Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 in a nutshell

With the year ending, I have been reflecting on 2011. Initially, I felt it was all doom and gloom and my summary of the year was that, thinking back on how I felt this time last year, I am definitely no happier or more hopeful than I was. In that regard I summed up my year as one of little progress and I felt pretty disappointed with myself. But as I continued to mull over the events of the year and the specifics of my situation in life at the moment, I realised that although my summary may be true (I am not any happier in general), it's not just as simple as that. I've had an eventful year in some ways, so it hasn't been an insignificant year and I have a lot to feel positive about.

Newer readers may not know that I started off 2011 with a huge trip with my husband to Dubai, New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka. We were away for nearly two months travelling. This was a positive thing and I am pleased that I was able to do it, even though I may secretly acknowledge that it was really hard for me given my low physical energy and my mental health problems and I feel I didn't get as much enjoyment out of it as I might have if I'd had more energy and less mental turmoil going on inside me. It was hard for me to be away from therapy for that long too and I felt I coped quite well considering it was a few months without any support in times of difficulty. In reality, it wasn't a good time for me to be doing such a trip, but at least I didn't let my situation hold me back from taking opportunities and I don't think I was any worse off when I came back. In fact, it probably helped me physically because although I am permanently physically exhausted, the practicalities of the trip meant I had to be more physically active and this helped me to lose nearly a stone of weight (14lbs) and develop a little bit of muscle tone (which I have now half regained and lost all of

When I returned from my trip in March I started straight into a new job with more responsibility. This has been huge for me. It's the area of work I studied and trained for at University but I had so many problems getting through my degree, mainly due to being bullied in what should have been my final year, which then resulted in me not being able to progress or work well because I was dissociating frequently and losing a lot of time (I didn't understand this at the time, I just new I wasn't functioning well). By the time I eventually made it through my degree, over two years after I should have graduated, I was so put off that area of work and so scared of having to come face to face with the people who bullied me in an interview panel that I didn't apply for any jobs that came up. 

So to finally take the step and face my fears to go for this job was a huge step forward for me. It was successful too, in that I did well and got offered a job. It didn't mean I wasn't shitting myself at the prospect of starting the work in March though and coping with the new pressures of starting any new field of work, combined with the pressures faced by the majority of health professionals working in the NHS currently (ie so few staff that your workload is much greater than you have the capacity for) has not been easy by any manner of means. It has been really, really hard actually. Not to mention the fact that my energy is very low anyway, so I have had to expend more energy than I feel I have each day just on work alone. 
I've also been continuing to put energy into attending and reflecting on clinical psychology sessions, which became weekly this year. As anyone who is going through therapy to try to deal with dissociative or other issues will know, it takes a huge amount of energy and can be physically and mentally draining. 
It's little wonder that I have felt like I have the motivation of a potato in my free time. Really, the remainder of my year outside of therapy and work has been largely spent flopped on the sofa. Sometimes even the energy required to type a blog post or watch TV has been beyond me and if you were to take some random snap shots of my year you would likely find more than a few of me in an apparent catatonic stupor. 
I am not sure whether to view the results of various health investigations that I have had this year as a positive or negative thing. As well as my knees being in now almost constant pain, which makes many kinds of movements (including trying to get on and off the loo) extremely painful, the year has brought with it the diagnoses of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome as well as a hereditary blood disorder (which for now will remain unnamed on here for various reasons) and possible Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (I say 'possible' because my doctor seems sure about this one but I am still hopeful that the symptoms might be due to the blood disorder alone). 
Why would these diagnoses be a good thing?” I hear you say... well, you're right, it's not good to have things wrong with your health. But on the other hand, it's not like I have just developed any of these things this year. The symptoms of them all have been ongoing and worsening over many years, so in a way, I am ambivalent about saying it's bad that I've been diagnosed with these things, because for me it is also good that I now know what is wrong with me and it has helped me to see that I am not just a lazy bones who can't be bothered to live her life properly. Although I still beat myself up about it and get angry at myself for not making the most of my youth, I have had to be a bit gentler in recent months and accept that it's not just as simple as that. It has helped me to give myself a little bit more credit for the things I am still managing. It's a pretty darn good thing actually that given my physical problems and mental health problems I am still managing to work full time (even if by the skin of my teeth) and cope with psychology sessions with all of their effects. I have come to accept though that working full time is not something I am going to be able to keep doing indefinitely. It leaves me no energy for the rest of my life. As soon as Adam is working again (which will hopefully be this year) and earning a good wage, I will be going straight to my manager to ask for reduced hours. 
So, I think you will agree with me, that although perhaps I am still struggling and feeling overwhelmed and at the end of my tether a lot of the time, my year hasn't been a failure but perhaps progress hasn't been seen so clearly overall because I have been dealing with things that are holding me back.

I have also summarised a few other details of my life which I feel are things I have to feel positive about. Some of these things are progress made this year, others have been slowly improving over the past few years since I started therapy with T:
  • Able to tolerate music now: for a long time after I left my church, I couldn't bear any kind of music at all. The sound just made me feel anxious and overwhelmed. Now, I listen to music everyday on my way to and from work. I am glad to have this interest back as there is not a lot in life I get enjoyment out of and music was traditionally something I did love.
  • Able to tolerate social occasions with less resulting migraines: still depends on the situation but this time three years ago if I had met with a friend for coffee I could guarantee the rest of my evening would be spent lying in a darkened room in pain afterwards.
  • Able to be alone and feel content more often: again, this previously would have resulted in a migraine and vomiting.
  • Self harm has improved: although I have self harmed this year, I haven't hopefully caused any more permanent scars. There are ones on my leg that will always be with me now but recent marks I have done have been lighter and I think will fade in time. Some already only show up when I'm cold.
  • Eating problems more settled this year: not feeling the need to comfort eat/binge/purge/binge and purge often (seldom now)
  • Headaches less frequent: this is one I am not sure about. I definitely have less than a few years ago but they are still very prevalent at times. Goes through phases.
  • Dissociating less in therapy sessions and able to tolerate more emotion.
  • Blogging has helped me connect with others who I have a lot in common with and therefore I feel less alone and more supported.
  • Sex has improved: to be frank, sex is still really, really difficult but there has definitely been progress. This has been mainly because I have made a lot of effort to train myself to be able to tolerate 'good feelings' in my body. I am now able to masturbate on my own (huge progress: a year or so ago I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do less) and have an orgasm (although to be fair, I still don't often want to). This has helped me to be able to enjoy sex to a certain degree, although there is still a lot of progress to be made in this area and still a big problem with switching and sex as self harm. Even the fact that I am able to talk about this stuff here is progress.
I haven't talked about progress in terms of how things are going in therapy and with parts and my awareness of others etc. I feel this is much more fluid and to be honest, I'm not sure how much progress I have made specifically in this area this year. In a way I feel things are more separate and my understanding of the others is poorer than it was previously. But I don't want to get bogged down with that in this post and given everything I have been dealing with this year, it could be worse. I might reflect more on that another day. 

I'm also aware that I have tried to be positive in this post. There are things about this year that have been really rubbish and areas where I feel I have gone backwards instead of forwards. Some things are just as bad as ever. You know a lot of this from reading my other posts but I just want to be realistic and acknowledge that it's not all sunshine and lollipops. It's not a bad thing to see the good though. I probably don't do it enough. 

Who knows what's in store for 2012. I have been dreading the turn of the year. But life goes on whether you dread it or not and only time will tell how things go this year. I hope your year will be healthy and happy and full of progress and I hope you will continue to follow me as I drag myself through mine! 


Anonymous said...

Oh dear! I seem to be having one of those days when I sent you a reply, but it's disappeared! So if you see 2 replies, that's just me. Doh!

What I was trying to say was Well Done You! I think you have achieved a lot more than you think, you just can't see it right now.

I totally admire you sharing your story.

Sending you all my best wishes as always,

Erica x

Candycan said...

Blogger can mess up sometimes. It's really annoying. Thanks for the encouragement Erica. Happy new year!

Ruth said...

You know Candy one of the things you may want to consider is the perspective my counselor had for me. When you are rebuilding the foundation of your life through therapy it is hard to progress in other ways. A lot of work is happening but just doesn't show up as surface growth. You are doing a lot of work in many areas. I am glad you enjoy music again. :)

CimmerianInk said...

Hi Candycan,

First off congratulations on the TWIM award.

I've just come over to your blog so I have some catching up to do but I just wanted to wish you the best for the work you'll be doing this year therapeutically.

Healing is a big deal that takes a lot of work and it's really nice to see that you've had progress. Little things and big things are all progress, they all count, so good for you. :)

Candycan said...

Thanks Ruth. I have been thinking about what you said here over the last few days. you make a good point.

CimmerianInk. thank you, i was very excited to get a twim award. it always surprises me that anyone would want to read my blog so it's encouraging. thanks for the comment :)