the Crisis Team decided that even though my daughter was not with me that weekend, protocol dictated that social services needed to assess whether or not she was safe with me.  The insensitive way this was handled made me even more vulnerable and distressed than I was already, exacerbating all my worst fears about being a bad mother.  I was very fortunate that my CPN was able to divert the referral before it was processed, but the complex feelings triggered by this and by the psychology assessment remained, and my extremely low mood did not shift.

So here we are at the end of 2015.  Psychological therapy starts for real at the beginning of 2016: compassion-focused therapy to help me learn to treat myself with compassion and kindness.  My mood is still low, but my CPN reminds me I’m nowhere near the state I was in before I went into hospital. Getting through each day, looking after my daughter and taking her to all the places she needs to be, attending my own appointments, helping out at the school and walking the dog, all feels like wading through thick mud.  The pretence of putting on a face for the world and making sure my daughter does not pick up on how I’m feeling is hard, hard work.  I hate the inevitable impact that my ongoing illness and her role as unofficial carer must be having on her.  Yes, I have good days, even occasional days I don’t feel I need to pretend, but I always end up back down again, and I struggle to see any hope for a more positive future.  I still have a belief that if I don’t manage to get back to the life I had before I became ill, I will have failed yet again.  So any attempts I make at recognising my achievements or being grateful for what I have are darkly coloured by my overwhelming sense that these are not real achievements and that I can’t accept my life as it is because it’s not what it should be.  In my heart I am still a speech and language therapist, and I cannot yet cope with facing a future in which I am no longer able to do a job that I still see as my vocation, my life’s work.

Still, life goes on, so onwards and upwards…  2016 will be the year I will have the psychological therapy I so badly need, and I will try to find and hold on to a little bit of hope that this will be a turning point for me.  I am also planning a photography project, to take photographs every day and post online the best one from each day. I want to challenge myself with different picture types and styles, perhaps even be a bit creative, and to step outside my comfort zone as often as I can.  I would like this to be a way that I can grow in confidence and see physical evidence of what I have achieved each day as the project grows.

I want 2016 to be the year I discover hope: hope that I can begin my recovery, and hope that life can get better for me and for my daughter.

New Year mantra 2016

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Not My Bin

Monday:

Someone put That Bin out for collection last week but no-one brought it back in. Some neighbours assumed it was mine even though I always bring mine in, and they dumped it beside my other bins.  But it’s Not My Bin.  It sits there accusingly.  It tells me my neighbours think I don’t bring my bin in. It tells me they were pissed off enough with me to bring it to my house and dump it. Even though my bin was there where they dumped it, brought in and there for all to see.

And all the time That Bin sits there I can’t forget about it.  I try not to look out of the window in case I see it. Even the act of not looking out of the window reminds me why I can’t look out of the window, and the fear goes round and round in my head.  Sometimes I stand by the window staring down at it and all I have attached to it in my head, and I freeze to the spot in panic, unable to move.  Its presence is oppressive, weighing me down, bringing me down, pushing me down.

And I can’t go out the front of the house because it’s there, shouting at me, reminding me of my place in the neighbourhood: The One Who Leaves Her Bin Out.  Except I don’t.  It belongs to someone else who can’t be bothered to claim it but they’re not suspects, only me.  So I’m stuck here, trapped in my house by That Bin.

Sitting there just outside my house it towers over me and reminds me I need to do something about it. I don’t have room for it, and it’s not mine.  It belongs to someone else who must surely be needing it.  The sensible thing would be to put it back out where it was and hope someone claims it. Maybe put it out with my own bin on collection day.  Then I risk someone seeing me putting it out, making it harder for me to assert that it’s Not My Bin.

Putting it out at any other time feels confrontational.  Perhaps a note on it saying it’s not mine might help, but that feels too assertive from someone who lives a life as invisible as possible.  In my head I play imagined scenes of confrontations with neighbours about the bin and my panic grows. I’m already terrified about how other people see me; I’m pretty sure they already think bad things because I’m The One Who Leaves Her Bin Out, so the risk of any cross words is too much to bear.

Tuesday:

I was brave this morning. I summoned up the courage to put out That Bin along with my own for collection.  Then I diligently brought my bin in just after it was emptied and I left That Bin behind.  It’s back already, with the assumption that it must be mine. Maybe my neighbours think my brain is addled, that I need their help because I don’t know which bin is my bin.

Now I have to deal with this all over again, back at square one.  I can feel my stress levels rising, yet at the same time I realise how ridiculously mundane this situation is.

That Bin is terrorising me.

Talking of thoughts

My head is all over the place today.  My mood is low and my anxiety is sky high.  I don’t seem to be able to cope with speaking to anyone just now without being crippled by anxiety and fear afterwards: fear that I have said something wrong, or something that could be taken in a different way from how it was intended.  Was my facial expression incompatible with what I was saying, or was it wildly exaggerated, making me look ridiculous?  Did I overstep the mark and say something inappropriate?  Did I do anything at all, no matter how miniscule, to make that person judge me in some way, to make them think something negative about me?  I’m scared to have any opinion about anything, or to say anything about what’s going on in my head or in my life.

Yesterday I saw my OT.  She’s lovely and I feel I have a good relationship with her.  Yesterday I seemed to be feeling more able to speak about some of my more recent thoughts, and so I told her and we talked about them.  I told her about how over the last few weeks I have been preoccupied with Worst Case Scenarios. Everywhere I go, everything I do, I keep getting images of the worst thing that could happen, usually involving me having some sort of serious or fatal injury.  I go for a walk with the dog, then suddenly, in my head, she runs into the road, I follow her and I am hit by a passing vehicle.  I go out in the car – at a junction I can see there is no car coming so I pull out, then in my head a car that I haven’t seen crashes into my car and I am killed instantly.  When I’m driving safely along the road, I imagine the car skidding on a patch of oil or of wet leaves, and then flying into the air before landing upside down.  When I’m home alone and in the shower, I imagine I slip and bang my head on the side of the bath.  Walking down the stairs from my flat to the garden, I trip and fall, causing terrible injuries or death.  These images replay over and over.  Then I get bogged down in the consequences, especially the consequences for my daughter.  Who will find me? Will anyone else be injured?  Who will tell my daughter?  How will she react? What will happen in the first few days afterwards? How will she cope with visiting me in hospital? What will her life without me be like? Sometimes it happens when she is in the car with me, so in my imagined scenario sometimes we both die. Sometimes one of us survives though, and both of those possible scenarios are horrific to imagine but somehow I can’t stop myself.  We discussed that these thoughts are probably related to my current anxiety and mood levels leading to hypervigilance, seeing a threat in everything around me.

Then I told the OT about a weird and disturbing feeling I had on Sunday evening when my daughter came home from being with her father for the weekend.  She was in a giggly silly mood, in that “over-tired” kind of way, and not keen to do anything I asked her to do.  I kept getting the feeling that there was something going on that I didn’t know about, or something she and her father had been speaking about, just like when I was at school and I saw other girls looking at me, whispering and laughing, like there was some secret I wasn’t part of.  I don’t understand why I felt like this when my daughter was giggling and being silly, but I really didn’t like it. I felt like some sort of intruder in my own life, and even though at a rational level I knew it couldn’t be true, the feeling didn’t go; instead it kept growing, making me feel like I didn’t know what to do, how to manage her behaviour or how to be her mother.  After I told the OT this, she asked me questions about whether there have been other times I have felt like this, or as if there’s some kind of conspiracy against me, and my honest answer was no, I have not felt like this before.  I have often felt detached, particularly recently, as though there is a sheet of glass between me and the rest of the world, and throughout my life I’ve also often felt like I’m on the periphery, not quite fitting into a group of people and not knowing how to fit in properly. But I haven’t felt this new one before, this feeling that things are being kept a secret from me, one that I am not allowed to know.  It is quite disturbing, and the only way I can try to understand it is seeing it as once again related to my fear of being judged, but that seems bizarre when I’m talking about my 8 year old daughter.

The third thing I chose to share was my fear that one day, all those working with me are going to decide amongst themselves that I am faking this, putting it all on for attention, and that they are going to conclude that I don’t deserve any more services so all support will be withdrawn.  I know I am not faking. I know how truly awful I feel today and many other days. But because my illness has gone on and on for so long against all expectations, and because I access support from so many people, I am terrified that they are all going to decide that my depression should have cleared up by now, it’s either my fault that it hasn’t or else I’m acting, I’m a drain on resources, and therefore that I can no longer have any support from them.  Again, I might be able to rationalise that this probably isn’t true: those working with me have years of experience and expertise between them and wouldn’t be giving me their support if they thought I was faking, but that doesn’t stop the fear.

Since I shared all this with her yesterday I’ve been going over and over it in my head, wondering if I should have shared as much as I did, wondering what she’s thinking about me now and what she’s saying to her colleagues about me.  I keep thinking about each of the different things we talked about, trying to reach into my memory, which is usually pretty hazy, to try to remember exactly what her responses were so I can analyse them for signs of any negative reaction.  I hate the thought that I have spoken about stuff that I haven’t spoken about with anyone before, and that now, after the event, it doesn’t feel safe.  That’s why it’s easier not to say anything: it’s safer not to put myself in this situation, and I don’t know why I let this happen. I thought about getting in touch with her yesterday afternoon to let her know how I was feeling about our conversation, but I couldn’t find the courage. I hate feeling like I’m bothering people who are already very busy, and I was worried she’d think I was making a fuss, and then judge me all over again.

And then all this was compounded today when I saw my psychologist. She wanted to know why I am feeling so bad this week and I wanted to tell her the thoughts I had discussed with the OT, but today the words wouldn’t come.  I wasn’t able to tell her anything, and so she understandably became very concerned about what thoughts I might have been having, assuming the worst because of how difficult it was for me to tell her.  And the more I worried about how concerned she was, the more stuck I felt. The words never came. I wasn’t able to tell her anything, other than to say that the thoughts were not about harming myself or someone else.  Beyond that I was paralysed.  Now I feel terrible that I worried her so much over something that was really not that serious, just some thoughts I felt self-conscious about and scared to share because of my fear of being judged.  And I feel like I wasted a precious therapy session by being so stuck and unable to move on.

Not a good day.

Thank you

My GP is leaving at the end of the month.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but over the last two and a half years, since she first signed me off work, she has been there for me, showing me endless patience, understanding and compassion.  She has helped me navigate my way through support services, through referrals and the never-ending waits for appointments.  She has been at the centre of my care, not only making requests of others but also making sure she knows what is being offered and what therapy I’m getting, always staying involved and being my voice.  She has been the one constant through it all, regardless of who else has come to support me, and she has never made me feel judged in any way, no matter what I’ve said or done.

Since she first signed me off work, she has seen me weekly or fortnightly even when I’ve been a wee bit better, keeping in touch just to make sure I’m OK.  She has been there for me, an independent ear while I have talked about everything, medication side-effects, how I’m getting on with all the professionals in my life, what’s bringing me down, my fears and worries. She has seen me cry, seen me so distressed I’m unable to speak or make any eye contact with her. She’s listened to me moan and complain when things have not been going well, when I have felt less supported. She has supported me in making decisions, the big, important ones, and also the simplest of choices which I have struggled with; she recognises when I need her to decide for me, and never makes me feel stupid or inadequate.  She has monitored my relationship with my medications and taken responsibility from me when needed by making sure I have no more pills than I need, and she has known when I have reached a point where I can take back responsibility for looking after my own medication.

She has helped to keep me alive, even when I haven’t made it easy.

How can I possibly thank her for everything she has done for me? What on earth can I do to help her understand how deeply grateful I am to her for the enormous support and compassion she has shown me?

And what am I going to do without her?

It’s OK, I hate me too

I am disgusting.

I am revolting. Repulsive. Loathsome.

I am ugly, inside and out.  I am so full of of a lfetime’s worth of shame that people can see it oozing out of me.  I can smell it on myself, the stench of decay leaking from my rotten core, and no amount of washing can get rid of the stink.  If people choose not to look at me, I can’t blame them.  They have a right not to have to look at such an abhorrent, vile excuse for a human being.

I am bloated beyond recognition, and still I eat.  The fatter I get, the more I eat, a true recipe for disaster.

I am a desperate loser, grovelling for tiny snippets of approval from others to justify my existence. But there is no point to me. I have no value, no worth, no use.  I have always been reliant on others to make me feel as though I have some merit, and now I see how pointless that has been.  The false face, the shallow veneer of apparent confidence was bound to be seen through, the act denounced as sham.

And without it, I am nothing.

Worse. I am worse than nothing.  People either choose not to see me, or they see the truth. And so their judgements, their opinions reflect the hideous nature of what they’re faced with. And imagining what they think tops up my reserves of shame once again but I can’t stop.  Down and down I keep falling, in an inevitable slide: shame makes me repulsive to myself and others, and being so vile is continually shaming.

 I hate inflicting myself on anyone.  Why would anyone want to have any sort of relationship with me?  I suck any happiness out of a room, and this depth of misery is contagious: I don’t want to taint others with the vileness that lives in me.  I feel a continuous need to apologise to those around me for everything I am and everything I do. I am sorry I exist.

And still I try to keep up the act.  My entire life is based on seeking approval from others, and I can’t stop, it’s who I am.

I am disgusting and I hate myself.

hate myself

Who am I?

The last few weeks have been really hard.  My mood has deteriorated, which my psychologist seems to think could be related to the therapeutic process – as I begin to work through some of the difficult events and relationships I have experienced, there will apparently be an inevitable impact on how I feel about myself.  In our last session we came to the main crux, that I don’t like me, and more to the point, I don’t know who I am.  I have since linked this to the other significant issue, that I have spent my life seeking approval: now I can see that I have never really had a true sense of who I am.  Even in the good years, when my career was going well, when I was working hard and earning respect from professional peers, there was a large part of me that was constantly looking for approval or validation from others.  When I reached the point at work that I was so far out of my comfort zone that that validation wasn’t there, I fell apart.  Without approval from others, without their positive opinions and judgements, there is no me.

I am desperately unhappy. I’m struggling with basic, everyday things, finding it hard to function and to hold things together for my daughter.  Her behaviour is difficult just now too: I wonder if it’s because she’s picking up on how I’m feeling, and we then make each other feel worse.  I am damaging my daughter and I’m unable to offer the comfort she needs from me. I feel worthless.  Hopeless. Valueless.  Pointless. A total waste of space, air, life, and the time and energy of others.  I am keeping myself more and more away from people who have been my friends, so I don’t waste their time or contaminate their lives in some way.  I can’t even allow myself to like a post or comment on Facebook – even that simple act shows I have an opinion which others might not agree with or approve of.  I have deleted almost all posts from my Facebook wall going back years, so that no-one can see anything that could potentially influence their opinion of me.

I saw something a friend posted the other day – every day she posts a “quote of the day”, some words of wisdom she has found on the internet, most of which I ignore.  This one said “The moment you feel you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away”.  It stopped me in my tracks and has become completely stuck in my mind.  I understand the sentiment behind the words, but my instant thought was that I feel I have to prove my worth to everyone, so what does that mean?  I can’t walk away from everyone, or walk away from my life other than by suicide.  That’s something I haven’t thought about for a few months, but now I feel as though it’s never far away from my thoughts.  Much as I might want to take that step, I still feel as I did before, that I can’t because of my daughter, and that I am therefore trapped in this life that I don’t want to be in.

And when I’m in this dark place, I can’t ask anyone for help.  I can’t ask friends because I hate the thought of intruding on their lives, making myself a burden.  I don’t like approaching those who provide services because I already feel as though I don’t deserve the help I get, so I would just inconvenience those I contact.  I have never had the courage to phone a helpline, partly because I don’t like using the phone, and also because there is that ever-present feeling that I am undeserving of the help of others, or that I will take up their time when they could be talking to people who need their support far more than I do.

I feel more alone than I have ever felt.

Since I’ve been gone

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been on here, and a lot has happened since my last post in January, over 7 months ago. I lost my “voice” and I have been struggling to express myself both verbally and in writing, hence my long absence.  I am not sure how this will go, if words will come, and how much sense I will make, but today I feel ready to try.  In fact, I feel as though there are lots of strands of thought, snippets of story, all fighting with each other to get out of me. Perhaps in the telling I can try to understand or exorcise some of the difficult memories and fears of the last few months.

When I last wrote (Who to trust?), I was about to go into hospital for ECT, and was terrified. I had been told that ECT treatments would be twice a week, 10-12 treatments in total, and I would probably need to stay in hospital for a couple of weeks with the rest of the treatments being done as an out-patient.  Eight weeks and 14 doses of ECT later and I finally returned home.

I remember very little of the time I was an inpatient; most of my memories are like photos, still images stored in my head, of some of the rooms including my bedroom where I spent most of my time, the operating theatre where I was given the electric shocks, and also of people, some of the staff, a few other patients, and some of the family and friends who visited.  My memory, my language and cognitive processing, and my ability to think logically and rationally have been significantly affected by the ECT – all that electricity firing through my brain has overcooked parts of it, turned it to pulp.  There is a lot I can’t remember, mostly the period I was in hospital and the few months before that, but also events and people from other times over the last few years; I don’t know what I no longer know until I need to remember it.  I was very fortunate that lots of my friends came to visit me in hospital, some more than once, and I am glad I kept a note in my phone’s diary of the people who came to visit me, as I have struggled to remember many of the visits.  For some I can recall a still image of a particular person sitting in the chair by my bed, but for others I draw a complete blank.  I have quite strong memories of one member of staff who spent quite a lot of time with me, and supported me in planning for discharge. When I think of her now, six months later, I still feel a sense of loss; she went out of her way to try to understand me and to help me, and I felt a real, genuine connection with her. The other staff faces are hazy and I can’t match names to those I can recall.  I’ve seen a few of the staff out and about since I left, and when I see them I know they are from the hospital but struggle to remember anything beyond that.  Seeing them, or thinking about anything related to me stay in hospital or the ECT treatment sessions tends to trigger a strong feeling of panic, a nightmarish dread that grips my stomach in an iron grasp and steals my breath. I wonder if this feeling is related to not being able to remember much of it, as I’m sure it’s totally out of proportion to the quality of care I received.  It’s so frustrating not being able to remember things that happened when I was in; I find myself trying to dredge things up from somewhere, but more often than not it gets me nothing other than more frustration, more fear, and decent-sized measures of shame, hopelessness and worthlessness to add to the mix.

I did write a huge amount while I was in and I have kept it all, pages and pages of scribbled handwriting on off-white, cheap NHS-issue paper. On reading it, it is clear that I was at my most suicidal during those weeks.  Much of what I wrote is very repetitive, not because the days were all the same, but because my thoughts were quite obsessive and didn’t change or improve from day to day.  My feelings of being pointless and of no value were strengthened, confirmed, by how well my ex-husband stepped up to the plate to look after our daughter and how quickly I seemed to become a redundant part in my own life.  I convinced myself that everyone would be OK, probably better off, if I was no longer around.  I even managed to keep harming myself while in hospital; I have never particularly needed weapons other than my fingernails, but I did find an alternative use for a fork in scraping away layers of skin from my arm.

Since leaving hospital and finishing ECT, my mood has been on a roller coaster.  In the weeks immediately following my return home I experienced almost a kind of high, and I was able to joke and laugh with the staff supporting me.  Then came a plunge into a deep depression that lasted 3-4 weeks, which drove me to act in quite self-destructive ways. I caused the biggest area of damage yet on my forearm, requiring a visit to A&E and a fortnight of dressings.  I drank large amounts (I don’t really drink any more, so this was hugely uncharacteristic for me). Since then I seem to have slowly come out of the darkness, with others seeing it more easily than I do.  For a while, I got angry and upset by people telling me “You’re looking really well”, or “You seem so much better”, because I just couldn’t see it.  I thought they were all wrong, and all it meant was that I was becoming better at hiding how I really felt. Now, a few months further on, I am finally accepting that I am doing much better.  During a conversation with my CPN, in which it was pointed out to me that I have some difficulty in evaluating how I am actually doing, I was reminded how bad I really was.  I have no memory at all of how I felt before I went into hospital, but I’m told I was extremely depressed and barely functioning, struggling to look after my daughter, and causing significant concern that meant I was likely to admitted even if I hadn’t opted to have ECT.  Being reminded of this has helped me appreciate how much better I am doing: even though my mood can often be low and I experience considerable anxiety that limits my ability to go to many of the places I used to go quite happily, I am far from the total wreck that I was.

So where am I now with treatment?  After a few months taking phenelzine, an MAOI (yes, I have completed my antidepressant bingo card), and living with the dietary restrictions that are essential to avoid horrible and potentially life-threatening side-effects, I am no longer taking any antidepressants.  I have been told by my consultant that there are no more that are likely to work as I have tried all the drug families with no significant improvement, but with some horrible negative effects.  I still take quetiapine, the dose increased since I came off antidepressants, and just this week I am now being trusted to pick up my medication from the pharmacist monthly instead of weekly as I have had to do since coming out of hospital.  My memory of the recent past has huge gaps and I can find it difficult to retain anything I am told or details of conversations I’ve had.  I struggle to put sentences together and experience difficulties with word-finding (ironic for a former speech and language therapist).  My thoughts lack clarity making it hard to think anything through or make plans. My mood still fluctuates: dramatic dips happen quickly, sometimes without warning, and then it takes days to pull myself back to my default setting of low.  There are good times too, sometimes minutes or hours, and sometimes whole days.  These tend to exhaust me and can be followed by dips before I settle again.  Anxiety is a big part of my life, often fluctuating in opposition to my mood, so when my mood is better my anxiety is worse.  Sometimes I know why I am anxious, and other times it’s that pointless anxiety that some call “free-floating”, paralysing and nauseating me for no obvious reason.

For the few weeks immediately after discharge, my CPN and OT each saw me fortnightly on alternating weeks, and this has been reduced to monthly as I see one of them every fortnight.  We all met together a few months ago to talk about their roles in supporting me, but I was so upset at the thought of seeing them less that I was not able to take in much of what was discussed.  I think they see their role as supporting me to increase the range of daily activities I am able to take part in, but I’m not really sure how they are doing this.  In spite of this, I feel I need to see them, to talk about how I am doing and about what I am finding difficult, and the CPN has acknowledged that my progress has been much slower than the team had hoped or expected it would be.  I have recently started to see a clinical psychologist – just getting to the appointments is extremely difficult for me as they are in a place that triggers all sorts of memories and anxieties from work – and she plans to work with me initially on how I see myself, to try and improve my sense of self-worth, before tackling my anxiety about seeing people I know when out and about, which is what I find so debilitating.  I see a support worker most weeks who encourages me to go to places I find challenging, to walk to or near places that trigger my anxiety, and I’d like to see her working in conjunction with the psychologist to tackle my anxieties.  My GP still sees me every 2-3 weeks and has been extremely caring and supportive – I have just found out she is leaving the practice soon which will be a huge change for me, losing the one person who has been with me throughout this nightmare, who has given me so much of her time, has genuinely understood what I have been through, and who has done all she could to make sure that I had access to all the services I needed.

And I get unlimited and unconditional support from my daughter, who is only eight years old but is unendingly patient in reminding me of things that have happened, and whose presence allows me to go to some places I couldn’t otherwise go: my focus is on her which distracts me from my anxieties and frees me from continually scanning passing faces for anyone I might recognise.  The psychologist asked me what would be one thing about my life that I’d like to change, and my answer was that I want to stop relying on my daughter in order to get through my everyday life.10155229_965303180147762_2592633908837741288_n