annwfyn: (Sally - chibi)
[personal profile] annwfyn
So, today I found myself in a conversation with someone about the crazy* and I mentioned my list of stuff that had worked for me, but said, of course, I offered no guarantees and it really might not work for others. He thanked me for the advice and then thanked me again for the disclaimer. Apparently it made a refreshing change from the advice he'd got elsewhere which tended to come with a side dose of 'this will work'.

And it got me thinking. See, my last list was the list of stuff that worked for me. It might not work for you. But maybe some of the many many suggestions I have received over the years which really didn't work for me. And some may just make you laugh because they are bloody awful. So, without further ado, please read my second list, my companion list, my list of sanity CV failure.

The things that never made me any better at all:

  1. Talking therapies. Look, I know therapy does amazing things for a lot of people, in its various guises; CBT, psychodynamic, systemic, person centered, etc etc. It has never done anything for me except occasionally give me access to biscuits I might otherwise have not eaten. And, to be fair, provided me with a couple of hysterical stories about well meaning therapists desperately trying to seek meaning through very bad analogies. The best one being the counsellor who, when trying to talk to me about my stepmother's spinal injuries (I didn't think I was traumatised. She was sure I ought to be) said to me, while gazing into my eyes intensely, "but I think you're trying to do too much, Sally. You're rushing. And if you rush, you become like your stepmother. You fall off the horse". I managed to not laugh out loud at the hideous inappropriateness of that analogy.

    That same therapist once asked me if my father ever told me he loved me. She pushed a box of tissues towards me in a hopeful way when I responded with "good gracious, of course not. We're English".** She looked terribly disappointed when I didn't cry.

    I tried other talking therapies. Lots of them. But they always seemed to ask the same questions which didn't really seem relevant. I remember once saying in exasperation "it's not my past that worries me. It isn't anything that has happened to me. It's how I react to it". I mean, I do have sore spots in my past. Everyone does. But the crazy has never lurked there. And, when the medication works, those bruises are never that bad. I could probably do with someone to talk to, but no professional has as yet convinced me they are worth the money. My journal mostly seems to work as well, and it comes with pretty stickers and fancy colouring pencils. But for other people, the right talking therapy is the holy grail.

  2. Any kind of dietary change, including giving up alcohol. I have been offered a variety of ways in which I could change what I put into my mouth in a way that will improve my mental health. The main three things I've been told to give up in order to be saner are meat (I have done this. It wasn't that painful. It didn't change my mental health), dairy (I have done this briefly. I hated it. It did not make me saner.) and alcohol (I have mostly done this. It was sort of successful in that I mostly discovered that when I'm already crazy, alcohol acts as an accelerant. But after a while I went back to occasional and moderate drinking and it didn't change anything. So, basically, being drunk is bad for me. But going teetotal did not make me saner). In general, I'm not very convinced that my personal wellbeing comes hugely from my gut.

    And, in general, I got saner when I, in fact, largely emotionally detached from food. I like cooking. I like food, but I try and give it no moral value and no excessive emotional weight. I am not what I eat. But if you feel better, then those three diets have been recommended to me repeatedly.

  3. Beta blockers. I mean, a fair few other meds too, but beta blockers are mostly memorable for being the pills my doctors spent four years giving me to control the panic attacks. As far as I can tell, they would have been better off giving me smarties which would have had about as much clinical impact but would have been both cheaper and tastier. Other meds which failed me totally include citalopram (as I don't have depression), lithium (as I've got a thyroid problem and can't manage the tests), and St John's Wort (is that even a drug?). I'll also add 'any herbal remedy' failed abysmally. I've had GPs recommend herbal teas in place of sleeping pills too, which apparently works for some, but just made my urine smell peculiar. I do not think scented piss has any therapeutic value.

  4. Any kind of audio. Music, silence, relaxing noises, motherfucking whale song. I hate the whale song. A very well meaning person once paid for me to go to a spa with them as some kind of therapeutic pick me up and raved about the relaxation room. I was assured it would be life changing, spirit lifting, soul get the picture.

    I lay on a small couch in a dark room listening to bloody whale song for what felt like about ninety seven thousand hours***, while inside I slowly felt myself devolve into total lunacy driven by purest boredom. I curled my toes, I tapped my fingers, I wrinkled my nose, I tried to think about other things, I thought about Moby Dick, I developed sympathies with Captain Ahab, and I burst out of that room like a tornado and ran for the pool. Then I was allowed to do somersaults under water and have cocktails later, which helped far more.

  5. Giving up on any kind of stressful work and/or career. 'Avoid stress' is advice I've been given repeatedly. When I was first diagnosed I was basically told I probably would never work full time again, but I might manage some kind of part time admin job if it wasn't too challenging. My CPN in London was very clear she thought that working was too triggering for me and at the most I might be able to manage something very very quiet and soothing and non-thinky for a couple of days per week.

    I tried. I took a very basic admin job, doing academic admin. I got admitted to hospital 12 months later, and 18 months later Jez asked me to please find anything else to do because watching me work was like watching me sink into the swamp of despair. I hated it. I was constantly bored, constantly lazy, never moving, never thinking, and that was incredibly bad for my mental health. It was fucking horrible and very bad for me. Boredom, apparently, makes me insane. But this is me. Not everyone. And the main lesson I learned from this is that everyone is different and different jobs will affect people differently. Possibly also that there is good stress and bad stress, and I find good stress and a level of challenge better than safety and stagnation. And finally, our benefits system is shit and the notion that either you're too unwell to work or you can do any job is nonsense.

So, that's my complementary list. Good advice that just didn't work for me. What about you?

*Medical term
**Well, he's technically Canadian too. But I'm not sure there's that much of a difference
***Exactly that long

Date: 2017-02-07 12:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I found talking therapies cathartic, but not terribly useful, then my therapist persuaded me to do a bit of off-the-cuff art therapy (draw your feelings), and it triggered a vast change. I think it was just catching exactly the right thing at the right time plus actually sidestepping my shield of "talk engagingly to avoid emoting", but it certainly had an effect.

Date: 2017-02-11 07:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The number of times I get told to take time off work is staggering, yes my job is intensely stressful I'm working in a role that goes against all my natural tendancies but therapists and health professionals keep missing the part where I say that work defines me, gives my life some structure. Without it, I end up noctural, watching a ridiculous amount of porn and generally fixated on my past and current problems.


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