I wanna be a corporate punk!

I was a teenage punk. It was flipping brilliant. Now I’m 25 going on 60, working a comfortable 9 to 5 existence, and I wonder what I’m missing now that I had in my teens.

TeenPunk

That’s not to say I’m unhappy; more that I feel I’m missing a vital piece of my identity. I feel like a faceless member of a corporation – and a temporary one at that. I feel my existence is transient. What impact am I having on the world I live in and care about? I love doing the blog and Twitter; I am exercising my voice in pursuit of my passions. I just can’t shake the feeling I am wasting my days on something I really actually don’t care about. I’m still a punk at heart.

Social inequality and stigma in particular truly grate on me; even within this office environment there’s a hierarchy (and yes, I’m at the bottom of the heap!). I’ve been in charge of teams before and I like to think and hope that I was approachable, that no one viewed me as being superior to them. I can sum it up in two words: Tea Rounds.

I haven’t made a tea round in years now. There’s no need in a big company – everyone just goes and grabs a hot drink when they want one. I miss the social aspect of doing a round of teas and coffees for my colleagues. There’s something so personal about it; learning how people like their drink, and stopping for a 30 second chat as you deliver the good stuff. It means you get to know people a little better. I’ve been temping in this job for four months now and I’m still not sure who’s who beyond an email address.

I want to feel fulfilled again, in the way listening to punk music fulfilled me. It felt like I had an identity or a face to present to the world. I want to be infused with passion for my work. I want to be a metaphorical po-go-er – jumping up and down until someone notices and asks why I’m doing it. I want to “Oi!” in people’s faces for causes that truly matter to me. I want to be a corporate punk!

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I wanna be a corporate punk!

The 3pm Slump

Whilst I am fully behind being open and honest about mental health and fighting stigma, some days I wish I’d never told anyone about my mental illness.

Today I am somewhere on the high end of hypo and with my husband’s help have realised there’s a touch of delusional thinking creeping in. Which is fine; honestly. It just means I can’t wait for 4:30 to roll on up so I can stretch my legs and get home to some soothing silence. What I’m really struggling with today is this acute awareness of my every activity. I’m even projecting it onto my manager and colleagues.

I can’t go for a smoke; they’ll think I’m skiving (but I really need a smoke cause I’m not calm enough).

I touched my face a few times; my boss will notice I’m restless.

Crap – did I really have to shift my weight in my seat again?

They’ll see in my eyes just how wired I am feeling.

I need to get out of here. But I can’t risk taking sick leave.

 

It feels awful to be chained to a desk on a day like today. Time is dragging, and the fact my boss is sat right next to me is pushing my anxiety over the edge. It’s one of those situations where every time he glances my way I feel like he’s looking right into my mind and seeing all my 100mph thoughts. And yes; this is probably a touch paranoid. It helps that I realise this! I can rationalise;  I’ve gotten very good at rationalising, and I can always use my hubby as a sounding board if I’m not sure.

The thing about having spent time in the alternate reality that is psychosis is that you lose trust in your intuition. Ever since you were a kid you had this thing called a gut-feeling that steered you right in life. With psychosis, your instinct is corrupted. When I was unwell, I believed that my neighbours were aliens; my gut told me they were dangerous. Since I’ve been stable / more stable, I’ve gained a relatively decent amount of insight into spotting the red flags – I have become more of a thinker than a feeler.

Thankfully greater insight affords greater protection when things aren’t running smoothly. I know that today I need to survive till I walk through the door, and then I need a stress-free evening (dear Luke will take over cooking duties tonight). I need an early bed time too. The only task I am giving myself is to have a little chat with Eve when I’m safely in the flat; she’s been a little more active in my mind than usual today so I will give her a chance to express herself.

The 3pm Slump

Criticisms

No one likes criticism, but most people deal with it. I’m very proud to report that I am well practiced at not rising to it; I’m less happy with the fall-out after. Today has been a day of bollockings and I’m not at all happy about it. Less happy about a colleague commenting ‘well I can understand why he was shouting at you,’ after I got off a ten minute ear-bashing over the phone.

My job is a balancing act. I have targets and deadlines to meet, and I work hard to meet them. And not only do I meet them, I beat them every month. My problem is that me meeting deadlines and targets is achieved by causing financial implications to other businesses that can’t very well afford the impact. This makes me feel like a bad person.

I’m fed up of selling my soul to the daily grind. I want to do something that matters; I want to impact this world in a positive way. I’m a small, temping fish in a very big corporate pond. Worst of all is the fact this impacts my mental wellbeing in a big way.

Back to that criticism thing. I am so proud of how I handled the phone call; remained calm and level-headed throughout. ‘Yes I understand,’ and ‘Of course I can see your point.’ On the inside, though, my blood was boiling. And it still is; you’d just never guess it to look at me or talk to me. Sure, I thought about walking out. I’ve thought about doing that a lot; pleased to say common sense has always prevailed and I’ve stuck it out.

I am excited for the referral that my CPN is making to a team that can offer CBT and DBT. I can’t wait to learn skills that will help me deal with emotionally charged situations in a healthy way. For now, I’ll bite my tongue.

Criticisms

Hump-Day Happy Hour 25/03/15

Although we in the UK are officially over the hump of the working week, I know other timezones are still climbing that hill. Here’s the debut Hump-Day Happy Hour post:

First up is this petition to ask to reinstate CAMHS in Kingston-upon-Hull where Masie’s family lives. Masie herself is being held in a psychiatric facility 42 miles away from home. Masie is also 13 years old and autistic. The petition is aiming for 8,000 signatures and is very nearly there, so if you have a few minutes sign it and show your support!

OK onto the cute. For me, there’s nothing like cute animal stories to put a smile on my face no matter my mood. My favourite this week has been the puppy photo booth story here. What’s not to love about those cute canine faces?

What else? My personal Happy Hour news is that my mum has been texting me positive things every morning in a show of loving support, and it’s making me smile knowing she’s on my side!

Last of all is this interesting read from Scientific American that looks at animal and human psychology with regard to schizophrenia; I’ve never thought to question why non-human animals don’t get schizophrenia before so the article was enlightening, and could mean a step forward in understanding the causes of the illness.

What does your Hump-Day Happy Hour look like? @dontsayimcrazy on Twitter, or post a comment below!

Hump-Day Happy Hour 25/03/15

An Honest Account of Self-Injury (TW)

It’s something I’ve been struggling with for over ten years now. Self-injury is possibly the biggest mental health taboo we face; it is something that is hard to talk about and hard to define.

I first hurt myself intentionally when I was 13. I still have faint scars on my wrist from using a safety pin to scrape the skin. Over the years I ‘progressed’ (so the wrong word…) to using scissors, then craft knifes. For me, it is a ritual behaviour that I know I can trust to make me feel better – for a little while at least.

The pattern for me in the past has been to make a few shallow-ish cuts. It was all about the ritual; it was almost a mindfulness exercise in focus and being present. I think that’s why I’ve found it hard to stop. It was always a way to escape unruly emotions and anxieties – and I always fought the urge for as long as possible before giving in.

My latest self-harm has been different. Instead of riding out the urges I acted impulsively; I didn’t turn to any healthy coping skills before acting on the need to injure. Different also, in that I used a kitchen knife. Very out of the ordinary for me. I wound up at the minor injuries unit needing to be glued – the first time in my history that I’ve sought professional treatment for a self-harm wound.

I wish I knew what was going through my mind when I did it. Maybe that would hold some answers for me. In truth, I didn’t even feel it – seriously depersonalised in the act. It is quite scary to think how bad it could have been.

It is hard to explain the motives behind self-injurious behaviour; partly because it’s not the same for everyone. For some it is about dealing with physical pain to lessen emotional pain. For some it is about taking control. It could be due to depression, or mania, or psychosis, or personality disorder. Myriad reasons and myriad methods combine to make it a tricky topic to talk about.

I would love to say there’s a magic reply to use when someone is self-harming. There are a lot of methods out there to help lessen the need to hurt oneself. The Butterfly Project is a nice one; instead of hurting, the person draws a butterfly onto their skin. There’s a tumblr page for the project where people can share their butterflies. Other ideas include snapping an elastic band against the skin, or holding an ice cube. One of my psychiatric nurses told me about one of her service users who froze the knife in water; the idea was that by the time she’d managed to defrost it and get to the knife, the urge had passed.

One of my coping strategies is ‘Just one more song’; I put on a playlist and tell myself that I have to listen to one song before I act. Once that song is over, I tell myself again ‘just one more song’ and listen to the next track. And so it continues until the playlist is finished and I realise that I don’t feel the urge quite so badly. It usually works; it certainly lessens the emotional distress of being in such a bad head-space.

I am hoping that this last incident isn’t going to set a precedent for a new type of self-harm for me. I think my awareness of how dangerously I acted is giving me some protection from repeating the behaviour. The truth is, I wish I could be rid of the need to do it; until I ‘get over’ it I’ll just have to keep trying to use other coping skills.

An Honest Account of Self-Injury (TW)

Back to work and a bit on personality disorders

I’m pleased to be able to report that as of 12:30 today I’m back in the saddle; catching up on nearly a week’s absence has kept me busy enough that I’ve not really had time to think about Tweeting or Pressing until now. My CPN was very encouraging that I should come back and get some routine in my schedule. Part of the issue of the last few days has been being caught between not-coping-with-work and not-coping-alone-at-home.

This morning’s appointment threw a curve-ball at me. We chatted a bit about what’s been going on and ways to mitigate dangerous situations and then she said the team thinks I have a personality disorder going on in the soup I like to call my mind. They are referring me to a specialist team, who will do an assessment, and then from there I am likely to be offered talk-therapy; this is fab news really, but the idea of having another label kind of freaks me out too. I know it shouldn’t, but whoever decided to call them personality disorders needs a good spanking – your personality is a key part of your identity and saying there’s something wrong with it is a bit like being nut-punched in the mind.

Of course, being me, I’ve now been reading up on the various types of personality disorder (there are ten of them). I have known people with Borderline Personality Disorder and know how difficult a condition it is to live with for them, but I have never really identified with this disorder.

Here’s a super-brief rundown of the ten types:

Cluster A:

  • Paranoid PD: irrational suspicion and mistrust of people
  • Schizoid PD: social detachment, apathy
  • Schizotypal PD: social interactions are uncomfortable, unusual or eccentric beliefs.

Cluster B:

  • Antisocial PD: lack of empathy, grandiosity and manipulative behaviour
  • Borderline PD: unstable relationships and self-harm is common
  • Histrionic PD: attention-seeking behaviour, excessive emotions
  • Narcissistic PD: grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy.

Cluster C:

  • Avoidant PD: social inhibition and sensitivity to criticism
  • Dependent PD: psychological need to be cared for
  • Obsessive-compulsive PD: sticks to rules, perfectionism and control.

I am feeling a lot of anxiety towards Histrionic Personality Disorder; I know this is because I’ve been accused of attention-seeking in the past and I think I would feel like a fraud in every aspect of my life. It almost feels like that diagnosis would invalidate the last three years of ups and downs, and that makes me nervous.

All I can do is wait for the referral and see what comes of it. I am keen to access talk-therapy again as this was helpful the last time I did a course with a psychologist.

Back to work and a bit on personality disorders

23/03/2015 and my cafepress shop

Let’s kick this off with a little promotion. I have been busily setting up a cafepress store with a few pin badges and other bits; it’s in no way ready, but I’ve put it up anyway to start raising some cash for UK mental health charity mind.org.uk. All royalties I receive from sale of the products will be passed onto the charity. The link is here.

#depressed

I’m home again today by virtue of not-quite trusting my mood to stay stable; although it was much better yesterday. I’m awaiting a call from my CPN, but I know the team have a Monday morning meeting so I’ll hold off pestering her till the afternoon. I’m not even sure what I’ll be telling her, as is always the case. I know she’ll want to talk about Friday but not sure if I’m up for actually talking out-loud about it.

In terms of mood, I’m doing better – I think. I’ve talked a bit about insight on this blog, but as always when I hit a crisis point (i.e. manic as fuck), insight goes right out the window. I wish I knew how to manage things better, instead of going straight to the worst possible coping strategies. It’s something I’m working on constantly; at the moment it seems the best early warning system is keeping in touch with friends who can spot the initial changes in behaviour.

Staying home is the lesser of two evils, but it’s not the ideal solution. At least when I’m at work I have company; nonetheless, sitting at my desk running fast is a peculiar torture for the mind. At least at home I can’t rant at anyone, and I can’t cock up any business procedures. I always feel like I’m letting my boss and colleagues down when I need to take a time-out, but the anxiety of letting them down is lesser than the anxiety of trying to control hypomania or mania at work.

In terms of the near future (I am operating on an hourly basis right now), I think I shall plan to maybe do some baking and wash the dishes. After that it’s anyone’s guess, but here’s hoping it’s a good day.

23/03/2015 and my cafepress shop