Friday, 26 July 2019

Lack of Resources: Counselling Session 10

(Trigger Warning: Mention of trauma, self harm, overdosing, and suicide)

I had been experiencing a lot of emotional numbness and the need to avoid my feelings; leading up to this counselling session. Because of that, I wasn't sure what to talk about. My counsellor did ask me to embellish on the numb feelings and avoidance though and we found I was doing this to protect myself from intense distress and depression. There'd been some triggering storylines on television, and instead of panicking, I found myself dissociating in order to protect myself from the horrible feelings of being triggered.

My mum has had to fill in a work capability questionnaire too, and helping her do this, seeing her so anxious and depressed, has really rubbed off on me. It also took me back to the times I've had to fill in these forms; how much I've struggled emotionally, remembering back to that awful first face to face assessment. I never want to go through that again. My mental health worsened partly because of that assessment, and I haven't significantly improved since. As for emotions rubbing off on me, I told my counsellor that this happened in many situations, and I found I even got affected by atmospheres in a room. If it's a depressing atmosphere, I feel depressed. If it's an anxious atmosphere, I feel panicky, and so on. If a person is upset, they don't have to be showing it obviously, or tell me. I can sense how they feel, and it makes me feel the same. I suppose I'm an empath, in that sense. I've always been told I am both sympathetic and empathetic to people's situations.

We talked about how my emotions tend to be very intense. Even being numb can feel intense.  I find it hard to "catch" myself before my emotions have gone from 0-100, so balance is something I would love to strive for.

We also talked about the dissociation I experienced. I explained how it felt as if I was looking at the world through a thick glass window, or an out of body experience; where I'm watching myself do and say things. I'm not really there, I'm just a body without the human element to it. I also feel very spaced out. I find it hard to talk about things fluently. I can't concentrate properly and nothing feels real. When I'm like this, I worry about what I will say or do as I'm not really *there* to face the consequences.

I started experiencing dissociation when I was bullied at school. It was a way of protecting myself and escaping from the bullies' cruel words, the abandonment I felt when left out, the lack of support and understanding from my elders. I was avoiding my feelings, and it took a while to ground myself.

We then moved on to what would happen after the last session (session 11) of counselling. We'd decided that, although counselling had helped me to talk freely about what I needed to, and understand the problems I have with trauma, it was not a specific therapy for trauma. What I needed was something trauma focused. The counsellor said that the Wellbeing (Primary Care) Team only offer trauma focused CBT. I considered this, but wanted to know if secondary care would offer anything. She said she'd spoken to her manager, who had decided I'm not unwell enough for secondary care, and to be honest, they just didn't have the resources to offer the long term help I needed.

So it was CBT or nothing.

I told my counsellor that I had set up a fundraising page to try and raise enough money to fund a few private sessions of trauma therapy or EMDR . This would help me to get specialised help, but it cost around £80 for an hour's session. Unfortunately, the fundraiser was a flop. I had a grand total of one donation.

I decided to say yes to the CBT. It was my only choice. My counsellor had been under the impression that she could refer me straight on to be placed on the waiting list for CBT, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Once counselling has finished, I need to self refer, go through the telephone assessment, and then be placed on the (8-10 week I think?) waiting list. It's not ideal, but it really is that or no help at all.

I told my counsellor about how, although I was grateful for the help I had got, I was frustrated about the lack of choice of therapies in my local mental health team. I knew it wasn't the staff's fault, but it didn't stop me feeling as if I wasn't really getting the right help for me. I also felt abandoned by secondary care. Again, I was grateful for the help they had given me (a referral to a psychiatrist, and a couple of sessions with them, as well as a CPN, and support worker who gave me some very short rounds of self compassion therapy and emotional regulation therapy). The last time I was referred to them though, I was very unwell, self harming, overdosing, and even hallucinating, they would not help me. I was assessed then discharged; being advised to get CBT with the wellness team. Usually, they would tell me to call if I ever needed them. This time, they didn't. It could've been a mistake on their part, but my brain told me that they didn't want me to call them ever again. I felt as if they'd washed their hands of me because I didn't deserve the help, and I would have to have done something drastic if I ever was to get their help again.

I said to my counsellor that, when it came to urgent help, mental suffering was not seen as bad enough for assistance. It had to be that the mental suffering had led to physical consequences (such as self harm/overdosing/a suicide attempt) before anything would be done. Even then, help wasn't guaranteed. I suppose I did blame some of the staff for not taking me seriously enough, but it was also to do with lack of funding from the government, leading to lack of resources, and therefore lack of help and choice of care. It's such a shame. No one should be left to suffer in silence.

I have one more session left, then that's it for counselling. I told my counsellor at the end of the session, that I would miss her a lot, and I felt that we had a great therapeutic relationship. I think she appreciated that; she was grateful anyway.

So my plan now is to wait a few days after my last counselling session, then ring the mental health team to self refer for CBT. I'm hoping the therapist I see knows a lot about trauma, so that they understand the things I tell them. I'm keeping an open mind about going through CBT yet again (5th time now?) so I'll have to wait and see how it goes. I will of course blog (and maybe also vlog) about my sessions. In the meantime, "just keep swimming!"



Resources

My ESA Tribunal Experience: https://www.amysmysteryillness.co.uk/2014/03/my-esa-tribunal-experience.html

13 Signs That You're an Empath: https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/empath-signs/

Grounding techniques: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/self-care/#TryGroundingTechniques

Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/#.XTtgYuhKiM8

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/#.XTtg2ehKiM8

My Ko-Fi fundraising page: https://ko-fi.com/W7W0XG96?

Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing: https://www.ptsduk.org/treatment-options/eye-movement-desensitisation-reprocessing-emdr/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwyerpBRD9ARIsAH-ITn8wTsjUzlHWODMZO6to9j5467XJogbBYhhHsDZpozCQXg0x83b4DAwaAvmdEALw_wcB





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