How my dog just taught me something

Juno is one year old. She’s naughty, willful and stubborn. She loves playing, chewing on ears, and cuddles.

She’s also wise.

I was going to wait til she had fallen asleep and go and attempt suicide, but then I opened my eyes from where I was lying on the opposite couch and saw her staring at me. Why wasn’t I with her?

So I crawled over and snuggled up to her and started crying. She rested her little head on mine and put a paw on my cheek.

She loves me and she needs me, I can’t let her down.


What do you do when:

There’s no point any more?

You are done with trying?

There’s no more progress you can make?

You gave therapy a go and it’s not worked?

You’re totally out of options?

Denial is a powerful thing.

I think I’ve been in denial about something that’s glaringly obvious to Dr K. Not only that, but another fellow blogger, the lovely BDLheart ( ), can also see it. I mean, gods, even J can see it.

In floods of tears last week, I told Dr K about how dreadfully ill and run down I was feeling. She listened as I described my mothers head-buried-in-sand attitude to my mental health crisis, and she said, ‘I knew there was trouble at home.’

Since I’ve met her, I have always denied any sort of upset at home. I always said I had a wonderful childhood, which wasn’t wrong. The problem is that along with the lovely things, like trips out and long summer afternoons playing with my dog and sister in the garden, I had always buried the not so nice things.

Things like when my mum realised we had not picked up my cousin for gymnastics and she was left waiting at school, my sensible plan to be dropped off at gym first (we were literally within walking distance when she remembered) and for my mum to zoom off to get her was met with a smack across the back of my hand.

Things like being screamed at for the fact I couldn’t remember in the slightest how to do fractions.

Things like accidentally saying a rude word and then having the silent treatment all afternoon.

Things like that.

BDLheart told me this:

“Take care of yourself. Your mom sounds a lot like mine. They can sufficate us if we’re not careful. I get stressed regarding work when I sleep poorly because of dreams, etc. Just rest and write.”

I went on to read a post of hers, and instead of feeling the usual ‘oh no, that’s not quite like my mum, she can just be a little difficult,’ I felt like someone finally got me. I read the story about painting a duck, in all its visceral realism, and remembered all the time my mum spent tutoring me to get into the local private school. Often I had to write stories, and often I was set a time limit and I was left to write alone. I hated this because I felt like my literary efforts were being mocked. My mum would get very sharp with me if I forgot paragraph rules, or misspelled something. It always felt like I could do better and it was always my fault when it wasn’t better.

I’ve denied that my mum can be cruel my whole life. I have negated incidents such as those above and others with alarming finality. No, it was my fault she did that because I was annoying and not concentrating. It was my fault that she screamed at me at home after ballet because I was being too chatty in class. It was all my fault and I was a bad kid sometimes.

Thing is, I’m sure Dr K would tell me to imagine this being ME and a child I know in place of my mother and I. I’m picturing now this sweet, adorable, cheeky monkey of a six year old who is the child of a close friend of mine. I’m trying to picture slapping him on the hand, or screaming at him for messing around in class, or even getting snippy with him for no reason…

Every time I try, I can see his sweet, mischievous face crease up in pain and shock, and tears pour down his face. Of course I pull away from that horrible image as though burned.

How can you scream at a six year old like that? I know they are frustrating and irritating, and can be smartasses and rude to boot. Thing is, they’re only children and quite often just need something explaining to them to make it click, or a firm but fair word in their ears. The only way I could ever condone screaming at a child like that is… never. I can’t picture it or do it so why should it happen?

I remember being really small and accidentally insulting an auntie. I didn’t mean to- I found her long, beautiful white teeth rather fascinating, and I remembered that horses had the same long, beautiful white teeth. Predictably enough, mum was horrified and shocked when I informed my auntie she had horse teeth, and sternly told me to apologise immediately when I had no clue what for. However my auntie was seized by a fit of giggles, which caught me too, and she averted a tense situation with her hysterical giggles. I remember that as being something a little revolutionary- if you made an honest mistake, it was ok not to be shouted at.

For years I never went to my mum if there was a problem. I’m pretty certain that’s because I was terrified of the legendary cold shoulder and the wrath that would come with me making a mistake. It’s three in the morning and eight-year-old me is feeling really sick. I wouldn’t wake mum up- I’d take myself to the bathroom, throw up horribly, and then go back to bed like nothing had happened and tell her in the morning. Sometimes, she’d wake up and hear me, but the response when she found out I’d been sick was always the same.

“Why didn’t you come and tell me?!”

After years and years of utter mystery, I know why.

Because I was too scared.

Dealing with vomiting by myself was easier than getting her out of bed. She doesn’t sleep well, so I thought that it was probably a bad idea to wake her if she was sleeping and I’d probably get in trouble for it. Of course, I don’t think I would have, but better to be safe than sorry, hey? I’d get up, throw up, and go back to bed. Same used to go for periods. Oh dear, in agony at four in the morning? That’s fine. Go downstairs, sort out pills and microwave a heat pad and go back to bed yourself, making sure to set and unset the alarm as needs be. My first period was at eleven, so I’d do this regularly from then. Same logic appeared in my child mind: if you wake your mum, you don’t know if she will be angry or not, so why risk it?

I fear conflict because it’s terrifying to have someone at least twice your height screaming at you about chatting in class. Yes, she was under stress because she was losing her auntie to cancer. Yes, her sister had started down the anorexia pathway again. Yes, my dad was at work a lot and basically on a terrible, exploitative contract. But there was no real excuse to chew my ear off so badly about one incident that she had me in tears begging not to have to leave the family dance school. She had threatened to kick me out of the school I don’t know how many times as a young girl, and every time was as devastating as the last.

I used to believe that this was just all ordinary childhood trauma, but I actually don’t think it is all that ordinary now. Dad was working a lot so he couldn’t be with my sister and I as much as mum, but I remember that he would only raise his voice if truly necessary. Mostly, his disappointment in us was sufficient for the two of us to apologise and get on with it. I’d always go to dad if I wanted to see a friend at the weekend because mum would always say no, regardless of whether or not we were free. It seemed when I was little, there was little room for negotiation and her word was always the last.

I thought she had mellowed a lot as I got older, and she has done for sure, but the problem then was that there were things I clashed with her about. We had some almighty rows about my Advanced ballet exam. I was under the thrall of my ex then too, but I continually felt like I was between a rock and a hard place with the two of them. She wanted me in the studio permanently, with what felt like no breaks: he wanted me permanently with him and wasn’t afraid to let my mum know that. So, of course, when he sent her rude texts, I was the one to blame because I’d let him say that to her. Did I have nothing to say? Was I as bad as him? How dare I!?

I don’t think any of this really constitutes as abuse, but I think it does constitute my mum re-enacting her own trauma onto me. Her mother was very emotionally unavailable throughout a lot of my mum’s life and she has been damaged through that. When I feel a messy, complicated emotion, my mum goes to pieces because she was never adequately taught how to deal with that emotion when she felt it, so how could she have the tools to teach me? So instead, work goes on top of it to mask it all and bury it deep, and I’m denied the acknowledgement of my emotion because that’s not possible. There’s not rulebook for that.

I was talking to her about my ex again. I do it a lot- she needs to know what I’m suffering, and she has no idea really what’s happening in a daily basis in my head. I know she didn’t mean this to hurt, but it did.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “but I’m going to be so glad when you don’t talk about your ex any more. It means you will have moved on.”

Oh gods, where do I even begin with that one?!

I will NEVER stop talking about my ex. NEVER. Does she expect her sister to stop talking about the man who she was married to who abused her? At the time, I said that I understood her comment, but now I know that what she really means is that when I stop talking about my ex, I’ll be that smiley smiley always happy girl who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and I’ll be TOTALLY BETTER and COMPLETELY OVER HIM.

Newsflash- this is forever, and the reason I will not stop talking about his myriad cruelties is to EDUCATE.

Now the denial has faded, I’m beginning to understand so much more about why I have felt so horrible for so long. I was trying to protect myself from a mother who can only be emotionally available about certain things, and is too frightened to be emotionally available about so many others. It’s a scary place to be and I now understand why my ex got his hooks into me- I needed that emotional availability from someone else.

Thank gods I have my friends and J. They will never ask me to stop speaking out.

I’m going to ask if anyone else has any advice for me on this subject, please post me a comment. I feel like I need a little guidance on this as it’s left me feeling scared again.

It isn’t BPD if there was trauma there too. (TW- certain things described in the link may be triggering)

On Being Invisible in the Mental Health System

This article explains, better than I ever could, about why so many people who endure child sexual abuse (or adult) and then get labelled obstructive, bitter, attention-seeking or violent as a result. I am so pleased it’s not just me that thinks this attitude is wrong. All the other diagnoses this woman received damaged her too, but my theory on the BPD diagnosis being slapped on traumatised people just blames them seems to be supported here.

Please, seek a different diagnosis if there was trauma in your past and you have been labelled with something that doesn’t fit. PTSD is probably what it is- a healable brain injury which was NOT your fault. NO abuse is ever your fault.

Struggling through these dark times but dealing with it better now that I’m resting. So much support through various people commenting and liking my posts, and following me, not to mention all the love I’m receiving from my friends. Keep fighting all, I’m trying my best. I’ll try and post again with what’s been happening as soon as I can.

Crashing down.

So the inevitable crash came. I’m sorry I didn’t blog properly in so long- truth be told, I’ve been struggling since before the new year began and I’m so exhausted. Nightmares or lucid dreams plague me and I toss and turn, and wake up almost every hour to check if the door is still shut and he’s not bursting through it.

I went to therapy yesterday still trying to pretend to myself I was ok, when my Moodscope scores have been saying the opposite for a while. No scores have been above 50 this whole month. I’m drained and I need rest. Dr K has been concerned about me for the past three weeks and she let me just cry yesterday in her office. I sobbed almost the whole time I was with her and that hasn’t happened since the early days of therapy when all I could do was cry. I felt so dissociative and I told her so, and I told her that I felt a lot of the time like I was pretending again. I read a blog post recently from Shedding Light on Darkness (thank you so much for writing that) that said something about lying to yourself. I’d been telling myself that I was fine with working straight after therapy on a Thursday and that I was processing it all, when really it comes out in dreams and I saw one of the weird shadows again, plus I hear the voics more regularly at the minute. I was falling down out of the sky with no parachute and trying to pretend I was flying.

It’s like all the stuff I’ve been trying to work on, to process through my system, has been being neatly unpackaged for an hour a week, given some thought, and then I’ve tried to stick it back into the box and leave therapy. Problem is, the minute you give memories and feelings like those any attention, they gain a life of their own and come crashing through your system, so I’ve had some horrible dreams recently, some horrible bad day, thoughts of self harm and suicide. I’m rambling in my speech again, and I can’t always think of the word I need to describe something important. I called the hall table the ‘ front desk’ the other day. Nobody thought it was a warning sign, they thought it was funny.

This is still a huge problem. I wrote a ‘How to Handle your PTSD-stricken daughter’ letter to my parents. I think Dad is getting it but the problem is he works a long way away from home all day, so basically it’s mum who takes care of me and she has no clue what she’s doing. Despite that letter, despite all the things I tell her on a day to day basis about PTSD and abusive relationships, despite the sliding scale I drew of my moods…

Yesterday after therapy, Dr K and I were drawing up a plan of action. She was worried about how unwell I was and how thin and gaunt I’d become. She wanted me to have a rest, but I knew how that would go down (and in fact, how it has gone down,) with my mum. When I left therapy I was daunted by the size of the task ahead: tell my mum and sister just how bad things were, ask for a week off, try and get a lock put on my door.

I told mum how bad I felt in a heartfelt cry for help, tears running down my cheeks and a huge pain in my chest. She blinked, looked at me, and said, “well I’m teaching now, and you will have to teach your second class.”

Then she walked off.

She wasn’t even going to bring it up that evening. She was going to try to jolly me along and make me smile again so I could go back to being the smiley smiley girl everyone wants to see.

I couldn’t deal with that. So me, my dad and her had a conversation about what the problem was, and I’m still getting nowhere with her.

It’s the same sort of stuff all over again. “Working makes you happy. Working gives you a purpose. Not working makes you depressed. Work is a distraction. Work is not what made you crash last time. Believe in yourself.”

So many problems with all that.

Working like I am doing at the minute does not make me happy. I hate it. I hate Mondays with a passion. I hate Tuesdays more. I drag myself through the working week like I have no legs and I can’t walk. I don’t sleep well Wednesday nights then I’m forced to get up on Thursday to get to therapy, which is the only highlight, and then basically I’m slamming all the tough emotions and feeling straight back into the box to teach again.

I don’t really want to teach for life. I’m not interested in examining dance any more, and I want to write as a career now, more than anything. I’m done with teaching already but I need it to be able to fund the set-up of a life with J maybe, or the start of my massage business. Not working does not make me depressed- I feel that actually having time to process all the tough emotions that happen to emerge after therapy HELPS. I’m more productive afterwards if I’m able to feel bad and curl up in a ball with the dog. Work is a huge distraction- so big that it takes up my whole fucking life and leave me with nothing else at the end of the day. I still have a limited amount of energy, and it’s all wasted on work and not on self-care. I’m so drained at the end of a day that I can barely muster the energy to call J.

Work is precisely what made me crash last time. I am so on edge and exhausted, and I feel like working has heaped strain on my head harder than not doing so would. I don’t mind if my mum used work as an escape, but I don’t want to do that any more because that’s what sent me into hospital last time. I’ll be there again soon if I don’t do something about it.

All the self-belief in the world will not help if I commit suicide (or attempt again) because I am simply doing too much to process what I’m digging up in therapy. I’m not going to lie to myself any more and pretend I can compromise and just nod my head and go along with whatever anyone says other than me because that’s what I did with him. Now look where I am. Mired in severe PTSD, exhausted, and nearly without options.

I want to be with J more than anything. I miss him so much, and I need his reassuring presence. Even just having him in the room with me sometimes improves my mood. I want sleep that heals, not that fills me full of nightmares. I want no voices in my head any more, they’re scaring me again. I also want to be listened to- still not having the lock put on my door because I self-harmed in the past, and regardless of the fact that several times I actually self-harmed in public with no locked doors, I still don’t get my wishes respected. I need a lock. I need to feel safe. I hate having to change in my room because there is no lock on the door and I feel vulnerable, and it doesn’t matter how many times I ask mum to knock, she will still barge in uninvited and pretend she is surprised when I’m literally just out of the shower in a towel. I have no fucking privacy- I hide all my old journals, because she’d read them without a second thought despite the fact I’m an adult woman.

This all needs to change or I will keep crashing down and someday I’ll burn out, and there will just be a shell left of me.

Dr K and I are working on all this and I think that we need to have a meeting with my mum at some point. She’s scared and cynical of Dr K. She says Dr K is planting the idea that I should never work in my head. Mum actively tried to get me some work last night with MY massage business that I haven’t even set up yet!! She was trying to book me an appointment to massage somebody on Saturday at two! I teach all day on a Saturday, and the massage business is MY business, not hers. I am so tired of trying to do what I want only for it to get subverted by my mum. The lock is a sticking point and so is this. I told her I couldn’t deal with any more work, yet here she is trying to set up more. It’s not just to build a future for me, it’s so I don’t feel any messy emotion near her and I’m that happy smiley FAKE girl ALL THE TIME. JUST LIKE HE WANTED.

Enough is enough. I’m taking the week off this week or I will end up in hospital. I’m exhausted and just need space, and I need to be understood.

Otherwise, I’ll end up back on the mental health ward again and it will be another three weeks before I’m allowed out.

Stupid black cloud.

Here we go again. Since Christmas I’ve been struggling with the choking fumes of the black cloud that binds me. Right now, I feel like I’m pulling myself through the mucky sludge that is life. I miss J more than I can say.

I’m dealing with a lot of bad shit in therapy and I saw my ex recently. Then, I felt pleased I had made it out without talking to him. I feel now like bad things are on their way and that I’m never free until I leave this country. Even then I won’t be entirely free. He still probably has some way of knowing where I am.

He’s stayed in the next town close to me whilst I’ve been living here. He’s been there probably so he can have that off-chance of bumping into me. All I want is to be happy, without PTSD, the memory problems, self-sabotage and agony that comes with it. I want J. I want a new life.

When do I get it? Do I get it?

I didn’t say before, but I’ve been thinking of suicide again in a distracted, half-baked thoughts of how it would be better just to sleep. Then I think of my puppy, of J… but then my thoughts trail off and I worry about how horrible everything on the inside of my head is and then I just wait for my eyes to shut and for sleep to come, or for my day to start, or for something to happen without me hating every second.

Apparently, I’m not doing as well as I’d thought. I hope this will pass, this feeling I have.