If people treated physical illness like mental illness…

CW: sickness, death, other depressing shit.

 

“Try to think calming thoughts. Non-agonizing thoughts.” You croon into the face of the man lying on the ground. You avert your gaze from the jagged end of shattered femur protruding from a bloody hole in his thigh. “Don’t think about the pain. You can overcome this. I believe in you.” Slowly his moans of pain go quiet, his face white with shock and pain. His skin loses its colour, goes cold and clammy. “That’s better. Don’t focus on the pain. Think strong thoughts. Think of how much you want to be well. Take hold of your goals: you will walk!” He lapses into unconsciousness. Pain, shock, and massive physical trauma have taken their toll. Soon his heartbeat fades. “Why aren’t you trying?” You demand, as he takes his final breaths, “Why don’t you want to be well? If you wanted it enough, you wouldn’t die like this!” He dies. You wonder why he didn’t love life enough to overcome his problems.

 

“It must be so depressing, being a cash cow for Big Pharma,” you tell your friend as she injects her insulin. She’s had diabetes since childhood, and has it pretty well under control with a careful diet and regular injections. “I mean, you’re basically an addict, right? You’d be a different person, without the drugs. You can’t even function without them. They’ve got you hooked.”

“Actually, I need insulin to allow my body to function normal- ” She tries to make excuses, but you have to tell her.

“You’re letting yourself rely on artificial drugs. How will you ever learn to be resilient if you don’t push yourself, learn to be self-reliant? I believe in you. You just need to believe in yourself.”

Worn down by your constant moaning, your friend begins to doubt herself. She skips one dose of insulin, then another. Her partner finds her one morning, collapsed on the bathroom floor. She never wakes up from the coma. You wonder why she was never able to make that final step into true self-reliance. One more death caused by the evils of Big Pharma 😦

 

You find a growth on your side. It’s sore and painful. It seems like it fits all the warning signs for cancer. It’s still small though. You go to your GP and they frown. “We’ll just give you paracetamol. Until it’s seriously affecting your quality of life, we don’t have any services funded to deal with you.” You go home. Months pass. The growth… grows. You stop going outside for fear that people can see it bulgig under your clothes. It hurts, constantly. Sometimes it bleeds. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. Finally, emaciated and frail, you fall and hit your head. An ambulance rushes you to A&E. You need complex surgery and end up spending six weeks in hospital. Although they successfully remove the tumour, you never regain your full strength. Health problems plague you for the rest of your days. This costs the NHS a huge amount of money, but luckily you are declared Fit for Work so at least the state saves on benefits. You die in poverty.

 

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If people treated physical illness like mental illness…

Pathogen

I had The Illness That Makes Your Head Feel Really Heavy. This is a real illness that has apparently been going round at my mum’s work, making people sign off sick because the intense weight of their head became insupportable. It also gives you all the usual annoying cold/virus symptoms. I spent the past couple of days lying around being weak and pathetic. Now I just feel like I got hit in the head a bunch, keep feeling like I might faint, and have a scritchy scratchy throat. I’m also really tired because I helpfully had a load of nightmares about being bashed in the head and screamed at.

Being ill makes me feel crazy and sad and frustrated. To swith to therapy-speak, illness (along with tiredness, hunger, and being wasted) is definitely a factor in increasing psychological vulnerability. This we learned in DBT in the form of a snappy acronym. DBT loves acronyms. This one is PLEASE, for:

 

Physical

ILlness (treat it)

Eat balanced

Avoid mood altering substances

Sleep enough

Exercise

 

OK I lied about it being snappy. It’s pretty clunky as acronyms go, but it does describe the basics of taking care of your body. This is definitely something I’m getting better at, but it’s still more Bukowski than Buddhist. (And leave Burroughs and HS Thompson out of it!) But I do accept the importance of taking care of yourself – of not completely trashing the body that supports and carries you for your whole life.

The trouble is, I can’t really treat this illness, because it’s basically a really annoying headcold, which is not amenable to anything other than Cold & Flu pills and Tiger Balm (better than Viks vapour rub). Obviously these things don’t really help that much, so now it’s time to mindfully accept the situation.

HAH! Just kidding. It’s time to bitch and moan constantly and do nothing useful. It’s time to wrap myself in a fluffy blanket of free-floating anxiety and curl up on the couch, because outside is cold and the gaze of others makes me feel like I’m burning.

You can tell therapy is working somehow though, because I’m not getting drunk right now.

(I was supposed to be writing today.)

 

Pathogen

Abandonment & Rejection

Last night I was helpfully telling my boyfriend about all my amazing symptoms of mental illness (aka reasons he should run away), when I realised something. I was going down the usual list of BPD criteria, and as usual pretty much ignored the part about abandonment issues. I don’t really consider that I have them much more than the average person (or possibly I just have a complete lack of insight), but if you change ‘abandonment’ to ‘rejection’ then damn. 

I generally consider that I have social anxiety because I think everyone hates me and I’m terrified of fucking up any social encounter. But what is the real fear? Not just looking a bit daft, I do that all the time – sometimes even on purpose. It has to be something worse than that. I fear ridicule and definitely I fear somehow hurting or angering others. I fear confrontation. But ultimately, the root of all these fears is rejection. I assume that most people want me to go away, and eventually, they will get the courage to tell me to fuck off.

When I hear the word ‘abandonment’, I think of people leaving. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced much of this in my life. But perhaps rejection is a very similar feeling. It isn’t as abrupt or sometimes even as obvious as abandonment, it comes in many degrees. But at its core is still the message: ‘I do not want you around.’ And that message can so easily be skewed by low self esteem and internalised as ‘You are not good enough to be around’.

Having always been really shy, I assumed that I just had social anxiety as part of my generally anxious personality. But maybe it is actually linked to borderline personality disorder as well. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder to deal with. But hey, knowledge is power, right? And the therapy I’m doing now will hopefully give me some ways to deal with this.

Intellectually, I know that I’m not a completely terrible person. I have an amazing partner, family and friends who aren’t just secretly wishing I’d go away. But in some deep part of my brain which is not amenable to reason, there is a whole tangle of visceral fear and ever-spinning anxiety, just waiting for the axe to drop.

 

 

Abandonment & Rejection

Poem: 26

“Where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be.”  Keep telling yourself that.

26 and I still don’t know where Dorset is

or how I got these bruises

Still can’t tell herpes from acne or remember

which scars came from which disease

I’ve destroyed more than I’ve created but at least  I’ve kept it cyclical

Pleasing symmetry, circling the drain

Charybdis is awful shabby these days  (it’s the drink that done her)

but on the other hands        and other heads

Scylla isn’t bad, for a hard place.

I’m 26 and still kicking at mythical monsters

from the childrens’ room of a smalltown library

26 and still hoping to score something

to shoot that fucking arrow straight into staring eyes

be phoenix fire ashes all at once                           dashed away on the breeze

Hell I Just want to hit something

After more than a quarter of a century I should have learned:

This is how you get bruises

Poem: 26