Coping with sleep

My number one coping strategy is getting enough sleep. Should I fail to get enough sleep for long enough I will end up too exhausted to use any other coping strategies.

I forgot to get my repeat prescription on time this week, and as I usually rely on the sedative effect of quetiapine to get me to sleep, I had a few bad nights – when waking up the trouble of trying to get back to sleep made it feel like I was struggling to breathe. I don’t think that was the case, but my mind gave the illusion of it, probably because it had trouble expressing the feeling of being unable to sleep.

Historically a week with sleep disruption results in me acting implusively, not always dangerously, but always in a way that I regret.

Luckily this time around it was “just” two days, so I’m OK, and feeling, safe now, even if the feeling of fear when I try to go to sleep hasn’t faded yet.

Somehow, although it defies explanation I have found myself with too many things to do (programming, new series on Prime Video, and fitting in video games). That’s good, as it leaves me safe.

Bye for now.

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Winning, sort of

For me this is

  • Getting up and showered, within 2 hours (that’s the best for now)
  • Getting a decontamination procedure done that’s stressing me out big time
  • Going to sleep without being afraid of what my mind might consider
  • Leaving my flat each and every single day
  • Keeping my (excessive) cleaning product consumption from increasing
  • Playing a new game or reading a new book
  • Writing a blog post

I haven’t posted in the last couple of days, and have been focussing on just getting the basics completed. I’ve managed to “win” so to speak.

Coping Mechanisms

Video games

Just shooting or destroying items on screen is cathartic. I play Overwatch (https://playoverwatch.com), and this week have withstood the anxiety of starting a new game and started one called Hades (http://playhades.com).

This game is about the son of the Greek god of death trying to escape the underworld. Which is a dark, miserable place where any occupants are trapped (including everyone who has died). Unlike most of the occupants the son of the god of death is alive, and reincarnates upon death again, and again, with no escape from his dismal reality. His only way out is to battle through all the levels of the underworld.

This makes a good analogy to recovery and restarting live after multiple suicide attempts. Life goes on, and the only rational way out, is to fight on, through a living hell.

This wasn’t what I had in my mind when I got the game, but I like the comparison. At the time I just liked the combat.

Walking

Walking just consumes time, with the end goal being that my mind will have sorted out whatever it is thinking about by the time the walk finishes.

This doesn’t always work, sometimes I break into running to vent stress – which helps. Going out in cold air is the most effective way to get my mind to “reset” (which is just clearing it of any impulses) and keep me safe.

Blogging/Diary (I have both)

Expressing how I feel is helpful. When something is written down it is much less scary as it is clearly acknowledged, as opposed to only inside my head.

Music

Listening to music provides a something for my mind to focus on. I like to call this providing the second track for my mind. The first track is whatever I’m doing at the moment. This avoids any ruminating, which I don’t want.

Onwards

I’ll keep fighting to win tomorrow. And the day after. To the future…

Motivation for self-harm, and alternatives

Trigger Warning: This post discusses self-harm, and references feeling suicidal.

This post’s focus is the often invisible self-harm that happens without people noticing it, normally. I explore the causes of myself having self-harmed in the past.

See here for help on minimising the harm you do to yourself. Some techniques I’ve found useful are snapping an elastic band against yourself, punching a pillow or sofa or running. Distracting yourself is a good option as it lets the emotions dissipate so you don’t end up harming yourself (see this post). I often count from 1-8 again and again when feeling anxious.

Should you ever want to kill yourself call someone you trust, a service like Samaritans 116 123, your local CRHT (if you have the number), or just 999. If you don’t live in the UK the numbers you have access to will be different.

Punishment

Self-punishment is a way of trying to cope with some “crime” you feel has been committed by you. It only emphasises the “crime”, and the goal is to make you feel worse as the punishment.

The crime could be an unwanted intrusive thought, or something like fogetting a chore. The action can be tiny, with no-one else aware of it, but to you it feels significant. A rational response would be to acknowledge that it happened, and move on, which is what you have to do in the end.

As the least extreme example (and not in the self-harm category) you could say not watch a series you like on Netflix, or make yourself go to bed early. This just emphasises that you were unhappy with the action, but, as I’ve found, isn’t any good at preventing it in future, as I just obsess over the mistake more.

At the other end of the spectrum you could feel you deserve to die for the action, and take some steps to do that.

Inbetween the two extremes are superficial cuts (where the cut draws blood, but doesn’t need treatment), serious cuts (which need treatment or leave very nasty scars), and burning. Any self-harm can leave a mark.

The main effect of the self-harm is it’s shock value as I find I am now well and truly distracted as I’ve done something worse that the original problem!

This gets out of control for me. As a tolerance develops to the mild self harm, so more extreme self harm is used to get the same shock again. This escalates quickly and is dangerous. I (back when it was a major issue) ended up taking it too far, and ending up in A&E, which persuaded me to stop it for a while, although not forever, the cycle repeated a few times.

It’s not an issue for me at the moment though. After seeing a psychologist I’ve found it easier to accept that I’m OK and that I mess up, but it isn’t such a big deal.

Venting emotion

When suffering a mental illness the distress felt can feel like it is inexpressible. So damaging yourself is viewed as an option.

The type of self-harm used and how extreme it is varies between people. I’ve found I tend to ramp up how severe it it is quickly, as I use it as a last resort to vent, and then next last resort is always worse than the previous one. I do know people self-harm regularly, every day a consistent amount without it getting worse over time.

Hitting something soft or smashing ice cubes is a safe way to vent aggressive emotions as it doesn’t cause any damage.

If you’re unbearably sad cozying up in a blanket is a good way to make yourself feel better.

Obsessing over self-harm

Sometimes I find my mind obsessing over self-harm, and I think about a specific way to hurt myself, again, and again, and again; which gets exhasting to just not hurt myself despite my mind thinking about it. For me, at least, this is part of suffering from OCD; what you obsess over can vary massively between different people with OCD, so some people may not even consider it.

Exhasting to just not hurt myself

Me

After several days of my mind obsessing over it it can feel easiest to just harm myself to get rid of the thoughts. That’s pretty much what happened today when I cut myself, the worst incident in a while.

Conclusion

The thoughts behind the self harm vary a lot, but the results appear the same, and none of it is ideal. Professionals refer to it as a maladaptive behaviour, as opposed to an adaptive, healthy response.

It can feel like you’re cheating by distracting yourself, or minimising the distress by not self-harming. You’re really not, you’re just coping differently in a way that will last and be usable forever.

Am I abandoned by you?

Yes? No? Are you sure?

Didn’t I feel like this last week? It wasn’t true then…

Sometimes the smallest items can trigger feeling abandoned by an individual. A late reply to a message. They forget to message you.

Sure, some of the time it’s real, but most of the time it isn’t a slight to me personally. So far I’ve always found there’s a good reason. Eventually messaging resumes, with no issues remaining.

The impulse is to disconnect from the individual so this never happens again. I abandon them first, so they can’t leave me. From experience this isn’t ever the right technique, and when the reason clears up, they message me, without prompting.

Coping with these events is normal. Other people have stuff going on. However sometimes it can escalate, when both sides feel abandoned due to experiencing mental health issues.

A not so great way to test whether you’ve been forgotten is to not message the person on the grounds that they will message you. This isn’t a good idea, don’t do this at home, I’ve been advised by a mental health professional that it is destructive to relationships. It usually works just fine, the other person messages me; all my friends have “passed” the test way more than once.

This testing falls to pieces when both sides try the same tactic. There aren’t any messages. This tends to happen when both sides are experiencing low mood.

There’s only one solution, not running this “test”. Easier said that done, as the moment my mood crashes I lose the motivation to resist running the test. It’s really hard. When my mood is stable, I rarely consider it, but when my mood is low, it is done all the time.

Not sure that I can ask someone else to avoid doing it though, as I know that even knowing it’s a bad idea I still do it anyway. So how can I ask someone else to do better than me?

There isn’t a neat solution. Just trying not to jump to the worst conclusion, and then do the same again, again, and again.